Biting Cold - By Chloe Neill Page 0,1

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—all 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 Mallory was out there, inviting an ancient leviathan back into our world.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I can’t shake the Mallory 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 Mallory had learned she had magic; things had gone downhill 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…especially 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 telltale line of worry appeared between his eyebrows.

“Do you have any idea where we’re actually 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 Mallory’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 Mallory, Catcher was a sorcerer, but he’d been on the outs with the Order much longer than she had.

My cell phone rang, a herald of news, good or bad.

Ethan glanced at it, then propped it up on the dashboard between us. “I guess he’s ready to talk.”

“Ethan, Merit,” Catcher said in greeting. His voice was gravelly, his tone even lower than usual. He wasn’t one for displays of emotion, but Mallory’s disappearance had to be wearing on him.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“The woman I’d planned to spend the rest of my life with is trying her best to open Pandora’s box, and damn the consequences. I have had better days. And weeks.”

I winced sympathetically. “So fill us in. What do we know?”

“She was staying at a facility not far from O’Hare,” Catcher said. “There were armed guards to keep an eye on her and medical staff to make sure she was stable.”

“I thought the Order didn’t have operations in Chicago?” Ethan asked.

“Baumgartner claims it’s not an Order facility. Just an inpatient medical facility where he has friends,” Catcher said. Baumgartner was the head of the Order. From the sound of Catcher’s voice, he wasn’t buying Baumgartner’s excuse.

“So what happened?” Ethan asked.

“She slept for a while, woke up, and started talking about her addiction. She seemed self-aware, remorseful, so they removed her restraints for a med exam.”

“That’s when she attacked the guard?” Ethan asked.

“Yeah. Turns out, she wasn’t groggy. The guard’s still in the hospital, but I understand they’re releasing him today.”

“Where did she go?” I asked.

“Transit authority security cameras have a record of her,” Catcher said. “She caught the El and then took the train to Aurora. She was spotted at a truck stop, catching a ride on an eighteen-wheeler headed to Des Moines. The trail ran cold in Iowa. She hasn’t popped up again since.”

Catcher had been the one to put a stop to Mallory’s familiar spell by knocking her out. Pity he hadn’t knocked her out a little harder.

“So she’s probably headed toward Nebraska,” I guessed. “But how did she know to go there? How did she know the Order would send the Maleficium there instead of to a new guardian?”

“Simon told her about the silo,” Catcher said. “And he and Baumgartner visited and talked about the book being transported when she was supposedly asleep.”

“That’s two more strikes against Simon,” I said.

“Yep,” Catcher said. “He’d be out of the Order if Baumgartner

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