Home > Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(5)

Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(5)
Author: Chloe Neill

“We missed you so much,” she said quietly, her arms a ferocious band that seemed to quiet the monster.

Maybe the monster was afraid of her. If my theory was right, it had reason to be. . . .

“I missed you guys, too,” I said.

“You look happy,” my father said, giving me a hug and pressing a kiss to the top of my head.

When he released me, my mother held out a steaming to-go cup. “I thought you could use this after your flight.”

“Thank you,” I said, and took a sip. It was hot and sweet, with just a hint of hazelnut. I’d have sworn the grogginess started to fade immediately, but that might have been my obsession talking.

“This is perfect,” I said. “Leo’s?”

“It is,” she said with a smile.

Leo’s was my favorite coffee spot, a tiny box of a drive-through in Hyde Park not far from Cadogan House. The menu was limited, the servers were always surly, and it took only cash. But if you could get past the irritations, it was the best coffee in the city.

“If you’re going to do something,” she said, in a pretty good imitation of my father’s voice, “do it right.”

“You’re hilarious, Sentinel.”

“I know. I love your hair,” she said, touching a long curl of it.

“Thanks.” It had taken a while to figure out what to do with the blond waves I’d inherited from my father’s side of the family. Too short, and it was a puffball of curls I couldn’t pull off. Longer, the curls relaxed and became waves that were much more flattering.

“How was your flight?” my father asked.

“I was asleep for most of it.” I held up my hand. “No burns, so the shutters worked. Private jet from Europe was nice. Free headphones and socks.”

My mother’s eyes lit. “Was there a snack basket?”

“You have an entire kitchen at your disposal,” my father said.

“And Margot’s too busy to walk around and offer me snacks all night.” Her gaze narrowed. “Although that gives me some ideas.”

“As you can tell,” my father said with amusement, “your mother has not changed a whit since we saw you in May.”

“I’m good with that,” I said.

“We saw the footage from Paris,” my father said, and put a hand on my mother’s shoulder.

I’d prepared them, told them we’d been involved, so he wouldn’t learn about the fight secondhand. But the fear and grief in his eyes was still keen.

Tears welled in my eyes, too. Suddenly swamped with the horror I’d seen the night before, I pushed the cup of coffee at my father and flung myself into my mother’s arms.

“All right,” she said, embracing me again. “It’s all right. Get it out of your system. You’ll feel better.”

“It was horrible.” I mumbled it into her shirt. “It was stupid, and it was senseless, and it was . . . so violent.”

“It always is horrible,” she whispered, rubbing my back. “It’s not an advantage to be numb to terrible things. It means we can’t feel. When we can feel, and we do it anyway, we show our bravery. And terrible times are when we need to act most of all. That’s when we do the most good.”

She held me while I stood there, crying onto her shirt, until I’d wrung out the worst of the emotion. Then I pulled back and wiped my cheeks.

“Sorry,” I said, trying for a half laugh. “I’m not sure why I’m crying. That was . . . not very professional.”

My father pulled an embroidered handkerchief from his pocket. I took it, swiped at my face. I felt childish for needing to cry, but a little better for having done it.

“You’ve had a long twenty-four hours,” my mother said. “And you care about people, and you care about Paris. That’s as professional as it gets.”

“She’s right,” my father said, earning a thumbs-up from my mother. “You handled yourself well. We were very proud.”

The tightness in his eyes said he was working hard not to replay the discussion we’d already had about the risks of my Dumas service. He knew this was my story to write.

“Thanks,” I said, and gave my face a final wipe, then stuffed the handkerchief into my pocket.

“Now,” my mother said, looking around. “When do we get to meet Seraphine?” She hadn’t been in town when they’d come to my graduation.

I glanced back at the jet, found Seri chatting with Odette at the bottom of the Jetway, and waved her over.

“Bonjour,” she said brightly when she reached us, slipping an arm through mine.

“Seri, these are my parents, Ethan and Merit.”

“It is lovely to finally meet you!” Seri said, and exchanged kisses with them. “Your daughter is a jewel.”

“We agree,” my father said. “And we hope you enjoy Chicago as much as she’s enjoyed Paris.”

“I’m sure I will.” She looked at my mother. “I understand we should discuss, um, cake shakes?”

My mother’s face lit up like she’d won the lottery. “We should discuss them. Maybe we’ll make good progress at the talks tomorrow, and we’ll have time for a Portillo’s adventure.”

“Let us hope,” Seri said with a smile, which quickly faded. “You have heard about the recent attack?”

“We did,” my father said.

“Have there been any threats against the talks?” I asked.

My father lifted an eyebrow.

“I’m in service to Maison Dumas,” I reminded them. “I’m working.”

“No threats,” my mother said, taking my father’s hand and squeezing, probably giving him a signal. They could also communicate telepathically—one of the common vampire skills I hadn’t developed, probably because I hadn’t been made in the traditional way of vampires—so it wasn’t often I’d heard them disagree aloud about how to handle me or something I’d done.

Because of that, I’d had zero luck playing the “Mom said it was okay” card. Mom and Dad could check with each other without my even knowing it.

“Although the Spanish delegates are still arguing about seating positions,” my father said, clearly not impressed with the behavior.

“You’ve seen the security plan for the Sanford?” my mother asked.

The talks would be held at the remodeled Sanford Theater. And while Chicago might have been peaceful, the event’s organizers weren’t taking any chances. There’d be barriers outside the building, guards inside and outside the facility, and security forces in the room in case anyone got brave. The forces would be a mix of human and supernatural—primarily vampires and members of the North American Central Pack of shifters, as the Pack had made its home in Chicago. Gabriel Keene was its wolfish Apex, no pun intended, and a friend of my parents.

Gabriel’s son, Connor, and I had grown up together, or mostly. He was two years older than me—and figured he was two years hipper and wiser. He’d been the bane of my childhood, the irritation of my adolescence. We’d tolerated each other for our parents’ sake, or at least as much as two kids could.

He thought I was bossy. I liked things the way I liked them.

I thought he was reckless. He said he was the prince and could do what he wanted.

And unlike everyone else in my life, Connor Keene had seen the monster.

“If you don’t mind,” Seri said, “I’m going to join Odette, as she appears frantic.”

We looked back at the Autos, where Odette was gesturing angrily at the growing pile of luggage.

“I hope they haven’t lost your bags,” my mother said.

“I’m sure it is fine.” She smiled, reached out to squeeze each of my parents’ hands in turn. “It was wonderful to meet you, finally. I hope we will have time to talk!”

“We hope so, too,” my mother said.

“She seems lovely,” my father said, when she’d moved toward the car.

“She is. She doesn’t take what she has for granted, which would be very easy for her to do.”

“Then she’s in good company,” my father said with a smile. “Not many would agree to a year of service when it wasn’t owed.”

“It was owed in spirit, even if not technically,” I said.

“You are your mother’s daughter,” my father said, with not a little pride in it.

   
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