Blood Feud Page 25

“Did you want a tour of the caves?” I asked, to distract us al .

“Oui. If it’s not too much trouble.”

“Not at al .” I held out my arm, the way they do in period-piece movies. It would have been smooth too, if Magda hadn’t glowered and shoved her way between us.

“I’m coming too.”

I’d have to console myself with the hope that I’d seen Isabeau soften, even hesitate, as if she might actual y have taken my arm. It was suddenly very easy to picture her in a gown with petticoats and ringlets in her hair and diamonds at her throat. It was just as easy to picture Magda with horns and a pitchfork.

“Let’s double back to the main hal and start from there.” I led them back, avoiding the portrait gal ery. The hal bustled with activity, guards at every passageway. I took the one on the left, behind a tapestry of the Drake family insignia. Madame Veronique had sent it to us the night after Mom kil ed Lady Natasha. It was hand-embroidered and at least half a century old, with the royal mark of a ruby-encrusted crown along the top edge. Veronique had made it herself, long before Solange was even born. Apparently she paid more attention to vampire politics and prophecies than she’d have everyone believe.

“This tunnel winds around through most of the rooms,” I told them as we ducked into the narrow stone walkway. It was lit with candles in red glass globes hanging from nails in the ceiling and it had a simple dirt floor and damp wal s. Magda looked at me suspiciously but I ignored her. “Al these doors we’re passing lead to guest chambers.” I nodded to an iron grate locked over a thick oak door with heavy hinges. “Blood supply’s in there,” I explained. “In case of a siege. It was Mom’s first request.”

“C’est bon,” Isabeau approved. “We have something similar in our caves.”

“There’s a bunch of council rooms down that way, and a weapons store currently undergoing inventory.”

“It’s lovely,” Isabeau said politely. “But where are your sacred stories, your paintings? Blood has magic, surely you know that much?”

“We have tapestries,” I said, but I didn’t think that was what she meant.

“Is it true your mother took out Lady Natasha single-handedly?” Magda interrupted, as if she couldn’t help herself.

“Yes,” I said proudly. “Sort of. None of it would have gone down the way it did if Isabeau hadn’t arrived, just in time.”

“So you admit you owe us?”

“Magda, hush,” Isabeau said. “We al want to stop Montmartre. He’s too powerful as it is.”

“And a pain in the ass,” I agreed grimly. “Not to mention a cradle-robbing pervert. He’s what, four hundred years older than Solange?”

Isabeau glanced away. “I am technical y two hundred years older than you.”

“Not the same thing,” I said quickly. “At all. ” Damn. If I tried, maybe I could shove my other foot in my gigantic mouth. So much for smooth. Magda grinned from ear to ear. I had no idea how to reclaim that lost territory. “I think we can al agree you’re nothing like Montmartre.” Isabeau inclined her head, a glint of humor in her green eyes.

“I do not want the crown,” she agreed. “No Cwn Mamau does.” And the crown was pretty much al Montmartre wanted.

Aside from my little sister.

The thought made me grind my teeth hard enough that the noise startled Charlemagne. I relaxed my jaw through force of wil power alone. Then I realized I’d led us into a dead-end chamber. I’d been so distracted by Isabeau’s scent and the sound of her voice and the way her black hair swal owed the flickering light of a single candle, that I’d practical y walked us into a wal .

Hard to believe, but before Isabeau I’d had a fair bit of skil with the whole flirting thing.

She turned on her heel and I noticed she was smiling, a true startled smile, as if she wasn’t used to it. “Oh, Logan, c’est magnifique. ”

Apparently she liked cave wal s and the clinging damp of mildew.

And then I realized her fingertips were hovering an inch over a faded red ocher painting. It was so faint I’d never have noticed it. As it was, I could only real y make out a handprint.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a Cwn Mamau sacred story,” she explained. “It’s older than anything I’ve ever seen.”

“From before the royals stole the caves from us,” Magda felt the need to add.

“Hey, I’ve only been royal for just over a week.” I felt the equal need to defend myself.

“Shhh,” Isabeau murmured gently, as if we were bickering children. “This is a holy place. Can’t you feel it?” I felt the quality of the silence, the weight of stone pressing al around us. And if I concentrated, the very faint lingering traces of some kind of incense.

“This handprint here is the mark of an ancient shamanka. And here, these lines represent the thirteen ful moons in a year.” She pointed out the drawing in such a way that I could actual y see it clearly, see the faint lines solidifying, see the dance of torchlight from centuries earlier, smel cut cedar branches under our feet. A slight wave of vertigo had me tensing. I must have made some sound as I peered around, because she smiled that crooked smile again. “You see it now, don’t you?” I nodded, turning to take in the cave drawings and the story they told. “Are you doing this?” I asked, stunned. “And how?”

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