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Bitten Women of the Otherworld—Book 1 by Kelley Armstrong Plume Publication Date: ISBN / ASIN: Praise for Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires Novels Twice Bitten “The pages turn fast enough to satisfy vampire and romance fans alike.” —Booklist “Neill's. Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires) 4. Hard Bitten - dokument [*.pdf] By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. —William Shakespeare.


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Chloe Neill - Chicagoland Vampires 03 - Twice-Bitten - dokument [*.pdf] Página2 Chapter one Join the club Early June Chicago, Illinois It was the beginning of. Get Free Read & Download Files Hard Bitten A Chicagoland Vampires Novel PDF. HARD BITTEN A CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES NOVEL. Download: Hard. Get Free Read & Download Files Hard Bitten A Chicagoland Vampires Novel Chicagoland Vampires Series Book 4 PDF. HARD BITTEN A CHICAGOLAND.

You will love and fear me in due time. Are you still doing potions? Mallory usually loved an interested audience when it came to the paranormal and her magic apprenticeship. Maybe the stuff she was learning now was actually as dull as carpentry, although that was hard to imagine. She snorted in agreement. But some things do change. Buffy and Spike were particular objects of affection. Anywho, no.

Maybe this is going to be a good night after all. To be fair, they actually look pretty good on him. I did offer to work a little abracadabra and hook him up with twenty- twenty, but he declined.

So glasses it is.

We have definitely turned a corner in the bedroom. My ears are beginning to bleed. Come on! Good luck with the drivers and the magic. I tucked the phone back into my pocket. Thank God for besties. The rising chill along my spine was indication enough.

After two months of wooing, Ethan and I had spent a pretty glorious night together. Ethan was tall, blond, and almost obscenely handsome, from the long, narrow nose to the sculpted cheekbones and emerald green eyes. He was also smart and dedicated to his vampires.

A House guard, of sorts. Score one for Hyde Park. How are things out here? After taking a second to check my willpower, I looked over at him.

Tonight Ethan wore jeans and a paint-smeared T-shirt, and his shoulder-length golden hair was pulled back at the nape of his neck. His dress might have been casual, but there was no mistaking the air of power and unfailing confidence that marked this prince among vampires. Hands on his hips, he surveyed his crew. Men and women worked at tables and sawhorses across the front lawn.

His emerald gaze tracked from worker to worker as he gauged their progress, but his shoulders were tense, as if he was ever aware that danger lurked just outside the gate. Ethan was no less handsome in jeans and running shoes while taking stock of his vampiric kin. Things would go faster if we were allowed to bring in human construction workers. But when he looked back at me again, a line of worry appeared between his eyes.

Ethan offered up his signature move—a single arched eyebrow. He asked for a meeting with the two of us. He just likes being reelected. Hard to ignore. An architectural gem of a den, sure, but still a den of night-walking bloodsuckers, blah blah blah. The construction notwithstanding, Ethan was doing all the right things, making all the right moves.

Two months later, the hurt—and humiliation—was still too real, the wound too raw. I know. I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe that Ethan mourned the loss of me, that his regret was real, and that his promises were earnest. Keeping things professional gave me the space and boundaries I needed.

Besides, most vampires were members of one House or another, and I was immortal. That meant I had to make the best of the situation. Avoiding the intimacy in his voice, I smiled politely at him. When do we leave? It plucked my heartstrings to see him look so decided about me.

Wear your suit. I swore quietly. That boy was going to be the death of me. Now it was actually dangerous. We drove up the ramp that led to the ground level, then waited while one of the fairies stationed at the gate pushed it open. A second stood in front of the ramp, his wary gaze on the protesters who were beginning to move in our direction. I tucked the phone back into my pocket. Thank God for besties. The rising chill along my spine was indication enough. After two months of wooing, Ethan and I had spent a pretty glorious night together.

Ethan was tall, blond, and almost obscenely handsome, from the long, narrow nose to the sculpted cheekbones and emerald green eyes. He was also smart and dedicated to his vampires. A House guard, of sorts. Score one for Hyde Park. How are things out here? After taking a second to check my willpower, I looked over at him. Tonight Ethan wore jeans and a paint-smeared T-shirt, and his shoulder-length golden hair was pulled back at the nape of his neck.

His dress might have been casual, but there was no mistaking the air of power and unfailing confidence that marked this prince among vampires. Hands on his hips, he surveyed his crew. Men and women worked at tables and sawhorses across the front lawn. His emerald gaze tracked from worker to worker as he gauged their progress, but his shoulders were tense, as if he was ever aware that danger lurked just outside the gate.

Ethan was no less handsome in jeans and running shoes while taking stock of his vampiric kin. Things would go faster if we were allowed to bring in human construction workers. But when he looked back at me again, a line of worry appeared between his eyes.

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Ethan offered up his signature move—a single arched eyebrow. He asked for a meeting with the two of us. He just likes being reelected. Hard to ignore. An architectural gem of a den, sure, but still a den of night-walking bloodsuckers, blah blah blah. The construction notwithstanding, Ethan was doing all the right things, making all the right moves. Two months later, the hurt—and humiliation—was still too real, the wound too raw. I know. I wanted to believe him.

I wanted to believe that Ethan mourned the loss of me, that his regret was real, and that his promises were earnest. Keeping things professional gave me the space and boundaries I needed. Besides, most vampires were members of one House or another, and I was immortal.

That meant I had to make the best of the situation. Avoiding the intimacy in his voice, I smiled politely at him. When do we leave? It plucked my heartstrings to see him look so decided about me.

Wear your suit. I swore quietly. That boy was going to be the death of me.

Now it was actually dangerous. We drove up the ramp that led to the ground level, then waited while one of the fairies stationed at the gate pushed it open. A second stood in front of the ramp, his wary gaze on the protesters who were beginning to move in our direction. We pulled onto the street.

The fairy at the gate closed it again, then joined his partner at the side of the car. We moved at a crawl as humans began to gather around us, candles in hand.

They moved without sound, their expressions blank, like zombie believers. Their silence was completely unnerving. Do you want me to get out? For the security?

Some humans hated vampires and, if they had known what the fairies were, probably would have hated them, too. And vampires? Well, vampires were like politicians. We wanted to be friends with everyone. We wanted to be liked. We wanted political capital we could trade later for political benefits. But we were still vampires, and however political and social we might have been, we were still different. Well, most of us, anyway. But looking out at the protesters, I felt a little more vampire than usual.

The protesters stared into the windows, holding their candles toward the car as if nearness to the flame was enough to make us disappear. Luckily, fire was no more hazardous to us than it was to humans. Ethan kept both hands on the wheel now as he carefully maneuvered the Mercedes through the crowd. The fairies walked alongside, one hand on the roof of the petite roadster like members of the Secret Service in a presidential motorcade.

We moved slowly, but we moved. And as we moved, we passed two teenagers who stood on my side of the car, arms linked together—a boy and girl. But their expressions told a different story. There was hatred in their eyes, hatred too intense for sixteen-year-olds. The boy watched the girl, his hatred for me maybe prompted by his infatuation with her.

No more vampires! One person at a time, they echoed the chant until the entire crowd had joined in, a chorus of hatred. I forced myself to face forward, blocking out the sight of their faces at the window, wishing I could will myself invisible, or somehow merge into the leather upholstery and avoid the discomfort of listening to humans scream about how much they hated me.

I want to be accepted for who I am. But there are those of us who do. Until the children are old enough to reach their own conclusions about vampires, they should be immune from the discussion. After a hundred feet, the protesters thinned out, the urge to berate us apparently diminishing as we moved farther from the House.

I glanced over at Ethan. Public service announcements or get-to- know-you forums? He thought it a fitting punishment for a girl who spent more time in her room than getting to know her fellow vampires.

Of course, the shifter attack had put a damper on my plans for a barbecue social mixer. Seriously—it might be something to consider. Of course, if you open a spot up to the public, you probably increase the odds of adding a saboteur to the House. Our headlights bounced off two SUVs that were parked diagonally in the middle of the street, six hefty men in front of them, all wearing black T-shirts and cargo pants.

The roadster banked to the right, spinning clockwise until we sat perpendicular to the SUVs. I looked up.

Three of the men jogged around us, guns at their waists, surrounding the car before Ethan could pull away from the roadblock. I assumed he was requesting backup, which was fine by me. Not when there are significantly easier means with less potential collateral damage. I took mental inventory—I had my dagger, but not my sword. I did the same. Steady, Sentinel, he telepathically told me. All evidence to the contrary. The words were silent, but the snark was obvious.

