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  • Blade Bound(Chicagoland Vampires #13)(142) by Chloe Neill
  • “Says the woman who out-ate me at my own bachelorette party.”

    “That was more than a year ago. When are you going to stop bringing that up?”

    “When it stops serving my purpose.”

    Mallory just shook her head. “Never change.”

    “I’ll do my best.”

    • • •

    Some children might have shied away from a room full of dozens of humans and supernaturals, from the cheery music and the bundles of balloons that filled the House’s cafeteria. Those children probably hadn’t grown up in a House of vampires, loved within an inch of their lives.

    Those children were not Elisa.

    “Happy birthday, Elisa!” they called out when we entered. She screamed and clapped her little hands together, tried to wiggle out of Ethan’s arms.

    “Okay, my little lemur. Hold on.” He put her on the floor and she dashed toward a rainbow-hued column of balloons that reached to the room’s high ceiling. She reached out a tentative hand and touched the column, watched it wobble beneath her touch.

    She shrieked with joy and touched it again, then tried to drag it away from its column.

    “Just to touch, honey,” my grandfather said, gently taking her free hand. Her face screwed up into angry lines before she realized who’d touched her. And that smile blossomed again.

    “Give your Papaw a kiss?” He bent down to her, leaning on the cane he’d been using more frequently these days.

    Elisa squeezed up her little face, closed her eyes, and leaned in, pressing her lips to his face.

    “She got that expression from you, you know,” Ethan said, putting a hand at my waist.

    I humphed.

    “Good kiss,” my grandfather said. “I hear it’s your birthday.”

    “Ree?” She looked back at me, her official translator.

    “It’s your birthday,” I said. “And do you know what birthday girls get?” I pointed to the giant sheet cake—chocolate with emerald green icing—that sat on a table near the rest of the food, a high chair posed next to it, ready for the birthday girl. Elisa’s eyes went huge.

    “Ree,” she said reverently.

    Ethan smirked at the sound, and settled Elisa in the high chair. And she started immediately squirming for a better view of the cake.

    She was definitely my kid.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, people and . . . other,” Ethan said, glancing around.

    The crowd knew their cue and chuckled just when they should have.

    “We’re here today to celebrate the first birthday of the most amazing girl on the face of the Earth. And we wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the support you’ve given us over the last twelve months. We couldn’t have managed it without you, without your love and support. Without your gratuitous diaper changings and willingness to experiment with pink milk.”

    Pink milk was the concoction of blood and milk it had taken us nearly three months to work out. Elisa was a vampire, but she was also a child. We were writing the book on baby vampire nutrition. In the unlikely event anyone else might ever need the book . . .

    I looked at Elisa, who stared happily around the crowd. “But I’m sure you’ll agree that she was totally worth it.”

    “Hear, hear!” said my grandfather.

    “To Elisa Isabel Sullivan,” I said.

    While the crowd repeated her name, which amused the tiny blonde to no end, I lit the candles on the cake. Elisa’s eyes went astoundingly round.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire