Blood Cross Chapter 9

Fast cars and money lead back to dames

"George Dumas, first blood-servant to Pellissier." The soft words floated from down the hallway, bouncing off the old brick, a female vamped-out voice, the inflection asking Bruiser to join her. I glanced at him and without a word we swiveled, our bodies moving as if we had trained together for years.

A little vamp stood just inside an open cubicle with a door, the space lit with bright electric lights. She beckoned; we moved toward her. The room behind her was a big pantry, three shelf-lined walls organized with cans and boxes, with household appliances on a side wall, including a washer and dryer. We were at the back of the warehouse; I could smell the Mississippi River strong on the air. I hesitated in the dim hallway, scent-searching on a quick breath, taking her in.

She was short, model-slender, with streaked blond hair and the bluest eyes I'd seen on anyone, human or not. A diamond necklace big enough to qualify as a collar circled her neck, and diamond and blue topaz drops the size of walnuts dangled from her ears. "In here," she whispered. I didn't know her and wasn't inclined to follow. Bruiser, however, stepped closer, which brought us even. Vamp-fast, she snatched my right arm and Bruiser's left, her tiny hand like a steel cuff, cold and cutting. And strong.

Faster than thought, I reached for a stake. She yanked. Hurled me off my feet. Tossed me inside. I hit the back shelves. Stake in hand, I pushed off. Looked back. Without effort, she threw Bruiser at me. With him in midair, the pantry door slammed. I got a quick look at it - three inches of hardwood reinforced with iron straps. A trap.

I caught Bruiser one handed. We impacted with pained grunts, the shelves ramming into my unprotected back. The lock clicked home. Using his own momentum, I shoved Bruiser aside. He hit the floor in a controlled roll on hands and knees, and got up to his feet at nearly vamp speed.

A stake in each hand, I rushed her. She was fast. The vamp caught me again and whirled me into a corner in a dance-step-smooth martial art move. She scuttled away from us.

Her back against the door, hands out, placating. "I'm not here to hurt you," she said as I found my footing.

Not caring what she claimed, I pulled my tiny blade and reversed it in my grip, street fighting position. Beast hissed but stayed down, watching, her claws in my mind like steel points, her energy pouring into me. My breath was hard and swift and I flashed the blade in the too-bright lights so she would see it was silver-plated - poisonous to her kind if I cut her. I wished the blade was bigger but I felt better with weapons drawn.

Bruiser was on his feet, his hands out in a mimic of vamp grace as we evaluated the female vamp. She didn't look at the blade, but watched us, eyes darting back and forth, her feet balanced and her body posture claiming she was familiar with fighting and willing to demonstrate. And she was blocking the door.

She was also hungry, her skin pallid, but her eyes weren't vamp-black and bloody; instead, they were controlled and collected. From the remembered strength of her grip, she was an old one, powerful, and despite her small frame, I might have a hard time beating her with just the two weapons and no protective gear.

Yet she'd said she wouldn't hurt us. And she wasn't dressed for wet work. Her dress had the dragon-lady-seamstress's signature lines, looking long, lean, and elegant, even on her tiny form, midnight blue shot with silver thread, which had to be a vamp joke.

And she wore spike heels in blue-black ostrich leather, little feathers on the buckles.

She looked totally out of place standing in the pantry. "I won't hurt you. At least not right now. Truce."

I lowered my hands a fraction to show I'd listen. Bruiser dropped his and said, "Innara of Clan Bouvier. How may I serve you?"

"I have a message from my master."

Bruiser blinked. With that careful blandness I was coming to appreciate, he said, "You could have called." I laughed through my nose.

"I could not. My master has determined that many of the Mithrans' cellular communications are being monitored." Innara's tiny hands opened in the universal gesture of peace, fingers splayed. "Servant of the Blood Master of New Orleans and the one they call the Rogue Hunter, hear me."

I could tell I was added on only because I happened to be near, but what the heck, I'd stay to listen. Especially as a thick door stood between me and freedom.

