My Love Lies Bleeding Page 29

“Begin,” Veronique demanded before I’d even had a chance to test the balance of the blade in my hand.

We began.

I gave the proper salute, bringing my handle up to eye level and bowing. My opponent did the same. Then she lunged. I cross-stepped backward, blocking her attack. The slender blades scraped together. She lunged again and I used a circular parry, low this time. I didn’t touch her, not once. She was too quick, a blur of white. I’d never felt slower. I was at a distinct disadvantage but I kept going.

“Riposte!” Veronique hissed, and I obeyed, cross- stepping forward to attack. I blinked sweat out of my eyes.

She blocked me, feinted, and then brought her sword down toward my head. I held up my own sword, parallel to the gleaming floor, and absorbed the power of the blow in my arms. The force of it rang through my bones. I knew if she’d wanted to, she could have cleaved me in half.

“Enough,” Veronique called out, sounding satisfied. I lowered my arms, panting.

There was the sound of footsteps in the hall and then my brothers all trying to race through the door at the same time.

“Solange!”

“Are you hurt?”

When they realized I was unharmed, they stopped together, mouths snapping shut. Their eyes went from me, to Veronique, and then they bowed in unison.

“Bien,” she said to me. “You may go.”

I took off my mask and left it with my foil on the floor. I was halfway to the door in my haste to get out of there when she stopped me. “Solange.” I nearly groaned. “Yes, Madame?”

“Don’t forget this.” She moved so fast I didn’t see her, but she was suddenly standing next to me. Even my brothers looked startled. She handed me the vial. I slipped the chain over my head.

“Thank you.”

CHAPTER 12

Lucy

Nicholas lounged in that irritating way of his, reading through the photocopy of the field guide. He glanced up, watching me pace back and forth, back and forth. “I had no idea you were so fitness conscious.”

I paused. “What?”

“Well, you are doing aerobics in the middle of the night.” I hadn’t realized my pacing had practically turned into a jog. My breath was a little short, my leg muscles vibrating with tension. He was holding himself very carefully, as if he might break apart. Or as if I might. I made an effort to calm my pulse, dropped onto the sofa, and tried to sprawl as irritatingly as he did, but I couldn’t just sit there waiting. I piled kindling in the hearth and lit a fire. It was too warm outside for one, but I needed something to do. Nicholas’s fists unclenched.

“I hate this,” I said as the flames caught. It wasn’t nearly enough to distract me.

“I’d never have noticed. You hide your feelings so well.” His grin was crooked. It made him look nearly approachable, warmed by that unearthly beauty. Solange was the only scruffy Drake I’d ever met, and I didn’t know if she’d suddenly start wearing dramatic gowns after her birthday.

“Really, really hate this,” I added. The gardens were dark behind the treated glass. Or so I assumed, since we’d pulled all the curtains shut, just in case. It made everything cozy, romantic. “We should never have let her go,” I said.

“Bossy as you are, Solange doesn’t take orders from you.”

“I can’t think why, the Drakes are so malleable.” I sat up straight as something occurred to me. “Hey, you have the key to the vault.”

“Do I?”

“Yes, you do,” I told him pointedly. “And I want a stun gun.”

“It’s not a department store.”

I got up, tugged on his hands. They were cool to the touch. I pulled harder, before letting myself get distracted. “Come on.”

He made a big production of sighing like I was crazy, but at least he followed me down the stairs and through the halls, some of which doubled back on themselves, toward the family vault. It was more of a safe really, with a secret-tunnel exit, oxygen, blood supplies, and weapons. I’d never actually been inside before. I bounced on my heels impatiently. He shook his head.

“You’re acting like we have Santa locked in there.” I rubbed my hands together.

“This is better than some old fat guy. Now gimmee.” His glance was dry. “You’re not even supposed to know His glance was dry. “You’re not even supposed to know where this door is.”

“Please. I know every corner of this house, including the dirty magazines Quinn keeps under his bed.” I tossed my hair back smugly. “Helios-Ra has nothing on me.

Rat bastards.” I knew I was starting to babble, even for me, but I had to keep my body from reacting to his closeness. I should have been immune to his pheromones.

I must have been more tired than I’d thought.

He unlocked the door, angling his body so I couldn’t see if he was using a key or a numeric code. He probably knew that if I actually saw what the key looked like, I’d try and steal it. The door swung open silently, heavily, and he switched on the lights, which flickered briefly before glinting on a wall of steel shelves lined with boxes of arrows and stakes and cases of bullets. Guns were securely hung on a steel rack next to swords and claymores and axes on iron hooks. I let out a reverent breath.

Nicholas shook his head at my avarice.

“This was a bad idea.”

I lightly touched a wicked-edged blade.

“It’s even better than I thought.” There were baskets of quarter-staves and fighting clubs and spears. “Where are the stun— oooh. Shiny.” I reached for a crossbow, turning to grin at Nicholas. He swung backward, bending to get out of arms’ reach in a way that would have snapped a human spine in half. His dark shirt fluttered like wings. I lowered the crossbow, rolling my eyes.

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