TWICE BITTEN (Chicagoland Vampires #3)
New American Library
Merit is Chicago's newest vampire. Changed against her will and inducted into Cadogan House by master vampire Ethan Sullivan, she has struggled with her life's new direction. One minute she's working on her dissertation at the University of Chicago, and the next she's dealing with First Hunger and an unwanted physical attraction to her maker.
Ethan is cocky, arrogant and completely infuriating. He toys with Merit's emotions on a regular basis, and routinely calls her in to aid him in dangerous situations as per her job requirement as Sentinel for Cadogan House.
This installment has Merit working security for Gabriel Keene, the apex of the North American shapeshifters. Shifters, unlike vampires, have not revealed their existence to the public and are convening in Chicago to decide whether they will literally tuck tail and run to their stronghold in Alaska to avoid the impending war that's been set in motion by former master vampire Celina, or if they will stand their ground alongside the vampires as they never have previously. Of course, opinions on the action they should take vary greatly among pack members, and not everyone is pleased that Gabriel is even considering aiding the vampires.
Ethan and Merit are chosen as vampire representatives, in charge of Gabriel's security and a visual reminder to the shifters of who they could be fighting for and beside. Planted straight in the path of a professional hit, Merit and Ethan fight to keep Gabriel safe and win the pack's allegiance, even as they struggle with a sexual tension that has been building and has nearly reached it's breaking point.
This is the book for which Ethan and Merit fans have been waiting. One of Neill's talents, among many, is her ability to create an absolutely palpable tension between Ethan and Merit that literally radiates from the pages in suffocating heat waves. Their typical witty banter is saturated with innuendo and their forced physical proximity during Merit's training is cold-shower inducing.
Ethan is one of my all time favorite heroes (or anti-hero as he sometimes proves himself to be). Neill has created a character that I simultaneously want to kiss on the lips and knee in the groin. He gives you a taste of his sweet side one page, then morphs into master vampire mode the next and makes you want to cry at the loss. In this story however, we get a glimpse of vulnerability. The master vampire facade crumbles ever so slightly as he reveals his need for Merit. Not just his desire to possess. Not just his alpha male ego wanting to claim someone who has pushed him away previously. We get to see his need. A little chink in the protective armor Ethan so fastidiously polishes and shines and shows to the outside world, and it's oh-so-good.
But Ethan would not be Ethan, the vampire we so begrudgingly love, if things stayed perfect in his personal relationship with Merit. Her dedication to her master, both physically and emotionally, is put to the test as tensions with the shifters rise and a vampire from Ethan's past comes to visit.
Neill masterfully creates a story that leaps off the page, events playing out as though they're in front of you, forcing you to keep reading into the wee hours of the morning lest you miss a single sentiment or piece of action. Secondary characters Catcher, Mallory, Luc, and Lindsey are hilarious as always, providing snarky comments to help ease Merit's emotional strain. Though I wish for more page time with them, their particular brand of humor never failing to make me laugh, I'm able to appreciate that this is truly Merit and Ethan's book.
Oh, and we finally learn Merit's first name. I cannot wait to see what's in store for Merit and gang in book four.