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Wild Hunger

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Wild Hunger

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Author: Chloe Neill
Publisher: Gollancz, 2018
Berkley Books, 2018
Series: Chicagoland Vampires: Heirs of Chicagoland: Book 1

1. Wild Hunger
2. Wicked Hour

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Synopsis

As the only vampire child ever born, some believed Elisa Sullivan had all the luck. But the magic that helped bring her into the world left her with a dark secret. Shifter Connor Keene, the only son of North American Central Pack Apex Gabriel Keene, is the only one she trusts with it. But she's a vampire and the daughter of a Master and a Sentinel, and he's prince of the Pack and its future king.

When the assassination of a diplomat brings old feuds to the fore again, Elisa and Connor must choose between love and family, between honor and obligation, before Chicago disappears forever.


Excerpt

ONE

Vampires were made, not born.

All except one.

All except me.

I was the daughter of vampires, born because magic and fate twisted together. I'd spent nineteen years in Chicago. Tonight, I stood nearly four hundred feet above Paris, several thousand miles away from the Windy City and the Houses in which most of its vampires lived.

Around me, visitors on the second level of the Eiffel Tower sipped champagne and snapped shots of the city. I closed my eyes against the warm, balmy breeze that carried the faint scent of flowers.

"Elisa, you cannot tell Paris goodbye with your eyes closed."

"I'm not saying goodbye," I said. "Because I'm coming back."

I opened my eyes, smiled at the vampire who appeared at my side with two plastic cones of champagne. Seraphine had golden skin and dark hair, and her hazel eyes shone with amusement.

"To Paris," I said, and tapped my cone against hers.

It had been four years since I'd last stepped foot in Chicago. Tomorrow, I'd go home again and visit the city and spend time with family and friends.

For twenty years, there'd been peace in Chicago among humans and sups, largely because of efforts by my parents-Ethan Sullivan and Merit, the Master and Sentinel, respectively, of Cadogan House. They'd worked to find a lasting peace, and had been so successful that Chicago had become a model for other communities around the world.

That's why Seri and I were going back. The city's four vampire Houses were hosting peace talks for vampires from Western Europe, where Houses had been warring since the governing council-the Greenwich Presidium-dissolved before I was born. And vampires' relations with the other supernaturals in Europe weren't any better. Chicago would serve as neutral territory where the Houses' issues could be discussed and a new system of government could be hammered out.

"You look... What is the word? Wistful?" Seri smiled. "And you haven't even left yet."

"I'm building up my immunity," I said, and sipped the champagne.

"You love Chicago."

"It's a great city. But I was... a different person in Chicago. I like who I am here."

Paris wasn't always peaceful. But it had given me the time and distance to develop the control I'd needed over the monster that lived inside me. Because I wasn't just a vampire....

Seri bumped her shoulder against mine supportively. "You will be the same person there as you are here. Miles change only location. They do not change a person's heart. A person's character."

I hoped that was true. But Seri didn't know the whole of it. She didn't know about the half-formed power that lurked beneath my skin, reveled in its anger. She didn't know about the magic that had grown stronger as I'd grown older, until it beat like a second heartbeat inside me.

Sunlight and aspen could kill me-but the monster could bury me in its rage.

I'd spent the past four years attending ƒcole Dumas, Europe's only university for supernaturals. I was one of a handful of vampires in residence. Most humans weren't changed into vampires until they were older; the change would give them immortality, but they'd be stuck at the age at which they'd been changed. No one wanted to be thirteen for eternity.

I hadn't been changed at all, but born a vampire-the one and only vampire created that way. Immortal, or so we assumed, but still for the moment aging.

The university was affiliated with Paris's Maison Dumas, one of Europe's most prestigious vampire Houses, where I'd lived for the past four years. I'd had a little culture shock at first, but I'd come to love the House and appreciate its logical approach to problem solving. If Cadogan was Gryffindor, all bravery and guts, Dumas was Ravenclaw, all intellect and cleverness. I liked being clever, and I liked clever people, so we were a good fit.

I'd had four years of training to develop the three components of vampire strength: physical, psychic, and strategic. I graduated a few months ago with a sociology degree-emphasis in sup-human relations-and now I was repaying my training the same way French vampires did, with a year of mandatory armed service for the House. It was a chance to see what I was made of, and to spend another year in the city I'd come to love.

I was three months into my service. Escorting delegates from Maison Dumas to Chicago for the peace talks was part of my work.

"How many suitcases are you bringing?"

I glanced at Seri with amusement. "Why? How many are you bringing?"

"Four." Seri did not travel lightly.

"We'll only be in Chicago for four days."

"I have diplomatic responsibilities, Elisa."

I sipped my champagne. "That's what French vampires say when they pack too much. I have a capsule wardrobe."

"And that is what American vampires say when they do not pack enough. You also have diplomatic responsibilities."

"I have responsibilities to the House. That's different."

"Ah," she said, smiling at me over the rim of her drink. "But which one?"

"Maison Dumas," I said, in an accent that was pretty close to perfect. "I'm not going to Chicago on behalf of Cadogan House. It's just a bonus."

"I look forward to meeting your parents. And I'm sure they'll be glad to see you."

"I'll be glad to see them, too. It's just-I've changed a lot in the last few years. Since the last time I went home."

They'd visited Paris twice since I'd been gone, and we'd had fun walking through the city, seeing the sights. But I still felt like I'd been holding myself back from them. Maybe I always had.

"It's not about you or Cadogan or Chicago," I'd told my father, when we'd stood outside the private terminal at O'Hare, in front of the jet that would take me across the world. I'd been struggling to make him understand. "It's about figuring out who I am."

In Chicago, I was the child of Ethan and Merit. And it had been hard to feel like anything more than a reflection of my parents and my birth, which made me a curiosity for plenty of sups outside Cadogan House who treated me like a prize. And the possibility I might be able to bear children made me, at least for some, a prize to be captured.

I'd wanted to be something more, something different.... Something that was just me.

"You couldn't fail us by living your life the way you want," my father had said. "It's your life to live, and you will make your own choices. You always have."

He'd tipped my chin up with the crook of his finger, forcing me to meet his gaze.

"There are some decisions that we make, and some that are made for us. Sometimes you accept the path that's offered to you, and you live that path-that life-with grace. And sometimes you push forward, and you chart your own path. That decision is yours. It's always been yours."

"I don't want you to go, because I'm selfish. Because you are my child." His eyes had burned fiercely, emeralds on fire. "But if this is your path, you must take it. Whatever happens out there, you always have a home here."

He'd kissed my forehead, then embraced me hard. "Test your wings," he'd quietly said. A suggestion. A request. A hope. "And fly."

I had flown. And I'd read and walked and learned and trained, just like everyone else.

In Paris, I'd been just another vampire. And the anonymity, the freedom, had been exhilarating.

"We all carry expectations," Seri said quietly, her eyes suddenly clouded. "Sometimes our own, sometimes others'. Both can be heavy."

Seri came from what the European Houses called "good blood." She'd been made by a Master vampire with power, with money, with an old name, and with plenty of cachet-and that mattered to French vampires. Seri had been the last vampire he'd made before his death, and those of his name were expected to be aristocrats and socialites. Unlike in the US, French vampires selected their own Houses. She'd picked Maison Dumas instead of Maison Bourdillon, the House of her Master. That hadn't made her many friends among Bourdillon's progeny, who decided she was wasting her legacy.

"Are you excited to see Chicago?" I asked her.

"I am excited to see the city," she said, "if not optimistic about what will come of the talks. Consider Calais."

The most recent attack had taken place in Calais a week ago. Vampires from Paris's Maison Solignac had attacked Maison Saint-Germaine because they believed they weren't getting a big enough cut of the city port's profits. In the process, four vampires and two humans had been killed.

The European Houses had lived together peacefully, at least by human standards, for hundreds of years. But after the GP's dissolution, all bets were off. There was power to be had, and vampires found that irresistible.

More than a dozen delegates from France, including Seri and Marion, the Master of Maison Dumas, would participate in the talks. Marion and Seri would be accompanied by nearly a dozen staff, including Marion's bodyguard, Seri's assistant, Odette, and me.

"Yeah," I said. "I don't know how successful it will be, either. But refusing to talk certainly isn't doing much good."

Seri nodded and drank the last of her champagne as two guards passed us-one human, one vampire-and silenced the chatter. They wore black fatigues and berets, and looked suspiciously at everyone they passed. Part of the joint task force created by the Paris Police Prefecture to keep the city safe.

The vampire's eyes shifted to me, then Seri. He acknowledged us, scanned the rest of the crowd, and kept walking, katana belted at his waist.

Vampires in the US and Western Europe used the long and slightly curved Japanese swords, which were sharp and deadly as fangs, but with a much longer reach.

Sorcerers had magic. Shifters had their animal forms. Vampires had katanas.

"There's Jav'," Seraphine whispered, and watched as they kept moving, then disappeared around the corner. Jav' was a Dumas vampire doing his year of service.

These weren't the only guards at the Eiffel Tower. Humans and vampires alike stood at the edge of the crowd below, wearing body armor and weapons and trying to keep safe the tourists and residents enjoying a warm night in the Champ de Mars.

We turned back to the rail, looked over the city. So much white stone, so many slate roofs, so many people enjoying the warm night. But the specter of violence, of fear, hung over it. And that was hard to shake. No city was perfect, not when people lived in it.

"Let us take a photo," Seri said, clearly trying to lift the mood. She put an arm around me, then pulled out her screen and angled the narrow strip of glass and silicon for a perfect shot.

"To Paris!" she said, and we smiled.

The moment recorded, she checked the time before putting the device away again. "We should get back. The Auto will arrive in a few hours." She slipped an arm through mine. "This will be an adventure, and we will be optimists. And I look forward to pizza and Chicago dogs and... Comment dites-vous 'milk shake de gateau'?"

"Cake shake," I said with a smile. "You and my mother are going to get along just fine."

We'd only just turned to head toward the elevator when screams sliced through the air, followed by a wave of nervous, fearful magic that rolled up from the ground.

We looked back and over the rail.

Even from this height, they were visible. Five vampires in gleaming red leather running through the green space with katanas in one hand and small weapons in the other.

Not knives; there was no gleam from the flashing lights on the Tower.

What was shaped like a knife, but held no metal, and would turn a vampire to dust?

Humans had been wrong about vampires and crosses, but they'd been absolutely right about stakes. An aspen stake through the heart was a guaranteed way to put the "mortal" in "immortal."

I didn't know which House the vampires were from. I was too high to see their faces, and the gleaming red leather didn't give anything away. Leather was a vampire favorite, and French vampire Houses appreciated fashion as much as the French fashion houses did.

But their intent was clear enough. They ran through the crowd, weapons drawn, and took aim at everyone in their path. Screams, sharp and terrified, filled the air. I watched one person fall, another dive to the ground to avoid the strike, a third try unsuccessfully to fight back against the vampire's increased strength.

Paris was under attack. My stomach clenched with nerves and anger.

I wanted to help. I was stronger and faster than most humans, and trained as well as any vampire from Maison Dumas would have been. But there were rules. There were roles and responsibilities. The Paris police, the task force members, were supposed to respond to events. I was just a civilian, and only a temporary one at that. I worked for Dumas, and should have been focused on getting Seri safely back to Maison Dumas.

But the screams...

The guards who'd walked past minutes before ran back to the rail beside us and stared at the scene below in horror. And neither of them made a move toward the ground. It took only a second to guess why.

"Can you jump?" I asked Jav', the vampire.

He looked at me, eyes wide. "Quoi?"

I had to remember where I was, shook my head, tried again. "Pouvez-vous sauter?"

"Non." Jav' looked down. "Non. Trop haut."

Too high. Most vampires could jump higher and farther than humans, and we could jump down from heights that would easily kill humans. But the trick required training, which I'd learned the hard way-believing I could fly from the widow's walk atop Cadogan House. I'd broken my arm, but vampires healed quickly, so that hadn't been much of a deterrent. My mother had taught me the rest.

Jav' couldn't jump, so he'd have to wait for the elevator or take the hundreds of stairs down to ground level.

But I didn't have to wait.

I squeezed Seri's hand, told Jav' to take care of her, and hoped he'd obey.

Before anyone could argue, or I could think better of it, I slid the katana from his scabbard, climbed onto the railing, and walked into space.

I descended through rushing darkness. A human might have had a few seconds of free fall before the deadly landing. But for a vampire, it was less a fall than a long and lazy step. Maybe we compressed space; maybe we elongated time. I didnÕt understand the physics, but I loved the sensation. It was as close to flying as I was likely to get.

Copyright © 2018 by Chloe Neill


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