We stepped outside onto the dark Chicago street. The vibration in the air—the buzz of steel I could feel after my katana had been tempered with blood—was intense. These guys, whoever they were, were well armed. Our hands in the air, their weapons trained on our hearts, we were escorted in front of the Mercedes. An aspen stake to the heart, however, would do the trick without question. Is it possible to modify a gun to shoot aspen stakes? I asked Ethan. My stomach churned with nerves.

These were gun-wielding humans who apparently believed they were beyond the reach of the law, who believed they had the authority to stop us and hold us at gunpoint within the bounds of our own city. The third man in front of us—big and bulky, with acne-marked skin and a military haircut —stepped forward. Hard to miss a human tank heading right for me. Sneaking around in the night, pulling us from our beds. But Tank seemed very convinced he was telling the truth. Two booted feet hit the pavement, followed by another man in the same black uniform.

Unlike the others, this one was handsome, with long, wide eyes and high, pert cheekbones, his dark hair perfectly parted. I guessed New Guy was the one in charge. New Guy smiled grandly. Fellow believers, if you will. McKetrick crossed his arms over his chest. Sullivan, coming from an interloper in our city. And that makes you aberrations in our town, uninvited guests. Guests that need to mind their manners and take their leave.

You seem to be an intelligent man, as does your colleague here. At least from what we know of her parents. My father was a real estate investor mentioned in the papers on a daily basis. Smart, but ruthless. You know who you are. We suggest you put down the weapons and continue on your way. As if your kind are merely going to continue on your way without bringing this city into all-out supernatural war?

You and yours need to pack, leave, and be done with it. I could also have told him that no matter the challenges I faced as a vampire, Ethan was the reason I still drew breath. Without you, there would have been no violence. Simply take your business elsewhere. You have no right to speak on behalf of the city. A city finally waking up to your deviance? Sometimes, Mr. Sullivan, the world needs a prophet. We want the departure of all vampires in Chicago. He opened his mouth to retort, but before he could answer, I heard it: I glanced behind me and saw the headlights—a dozen in all—moving like an arrow toward us.

I began to grin, now knowing whom Ethan had contacted on his cell phone. The cavalry had arrived. The troops looked back to their leader, not sure of the next step. They cut through the darkness like sharks on chrome. Twelve giant, gleaming, low-riding bikes, one shifter on each—brawny and leather-clad, ready for battle. And I could attest to the battle part. Correction—eleven of them were brawny and leather-clad.

The twelfth was a petite brunette with a mass of long, curly hair, currently pulled back beneath a Cardinals ball cap. No one had heard from Adam since that exchange had taken place. I nodded at Fallon, and when she offered back a quick salute, I decided I could live with her poor choice of baseball allegiances.

Gabriel Keene, Pack Apex, rode the bike in front, his sunkissed brown hair pulled into a queue at the nape of his neck, his amber eyes scanning the scene with what looked like malicious intent.

But I knew better. Gabriel eschewed violence unless absolutely necessary. Gabe turned his gaze on me. After a moment he seemed to regain his composure and made eye contact with us again.

In the meantime, stay out of trouble. I bit back disappointment. With a roar from custom mufflers, the SUVs squealed into action and drove away. I checked the license plates, but they were blank. Gabe glanced at Ethan.

He imagines himself to be an anti-vampire vigilante. He wants all vamps out of the city. We were driving toward Creeley Creek when we hit the roadblock. They popped out with guns. You are immortal, after all. McKetrick seemed like the type. I still had no idea what he thought he owed me, but I nodded anyway and jogged back to the Mercedes.

I slid inside the car. And it looks like we can add one more problem to the punch list. Some of them, anyway. It was bigger than the average Prairie-style home, built at the turn of the twentieth century by an architect with a renowned ego. When the original owner died, his estate donated the house to the city of Chicago, which deemed it the official residence of the mayor.

Currently living there was the politician Chicago had always wanted. A master orator with friends on both sides of the aisle. Whether or not you liked the slant of his politics, he was very, very good at his job. The gate opened when we arrived, the guard who stood inside the glass box at the edge of the street waving us onto the grounds.

Ethan circled the Mercedes around the drive and pulled into a small parking area beside the house. But I stood my ground. Politically, I mean? A woman in a snug navy blue suit stood in front of the double front doors beneath a low overhanging stone eave. Her hair was pulled into a tight bun, and she wore thick, horn-rimmed glasses. They were quite a contrast to the patent platform heels.

