Home > Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)(8)

Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)(8)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

Another gust of wind sliced into me, bringing with it the scent of snow. It would be a white Christmas in a few hours. I hoped to be far away by the time the first snowflakes fell.

I glanced over at Ian. He didn’t seem bothered by the cold and his coat was as thin as mine. Then again, he was from England and I came from the warmer climate of the Middle East. Some things not even the passage of time could dilute. My dislike of cold was one of those.

I checked my mobile again. Quarter to midnight.

“I hope Vlad didn’t pick tonight to go back on his word,” I murmured, more to myself than to Ian.

He cast an unconcerned glance at the sky. “He won’t.” Then he looked back at me. “I’ve run through many possibilities, but I can’t place the origin of your accent.”

“My accent?” I had mastered so many languages over the centuries, I thought I’d long gotten rid of any telltale hallmarks from my original one.

“It’s very slight,” he assured me. “Yet every so often, it peeks out, just like when you occasionally use words that haven’t been popular since America sewed its first flag.”

“Vampires might not be modern humans, but we should keep striving to sound like them,” I said, repeating one of Tenoch’s most frequent admonitions. Then I paused. Why had I shared that?

He nodded. “Too right. We’d whip heads around if we spouted thee’s and thou’s everywhere. Some old vamps refuse to modernize. Outs them to humans faster than flashing fang.”

Tenoch had felt the same way. That’s why my sire had been so adamant about my embracing the new, whether that was speech, clothing styles, mannerisms, or technological advancements.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Ian went on, a gleam appearing in his eyes. “Where did you get your accent? Ancient Sumer, perhaps? You do speak Sumerian better than anyone I’ve ever heard.”

“When have you heard it?” I asked to turn this line of questioning around. “It’s long been a dead language.”

His brow rose. “Yes, and most of Sumer’s culture’s been lost to history, too, so no one would know an authentic accent even if they heard it. I happened to learn Sumerian when a demon I was mates with taught it to me. How did you learn it?”

Nothing changed in my expression although inwardly, I flinched. How did I end up on the defensive end of a conversation about demons and my original homeland? I had to redirect the conversation. Fast.

“Some spells are more effective in their original language. When you’re a Law Guardian tasked with fighting various forms of magic, it behooves you to learn those languages. Why would you bother to learn one no one speaks anymore?” I let out a slight scoff. “Although I’m not surprised a demon taught it to you. Demons have been around longer than humans and vampires both, and they love to prove their imagined superiority over lowly walking corpses, as most demons see vampires.”

Ian appeared to mull that over. “Plausible.” Then he threw a cheery grin at me. “But you’re still hiding something. Rest assured, I will find out what it is.”

The roar of an approaching plane kept me from responding, which was good. Otherwise, I might have threatened to kill him again. That would have only made things worse. Ian tended to take a death threat as a challenge, a joke, or an aphrodisiac.

After it landed, the sleek plane used all of the empty parking lot to come to a stop. Then it waited, exterior running lights off so it didn’t stand out like a beacon in the dark. We ran over to the plane, reaching it right as the door opened.

“Cheers,” Ian said, vaulting into the open doorway. Then he stopped so suddenly that I plowed into his back when I jumped in after him. I pushed Ian aside so I wasn’t hanging half out of the doorway anymore. With him no longer blocking me, I saw the plane contained more than the two vampire pilots.

A third vampire reclined on the leather sofa in the plane’s sumptuous interior. His long black hair matched the stygian shade of his eyes and his skin was the same golden bronze as my own. I should have felt him before I saw him, except he was one of the few vampires in the world with enough power to tamp his aura down until he felt like a mere human.

Now that he’d succeeded in surprising us, Mencheres released his hold and an invisible shockwave filled the plane. It felt like thousands of stings erupted across my skin as his aura rolled over me. At the same time, the air suddenly felt heavy, as if it had morphed into the ocean and we were plunging toward the crushing pressure of the bottom.

I had to fight the urge to take a step backward. I would show no weakness, even if Mencheres was one of the few people that I considered to be a friend. I was old enough to remember Mencheres before he had fangs, let alone a pyramid built in his honor.

“Bugger,” Ian swore. “What are you doing here?”

Ian’s sire smiled at him. “Happy Christmas, Ian.” Then Mencheres’s dark gaze landed on me. “Veritas,” he said, drawing out all three syllables of my name. “Please enlighten me as to what you think you’re doing with one of my favorite offspring.”

Chapter 7

I exchanged a glance with Ian. In that single look, I knew Ian didn’t want me to reveal our true mission. I agreed. Mencheres was what they called old school when it came to the long-standing practice of vampires staying away from demons. That’s why he really wouldn’t support our attempt to kill one. The one thing demons could be counted on for was how they avenged the death of their own. No sensible Master vampire of any line would involve his people in that quagmire. A smart one like Mencheres would also take active steps to stop someone he cared about from doing it, too.

That’s why I’d rather stare down the entire ruling council than the vampire opposite me. For one, Mencheres might be the only vampire with enough power to actually stop us, if he knew what we intended. For another, I didn’t want to involve him in something that would likely get at least one of us killed.

“Mencheres. How lovely to see you,” I said in my most innocent tone.

“Don’t patronize me,” he replied irritably. That put me on alert. Mencheres could level this area with a thought, so he rarely bothered to let himself get to the point of annoyance. “Vlad already told me Ian was in serious trouble.”

“Diiiiick,” Ian breathed. “Leave it to Vlad to both honor his debt and get revenge at the same time.”

“Have you placed Ian under arrest for something?” Mencheres asked me, ignoring that.

“No,” I said, relieved to tell the truth about that, at least.

Mencheres’s gaze narrowed. “Then why would you, a Law Guardian, be spending time with him? Ian’s contempt for the law is outweighed only by his abhorrence for celibacy.”

Ian mimed hefting a glass in salute. “True, that.”

I cast about for a quick excuse. “I’m, ah”—what was the modern term?—“slumming it. I do that sometimes to relax.”

“Lies,” Mencheres said sharply. “You haven’t relaxed since Caesar was stabbed by Brutus. You also almost never take vampires as lovers, so—”

“Oh?” Ian interrupted, interest sparking in his gaze.

“So since you’re not arresting Ian or ‘slumming it’ with him,” Mencheres continued. “What are you doing, Veritas?”

I couldn’t think up a convincing excuse, so I decided to go with brazenness. I straightened to my full height. “Ian is Master of his own line, and he can tell you himself that he’s with me of his own free will. The rest isn’t your concern.”

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