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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 2)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(2) by Chloe Neill
  • “It’s one of my favorite puns,” Ethan said with a smile. “I look forward to meeting more of Merit’s family. They always have such interesting stories to tell.”

    I could feel the blood drain from my face. Maybe the couple’s shower hadn’t been such a good idea after all. “Let’s stick to recent history, please.” But Ethan just smiled.

    “I know all the recent history,” he said. “It’s the rest I’m interested in.”

    “We’ll be back!” my mother said lightly, then whisked him into the arms of her chattering friends.

    I wasn’t alone for long.

    “Merit!”

    I looked back, found my blue-haired best friend—classically pretty, pale, and petite—moving through the crowd. Mallory Bell was escorted by her husband, Catcher. He was taller and buff, with pale skin and close-cropped hair that set off intense green eyes.

    “Happy wedding shower,” she said, squeezing me in a hug. “The place looks great—for a concrete box.”

    “That sums it up pretty well,” I said.

    She snagged a flute of pretty pink juice from a waiter with a silver tray. “These are mango and dragon fruit. You should try one.”

    I held up my blood cocktail, grinned at her. “I’ll try yours if you try mine.”

    “Been there, done that.”

    I tilted my head at her. “You have?”

    She lifted a shoulder. “You had those bottles of Blood4You at the house.”

    I’d shared Mallory’s Wicker Park home before moving into Cadogan House. I’d left partly because of my obligations as Sentinel and partly to avoid her and Catcher’s any-room-goes style of lovemaking. I’d vastly exceeded my personal quota of naked sorcerer sightings.

    “I had a sip one night.” She wrinkled her nose. “It was not delightful.”

    I was a vampire and I wouldn’t even call blood delightful. But as much as Blood4You’s marketing team tried to pretend otherwise, it wasn’t about the taste. It was about the need, the comfort, the satisfaction. However unsavory the practice might have been to humans, blood filled a vampire’s belly like nothing else did.

    “To each her own,” Catcher said, glancing around. “Where’s your fiancé?”

    I gestured across the room to where he chatted with my grandfather, Chicago’s supernatural Ombudsman and Catcher’s employer.

    The Ombudsman looked decidedly lived-in, with a slender ring of silver hair, a plaid shirt and trousers, and comfortable shoes. I loved my grandfather for many reasons, not the least of which was because the cop-turned-supernatural-investigator looked perfectly at home in his own skin.

    My mother stood with them, a contrast in her sheath dress and Chanel pumps, diamonds glittering in her ears.

    “Ethan cuts a fine form in those black suits of his,” Mallory said with a wink, earning a slightly narrowed stare from her husband. “But you’re the only control freak for me,” she said, putting a hand on his chest.

    To each her own in love, too.

    • • •

    We chatted with relatives I hadn’t seen in years—and some I was pretty sure I’d never seen. There were pictures and canapés and handshakes with cousins thrice removed. But there were no party games, thank God. My mother and Charlotte had evidently given up trying to think a game that would have been appropriate for humans and a four-centuries-old vampire.

    Ethan and I had made the rounds, talking with Mallory and Catcher, with Margot, the House’s vampiric chef (and our wedding caterer), with Lindsey, my closest vampire friend and a House guard, and with Luc, the House’s guard captain and Lindsey’s beau.

    Malik, Ethan’s second-in-command, had volunteered to stay at Cadogan and keep things running while we were gone. We had promised to bring him a slice of cake but weren’t entirely sure if the “cake” my mother had ordered would count. It was less pastry than edible sculpture—a tall and wriggling three-dimensional heart made of a dozen layers of beet-stained gelatin. My mother loved edgy, modern cuisine as much as she loved edgy, modern architecture.

    We’ll go by Portillo’s on the way home, Ethan said as we looked it over. That should satisfy Malik.

    I wasn’t about to argue with that. Portillo’s had the best cake shakes in Chicago.

    We’d requested no gifts and had offered suggestions for charitable donations for the guests who were determined to give something. But we still received beautifully wrapped presents, including two fancy toasters, a set of expensive towels, and a dozen crystal champagne flutes. Very generous of the thrice-removed cousins, if unnecessary.

    I’m certain there are several shelters in town that would be thrilled to have these, Ethan said when I opened Toaster Number Three.

    Excellent plan, I said, and I smiled at the small, wizened woman who’d given it to us. She was a great-aunt on my father’s side—my paternal grandmother’s sister—and looked to be nearly immortal herself. “Thank you, Aunt Sarah. What a thoughtful gift,” I said as my mother added the toaster to the growing pile.

    When the last gift was distributed and we’d thanked two dozen people for their generosity, Great-Aunt Sarah came forward again.

    “There are lazy, no-good vampires living down the street from me,” she pronounced.

    We stared at her.

    My mother, smile firmly in place, took Sarah’s elbow. “Sarah, I’m certain that’s not an appropriate thing to say at a party.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire