Home > Shadowed Steel (Heirs of Chicagoland #3)(3)

Shadowed Steel (Heirs of Chicagoland #3)(3)
Author: Chloe Neill

“This will formally advise you that you have breached vampiric Canon, laws and regulations, by making a vampire without authority to do so and without the human’s prior agreement,” Blake said. “Your activities risked the exposure of the local coven, harm to the human, and danger to all vampires. You are summoned to appear before Bureau representatives at midnight tomorrow for adjudication. Grant Park.”

“She saved someone’s life,” Lulu said.

“Carlie,” I said, because the AAM knew her name by now. “Her name is Carlie, and she didn’t deserve to die in someone else’s fight.”

Blake’s expression stayed bland. “You broke the rules.”

“Not the rules that matter,” Lulu said.

Blake turned his chilly gaze to Lulu. “She broke our rules. She is a vampire, sorceress. You are not.”

I shifted, putting myself between them. Sorceress was the path Lulu had purposefully not chosen, and she didn’t like the reminder. Bickering wasn’t going to help. Most important, I didn’t want their anger directed at her.

“Who told you about Carlie?” I asked.

Blake’s lips thinned. “A confidential informant.”

More than a few candidates for that position, I thought ruefully, including the Minnesota Pack members still angry at our interference in their dysfunctional little community and the head of the vampire coven now sheltering Carlie, who hadn’t been happy I’d made a vampire.

“I’m entitled to know their name.”

“You aren’t,” Blake said with a smirk. “That’s why it’s confidential, particularly since they were doing a service to American vampires. You, of all people, should know better.”

“Blake,” Sloan said. “That’s enough.” She looked at me with what I thought was sympathy. But given who and what she was, I doubted her sincerity.

“At the meeting, you’ll be able to tell your side of the story,” she promised.

Also doubtful, I thought. “You’ve delivered your message,” was all I said.

“Please formally acknowledge receipt of the summons.”

I didn’t like the way that sounded; vampires liked rules and bargains, and a formal acknowledgment sounded like something that would snap an obligation into place, magical or otherwise.

“I acknowledge you have attempted to issue a summons,” I said, “but I do not agree to your terms. Grant Park is too public.” And too large, and too difficult to secure, I added silently.

“What location do you propose?” Blake asked after a moment.

“I’ll let you know.”

Blake nodded, glanced at Sloan, who tapped her screen—the sleek devices that kept us connected to the world.

I felt a sudden pinch at my clavicle and looked down to find a small but glowing X across the bone. “You marked me.” I scratched at the X, which did nothing.

“Magically tagged summons,” Blake said, and he slid a glance to Lulu. “We have our own magical resources.”

“When will it disappear?” I asked.

“After midnight tomorrow,” Blake said. “When you show up at a mutually agreed location.”

I cursed silently. “How do I contact you?”

They looked at me for a moment before my screen beeped. “Instructions,” said Blake, and all three of them turned on their heels and left.

I closed the door. And locked it tight.

* * *

* * *

We all moved to the long windows and watched the street in silence, waiting until the three vampires had climbed into a black vehicle with tinted windows and driven away.

“Compliance Bureau?” Theo asked.

I shook my head. “I don’t know anything about it. I’ve heard Nicole Heart is a stickler for rules and committees, so I guess this is one of them.”

Heart, Master of Atlanta’s Heart House, had been one of the Assembly’s founders and was its leader. The AAM had replaced the Greenwich Presidium, Europe’s controlling vampire body, when vampires in Chicago—led by Cadogan House, of which my father was Master—had pushed back against its dictatorial ways. She’d barely beaten out my father in the vote to lead the organization; there’d been animosity between them in those early days, but time had faded those wounds. Or so I thought.

I regretted I hadn’t given more attention to the details of their authority when I was at Cadogan House. But I’d had the privilege of being a child in a time of relative supernatural peace. The Assembly had been quiet in those years. But then fairies had attacked Chicago, and vampires had been at the forefront of the fight against them. That thrust us back—at arrow point—into the spotlight. Of course the Assembly’s ears would have perked up. And I should have expected it. I should have planned for it.

I looked up, found Connor’s gaze on mine. Strong, but seeking. “What are you thinking?” he asked.

“That I should have known this was going to happen. I knew there was a possibility after Minnesota. But it’s been weeks. I thought they’d decided not to act on it.”

There was a loud crunch across the room. We all looked up to find Alexei snapping into a celery stick. “Your parents are gone,” he said and bit again.

“What?” I asked, trying to ignore that it sounded like he was crunching bones.

“They’re in India, right?” Petra asked. “Visiting Amit Patel. I doubt it’s a coincidence the Assembly showed up to accuse you of crimes against vampire when they’re several continents away.”

“I mean, your parents could just fly home,” Lulu said. “They’re not on a space station.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but we’re talking about vampires. The AAM would see a strategic advantage, even if a temporary one, to their being out of Chicago. And they’d take it.” The truth of it settled into my bones.

Alexei went into the kitchen, grabbed his gifted bottle of vodka and a shot glass. He brought them both to me, filled the cup, offered it. “Drink,” he said. “You need this.”

“I don’t know about need,” I said, but I downed it, winced. He hadn’t splurged on the good stuff. But I said thanks and handed him back the glass.

“I’ll take one of those,” Lulu said and downed a shot. “Not often I find vampires in suits at the door.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Not your fault.” She coughed. “God, this is awful.” She thrust the glass back at Alexei. “Next time, bring better.”

“No,” Alexei said with a grin, and took the bottle and glass to the couch.

We were a strange assemblage, but a bonded one. We’d fought fairies and feral monsters, suffered arrows and sword wounds and magically shifting landscapes and fireside battles. And we’d come through it as friends—the kind you could rely on for crappy vodka and excellent planning.

“Why did they come all this way?” Theo asked. “Surely the AAM doesn’t have to approve every new vampire made.”

“No. But ‘regular’ vampires aren’t supposed to make them. And that’s the kind of thing that threatens the ones in charge. They’ll want to punish me.”

“How?” Connor asked, voice grim.

“I’m honestly not sure. Give me demerits?”

“Are you taking this seriously?” Lulu asked, concern pulling down her brows.

“I am. And I’ll deal with them.” I looked down at my collarbone. “It doesn’t look like I have much of a choice.”

“It’s a pretty simple spell,” Lulu said.

We all looked at her, given she’d generally avoided any and all discussion of magic or its details, with surprise. “I knew a little about some basic spells, before . . .”

Before she turned away from magic completely, she meant. Before she learned her mother had, at least for a little while, been seduced by dark magic and become an enemy to Chicago.

“Do you know if they’re right?” I asked. “About it disappearing?”

“If the spell was done correctly, yeah. Think of it as a little contract. You fulfill the terms, and the deal is done.”

“And if she doesn’t?” Connor asked. “What happens?”

“Depends on the sorcerer they had on speed dial. But it probably wouldn’t feel very good.”

“So she can’t ghost the vampires, ha ha,” Petra said.

“No. But I’d have to deal with them eventually. They aren’t just going to walk away from this; admitting defeat is not something vampires do easily.”

“Yes, we’re aware of the stubbornness of the fanged,” Connor said, managing to work a little exhaustion into his voice.

“So I’ll meet them tomorrow night. And since they’re vampires, I’ll handle them the vampire way.”

“With fancy clothes and arrogance and posturing?” Petra asked. There was no insult in the words, because she was absolutely right.

“Pretty much,” I said.

“In that case, you’re right about the location—it’s best if you don’t meet them in Grant Park,” Theo said, leaning back against the refrigerator. “It’s in the middle of the Loop and full of tourists. We don’t want humans caught in the cross fire.”

“Or cops watching us fight back,” Alexei said with a smile.

“Preferably no fighting, wherever the location,” I said. “But a place I choose.”

“A place we choose,” Theo said. “Some of your family members may be out of town. But not all of us.”

“Hear, hear,” Connor said. I squeezed his hand, had to fight back tears as I looked at them, my weird little family.

“Thanks,” I said. “The floor is open for location suggestions.”

“I’m on that,” Petra said. She’d pulled out her screen and was scrolling. “I’ll get back to you.”

   
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