Blood Prophecy Page 63

The chains rattled as I sat up against my rose-embroidered pillows.

“How do you feel?” Uncle Geoffrey asked, sounding clinical and detached. No one else had even spoken yet, they were all too busy staring at me. Mom’s eyes were suspiciously bright. Dad stepped forward with a small key.

“No, don’t,” I said. “Not until I’m sure.”

“That’s the Solange I know,” Mom said softly.

Then she burst into tears.

To say we were stunned is an understatement. Frankly, rabid badgers could have crawled through the window in matching tutus and performed ballet pirouettes and we would have been less surprised. “It’s really you.”

“I’m fine, Mom.” It was the same thing I’d been saying for weeks leading up to my birthday, back when I was still myself. She must have recognized the litany because she lowered herself onto the edge of my bed and squeezed my hand.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, lips trembling as she tried to regain her composure. “We should have known.”

Dad leaned down to kiss my forehead. “Welcome back, Sol.”

I swallowed hard so I wouldn’t cry too. “I’m sorry too,” I said, my voice much smaller than I would have liked. “For everything.”

“We’re just glad you’re back,” Logan told me. Quinn winked. Connor, Duncan, and Sebastian all smiled, though carefully, as if I was about to leap off the bed and attack them. Nicholas was there too, leaning against the wall.

“You’re okay too?” I asked, scratching under the edge of the copper collar. My skin felt raw. “What happened?”

“Dawn, hunters, psychotic doctors. It’s a long story,” he replied.

I bit down hard on my lip to stifle a sob. Between Mom’s weeping and my teary eyes, all of my brothers had taken a step backward, as if we might detonate. Only Marcus was brave enough to stay close, but that was only because he was unhooking the blood bag from the tube in my arm. He watched me as closely as if I were a specimen under his microscope. I hesitated, scrutinizing every feeling and twinge that went through me.

My fangs were extended. There were still three pairs of them; exorcising Viola hadn’t changed that. The blue of my veins was slightly faded, like old ink. The thirst that prowled through me like a hungry jungle cat was lazy now, rolling belly-up in the sunshine. Settling back into my own body was a strange, uncomfortable experience. I felt as if I’d been gone on a long journey and was coming home to a dusty, empty house.

I probed my memories of Constantine but there was no alien voice in my head, no rush of emotions that weren’t my own guilt and anger. I was alone.

“It’s safe,” I said finally, smiling brightly. “I don’t feel her anymore.”

“I knew you were stronger than that,” Aunt Hyacinth said and I noticed for the first time that she wasn’t wearing her veil. Her cheek was lightly scarred up to her temple. Marcus slid the needle out of my arm when Uncle Geoffrey gave him the nod. He pressed a cotton ball to the small pinprick but it was already healing. Dad unlocked the cuffs on my wrists and ankles. I wanted to laugh and cry and hug everyone really hard, from silent Sebastian to tattooed Isabeau in the corner.

“Viola?” I asked.

“She is gone,” Isabeau confirmed. “There is no trace of magic on you or anything unusual in your aura.”

Dad ran a hand along his jaw. “Anyone mind explaining to us what exactly is going on?”

“Viola was in my head for weeks before I realized it,” I said. “And when she put the crown on, she switched places with me.” Mom reached for one of the slender silver daggers in her boot but I don’t even think she realized she was doing it. “She was the first Drake daughter, that’s how she was able to possess me. And Madame Veronique knew.” I explained the rest of the story as best I could. When I got to the part about Madame Veronique’s handmaidens, I had to share my terrible news. “London died protecting me from her handmaids,” I added, tears burning in the back of my throat. “She’s really gone.”

Mom swore. Dad’s eyes glistened. “Damn,” he said softly.

“We have to have a memorial of some kind,” I insisted.

“Of course,” Dad agreed. My brothers nodded, looking shocked.

“She shouldn’t have died for me.” Guilt sent needles of pain through me. I tried to push it back. Ending these battles and political games would avenge her, not hand-wringing and wailing. But it was a struggle to stay calm. My gums ached around my fangs.

“I’ll have to call London’s father,” he added. I understood now why London had always been so distant and wary of us. Our fathers were cousins of a sort and hers was descended from the Christophe Drake branch of the family tree, while ours descended from his twin Arnaud Drake. Madame Veronique had always treated them, London included, differently and now I knew why. Until I came along, she’d been waiting for them to give birth to the next Viola.

Lucy’s arrival was a welcome interruption to the bleak silence. She burst into the room with a shout of “Bruno said it was okay!” She elbowed Logan out of the way and launched onto my bed, heedless of the tubes and the audience. The wolfhound puppy nipped at her heels, ecstatic with the new game. She wasn’t wearing her glasses but otherwise she looked just the same. She still smelled like cherries and pepper and the incense off the sweater her mother must have made for her. I was sated enough that I could smell her scent and the blood under her skin without turning predatory. I had twinges but they were easily ignored. I hugged her so tightly her back cracked. I let go abruptly. “Sorry! God, sorry!”

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