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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 16)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(16) by Chloe Neill
  • I glanced at the humans.

    Matt still watched his viewscreen. Roz had pulled out a small black device, which she pointed at it. Robin stared at the ghost with wide and hungry eyes, a scientist facing down the object of his obsession.

    “Get closer,” Robin told Roz without shifting his gaze. “Use the communication facilitator. See if it will talk to us.”

    Communication wasn’t going to be a problem, I figured, since Robin’s words drew the ghost’s attention, his head snapping in their direction.

    “Do not get closer,” I said, and put up a hand. “Back away toward the door.”

    “Not doing that,” Robin said, chin firm. “You didn’t hire us so we’d run, and we can’t evaluate from out there. We still have to determine the spectral range, perform a temporality analysis—all of it.”

    We also didn’t hire them to die in our basement, and Luc was already down. If this thing could take down an immortal with a single blow, the humans wouldn’t have much hope.

    “Mallory!” I said, grabbing her arm. “Get them out of here.”

    Her eyes were wide and shocked, but she nodded, grabbed their hands, and tugged them across the room.

    Take care of Luc, I told Ethan. I’ve got the ghost.

    I knew Ethan would object—it was instinctive, protective—so I didn’t give him time to respond. Since I wasn’t entirely sure how to lure a ghost, I went for the horror movie classic.

    “Hey!” I said, and waved my arms around, moving to the center of the room to get his attention away from Luc, still slumped on the floor.

    While Mallory and Ethan dealt with the others, Catcher moved closer to me. This fight would be hand-to-hand, maybe with a little bit of magic.

    “Let me try first,” I quietly said, keeping my gaze on the apparition. “This is a small space for fireballs, and we won’t want to damage the tunnel.” Or the House above it.

    Besides, if the apparition was tangible enough to take Luc down, maybe he was tangible enough for me to fight.

    The ghost turned toward me, screamed again.

    “Do us both a favor,” I said, imbuing the words with as much strength as I could muster. “Go back to your world and leave ours alone.”

    That deep pit of rage in his eyes just seemed to get deeper, and he began to move toward me. Not walking per se, as his arms and legs didn’t actually move. But he nevertheless got closer, like I was zooming in on a picture of him.

    “All right,” I said, and blew out a breath, rolled my shoulders, wished for a tune I could dance to. “I guess we’re doing this.”

    I didn’t wait for him to strike first. Like a sprinter at the starting line, I ducked my head, put one foot behind the other, and pushed off.

    I ran toward him, arms pumping, before landing on my left foot and spinning into a side kick. The strike landed, if that was the word for it. I hit something, although I wouldn’t have called it exactly “solid.” Somewhere between liquid and solid, weirdly cold, and buzzing with magic. Magical condensate, if that was a thing.

    His image shimmered, and he yelled his frustration. I couldn’t make out the words, but the epithets that formed on his lips were easy enough to figure.

    “It’s rude to insult someone in their own House,” I said, and moved in for a punch. He blocked my arm with his, putting enough momentum into it to send me flying.

    I soared backward, hit a wine rack with bone-shaking force. Bottles fell around me as I bounced onto the concrete. I pushed back tears triggered automatically by the sharp pain in my ribs and the slivers of glass that peppered my skin.

    I started to climb to my feet, then yelped as sparks suddenly fired inches from my face.

    I looked up fast. The ghost, arms outstretched, had nearly reached me, but a fireball from Catcher had sent him skittering across the room. The fireball hit the brick wall before bouncing and shattering into sparks. Those sparks in turn hit the spilled wine, sending small blue flames into the air.

    “Wine!” I said, stomping out sparks to extinguish them. “Flammable!”

    “Ghost!” Catcher countered, hurrying to join me so we could face the ghost side by side. “Preparing to strangle you.”

    “High creep factor.”

    “Inarguable.”

    The ghost came back fast, ignoring Catcher and aiming directly for me. I waited for the right moment, trying to time the attack perfectly. When he reached out, I dodged to the side, used a back kick to push him hard against the brick wall. But he was faster than I’d anticipated.

    He grabbed my leg—fingers like icicles, the chill so strong they burned like fire—and pulled. Cold snaked up my leg, leaving numbness behind. He yanked me off balance, putting both of us on the floor in a tumble, and still didn’t let go. Now he was too close for Catcher to get a shot.

    I ignored the tingling pain and kicked out with my free foot, nailing him in the knee and sending a shock of cold up my other leg. He roared another round of cursing, and this time I caught snippets of his insults, which were as old-fashioned as his clothes. This was a man from another era, and time had done nothing to abate his fury.

    Maybe I could use that. “You’re a buffoon in an awkward suit! We don’t need your jiggery-pokery here!”

    The ghost’s image jerked, as did his expression. And that hiccup was enough to allow me to escape his grip. I kicked free, climbed to my heavy and numb feet, and scrambled away.

    “That your attempt at period-appropriate insults?” Catcher asked when I reached him.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire