Home > Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(16)

Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(16)
Author: Chloe Neill

“No, I don’t. I’m here to see Connor.”

Emotion flashed across her face, but she hid it away again before I could guess what it meant. “Why?”

“For reasons I’d like to discuss with him.”

She took a step forward, and the fingers on my arm tightened. “You aren’t in charge here.”

“I didn’t suggest otherwise. But I doubt you are, either. Do you want to tell Connor I’m here, or should we just start fighting and I can apologize to him later?”

I might have needed the bravado to get past the shifters, but beyond that, I really didn’t like bullies. Standing up to them was one of my particular joys.

“Vampires don’t own Chicago,” Miranda said. “You can’t just waltz into our place, expect to take control.”

“I don’t know.” I looked at each of them. “Seems like this place could use a vampire. Maybe a class on etiquette and manners?”

“Bitch.”

“Vampire,” I reminded her. “So, yeah.”

“What the hell’s going on in here?”

I knew it was Connor before I turned around. Not just from the sound of his voice, but from the aura of scent and magic that sliced through the air and left behind a charge of its own.

It commanded.

It was impressive. And another surprising change for the prince of wolves.

I glanced back. Betraying nothing, Connor met my gaze. “A little out of your territory, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I’m here to see Lulu, and while I was here, I had a few questions for you. You want to explain why these guys attempted to manhandle me?”

Connor’s expression didn’t change. “Attempted?”

I smiled slyly. “I’m better than I was.”

“She was sniffing around,” said the taller one, stepping forward beside me.

“I’m not a dog,” I said with a brittle smile, my gaze on Connor. “I don’t sniff.”

“So you’re just here to cause trouble, dead girl?”

The challenge in his eyes was marked by a glint of humor, and I guessed the performance wasn’t for me, but for the shifters around us. No problem. I knew my part.

“I’m not dead.”

“You sure about that?” He took a step closer. “You seem pretty frosty to me.”

“Frosty” was one of the adjectives the media had liked to use about vampires generally, and about me specifically. I was pale and blond and careful, not the wild child they expected of young supernaturals. Like Connor Keene.

The shifters snickered, and I let my eyes silver, took a step forward that had them reaching for weapons to protect the crown prince.

I looked around the room, counted. “I mean, ten-to-one odds aren’t great, but I’m willing to slow things down, give you a fighting chance.”

Connor stepped forward, took my arm just above the elbow. And before I could argue, pulled me through the room to a door at the other end, then looked back at the shifters. “You hear any screaming, ignore it.”

Then he shut the door.

SEVEN

We stood in a garage with flecked gray floors and towering ceilings, the walls covered in ancient Triumph and Harley signs. A muscle car was parked in one corner, and several motorcycles were parked here and there, including a beast of a low bike in matte black and gray.

I gestured to the closed door. “What was that all about?”

“A little performance for Miranda. She’s one of the gunners.”

“For your dad’s spot?” Being the son of the Apex made Connor the most likely candidate to lead the pack when Gabriel decided to turn over the reins, but it didn’t guarantee him the position. Still, I hadn’t given much thought to his competitors.

Connor nodded. “She likes to throw her weight around. She’s a mountain lion, comes from a family that’s opposed to the mixing of the species.”

That explained the unusual magic. “She is not charming.”

“They lived alone for a very long time. Miranda and her brothers are the first to live in Chicago, participate in Pack activities.”

“And how do you feel about having competition?”

“The Pack will do what the Pack will do.” He crossed his arms. “Sounds like nonsense, but it’s the truth. Doesn’t matter how strong, smart, brave, capable an alpha is. What matters is what the Pack says. Miranda and those like her are looking to prove themselves, and there are others who want to befriend the potentials with wine, women, and song. That’s the Pack way. Part hazing, part ass-kissing, part the promise of things to come.”

“You poor thing.”

“I love women and song, but not when they feel obliged, or when they’re trying to prove a point, or when they’re trying to make a score. I don’t play that way.” He gestured to the matte black bike on the other side of the garage. “You mind? I’m trying to finish the carburetor.”

“Go ahead,” I said, walking closer. “She’s gorgeous.”

I hadn’t been a motorcycle person, had only ridden a couple of times with Riley, and he’d tried to terrify me on both trips. But there was no mistaking the appeal of this one. It looked powerful. Intense. Dangerous. It was a shadow, made for a man who could walk in darkness as easily as he could in light.

“It’s Thelma,” Connor said behind me.

“No way,” I said, and squinted at her. Thelma had been his sixteenth-birthday present—a pile of rusted Harley bones spread on a blue tarp. And he’d been thrilled.

“Way,” he said with a Valley Girl accent. “I’ve been working on her for the past four years.”

“You’ve been busy.” I ran the tips of my fingers over the quilted black seat, the leather as buttery as leather could be. “Looks like she’s nearly done.”

“I’m close,” he said, and glanced up at me. “What brings you by?”

I sat down on a nearby chrome stool with a padded red leather top. Connor picked up a hunk of metal from the counter along the wall, began to work its fittings with a cloth.

“I wanted to talk to you about the peace talks.”

His brows lifted. “You running security for Cadogan House now?”

“No,” I said. “I’m working for Maison Dumas.”

His gaze shot up. “You’re what?”

“Mandatory service year. European vampires give a year of service to their Houses.”

“You aren’t a member of a European House.”

“I’m not. But Dumas housed me while I was in school, so I’m paying it back.”

He watched me for a moment, brows knit. “You’re volunteering for a year? That’s so unlike you, brat.”

I will not let him rile me up. “I told you a long time ago that I wasn’t spoiled.”

“You did,” Connor said with a sly smile. “But this is the first time you’ve had the evidence to back it up.”

“You’re hilarious.”

“That’s what the ladies say.”

I rolled my eyes. “Shifters supposedly have the pulse of the supernatural community. Are there any rumblings about the fairies? Murmurs about something they’re up to?”

“Rising fairy trouble?” he asked. “Aren’t you the one with the sociology degree?”

I was surprised he knew, and was flattered more than I’d have expected. “Have you been following my academic career, puppy?”

“Word filters down, brat,” he said, frowning at some bit of grime he couldn’t reach. “I haven’t heard anything specific, because we have a policy of noninvolvement. But there are some rumblings.”

“Of?”

“Unhappiness.” He unscrewed another part, cleaned that with the towel, screwed it back again. “Fear their magic is fading and they’re powerless to stop it. Fear they’ll end up like they were before—stuck in the tower.”

That matched Yuen’s thoughts. “And what do you think they plan to do about that? Based on what little you know, because of that policy of noninvolvement?”

He smirked at my dry tone. “You aren’t any funnier than you were before you left.”

“Agree to disagree. Answer the question.”

“But you’re just as bossy,” he said. “And I told you—it’s just rumblings. Feelings. I don’t know anything about plans. If we’d known, we’d have told your father before things started.”

   
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