Home > Phantom Kiss (Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)

Phantom Kiss (Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)
Author: Chloe Neill


“There is no torture so sweet, no punishment so sublime, as the couple’s wedding shower.”

The tortured vampire, who was tall and chiseled enough to make Apollo weep with jealousy, stood beside me at the threshold of a mansion in Oak Park, Illinois.

The house belonged to my parents. In two months, the vampire would belong to me.

He wore a perfectly fitted dark suit, a crisp white shirt beneath. The top button was undone to reveal the silver drop that rested in the hollow of his throat. His hair was golden and fell to his shoulders, his eyes the green of flawless emeralds.

“You rule a House of vampires,” I reminded Ethan. “You’ve fought monsters, sorcerers, evil politicians. You can handle presents and party games for a couple of hours.”

The look of horror that widened his eyes was priceless. Not that I was thrilled about entering my parents’ house. No matter the occasion, being here felt like being corseted into a body that wasn’t quite my own. On the upside, at least I wasn’t going to be tortured alone. Ethan was my partner in crime.

His gaze narrowed. “You didn’t mention party games.”

“It was understood,” I said. “That’s the nature of a wedding shower. Just be glad it’s the only one you have to attend.”

We’d have a short engagement—only four months from the first ring to the second—and we were now only two months away from the ceremony. Since Ethan insisted on a dazzling wedding that would show off his bride-to-be—and who was I to argue with that?—the brief engagement meant a lot of planning and lead-in activities were compressed into a short time. That was one reason we’d opted for a single couple’s shower instead of the varied bridal variety.

Ethan arched a golden eyebrow, skimmed his hot gaze over the dark, swingy dress I’d paired with low black boots, the pearls at my neck, the dark hair I’d left loose around my shoulders. “You’ll owe me, Sentinel.” He leaned forward, lips at my ear. “And I mean to collect.”

Just as he’d intended, my blood went hot. “You’ll have plenty of time to collect after the party.” I swept past him, opened the door, and grinned back. “We are immortal, after all.”

• • •

My parents’ modernist home, a weird cube of concrete among Frank Lloyd Wright look-alikes, had been outfitted with white and silver streamers and paper lanterns that were unusually usual for a wedding shower. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

My mother, Meredith Merit, and my sister, Charlotte Corkburger, had organized the party. I’d given them a list of my friends, and they’d handpicked the rest of the invitees based on some complicated calculus they hadn’t fully explained to me but which had required a whiteboard, markers, and enough symbols to populate a spell book.

“Happy shower!” My mother walked toward us, two tall champagne flutes in hand. Charlotte stood in front of a long table covered with silver dishes and tiered trays of food. We both had our father’s dark hair, although hers were green to my blue. She glanced back and waved, and I did the same.

“Thank you, Mom,” I said, and took the flute, noted the crimson liquid it held did not look like champagne.

“Blood4You cocktail!” my mother said brightly.

Ethan took a sip and nodded, as if pleasantly surprised by the taste. “Very nice,” he said. “And the house looks lovely.” He flashed the Masterly smile that made all manner of human and supernatural folk weak in the knees.

“We had so much fun working with the party planner,” my mother said, hand on her chest.

“Planning a good event is a very satisfying process,” Ethan said, then slid me a glance. “In fact, I requested one of our vampires act as a social coordinator for the House.”

“It wasn’t a request,” I murmured. “It was a punishment.”

“Was it?” His expression was all innocence. “I must remember it differently.”

I just shook my head.

“Well, in any event, you’ll have fun tonight.”

That remained to be seen, but I’d give it my best shot. I looked around, scanning the faces I knew, and didn’t see my brother, Robert, or my father. “Robert and Dad aren’t here?”

My mother tried to hide her sudden wince, but not successfully. She traded it for a light smile that wasn’t any more convincing, and gestured offhandedly. “They’re at a real estate closing in New York. You know how they are.”

Maybe there’d been a closing. Or maybe my father was still my father, and my brother was still my brother. The former didn’t know how to deal with me. The latter was still angry because he believed I’d ruined the possibility of Merit Properties’ future business with Sorcha and Adrien Reed. Sorcha was a sorceress whose plan to control supernaturals we’d recently thwarted; Adrien was her entrepreneurial husband, dead by her own hand. Their own actions had led to their downfall—magically and economically. But since I was a supernatural, Robert blamed me.

“They are who they are,” I said, and tried a smile that wasn’t any better than hers. But I fixed it into place, because this night was about Ethan and love and celebration. It wasn’t about my brother’s petty and misguided tantrum.

When Ethan picked that moment to put a hand at my back, to remind me that he was beside me whatever other drama came our way, I felt better. We were who we were.

My mother slipped an arm into Ethan’s. “I have so many people to introduce you to! They’re dying to meet you, if you’ll excuse the pun.”

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