Normally the title made me grit my teeth—all the vampires had taken to calling me Miss Hazel once I beat them in a practice match. It was a sign of honor or something. But Rupert using the title was more of an…admittance.
Previously we’d always been on rocky ground because Rupert didn’t much like humans in general, and seemed to have a special hatred for wizards. I don’t know if it was Killian’s influence, or if he had just mellowed over prolonged exposure, but I was glad he was less prickly these days.
“I hope having a clutch of wizards in Drake Hall hasn’t been too offensive to your nose?” I winked as I slathered butter on my twice baked potato.
“One or ten of you hardly makes a difference,” Rupert scoffed. “And at least your underlings have the good sense to not bleed everywhere and stink the place up.”
I laughed. “Just wait until Killian makes you visit House Medeis during one of our practices. We get pretty banged up sometimes.”
“Perhaps you ought to think of retaining a fae potion brewer on your payroll,” Rupert grunted.
I half smiled as I watched the vampire take a measured sip from his glass. “You’re a good egg, Rupert.”
Rupert rolled his eyes. “I’m a vampire, not a dragon shifter.”
“I know, but—”
Rupert tensed and abruptly twisted around in his seat so fast he almost snapped the back off.
Most of the vampires scrambled to stand, but all of them dropped their friendly conversations and stared at the door.
“Your Eminence,” they murmured.
I had to peer around the back of my chair—it was too high for me to see over it—and saw Killian at the door, studying the pile of weapons Josh routinely left there whenever sitting down for dinner.
“What do you need, Your Eminence?” Celestina asked.
“Nothing.” Killian’s eyes were their usual shade of dark obsidian, but his mask of cold arrogance seemed a little cracked as he looked up and down the massive table. “I…nothing.”
The room was suffocatingly awkward in its silence. I cleared my throat and leaned farther over the side so I was more visible. “Hey, Killian! Do you want to come sit with us?”
Killian hesitated, which was enough for Rupert.
The red-haired vampire swan dove out of his chair, scrambling to get free. He tugged on the lapels of his suit coat, then bowed. “If it would please Your Eminence.” He motioned to the chair.
Killian remained rooted to the spot, an uncertain expression flitting through his face.
“Come on.” I patted Rupert’s chair in an invitation. “Sit.”
Killian rocked into motion, slowly approaching me.
Rupert snatched up his glass of blood and fled. It had been the only thing he was eating, so Killian’s spot was bare but clean. Unfortunately, the kitchen staff had already left, so no one had a plate to give him—but I didn’t think he really wanted to eat human food anyway.
April offered her empty wine glass to Manjeet, who filled it with blood from a pitcher and lunged to put it in front of Killian.
Killian nodded in thanks and tapped the stem of the wine glass, but otherwise didn’t touch it.
I smiled and looked around for some help to kick off all the conversation, but my dinner mates were failing me.
Most of the vampires were watching Killian, their eyes glazed over with hero worship. Only those farther up in rank—like Josh and Celestina—looked worried.
Celestina’s tawny forehead was lined with wrinkles, and Josh—sitting two seats down from me—was writing something on a tiny notepad.
“Josh,” I whispered. “What are you doing?”
“Writing my epitaph,” Josh whispered back. “Because the end of the world has arrived. Time will soon collapse and all will sink into the ocean. The sign has appeared.”
My head sagged on my neck at my hopeless and foolish desire for help.
“If the end of the world has come,” June started, “what point is there in having an epitaph? No one will be around to read it.”
Josh paused in the middle of writing a word. “This is true…”
Murmured conversations kicked up, softening the tense atmosphere.
I turned back to Killian and offered him a grin. “Hey.”
He was glancing around the room, but when I spoke he shifted his attention to me. “Hello.”
It seems like asking him why he’s here would scare him off. I think he’ll be most comfortable if I act like he eats with us all the time instead of making a big deal over it.
“Do you want some of my twice baked potato?” I asked.
Killian doubtfully eyed my plate of food.
I took a forkful and hummed in pleasure. “I don’t mind sharing, but I won’t be sad if you don’t want any.” I waved my fork at him. “Your kitchen staff are amazing. A-maz-ing!”