Her voice took on a cant that said she was repeating a memorized statement. "The alliance of Mithrans is in grave danger, as is the safety of this city. Mearkanis and Rousseau have formed a new coalition, leaving the weaker clans Arceneau and Desmarais unprotected. They have allied with St. Martin, who has broken faith with Pellissier."

Bruiser cursed and went pale. I tried to figure out what it all meant. And then Innara told me. "There are now three leagues of Mithrans rather than the former two, and the new association leaves Pellissier's alliance with Bouvier and Laurent no longer in a position of strength. Pellissier's enemies plot war. Rafael has come clandestinely to Clan Bouvier to propose we join him in revolt against Pellissier. My master has agreed to formal talks, to consider this, as a ruse to gain his trust. It is said that Rafael has contacted one of the Sons of Darkness for his blessing, though this is only rumor."

Bruiser went nearly vamp-still in shock. I wondered what the sons were and why they made the blood slowly drain from his face. The Sons of Darkness . . . They had been part of something I had read recently.

Innara stepped close and took Bruiser's hands in hers. "The new union believes in the old ways. The Naturaleza has been reintroduced to the newly fledged and many yearn for a way of life the old ones among us have renounced. Rafael of Mearkanis feeds this desire with fiery rhetoric and hopes the change in balance of power will allow him to challenge for master of the city. Be assured. To protect against the new alliance, my master will again blood-oath Clan Bouvier to Leo."

I felt Bruiser's relief like a blow to my side. He'd been braced for something else.

"Pellissier is honored."

"Naturaleza?" I asked, picking out that nugget for clarification.

Bruiser ignored my question. "There have been indications that Rafael was seeking power."

"Traditionally," Innara said to me, "the strength of Pellissier held us in balance and allowed us to blend harmoniously with humans. Now that is changing." She pressed Bruiser's hands. "Leo must act."

Leo was whacked-out with grief and might not be able to act. But I didn't say it.

Bruiser said, "The recent alignment between Pellissier and Arceneau is advantageous to restoring that peace."

"Arceneau has sworn itself to Leo?" Innara asked, her face taking on a fierce joy.

Bruiser nodded. It was news to me. I asked them, "Will Arceneau give Leo enough power to defeat the new coalition?"

"No," Innara said, "but if Desmarais swears to Leo, and if Leo acts quickly, then we have a chance."

I redrew the balance of power in my mind, the new alliance of vamp clans. On the one hand was Rafael of Mearkanis, with Rousseau and St. Martin pledged to him. And maybe these sons, whatever they were. Then there was Leo of Pellissier, with Laurent, Bouvier, and now Arceneau. Desmarais lingered by its lonesome. So if a new vamp war started, it would be a battle between Rafael and Leo. I didn't know enough about clan strengths to know if it would be a fair match.

Satisfied that the Bouvier vamp didn't mean us harm, I lowered my weapons. Tension I hadn't noted in her slight frame relaxed. Instantly, she looked like a child playing dress-up in her mommy's clothes and jewels, innocent and sweet and fully human, not like the killer she was. I hated how they could do that. "Leo must put aside the Dolore and take up the reins of his power," she said.

Bruiser took a step back, his face closing in. Before I could ask what a dolore was, she went on, her tone fierce, her hands fisting, trying to convince Bruiser. "You must tell Leo that if he hopes to keep the peace, he must break the new alliance quickly or there will be war - violent, bloody, and decisive. Our masters will die. We will not be able to protect our young in devoveo while they regain themselves - they will be left to run mad. Our humans will not survive. The city will be torn asunder." To me she said,

"Rafael believes in the Naturaleza, the old ways, that humans are here only for our pleasure and to feed us - and that all other supernatural beings must be wiped from the earth."

The words "supernatural beings must be wiped from the earth" reverberated in the small room. That meant Molly and her kids. And every other witch in the city. And me.Crap.

Crap, crap, crap. And then I heard the word "devoveo." What the heck was that? I'd never heard the term before, but it sounded as though it was related to the madness of young rogues. Maybe worth investigating.

