Blood Feud Page 7

And Hounds, or Cwn Mamau as we knew ourselves, didn’t fit anywhere easily. We weren’t regular vampires, we weren’t Hel-Blar, and we most definitely weren’t Host, as much as that fact irked Montmartre. We were a thorn in his side, seeking out the vampires he left underground and rehabilitating them before he could claim them for his own.

“A pleasure to meet you,” I said politely. “Finn, Magda, may I present Helena and Liam Drake.” Logan’s mouth twitched slightly and I knew he’d caught what I’d done. Finn bowed slightly. Magda inclined her head stiffly. Her long brown hair and soft clothes made her look like a fairy princess but she was contrary by nature, and admitting to being nervous or inferior in a royal court, especial y this one, was right out of the question. I laid the basket on the carpet and hoped our gift wouldn’t relieve himself on the hand-embroidered roses. “I bring a gift from our shamanka, Kala.”

Liam’s smile was genuine when he bent down to help the puppy out of the basket. I watched Charlemagne careful y, who was studying Liam careful y. When Charlemagne didn’t growl or tense, I relaxed as wel . His instincts were sound. The puppy rol ed over, barked, and then leaped to his feet, startled. Even Helena grinned. It softened her features considerably.

“Kala’s witch dogs are legendary,” she said.

“Yes, they are.” I nodded proudly. I wasn’t sure if she knew just how legendary they were. It was Kala’s giant dogs that had scented me in the cemetery and dug me out with their claws.

They’d been loyal to me ever since. And, truthful y, I preferred their company to those of my own kind. It was less complicated.

“And Kala’s not a witch, she’s a shamanka.”

“I beg your pardon. She says your gift for training them is just as legendary.”

I tried not to blush; it was unseemly for a vampire. Stil , Kala wasn’t easy with her praises and I felt myself standing a little tal er.

“You’l be our guest at the farmhouse.” It wasn’t a request.

Even if it had been, there’d have been no polite way out of it. I wasn’t sure which was worse, staying in these caves with those who clearly didn’t want us here or staying in the house of the queen. She was making sure everyone knew we were under her protection but there was something else to it, I was sure.

She didn’t ful y trust the Hounds, whatever her husband said about wanting treaties and reconciliation. This was a test.

“Of course.” The amulets Kala had given me glinted in the soft light when I lifted my chin.

“Logan wil take you there to rest. Your friends may remain here and acquaint themselves with the court.” Another test.

“Thank you.” I ignored Magda’s scowl; she’d been scowling since Kala first mentioned this visit. Finn bowed once and didn’t say anything else, so I assumed he didn’t have any serious say anything else, so I assumed he didn’t have any serious objections. I wasn’t yet used to the cavalier attitude to unchaperoned girls. True, I hadn’t had a chaperone in Paris, but I’d been living in the al eyways pretending not to be a St. Croix.

Anyway, we’d assumed they’d separate us; we’d have done the same if a group of royals or ancients had been invited to the caves. They might yet, if the treaties and negotiations went wel .

That gave me pause.

“I’l take you to the house.” Logan smiled pleasantly at me. He didn’t seem fazed by my extra set of fangs or the scars on my bare arms and the one on the left side of my throat. The few non-Hounds I’d met couldn’t help but stare.

I hated being stared at.

I couldn’t help but think Logan’s eyes were knowing, as if he knew what I was thinking, when he motioned for me to precede him down the narrow cavern passageway curtained off with a tapestry of a moonlit forest. The embroidery was familiar. We’d hung similar tapestries in the château to keep out the drafts.

Charlemagne padded softly by my side, alert but calm. I dug my fingers in his fur for strength when Logan wasn’t looking.

“I take it from your accent that you’re French?”

“Oui. ” I didn’t say anything else.

“Turn here. It’s fastest,” he explained, leading us down several more passageways and out into a clearing. He didn’t pry but I could see the speculation in his quick glance. He’d ask more questions soon enough, he and his entire family. I tried to remind myself that I was Kala’s emissary and strong enough to deal with the Drakes, royalty or not, ridiculously handsome or not. The moonlight glinted on the silver buttons of his frock coat.

He real y did look as if he belonged in a Victor Hugo novel, sipping claret wine by the fireside. “And this way we won’t have to climb down the mountain.”

The stars were thick overhead, visible only when the wind pushed at the cathedral ceiling of leaves and branches. The mountain was a black shadow hulking behind us. A wolf howled somewhere in the distance. Charlemagne threw back his head and opened his jaws to howl back. I snapped my fingers. “Non. ” I was nowhere near comfortable enough to have him give our location away. I had no way of knowing who else walked the woods with us. I found it hard to believe they would send the queen’s young son out with a savage princess without some kind of guard.

“The house is through the woods. We can take the tunnels if you’d prefer or …”

“Or what?”

“Can you keep up?” His grin was charming.

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