Blood of a Huntsman Page 2

Well, much of a front. Their world was too merciless to mindlessly bare her throat to anyone.

It was strange. Not unpleasant, but unsettling nonetheless.

“I don't mind training you,” Cat told Chloe. “And if you want to thank me? Fine. You can buy me dinner. An ancient sword? That’s too much.”

Chloe pouted. “You immortals always make a big deal about owing people.”

Levi chuckled low and whispered, “Hypocrite.”

They heard him quite clearly—vampire senses and all that—but Chloe chose to ignore the insult. “Well,” she added, “if you don't let me thank you properly, I'll always owe you a debt for your lessons. That would suck. So, take the sword, please.”

Cat glanced at Levi. If Chloe had given her something she owned, it would have been different. But this was Levi's property.

"You will not be beholden to me, Stormhale," he said, seeming rather amused. "Trust me when I say that Chloe has paid for the blade many times over."

Given the way his eyes shone, Cat could guess how.


She grimaced. Neither her friend nor her boyfriend could even remotely be described by the term “ew,” but imagining them jumping each other was an unwelcome vision.

Mostly because Cat’s vagina hadn’t seen any action in a long time.

"All right, then. I’ll accept it. Thank you both. Now, I'd better earn that baby. Come on, Eirikrson. Let us see if you still bleed purple."

One of Chloe’s most unusual attributes was her blood. The first vampires ever turned, Eirikr and the rest of the seven, had blue blood. The human beings turned into immortals kept the vermillion pigmentation, and Cat, like all vampires born to one of the seven founding families, had black blood running in her veins. No one knew why Chloe's blood wasn’t black. Not the witches they'd asked, not the historians, not even Chloe's terrifying ancestor, the mighty and insane Eirikr himself. Chloe had mentioned she’d asked him during one of her visits to his prison.

It didn't matter much. At the end of the day, blood was blood. And Chloe's spilt like anyone else's.

Chloe winced as Cat's new blade sliced her left arm.

"Come on. I showed you how to anticipate that move." By the time Cat was done admonishing her, Chloe's wound had already healed, without so much as a bruise left.

All vampires healed fast, but, as in most other things, Chloe excelled. The newly turned vampire’s biggest flaw was that she had zero clue how to use a sword.

Levi had the foresight to show his mate the basics of self-defense before she was turned, so her hand-to-hand fighting was effortless. But Chloe just didn't get swordplay, a weakness she couldn't afford.

Most vampires didn't use guns or other modern weapons; the bullets were too slow, too easy to evade. But in their hand, a sword could move at the speed of light, and they didn’t need to waste time reloading a blade. Besides, bullet wounds weren't fatal to their kind. They could only be destroyed for good by a handful of methods. Burning. Beheading. Drowning. Heart completely destroyed, preferably ripped out of the chest. Those were the most common ways to permanently dispose of a vampire.

If Chloe had been anyone else, her inexperience with weapons wouldn't have mattered. But even before she'd turned, she'd been a target. Now, rumors were being spread about her around the world, and thousands of vampires wanted her dead, just because of who she was. What she was. What she represented.

Her line had been destroyed because they were too dangerous, and could—had—risen over their kind in the past. Vampires didn’t like to be told what to do, but the Eirikrsons had established laws about their dealings with mortals, witches, and shifters. Those who broke their laws were hunted down and destroyed. Eventually, their kind rose against the Eirikrsons and massacred the entire family. Or so they believed.

One boy survived, courtesy of Levi, and now, fifteen hundred years later, Chloe, his direct descendant, had been turned into one of them.

The entire vampire species feared that she sought to rule them again. The Eirikrsons were the monsters parents told their children about to force them to behave. The vampire boogeymen. It was only natural that their name should incite fear.

Cat knew Chloe. She was just a woman. A twenty-five-year-old, soon to be twenty-six, although she'd stopped aging. She'd worked as a waitress, and until March, her biggest problem had been choosing her thesis subject.

It wasn't fair that the world wanted to kill her just because of her last name. Cat understood this more than most. She, too, had often been defined by her family, her blood. For that reason alone, Cat would help Chloe as much as she could.

As long as she believed it was the right thing to do. And as long as she had a choice in the matter.

“It’s a bloody sword, not a cheese knife, woman. Your grip!”

Chloe adjusted her hand around the hilt of her practice sword and tried to lunge again.

Cat moved out of the way at the last moment but admitted, “Better. Much better. Shall we call it a night?”

