Bleeding Hearts Page 38

“The woman who shot the message arrow didn’t look like regular Hel-Blar,” Quinn said.

“Maybe they have other vampires working with them?” Liam asked, brow furrowed. “Though it seems unlikely.”

“No, she wasn’t like us, either. She was blue, just not that blue. And she didn’t reek of decay. That’s how she got so close.”

Bruno cleared his throat from the doorway. He looked tired and grim, right down to the tattoos on his shaved head. “Message,” he said bluntly.

Helena rose like smoke, trailing her husband, her sons, and her daughter. My parents rushed after them as well. Bruno stopped Quinn, Nicholas, and Solange. “You lot don’t need to see this.”

“They don’t seriously think we’re just going to wait here, do they?” I huffed. “That’s my cousin and your brother.”

Quinn tilted his head, raising his hand for silence. Nicholas was close behind me, close enough that every time I inhaled, my shoulder brushed his chest. Outside, the rain started again, like fingers tapping nervously on the roof.

“Hallway,” Quinn mouthed.

Solange went to stand beside him. Nicholas and I went to the second doorway leading from the library to the kitchen. If I stood at just the right angle and cricked my neck to the point of near-permanent damage, I could see everyone in the reflection of an antique mirror. Hoping for an even better perspective, I went on my tiptoes and then nearly toppled over. Nicholas’s cool, strong hand kept me from falling. I wondered how he could even hear their conversation over the pounding of my heart. He licked his lips and looked away. I wasn’t worried. If I could resist chocolate cake—and I had, once—he could resist me.

“So they know they don’t have Lucy. Does that make it better or worse?”

The sound of my name distracted me from the way Nicholas’s hair fell over his forehead and the line of his jaw and his shirt, damp from the rain, clinging to his sleek muscles.

“Christabel is a political hostage,” Liam said, skimming what must have been some sort of note. His mouth tightened. He was all about treaties and honor and this would push all of his buttons. “She’ll be fine as long as we give them a seat at the council table during the Blood Moon.”

“Bloody cheek,” Bruno muttered. “For that lot.”

“It doesn’t fit what we know of the Hel-Blar,” Liam agreed. “And Connor’s there, too,” he confirmed, nearly expressionless. That was never a good sign. “Unharmed.”

Quinn’s teeth were out so far, they poked into his lower lip. He clenched his fists, veins standing out on his arms.

“I’ll kill them,” Helena promised, almost pleasantly. Then she held up a decapitated blue hand. “Hell of a gesture of goodwill.” She glanced at my mother. “It’s not easy to cut off a vampire’s body part, and once they’re dust it’s impossible,” she explained. Mom swallowed. She didn’t want to know any of this stuff.

“I want them, Liam,” Helena continued with a cold smile, “on a stake.” In so many ways she was more medieval than the actual medieval members of the Drake family. She belonged to a time of trials by fire and iron maidens. One of the dogs, Byron, heard something in her voice and whined, sticking his wet nose in my palm.

“After the Blood Moon,” Liam said. “Not before. We have to accept this proposed treaty.”

“Damn their treaty. Since when do we negotiate with kidnappers?”

“Since they have an innocent girl,” he answered grimly. “And our son.”

“It sets a bad precedent,” she said, but she wasn’t really arguing.

“You can’t risk my niece,” Dad said calmly, as if she weren’t wearing a sword in her belt and couldn’t snap his neck with a flick of her very delicate wrist.

“I know,” she replied. “They have our son, too.” She touched his shoulder, reminding him that she knew how he felt. Poor Connor. He really was the nicest of the brothers, and now he was at the mercy of vampires who hacked off body parts and used them as calling cards.

“They don’t actually want a war,” Liam continued to read, lips pursed in thought.

“Should’ve thought of that earlier,” Helena said darkly, “before they touched my family.”

“They say they sent delegates to request a private audience, but they were killed on sight.” He rubbed his face. “That’s on us, love.”

“The Chandramaa shot that girl, not us.” Helena stared at him. “And are we supposed to let Hel-Blar just waltz into the courts now, Liam? Are you forgetting what they’re like?” She tossed the hand onto the narrow table against the wall. The faintly wet sound made my mom turn green. Liam moved a painted oil lamp to hide the stain of old vampire blood and decomposing flesh. Gag.

“They’re attacking the secluded farmsteads now,” Bruno added. “And taking livestock closer to town. Even the local papers are starting to grumble about gang violence.”

“I know.” Liam sighed, suddenly sounding a hundred years old though he barely looked thirty. “This Saga wants us to believe she’s different and can control the others. She wants to prove herself to us.”

Bruno read over his shoulder with the ease of someone who had worked with the family for more than two decades. “Claims she’s behind the hands we’ve been finding in the forest. That’s a hell of a way to clean up your backyard.”

Prev Next