Bad Blood - By Kristen Painter

Chapter One

Paradise City, New Florida 2067

As the car pulled alongside the gates to Chrysabelle’s estate, Mal stared through the metal bars at the stucco-and-glass fortress she lived in. Eight days she’d refused to see him. With good reason. His patience with the situation was worn paper-thin. Not just because of the waiting to find out if the Aurelian had given her a way to remove his curse—and knowing what a monster he was, why would the Aurelian do that? No, that wasn’t it, although that question was a constant presence in his head, alongside the voices that constantly mocked and tormented him. His lack of patience came from not knowing how Chrysabelle was recovering from the physical damage that had been done to her. That was the worst of it. That part gnawed at him with gut-deep pain.

Doc, the leopard varcolai who’d become the closest thing he had to a friend, threw the old sedan into park, tossed his arm over the bench seat, and twisted to look at Mal in the back. “You sure you don’t want me and Fi to talk to her? I’m sure she’d let us in.” Fi, the first of Mal’s voices to manifest as a ghost, turned to look at Mal, too.

“No. If I have to knock on her door all night, she’s going to see me this time.” That’s it. Force your way in. Drain her dry like you know you want to. Mal ignored the voices and held tightly to the little calm he had left. Since Chrysabelle had regained consciousness, she’d refused to see him or Creek. Mal could understand her not wanting to see the Kubai Mata, but Mal’s blood had healed her. Ruined her. He’d gotten her out of Corvinestri and back to her own home. That had to count for something, even if Creek had helped.

Doc shrugged. “Suit yourself, bro. Fi and I will swing by after the movie to see if you need a ride home.”

“No need.”

“It’s going to rain.”

“Don’t care.” If things went right, he’d be inside anyway. They won’t go right. Not for you.

“Stubborn as always.” Fi smiled. “Don’t forget the cookies I made. She’s gotta let you in with those. Double chocolate chip!”

Mal nodded. It was a little scary how domestic Fi had become since she and Doc had coupled up in a serious way. Or maybe she was just happy not to be stuck in the nightmare loop of reliving her death night after night. He grabbed the plate Fi offered and got out of the car. He waited until they pulled away, then jumped the wall surrounding Chrysabelle’s estate and walked to the front door.

Velimai, Chrysabelle’s inherited assistant and deadly wysper fae, opened it before he could knock. At the sight of her, the voices ramped up into an irritating whine. Chrysabelle’s ever-present scent didn’t help matters either. Velimai shook her head no, anticipating his question.

“At least tell me how she is.”

Velimai started to sign something Mal wouldn’t understand, when a soft voice broke the silence. “Let him in.” Chrysabelle. At last. Just the sound of her voice relaxed him and helped him fight the chaos in his head.

Velimai looked to one side, then signed a few words and nodded. She held a finger up, making Mal wait. Footsteps receded. At last the wysper fae opened the door and moved out of the way.

She led him down a hall and into a library—a part of the house he’d never been in before. He gave her the plate of cookies and went in. The room was the first he’d seen that had any color besides white or ivory. The pale blue was subdued, but in a house so serene, it might as well have been red. He inhaled. Fresh paint. Interesting. Maybe Chrysabelle was finally coming to terms with living here.

Chrysabelle stood at the far end, facing the wall of windows that seemed to dominate the back of the first floor. Her beautiful sunlight-colored hair was unbraided, another rare sight. The ever-present glow around her, something all comarré had but visible only to vampires, seemed darker somehow. More alluring. More biteable.

The window coverings were pulled back, and beyond the grounds and pool, the bay shimmered in an endless black mass that reflected the stormy night sky. Only a reading lamp illuminated the space, but she’d still angled herself in such a way that the small portion of her face visible in the glass was distorted and hard to see, even with vampire eyes.

“Rain again.”