Was she going for sexy librarian, maybe? The mayor is ready to see you, but I understand there are some preliminaries we need to address? But like lots of other fang-related myths, that was less about magic and more about rules. Vampires loved rules—what to drink, where to stand, how to address higherranking vampires, and so on. She nodded primly. Bentley opened the doors and waited while we walked into the hallway. My father being well moneyed and Tate being well connected were acquaintances, and my father had occasionally dragged me to Creeley Creek for some fund-raiser or other.

The floors were gleaming stone, the walls horizontal planks of dark wood. The house was cool and dark, the hallway illuminated with golden light cast down from wall-mounted sconces.

The smell of vanilla cookies permeated the air. That smell—of bright lemons and sugar— reminded me of Tate. Maybe he had a favorite snack, and the Creeley Creek staff obliged. My father, dapper in a sharp black suit, walked toward us. He was a member of the Chicago Growth Council, a group geared toward bringing new businesses to the city. Your grandfather keeps me apprised. My father smiled pleasantly, then glanced from us to Tabitha. Good to see you both. Ethan and I exchanged a glance.

In the meantime, we did as we were told, and followed Tabitha down the hallway. Tousled, coal black hair, blue eyes under long, dark brows.

He had a face women swooned over and, as a second-term mayor, the political chops to back up the looks. He met us in his office, a long, low room that was paneled floor to ceiling in wood. A gigantic desk sat at one end of the room in front of a tufted, red leather chair that could have doubled as a throne. Both the desk and throne stood beneath an ominous five-foot-wide painting.

Most of the canvas was dark, but the outlines of a group of suspicious-looking men were visible. They stood around a man positioned near the center of the painting, his arms above his head, cowering as they pointed down at him.

It looked like they were condemning him for something. Tate, who stood in the middle of the room, reached out a hand toward Ethan, no hesitation in the movement. With protesters at the gate, one tends to wait for the other shoe to drop. He took both my hands and leaned toward me, pressing a soft kiss to my cheek, the scent of sugared lemon floating around him. But before I could speak, Ethan sent a warning.

Not until we know more about his alliances. A lot of prejudice was thrown around. Going public—getting his side of the story out there—was the best of a bad set of options for protecting his people. Tate gestured toward two smaller chairs that sat in front of his desk. I took point behind him, Sentinel at the ready. He flipped open a folder and uncapped an expensive-looking fountain pen. Ethan crossed one leg over the other.

The signal: We had four days of riots the first time around, Ethan. Increasingly so. And that nervousness is leading to an uptick in crime. Your guess is as good as mine, I answered. Tate frowned and glanced down at the folder on his desk.

He scanned whatever information he found there, then lifted a document from it and extended it toward Ethan. What is it? I asked. Without bothering to answer, Ethan handed the paper over his shoulder. I took it from him. It looked like part of a police transcript. Tell me what you saw, Mr.

There were dozens of them. Vampires, you know? Fangs and that ability to get inside your mind. And they was blood-crazy.

All of them. Everywhere you looked—vampire, vampire, vampire. And they were all over us. No escape. Not when the vampires wanted you. Not when they wanted to take you down and pull that blood right out of you.

They were crazed with it. Crazy with it. With what? With the blood. With the lust for it. The hunger. You could see it in their crazy eyes. They were silver, just like the eyes of the devil. You get only one look at those eyes before the devil himself pulls you down into the abyss. And then what happened, Mr.

Drove them. They killed three girls. Three of them. They drank until there was no life left. The page stopped there. My fingers shaking around the paper, I skipped the chain of command and glanced up at Tate. Fortunately, she took the transcript to her supervisor, who brought it to my chief of staff. Jackson spoke—no missing persons match his descriptions—although we are actively investigating the accusation.

An attack that left three innocents dead. Tate was normally poised, politic, careful with words, and invariably optimistic about the city.

This was the Seth Tate that destroyed his enemies. And we were now his targets. For most Houses, those rules meant not snacking on humans, consenting or not. I guess that blissful ignorance was behind us. Ethan cleared his throat. Ah, the sound of stalling. These were small, intimate affairs. While bloodletting does occur, we have not heard of the, shall we say, frenetic violence of which Mr. Jackson speaks, nor would we condone such things.

There has certainly never been an allegation that any participant was. Division will solve nothing—it will only lead to more division. On the other hand, according to Mr. Jackson, vampires are engaging in violent, largescale, and hardly consensual acts.

