Home > Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(2)

Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(2)
Author: Chloe Neill

“I have diplomatic responsibilities, Elisa.”

I sipped my champagne. “That’s what French vampires say when they pack too much. I have a capsule wardrobe.”

“And that is what American vampires say when they do not pack enough. You also have diplomatic responsibilities.”

“I have responsibilities to the House. That’s different.”

“Ah,” she said, smiling at me over the rim of her drink. “But which one?”

“Maison Dumas,” I said, in an accent that was pretty close to perfect. “I’m not going to Chicago on behalf of Cadogan House. It’s just a bonus.”

“I look forward to meeting your parents. And I’m sure they’ll be glad to see you.”

“I’ll be glad to see them, too. It’s just—I’ve changed a lot in the last few years. Since the last time I went home.”

They’d visited Paris twice since I’d been gone, and we’d had fun walking through the city, seeing the sights. But I still felt like I’d been holding myself back from them. Maybe I always had.

“It’s not about you or Cadogan or Chicago,” I’d told my father, when we’d stood outside the private terminal at O’Hare, in front of the jet that would take me across the world. I’d been struggling to make him understand. “It’s about figuring out who I am.”

In Chicago, I was the child of Ethan and Merit. And it had been hard to feel like anything more than a reflection of my parents and my birth, which made me a curiosity for plenty of sups outside Cadogan House who treated me like a prize. And the possibility I might be able to bear children made me, at least for some, a prize to be captured.

I’d wanted to be something more, something different. . . . Something that was just me.

“You couldn’t fail us by living your life the way you want,” my father had said. “It’s your life to live, and you will make your own choices. You always have.”

He’d tipped my chin up with the crook of his finger, forcing me to meet his gaze.

“There are some decisions that we make, and some that are made for us. Sometimes you accept the path that’s offered to you, and you live that path—that life—with grace. And sometimes you push forward, and you chart your own path. That decision is yours. It’s always been yours.

“I don’t want you to go, because I’m selfish. Because you are my child.” His eyes had burned fiercely, emeralds on fire. “But if this is your path, you must take it. Whatever happens out there, you always have a home here.”

He’d kissed my forehead, then embraced me hard. “Test your wings,” he’d quietly said. A suggestion. A request. A hope. “And fly.”

I had flown. And I’d read and walked and learned and trained, just like everyone else.

In Paris, I’d been just another vampire. And the anonymity, the freedom, had been exhilarating.

“We all carry expectations,” Seri said quietly, her eyes suddenly clouded. “Sometimes our own, sometimes others’. Both can be heavy.”

Seri came from what the European Houses called “good blood.” She’d been made by a Master vampire with power, with money, with an old name, and with plenty of cachet—and that mattered to French vampires. Seri had been the last vampire he’d made before his death, and those of his name were expected to be aristocrats and socialites. Unlike in the US, French vampires selected their own Houses. She’d picked Maison Dumas instead of Maison Bourdillon, the House of her Master. That hadn’t made her many friends among Bourdillon’s progeny, who decided she was wasting her legacy.

“Are you excited to see Chicago?” I asked her.

“I am excited to see the city,” she said, “if not optimistic about what will come of the talks. Consider Calais.”

The most recent attack had taken place in Calais a week ago. Vampires from Paris’s Maison Solignac had attacked Maison Saint-Germaine because they believed they weren’t getting a big enough cut of the city port’s profits. In the process, four vampires and two humans had been killed.

The European Houses had lived together peacefully, at least by human standards, for hundreds of years. But after the GP’s dissolution, all bets were off. There was power to be had, and vampires found that irresistible.

More than a dozen delegates from France, including Seri and Marion, the Master of Maison Dumas, would participate in the talks. Marion and Seri would be accompanied by nearly a dozen staff, including Marion’s bodyguard, Seri’s assistant, Odette, and me.

“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t know how successful it will be, either. But refusing to talk certainly isn’t doing much good.”

Seri nodded and drank the last of her champagne as two guards passed us—one human, one vampire—and silenced the chatter. They wore black fatigues and berets, and looked suspiciously at everyone they passed. Part of the joint task force created by the Paris Police Prefecture to keep the city safe.

The vampire’s eyes shifted to me, then Seri. He acknowledged us, scanned the rest of the crowd, and kept walking, katana belted at his waist.

Vampires in the US and Western Europe used the long and slightly curved Japanese swords, which were sharp and deadly as fangs, but with a much longer reach.

Sorcerers had magic. Shifters had their animal forms. Vampires had katanas.

“There’s Javí,” Seraphine whispered, and watched as they kept moving, then disappeared around the corner. Javí was a Dumas vampire doing his year of service.

These weren’t the only guards at the Eiffel Tower. Humans and vampires alike stood at the edge of the crowd below, wearing body armor and weapons and trying to keep safe the tourists and residents enjoying a warm night in the Champ de Mars.

We turned back to the rail, looked over the city. So much white stone, so many slate roofs, so many people enjoying the warm night. But the specter of violence, of fear, hung over it. And that was hard to shake. No city was perfect, not when people lived in it.

“Let us take a photo,” Seri said, clearly trying to lift the mood. She put an arm around me, then pulled out her screen and angled the narrow strip of glass and silicon for a perfect shot.

“To Paris!” she said, and we smiled.

The moment recorded, she checked the time before putting the device away again. “We should get back. The Auto will arrive in a few hours.” She slipped an arm through mine. “This will be an adventure, and we will be optimists. And I look forward to pizza and Chicago dogs and . . . Comment dites-on ‘milk shake de gateau’?”

“Cake shake,” I said with a smile. “You and my mother are going to get along just fine.”

We’d only just turned to head toward the elevator when screams sliced through the air, followed by a wave of nervous, fearful magic that rolled up from the ground.

We looked back and over the rail.

Even from this height, they were visible. Five vampires in gleaming red leather running through the green space with katanas in one hand and small weapons in the other.

Not knives; there was no gleam from the flashing lights on the Tower.

What was shaped like a knife, but held no metal, and would turn a vampire to dust?

Humans had been wrong about vampires and crosses, but they’d been absolutely right about stakes. An aspen stake through the heart was a guaranteed way to put the “mortal” in “immortal.”

I didn’t know which House the vampires were from. I was too high to see their faces, and the gleaming red leather didn’t give anything away. Leather was a vampire favorite, and French vampire Houses appreciated fashion as much as the French fashion houses did.

But their intent was clear enough. They ran through the crowd, weapons drawn, and took aim at everyone in their path. Screams, sharp and terrified, filled the air. I watched one person fall, another dive to the ground to avoid the strike, a third try unsuccessfully to fight back against the vampire’s increased strength.

Paris was under attack. My stomach clenched with nerves and anger.

I wanted to help. I was stronger and faster than most humans, and trained as well as any vampire from Maison Dumas would have been. But there were rules. There were roles and responsibilities. The Paris police, the task force members, were supposed to respond to events. I was just a civilian, and only a temporary one at that. I worked for Dumas, and should have been focused on getting Seri safely back to Maison Dumas.

But the screams . . .

The guards who’d walked past minutes before ran back to the rail beside us and stared at the scene below in horror. And neither of them made a move toward the ground. It took only a second to guess why.

“Can you jump?” I asked Javí, the vampire.

He looked at me, eyes wide. “Quoi?”


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