Home > Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland #2)(4)

Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland #2)(4)
Author: Chloe Neill

She blew hair out of her face. “Because they don’t enjoy the healing effects of yoga?”

“Because they don’t like being called ‘dogs.’”

She humphed as we moved our body weight forward into a modified plank, then lowered our legs, arms still stretched and chins lifted. “You’re on their side now.”

“I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m supernaturally neutral.”

“Then you’re a perfect candidate to attend and witness a Pack event. It’s a very sociological thing to do.”

We moved backward, settling on our knees, foreheads on the floor and arms stretched in front of us.

“You’re going to call me,” she said. “I want updates about the shifters, including Connor, and proof of life.” She adjusted her elastic headband. “A stack of empty coffee cups would suffice.”

“I’m more than the sum of my caffeine addiction.”

“Yes. You’re also a lot of blond hair and sarcasm, and a big chunk of ‘crush on the guy you’ll be traveling with.’”

“That’s quite a profile, Lulu.”

“I probably need to paint you.”

I decided to let that one go.

* * *

* * *

Lulu had been right—about the trip, not the painting. There was still no need for that.

I showered and dressed, threw a few things into a backpack, grabbed my scabbarded katana, and requested an Auto to my ancestral home.

Cadogan House sat on lush and green grounds in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, a gracious building of white stone in which nearly a hundred vampires had lived since the late eighteen hundreds. I’d lived there until I’d moved to Paris at nineteen, had explored the dozens of rooms and hallways, every inch of the rolling lawns and gardens, and even a few of the tunnels that ran beneath the House to access points across Chicago.

The Auto dropped me off in front of the imposing black fence, and I walked to the gate, smiled at the guards.

“Elisa Sullivan, here to see my parents.”

“Parents?” asked the guard on the right, a pale young man who looked dubious at my claim. He was young and human, as the House guards often were, and maybe hadn’t gotten the memo.

“Seriously, Curt?” asked the other guard dryly, a curvy woman with dark skin and shorn hair. “She’s the bosses’ kid.”

“Vampires can’t have kids,” Curt said.

The woman looked at me apologetically, flipped the switch to open the gate. “Please excuse him. He’ll be more familiar with the family history when you come out again.”

“What are you—” he began, but the woman cut him off.

“Thank you,” I called out, and slipped through the opening gate. A sidewalk and stairs led to the arched portico that guarded the front door, and I walked inside to the reception desk, added by my parents after one too many security breaches.

“I’m—”

“Of course you are,” said the man at the desk before I could respond. “Your parents have been advised of your arrival, Ms. Sullivan. They’re in his office.” He gestured grandly down the hallway.

Very efficient, but it made Cadogan House feel less like a home than like a hotel. It also reinforced my decision to live outside the House. I loved my parents, but Cadogan just felt stifling.

I walked into my father’s office, ready to pitch the idea of my attending the initiation as a kind of diplomatic attaché, and found him and Roger Yuen talking, drink bottles in hand, and both wearing running shorts, singlets, and sneakers.

“Hey,” I said, meeting their eyes, because that was less traumatizing.

“Lis,” my father said. He was tall and lean, with blond hair that nearly reached his shoulders, currently tied back. His eyes were the same green as mine. “I’d give you a hug, but we’ve just finished a run.”

Yuen lifted his hand. “Hey, Lis.”

“Hi,” I said, then again when my mother walked into the room with a bottle of blood and considerably more clothing—a singlet, cropped leggings, and running shoes. She was lean like my father, her long dark hair pulled into a ponytail, which was part of her uniform. Her skin was pale, her eyes light blue.

“No hugs,” she said, pointing at herself. “I am disgusting.”

“So I hear. Training run?”

“We’re going to do the Chicago Marathon,” my father said. “There’s a new Supernatural division.”

A good idea, since many Sups—vampires included—could easily outrun humans. “That’s cool. How did today’s run go?”

“Not as fast as I’d have liked,” he said, and slid my mother a glance.

“I beat him by fourteen seconds,” she said with a grin. “Fourteen delicious seconds.”

More than twenty years together and my parents were still very much in love, with humor and competition the background music of their relationship.

“They both smoked me,” Yuen said. He had medium brown skin, dark hair, and dark eyes and, like my parents, the build of a long-distance runner. “But I’ll be in the human division,” he said philosophically.

“And you’re going to do great,” my mother said, taking a sip of her blood. Then she looked at me. “How was the party?”

“Good,” I said. “Lulu finished the mural, and everybody seemed to have a good time. That’s actually why I’m here.”

“Did you have too much of a good time?” my father asked, eyebrow arched.

“No. Connor invited me to Grand Bay, Minnesota, to attend a Pack initiation.”

The room went quiet, and the reactions were priceless: My mother looked pleased. My father looked displeased. And Yuen looked giddy.

“An actual initiation?” he asked.

I nodded. “For his relative. This particular clan has a base in the North Woods, so he’s invited me to go up with him.”

“I’m torn between pointing out that you’re an adult,” my father said, “and driving to his home to threaten him within an inch of his wolfish life.”

My mother snickered. “That wouldn’t do much for Pack-House relations.”

“Those aren’t the relations I’m worried about.”

“Oh, my god,” I murmured, and felt my cheeks heat. “I’m only here to talk about the politics. I’m not going to discuss the rest of it.”

My mother grinned at me. “I want to discuss the rest of it. You and Connor! On a trip! I need to call Mallory.”

Mallory was Lulu’s mother. “You absolutely do not,” I said. “Look, it’s a big deal that a vampire would be going to a Pack event, so I wanted to check with you first, get your okays.” I smiled at Yuen. “Super handy that you’re already here. Saves me a trip.”

“I also appreciate efficiency,” he said with a smile.

“At the risk of putting you on the spot, are you okay with it? I’ll have to miss a few nights of work. I’m not sure how many yet, but I’d guess at least three—two to travel, one for the event.”

“We’ll miss you at the office,” Yuen said, “but it’s a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the relationship and learn more about the Pack and the ritual. I’ve heard it’s beautiful.”

“There will be Yeats,” my mother said with a smile. “There always is.”

Yuen looked at my father. “Are there any vampires in the area?”

My father frowned. “Near Grand Bay?” he repeated, then considered. “I recall there may be a small coven near there. Ronan is the Master, last I heard.”

Covens were communities of Rogue vampires that lived together but weren’t organized into formal Houses recognized by the Assembly of American Masters.

“Will he have a problem with my being in the area?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t think so. He has a reputation for honesty and careful decision-making. But also for being particularly concerned about the reputation of his community, the concerns of the humans around him. So as long as you don’t wreak havoc, you should be fine.”

“Wreaking isn’t really my style,” I said. “But Connor did say there’s some conflict in the clan, and he wanted a second opinion from an outsider.”

My father seemed to visibly relax. “So it’s a working trip.”

“Sure,” I said, well aware that was what he needed to hear. My mother just patted his arm.

“This will be a really good opportunity for you,” she said. “You and Connor can get to know each other better”—my father cleared his throat, loudly—“and you’ll have a pretty amazing learning opportunity. I say go for it.”

“I reluctantly agree,” my father said, but there was humor in his eyes.

“Concur,” Yuen said. “As your employer,” he added with a smile.

I checked the clock on the wall. “In that case, I’d better get going. Only so many hours to travel before the sun comes up.”

“Be safe,” Yuen said. “And check in occasionally.”

“I will, to both.” Besides, I’d have a shifter on my side.

* * *

* * *

The Auto dropped me off in front of the Keene house, and I climbed out as moonlight and shadow raced across the peaks and valleys of the family’s porch-wrapped home. In addition to the immediate family, two or three of Connor’s aunts and uncles—I always forgot the number—lived there, too. If the business was the Pack’s public hub, the house was its private refuge.

The neighborhood was quiet, many of the house’s windows still dark. But the first floor was lit, pale curtains drawn. I’d been afraid I’d find a gleaming Auto against the curb to whisk us north while the landscape passed us by.

But there was no Auto; there was a bike, low and dark and impressively built. Her name was Thelma, and Connor had transformed her from rusted frame to dark siren after god only knew how many hours of work.

   
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