“I recall you singing their praises previously.” He relaxed slightly, leaning back into the chair.
“Hey, you have no idea what a sacrifice it is to offer you my food.” I wriggled my eyebrows at him and took another forkful. “This twice baked potato is worth a fight to the death.”
A quirk of a smile tugged at the corners of Killian’s lips. “Obviously I mean a lot to you.”
“Yes,” I nodded without thinking. “Wait, no! I take it back!”
Killian laughed and stared pointedly at my fork.
I made a loud, long suffering sigh and took a forkful of my precious food, then presented it to Killian.
He leaned forward to accommodate me, eating directly off my fork.
Down the dining table, one of the Drake vampires I had only seen a few times gaped at us. “What? Did he just—” He wheezed when Tasha, another Drake, smacked him upside the head.
A few other vampires bulged their eyes at us, and there were more than a couple dropped jaws.
Besides Celestina, Josh, Rupert, and Gavino—who had all been present at the Summer’s End Ball, where I had fed Killian a forkful of my dessert—the House Medeis wizards were the most nonchalant. They just shrugged and went back to their conversations.
(Don’t get too impressed, they didn’t know how rare it was for Killian to eat human food, or that it took a near miracle to get him to share plates or anything like that.)
Killian sipped at his glass of blood while I cut into my balsamic glazed steak tips—one of the many reasons why my wizards now fought over who got to come with me to Drake Hall.
“Any news about the Night Court?” I asked. “It’s been a long time since they attacked you. I would have thought they’d have to have taken some kind of action by now.”
Killian pointedly stared at my plate, so I moved my water glass and shifted the plate between us. “My sources tell me they had come to a decision, but apparently it upset the fae community when I followed the Paragon’s advice and sent invitations to the Courts for the party. The Night Court wasn’t invited, obviously, but I was told the Day King nearly had a brawl with Consort Ira this morning. I believe we have effectively backed them into a corner.”
I offered him my fork. He took it and picked at my steak tips.
“You aren’t going to attack the Night Court, right?” I asked.
Killian finished his bite and handed me my fork. “There is no reason to. Politically speaking, I have the upper hand. And if the Paragon is right and I can level this experience to use as a way to foster even just a slightly friendlier relationship with other supernatural races beyond vampires, it might be one of the best things that happened to my career.”
“I could see that.” I returned to my twice baked potato. “But I prefer to interpret it as friendship will only help us supernaturals.”
“You would.” Killian tilted his head. “Are you just going to ignore it?”
I squinted at him. “Ignore what?”
“Your salad.” Killian pointed to the kale salad I’d been industriously avoiding.
“Yes,” I said.
“You should at least try it.”
“It’s kale salad. Do you have any idea how awful that stuff tastes?”
“The kitchen staff prepared it for you.”
“I don’t like kale.”
“You need to eat a complete diet given the exercises you put your body through.”
I set my fork down. “Are you legit telling me to eat my vegetables?”
Killian smirked. “Perhaps.”
“Fine. Then you try it first!” I set the salad bowl in front of Killian with a smirk.
“I don’t get nutrients from regular food.” Killian tapped his wine glass, making the thick blood ripple.
“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “If you want me to try this stuff, you at least have to suffer through a mouthful, too!”
Killian smirked, but ate a leaf. He kept his expression aloof, even though pretty much everyone was gaping at him now. (I guess a vampire eating kale was enough to shock my wizards, too.)
“You are right.” He set the kale salad in front of me. “That is awful.”
“At least your staff made a really good dressing for it.” I sadly began consuming the hateful salad.
“Killian.” Great Aunt Marraine—of course she was the only one daring enough to call him Killian to his face besides me—waved at him. “I must say I am delighted you decided to join us this evening!”
Killian smiled politely. “You are being too kind. I hope my presence isn’t ruining the fun you were all having.”
“Nonsense!” Great Aunt Marraine said. “You are such a dear boy. Of course we would be glad to see you!”
Rupert—who had roamed farther down the table since he’d been voluntarily displaced—choked on his glass of blood.
Killian laughed—not the smooth, charming one he’d started using on me, but the one he trotted out whenever I had a particularly good insult for Rupert or did something he thought was hilarious. “Thank you, Marraine,” he grinned.