That is unacceptable to me. This city does not need a referendum on vampires or shape-shifters. You do not want the city council legislating you out of existence. Are those actions such a far stretch from murder? The question was carefully put. We knew full well that Celina—the former head of Navarre House and my would-have-been killer—had been released by the Greenwich Presidium, the organizing body for European and North American vampires. The last few months had been too drama free for that.

Tate arched his eyebrows. I want for you and yours to have the chance to take control within your own community. I want an end to these gatherings, these raves, and a personal guarantee that you have this problem under control. I assume we understand each other? I followed, ever the dutiful Sentinel. Ethan kept the fear or concern or vitriol or whatever emotion was driving him to himself even as we reached the Mercedes.

He expressed that pent-up frustration with eighty thousand dollars of German engineering and a horsepower engine. He managed not to clip the gate as he pulled out of the drive, but he treated the stop signs between Creeley Creek and Lake Shore Drive like meek suggestions. Ethan floored the Mercedes, zooming in and around traffic like the silver-eyed devil was on our tail.

Problem was, we were the silver-eyed devils. He raced through a light and onto Lake Shore Drive, turned south, and gunned it. And he kept driving until the city skyline glowed behind us. I was almost afraid to ask where he was taking us—did I really want to know where predatory vampires blew off political steam?

He pulled off Lake Shore Drive, and a few squealing turns later we were coasting onto Promontory Point, a small peninsula that jutted into the lake.

Ethan drove around the towertopped building and stopped the car in front of the rock ledge that separated grass from lake. Without a word, he climbed out of the car and slammed it shut again. When he hopped the rock ledge that ringed the peninsula and disappeared from sight, I unfastened my seat belt. It was time to go to work. The lake looked like it was already in the middle of a squall: I glanced up at the sky. The anvil-shaped marker of a gigantic thunderstorm was swelling in the southwestern sky, visible each time lightning flashed across it.

Without warning, a crack split the air. I jumped and looked back at the building, thinking it had been struck by an early bolt of lightning. But the building was quiet and still, and when another crack shattered the silence, I realized the sound had come from a stand of trees on the other side of the building.

I walked around to investigate and found Ethan standing at the base of a pine tree like a fighter facing down a forty-foot-tall opponent. His fists were up, his body bladed. The tree wobbled like it had been rammed by a truck, needles whooshing as limbs moved. The smell of pine resin—and blood—lifted in the breeze. With that much anger banked, there was no way Ethan could have gone home.

It was an obvious downside of being a Master vampire—to be all riled up with nowhere to go. And this human—this temporary blip in the chronology of the world—threatens to take it all away.

It was time to intervene. I was standing on the lawn between the building and the lake; I figured that was a perfect place to work off a little tension. He looked over, one eyebrow defiantly arched.

Ethan was already walking closer, the smell of his blood growing stronger. If you want to fight, try a vampire.

But I dropped my arm and shoulder and blocked it. That move thwarted, Ethan bounced back into position. This was play-fighting. The release of tension. I swatted away a halfhearted jab. Ethan ran his hands through his blond locks, then linked his fingers together atop his head.

My blood. We were colleagues, I reminded myself. Nothing more. But what can we do but try to solve the problem? The edge of the peninsula was terraced into stone rings that formed giant steps into the water. He shed his suit jacket, placing it gingerly on the stone ledge before sitting down beside it. When I joined him, he picked up a pebble and pitched it. Even with the chop, it flew like a bullet across the water. The wind was picking up. Ethan wound up and threw another pebble, the rock zinging as it skipped ahead.

We were back to politics and strategy. That was a good sign. There was a sensual component to both, sure, but at base they were about the blood—the thirst. Not about conquering humans or killing them. It sounds like violence, pure and simple. That is the quintessential purpose of vampire glamour.

Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, Book 4)

This just sounds. Talking about in well-reasoned and measured tones. We need to get in front of the issue. We need to close them down. And I did plan to take my sword. I touched a hand to my stomach. I am starving. We drove to University Village, parked along the street, and took our places in line with the thirdshifters on lunch breaks and the UIC students needing late-night snacks. Eventually we placed our orders and moved to a counter, where I taught Ethan to stand the way God intended Chicagoans to stand—feet apart, elbows on the table, sandwiches in hand.

When his first bite left a trail of juice on the floor in front of his feet—and not on his expensive Italian shoes—he smiled grandly at me. Say what you might about my obsession with all things meat and carbohydrate, but never underestimate the ability of a stack of thin-sliced beef on a bun to make a man happy—vampire or human.