"Make Leo listen," she demanded of Bruiser. Her head cocked, rocking on the stem of her neck into an angle not common to humans, like a bird with a broken neck. It was just . . . so weird. She seemed to be listening to something or someone I couldn't hear.

Her pupils widened, vamping out.

"My anamchara tells me that Rafael is coming. I must . . ." Her eyes landed on me, and the sclera bled scarlet. Fear pheromones skittered into the small room, brittle and prickly, and all hers. Innara took a breath, the sound loud with panic. "He will catch me.

With you. He will know that my master has accepted his offer to parley, in deception."

And if Leo loses the vamp war, then a victorious Rafael will kill his enemies, I thought.Gotcha. Innara was self-serving, playing both sides just like her master. The vamp could tear a human apart with her bare hands, but she looked so helpless, even with the bloody eyes. I sooo did not want to get involved in this, but I was already neck deep and sinking. Tucking the stake and knife back in their hidey spots, I let the words drag out of me. "No, he won't." Her face split with joy. If there was also a lot of cunning behind the purer emotion, well, shewas a vamp.

Motioning her away from the door, I held my hand out to Bruiser and snapped the lock.

The door cracked open and we stepped through the slit. A shadow darkened the hallway entrance as someone approached. There wasn't time to explain. I stepped into Bruiser, pulling the door shut behind us, and yanked him close. And picked up where we'd left off in the limo. He grunted once, hesitated a fraction of a second as if analyzing, and seemed to understand.

His arms went around me, his mouth hard, and one hand slid down my side to cup my bottom. The other slid up, brushing the side of my breast before wrapping around my nape. I had a moment to note that he tasted of champagne and smelled of Leo, which I hadn't paid attention to on the floor of the limo. He lifted me and pressed me against the closed door, took my thigh, and wrapped it around his waist.

In only a moment, lust pheromones wafted from him, his mouth softened, and I repositioned my mouth under his, glancing up the hallway. Through slit lids, I saw Rafael, heir to Mearkanis, stop in the far end. And watch. He sniffed, and I knew he'd detect no lust from me.Crap. Crap, crap, crap, and more freaking crap! I closed my eyes and tried to relax. But I couldn't. Not with Rafael watching. And from the faint scuffle of shoes on the floor, others as well.

With a low growl in my mind, Beast took over. And I let her.Mate , she thought at me.Soon . My limbs softened. Flesh heated.This one is strong. Worthy of us.

Responding to the not-so-subtle signals, Bruiser slid his tongue between my lips in a delicate brush and swirl. I/Beast sighed into his mouth and he chuckled under his breath, masculine and possessive. He pulled me closer. His arousal pressed into the center of me, demanding. He'd been holding back, waiting on me, and now he leaned me hard into the door, the iron bands cutting into my spine. The pain was sharp and I arched into him. His lips left my mouth and trailed down my neck. Licking.

Oh . . . my.My breath deepened. "Yes," I whispered. "Like that." I rolled my head back, giving him access. Letting Beast take over. My body responded, breasts aching, wanting. My hands clenched, bunching his tux coat tightly. A moment later, the shuffling at the hallway end disappeared. A long moment after that, Bruiser paused, his lips buried in the deep V of my neckline. "Are they gone?" he murmured, his mouth brushing against delicate flesh, his voice vibrating between us.

I didn't want to answer, and my own hesitation brought a titter of laughter to my lips, my chest bones bumping his mouth. I pushed Beast back down and she went, but with a catty, satisfied purr. "Yes. They're gone." I felt his smile against my skin.

"Well, damn. I guess we have to stop, then."

I laughed again, louder this time, and eased him away, my hands on his arms, my leg dropping from his waist. "Maybe later," I said before I could stop myself.

"Count on it," he said, and set me down, his hands sliding slowly along my bottom.

The door opened behind us and little Innara peeked out, looking up and down the hallway. Finding Rafael gone, she turned her attention to us and breathed deeply, taking in the pheromones and responding to them. A little smile gave her a gamine look, a bit teasing. "My anamchara says I can return now. If you two would care to join us? We would be pleased to leave this party and find a more private place. To share blood and body with you both."

