House Rules (Chicagoland Vampires #7) read online free by Chloe Neill
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House Rules (Chicagoland Vampires #7)
Author: Chloe Neill

CHAPTER ONE

BOXER REBELLION

Mid-December

Chicago, Illinois

It was like a scene from a divorce: belongings divided into piles; books labeled with one owner's name or the other; and everyone emotionally exhausted.

But in this case, there was no breakup. Not of the human variety, anyway. This was more of a secession. A declaration of independence.

It was a rebellion, and the golden-haired vampire next to me was leading the charge. Ethan Sullivan, the unofficial co-Master of Chicago's Cadogan House, and my boyfriend.

That was still a strange thing to say.

Ethan, looking exceptionally handsome in black pants, a button-down, and a black tie, examined a slim, leather-bound book.

"This one belongs to the GP," he said, glancing at the spine. "The Metamorphosis of Man," he read. "From Opposable Thumbs to Descending Fangs."

"That's an awful title," I said.

"It's their awful title now." Ethan's words were humorous, but the tone in his voice wasn't. The entire House was nervous, the building fogged with magical tension as we waited for the final countdown: Seventy-two hours remained until our official split from the Greenwich Presidium, the European council that ruled American vampire Houses, and the pendulum swung over our heads like Damocles' sword. The GP's members were traveling to Chicago for the sole purpose of formally expelling the House - of breaking up with us in public.

Our preparations had been largely uneventful. We'd been separating and packing up the GP's goods and readying our finances, which seemed to be in order. The GP had been unusually quiet since we'd announced our intention to leave, communicating with the House only about the details of the ceremony and their travel arrangements to Chicago.

Ethan found that silence very suspicious. He'd gone so far as to appoint a "transition team" comprised of vampires and other supernaturals from whom he'd sought advice about the split.

Ethan leaned back and glanced at the bookshelves that lined a long wall in his large office. "This is going to take a while."

"Yes," I agreed, "but our other option is letting Darius do it himself. And I don't think we want that."

Darius West was head of the GP. He was very proper, very British, and very much not a fan of our House.

"We don't want that," Ethan agreed. He handed his book to me, our fingers grazing as he passed it over.

My blood warmed instantly, my cheeks flushing at the intensity of his emerald gaze. Ethan and I had been officially a couple for only a few weeks, and the honeymoon period wasn't over. I may have been fierce with a katana - the samurai sword that vampires, including myself, carried for protection - but my heart still fluttered when he looked at me.

But we had many books to get through, so I pulled away and placed this one into the old-fashioned, brass-hinged steamer trunk on the floor.

"Work now, play later," I reminded him.

"I find mixing business with pleasure makes both more interesting."

"I find I'd rather spend my off-hours not packing away dusty books."

"Being a vampire isn't always about getting what you want, Sentinel. Although I'll concede I can imagine more enjoyable ways of spending our time." Sentinel was my title, a kind of House protector. Ethan used it when he was aggravated with me, or when he was trying to make a point.

"Then you probably shouldn't have irritated the GP so much they kicked you out."

He gave me a flat look. "They didn't kick us out."

"I know. We voted to break up with them before they could break up with us."

This time his flat look was accompanied by an arched eyebrow, Ethan's signature move. He wore the expression - much like everything else - very well.

"Are you purposely riling me up?" he asked.

"I am. Is it working?"

He growled, but there was a smile on his face as he did it.

I turned back to the books. "Can't we just randomly grab half the books and throw them into the trunk? Will Darius really know the difference?"

"He might not, but I would. And so would the librarian." He looked at me askance. "I'm surprised at you, Sentinel. You're usually the bookish type."

I had a master's degree and then some, so I agreed I was the bookish type, and I was proud of it. But his statement wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement. I narrowed my eyes. "I'm not sure you mean that as a compliment."

"I'm not sure, either," he said with a wink, and handed me another book. "But your point is well taken." As I added the book to the trunk, Ethan stepped back and scanned the shelves.

I did, too, looking for anything obviously out of place. The Presidium Guide to Alienating the American Houses or the like. But before I found anything remotely appropriate, Ethan sidled next to me, a hand propped on the shelf.

"Come here often?" he said.

"Excuse me?"

"I see you're here in this" - he gestured at the shelves - "library all alone. You must be a student here?" He traced a fingertip down the hollow of my throat, lifting goose bumps on my arms.

Since my mind hardly worked when he did things like that, it took a moment for his words to register. Was he initiating a bout of role-playing . . . about a library?

"Ethan Sullivan," I marveled. "You have a library fantasy."

He smiled slyly. "I have a doctoral-student-turned-vampire fantasy."

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