Blood Feud Page 8

“Mais oui. ” I was immediately on my guard. “I mean, of course.”

“Great.” He winked and then was gone. The leaves fluttered.

Charlemagne whined once, excited. I felt the same way. I gave him the hand motion to release him and then we were both running through the woods, passing between huge oaks and maples, ducking under pine boughs, leaping over giant ferns.

I’d never seen trees like these. I was used to the stately gardens and ancient vineyards of my childhood or, more recently, the Hounds’ caves; not towering trees so tal I couldn’t see their tops. Mists snaked at our ankles, drifted up to blow a cool breath around my waist. In the clear pockets, warm summer air pressed against me. My hair came loose of its pins and streamed behind me like a war banner. I would have laughed out loud if I hadn’t been sure Logan would hear me and smirk.

Somehow he’d known this would center me and calm me down again. I’d only been in the royal court for just under half an hour, scrutinized by barely a quarter of their numbers, and I was already itching for the seclusion of the caves and the uncomplicated company of Kala’s wolfhounds. This was almost as good. I did laugh when Charlemagne charged through a river, splashing me unrepentantly.

Logan was stil ahead. He was a blur and I was determined to catch up, if not pass him altogether. I knew his scent already, like the incense they used in church when I was a girl, underlaid with wine. Even under the thickness of the forest smel s, of damp mud and decomposing vegetations and mushrooms, I could recognize it.

My boots barely touched the ground. A rabbit dove for safety into the bushes. His voice drifted back to me. “Come on, Mademoisel e St. Croix, nearly there.”

I broke through a copse of thick evergreen and then I could see him, barely a yard ahead of me. I ran faster, feeling the burn in my legs, remembering how my heart might have pounded if I’d been able to move this fast as a human. We leaped out of the forest and into a field, landing at the same time in a puddle of mud hidden under a carpet of pine needles and wilted oak of mud hidden under a carpet of pine needles and wilted oak leaves. Only Charlemagne was smart enough to sail right over it.

Logan sighed. “These pants cost a fortune to dry clean.” They were black, shiny like plastic or worn leather. These vampires worried about the strangest things.

The mud sucked at my boots when I stepped out onto the long grass. Barking erupted out of the farmhouse and I touched Charlemagne’s head, whispering a command. His leg muscles quivered with the need to keep running, to meet the chal enge, but he stayed by me. Logan shook his head.

“They weren’t kidding when they said you had a way with dogs.”

I shrugged. “We understand each other.”

“He doesn’t even have a col ar.”

“There’s no need. He is not my servant, only my companion, and that is always his choice.”

“Wel , maybe he can teach our dogs some manners.

Especial y Mrs. Brown.”

“Mrs. Brown?”

“Is a terror. And only about fifteen pounds of pug.”

“Pug?” I echoed, interested despite myself. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.”

“Cross a smal dog with a pig and you have a pug.”

“Why would one do that?” I wondered.

“Lucy claims they’re cute.”

“Lucy is your … girlfriend?” Now why had I asked him that? I was suddenly too embarrassed to be proud that I’d remembered the modern English word for “girlfriend.” He slanted me a sidelong glance. “Lucy’s my sister’s best friend and pretty much like a second sister to me. She’s the mouthy one, hard to miss.”


“And you? Are you being married off to some Hound prince?”

“We don’t have princes.”

“But you have princesses?”

“Not real y, but it is the nearest word to describe my position among my people.”

“So wil you marry for politics?”

I shook my head. “We rarely marry and never for politics. The bones lead us to our mates.”

“The bones?”

“A ritual passed down through the centuries.”

“And have the bones led you to anyone yet?”

“Non.” I had absolutely no intention of tel ing him the bones had told Kala I would find my mate in the royal courts. Or that she was rarely wrong in these matters. After al , her magic was so strong she had dreamwalked to find my tomb, projecting her spirit across the ocean to locate me with nothing more than an omen and a wisp of a dream. She could have ignored them to work her spel s for some other, more personal purpose. Magic took as much as it gave, and one didn’t just send one’s spirit on such a far and dangerous journey without some cost.

So when Kala said my mate would be from the royal courts, she meant it.

And no Hound in the world would disbelieve her. It didn’t bear thinking on. No other shamanka or shamanka’s handmaiden had ever been joined with someone outside the tribe.

I’d rather be alone.

Besides, omens or not, I was here for another purpose.

“Hey, are you okay?” Logan reached out to touch my elbow, above a jagged scar from the mouth of one of the dogs that had pul ed me out of my grave. I jerked back. He lifted an eyebrow.

“I am fine.” I deliberately turned toward the farmhouse. The porch was wide with several chairs and a swing. Roses grew wild under the windows. The barking grew louder, punctuated with snarls. Logan looked concerned for the first time since he’d stopped a sword from cleaving my rib cage.

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