Home > Shadowed Steel (Heirs of Chicagoland #3)(8)

Shadowed Steel (Heirs of Chicagoland #3)(8)
Author: Chloe Neill

I looked back, found a knife buried in Clive’s thigh.

“First blood,” Clive said, through gritted teeth, “has been spilled.”

“Only because you missed,” I muttered.

Jaw hard, Clive pulled the blade from his leg, tossed it away. “You’ve now attacked a member of the AAM undertaking his sworn duty. That will not stand.”

That was the next signal, the order to attack. AAM vampires rushed forward, katanas raised. All except Clive, who let the others flow around him, a rock in a stream, as they rushed us.

I unsheathed my blade with my right hand, pulled my dagger with my left, and prepared to defend.

A man came at me, katana raised overhead. I met his strike with my own, jabbed forward with my dagger. He pivoted, spun his katana, and knocked my dagger hand away. I went low, kicked at his shins. He staggered back, and I jumped forward, slashing again. He blocked, and I spun, slashed, caught his arms. He screamed in fury, put a hand over the wound to stanch it, and looked at me with loathing in his eyes.

“You came at me first,” I pointed out. Then balanced, pivoted, and gave him a side kick that had him stumbling. But he maintained, roared forward again.

Something whistled overhead again, and this time I managed to duck—and watched as metal buried itself in the man’s chest. He hit the ground. It wouldn’t be a fatal injury—not to a vampire—but it would keep him occupied.

I turned, looked at Alexei, who smiled at me.

“I had him,” I said.

“I finished him,” Alexei said with a smile, and lunged toward another one.

I heard footsteps behind me, snapped back to look, found a woman, petite but grinning, running forward with katana parallel in front of her, fangs extended and ready to fight.

“I’ll bite,” I said with a grin, and bounced once, centered myself.

She swung and I met her sword against mine, sparks flying as steel burned against steel. We both pushed back, reset, swung forward again. She came high again. I went low, spun to avoid her blade. But she caught one of the floating cap sleeves, ripped it clean away.

Damn it. I’d liked this jumpsuit. But I sighed and ripped away the other one, tossed it down. At least I’d be symmetrical.

By the time I pivoted she was on the attack again. We met each other blow for blow, the shriek of meeting metal searing my ears each time we made contact. I was taller, so I used my height to my advantage, brought the katana down overhand. She blocked it, then again, but I had better leverage coming in high, and her arms began to shake from the effort of holding off the blows.

I could have used the monster. I was strong and I was fast, but holding it back took energy I didn’t need to waste. Energy I could have better directed at this short and angry vampire in front of me.

One more blow, I thought, and I pushed as much power and magic into it as I could. A groan escaped her, and she fell to her knees, arms shaking. I plucked her katana from her hands. “Go,” I said, and she rose, ran toward the edge of the meadow.

Now with two katanas, I spun toward the next attacker. He was one of the vampires from the night before—the one with the pendant that now gleamed against his dark fatigues.

“Blake, right?” I asked pleasantly and, when he blinked, sunk into a low crescent, swept his legs. He jumped to avoid it and, by the time I made the full circle, spun his arm backward, so the butt of his katana handle struck me in the chest.

I felt nothing break, but hit the ground hard. I landed on my shoulder and felt the instant tear and, in the split second before pain struck, knew it was going to be bad.

It was worse.

It was a wave of red heat, sending pain through my arm so fiercely I dropped the female vampire’s katana. I nearly vomited, but breathed quickly through pursed lips, refusing to give in to the searing agony. I was immortal, and it was going to take more than that to stop me.

He realized the same and advanced, aimed a kick at my ribs. I rolled to dodge it, pain screaming in my shoulder as it took my weight, and climbed back to my feet, my left arm all but useless. I raised my katana again, still firmly in my good hand.

Blake’s smile was thin. “You’re going down.”

“Went down,” I reminded him. “Just got back up again. I think there’s a song about that.” But I was out of time for fighting, as sirens filled the air.

There was a pause in the fight, a long inhalation, and AAM vampires began to scatter like seeds in the wind, drifting back into the shadows from which they’d emerged. Clive still stood apart, watching the battlefield.

I faced him, refusing to yield.

“We aren’t done,” Clive said. “You’ll submit to the AAM’s authority one way or the other. The only difference is how many people will die before it’s done.”

I saw the truth in his eyes. That I was his quarry, and he didn’t care who else he had to run down to bring me in. To bring me down.

