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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 3)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(3) by Chloe Neill
  • Or anywhere else, I silently added. But Sarah intended to have her say.

    “Up at all hours of the night, sleeping all day. Taking advantage of the system is what that is. Probably taking plenty of government handouts.”

    Since Sarah lived on her late husband’s earnings and hadn’t worked a day in her life, I didn’t think she was in much of a position to judge our work ethic.

    “Sarah,” my mother said again, more firmly this time, and tried to tug the woman away. “You’re being a bit rude.”

    More than a bit, I thought, and slid my gaze to Ethan, watched him work to bite back the bitter words he undoubtedly wanted to say to this ignorant woman. He’d hold his tongue out of consideration for me, for the circumstances. Fortunately, I didn’t feel the same restriction.

    “I’m not sure why you’re here,” I said when Sarah refused to move, her chin lifted in defiance. “You clearly don’t respect us, yet you’ve accepted my mother’s invitation and her hospitality. You’ve come into her house with prejudice and hatred, and you’ve spilled your vitriol in her home. That’s fantastically rude.”

    Sarah’s mouth opened, forming a perfect O of shock in the silence that followed my statement. She probably wasn’t used to being challenged. Too bad for her, because I wasn’t done.

    “As is common knowledge, which you’re apparently choosing to ignore, vampires are allergic to sunlight. They are nocturnal, and their existence isn’t limited to what you do or don’t see of them. To answer the second accusation, vampires aren’t entitled to government assistance because we aren’t human. So it’s literally impossible that your neighbors are receiving ‘handouts.’”

    Splotches of color rose on Sarah’s cheeks. She opened her mouth to respond, but I held up a finger. “You’ve said your piece; I’ll say mine. If you want to be prejudiced and hateful, you might as well own it. Don’t make excuses based on incorrect information.”

    “Well,” my mother said a moment later, the word echoing across the quiet room, and looked at Sarah. “I believe it’s time for you to go.” Skilled as an entertainer of guests, my mother sounded perfectly pleasant.

    “I am here, and I have been generous, and I am appalled by this treatment. Joshua will hear about what’s gone on here today.”

    “He’ll certainly hear about it from me,” my mother said.

    Sarah shuffled through the crowd, disappearing toward the front of the house.

    There were undoubtedly guests who agreed with me, but they hadn’t spoken up. To my mind, that was as good as condoning her behavior. While it was unlikely she’d change her opinion, I’d still fight the good fight.

    Sometimes, that was the best thing—and the only thing—you could do.

    2

    The rest of the shower was much less dramatic. When it was over, and we’d said goodbye to friends and relatives and thanked my mother and sister lavishly, we climbed back into Ethan’s most recent automotive obsession, his Audi R8, for the return trip to Hyde Park.

    “Sorry about Aunt Sarah.”

    “There are a million Aunt Sarahs in the world,” Ethan said, and slid me a glance. “You handled it with aplomb.”

    I grinned at him. “I was doing you.”

    His eyes widened. “I beg your pardon?”

    “I knew you wouldn’t say anything in front of my family—your control’s too good. So I imagined what you’d have told her and said that.”

    Ethan opened his mouth, closed it again. “Is that a compliment?”

    “I’m not entirely sure,” I said with a smile, patting his leg. “But I do respect your ability to throw shade at an asshole.”

    “Thank you, I think.” There was amusement in his voice, which was what I’d intended.

    My cell phone, slipped into a slim pocket of my dress, began to vibrate. When I glanced at the phone, the number was familiar. And I had a pretty good feeling this wasn’t a social call.

    “This is Merit.”

    “Hey, it’s Annabelle.” Annabelle Shaw was a necromancer, a woman whose magic allowed her to commune with the dead, help them reach those they’d left behind and make the peaceful transition to the afterlife. We’d met her randomly one evening, and she’d later clued us into one of Sorcha’s alchemical hot spots.

    “Hey, Annabelle. What’s up?”

    “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a situation. I left a message with the Ombudsman’s office, but I thought I’d better call you, too, just in case.”

    “We were just leaving a family event, so my grandfather is probably on his way home. He might not have checked his phone yet. What’s up?”

    “I’m at Almshouse Cemetery. I was doing a sweep when I found it.”

    The concern in her voice had me sitting up straighter. As a necromancer, Annabelle was hard to shake, even where cemeteries were concerned. “When you found what?”

    “Someone has disturbed a body.”

    My lip curled instinctively. “That’s awful.”

    “Unfortunately, that’s just the first part of it,” Annabelle said. “I’m pretty sure they also summoned a ghost.”

    • • •

    Although we were transitioning from a party in our honor to the investigation of something grim, I was still relieved to be out of my parents’ house. Magic and mayhem felt more like home now, uncertainty a new kind of normal.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire