Home > Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(15)

Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(15)
Author: Chloe Neill

“You know I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag.”

“I know. I was kidding. I love you, but I don’t want you touching this.”

I took a step closer, tilted my head at the four women, whose skin tones ranged from milky white to dark brown. Their limbs—some bent and some outstretched—flowed together like they were reaching for each other.

“What’s the story?”

Lulu picked up the discarded pencil. “What do you think it is?”

Analyzing art wasn’t my thing. But I stepped up, took a swing, and gestured to the woman on the far left. “Maybe something about women sharing their knowledge, their experiences?” I pointed to a swath of golden paint. “And how that helps them grow, enriches their communities.”

She grinned. “That’s not bad, Sullivan. Dead wrong, but not bad.”

I was more disappointed than I should have been. “Then what is it?”

She lifted a shoulder. “Sexy hotness. The Pack wanted naked ladies, so I gave them naked ladies. Gorgeous, curvy, mostly naked ladies in a rainbow of shades and textures, and not a nipple in sight.”

“Because a woman has to draw a damn line.”

“Damn straight,” she said, and made a small adjustment to one of the new lines. “They argued about this building, the plans, the design, for nearly a year before they finally broke ground. Ended up having to build the bar first, the rest of the building over it. It was a whole thing.”

“Drama or not, it turned out pretty well.”

“Yeah, it did.” Lip between her teeth, she made another adjustment. “How was the shindig?”

“The reception was weird,” I said, thinking of Ruadan. “I took some video to show Seri. We can watch it when you have time. The talks were a mess. The fairies interrupted, and it was a whole thing.”

She glanced back. “The fairies? Interesting.”

“They threw a fit about not being included, and then they were included, and vampires were still vampires.”

“So, arrogance and arguing?”

“Pretty much. How’s the family?” I asked carefully.

Lulu’s mother, Mallory, had taken an evil turn before we’d been born. She’d gotten addicted to dark magic and wreaked her own havoc on Chicago. If my parents were seen as the saviors of Chicago, Lulu’s mom was the sorceress who’d tried to bring it down. That she’d later helped save the city apparently wasn’t nearly as sexy a memory, and people seemed to have forgotten it.

Lulu had her own guilt about what her mother had done, and it hadn’t helped that she’d been teased and bullied by humans as a kid. They’d called her mother the devil or worse, and Lulu had wanted nothing more than distance from the magical.

“Dad is still bitching about ‘all the weirdos,’” she said, “which makes me wonder why he agreed to move to Portland in the first place. Probably at least in part so he’d have something to bitch about. Mom’s one hundred percent in her element. She’s teaching classes, hosting ‘Magic-Ins’ for Wiccans. I think it was a good change for them. She’d wanted to start over. Even years after, she felt like she couldn’t move on in Chicago.”

I nodded. “Since I’ve been in Paris for four years, I can’t really argue with that.”

She snorted a laugh, glanced back at me. “For two people with pretty good childhoods, we’re pretty screwed up about it.”

I couldn’t argue with that, either.

“How’s the Mayor of Vampireville?” she asked.

That’s what she called my father. “Diplomatic, as always. And Mom’s good, although I think she misses yours.”

“BFFs,” she said with a shrug, as if that explained everything. “You been to the House yet?”

“Not yet,” I said. “Diplomatic responsibilities. I’m going over there tonight for the Cadogan House party.” And I declined the monster’s invitation to dwell on that a little.

“Oh, right. I got an invite to that.” She grimaced. “I wasn’t going to go. That cool with you? You like people a lot more than me, anyway.”

I smiled. “Your call. I’d love to wine and dine you on my parents’ dime, but it’s going to be fancy, and it’s going to be vampires.”

“You had me at ‘wining and dining,’ but lost me at ‘fancy.’” She bobbed her head toward the mural. “The Pack wants this done by the end of next week, so I think I’m going to put in a late night. Speaking of which, have you said hi to Connor yet?”

“I saw him at the reception. Looked older, acted pretty much the same.” And my dry tone should have indicated I wasn’t impressed with that.

“You punch him?”

“Not yet.”

“Good. He’s coming around, you know.”

I gave her a dour look.

“What? He’s had four years to mature. And has to mature if he wants the Pack.”

“There’s a joke in there about animals being in charge, but I’m going to rise above it. I would like to talk to him, though.” I hadn’t planned on it, but since I was here, I wouldn’t mind getting his take on the fairies. “Do you know if he’s around?”

“I don’t. But you can look.” She used the brush, gestured to a door on the opposite side of the room. “If he’s in the building, he’s in the bar or the garage. Through that door.”

“Okay,” I said. “Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“I’ll check my schedule,” she said, “have my people call your people.” Then she turned back to her mural. “And Lis?” she called out, when I was halfway to the door.


“Be careful in there. It is a den of wolves, after all.”

* * *

• • •

The bar portion of Little Red had been a dive, with dirty linoleum, gritty walls, and sticky, mismatched tables. The new version worked very hard to pull off the same level of comfortable grunge. And did a pretty good job of it.

The room was big, with concrete floors and brick walls. There was a stage on one end, an empty space in the floor for dancing or fighting, and a lot of mismatched tables and chairs.

The shifters watched as I walked through, eyes turning to me. Low growls and grunts mixed with the magic in the air.

They shouldn’t have minded having a vampire in their territory, much less one who’d been raised with their crown prince. But none of these shifters looked familiar. Maybe the Pack had been recruiting.

“I’m looking for Connor,” I said, and waited for someone to acknowledge me.

Two of them, big men with broad shoulders and leather jackets—like walking shifter stereotypes—rose and walked toward me. “Why you want him?”

“I need to talk to him.”

“We don’t like vampires in our place.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. But this is a public place, so I can’t help you.”

One of them growled, began flexing his fingers. The other cracked his neck.

I figured they were bluffing—even if they didn’t know who I was, surely they were smart enough not to start a fight with a random vampire—but I wasn’t entirely certain. I was certain that shifters didn’t much care for sups who cowered, so I amped up the bravado.

“I didn’t come here looking for trouble,” I said. “But I had to pass up a fight earlier, and I’d be happy to take one on now.”

A woman walked into the bar, from a door on the other side. I guessed she was about my age. Light brown skin and a scattering of freckles across her nose. Dark eyes topped by thick lashes and brows, and a generous mouth. Her hair was a dark cap of soft, loose waves. She was petite, noticeably smaller than most of the men in the room, but her body was athletic, strong. She wore jeans and a tank top, a bundle of thin necklaces shimmering around her neck. And plenty of magic buzzed around her.

“Who’s this, Jax?” she asked, striding toward us.

Her energy was different from that of the other shifters in the room. The vibration faster, like someone had plucked a different string on a violin.

“Vampire,” Jax said.

“Vampire,” she said, looking me over. “Elisa Sullivan. I recognize your face.”

“I don’t recognize yours.”

“Miranda. North American Central Pack. I work for Gabriel. You don’t.”

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