Blood Feud Page 15

I’d had to get them al redone three times. Vampire healing tended to push the ink and charcoal out.

“I’ve never seen work like that,” she continued. “You didn’t just walk into a tattoo parlor, did you?”

“No, Kala did these with charcoal and a needle.” Most of them had been drawn in the ritual that dedicated me to her service. The first one they’d done before I’d ful y awakened, after the dogs found me. It was a greyhound circling my upper left arm, catching his tail in his mouth, surrounded with Celtic knot work. Al the Hounds had one just like it.

“Ouch.” Lucy winced at the thought of the slow tattoo process.

Most of the others were also dogs chasing one another up my arms, accentuated with vines. “Stil , they’re total y cool.”

“You’re not afraid of me.” It wasn’t a question but a statement.

She looked surprised that I’d mentioned it.

“No. Should I be? You saved Solange.”

“No. Should I be? You saved Solange.”

“Even vampires are nervous around the Cwn Mamau , ” I pointed out. I wasn’t sure why I was insisting she be scared of me. I just hadn’t had a lot of experience with unconditional acceptance, not from the revolutionaries in Paris and certainly not from other vampires. I felt the need to poke at the odd experience, like a sore tooth.

“Because you wear bones and do weird rituals in caves and paint mud on your faces?” she asked, grinning. “Please, my parents do that al the time. They’re total y into shamanistic rituals and dancing naked under the ful moon.”

“Explains everything, doesn’t it?” Solange glanced at me with a shy smile, inviting me into the moment.

“She is … unique,” I agreed.

“She’s also right here,” Lucy grumbled good-naturedly. “And even with my wimpy human hearing, I can hear you.” It was al very surreal. If my life had taken a different turn I might have taken for granted sitting with girlfriends in fine silk dresses drinking tea and eating petits fours. As it was, I’d never done this before. I wondered what Magda was doing right now, if she was touring the caves or arguing with a guard. I’d wager arguing with a guard.

“Can I give you a word of advice?” Lucy asked.

“I suppose so.”

“You have a great French accent. If a guy asks you to wear a French maid’s costume, kick him in the shin.”

“Especial y if it’s one of my brothers,” Solange agreed.

Charlemagne started to growl. I frowned at him, looking quickly around the room for the source of his alarm. I couldn’t find a thing until there was a thump at the front door. We ran for the foyer, Lucy considerably slower behind us. Solange looked through the peephole, then reached for the handle.

“Another gift,” she sighed. “Honestly, I thought once the worst of the bloodchange pheromones faded they’d go away.” At the front stoop lay a package wrapped in red foil paper, white rose petals scattered around it. She reached down to pick it up but I grabbed her arm.

“Don’t,” I said. “It’s Montmartre. I can smel him on it.” I nudged her back, reaching for my sword. “Go inside.” I didn’t wait to see if she’d listened, only kicked the door shut in her face. I was climbing off the porch when a pale shadow was suddenly at my elbow.

I only narrowly avoided decapitating Logan. He bent out of the way of my blade, graceful as a dancer. His pretty face was grim.

“There’s someone in the woods,” he said.

“I know. Host,” I added. I knew that smel , however faint

—blood, lilies, and wine. Montmartre’s personal army always smel ed the same.

“Stay here,” he ordered.

“I’m a Hound,” I told him. “This is what I do. You stay here.”

“Like hel .”

“Then stay out of my way.”

“Like hel ,” he repeated.

We moved like smoke between the cedars and maple trees lining the drive, toward the fields bordering the forest. I kept my sword lowered so the moonlight wouldn’t flash off the blade and give us away. Charlemagne padded beside me, eager but silent. The trees towered over us in their mossy dresses, branches crowned with leaves and owls and sleeping hawks.

The ground was soft underfoot, ferns touching our legs as we passed. Even the insects fel silent; not a single cricket or grasshopper gave away its position. Only the river sang quietly to herself in the distance.

Logan stopped, jerked his head to the right. I fol owed his gaze, nodded once to tel him I saw what he saw.

A single white rose petal, trampled into the mud.

For someone who wore lace cuffs when he wasn’t bare chested, Logan knew how to track. The wind shifted and my nostrils flared. The smel of bloody lilies was stronger now, thick as incense. We fol owed it, splitting up in unspoken agreement around a copse of oak trees. Logan went left, I stayed right.

This, at least, was something I was comfortable with. Tracking the Host was what I did. It sat easier on my skin than polite conversation and royal politics. I was almost looking forward to it.

There were two of them left, though it smel ed as if there’d been more. They were quick, but not quick enough. Logan went ahead to block them off and I crept in behind them. One of them hissed.

“Do you hear—”

He didn’t finish his question. Instead he spun on one foot to face me with a leer. I didn’t waste time leering back, only leaped face me with a leer. I didn’t waste time leering back, only leaped forward with my sword flashing.

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