Blood Feud Page 16

“A Hound whelp,” he spat. “A little far from home, aren’t you?”

“No farther than you.”

He swung out with a fist, confident of his strength. I danced backward, cocked an eyebrow in his direction.

“Serving Montmartre’s made you fat and lazy,” I taunted him.

His face mottled with rage and he roared, attacking again.

Anger made him clumsy and easy to avoid. I flitted around him like a hummingbird. Charlemagne stood to the side, waiting for a command.

Logan engaged his companion before they could join forces.

“Quit playing with him and finish him,” he grunted, ducking a dagger strike.

The Host who was trying his best to dismember me had a similar dagger, curved and nearly as long as a sword. There was no crossbow, no gun loaded with bul ets fil ed with holy water. It was a favorite among the Host, stolen from fal en Helios-Ra agents. This one, though, was dressed for hunting and








dispassionately, concentrating on staying light on my feet. Our movements grew faster, more vicious until we must have looked like a blur, just a succession of colors, like paint smears on a wet canvas. Logan dispatched his opponent, ash settling on the nearby ferns. He bent to pick something up out of the clothes left behind.

I parried a stab at my heart, the chain-mail patch sewn into my tunic jingling faintly. I aimed for his head, moving with deliberate and deceptive slowness. He blocked it, leaning back instinctively. I took advantage of his position and the momentum of my swing and jabbed at his lower leg. I caught him by surprise and he stumbled back, cursing. Blood seeped down his leg, splattered into the undergrowth. I moved in for the kil but he was gone, running through the woods. I probably could have caught up to him, could certainly fol ow the trail of blood droplets.

Which was the point.

Logan wiped blood from a cut on his arm, shaking his head.

“You’re as good as they say you are,” he said. “I’m surprised you didn’t dust him.”

“Better to give him a few minutes’ head start.”

“Why’s that? Didn’t your mother teach you it’s rude to play with your food?”

“I wouldn’t drink from him if I was starving. He’s wounded and he’l go back to his pack. If we’re lucky that cut won’t heal until he’s led us there.”

Logan stared at me, then at the thick green undergrowth.

Even slowed down, the Host would be moving fast enough not to leave footsteps. Not flying exactly, but certainly a speed-enhanced float, which was difficult to track.

Much more difficult than tracking a trail of blood, even in a forest thick with the scents and markings of various vampires and assorted animals. Logan whistled through his teeth.

“I’m definitely impressed.” He reached for the phone in his pocket. “Let me make a cal and then let’s get the bastard.

What the hel did they want this time? Solange has already What the hel did they want this time? Solange has already turned.”

“Montmartre,” I said flatly. “They were leaving a gift for your sister at the front door.”

“Son of a bitch. Is this a Host symbol?” He showed me the smal wooden disk he’d plucked up out of the ashes of his attacker. It was engraved with a rose and three daggers. “The assassin who tried to dust my mother tonight had a tattoo like this.”

“I’ve never seen it before,” I said.

“There’s something else going on here, something we’re missing.” He spoke curtly into the phone and then tossed his hair out of his eyes. “Let’s go.”

“I can do this alone,” I assured him. “I’m quite capable.”

“Mmm-hmmm,” he murmured noncommittal y.

We went swiftly, but not so swiftly that we’d catch up before he’d had a chance to lead us anywhere interesting. It was uncomplicated work.

The surprise came in the form of a piece of fabric, pinned to a narrow birch tree, gleaming pale as snow. The silk was indigo, faded with age and encrusted with silver-thread embroidery. The delicate stitching showed a fleur-de-lys and the frayed end of a tattered ribbon.

I knew that scrap of cloth, knew it intimately.

I shivered, reaching for my sword again.


France, 1788

Her mother’s dressing room was Isabeau’s favorite place in the entire château. She loved it even better than the dog pens and the stables, even more than the locked pantry where the cook kept the precious blocks of chocolate and jars of candied violets. She wasn’t al owed in either room, so she tried very hard to be quiet and unobtrusive, perched on a blue silk stool as her mother’s maids flitted in and out with various cosmetics and gowns.

Her mother, Amandine, sat at her table, applying rouge to her powdered cheeks. Her hair was pinned under an elaborate white wig laden with corkscrew curls and bluebirds made out of beads and real feathers. Isabeau had heard stories of Marie Antoinette’s beauty and the stunning displays of her hairpieces, some with ships so tal she had to duck through doorways.

Isabeau couldn’t imagine the queen could have been any more beautiful than her mother was tonight. When she was old enough, she would wear ropes of pearls and sapphires in her hair as wel , and silk-covered panniers under her gowns.

Amandine’s underclothes were made of the finest white linen and silk, ornamented with tiny satin bows. The gown she had chosen for tonight’s bal was indigo, like a summer sky at twilight. The buttons were made of pearls and the silver-thread embroidery paraded fleur-de-lys from hem to neckline. The St.

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