Home > Flesh and Blood (House of Comarré #2)(8)

Flesh and Blood (House of Comarré #2)(8)
Author: Kristen Painter

A small, dark streak sped through the corner of his vision. The musky, meaty smell of rat filled his nostrils. The quivering anticipation of the hunt ran through him hot and electric. Hell, why fight it? With a soft chirp of anticipation, he was on his feet and moving.

The rat darted out into the narrow corridor. Even without the overhead solars, Doc’s night vision was on point. He chased after the rodent, eager, hungry, saliva pooling for the kill.

Passageways and stairs disappeared beneath Doc’s padded feet. Whiskers brushed metal as he rounded corners and ducked pipes. All that mattered was the long-tailed meal and where it went next.

The passageway ahead angled through the heart of the freighter and into the belly of the main hold. The solars grew weaker, dimming as the game took him in deeper. Squealing, the rat slipped between a couple empty boxcars, two of many that formed a maze through the ship’s gut.

Doc pursued, turning the corner so sharply his ribs grazed the hard edge of the first container. He barreled through, the scent tangible on his tongue, the kill moments away. He exploded out into the open and skidded to a dead stop. The sight on the other side erased all thoughts of the rat and the hunt.

A familiar shape walked among the boxcars. Long dark hair, backpack tucked over her shoulders, flashlight in hand. What little light there was passed through her translucent form.

Numb recognition froze Doc.

The circle of her flashlight beam pinpointed something. She walked toward it, stared at it for a moment, then nudged it with her foot.

In a flash, a thin, dark shape lunged up and grabbed her. Her mouth opened in a silent scream. The flashlight tumbled from her hand and landed with the beam pointed at her. The shape was human, bones with a little skin stretched over them. It clung to her. Fangs, white in the flashlight’s beam, tore into her throat. Blood spattered, soaking the front of her sweatshirt. The creature gorged itself as the fight drained out of the girl’s body. Her fists stopped battering. Her feet stopped kicking.

The creature raised its face and stared with cloudy eyes into the light. A remnant of flesh hung from its scrawny jaw.

The creature was Malkolm. The girl was Fiona.

The image flickered and disappeared.

Chapter Three

Chrysabelle smiled with the satisfaction of another day well spent and a new night well begun. Nothing like a long, hot shower after an intense day of training. She tucked her damp hair behind her ears and pulled her white terry robe closer. It would be a long time before she broke the habit of wearing white, but why should she? It was as natural for a comarré as breathing.

The delicious smell of whatever Velimai was making in the kitchen wafted up from the first floor. Chrysabelle leaned on the countertop and stared into the bathroom mirror. Every day, every night the same. She’d wake up, train, shower, eat dinner, and read Maris’s journals, looking for an advantage against Tatiana. She was in a rut. Did it matter? She was happy. Mostly. Free to do what she wanted. At least until Tatiana came knocking again. Unless Chrysabelle got to her first. But that would take planning, and so far, she’d yet to come up with anything.

She sighed as the niggling reminder of Mal’s unpaid debt wormed through her consciousness again. Something else to be dealt with in time. Not now, but soon. She reached for one of Maris’s journals and carried it downstairs to read until dinner was ready.

This journal dealt with the time leading up to Maris’s decision to claim libertas, the comarré ritual in which a comarré might fight her patron for her freedom. If the comarré lost, the patron was granted a new comarré. If the comarré won, she went free. Either way, the loser ended up dead.

Maris had won, but the ritual had left her crippled, unable to walk until years of secret rehabilitation enabled her to regain some mobility. It had also freed her from her patron and allowed her and Dominic, her vampire lover, to leave the noble realm and live a somewhat normal life. At least until Maris had left Dominic. Why she’d done that, Chrysabelle had yet to uncover.

Maris had been exceptional at keeping secrets. Even Dominic hadn’t known that she’d regained her ability to walk over the years. In the end, that secret had made it possible for her to kill Chrysabelle’s patron and escape without detection, all in an effort to free Chrysabelle so she might live a life beyond the servitude of the comarré world, something Chrysabelle had long wanted.

Maris had gotten her wish. But at what price? Even Dominic had paid highly. His noble family, the house of St. Germain, had declared him anathema for loving the comarré of one of his peers and causing that comarré to claim libertas, during which her patron had been killed. The council had blamed him for the patron’s death. And although killing another vampire was an unforgivable sin, he had escaped with his life because he had only been the cause and hadn’t actually dealt the killing blow. Not that Dominic was suffering now.

His nightclub, Seven, seemed to be doing very well. The man wore expensive suits, had his own plane. Once a week, he laid a blanket of white roses on Maris’s grave. And he might indulge in some things that were not exactly above board, but Chrysabelle couldn’t help but feel some affection for the man who still obviously loved her mother.

She returned to the journal but had read only a few pages when the intercom chimed twice, indicating the guard at the main gates was calling.

Velimai came out from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. She threw it over her shoulder and signed, Are you expecting someone?

‘No, but that’s okay. I’ll get it.’ Chrysabelle got up to answer the intercom. ‘Yes?’

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