Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(11)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(11)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“Yes, but I believed you to be an exception due to your unique position.”

“I’m not an exception. Most Earth women would do whatever they had to do to protect their loved ones, and while our culture is less martial than yours, human female warriors exist. Maud was always very good with weapons and never hesitated to use them. I’m sure being married into a Holy Anocracy House meant she had to fight for the honor of the House more than once. Being exiled to Karhari, where she had to defend herself and my niece, only sharpened her skills, so if you don’t mind some advice, treat her as you would treat any skilled female vampire fighter. It will be safer for everyone involved.”

Arland looked at me as if seeing me for the first time. Yes, the princess you were expecting put on her armor and left to kill the dragon. So sorry.

“Lord Arland, my niece is covered in blood. If you don’t mind, I would like to get her to my cabin where she can shower.”

“Of course,” he said.

We walked back to Maud, Sean, and Helen. My sister searched my face, waiting. Beneath our feet the floor shuddered slightly as the massive ship accelerated toward the gate that would catapult it countless billions of miles across the galaxy.

“Come on,” I told her. “Lord Arland has most graciously provided me with a very large cabin. Let’s get cleaned up.”

* * *

The cabin Arland assigned me wasn’t just spacious, it was luxurious and decorated in a beautiful teal-gray, blue, and pink color scheme, which I would shamelessly copy the next time a vampire came to stay at the inn. The door behind us slid shut.

I turned around and hugged Maud. She hugged me back.

Helen pulled on my robe. “Hugs.”

“Hugs.” I let go of Maud and picked her up. “How do you even remember me? The last time I saw you, you were this tiny.” I held my thumb and index finger about an inch apart.

Helen giggled, showing her fangs. “Mommy showed me pictures. She said if she died you would take care of me.”

All the fun went out of me.

“I’ll take care of you,” I said. “Always. And we’ll start with a bath.”

“With water?”

I didn’t even want to know why she asked that.

“With all the water,” Maud said. “All the water ever.”

I carried her into the bathroom. A massive tub rested in the middle of the room, sunken low into the floor so it could be sealed when the ship maneuvered. I turned on the water. Helen pulled off her clothes. The dust and blood had combined into a sort of paste that saturated the fabric beyond the point of return.

“Dina,” Maud said.

“I think her clothes are a lost cause,” I said.

Helen jumped into the bath and splashed. Dark swirls spread from her through the water. Maud had the strangest look on her face, half-pain, half-happiness.

“Wash your hair, baby,” my sister said, grabbed my arm, and pulled me out of the bathroom.

“What is it?”

“Dina, I don’t want to make trouble for you. You can drop us off anywhere outside of Holy Anocracy territory.”

“What are you talking about?”

Her voice was quiet and urgent. “Melizard dishonored his House. They didn’t just exile him, they removed all traces of his existence from the family tree. It’s like he never was born, I was never his wife, and Helen was never his daughter or a child of House Ervan. Two thirds of exiles sent to Karhari die within the first three years. Before they sent us, I begged— “, her voice broke, and she swallowed, “—I begged his mother on my knees to take Helen so she wouldn’t have to go into exile with us. That bitch looked me straight in the eye and told her guards to remove the strangers from her house. I can’t go back to the Holy Anocracy.”

“We’re not going back to the Holy Anocracy.”

“I don’t want to make trouble between you and your vampire. I’ve put you into a bad position and I’m so sorry. House Krahr is one of the most powerful Houses.” She raised her hands. “Look at this ship. I don’t want to ruin it for you.”

“It’s not a problem.”

In the bath Helen dived and surfaced, laughing.

“Dina, I saw his face when the two of you were talking.”

“You threw him off his stride. His cousin is married to a human and he has an odd fascination with Earth women. He just didn’t realize not all of us are shrinking violets. He was explaining to me how you sealed your armor while wearing it and how it didn’t compute in his head.”

Maud frowned. “The two of you aren’t together?”


“Then how?” she raised her arms, encompassing the ship.

“I asked him for a favor. He offered, actually.”

“The Marshal of House Krahr just offered to take his destroyer and come rescue me because you asked him?”


She stared at me. “Why?”

“He’s a frequent guest at the inn and he felt obligated to help because the inn hosted a peace summit that saved a lot of vampire lives and resulted in his House making a lot of money. Also, he’s a kind man.”

“The inn? You found Mom and Dad?”

Pain stabbed me straight through the heart. “No. My inn. Gertrude Hunt.”

She looked at me, her face blank.

“I’m an innkeeper,” I told her. “We’re not going to the Holy Anocracy. We’re going to Earth, to my inn. We’re going home.”

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