Chloe sighed in relief. “Please! By all the gods, you’re worse than Levi. Are all vampires sadistic with their pupils?”

Cat laughed. Sadistic? If Chloe thought her tutelage was challenging, she wouldn’t have survived a day in Stormhall.

At least Cat didn’t break her bones when she messed up.

Daughter of Storm

Cat smiled on her way down from Night Hill at ten that evening. She might reprimand Chloe's every mistake and keep a stern brow during their lesson, but that was because pushing the woman was effective. In three months, Chloe had greatly improved; she could no doubt hold her own against most common vampires now.

The slayers, the ancients, and those who owned a house on this hill were another matter. Cat didn’t think she would have a chance against any of them, so she was ill-suited for teaching Chloe how to fight them. For that, Levi would have to take charge of Chloe’s training.

Cat idly wondered if they’d let her sit in on their lessons. She could learn a great deal from the ancient.

If she was still in Oldcrest by then.

She wasn’t naïve enough to think that she’d be allowed to remain here indefinitely.

Cat headed to her right, instinctively holding herself a little straighter, stiffer, as she passed a white house built like the Pantheon, with columns, a flat roof, and walls sculpted with symbols from an ancient, bygone world. Everything about this house was familiar, though she'd never entered it. The third house on the hill was but a miniature Stormhall, built to look just like their residence in Rome.

Cat sighed. She’d been foolish to hope that the shadow of her family would not reach her here.

She sped along the path, greeting the keeper of the gates as she left, then rushed down the road leading to the ancient fortress where the Institute of Paranormal Studies had been built.

Long ago, the castle had harbored a witches’ coven. Seven families on the hill and dozens of witches in the valley—that had been Oldcrest at the very start. Together, they'd sworn to keep Eirikr locked in his tomb, his prison. For centuries, this hill was seen as the seat of immortal powers, where most of the world's politics were decided in the shadows. Despite her efficient memory, Cat couldn’t remember the name of the witch clan, which meant that no one had told her. She filed the question in one corner of her mind, intending to bring it up when she had the opportunity.

Now the witches were long gone and only a few outcasts lived on Night Hill, though members of each family did occasionally pop by.

For Cat, Oldcrest was the perfect hideout. She'd had enough of her family, enough of Rome, enough of suffocating under their rules, their demands, their punishments, but one doesn't simply leave the Stormhales. Abandoning the family without orders was grounds for banishment, if the head of the family was feeling kind.

Or worse.

More than likely worse, in her case. Aunt Dru rarely felt kindness toward Catherine.

So instead, Cat had been clever, planting seeds and biding her time.

She’d started to correspond with the Beaufort heiress, Anika, a professor at the Institute. She'd mentioned Anika's station, the respect the other families had for her, and, of course, she'd also said a thing or two about Levi being single and highly eligible, until she was finally ordered to go to the Institute. Further her education. Fuck a prince.

Even before meeting him, Cat never had any interest in Levi. She had no interest in anyone who'd want to boss her around. Besides, the stories she’d heard about him were horrific. But it wouldn't do to let anyone think that she didn't intend on seducing him. Cat knew she wouldn't have been sent here otherwise.

Now that it was common knowledge that the Leviathan was with the Eirikrson heir, she expected a letter to come any time, ordering her back home. Each passing week without one was a surprise; she wasn’t sure why her aunt hadn’t gotten in touch yet, though it didn’t bode well. But as long as no word came, Cat would enjoy her freedom.

Hearing a clock chime in the distance, she rushed into the night class moments before Fin Varra, their delectable ancient fae professor, entered the room.

In the middle of winter, Fin often showed up shirtless—a pleasure like no other on Earth—but now, in mid-May, when everyone else struggled with the heat, he walked in wearing a dark cloak that flowed to the floor like it was made of mist. The creature was unable to look anything but fabulous.

"You think he’s wearing anything under that?" the woman seated on Cat's left asked.

Cat grinned, admiring Greer Vespian's courage.

Greer, an ochre-skinned, freckled, redheaded beauty with pale green eyes, was the second woman Cat had ever considered a friend. Perhaps not a close friend—she had no reason to trust her—but they had an easy relationship. Greer never asked personal questions, and never revealed anything about herself. Instead, they joked, gossiped, helped each other in class, and practiced yoga together. Their superficial arrangement was perfect for Cat.

Fin had undoubtedly heard every word; vampires’ good hearing was nothing compared to the senses of an Aos Si.

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