And speaking of happiness, I wondered what else Ethan had been missing out on. That was the kind of move that threw me off balance, but I managed to keep things lighthearted.

You need to get out there. I mean, for a night game, obviously. They took a spot beside Ethan, spread their feet, unwrapped their own Italian beefs, and dug in. The one closest to Ethan ran a napkin across his dripping mustache, his gaze shifting from me to Ethan. I know you? Our area of the restaurant, not full but still dotted with late-night munchers, went silent. This time, the man looked suspiciously at the sandwich.

She decided I had to try one. Or a red hot? We might have been vampires, but at least these guys recognized that we were first and foremost Chicagoans.

We knew freak snowstorms and freakier heat waves. But most of all, we knew food: He dropped his napkin and threw his hands into the air.

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Good eats and whatnot. Hot beef in the name of peace. I liked it. To challenge their perceptions of what it means to be vampire. I mean, other than vegetarians, I guess. But as we have thoroughly established, vegetarianism is not my gig. He frowned. Procrastination is a very human emotion. Three sets of battle lines drawn. The protesters were still outside when we returned, their apparent hatred of us undiminished. On the other hand, their energy did seem to be a little diminished; this time, they were sitting on the narrow strip of grass between the sidewalk and street.

Some sat in pop-up camping chairs. Late-night prejudice was apparently exhausting. Malik met us at the door, folder in hand; Ethan had given him a heads-up call in the car on the way back to the House.

Malik was tall, with cocoa skin, pale green eyes, and closely cropped hair. He had the regal bearing of a prince in training—shoulders back, jaw set, eyes scanning and alert, as if waiting for marauders to scale the castle walls. But Mr. Ethan headed for his desk. Potentially under the influence, but sober enough that Tate was apparently convinced.

And that makes this problem our current focus. Tate said the incident occurred in West Town. Look through your rave intel again.

Any connections to that neighborhood? Any talk about violence? Anything that would suggest the scale the witness talked about? This might be the time to make that call again. But first, I had a couple more hours of darkness and many hours of daylight to get through.

A bed. A bureau. A nightstand. Small closet, small bathroom. Given the messes we tended to get into, drama free was definitely a good thing. My second-floor room—just like the rest of the House—still smelled like construction. New paint. It smelled good somehow, like a new beginning.

A fresh start. The storm broke overhead just as I shut my door, rain beginning to pelt the shuttered window in my room. I peeled off my suit and toed off Mary Jane heels, then headed to my small bathroom, where I scrubbed my face.

The makeup washed off easily. Those were the tough things to ignore—the sounds, the expressions, the sensation of Ethan and his body. But they were still there. I had two hours to kill until dawn, which meant I had an hour to kill until my weekly date with my other favorite blond vampire. My first task—taking care of basic vampiric necessities. I walked down the hallway to the second-floor kitchen, smiling at a couple of vaguely familiar-looking vampires as I passed them.

I opened the fridge and plucked out two drink boxes of type A blood prepared by the lamely named Blood4You, our delivery service , then headed back to my room. Most vamps were fortunate enough to retain a pretty good hold on their bloodlust, me included.

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Most of the time, bloodlust in vamps was kind of like thirst in humans; if you waited to drink until you were truly thirsty, it was probably already too late. The usual subjects were there. Chick lit. A Pulitzer Prize winner. A romance novel about a pirate and a damsel in a low-cut blouse.

Hard Bitten

Even a vampire enjoys a little bodice ripping now and again. His selections were usually related to politics: Unfortunately, no matter how serious the topic, the names were usually just silly. Get to the Point: Vampire Contributions in Western Architecture. Fangs and Balances: Vampire Politicians in History.

To Drink or Not to Drink: A Vampire Dialectic. Food for All Seasons. And the awfully named Plasmatlas, which contained maps of important vampire locales.

Maybe the managing editor of the vampire press was the same guy who wrote the chapter titles for the Canon of the North American Houses, my vampire guidebook. Both were equally punny—and just as ridiculous. Was it Master avoidance? So there I was—in a tank and boxers—crosslegged on my bed with To Drink or Not to Drink in hand, the rain pummeling the roof above me.

