Home > Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(3)

Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(3)
Author: Chloe Neill

I had to remember where I was, shook my head, tried again. “Pouvez-vous sauter?”

“Non.” Javí looked down. “Non. Trop haut.”

Too high. Most vampires could jump higher and farther than humans, and we could jump down from heights that would easily kill humans. But the trick required training, which I’d learned the hard way—believing I could fly from the widow’s walk atop Cadogan House. I’d broken my arm, but vampires healed quickly, so that hadn’t been much of a deterrent. My mother had taught me the rest.

Javí couldn’t jump, so he’d have to wait for the elevator or take the hundreds of stairs down to ground level.

But I didn’t have to wait.

I squeezed Seri’s hand, told Javí to take care of her, and hoped he’d obey.

Before anyone could argue, or I could think better of it, I slid the katana from his scabbard, climbed onto the railing, and walked into space.

* * *

• • •

I descended through rushing darkness. A human might have had a few seconds of free fall before the deadly landing. But for a vampire, it was less a fall than a long and lazy step. Maybe we compressed space; maybe we elongated time. I didn’t understand the physics, but I loved the sensation. It was as close to flying as I was likely to get.

The first level of the Eiffel Tower was wider than the second, so I had to jump down to the first level—causing more than a few humans to scream—before making it to the soft grass below. I landed in a crouch, katana firmly in hand.

My fangs descended, the predator preparing to battle. While I couldn’t see it, I knew my eyes had silvered, as they did when vampires experienced strong emotions. It was a reminder—to humans, to prey, to enemies—that the vampire wasn’t human, but something altogether different. Something altogether more dangerous.

Two humans were dead a few feet away, their eyes open and staring, blood spilling onto the grass from the lacerations at their necks. The vampires who’d murdered them hadn’t even bothered to bite, to drink. This attack wasn’t about need. It was about hatred.

I was allowed only a moment of shocked horror—of seeing how quickly two lives had been snuffed out—before the scent of blood blossomed in the air again, unfurling like the petals of a crimson poppy.

I looked back.

A vampire kneeled over a human woman. She was in her early twenties, with pale skin, blond hair, and terror in her eyes. The vampire was even paler, blood pumping through indigo veins just below the surface. His hair was short and ice blond, his eyes silver. And the knife he held above the woman’s chest was covered with someone else’s blood.

Anger rose, hot and intense, and I could feel the monster stir inside, awakened by the sheer power of the emotion. But I was still in Paris. And here, I was in control. I shoved it back down, refused to let it surface.

“Arrêtez!” I yelled out, and to emphasize the order, held my borrowed katana in front of me, the silver blade reflecting the lights from the Eiffel Tower.

The vampire growled, lip curled to reveal a pair of needle-sharp fangs, hatred burning in his eyes. I didn’t recognize him, and I doubted he recognized me beyond the fact that I was a vampire not from his House—and that made me an enemy.

He rose, stepping away from the human as if she were nothing more than a bit of trash he’d left behind. His knuckles around the stake were bone white, tensed and ready.

Released from his clutches, the human took one look at my silvered eyes and screamed, then began to scramble away from us. She’d survive—if I could lure him away from her.

The vampire slapped my katana away with one hand, drove the stake toward me with the other.

I might have been young for a vampire, but I was well trained. I moved back, putting us both clear of the human, and kicked. I made contact with his hand, sent the stake spinning through the air. He found his footing and picked up the stake. Undeterred, he moved toward me. This time, he kicked. I blocked it, but the force of the blow sent pain rippling through my arm.

He thrust the stake toward me like a fencer with a foil.

The movement sent light glimmering against the gold on his right hand. A signet ring, crowned by a star ruby—and the symbol of Maison Saint-Germaine.

I doubted it was a coincidence Saint-Germaine vampires were attacking the ultimate symbol of Paris only a few nights after they’d been attacked by a Paris House. While I understood why they’d want revenge, terrorizing and murdering humans wasn’t the way to do it. It wasn’t fair to make our issues their problems.

I darted back to avoid the stake, then sliced down with the katana when he advanced again.

“You should have stayed in Calais,” I said in French, and got no response but a gleam in his eyes. He spun to avoid that move, but I managed to nick his arm. Blood scented the air, and my stomach clenched with sudden hunger and need. But ignoring that hunger was one of the first lessons my parents had taught me. There was a time and a place to drink, and this wasn’t it.

I swept out a leg, which had him hopping backward, then rotated into a kick that sent him to his knees. He grabbed my legs, shifting his weight so we both fell forward onto the grass. The katana rolled from my grasp.

My head rapped against the ground, and it took a moment to realize that he’d climbed over me and grabbed the stake. He raised it, his eyes flashing in the brilliantly colored lights that reflected across the grass from the shining monument behind us.

I looked at that stake—thought of what it could do and was almost certainly about to do to me—and my mind went absolutely blank. I could see him, hear the blood rushing in my ears, and didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was supposed to do, like the adrenaline had forced a hiccup in my brain.

Fortunately, beyond fear, and beneath it, was instinct. And I didn’t need to think of what would bring a man down. He may have been immortal, and he may have been a vampire. Didn’t matter. This move didn’t discriminate.

I kicked him in the groin.

He groaned, hunched over, and fell over on the grass, body curled over his manhood.

“Asshole,” I muttered, chest heaving as I climbed to my feet and kicked him over, then added a kick to the back of his ribs to encourage him, politely, to stay there.

Two guards ran over, looked at me, then him.

“Elisa Sullivan,” I said. “Maison Dumas.” Most vampires who weren’t Masters used only their first name. I’d gotten an exception since it wasn’t practical for a kid to have just one name.

They nodded, confiscated the stake, and went about the business of handcuffing the vampire. I picked up the katana, wiped the blade against my pant leg, and dared a look at the field around me.

Two of the other Saint-Germaine vampires were alive, both on their knees, hands behind their heads. I didn’t see the others, and unless they’d run away, which seemed unlikely, they’d probably been taken down by the Paris police or Eiffel Tower guards. Fallen into cones of ash due to a deadly encounter with aspen.

Humans swarmed at the periphery of the park, where Paris police worked to set up a barrier.

Some of the humans who’d survived the attack were helping the wounded. Others stood with wide eyes, shaking with shock and fear. And more yet had pulled out their screens to capture video of the fight. The entire world was probably watching, whether they wanted to see or not.

I found Seri standing at the edge of the park, her eyes silver, her expression fierce and angry. She wasn’t a fighter, but she knew injustice when she saw it.

I walked toward her, my right hip aching a bit from hitting the ground, and figured I’d passed my first field test.

I suddenly wasn’t so sad to be leaving Paris.

TWO

Twenty-four hours later, I woke several thousand feet in the air, senses stirred by the whir of the automatic shutters. The jet’s windows had been covered while we slept, protecting us from burning to a crisp in the sunshine.

Through the window, orange and white lights glowed like circuits against the long, dark stretch of Lake Michigan. And I could feel the monster inside me reaching out, stretching as if it could touch the familiar energy.

The monster had a connection to Chicago—to the city and the sword that waited in the Cadogan House armory—that made it harder to control here. That was one of the reasons I’d gone to Paris, and one of the things I couldn’t explain to my father on the tarmac before I left.

My heart began to beat faster as the monster’s magic rose, and I had to work to slow it down again, to stay in control. I breathed out through pursed lips, concentrating to send it back into darkness again.

I can do this, I told myself.

I wasn’t the same girl I’d been four years ago. I was returning with more strength and experience, and four more years of practice in holding it down, keeping it buried. Which is where I meant it to stay. I’d be here for only a few days, and then I’d be on my way back to Paris, far from its reach. I would manage it until then, because there was no other choice.

   
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