Shadowed Steel (Heirs of Chicagoland #3) - Chloe Neill Page 0,1

was the One and Only, thank you very much.) But she would have none of it. I was the third wheel. Maybe cats didn’t like vampires. Or maybe she’d seen what so many others hadn’t. That I wasn’t just a vampire, or just the only vampire born instead of made.

Whatever the reason, she’d decided we were enemies.

I leaned down to look her in the eyes, smiled. “I’m going to dress you up like a cowgirl while you sleep. Then I’m going to take pictures and send them to the Tribune.”

If her dirty looks were stakes, I’d have been deceased. But she hissed and ran away, conceding the ground. I called that a win.

“Peeing in your shoes will only be the beginning,” Lulu said and popped the deviled egg into her mouth.

* * *

* * *

Boxed brownies substituted when bread failed. While they cooled on the stove, I pulled my wavy blond hair into a low braid and paired a flowy black sleeveless tank with dark, shimmery leggings and boots. I added dark mascara over green eyes and brilliant crimson lipstick to shine against my pale skin.

An hour later, the loft was full of chatter and humans and the bowls, pans, and bags of food brought by guests. Eleanor of Aquitaine lounged under the dining room table, hoping for scraps. Connor hadn’t yet made an appearance, but the apparent winner of the deviled eggs sat on the ledge that fronted the wall of windows, each covered with plastic in a different color so they made a rainbow of light.

Mateo, Lulu’s newish beau, was a glassblower who worked on big, expensive art pieces. He was muscled in the lean way of a person who rarely stopped moving, and had a tan complexion and a shorn head. His eyes were dark and deeply set beneath heavy brows, his lips generous, his jaw square. He chatted with some of his artsy friends—they were all angular clothes and hair—and Petra, another OMB friend. She was petite, with tan skin and dark hair and eyes, and was an aeromancer in her own right.

“Your glassblower seems cool,” I said. Lulu and Mateo had been seeing each other for a few weeks, since we’d returned from a short trip to Minnesota. She’d traveled in an RV with my OMB colleagues to help deal with a Pack crisis. I wasn’t sure if it was the trip, the company, or the magic, but she’d seemed sadder after returning, at least until she’d connected with Mateo.

“Yeah. He is. His friends are cool, too. Very . . . edgy.”

“I haven’t talked to them yet. But if you like them, I like them.”

And since they were all human, I could break them like a twig if they hurt her. So that was a nice benefit.

The conversation in the loft quieted, and I instinctively glanced up to find the source of the change.

The source was a shifter. My shifter.

He’d emerged from the long hallway that led to the loft door, his body tough and strong. He wore jeans and a heathered NAC Industries henley that hugged muscle, and he carried a bottle of wine. His dark hair waved around a chiseled face punctuated by brilliant blue eyes and a mouth that was usually arranged into a self-assured grin. He had the bearing of a prince, the body of a god, and the ego to match both, all of it matched by his integrity, wit, and concern for his Pack.

And his eyes were fixed on me.

His mouth curved, and more than one human around me made little sounds of appreciation and lust. The prince, allowing the commoners to take a look.

“People look at him like he’s a properly made baguette,” Lulu whispered. “Ready to be devoured.”

They did, and I couldn’t blame them, given that my thoughts ran along the same lines. Minus the implicit insult to my bread-making skills.

“And then he looks at you,” she continued, “like he’s the big, bad wolf and you’re the grandmother.”

“That is a very disturbing analogy.”

She held up her hands. “You’re right. It was, and I take it back. I tried something out, it wasn’t the right direction. I made a mistake.”

Connor’s best friend, Alexei, stepped in behind him. Alexei was just as tall and built, with dark blond hair and hazel eyes that scanned the room with suspicion. Alexei was the quiet and loyal sort. Unless he was harassing Lulu.

“Oh, good,” Lulu said. “Alexei’s here.” There was conviction in the sarcasm, but joined by a spark in her eyes