Home > Flesh and Blood (House of Comarré #2)

Flesh and Blood (House of Comarré #2)
Author: Kristen Painter

Chapter One

Paradise City, New Florida 2067

Tatiana needed to die. The thought pushed Chrysabelle on until her shoulders burned and her arms shook. Sweat drenched her thin white T-shirt and dampened her hair, but no matter how many times she pounded her fists into the heavy bag, no matter how hard she punished her body, nothing changed. Her mother was still dead. Tatiana was still alive. And Chrysabelle still owed Mal for the promise she’d made to him.

Over and over, she struck the bag, but the memory of her mother dying in her arms still haunted her. She hit harder, and her conscience punched back, heavy with the guilt of her unpaid debt.

Mal had helped her when she needed him. And she’d done nothing to uphold her end of the deal. She’d barely spoken to him in the two weeks since they’d returned from Corvinestri and most of those words had been on the plane ride home. Her fist slammed the bag. Wasn’t his fault Maris was dead. It was Tatiana’s.

The comarré life taught that revenge served no purpose. Chrysabelle was starting to think otherwise.

She walloped the bag again, then spun and landed a kick with a loud, angry grunt. She dropped her hands and stared at the bag, not seeing it. Just the mess she still needed to deal with.

She walked away from the bag, pushing hair off her face with her taped hands. She should be downstairs, reading through the journals Maris had left behind, trying to find some vampire weakness she could exploit to Tatiana’s detriment. Instead, she was hiding out in the gym. No, not hiding out. Training. For when she next met the vampiress who’d killed her mother. And with the covenant between humans and other-naturals gone, being fight-ready was going to matter.

Just like Mal thought finding a way to remove his curse mattered. Which it did. She approached the bag again and punched her fist into it. Most comarré wouldn’t dream of creating such tension between them and their patron. Not that most comarré had a cursed vampire for a patron. If Mal even was her patron anymore. She sighed. Her life was an unqualified mess.

‘Argh!’ She whirled and kicked the bag, flinging sweat. Velimai, her mother’s former assistant and now hers, stood in the doorway, watching.

Your mother loved beating up that bag, Velimai signed, her face wistful. Wyspers were mute, except for an ear-piercing scream capable of killing vampires.

‘It helps.’ Chrysabelle fought a wave of sadness to smile at the wysper fae. They both missed Maris. Her presence filled the house.

Velimai nodded back, her fingers moving. Ready for dinner?

‘Steak?’ Chrysabelle asked hopefully. With no patron and no bite, steak seemed to keep her strength up and maintain her superhuman senses better than all the other foods she’d tried. No wonder it was served so often at most comarré houses.

What else? Velimai signed, smiling.

So long as Velimai didn’t sign too fast, Chrysabelle could understand most of what she said. ‘I’ll grab a shower and be down in five.’ She started ripping the tape off her hands with her teeth.

Take ten, Velimai signed as she left.

The hot shower felt good, but alone in the steam, Chrysabelle had too much time to think.

She’d sent Mal blood, not just because it was the proper thing to do for one’s patron – however suspect his hold on her blood rights might be – but because she had to drain it from her system anyway. According to Doc, Mal’s sidekick of sorts, her efforts were futile. Mal had left the blood untouched in the galley refrigerator of the abandoned freighter he called home. Maybe he thought he’d have to kiss her again if he consumed it. She grimaced at that memory and added more cold water to the spray falling over her. No, neither of them wanted to go there again. What he was doing for blood, she had no idea. She wanted to pretend she didn’t care, but that would be a lie. Caring about her patron was ingrained in her makeup. One hundred fifteen years of comarré indoctrination was a tough thing to ignore. The struggle between who she wanted to be and who she had been played out even in daily decisions. How many years would it be before she thought of herself not as a comarré but simply as a woman?

She rinsed the soap from her body, letting the water beat against her skin. Her thoughts returned to Mal. Did he feel like she’d betrayed him? She hoped not, hoped he realized she was just waiting for the time to be right. Going back to Corvinestri could be very dangerous for both of them. Surely he understood that.

She couldn’t imagine he was in any rush to face Tatiana again. Not after finding out she was the one responsible for his curse. He probably wanted to kill her as badly as Chrysabelle did.

What must it feel like to have the person you’d married turn on you that way? It was bad enough the vampiress had killed Maris and destroyed the covenant, but for Mal to find out the woman who had been his mortal wife was the one responsible for his years of imprisonment and his curse …

Maybe Chrysabelle wasn’t the only one whose life was a mess.

She cranked the water off, grabbed a towel, and dried herself before wrapping her hair up. She threw on a robe and opened the door. The rich smell of steak made her stomach growl. She headed downstairs, ready to dig in.

After dinner, she settled on the couch with one of Maris’s journals, but her mind kept returning to Mal. She needed a distraction.

‘Screen on.’ The wall across from her flickered to life, and the late-evening news projected into the room with holographic precision.

‘ … an ex-soldier in Little Havana who preaches outside the abandoned Catholic church. His message? Vampires need to be cleansed.’ The anchorman smiled like he didn’t expect his viewers to believe in vampires either. Idiot. Newsreel of the ex-soldier flashed on the screen and Chrysabelle peered closer. There was something familiar about his shaved head and the glint of his dog tags, but she couldn’t place them. What she did know was that the ex-soldier wasn’t human. He was fringe, a less-powerful class of vampire compared to the nobles but vampire nonetheless. Couldn’t the anchorman tell? Or had he, like a good portion of his audience, chosen not to believe?

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