Drink Deep - By Chloe Neill



Late November

Chicago, Illinois

The wind was cool, the fal night crisp. A waxing moon hung lazily in the sky, so low it seemed close enough to touch.

Or maybe it just seemed that way because I was perched nine stories in the air, atop a narrow metal grate that crowned Chicago's Harold Washington Library. One of the library's distinctive aluminum owls - either one of the best architectural features in the city or one of its worst, depending on who you asked - sat above me, staring down as I trespassed in his domain.

This was one of the few times I'd ventured outside my Hyde Park home in the last two months for a reason unrelated to food - it was Chicago, after al - or my best friend Mal ory. As I glanced over the edge of the building, I began to seriously regret that decision. The library wasn't exactly a skyscraper, but it was tal enough that a fal would most certainly have kil ed a human. My heart jumped into my throat, and every muscle in my body rang with the urge to kneel down, grasp the edges of the grate, and never let go.

"It's not as far as it looks, Merit."

I glanced over at the vampire who stood to my right.

Jonah, the one who'd convince me to come out here, chuckled and brushed auburn hair back from his perfectly chiseled face.

"It's far enough," I said. "And this wasn't exactly what came to mind when you suggested I get some fresh air."

"Maybe not. But you can't deny the view is fabulous."

My white-knuckled fingers digging into the wal behind me, I looked out across the city. He was right - you couldn't fault the intimate view of downtown Chicago, of steel and glass and wel -hewn stone.

But, "I could have looked out the window," I pointed out.

"Where's the chal enge in that?" he asked, and then his voice softened. "You're a vampire," he reminded me.

"Gravity affects you differently."

He was right. Gravity treated us a little more kindly. It helped us fight with more verve and, so I'd heard, fal from a height without kil ing ourselves. But that didn't mean I was eager to test the whL theory. Not when the result could be bone-crushingly bad.

"I swear," he said, "if you fol ow instructions, the fal won't hurt you."

Easy for him to say. Jonah had decades more vampiric experience under his belt; he had less to be nervous about.

To me, immortality had never seemed so fragile.

I blew the dark bangs from my face and peeked over the edge one more time. State Street was far below us, mostly deserted at this time of night. At least I wouldn't crush someone if this didn't work.

"You have to learn to fal safely," he said.

"I know," I said. "Catcher trained me to spar. He was big on fal ing down correctly." Catcher was my former roommate and best friend Mal ory's live-in beau. He was also an employee of my grandfather.

"Then you know being immortal doesn't mean being careless," Jonah added, extending a hand toward me, and my heart jumped, this time as much from the gesture as the height.

I'd put myself - and my heart - on a shelf for the last two months, my work as Sentinel of Chicago's Cadogan House mostly limited to patrol ing the House's grounds. I could admit it - I was gun-shy. My newfound vampire bravery had mostly evaporated after the Master of my House, Ethan Sul ivan, the vampire who'd made me, named me Sentinel, and been my partner, had been staked in the heart by my mortal enemy . . . right before I'd returned the favor to her.

As a former grad student in English literature, I could appreciate the perverse poetry of it.

Jonah, captain of the guards in Grey House, was my link to the Red Guard, a secret organization dedicated to providing oversight to the American vampire Houses and the Greenwich Presidium, the European council that ruled them from across the pond.

I'd been offered membership in the RG, and Jonah was the partner I'd been promised if I'd accepted. I hadn't, but he'd been nice enough to help me deal with problems GP

politics made too sticky for Ethan.

Jonah had been more than happy to act as Ethan's replacement - professionaly and otherwise.

The messages we'd exchanged over the last few weeks - and the hope in his eyes tonight - said he was interested in something more than

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