Home > Midnight Marked (Chicagoland Vampires #12)

Midnight Marked (Chicagoland Vampires #12)
Author: Chloe Neill



Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill
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CHAPTER ONE

 


   THE DEVIL’S EYE

   Late April

   Chicago, Illinois


I stood at the corner of Clark and Addison in jeans and a Cubs T-shirt, my long hair pulled into a ponytail through a vintage Cubs cap.

   At a quick glance, I probably didn’t look much different from the thousands of humans around me. But I was a vampire, and I’d caught the devil’s eye. So there was a House medal around my neck, a Master vampire beside me, and a dagger tucked into one of my boots.

   I stared up at the building, excited as a kid at her first baseball game. The famous red marquee glowed over the hologram of Harry Caray smiling behind thick black glasses that was projected onto the sidewalk.

   I’d been a vampire for three hundred and eighty-four days. This was going to be one of the best of those, because I was home.

   For the first time since becoming a vampire, I was at Wrigley Field.

   “Do you need to take a moment, Sentinel?”

   I ignored the teasing tone of the man who stood beside me, the four-hundred-year-old Master vampire who ruled Chicago’s Cadogan House and the parts of my heart that weren’t devoted to great books and good pizza.

   I turned to give him a pithy look, expecting to see sarcasm on his face. But there was something softer in those deep-set green eyes. Love tinged with amusement. His hair, thick and gold like summer silk, was tied at the nape of his neck, showing off knife’s-edge cheekbones and a square chin. And although he wasn’t much of a baseball fan, and even though we lived on Chicago’s South Side, he wore a vintage Cubbies shirt that fit his lean body like a very fortunate glove. Ethan Sullivan didn’t wear casual clothes very often, but he wore them as well as he did his bespoke, thousand-dollar suits.

   “I am taking a moment,” I said with a grin. “Quit distracting me.”

   “Heaven forbid I should do that,” he said knowingly, putting a hand at my back.

   “Could you possibly goggle from a booth? I am absolutely starving.”

   For once, I wasn’t the one asking to eat. That honor belonged to my best friend, newlywed Mallory Carmichael Bell.

   I was still getting used to the name change.

   I glanced back at her, her hair as deeply blue as the Cubs logo, her petite frame tucked into skinny jeans and a snug blue and red Save Ferris T-shirt. “Didn’t you eat a granola bar in the car?”

   “I did,” she said, “but it’s the only thing I’ve eaten today. I spent half the day bitching at the Order for its record-keeping failure,” she grumbled. “Anyway, I’m starving.”

   The Order was the official, if surprisingly incompetent, union of American sorcerers. It wasn’t the kind of complaint you’d expect to hear in front of Wrigley Field, but it wasn’t unusual for our group. Two vampires, two sorcerers, and all four of us trying to nail the city’s most powerful financial and political mogul, who also happened to be the leader of the city’s criminal underground. Our enemy was Adrien Reed, and his organization was known as the Circle. He had supernatural minions, including a sorcerer of his own who’d used his impressive power to transform a vampire into the Master whom Ethan had believed was long dead.

   “Let’s discuss the details away from the crowd,” said the sorcerer beside Mallory. Her husband, Catcher Bell, was tall and leanly muscular, with shorn hair, green eyes, and a generous mouth currently pulled into a line as he scanned the crowd for threats.

   He wasn’t the only one looking. Ethan had informed the Cubs we’d be attending the game, and given the WELCOME CADOGAN HOUSE! message on the marquee, they’d decided not to be shy about it. We had to be on our best behavior—and our highest alert.

   The evening at the ballpark had been Ethan’s idea—a few hours of normalcy in a month that had involved a mysterious evildoer from Ethan’s past and a new evildoer who believed he could lie, cheat, and steal with impunity. We’d temporarily thwarted Reed, but he’d promised us another round. We were looking forward to the battle, and we were determined this inning would be the last.

   Also, my birthday was in a few days. I’d officially turn twenty-nine, although I still looked twenty-seven and three-quarters and would for the rest of my potentially immortal life. There’d been a time when I wasn’t comfortable with the fact that Ethan had made me a vampire—it had been necessary because of a violent attack by another vampire, and not of my choosing—but I’d worked through those issues.

   My vampire senses were strong. I’d filtered them heavily because we were surrounded by so many people, but I still heard my name and Ethan’s whispered around us by humans who recognized us from newspaper articles and Internet sites. Ethan had his own fandom; EthanSullivanIsMyMaster.net was a very real thing. Given the e-mails the House’s Initiate Liaison and social secretary, Helen, had intercepted on my behalf, he wasn’t the only one with fans. Personally, I found all of it unnerving. Flattering, but unnerving.

   As to the real-world threats, Ethan had ordered me not to be brave, not to engage anyone unless absolutely necessary. Since protecting him and the House was my solemn responsibility as Sentinel, we undoubtedly had different definitions of “absolutely necessary.”

   “Where are we eating?” Mallory asked, glancing at the restaurants arranged around the ballpark. The neighborhood had always been crowded on game day, but recent renovations had spawned more bars and pubs and brought out more people.

   “Someplace familiar,” Ethan said, then glanced at me. “If you’re ready?”

   I grabbed Ethan’s wrist, checked his gleaming steel watch. Tonight’s game was a rare late-night matchup at Wrigley sponsored by a battery company that was giving away Cubs flashlights.

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