Home > Charmfall (The Dark Elite #3)(11)

Charmfall (The Dark Elite #3)(11)
Author: Chloe Neill

“I don’t know.” She straightened her messenger bag. “But we better go look.”

I nodded, and we crept to the sliver of light beside the door and peeked into the hallway. It was empty. Whatever had opened the door—or come through it—was gone.

We walked inside and closed the door behind us, but not all the way.

“Probably shouldn’t lock it in case we need to chase out whatever got in,” I quietly said. She nodded. We crept down the hallway, which was pretty short, and then to the next corner. That hallway was empty, as well, but another door was open. It was marked JANITOR’S CLOSET, but it was actually called the City Room. A small model of the entire city of Chicago made in gray cardboard was spread out across the floor, like a short, three-dimensional map.

The brat pack had locked me in the City Room one night, which actually led to my getting firespell. So I guess I had Veronica to thank for that. Not that I was getting her a card or anything . . . That was an odd place for someone to sneak into; not exactly the kind of place you expected an evil monster to hide. What was going on?

Scout pointed at the door, and I nodded. Silently, we crept along the wall to the City Room and looked inside.

“Holy crap,” Scout said.

There in the middle of the City Room, legs straddled over the city of Chicago, stood Nicu, head of the newest coven of Chicago vampires.

He turned back to look at us, his black, military-style coat fluttering around his knees as he moved. He looked young, but he was handsome in an old-fashioned way. Pale skin, wavy dark hair, blue eyes. And when he was vamped out, inch-long fangs. Tonight he wore knee-high boots, snug pants, and a blousy white shirt.

No one looked that good accidentally. He looked date-night good, and that made me nervous. Really nervous. Was he waiting for Veronica? Had he ignored the fact that her memory had been erased and actually contacted her? Surely he wouldn’t be that stupid. Sure, she might talk to him—but the press would be the second number on her speed dial, and vampires wouldn’t be a secret in Chicago anymore.

And that was the other reason I was nervous. He was a vampire. With the bloodsucking and the fangs and a pretty obvious dislike of humans. Most humans, anyway.

“What are you doing here?” Scout asked.

Nicu’s eyes narrowed dangerously and he flashed his fangs, as if to remind us that he wasn’t a child we could boss around.

“I do not answer to you.” His voice carried a deep accent, and he glowered at us—and that’s the only word I could use to describe it. Glowering.

Sure, my instincts told me to run in the other direction and hunker down, but instead I took a step forward. I was tired, and I was out of patience for supernaturals today.

“You’re in our territory,” I said for the second time in a night. “You most definitely answer to us. And I repeat the question—what are you doing here?”

Nicu looked away, and this time there was sadness in his expression. I figured out his game.

“We erased her memory,” I reminded him, “so she’d forget about the magic and the vampires.”

“Her?” Scout asked.

“Veronica,” I said, keeping my eyes on him. “Nicu’s here to see Veronica.”

“I am aware of the state of her memory,” he said, his accent thick, but somehow fitting in the old stone convent. “I thought, perhaps, I might catch a glimpse of her.” He gestured to the room. “But I find your home to be . . . labyrinthine.”

He was right. The convent was like a maze, and he hadn’t even made it onto the first floor yet. He must have gotten stuck in the City Room, and perhaps had been gazing at the map to find a way out.

“Why come through the tunnels?” Scout asked.

“How else would we travel? We live here, beneath ground. We do not travel in the demesne of humans. We do not stand in the bourgeois glare of the sun.” His voice was flat, like that was an obvious rule of vampires I should have known about.

“She’s human,” I pointed out. “And she’s not the type to keep a secret,” I said. “Seeing her again will only cause problems, and I bet you know that. Or you wouldn’t have agreed to her memory being wiped.”

“We have a connection.”

God only knew what he saw in Veronica. Sure, she was pretty, and she seemed smart when she wasn’t using her brains for evil. But she always used her brains for evil.

Scout took up the debate. “If you find her, you put her and yourself in danger. Her, because she learns about magic, and Reapers might see her as a threat. You, because she learns about magic and that’s one more person who knows vampires exist. Are you ready for that?”

He looked from me to Scout, and then turned again, coat spinning around his legs as he moved. He may be a big scary vampire, but he was also kind of cool, you know? Like he could have been the guitarist in an English punk band.

“You think I am not aware of the consequences? You are a child, and a human child at that. I have lived more years than you can even conceive. I know the risk.”

Risk or not, here he was. I wasn’t going to give a thumbs-up to a vampire sneaking around my school, but I guess the romantic in me could appreciate the fact that he was here.

“She’ll be asleep,” I said. “She shares a suite with three other girls. You couldn’t get in and get out without being seen.”

“Lily!” Scout whispered fiercely. “Do not encourage the fanged!”

I held up a finger. “Could you excuse us just for one second?” I didn’t wait for his answer, but dragged Scout into the hallway.

“We should be threatening him, not giving him tips!” she said. “He is a monster.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but he’s a monster with an agenda. If we don’t help him, he’ll sneak in, possibly leave the door open again, allowing Reapers in the school, and risk being seen by some wandering dragon lady, thus proving vampires exist to people who don’t need to know that.”

She considered that for a second. “You’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately, haven’t you?”

“It helps me sleep.”

“He could hurt Veronica,” she said.

Not that I’d wish her (much) harm, but that seemed unlikely. “He has a crush on her,” I said. “I don’t get why, and I don’t think we need to play chaperone every time they hang out, but maybe if we introduce him as a human we could sidestep any of the supernatural drama? Then it’s just relationship drama, and we can leave that to them.”

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