I started to say, "No freaking way," but Bruiser spoke first, smoothly. "A gracious invitation. Another time, perhaps, lovely lady." He bowed over her hand and kissed it. It didn't even look weird when he did it, which was weird in itself. I shut my mouth with a click of teeth.

"We certainly hope so." Holding on to his hand, effectively pulling the three of us together, Innara leaned in to me, showing fang when she said, "This one smells . . .

tasty." She was looking at me as if she was both hungry and aroused. Double ick.

"She is the Rogue Hunter, contracted by the council," Bruiser said. There was that phrase and tone again, that title. I needed to ask about that sometime.

Innara said, "We hope she lives long enough to fulfill her contract." She dropped our hands and slithered down the hallway and out of sight. Leaving us alone.

Suddenly reticent, I adjusted my dress, watching Bruiser from the corner of my eye. He leaned against the brick, still clearly happy to see me, amusement playing across his features, the expression saying that he knew what I was looking at. His hair had fallen forward and a quick glance showed me red lipstick on his mouth. I wondered if he'd smeared it on Innara's hand. "Wipe your mouth?" I suggested.

One handed, he pulled a hanky and wiped his lips, passing it to me. "Yours too."

"Oh." I took the handkerchief. It was the same one with Leo's blood on it, but it was a little late to worry about scent-marking. I dabbed my mouth on a clean corner and held out the soiled cloth. Bruiser took my hand instead of the handkerchief. Slowly, he pulled me to him. I felt stupid jerking away or holding back, seeing a mental image of me stretched across the hallway, balanced on one foot. I smiled at it and when my chest once again touched his, he wrapped a steely arm around me and said, "Weare going to do this. Soon."

I gulped. Beast purred. And Bruiser leaned in. Paused with his lips only a fraction of an inch from mine. "Weare ." His smile was teasing, a flash of very white teeth. He whispered, "Say it. We are."

"Oh. Um. Well. I may be dead tomorrow, you know?" When his arm loosened in surprise, I ducked away with a little dance step and said, "What's an anamchara?"

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Bruiser held his position a moment longer. When he stood straight, the amused smile was still in place, reminding me a bit of Beast when she played with her dinner. While it was still alive. I thought for a moment that Bruiser would push the issue, but he didn't.

Instead, he took my arm and curled it through his, leading me down the hallway toward the party.

"Anamchara has had many meanings throughout history, but for Mithrans, anamchara are soul bonded. Or mind bonded, if you prefer. It's a state sometimes entered into by vampires, an everlasting joining, an eternal mating. They share thoughts, emotions, everything in their lives, from moment to moment. It is a difficult arrangement, and one not sought by most, even after long years together." He tilted his eyes at me, his amusement growing, his words dropping lower, provocative. "They share . . .everything

. The relationship is said to be best experienced by them in sexual and feeding encounters. At the same time if possible."

I couldn't help looking down at the proof of his interest in me, and blushed furiously.Well, hell. Bruiser laughed again, a low sound that had Beast rolling over, her pelt rubbing against my skin. But we stepped into the open area and it took his attention as it did mine, our security training automatic. We had worked our way back to the front of the warehouse, the area with pillows and rugs. There were groups of vamps and groups of humans, but separate groups, with almost no intermixing. Soft music played from hidden speakers.

"It does have drawbacks, of course," he said, and I brought my attention back to the subject. "There can be no lies between anamchara. And it is said that if one dies, the other goes insane."

"That would suck," I said, succinctly.

Laughter spluttered from him, untouched by the sexual teasing, and I took the moment to ask, "What is Dolore? I thought it was a name, but it isn't."

He stilled. Softly he said, "It is the state that Mithrans enter when they grieve. It can make them go rogue if their blood-family and their intimate, human blood-servants are not most careful with them."

I put a hand on his arm, urging him to quiet for a moment. I tensed, smelling the maker of the young rogues. This was why I had come. My lips parted slightly and I slowly drew a breath over my tongue and through my nose, tasting and scenting all at once. I closed my eyes to concentrate. The scent marker was faint, buried beneath the aromas of cooked meat, old warehouse, and vamps galore. But it was here. He had been here.

