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  • Blade Bound(Chicagoland Vampires #13)(82) by Chloe Neill

    “It sounds like a recording,” Ethan quietly said. “Just reflected thoughts.”


    The words became faster, seemed more insistent, as if they carried more emotional push—and more magical baggage.

    “We’re here,” Mallory said. “Can you tell us where you are? Can you tell us how to help you?”


    I AM . . .

    The orb throbbed with each word.

    I AM . . .

    “It’s sentient,” Mallory quietly said.

    “That’s not possible,” Ethan quietly said. “Latent magic isn’t alive.”

    The magic disagreed. I AM! it screamed, loud enough that we clamped our hands over our ears.

    I AM! The orb exploded, shooting the silver platter into the air.

    Ethan threw an arm over me, pushed me to the ground as magic splintered the air around us. The concussion of sound echoed across the bandstand, back and forth across the buildings near us like a bomb.

    And then, just as suddenly as the explosion had happened, the world became quiet again.

    We sat up cautiously, looked around us. The orb was gone, and with it the platter and rosemary. And there was a hole in the middle of the blanket, the edges still marked by smoking char.

    “Dibs on not telling Helen about the platter,” I said quickly, before Ethan could object.

    Ethan growled his displeasure. “Everyone okay?”

    “Fine here,” Catcher said, helping Mallory sit up. There was a streak of smoke on her face, but her limbs were still connected, which she confirmed by patting down each arm and leg.

    “Well,” she said, then huffed. “The source of the city’s delusions is kind of an asshole.”

    As if that source were insulted by the statement, a gust of icy wind sliced across the lawn, carrying with it the same chemical scent that had marked the others who’d heard the delusions. The smell surrounded us like a fog.

    And this time, as we sat in the middle of downtown Chicago on a blanket in the snow, I realized how familiar that smell was.

    No, I thought. Not smell. Smells.

    It wasn’t really industrial, or chemical. It was industrial and chemical. It was exhaust and people and movement and life. It was river and lake and enormous sky. It was Chicago, as if the city had been distilled to its essence, to an elixir that carried hints of all the things that existed inside its borders.

    Or inside the alchemical web Sorcha had created, the one that had stretched out from Towerline like a spider’s.

    I thought of what Winston had painted in his small, tattered notebook, and the painting of what even Winston thought had been rows of teeth—jagged and uneven—from the mouth that had screamed his delusions.

    They weren’t teeth, I realized, looking back at the uneven line of buildings to the east. He’d drawn the skyline. He’d drawn Chicago.

    He’d heard Chicago. Somehow, because of magic I didn’t understand, he’d heard Chicago.

    “Merit?” Mallory asked, head tilted as she studied me.

    “Winston Styles painted images that came to him when he heard the voice. He drew the skyline,” I said. “He heard Chicago. The smell isn’t the magic, or a chemical. It’s Chicago. Squeezed down and distilled, but Chicago all the same.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire