Home > Out for Blood (House of Comarré #4)(14)

Out for Blood (House of Comarré #4)(14)
Author: Kristen Painter

“He’s not such a bad fellow. But enough about him.” He took her hand and held her arm out. “I know nothing about women’s fashion, but you do wonders for this dress.” He winked at her as he released her hand.

She smiled and smoothed the skirt. “I do, don’t I?” She studied the gown. Deep purple silk corseted her torso with a heavy crusting of diamond embellishment purposefully designed to conceal two slender blades that could be whipped out at a moment’s notice. From her waist, the gown flared so that it flowed around her like water when she walked. Let Svetla’s pale blondness try to compete.

“You look like the queen you are.”

“I’m having a tiara made to match. Diamonds and amethyst.”

“As you should.” He glanced at Lilith. “And for our little one?”

“Lavender silk and a headband stitched with diamonds and amethyst as well.”

He nodded. “Like mother, like daughter.”

She glanced at the seamstress and her helpers, reluctant to talk about private matters in front of them but eager to find out if Octavian had news from Daciana. “Any word from our associate?”

“Unfortunately, no.” He grasped his hands behind his back and walked forward a few steps. He released his hands, clenching them into fists. “I have no clear way of making contact, despite our new advances.”

Since declaring computers and communication devices no longer off-limits in the House of Tepes, Tatiana had been frustrated by how few members seemed interested in using them. She was slowly learning to use them herself and understood these things took time, but how could anyone not want to take advantage of the technology? “That’s very disappointing. Do you think… all is still well? It’s been nearly five days.” And no word from Daciana. Anything could have happened to her. Tatiana swallowed down the building emotions. This was what came of allowing herself to care about others. She reached for the locket around her neck, comforted by its weight in her hand.

Octavian shook his head as if to dispel her thoughts. “I’m sure everything is fine. You know I’m willing to take care of this in person, if you wish. I can leave immediately. Just say the word.”

“I can’t spare you. With the ball approaching, I need you here with me. Especially when…” She studied the kine around her, looking for listening ears. “All of you, outside until I’ve called you back.”

“Yes, my lady.” The modiste motioned for her helpers to leave.

As soon as the doors closed, Tatiana stepped off the platform to face Octavian. “I’d love to have you check on Daciana, but I suspect the council has eyes on me.” She threw her hands up. “I hate that those pompous fools can affect me this way. After all I’ve been through with them, the way they fought me becoming Elder, the way they made me wait after Ivan’s death, the way they doubt me and question me at every turn—”

Octavian took her hands in his. “You’re Dominus now. One of the council yourself!” He held her gaze. “There’s nothing they can do against you.”

“Not openly, no. Just because they must accept me publicly doesn’t mean they won’t still try to tear me down in private. With the ancient ones so firmly on my side, I have no doubt jealousy will drive at least one of them to oppose me. More than one, I’m sure.”

“My darling.” He shook his head. “Let them try. What can they do? You think the Castus will not punish any who dare come against you? You watch. The rest of the families will be your dutiful servants at the ball.”

She pursed her lips. “For show, yes. But what they plan behind closed doors—”

“Again, I say let them. Let one attempt something. I’m sure the Castus will make an example of them the rest will not soon forget.”

An idea flared in her mind. She smiled, her fears ebbing as the new thought formed. “Or we could make our own example.”

His face lit up, his whiskey eyes going silver with joy. “You are the most brilliant woman I’ve ever known. I’ll work on that immediately. Do you have a preference?”

“Oh, yes.” She laughed, giddy with purpose. “Svetla.”

After he’d parked his bike inside the machine shop, Creek pulled the rolling door closed and locked it. The shop that he’d turned into his headquarters looked about as rough as any other building in downtown Paradise City, but that was the idea. No one would ever guess the place was so secure. Being back in his childhood neighborhood was no joy, but it afforded him great access to the othernatural lowlifes from whom he was duty-bound to protect humanity. Walking past the shop’s open area, he hung his leather jacket on a hook on one of the sleeping loft’s support columns.

He leaned against the big steel work sink in his makeshift kitchen and stared at the glass block window above it, letting Chrysabelle’s words sink in. As much as he agreed with her, there was nothing he could do. The KM owned him for now. Sure, he’d rather live out in the Glades near his mother and grandmother. Someday, he would. Someday when his debt to the Kubai Mata was paid. At least, that’s what he liked to tell himself.

He grabbed a beer from the fridge and loped up the stairs to his bedroom. From there, he climbed through the one unboarded window to sit out on the fire escape. He wished Chrysabelle had been more receptive to his message from the KM, but he understood. Completely. She’d been through a lot. He hadn’t expected her to want to go after a vampire child when it meant putting herself in Tatiana’s path again. Chrysabelle deserved to be able to do what she wanted to do. Even if that included Mal. At least she hadn’t shut Creek out entirely, although he’d given up on his feelings for her. There was a bond between her and Mal he couldn’t penetrate.

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