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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 8)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(8) by Chloe Neill
  • Malik sat at his desk, pale green eyes narrowed at his computer. Dark skin, shaved head, white button-down shirt open at the collar, the Cadogan medal at his throat.

    His eyes lifted, met ours when we stepped into the doorway. Hope flared in his eyes, fizzled at the obvious lack of cake, and blossomed again when he saw the Portillo’s cups in our hands.

    “No cake,” Ethan said with a smile, entering the tidy, well-appointed office. “But a consolation prize.”

    Malik accepted the shake and glanced at me, brow lifted. “Was the party so bad you needed a consolation prize?”

    “Let’s go sit and enjoy our beverages,” Ethan said. “And she can tell you all about it.”

    • • •

    We reconvened in the sitting area of Ethan’s office. It was a room I’d once been intimidated by, with its imposing desk, enormous conference table, and powerful Master. But over the last year I’d spent a lot of time in this spot, where a leather sofa and club chairs had been cozily arranged, a coffee table between them. It had become our living room, where we listened and entertained, reviewed and discussed. And occasionally drank ice cream blended with chocolate cake. As one did.

    We told Malik what we’d found at the cemetery, then moved on to the details of the party.

    “I don’t get it,” Malik said, one leg crossed comfortably over the other, the long fingers of his free hand draped on the wide arm of the leather chair. “It was beet-flavored gelatin?”

    “It didn’t taste strongly of beets,” Ethan said contemplatively. “Although there was a certain . . . earthiness.”

    Malik’s lip curled. “And why not a simple cake?”

    “Because my mother doesn’t do simple.” I gestured at the stack of folders on the coffee table, all neatly tabbed and organized. They were copies of my mother’s wedding “dossiers,” one folder for each vendor she’d hired.

    “To his her own, I suppose,” Malik said, then held up his up. “If Aaliyah asks, I didn’t drink this.”

    Ethan grinned. Aaliyah was Malik’s lovely and typically sequestered wife. She was a writer and introvert, and didn’t appear often in the halls of Cadogan House.

    “She talked to Catcher the last time he and Mallory stayed in the House,” Malik explained. “He’s on a health food kick, and he’s dragged her into the gutter with him.”

    “You poor bastard,” Ethan said, and there was nothing but pity in his eyes.

    The sound of hurried footsteps echoed down the hall. Ethan was on his feet before Luc appeared in the doorway. “What’s happened?”

    “We aren’t entirely sure,” Luc said. “But you should come see.”

    We followed him down the hallway, found vampires gathered in the foyer that had been empty only a few minutes ago. The buzz of concerned magic peppered the air.

    They parted as we walked past them to the staircase. Margot sat on the second step from the top, her right eye swollen and going a miserable purple-black. She still wore her party dress, but she’d added a white Cadogan House apron and exchanged her heels for the clogs chefs seemed to favor.

    Lindsey sat beside her, pressing an ice pack to Margot’s forehead.

    “What happened?” Ethan asked.

    “Nothing,” Margot said. “Just a little bump. I tripped.”

    “You didn’t trip,” Lindsey said, then looked back at us. “She didn’t trip. Someone shoved her down in Tunnel Three.”

    Cadogan House was an old building, and there were several brick passages beneath the House, part of the extensive system that ran beneath Chicago. Being a careful Master, Ethan had shored them up in case we needed to make a quick and unseen exit. I’d been in Tunnels One and Two but not Tunnel Three. It was the longest of the three, running north a full quarter mile from the House’s basement.

    “‘Someone’?” Ethan carefully asked, a threat in the word. “One of my vampires?”

    “No,” Margot said.

    Ethan raised an eyebrow. “Someone broke into the House?”

    “No,” Margot said, and gave Lindsey an arch look. “Lindsey’s making more of this than there was. We’re all just on edge because of Sorcha.”

    I didn’t disagree that we were on edge, but Lindsey wasn’t one to exaggerate, at least not about something related to House security. The look in Ethan’s eyes said he didn’t think so, either.

    “It’s not a big deal,” Margot said with what sounded like warring fear and frustration.

    “It is a big deal,” Lindsey said.

    The buzz of magic grew into a tingle of alarm. Ethan glanced back at his Novitiates.

    “I’ll ask you all to go about your business so we can determine what’s happened and help Margot heal. Please,” he added with an indulgent smile that had them smiling in response, shuffling upstairs past us or down the main hallway.

    When they were gone and quiet fell across the foyer again, Ethan turned back to Margot. “What happened?”

    Margot sighed heavily, shoulders sagging with the effort. “After the shower, I had this idea for something I could try for the wedding.” She looked up at me. “A kind of mini beef Bourguignon slider. But I needed more Pinot Noir. We keep the good reds in Tunnel Three.”

    Tunnel Three apparently moonlighted as a wine cellar.

    “I went down there, was perusing the Pinots—” She smiled at Ethan. “We need to open a bottle of the Romanée-Conti I found hiding down there.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire