Home > Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland #2)(5)

Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland #2)(5)
Author: Chloe Neill

I walked closer, ran fingers across the buttery black leather that covered the seat, carefully quilted in a diamond-shaped pattern. There was a second seat behind the first, just a little higher, but still close.

The house’s screen door screeched open, and Connor walked onto the porch, lips curving as he saw me. He wore jeans and a black motorcycle-style jacket that looked like it had already seen a lot of miles.

With his dark, wavy hair and blue eyes, he looked every bit the rakish prince. Gorgeous, devilish, and just a little dangerous.

“I wasn’t sure if you were going to show up,” he said, coming down the steps.

“I wasn’t, either. But I’m here.”

He stopped when he reached me. “Controversy?”

“Beaten out by curiosity.”

“Brave girl,” he said with approval. Frowning, he scanned my face. “And your . . . enhancement?”

We’d taken to calling the monster my “enhancement” over text message in an effort to keep it secret. And that he felt he had to raise the issue at all put a hard stone of guilt in my belly.

“I’ll be fine.”

He looked at me carefully, judging, considering, and my guilt melted away. There was a softness in his eyes that spoke of concern, not fear; he wasn’t afraid I’d hurt his family, but that I’d be hurt.

“The yoga is helping,” I said. “Letting it stretch, giving it some space. And if there’s an issue, I’ll just run into the woods.”

His smile was canny. “A tried-and-true method for shifters, as well. There will be plenty of woods where we’re going.”

“Which is where, exactly?”

Connor grinned. “Very unvampiric of you to show up without the full details.”

“I can be spontaneous when necessary.” And I knew when to pick my battles.

“We’re going to a former resort in Grand Bay,” Connor said. “North shore of Lake Superior. Two dozen cabins plus the main lodge. Couple of saunas, several firepits. Humans couldn’t keep it afloat, so the clan bought it and adapted it. Some of the cabins are empty; we’ll stay in one of those.”

“You’ve been there before?”

“Spent several summers there when I was younger, hanging with the family.” He tapped the seat. “You good riding on Thelma?”

I thought, Yes, please, but said, “I can manage. As long as you keep her upright.”

His grunt made it clear how unnecessary he thought the warning was. “SUV would be easier. Auto easier still. But they’re . . .”

“Safe?” I offered, and he smiled thinly.

“Sterile,” he said. Then he stepped back, looked me over. “Boots and jeans and jacket are good. You might want to pull back your hair. I’ve got a helmet,” he said, and pointed to the smaller of two that hung from the bike’s handlebars. He looked at my scabbard. “I presume that’s nonnegotiable.”

“You would be correct. I presume we won’t be traveling in daylight?”

Connor smiled. “That would defeat the point of bringing you along, wouldn’t it?”

“Unless you wanted vampire charcoal, yes. But this seems an awfully roundabout way to get it.”

“I don’t want charcoal,” he said, leaning in, gaze locked on mine as he moved in for a kiss. “Vampire? That’s a different matter.”

The screen door slammed. “Con.”

Connor sighed, lips curling into a smile. “The Apex’s timing is impeccable, as always,” he whispered, lips nearly against mine, then stepped away. “Pop.”

Gabriel Keene, head of the North American Central Pack, came down the steps. He was an imposing figure. He had Connor’s strong build, but different coloring. His tawny, sun-streaked hair reached his shoulders, and his eyes were the color of whiskey. He wore jeans, boots, and a Henley-style shirt of slate blue.

He glanced at me. “Elisa. I guess you’ve decided to visit Minnesota.”

I smiled at him. “I haven’t seen nearly enough Paul Bunyan statues lately.”

“You’ll get your fill this weekend. And of cheese curds and hot dish.”

“As long as there’s coffee, I’ll be fine.”

“You should be good there,” he said, then glanced at Connor. “Anything happens to her, and there will be hell to pay.”

I almost objected to the assumption I needed protecting until Gabriel looked at me, grinned.

“And same goes for him,” he said, his smile knowing. “Try to keep him out of trouble.”

“Sure. I mean, that hasn’t worked during my first twenty-three years, but maybe I’ll have a sudden run of luck.”

He grinned. “You decide you need backup, call us.”

“We’ll be fine,” Connor said. “And Alexei’s going to join us en route.” He glanced at me. “We’re going to meet him outside Schaumburg.”

I wasn’t sure if I was glad I’d be able to learn more about Alexei—or disappointed it wouldn’t be just me and Connor.

“Good,” Gabriel said. “That’s good. Let’s chat for a moment.” He beckoned Connor a few feet away. My hearing was good enough that I could have listened in, but I turned back to the bike, pulled back my hair, and plaited it into a loose braid.

A minute later, I heard the sounds of backslapping as they embraced.

“Bon voyage,” Gabriel said, then headed back into the house.

I glanced back at Connor. “Everything okay?” I asked. But I could read the concern in his eyes clear enough. Not fear—Connor wasn’t the type to be afraid—but unease.

“Just another warning about your safety and the future of Supernatural relations in Chicago.”

“So no pressure.”

“None,” he said with a grin. “Let’s get moving.”

Connor stowed my backpack with his duffel in the small cargo box. I resheathed my sword so it hung at my back, then pulled on the helmet and fastened it, adjusted my braid.

Once helmeted, Connor threw a leg over the bike, pushed up the kickstand with a heel, took his seat. “Your turn.”

I moved behind him, put a hand on his shoulder, and tossed my leg over, grateful for yoga flexibility. The thickly padded seat was perfectly comfortable, as was the nearness to Connor.

“You good?”

“Yeah.” But I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with my hands.

He turned back and looked at me, his smile cocky and classic Connor. “I like seeing you back there.”

“So far, I like being here,” I said, giving him back the same smile. “We’ll see how it goes.”

He chuckled. “There’s a bar behind you if you want to hold on to that. Or”—he reached behind him, took my hands, and pulled them around his waist—“this is an option.”

When I gripped him, body warm beneath my hands, he shifted his body and mashed the starter with a booted foot. Thelma roared to life—a deep, low rumble that pulsed through bone and muscle like a second heartbeat.

And so we rode into the night.

* * *

* * *

  It being Chicago, traffic was thick as molasses even in the dark. We battled cars and trucks and a few other bikes on 90 as we drove toward the meeting place, and the stop-and-go didn’t exactly give me a good sense of what it was like to ride the open road. Connor could have bobbed and weaved on the bike—I’d seen him do that as a teenager—but he rode relatively sedately, staying with the flow of traffic as long as we were making forward progress.

Alexei—or the man I assumed was Alexei, given the shielded helmet—pulled behind us on a cherry red bike just past Schaumburg. He followed us, staying a few yards behind, until traffic cleared. Then Connor opened up the motor, and we absolutely flew. Thelma cornered like she was part of the road, a slot car tied to asphalt.

My heart raced every time he accelerated or took a curve at speed . . . which was often, and I had to stop myself from giggling maniacally. Connor might have grown from the cocky teenager he’d been, but there was still a shimmer of the wild about him. I gripped his hips tighter every time he did it, which probably just encouraged him.

We passed fields and farms and fast food and very occasional wildlife. A pair of deer frozen and staring in the middle of a cornfield. A raccoon, eyes flashing in our headlight as it scampered along the side of the road. And the approximately one million bugs that struck our helmets.

We’d ridden for a couple of hours when Connor pulled into a gas station with a diner along a dark stretch of road. The building gleamed in the darkness, and semis idled in the parking lot’s dark corners. We parked, removed our helmets. Alexei pulled up beside us, took off his helmet, pushed a hand through his hair.

“Coffee,” he said.

“Seconded,” I said, then climbed off the bike, still feeling phantom vibrations from the bike’s motor, and rolled my neck.

“You okay?” Connor asked.

“I’m great,” I said, not bothering to check my crazed smile. “That was amazing.”

“I’m glad you liked it, ’cause we’ve got several hours to go.” He smiled, ran a hand through his hair. “It’s the scenic tour of Wisconsin tonight. Albeit in the dark.”

“My favorite time of day,” I said, and tucked in locks of hair that had escaped from my braid. “It’s nice to get outside the city. We weren’t really a road-trip family. Much less a motoring one.”

“I’m shocked to hear that,” Connor said as we walked toward the door, his voice dry as toast. “When I think vampire, I think camping and muddy hikes.”

“My father was a soldier—four hundred years ago. He’s gotten used to high thread counts and temp control.”

“And what about you?” Connor asked, with what sounded like challenge in his voice. He held open the door as a man reached it, then walked through, sleeping child limp in his arms. “Thank you,” the guy mouthed silently, carried the kid to a minivan.

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