I sighed, leaned back against the pillows, and sank into the words, hoping that I might find something moderately edutaining. Or infotaining. An hour later, Lindsey knocked, and I dog-eared the book a bad habit, I know, but I never had a bookmark handy. The book had actually been informative, discussing the earliest recorded instances of a condition the author called hemoanhedonia—the inability to take pleasure from drinking blood. Vamps with the condition tended to demonize those who drank.

Abracadabra, raves are born. With that historical nugget in mind, I put the book on the nightstand and opened the door. Her feet were bare, her toenails painted gleaming gold. I like those duds. Come on in. I shut the door behind her. One of our earliest dates as new friends had been a night in her room with pizza and reality television.

The latter was exhausting after a while. It was high-quality stuff. Classy stuff. I joined Linds on the bed and pulled a pillow behind my head. Luc will fill you in. Suffice it to say, Ethan could be in Cook County lockup next week. And stripes. Lindsey was even less convinced that Ethan had had a legitimate post-breakup change of heart. He was tall and touslehaired, his dark blond locks sun streaked from years, I imagined, as a bootswearing cowboy on some high-plains ranch where cattle and horses outnumbered humans and vampires.

Long story short, nothing had come of it until the attack on the House. Then they started spending more time together.

I completely approved of that development. Luc had pined pretty hard; it was about time he tasted victory. It was her life, and I could respect that. So I let it go and settled into a comfy position beside her, and then let my mind drift on the waves of prerecorded, trashy television.

One of the two fairies at the gate guessed my game. A food truck hawking Italian beefs was parked at the corner, a dozen protesters standing beside it, sandwiches in hand, their signs propped against the side of the truck. Ethan must have made a phone call. The car was old and had seen better days, but it got me where I needed to go. Tonight, I needed to go south. But Chuck Merit, cop turned supernatural administrator, was a man of the people, supernatural or otherwise.

So instead of a swank office with a river view, he had a squat brick building on the South Side in a neighborhood where the lawns were surrounded by chain-link fences. Normally, the street was quiet.

Those vehicles had been roadsters with recognizable vanity plates; these were beat-up, harddriven vehicles with rusty bumpers and paint splatter. I parked and made my way across the yard. So, I assumed, were the boxy men and women who mingled in the hallways, plastic cups of orange drink in hand. They turned and stared at me as I wove through them, their smallish eyes watching as I walked down the hallway.

Their features were similar, like they might have been cousins related by common grandparents. All had slightly porcine faces, upturned noses, and apple cheeks. On my way back to the office Catcher shared with Jeff Christopher—an adorable shifter with mad tech skills and a former crush on me—I passed a large table of fruit: Snacks for the office guests, I assumed.

I squeezed through a few more men and women and into the office. Catcher was nowhere in sight. His brown hair was getting longer, and nearly reached his shoulders now. It was straight and parted down the middle, and currently tucked behind his ears. Jeff had paired a button-up shirt, as he always did, with khakis, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows, presumably to give him room to maneuver over his monstrous keyboard.

Jeff was tall and lanky, but what he lacked in mass he more than made up for in fighting skills. He was a shifter, and a force to be reckoned with.

They draw the lines; the trolls enforce them. River trolls are vegetarians. Fruitarians, really. Offer up fruit and you can lure them out from beneath the bridges. Catcher stood in the doorway, plate of fruit in hand and, just as Mallory had said, rectangular frames perched on his nose. They were an interesting contrast with the shaved head and pale green eyes, but they totally worked. The Sentinel definitely approved.

I also approved of his typically snarky T-shirt. So, Catcher was a sorcerer, and Jeff was a shifter. Vampires were also represented, at least partly. Is that just maintaining good supernatural relations? Every population gets a visit—an evening with the Ombudsman.

His wide-set eyes blinked curiously at us. A light breeze of magic stirred the air. George nodded and offered a small wave. The voices. The talk. The winds are changing. Was I part of the problem? Making the city louder? Adding to the anger?

He is. George watched me for a moment. Evaluating, maybe, before he finally nodded. I nodded back, my act just as significant. The connection made, George disappeared again. And even then, they appear, they work the task, and they head back beneath the bridges again. I walked over and peeked around his desk to get a glimpse of the picture.Gabe turned his gaze on me.

Whatever the reason, I wanted no part of it. Was she going for sexy librarian, maybe? Those vehicles had been roadsters with recognizable vanity plates; these were beat-up, harddriven vehicles with rusty bumpers and paint splatter. I figured I had a good minute or two before they barreled after me, which meant I needed to find Jonah and we needed to jet.