Blood Feud Page 6

“My apologies,” he added, bowing to us. “My mother’s only been queen for a few days and everyone’s stil on high alert.

Someone tried to assassinate her not ten minutes ago.” He must be one of the legendary Drake brothers. There were seven of them and a single daughter who’d just been turned.

“But you’l be safe,” he hastened to assure us.

“I know.” I did not need his protection. His eyes were as green as mine, like moss. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me, as if I wore one of my old bal gowns instead of a leather tunic with chain mail over my heart.

“Isabeau,” he said. “And Magda and Finn, I presume?” He nearly drawled each word. “I’m Logan Drake.” His brown hair tumbled over his forehead, and the shape of his jaw and his narrow nose were distinctly aristocratic. He would have been more at home among the nobles of my time than this modern more at home among the nobles of my time than this modern place. It made me both distrust him and feel oddly drawn to him.

I straightened my spine. I wasn’t here to admire pretty boys; I was here as Kala’s emissary. It was inexcusable to be distracted, even for a moment.

“We’re here for the coronation,” I explained stiffly.

“It’s not for another two weeks,” another guard said.

Logan made a sound of frustration. “At ease, Jen,” he said before offering us a charming smile. “If you’l fol ow me?” I snapped my fingers and Charlemagne bounded forward to trot at my side. The basket ful of wriggling puppy went over my shoulder again. They led us down a carved hal , the gray stone dipping low over our heads. Magda was scowling.

“These caves used to belong to us , ” she hissed.

“A hundred years ago,” I hissed back. “You weren’t even born then, never mind turned.”

“So what? They stil stole our home from us.” Her long flowered skirt flowed around her ankles, the silver thread embroidery glinting in the torchlight.

“Lady Natasha stole the caves,” Logan said, without turning to look at us.

“Are you planning on giving them back?” Magda snorted, before I could stop her. I pinched her arm. She jerked out of reach but didn’t say anything else. Actual y, she said a lot but she was grumbling, so we were able to pretend not to hear her.

The hal widened and final y brought us to a cavern dripping with stalagmites. Candles burned in silver candelabra and iron birdcages. There were numerous benches and a dais with the splintered remains of a white throne and dozens of cracked mirrors.

And vampires everywhere.

Conversations halted abruptly. They al turned to stare at us as if we were poisonous mushrooms suddenly growing in a manicured garden. They were pale and perfect, with gleaming teeth and hard eyes. I saw every manner of clothes, from leather to corsets to jeans. One of them wore a poncho such as Magda often wore. Finding comfort in the styles of one’s human youth was common to al vampires. It was a similarity between us but it was hardly enough to outweigh the snarls and suspicious sneers.

Even Finn stiffened, and Magda was practical y vibrating with the need to attack. Charlemagne’s ears went back when he sensed the tension, thick and sticky as honey. Only Logan sauntered forward as if we were here for nothing more than tea and cake.

“I’ve brought our guests,” he announced. No one could miss the inflection on the last word. And the warning. The conversations resumed, but mostly murmurs and whispers. No one wanted to miss the presentation between the queen and the Hound princess who helped save her daughter. I didn’t see Solange anywhere. I put my shoulders back and swore to myself, yet again, that I wouldn’t let Kala down.

Logan stopped in front of a slender, short woman with a long braid. I cast an envious glance at the daggers lined up neatly on her shoulder strap. The man next to her had wide shoulders and a calm smile.

a calm smile.

“Mom, Dad, this is Isabeau St. Croix.” Logan presented me with such a flourish, I nearly forgot myself and curtsied. He’d introduced me to them and not the other way around, subtly claiming that his parents had a higher social standing. I felt sure he’d done it on purpose but I was surprised someone born in this century would know those particular rules of etiquette. They hadn’t survived the centuries, which meant I’d had to learn a whole new set of rules. As if it hadn’t been tiresome enough the first time. “Isabeau, this is Queen Helena and King Liam Drake.

“Welcome,” Liam said, his voice soothing and rich as brandy cream. I knew they were looking at my fangs. I had two sets, sharp and white as abalone shel . The more feral vampires went, the more fangs they grew. Even we avoided the Hel-Blar, who had a mouthful of razor teeth and blue-tinted skin. Before Montmartre, they had been rare. You could go your whole life without ever coming across one. They were mostly created by accident or ignorance, especial y centuries ago when the bloodchange was even more of a mystery than it is today.

But now, because of Montmartre, they were like fire ants pouring out of an anthil ; where there used to be one there was now a hundred. He’d been so eager to create his own personal army, he’d ravaged the old cobbled towns of Europe for hundreds of years, turning humans into vampires with indiscriminate greed.

That wasn’t good enough for him though. He wanted his personal army to be the best, the strongest, and the most vicious. He began leaving people half-turned under the earth to prove themselves, to survive the bloodchange alone. Those who didn’t die, or go mad with hunger, were recruited to become part of his Host. The rest were abandoned as Hel-Blar.

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