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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 23)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(23) by Chloe Neill
  • Ethan nodded, his expression utterly calm and composed, a man with eternity in front of him and no reason to rush. “Where’s your colleague?”

    “He . . . wasn’t comfortable coming back here,” Roz said.

    Ethan arched an eyebrow at that, but let it go. “You can stay here,” he said, “while we look.” Disappointment shadowed their faces, but they stayed put.

    “Put them in the second parlor,” he told Kelley, “and keep an eye on them.”

    • • •

    We stood outside the tunnel for a full minute, the four of us waiting for any indication Padgett had become active again. But there was no buzz in the air beyond the usual faint hum of magic from the vampires on the floors above us.

    “Let’s go in,” Ethan said, unlocking and pushing open the door. “Mallory, stand guard in the hallway, if you would, in case he appears and tries to make a run for it.”

    She nodded, locked her legs, and crossed her arms, a pixie with an attitude.

    We stepped inside. The room was just as we’d left it. Shattered glass, spilled wine, shelves of splintered wood.

    We each took a different direction, scanning the debris for the backpack. I half expected not to find anything, thinking they’d only wanted a second run at the ghost and the glory of capturing him. But then I spotted slate gray canvas among the rubble.

    “I’ve got it,” I said, and picked it up. It was heavy, probably loaded with electronics.

    “Then let’s get out of here,” Ethan said.

    It felt like the air was growing colder, but I wasn’t entirely sure if that was fear or reality. We went outside again, locked the door, and stood in the hallway for a moment while we looked at the backpack.

    “Just in case they’re here again for some ulterior motives,” Ethan said, “let’s give this a look-see.”

    “I suppose I should say something about not violating their privacy.”

    Ethan just gave me a flat look.

    “All right, then,” I said. “It’s your House, so I nominate you.”

    Ethan took the bag from me, put it on the floor, and crouched beside it. He unzipped it, began to pull out each item. A black device. Another black device. A bright yellow device. A small, bright yellow case holding another black device.

    “This looks pretty typical,” Catcher said.

    Then Ethan extracted the black padfolio Robin had used when they’d first arrived at the House.

    “Receipts,” Ethan said, taking out the pile of papers stuffed into its inner pocket. “Starbucks, Giordano’s, Superdawg.”

    “At least they have good taste,” Mallory said.

    Ethan removed a folded piece of letter-sized paper. Looking at it, he stood up, and fury spilled through the hallway.

    “A receipt,” he said, holding it out to Catcher. “For the purchase of a darknet summoning spell.”

    There were four of us in the hallway, and we peppered the space with enough angry magic to make the lights flicker above us.

    “Those little shits,” Mallory gritted out, teeth bared.

    “There was no car,” I said, fury rising. “No white sedan. No perpetrator they’d chased down at the cemetery. They raised the ghost. They were probably trying to get back to the fence when they ran into me.”

    Ethan looked back at the tunnel door, danger in his eyes. “They believe they are invincible and omnipotent. As they’ve hurt two of my vampires, I’ll be proving them wrong in the bloodiest way possible.”

    “Would you settle for their incarceration?” Catcher asked matter-of-factly.

    Ethan just growled.

    “You’ll both have to wait,” I said. “Robin’s not with them. Annabelle only saw one person leaving Lapham’s grave, so he could be the real culprit here.”

    Ethan’s grin was terrifying. “Then let’s go ruin their evening.”

    • • •

    My heart had begun to throb with the anticipation of a fight, of finding the truth. We formed a wall in the doorway of the second parlor while Ethan gave quiet instructions to Kelley. I dropped the backpack on the floor between me and Catcher, then crossed my arms, daring Roz and Matt to make a move for it.

    Ethan walked over, and we made space for him in the line. “Tell me why you did it,” he said, jumping right in to throw them off balance.

    “Did what?” Roz asked. “What are you talking about?”

    “I want to know why you’ve disturbed two graves. For fun? For profit? For excitement?”

    “We didn’t do anything.” But her eyes had gone wide.

    “We found the receipt,” Ethan said, holding it up. “You bought the spell. You summoned the ghost.”

    “No,” she said, so Ethan turned his gaze to Matt. “And what about you? Do you know?”

    When he opened his mouth, Roz grabbed his arm. “Shut up, Matt!”

    There was only a moment of deliberation, of hesitation. “Why? It wasn’t my idea, and I’m not taking the heat for it.” Matt looked back at Ethan. “It’s all Robin. He’s worried about money. After Sorcha, nobody’s using us, because nobody wants anything to do with magic. Everyone’s afraid of it. We’re barely making any money, and we might lose our place.”

    Ethan’s jaw twitched with fury.

    “So you thought you’d call up the spirits of two gangsters?” Mallory walked forward, hands on her hips and her eyes as cold as mine. For a woman with blue hair, she played the badass pretty well.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire