Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(15)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(15)
Author: Ilona Andrews

He opened his mouth.

The doors in the far wall opened and Arland marched out. He was in full armor. His blood mace hung at his waist. He carried a large, black bag slung across his shoulders and an equally large bag in his right hand. Another male vampire, russet-haired and a few years younger, followed him, distress plain on his face.

Arland stopped by me. He didn’t look at Maud. Maud pretended she didn’t see him.

“Lady Dina.”

“Lord Arland. Thank you again for rescuing my sister and for letting us ride in this amazing ship.”

“It was a small matter,” he said. “I wanted to speak to you concerning a promise you made to me.”

What promise, when, where? “Yes?”

“You once told me that I would always find myself welcome at your inn.”

Oh, that. “Of course.”

Arland smiled, baring the edge of his fangs. “I find myself… stressed.”

“Stressed, my lord?”

“Stressed by the burdens of House matters. I find myself bending under the weight of overwhelming responsibility.”

Sean chuckled. “You live for that shit.”

Arland valiantly ignored him. “I desire a sojourn. A brief respite from the many matters requiring my attention. I do believe I’ve earned it.”

The russet-haired vampire stepped forward. “Lord Marshal, your uncle was most specific—”

Arland bared his fangs a little more. “My uncle is, of course, concerned for my well-being.”

The male vampire looked like someone had slapped his face with a fish.

“He knows the many pressures I face and he would be delighted to know I’ve taken steps to remedy my condition, isn’t that so, Knight Ruin?”

“Yes, my lord,” the russet-haired vampire said, resigned. “Lord Soren will be delighted.”

Lord Soren popped into my head in all his burly, grim-faced, older vampire glory. “I didn’t know the Knight Sergeant knew the meaning of the word.”

“His grizzled exterior hides a gentle heart.”

Knight Ruin nearly choked on air.

“You’re welcome to spend as much time at Gertrude Hunt as you need, my lord. We are honored by your presence.”

“It’s decided, then.”

The summoning gate turned crimson.

“And we’re here. How fortuitous.” Arland stepped into the red light. Sean laughed under his breath and followed him in.

Maud approached, leading Helen by the hand. “You’re letting him stay at the inn?”

“Of course.” Considering that he just flew his destroyer halfway across the galaxy for her sake, it was the least I could do.

Maud said nothing, but I could see the sigh on her face.

“It’s a big inn,” I told her. “You will hardly see him.”

She grinned at me. “I was right. You did turn into Mom.”

“Please.” I rolled my eyes.

She grabbed her bag, squeezed Helen’s hand, and stepped into the crimson glow.

I followed her.

Vertigo squeezed me. A strange sensation of flying but without moving rolled through me, rearranging all my organs, and then I landed on the grass in the orchard. Early morning colored the sky a pale pink. Against the light backdrop, Gertrude Hunt stood out, with all her endearing Victorian oddities: the balconies protruding in strange places, the tower, the sunroom, the eaves, the spindle work, the overly ornate windows, and I loved every inch of it.

The trees shivered, greeting me. Magic pulsed from me through the house to the very edges of the property and the house creaked, reconnecting. If Gertrude Hunt were a cat, it would’ve arched its back and rubbed against my feet, purring.

Still standing. Nothing out of place. I took a mental tally of the beings inside. Caldenia, Orro, Beast, and the nameless cat. Everyone is present and accounted for. Oh phew. Phew.

Maud bent over, squeezing her eyes shut for a second. “I hate those things.”

Next to her Arland stood straight, like an immovable mountain of vampire awesomeness immune to silly things like nausea. Sadly for him, my sister completely ignored him and his iron stomach. She shook her head, probably trying to shake the last echoes of the summoning gate out, straightened, and saw Gertrude Hunt.

“Dina, this is lovely.”

Helen gaped at the orchard.

The back door burst open and Beast exploded onto the lawn, black and white fur flying.

Helen’s eyes went wide and she hid behind Maud. Beast jumped into my arms, licked my face, wiggled free, and dashed around in a circle, unable to contain her canine glee.

“It’s a dog,” Maud said. “Remember the pictures?”

“Her name is Beast,” I told her. “She’s nice. If you make friends, she will guard you and keep you safe.”

The ground by me parted and my robe surfaced, the plain gray one. The inn was trying to make sure I didn’t leave again. I picked it up and slipped it on over my clothes. See? It’s okay. I’m home.

“Your face is different,” Helen said, looking up at me.

“It’s because she’s an innkeeper,” Maud said. “This house is magic and she rules it. She is very powerful within the inn.”

“You’re part innkeeper, too,” I told her. “Does it make you feel a little funny being here?”

Helen nodded.

“That’s because you’re my niece. The inn will listen to you, if you’re kind to it.”

   
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