Home > Lucky Break (Chicagoland Vampires #10.5)

Lucky Break (Chicagoland Vampires #10.5)
Author: Chloe Neill



Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill
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1

 


The world below us was dark, cities glowing in orange grids like electrical circuits strewn across black canvas.

“It is a beautiful world, Sentinel.”

I shifted my gaze to the vampire across from me in the cabin of his House’s luxe jet.

Tall, with golden hair that brushed his shoulders and eyes like cut emeralds, Ethan Sullivan sat in the ivory leather chair with the bearing of a Master. He was one, head of Chicago’s Cadogan House and a member of the newly created Assembly of American Masters. It wasn’t the position he’d hoped for, but it was certainly the more egalitarian one—he was now member of a democratic congress, rather than an imperial king.

The psychological and physical testing he’d gone through had been grueling, and it didn’t help that we’d been tracking a killer at the same time. The debacle had concluded with another bang: a note had been left in our Cadogan apartments purporting to be from Ethan’s own maker, Balthasar, who was supposed to be long dead. There’d been no other sign of him, but we’d been walking a knife’s edge of tension since we’d found the handwritten message.

Those had been only the most recent episodes in a long and dramatic year, and we needed a break. So we were heading west to spend a few days in Elk Valley, a quiet town in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, at the mountainside retreat of an old friend of Ethan’s. We hadn’t previously traveled together for reasons unrelated to magical drama, and I was both excited and apprehensive. But in the best possible way.

“It’s a big world,” I said. “I like to fly because it reminds me how huge the planet is and how small we are by comparison. I like that idea—that we’re inconsequential, so our troubles are inconsequential, too.”

A corner of his mouth lifted. “You could never be inconsequential, Merit.” He glanced out his window, traced a knuckle across the glass. “But I take your point. Living in darkness reduces our visibility, seems to narrow the world. Up here, thirty thousand feet above the earth, you are reminded of its magnitude.”

“The wine is making you poetic.”

He looked at me again with heat and fire, smiled with lazy confidence. “Shall we see just how poetic it can make me?”

The cabin door shushed opened and a petite brunette with a tidy cap of hair and navy skirt and jacket walked forward with a tray. “Refreshments, sir? Ma’am?”

Grinning, Ethan gestured her my way. “If she’s awake, she’s hungry.”

“I’m fine, thank you,” I said, holding up a hand to decline. The denial was mostly for form and principle, since the tray of petits fours and one-bite tarts looked amazing.

The flight attendant nodded, straightened again. “Please let me know if you change your mind. I hope you’re enjoying your vacation so far?”

“It’s only just begun,” Ethan said. “But so far, so good.”

She smiled and nodded, then shushed back into the staff area, leaving us alone in a floating room of expensive leather and burled wood, seven miles in the air.

Ethan smiled, crooked a finger at me.

“I’m not coming over there,” I told him. “We’re not exactly alone.”

He arched an eyebrow, his signature move. “I believe I can manage not to ravish you for the duration of the flight, Sentinel. Just come sit with me.”

I wouldn’t say I was the lap-sitting type, but it wasn’t often we found ourselves with time to relax together. So I stood, crossed the small space between our chairs, and let him wrap me in his arms.

Since we were officially on vacation, I’d forgone my usual leather jacket and pants—the uniform I’d adopted as Sentinel of Cadogan House—and paired a pale pink wrap sweater with jeans and flats, a combination that made me look more ballerina than vampire warrior. But even a warrior needed a night away from her sword, away from the battles and political intrigue that always seemed to find us.

“My Sentinel,” Ethan said, as he reclined the chair and dimmed the lights. Bodies entwined, we watched the world turn beneath us. “It has been a hard winter. Let us welcome the spring.”

I closed my eyes, relished the scent of him, the maleness. His cologne was sharp and clean, and it overlaid the softness of soap and the slightly spicy scent that made him him. He was everything warm and familiar, and I still marveled that he was so decidedly mine.

I smiled as his arms tightened around me. “So what will we be doing in Elk Valley, Colorado?”

“Beyond the obvious?” he asked, nipping my earlobe. “There will be long walks, beautiful vistas, rolling rivers in which we can dip if it’s warm enough. And, considering your particular interests, some exquisite dining.”

“I am more than the sum of my culinary desires.”

He chuckled. “I never doubt it. Most of all, Merit, we can be ourselves. Man and woman without politics or chaos between us.”

“That sounds pretty good.”

“It will be. I intend to spoil you, Sentinel.”

“You keep saying that.”

“So I do. Let’s see how well I keep my word.”

***

“What,” I asked an hour later when we stood on the tarmac, “is that?”

It was a monster of a vehicle. Heavy-duty, square frame. Big tires and lots of ground clearance. The exterior was so blindingly orange I was half-surprised it didn’t emit its own light.

“That,” Ethan said, stepping beside me, hands on his hips and a decidedly alpha gleam in his eye, “is our ride.”

“Because we fear a zombie apocalypse? And we hope they’re color-blind?”

“Because we need the four-wheel drive. We won’t be sticking to paved roads on this trip.”

I had mixed emotions about roaming through the woods of Colorado. Not because I was afraid of the forest; I was a predator, after all. Even if the view was limited, darkness was familiar to me, and forests home to any number of things I could best if the need arose. Night was our territory.

But because to get there, I’d have to ride in the Orangesplosion.

“I’m calling it the Orangesplosion,” I announced to Ethan.

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