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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 15)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(15) by Chloe Neill
  • Roz nodded stiffly.

    “We’re just a little on edge after last night,” Robin said, putting the padfolio into his backpack. “Getting close to something and missing it. We’re not trying to be disrespectful, and we understand each other.”

    Ethan’s expression didn’t change.

    “This way,” Luc said.

    I was last in line and watched them carefully as we walked downstairs, as if their behavior would prove whether or not they were legitimate. Roz looked around, taking in the décor. Matt watched his equipment, and Robin rambled nervously about the weather.

    When we reached the door to Tunnel Three, Luc unlocked it, pushed it open.

    The air that emerged was moist and cool, but I didn’t sense magic. That was a good start, at least for us. CPAN might disagree.

    “Oh, wow,” Robin said, practically skipping into the chamber. “Absolutely spectacular.”

    Roz followed, her gaze on the ceiling, on the walls, her dark fingers trailing across the brick as if to test its texture. Matt kept his eyes trained on his sensors.

    “I think ‘spectacular’ is pretty close,” Mallory said, eyes wide. “This is pretty damn amazing.”

    Robin looked back at us, pointed into the depths of the tunnel. “How far does it go?”

    “Quarter mile,” Luc said without further comment.

    Robin nodded gravely. He picked a spot a few yards from the door, near the tunnel’s narrowing on the opposite side of the room, put down his bag, and began pulling out equipment.

    “Is that a Model 442 you’ve got there?” Luc asked, sidling up to Matt.

    “426,” Matt said, giving him a cautious glance. “You know the systems?”

    “I dabble,” Luc said. “I don’t own any equipment, but as head of security, I like to keep my options open.”

    So he’s a wannabe Ghostbuster, I told Ethan as we watched from the threshold.

    It began after he saw the original movie, Ethan said. He was convinced it was based on real-life events in New York.

    The captain of your guards is a weirdo.

    Ethan pulled my ponytail. On occasion, so is my Sentinel.

    I couldn’t really argue with that.

    “I’m getting some solid EMF readings,” Matt said.

    “Ethan, come look at this,” Luc said, gesturing him forward. “Solid EMF readings.”

    “Go ahead,” I told Ethan with a smile. With a resigned sigh, he turned toward Luc and the humans.

    “You seeing this, Matt?” Robin asked, waving a wand around the room. “Temperature fluctuations, too.”

    I was ready to immediately call the entire thing a sham, since the temperature was precisely the same as it had been when we’d walked in a minute ago. But then I felt it—the sudden chill. Not just a drop in temperature, but a change in the viscosity of the air. Like the space around us had become heavier, the air liquid and weighted with latent magic.

    And, by this time, disturbingly familiar magic.

    I saw the instant Mallory felt it, too. She went rigid, lips parting with surprise, eyes widening with shock. “Shit” was all she managed to get out . . . because we were not alone.

    It moved with the roar and power of a freight train, the same haze we’d seen on camera the night before but only blurred and alternating lines of silver and dark visible because of its astounding speed.

    It slammed against Luc, pushing him forward like a linebacker on the blitz. Luc hit the opposite wall, his head making a horrible thud against the brick that seemed to shake the House’s foundations.

    Dust rose into the air, and Luc dropped to the floor, his body terrifyingly still.

    I wanted to run to him but made myself stand firm. My obligations weren’t just to Luc, but to Ethan and the House. That meant the creature who’d put him on the ground had to be my priority. Unfortunately, since we hadn’t been planning to defend an attack, I didn’t have my steel—my trusted katana or the dagger I kept stowed in my boot for emergencies. Assuming they’d even be effective against a ghost, which I wasn’t sure about.

    I kept my eyes on the ghost but caught movement in my peripheral vision: Ethan, running to check on Luc, and Matt, pulling out a camera.

    The blur moved back, shook with latent energy. And like pixels resolving into an image, a man’s face began to appear.

    I’d seen a ghost in person once before—the night we’d first met Annabelle. That ghost had been an apparition of gauzy lines and filmy shades of black, white, and gray, like the shadows of an X-ray given three-dimensional form.

    This one rose, his image wobbling with static like a channel poorly tuned, and moved toward me. He opened his mouth to scream, and the sound that emerged was enormously loud, as stuttering and scratchy as a bad recording, and as heavy as the magic around him.

    I don’t recognize him was my first conscious thought. This wasn’t Mickey Riley, the gangster whose grave had been disturbed, whose skull had been stolen, whose mug shot we’d reviewed earlier that night. Riley was a bruiser, with a face to match.

    This apparition was tall and slender, with pale skin, a narrow face, and a thin nose topped by small, round spectacles. His hair was dark and pushed back from his face, his goatee neatly trimmed. He wore dark pants with a matching vest and a long overcoat, and looked like a man from a completely different century.

    In my time as a vampire, I’d seen eyes both hard and cold. I’d seen hate and spitefulness, distrust and ignorance. But I’d never seen the cold and steely emptiness I saw in the eyes of the man who hovered in front of me. This man cared for nothing but himself.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire