Bad Blood - By Kristen Painter Page 0,1

Great. Start with the weather. That was safe. And boring. Like you. What he wanted to do was crush her in his arms and tell her how damn glad he was that she was still alive. Or just crush her. Then ask her what the Aurelian had said. “Good for the new sod you had put in.” Sod meant to cover the pressure sensors installed as part of a new beefed-up security system. He knew only because he’d watched the workers leaving after dusk, not because she’d told him. Had Creek been behind that? If so, good for him. The upgrade was long past due.

“Mmm-hmm.” She shifted slightly, revealing a slim white cane held against her side. Her knuckles were pale from gripping it.

He wanted to reach for her. Help her. But he refrained, sensing it wouldn’t be welcome. Nor are you. “You should sit.”

“You should stop telling me what to do.”

The voices cheered. He dropped his head, studying the pattern of the wool rug covering the dark wood floors. Anger he could deal with. He’d been the target of her ire more than once. For good reason. “Not much chance of that.”

She shook her head. “You’ve seen me. Are you satisfied? Is there anything else you require from me?”

Yes, but she’d yet to look at him directly, and something told him asking her about the Aurelian now wasn’t going to get him an answer anyway. He took a seat in one of the ivory silk club chairs. It was the exact opposite of what he felt like doing, which was charging to her side and holding her against him. Maybe it would confuse her as much as she was confusing him. “How about you explain what’s going on?”

“I don’t need to explain myself to you or anyone else.”

This approach wasn’t working. He got up and walked to her, stopping a couple yards away. Like her glow, her scent had changed as well. It was deeper and sharper, but just as seductive. The perfume wrapped around him, teasing him with the promise of blood. Blood he could taste by memory. Blood the voices howled for. “I know you’re angry. What I don’t get is why.”

She barked out a short laugh and, at last, faced him. “Are you kidding? Velimai told me what you and Creek did to me.” She grabbed the back of the nearest chair as she approached. Using the chair for support, she stabbed her cane into his chest. “You put your blood into me.”

“I saved your life.” This attitude from her, this sharp tongue and verbal biting, wasn’t something he was entirely used to, but he understood she had a right to be angry after what Rennata did to her. He just hadn’t expected it to be aimed at him. Get used to it.

“You had no right to defile me that way. It wasn’t your place.”

“Defile? Is that what I did to you?” He knocked the cane away. “You would have died.”

“I doubt that. The comarré ability to heal is more than sufficient.”

He wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Do it. Bite her. Drain her. “Your signum had been stripped off your back in two bloody filets. By Rennata. You were bleeding out faster than any of us knew how to deal with. And then there’s that whole thing where you’re not comarré anymore.”

Her clear, blue gaze pierced him. “Not with your blood in me.” She pulled herself up a little taller. “I may be disavowed, but I am as much comarré as you are vampire. If you’ve ruined things for me, I will kill you myself.”

“Ruined what things? Is this some fever madness?” Maybe he should call Velimai, get Chrysabelle back to bed.

“I have to go back to the Aurelian.”

“Yes on the fever, then. Why would you go back to her? She’s the reason you almost died.”

“No.” She walked around him and took a seat on the edge of a chaise, resting the cane beneath the folds of her flowing white robe. “You and Creek are. Following me to the Aurelian was what got me disavowed. Now I have to find a way back to her to ask who my brother is.”

“Following you was an accident. You know that. And we’ll find your brother together. Creek isn’t without skills. Dominic might know someone to talk to as well. The man’s better connected than anyone I know. You can’t go back to her. It’s too dangerous.” Not as dangerous as