Blood Feud Page 18

Most of the guests were laughing too loudly, drinking strawberry-garnished champagne, and losing money with great shouts at the card tables. No one noticed her. It felt a little like being inside a kaleidoscope, swirling with colors and sounds and smel s. It made her a little dizzy and she was glad for the relative safety of the buffet tables. She rol ed under the first one she could reach, wel hidden behind the floating white tablecloths.

From this angle, the gleaming parquet floor showed the scuff marks of fine shoes and beeswax drippings from the candles.

She’d never seen so many silk slippers and silver buckles in her whole life. She couldn’t wait to host parties of her own, just like this one.

She slipped her hand up the back of the table, where it was nearly against the wal , and took a blind handful. She’d been hoping for madeleines or a puff pastry fil ed with custard. The oyster was slimy and thick, though its shel was pretty enough.

Perhaps she’d keep it on her desk and use it to display her treasures: a stone with a perfect hole through its center, a stalk of dried lavender, Sabot’s baby canine.

The second handful was far more worth the risk of discovery.

The cakes were light and smeared with icing and raspberries.

They stained her fingertips red, like blood. She thought her teeth must be red too and she bared them like an animal, grinning. She’d have to remember this trick the next time she played with Joseph, one of the young stable boys. It would scare him sil y and she would be avenged for the prank he’d played on her last month with that bucket of cold water.

She ate until she was ful and sleepy and her teeth ached a little from al the sweets. She curled into a little bal and pil owed her cheek on her hands. One of the poodles sniffed his way her cheek on her hands. One of the poodles sniffed his way toward her and lay down beside her, licking the last of the raspberry juice off her fingers. One by one, the little dogs found her, creeping under the tablecloth in their diamond col ars to lick her face and snore themselves to sleep against her. Smiling, she fel asleep as wel under her canine blanket, holding the ribbon of her mother’s dress.



The Host led us through the woods at a comfortable pace. He was stumbling enough to leave a trail of broken branches and blood. He healed quickly though and by the time he stopped in a shadowed clearing, there was only the scent of blood remaining, and only very faintly. Logan nodded to a tangle of blackberry bushes. The thorns would pul and scratch but it offered the best protection; everything else was delicate feathery ferns. We crouched silently, waiting. I tried not to remember how my mother had loved blackberry tarts best of al , tried not to feel the scrap of worn silk burning in my pocket. I was grinding my teeth loud enough that Logan nudged me, frowning.

I tethered myself firmly to the present, focused on the mud under our feet, the thicket of leaves, the white flowers glowing on the border of the meadow, the Host standing in the tal grass.

The gleaming marble and gilded scrol work of the château of my youth faded slowly. Dusty grapes became ripe blackberries, piano music became the silence of crickets sensing predators nearby, lavender fields became a dark forest.

The Host wasn’t alone for long, as two more joined him from the direction of the Drake farms.

“They got Nigel,” one of them spat. He was pale enough to gleam in the moonlight, as if he’d been covered in crushed pearls.

“Got me too,” the one we’d tracked muttered. “Isabeau stabbed me, the bitch. Ripped my damn shirt. Since when do the royal courts have Hound whelps for backup?”

“Everything’s changing, Jones.” The third Host shrugged pragmatical y. “Was Montmartre’s gift delivered?”

“Doorstep,” Jones confirmed. “As ordered.” Logan’s lips lifted off his protruding fangs but he didn’t make a sound. I was impressed at his control. I’d assumed the Drake brothers were a wild, undisciplined lot, being royal and al . It would have been easy to forget by their fine manners that they’d been exiled from the royal court since Solange was born, and strongly discouraged from attending for at least a century before that. They al carried themselves with a certain flair and confidence.

Jones was ful y healed now and pacing a rut in the ground.

“Any word from Greyhaven?”

The name hit me so hard I flinched as if I’d been struck, then I went as stil as a hungry lion spotting a gazel e. A red haze covered my eyes, as if I looked through a mist of blood. If I’d had a heartbeat, it would have been loud as a blacksmith’s hammer on his anvil. Time seemed to go backward, speed up, and then stop altogether.

“He’s with Montmartre, waiting for the right time.”

“We’ve waited long enough, haven’t we?” Jones grumbled.

“We’ve waited long enough, haven’t we?” Jones grumbled.

“He wants everything to be perfect this time. No surprises.” The first smirked. “Wel , not for us anyway. The Drakes wil be plenty surprised.”

I knew they were stil talking but their words barely registered.

Al I could hear was that one word.



My skul felt like a church bel , ringing the same sound over and over again.

I hissed, tensing to leap out of the bushes, my vengeance closer than it had ever been before. They knew where Greyhaven was, could lead me to him so I could kil him for murdering me.

I never made it out of my crouch.

Logan was on me, quick as a hornet. His hand pressed over my mouth, his eyes flaring a warning above me. He was close enough that I could have bitten him, if he hadn’t had my jaws locked together. His body chained mine to the ground. He was stronger than I’d given him credit for, but I was faster and could have flipped him into the nearest tree.

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