Home > Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6)

Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6)
Author: Chloe Neill

Chapter One


Late November

Central Iowa

It shone like a beacon. More than a thousand feet of skyscraper, the lights at the top of its antennas blinking through the darkness that blanketed the city. The Wilis Tower, one of the talest buildings in the world, was nestled in downtown Chicago, surrounded by glass and steel and the waters of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Its bulk was a reminder of where we'd come from...and where we were going.

We'd left Hyde Park, our home turf, and were heading west across the plains toward Nebraska and the Maleficium, an ancient book of magic that my (former?) best friend, Malory, was evidently intent on stealing.

My nerves on edge, I tightened my grip on the steering wheel of my companion's sleek Mercedes convertible.

That companion, Ethan Sulivan, smiled at me from the passenger seat. "You needn't look so morose, Sentinel. Nor should you keep looking at the postcard of the city you've taped to the dashboard."

"I know," I said, sitting up a little straighter and scanning the freeway before us. We were somewhere in the cornfields of Iowa, about halfway between Chicago and Omaha. It was November and the corn was gone, but the acres of wind turbines arced in the darkness above us.

"It's just weird to be leaving," I said. "I haven't realy been out of Chicago since I became a vampire."

"I think you'l find life as a vampire is fairly similar regardless of the location. It's realy only the food that's different."

"What do you think they have in Nebraska? Corn?"

"And steak, I imagine. And probably most everything else.

Although your Malocakes may be hard to find."

"That's why I packed a box in my duffel bag."

He burst out laughing like I'd told the funniest joke he'd ever heard, but I'd told the absolute truth. Malocakes were a favorite dessert - chocolate cakes filed with marshmalow cream - and they were exceedingly hard to find. I'd brought some along just in case.

Regardless of my culinary choices, we were on our way, so I smiled and worked on adjusting to the fact that Ethan, the once and future Master of Chicago's Cadogan House, was sitting in the seat beside me. Less than twenty-four hours ago, he'd been completely and utterly deceased. And now, by a trick of il-intentioned magic, he was back.

I was stil pretty dumbfounded. Thriled? Sure. Shocked?

Absolutely. But mostly dumbfounded.

Ethan chuckled. "And are you aware you keep looking over here like you're nervous I'm going to disappear?"

"It's because you're devastatingly handsome."

He grinned slyly. "I wasn't questioning your good taste."

I roled my eyes. "Malory brought you back from ashes," I reminded him. "If something like that is possible, there's not much in the world that's impossible."

She'd raised Ethan from ashes to make him a magical familiar...and to release an ancient evil that had been locked away in a book by sorcerers who thought they were doing the world a favor. They had been, at least until Malory decided releasing the evil would fix her weird sensitivity to the locked-away dark magic.

Fortunately, her spel had been interrupted, so she hadn't actualy managed to set the evil free or make Ethan a familiar.

We assumed that was why she'd escaped her bonds and was chasing down the Maleficium - she wanted another try.

Familiar or not, Ethan was back again: tal, blond, fanged, and handsome.

"How do you feel?" I asked.

"Fine," he said. "Unnerved that you keep staring at me, and pissed that Malory has interrupted what should be a very long and involved reunion between me and my House and my vampires." He paused and looked over at me, his green eyes fire bright. "All of my vampires."

My cheeks burned crimson, and I quickly turned my gaze on the road again, although my mind was decidedly elsewhere. "I'l keep that in mind."

"As wel you should."

"What, exactly, are we going to do if we find Malory?"

"When we find her," he corrected. "She wants the Maleficium, and it's in Nebraska. There's little doubt our paths wil cross. As for the what...I'm not entirely sure. Do you think she'd be amenable to bribery?"

"I'm aware of only one thing she wants," I said. "And she has a head start, which means she'l probably get there before we do."

"Assuming she manages to evade the Order," Ethan said.

"Which seems pretty likely."

The Order was the union of sorcerers that had been overseeing Malory in rehab and was responsible for keeping the Maleficium safe. Al around, they'd done an embarrassingly bad job of both.

"That's funny, Sulivan. Especialy for someone who's been alive for barely twenty-four hours."

"Don't let my youthful good looks confuse you. I now have two lifetimes of experience."

I made a sarcastic sound but said a silent thank-you. I'd grieved for Ethan, and it was glorious - al the more for being so unexpected - to have him back again.

Unfortunately, my gratitude was matched by the icy gnawing in my stomach. He was here, but Malory was out there, inviting an ancient leviathan back into our world.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"I can't shake the Malory funk. I'm furious with her, mad at myself for missing the fact that she was the one trying to destroy Chicago, and irritated that instead of celebrating your return, we have to play supernatural babysitters for a woman who should know better."

I rued the day Malory had learned she had magic; things had gone downhil for her - and by extension, her friends and family  - since then. But she'd been my friend for a long time. She'd jumped to my defense the first day we'd met, when a thug tried to snatch my backpack on the El, and it was her shoulder I'd cried on when Ethan made me a vampire. I couldn't abandon her now, even as much as I might have wanted to.

"We're on our way to find her. I'm not sure what else we can do. And I agree that you should be basking in my glory...especialy since I took a stake through the heart to save your life."

I couldn't help but grin. "And it didn't even take you twenty-four hours to remind me."

"One uses the tools at one's disposal, Sentinel."

There was a twinkle in his eye, even as the teltale line of worry appeared between his eyebrows.

"Do you have any idea where we're actualy supposed to go when we get to Nebraska? Where the silo is? It's a big state."

"I don't," he said. "I'd planned to give Catcher time to get his bearings and then ask for details."

Catcher was Malory's boyfriend. He'd been employed by my grandfather, Chicago's supernatural Ombudsman until Diane Kowalcyzk, the city's new mayor, stripped him of the title. Like Malory, Catcher was a sorcerer, but he'd been on the outs with the Order much longer than she had.

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