Home > After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(17)

After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(17)
Author: May Sage

The woman looked slightly odd without her hunter gear. The huntsmen trained every day, so Chloe had always seen her in leather gear, but today, she was wearing denim shorts with thick wool tights, a wooly hat, and a red leather jacket. She belonged on the cover of a damn magazine. Chloe sighed as she glanced down at her leggings. At least her coat rocked. Never mind the fact that it didn't go with her Converses.

"You look awesome."

"Don't I just?" said Tris, winking. "I got us a ride to civilization."

Chloe was about to ask what she meant when a dark green convertible emerged from the garage on the other side of the main—and only—street. A very fancy vintage car she couldn't name. Jack was driving, a pair of dark glasses perched on his nose.

The cousins really could have been rock stars.

"Our ride, I assume?"

There didn't look to be room for more than one passenger, but the front seat turned out to be a bench with two seat belts. Chloe and Tris were just small enough to fit comfortably.

Jack was listening to blues, somewhat uncharacteristically.

"Everyone's buckled in?"

"Yes, sir!"

They headed out of Oldcrest with the roof down, although it was the middle of January. In Scotland.

The huntsmen didn't seem to mind. After putting up with the cold for a few minutes, Chloe couldn't take it anymore.

"Guys, it's colder than a witch's tit here!"

"Do you have personal experience with a witch's tit, Cheetah? Because we're gonna need you to spill," Tris said, pressing a button.

"Har, har."

The roof slowly uncurled from the back of the car, and Jack turned on the heat.

"I'd play with Blair's tits," Tris said, shrugging. "And Gwen's. And—"

"Just about everyone in the dorm. We're aware," said Jack with a grimace.

He apparently wasn't into discussing his cousin's sex life.

"Like you don't get any."

"Not in Oldcrest, I don't."

Chloe was fascinated with the conversation. She wasn't blind—or deaf, for that matter. She knew most people in the dorm had no issue bed-hopping, and if she was honest, she would have thought that Jack was one of them.

From the very start, she'd decided to avoid complicating her stay with casual sex, or a relationship. She was here to make friends and get her degree. Banging someone she basically lived with sounded like a recipe for disaster.

She’d been surprised to realize that her point of view wasn't shared by many in the dorms.

"Wait, so the rumors of you and that hot vamp…"

Jack snorted at his cousin. "No offense, but you know what I think about most vampires."

Tris shrugged. "Well, you like me well enough. And Chris told me you danced with her on Night Hill last Sunday."

"That was work."

He said nothing else, and Tris found no reason to question him further, so Chloe had to be nosy again. "You work on Night Hill?" she asked.

Jack glanced away from the road for half a second, watching her before setting his eyes forward again.

"We're about to cross the border. Hang on tight."

She had an instant to tense before feeling that strange wave of water again, and then they were out of Oldcrest. Looking back, Chloe saw absolutely nothing. Her stomach churned. She didn't like it at all.

Suddenly, she remembered why. She had people looking for her here in the real world. What would Charles think if he knew she was popping out of safety just to shop?

It felt like a terrible idea, and she considered asking Jack to turn around.

"The huntsmen work without needing to report to an authority outside of our order," he told her. "We have an understanding with most governments. Basically, if they want us to protect them, they let us do our thing. The exceptions are vamps. The suckers make us ask." His tone couldn't have been more disgusted. "I spotted something funny, so I had to head over to De Villier's place and ask if I could organize a patrol around Oldcrest. The territory technically belongs to him."

Suitably distracted, Chloe let go of the worry. She'd be okay. She was with two badass huntsmen, and the bounty hunters probably still thought she was in NOLA.

"How does that end with you dancing with a hot vamp?" Chloe asked, with validity, she thought.

Jack sighed. "Because vampires have a complicated dynamic. We don't make an appointment. We're guests, and we request an audience with the master of the house. In the meantime, we're expected to pleasantly drink, and dance, and eat canapes until his mighty pain in the arse decides he can be arsed to see us."

That sounded like Levi.

"I'd like to see you dance."

He was too collected and in control, always in a suit, even now, even when he ran. She just couldn't picture it.

"Trust me, you wouldn't. He steps on toes a lot."

"That would be because you're entirely incapable of letting anyone lead, Patricia."

Until now, Chloe hadn't realized that Tris was a nickname.

"Hang on. She gets Tris, I get Cheetah?"

Jack shrugged unapologetically. "She earned Tris. She was Blades for years. Then, she took down her own major demon and got to pick her name."

"So Chris, Reiss, Bash, and all the others did something noteworthy before getting the name they wanted?"

"Not Bash. I picked Bash. He hasn't been in the field yet. Bat, too."

"He goes alphabetically. You're lucky he was done with the B’s," said Tris.

She ruminated on her fate to remain “Cheetah” until the end of time. Or at least the end of her time in the Institute.

"Hey, why did Gwen escape the nickname thing?"

Jack snorted as he turned toward the entrance of a car park. They'd arrived in a nice city that seemed gigantic after ten days in Oldcrest.

"Do you need to ask?"

She did. Chloe glared at Jack, ready to be offended on behalf of her friend.

"What's wrong with Gwen?"

"Nothing. I'm just not stupid enough to mess with witches. The last fool who pissed one off woke up with a rash all over his ass. Pass."

Numbers

"All right, meet in two hours?" Jack asked.

Chloe shouldn't have been surprised that he'd try to escape; not many men were up for a girly shopping trip.

"Three?" Tris asked hopefully.

He shook his head. "The drive back to Oldcrest from Inverness is a good two hours, and we set up the meeting at twelve. Two hours is pushing it."

"Got it. Come on, Chloe. Shoes first."

Tris seemed to know the city very well; as they walked along the River Ness, she told her about the castle that had been built back in the medieval days and then redesigned during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots.

"I don't know the history of these parts as well as many," Tris admitted. "Jack and I are from New York."

Chloe had guessed, given their accent. They'd both adopted an almost British twang, but she'd detected an American drawl underneath it all.

"What made you leave?" Chloe asked as they reached a shoe store.

"A big-ass shadow," she replied, confusing Chloe.

Given all the magic and mystery surrounding the world she'd dived into, she asked, "What, an actual shadow?"

Tris shook her head. "My sister. Perfect. Turned at twenty-one, so she looks younger than me although she's ten years older. Very strong. Extremely good at magic. Everything I do, she does, only better. Jack was pretty much fostered at the Institute because his parents were always working, but he left New York a good ten years ago, when I was sixteen. He was eighteen and had just been assigned to London. I busted my ass to get the grades and asked to get into the Institute. My sister studied at the Academy in New York, so that was the first time I did something different. I like it here. I'll stay in London under Jack's rule after I get my master’s."

Chloe got it.

The mixture of normalcy, magic, and supernatural somehow made Tris more real. Who cared that she'd eventually turn into a vampire? She was just another woman trying to escape the umbrella cast by another family member. At least Tris's shadow wasn't a murderer.

"I get why you'd want to—"

Stay. She was going to say stay. But her eyes fell on the price tag of the leather boots that she'd been eyeing and she wasn't able to get another word out.

Holy shitcakes, she needed to get out of this store, pronto.

"Not cheap, right?" said Tris, wincing. "But these shoes feel as comfy as any trainers inside, and the leather is the best quality—only gets cooler with time. Check these out."

Tris showed off her own leather boots, which seemed right out of the store. They were dark gray, almost black, but they'd been cleverly distressed, and the part where the leather had been scratched revealed a red underlayer.

"They're seven years old. Trust me when I say I've used them."

"But, four figures," Chloe whispered, eyes still bulging.

Now that she wasn't working, she was only relying on her savings and credit card. Chloe had calculated that she had enough for four years if she was careful. Buying these shoes wasn't careful.

Chloe had toyed with the idea of asking the Campbells if they needed a waitress at the Snuggy Snot. If she caved and bought those drool-worthy boots, she'd need to beg for the job.

"I'll get them if you want," said Tris indifferently. Chloe was already shaking her head, but the woman added, "You can work it off."

Oh. Well, that changed things.

"How?"

Tris thought it out. "You said you had a bachelor’s in accounting? We're looking for someone to run our paychecks and stuff. Jack did it last week, but it's taking up too much time. If you're up for it, the huntsmen pay pretty well. You can pay me back in installments of whatever."

Chloe blinked. "You mean I could get a job with you guys?"

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