Magic Graves Page 12

"Don't fret. She'll stay quiet like a good girl, won't you, poppet?" Ian drawled in her ear.

Annette's grunts now sounded furious, but there was no way she could overpower Ian. That was also why I wasn't too worried about our uninvited guest. Either he was suicidal, or he had no idea that he was sneaking up a hill where there were several Master vampires, one of whom whom could rip his head off with merely his thoughts.

"Fabian, you only saw one vampire?"

The ghost bobbed his head. "On the lower half of the hill."

Must be why the others didn't sense him yet. Our house and guest house were on the highest point of this hill, deliberately less accessible to any passersby.

"Kitten, come with me," Bones said, rising at last. "Fabian, tell the others to stay inside and talk as though nothing's amiss."

I finished strapping more silver knives to the sheaths lining my arms. Wooden stakes would've been cheaper, but those only worked in the movies. Then I threw a coat on, not for warmth against the frigid November evening, but to conceal all my weapons.

"Ready," I said, my fangs popping out of their own accord.

Ian snorted. "Appears as if Christmas has come early for you, Cat."

I glowered at him, but the exhilaration coursing through me must be evident from my aura. I hadn't wanted a knife-happy intruder to crash Bones's birthday party, but it had been weeks since I'd indulged in a little ass kicking. Who could blame me for wanting to show this vampire what happened to anyone coming around my house looking for trouble?

"Remember we need him alive, luv," Bones said. His gaze flared emerald with his own form of predatory anticipation. "For now at least."

*** *** ***

Frost-coated leaves crunched underneath my feet as I walked through the woods. My strappy heeled sandals were the worst choice of footwear for any normal person navigating these steep hills, but vampires had great reflexes and couldn't catch cold, so I hadn't bothered to change my shoes. Plus, if it made me look more vulnerable to whoever was prowling out here in the dark with me, so much the better.

Bones was somewhere flying above, but I didn't see him due to his clothing blending against the night sky, or him being too high up. I didn't see Fabian or his ghostly girlfriend, either, but I knew they were out here, ready to notify our friends if our prowler turned out to have an entourage. We'd guarded the location of our Blue Ridge home from all but close friends and family, yet if one enemy had found us, others might have, too.

Twigs snapped about a hundred yards to my left. I didn't jerk my head in that direction, but continued on my way as if I were out for a leisurely midnight stroll. I doubted our trespasser would fall for the act, but he had to be somewhat stupid or he wouldn't have attacked Annette while Bones was within striking distance. No Master vampire worth their fangs would stand for that.

More crackling noises sounded, too close for me to pretend not to hear them anymore. I turned in that direction, widening my eyes as if I hadn't already noticed the shadowy figure lurking behind the trees.

"Is someone there?" I called out, edging my tone with worry.

Laughter rolled across the cold night air. "You'd make a terrible horror movie heroine. You neglected to hunch your shoulders, clutch your coat, and bite your bottom lip ever so tremulously."

His accent was English, and his manner of speaking sounded more like Spade and Annette's aristocratic dialect than Bones and Ian's less formal vernacular. Shoulder length blond hair caught the moonlight as he stepped out from behind the trees.

It wasn't his looks that made me stare, though the vampire's chiseled cheekbones and finely sculpted features reminded me of Bones's flawless beauty. Or his height, and he had to be at least six two. It was his shirt. Lace spilled out from under his coat sleeves to almost cover his hands. More of that frothy white stuff gathered at his neck and hung midway down his chest. I almost forgot to scan him for weapons, it was so distracting.

"Are you serious?" I couldn't help but blurt. "Because Ru Paul would think twice before wearing that in public."

His smile showed white teeth without any hint of fang. "A nod to my heritage. I drew the line at the tights, though, as you can see."

He wore black jeans, so yes, far more modern than his top. The jeans also showed off the silver knife strapped to the vampire's thigh, but aside from a long wooden walking stick, that was the only visible weapon he carried. Didn't mean it was the only weapon he had; all my best stuff was hidden, too.

"Let me guess. You're lost?"

I started to close the distance between us. Although he didn't have a speck of blood on him, chances were, I was looking at Annette's attacker. His aura marked him as a couple hundred years old, but I wasn't afraid. Unless he was cloaking his power, he wasn't a Master, which meant I could wipe the floor with him.

