Blood Feud Page 32

But I wasn’t stupid.

I knew she’d never admit to it—and not only because I was a Drake and royalty.

It stil felt weird to think of myself as royalty. I was just one of many Drake boys with a handsome face and a smart mouth. I didn’t stand out particularly; I didn’t have Connor’s knack for computers, Quinn’s right hook, or Marcus’s gift for negotiation. I just dressed better.

“Can I assume you’re not trying to kil me?” I asked as we ran on, leaving the dog’s paw behind.

“I didn’t make that charm,” Isabeau said. “But I damn wel want to know who’s trying to muddy my name.”

“And kil me,” I reminded her dryly.

She looked remote and cool, but I could see the strain of worry under her polite mask. I’d never known anyone more self-contained than she was, running with her giant dog loping at her side, her sword strapped to her back. Magda sent me another glare, which I ignored. Someone materialized at my side.

“Jen, stay here,” I told her. The last thing we needed was a hothead like her barging into Hound territory. She was armed to the teeth, stakes lining the leather strap that fit tight between her breasts, and there were daggers on her belt.

“Someone has to watch your back,” she said stubbornly.

“I’l be fine,” I insisted, annoyed. It wasn’t like I was Solange with some deranged vampire lusting after me, or a little kid. I could take care of myself. I was eighteen years old, for Christ’s sake.

“You’re royalty,” she told me, fol owing me out into the dark forest. “I’m a royal guard.”

I sighed irritably. I didn’t have time to charm her or to shake her loose.

“Fine,” I snapped. “But we’l be guests of the Hounds, so don’t pick a fight.”

“As long as they don’t start anything, I won’t either.”

“I need your promise.”

Her blue eyes sparked. “You have it.”

“Less talking,” Isabeau cal ed back to us. “More running.” She was shooting through the woods like a star, her skin pale and glowing faintly when the moonlight found its way through the thick leaves. She had no idea how beautiful she looked, even grim and deadly as she was right now.

grim and deadly as she was right now.

And I probably shouldn’t be watching her ass quite so careful y but I couldn’t help myself.

The forest went quiet at our approach. Five vampires moving quickly wil silence even the cicadas. An owl rustled in a tree overhead but didn’t fly away. I didn’t know what to expect in the Hounds’ caves. No one had set foot there uninvited in nearly a century even when they were backup caves and not the main residence. I’d been hearing stories about the savage Hounds since I was little. Isabeau had been a surprise to al of us. So had Finn, come to think of it, since he wasn’t technical y a Hound at al . He’d chosen to al y himself with them and they’d let him. I wasn’t sure which part was more rare.

We stayed close to the mountain, skirting the huge pine trees. The wind was warm, even here. August was nearly finished, soon the leaves would change colors and fal away. It made it harder to stay undetected in the forest, but not impossible.

“Do you smel something?” Magda asked suddenly, slowing to a stop and frowning. She sniffed the air like a suspicious cat.

Her expression went flat. “Blood.”

My nostrils flared. Definitely blood. A lot of it. Despite the situation, my stomach grumbled. My fangs extended instinctively.

“And something else,” I added, hearing a soft tinkling sound, like ice in a glass. “Did anybody hear that?” Isabeau nodded grimly. I shifted to be closer to her, even though Magda tried to block me. She acted like I was a threat, like I was planning to stake Isabeau when she wasn’t looking.

As if I ever would, and as if Isabeau couldn’t stop me. I don’t know what it said about me that it kind of turned me on that she could probably kick my ass if she wanted to. She might look like a porcelain dol , but I knew from experience that she was tough as iron nails. I’d have to find a nicer way of tel ing her that. I didn’t think she was used to compliments. I may as wel start getting her comfortable with it, because I planned to compliment her a lot. Just as soon as she stopped looking at me like she was trying to figure out what I real y wanted.

Which was her. Just her.

I nearly groaned out loud. Having an aunt who’d slept with Byron and insisted we read al the Romantic poets had evidently addled my brain. My brothers would never let me live it down if they found out I’d fal en in love with a Hound princess after a single night without even kissing her. Like I had any intention of tel ing them. You didn’t survive five older brothers and a younger one by running your mouth off about stuff like that. Basic survival skil .

We crept around a copse of stunted oaks and into a narrow clearing. It was the same one where we’d eavesdropped on the wounded Host after Solange received Montmartre’s “gift.” That couldn’t be a coincidence. I saw the flicker of recognition on Isabeau’s face.

But we didn’t have time to discuss it.

At first, none of us knew what to say. I’d never seen anything like it. The smel of blood was so strong I actual y had to cover my nose until I got used to it. The muscles in the back of my my nose until I got used to it. The muscles in the back of my neck tensed up.

The long grass was undisturbed, dotted with wildflowers. The moon made everything silver, as if it were wet. There were no bodies, no drained humans or animals, no sign of struggle.

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