Bleeding Hearts Page 55

“I don’t know. I just found her like this. She was wounded.”

“I got ambushed,” she told us, closing her eyes. “I got him, though.”

“Hel-Blar?”

She nodded. “Nasty one, all stinky. I really hate mushrooms,” she added, suddenly serious before bursting into laughter for no apparent reason.

I rubbed a hand over my face. “At least she’s a cheerful drunk,” I said.

“Is Constantine here?” she asked suddenly.

Kieran’s eyes narrowed.

So did mine. “Why?” I asked.

“And who the hell’s Constantine?” Kieran added.

“He told me Penelope was nice. He was right.”

“Okay, I’m so punching Constantine in the nose,” I said brightly. “And who’s Penelope?” I pointed to the woman curled in the ferns. “Her?”

“She’s used to it,” Solange informed us, slightly slurring. She was acting like Penelope had veins full of wine. I hoped she’d have a hell of a hangover in the morning. She clearly needed something to wake her up. “Kieran’s just mad because I wasn’t drinking from him.” She sat up, tilting her head. She smiled at him. “Come here.”

Kieran took a bewildered step forward. I knocked him back with a hard shove, then whirled on Solange. “What the hell are you doing?”

She shrugged. “I was just asking,” she said, pouting.

“That’s not asking,” I told her through my teeth. “That’s force. What’s wrong with you?”

“Penelope doesn’t judge. She said so.” Solange eyed me. “But you’re judging.”

“You’re damn right I am.”

Nicholas hoisted Solange to her feet. “I need to get her home.”

I went to help him but she snarled at me. Nicholas’s jaw clenched, then he held up a hand. “I have her.”

“Is she going to be okay?”

“She’ll be fine,” he assured me, but I could tell he wasn’t sure. And the fact that he didn’t want his parents to know didn’t bode well. “I’ll take her home, and Kieran, you take Lucy back.”

“What do we do with her?” Kieran asked, standing over Penelope.

“We need to wake her up and send her back to the camp,” Nicholas said. “I can call someone to meet her once she’s on her feet.”

I crouched next to her and shook her shoulder. Her cleavage was impressive, even lying on her back. “Hey, wake up!” There were scars along her collarbone, too, like tiny stars. I couldn’t stop staring at them. “Penelope!” I slapped her cheek lightly. Nothing happened. I jerked back suddenly, landing on my butt. My tailbone hit a rock and pain tingled up my spine. “She’s not dead, is she?”

“No.” Solange sighed dramatically. “You’re overreacting.”

“Solange’s pheromones should wake her up.” Nicholas turned Solange, nudging her toward Penelope. I got out of the way. “We can’t wait for her to do it on her own.”

“But she needs to rest,” Solange said, sounding almost like her old self.

“She needs to rest in her own bed.”

“Oh.” She sat down next to Penelope, leaning in close. With her black hair she looked lethal and beautiful, like an obsidian blade some ancient tribes used for human sacrifices. “Penelope? You have to wake up now.”

Penelope stirred.

“Wake up right now!” Solange commanded.

Penelope’s eyes opened abruptly. She blinked, then smiled.

“There,” Solange said, pleased. Nicholas pulled her back up. “See? No problem.”

Penelope sat up slowly.

“Send her back home,” Nicholas bit out.

Penelope smiled. “There’s no need,” she said, perfectly at ease. As if she wasn’t wearing bite marks like jewelry. “I can find my way without a blood command.”

We stared at her. Kieran was the first to speak. “Someone will meet you.”

She nodded, then curtsied to Solange. “Thank you, Your Highness.”

“Your Highness?” I echoed, disgusted. I was even more disgusted when Solange didn’t look uncomfortable being curtsied to. “Seriously?”

Solange shrugged as Penelope turned and made her way between the tall pines. Nicholas texted one of the guards to collect her.

“Constantine said I shouldn’t fight being a princess. It’s not like it’s a crime.”

“I hate Constantine,” I muttered. “He’s an ass.”

Solange turned on me so fast, her hair actually lifted in the breeze. Her eyes went even more red, her lips lifting off her teeth.

“Don’t say that about him!” Her voice felt like a thousand needles bristling in my skin, like a sunburn, like broken glass.

I was too shocked even to make a fist. If one of the Drake brothers pulled that on me, I would have punched them.

Nicholas yanked Solange away from me. “Shit, Lucy. Get out of here,” he told me, struggling to hold Solange back. She was furious.

Kieran grabbed my arm. “Come on.”

“Kieran, that’s not her,” I said through the tears in the back of my throat.

“I know.”

I thought of Penelope’s scars. “You thought I was like her,” I said quietly, remembering the first time I’d met Kieran. I hadn’t heard the term “bloodslave” before. The Drakes were more interested in seclusion than power. And they had other methods of feeding. It hadn’t really occurred to me that other vampires might not have the same scruples. It wasn’t the blood I minded so much. I mean, if Nicholas or Solange or any of the Drakes needed a mouthful of my blood to survive, I wouldn’t begrudge them. And even Kieran had given Solange his blood on the night of her sixteenth birthday to save her. It was the slightly cultlike joy on Penelope’s face that made me queasy.

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