The vampire appraised me in the same way I looked him over; thorough, assessing, and unafraid. All the while, that little smirk never left his face.

"Beautiful, aren't you?" he commented.

Something about him seemed familiar even though I was sure we'd never met. His cockiness would certainly make him memorable.

"So, you want to talk more?" I went on. "Or should I just start whipping your ass for trespassing and probable assault?"

I was now close enough that I could see his eyes were the color of blueberries, but he didn't react in anger. Instead, his grin widened.

"If you weren't my relation, I'd be tempted to take you up on your flirting."

The idiot thought I was hitting on him? That annoyed me into missing the first part of his sentence, but then I froze.

"What do you mean, relation?"

The only family I had above ground consisted of an imprisoned vampire father, a ghostly uncle, and a newly-undead mother. Yet the conviction in his tone and the steady way he held my gaze had me wondering if he was telling the truth. Good Lord, was it possible that my father wasn't the only vampire in my family ancestry?

He traced a line in the dry leaves with that long stick, his brow arching in challenge.

"Haven't figured it out yet?" He gave a mock sigh. "Thought out of everyone, you'd be most attuned to the similarities, but appears not."

Word games weren't the right move with me. I gave his long blond locks and intentionally outdated shirt a withering glance. "If you're trying to double as Lestat, then sure, you nailed it with the similarities."

He snorted. "Thick little kitten, aren't you?"

Something dark dropped down behind him, but before the vampire could whirl around to defend himself, he was enveloped in a punishing embrace. Moonlight glinted off the blade Bones held to the vampire's chest.

"No one calls my wife that but me," he said in a deadly silken voice.

The vampire twisted in a futile attempt to free himself, but iron bars would've been easier to pry off. His thrashing drove the tip of Bones's knife into his chest, darkening that white lacy shirt with crimson. More struggling would only shove the blade deeper, and if that silver twisted in his heart, the vampire would be dead the permanent way. He stilled, craning his neck to peer back at the man restraining him.

In that moment, seeing their faces so close together, the first inkling of realization slammed into me. It seemed impossible, but...

"Bones, don't hurt him!" I said, reeling at the implications. "I-I think maybe this isn't about Annette's attack."

The vampire shot me an approving look. "Not so thick after all, are you?"

Bones didn't move the blade, but his hand tightened around the hilt of the knife. "Insult her again and those will be your last words."

A pained laugh came out of the vampire. "Here I thought teasing one's relation was normal."

"Relation?" Bones scoffed. "You're claiming to be a member of her family?"

"Not by blood, but by marriage," the vampire said, drawing each word out. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wraith, and I'm your brother."

About the Author

Jeaniene Frost is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of the Night Huntress series and the Night Huntress World novels. To date, foreign rights for her novels have sold to seventeen different countries. Jeaniene lives in North Carolina with her husband Matthew, who long ago accepted that she swears like a sailor, rarely cooks, and always sleeps in on the weekends.

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Ilona Andrews

The problem with leucrocotta blood is that it stinks to high heaven. It's also impossible to get off your boots, particularly if the leucrocotta condescended to void its anal glands on you right before you chopped its head off.

I sat on the bench in the Mercenary Guild locker room and pondered my noxious footwear. The boots were less than a year old. And I didn't have money to buy a new pair.

"Tomato juice, Kate," one of the mercs offered. "Will take it right out."

Now he'd done it. I braced myself.

A woman in the corner shook her head. "That's for skunks. Try baking soda."

"You have to go scientific about it. Two parts hydrogen peroxide to four parts water."

"A quart of water and a tablespoon of ammonia."

"What you need to do is piss on it..."

Every person in the locker room knew my boots were shot. Unfortunately, stain removal methods was one of those troublesome subjects somewhere between relationship issues and mysterious car noises. Everybody was an expert, everybody had a cure, and they all fell over themselves to offer their advice.

The electric bulbs blinked and faded. Magic flooded the world in a silent rush, smothering technology. Twisted tubes of feylanterns ignited with pale blue on the walls as the charged air inside them interacted with magic. A nauseating stench, reminiscent of a couple of pounds of shrimp left in the sun for a week, erupted from my boots. There were collective grunts of "Ugh" and "Oh God," and then everybody decided to give me lots of personal space.

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