I met his gaze squarely. “You’re in Chicago now, Clive. You so much as threaten a human in my town, and I’ll bury you.”

His eyes gleamed with hatred, with purpose. And then he followed the others into darkness.

* * *

* * *

“You’re injured,” Connor said, finding me as cruiser lights cast blue and red upon the ground. He put a hand on my cheek, checked my eyes.

“Left shoulder,” I said. “I think I tore something.” Vampires healed quickly, and I could feel the dull ache as tendon worked to stitch itself back together. “But I’ll be fine,” I said, to settle the worry in his eyes. “You okay?”

“Nothing major.”

“Alexei?”

“He’s fine.”

“Good,” I said and accepted the bottle of water Theo handed me, drank thirstily.

“Maybe it’s because we’re in the Midwest,” Theo said, “but I think Chicago’s vampires are much friendlier.”

“They’re certainly smarter,” Connor said dryly, finishing the bottle I handed him.

A woman came toward us. She had medium brown skin and wide brown eyes, her black hair pulled into a sleek bun. Her dark burgundy suit was just as sleek, and a gleaming detective’s shield was pinned to her narrow waist.

“Detective,” Theo said with a nod. “This is Elisa Sullivan. Elisa, Detective Gwen Robinson. She’s the CPD’s new liaison for supernatural issues.”

“Elisa,” the woman said. “Trouble here tonight?”

“Unfortunately,” I said. “Did Roger give you the basics?”

“He told me the vamps came to Chicago to cause trouble for you,” she said, then glanced around. “They disappeared quickly.”

“They didn’t get what they want, and they need to be free for round two.”

“So you think they’ll be back?”

“Not here, and not tonight. But after me? Yes.”

She looked around. “You had permission to be here.”

“We did. Express, from the owners.”

“Any injuries?”

“A few. None major.” My shoulder was the worst, as far as I knew, and giving her the details on that wasn’t going to help.

“Do you want to press charges?”

“No. Why would I?”

She just sighed. “Vampires.”

“They are a lot,” Theo said with a smirk.

“With all due respect, Detective, arresting him would cost the taxpayers money, and it won’t change anything. I don’t want you or Theo to waste your time.”

She looked like she approved of the reasoning, if not of the answer. “All right.” She looked back at Alexei. “I’d like to speak with him, too.”

“Good luck,” I said, and she made her way toward him.

“Trustworthy?” Connor asked Theo when we were alone again.

“Yeah. We worked together before I transferred to OMB. She’s good people.”

“Okay,” I said, and made myself relax. Odds were high I’d be seeing more of Detective Robinson before this was all done.

* * *

* * *

We found a hot dog stand on the way downtown, ate Chicago dogs standing beside the bikes. I shouldn’t have had an appetite. Not after the threats, the fight, my absolute confidence that something very ugly had started tonight. Something that had begun with Carlie, but was going to have to end with me.

But I’d fought, wielded my sword, and my body needed the recharge. I managed two dogs, and Alexei ate three before he rubbed his belly in satisfaction.

“That’s the sixth one he’s had this week,” Connor said, smiling as he licked mustard from his thumb. “It’s a miracle he can walk.”

“Sport peppers aid the digestion,” Alexei said.

“No,” Connor said. “They don’t.”

Alexei shrugged, wiped his mouth with a napkin, tossed it neatly into a waiting trash can. Unparalleled aim, I thought. Which raised a question.

“Why did you throw the knife?”

Alexei looked at me, brows raised. “Because someone threw one at you.”

As simple as that, I thought, and I looked at Connor, who nodded. There was a reason they were friends. Loyalty was part of it.

Alexei reached into his pocket, pulled out the thin stiletto blade. The handle was bare metal stamped with a sideways figure eight. Leave it to a vampire, I thought, to scribe the symbol of immortality into one of his weapons.

“Nice,” Connor said, looking it over. “You keeping it?”

“Of course. Nearly makes up for the trouble. Vampires don’t know how to fight.”

“Some vampires do,” Connor said, his gaze warm on mine.

“She’s not bad with a blade,” Alexei allowed.

“Damned by faint praise,” I said. “They lured us into striking first.”

“Oh, absolutely,” Connor said. “That was the only bit of strategy that actually impressed me.”

“They’ll milk it for everything they can,” I said. “Claim they were merely trying to enforce AAM rules, and I attacked them without provocation.”

   
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