Most of the time Beast could help me tell by scent the carriers' gender, race, mating readiness, general health, age, what they had to eat recently, others who had been in close contact - a whole host of things. But I wasn't getting much from the traces of the rogue maker I'd found. I had yet to be in Beast's form when I scent-checked him - it. I still wasn't certain of the gender. I needed to shift and prowl. I grinned and dropped Bruiser's arm. Bet that would go over well, a mountain lion come a-calling. "Go call Leo. Tell him that the maker of the young rogues has been here. I smell it. The perfume it wore," I corrected. "It's faint but it's been here. I need to mingle."

Bruiser looked at me strangely but stepped away, pulling his cell. I almost reminded him about Innara's statement that cellular communications were being monitored, but what the heck. He was a big boy.

I moved into the open area, scent-searching. I walked through the entire place in the next few minutes, breathing shallowly, letting Beast stare through my eyes and parse the scents. But the faint reek of the rogue maker vanished. It - he? pretty sure it was a he -

was gone.

Frustrated, I let Beast settle back to her rest and stared out over the throng, which had grown considerably since our arrival. I spotted a small group of blood-servant-security types, all by their lonesome. They were my kinda people, and I had met some of them, so I smoothed my dress, pasted on a smile, and approached. Two of the men - identical twins, right down to the matched tuxedoes - parted to provide me with an opening.

"Hey, gorgeous," one said. "You clean up right nice."

"Brian and Brandon of Clan Arceneau," I said, accepting mirror-image cheek pecks from them. "Or is it Brandon and Brian? You look restored, rested, and healthy."

"Thanks to you," one said, sliding an arm around my waist and pulling me into the group. To the others he announced, "This is the Rogue Hunter, who saved Gregoire."

That got me sharpened interest from the ones I didn't know.

The other twin said, "And incidentally, our butts too. The ugly one" - he thumbed at his twin - "was nearly dead from blood loss by the time she dispatched the rogue and sent help our way. But I'm distraught that you can't tell me apart from the ugly twin. Thatis a sympathy hug you're giving him, isn't it?" he said, sliding into my other side.

Looking back and forth between them, I grinned to show appreciation of their twin-based humor. "I try to be diplomatic to the less fortunate, and if I could figure out which is the prettier twin, I would ignore him, I promise."

"That ugly mole marring the perfection of Brandon's face is how you can tell us apart."

I spotted the tiny mole at Brandon's hairline, and said, "That lovely little beauty mark?"

"Nicely said. For a killer in a vamp-whore dress," a small woman interrupted.

Shock went through me in a jolting zing. Brandon and Brian went still. I slid out of their loose embraces and in front of them, instantly assessing. Growing up in a children's home, I'd been verbally and physically sucker punched a lot, but it never got easier to take. It hardly seemed fair that she would come at me now, when I had to fight in a dress and couldn't stake her to kill her. And Bruiser had my good knife. Before I could respond, a second woman joined in the wordplay.

"Are you saying she's a vamp-whore, Sina?" the second woman asked. "Or the dress is made by a vamp-whore?"

"Adrianna says she stinks of Leo Pellissier," Sina said, "but the dress is slutty advertisement too."

"Adrianna?" I asked, through lips suddenly gone numb with an adrenaline spike.

"First Scion of Clan St. Martin," Brian said slowly. "Meet her blood-servants, Sina and Brigit." St. Martin, who had just broken with Pellissier and formed a new playground gang with Rafael of Mearkanis as head bully boy. The two vamps in red dresses had been Adrianna's as well. What was this, tag-team-Jane day? A way to stir the vamp waters? I had to assume old Rafe had sent Adrianna gunning for me, but I had no idea why.

The two women had been standing together but now separated, breaking the tight grouping of blood-servants. The circle expanded, like a fighting ring, as the nonparticipants stepped back and the two women moved in. Both were short with wiry, fat-starved bodies and frizzy brown hair, though Sina was African-American and Brigit was Caucasian. They were dressed in similar black, sleeveless dresses that showed off their well-defined arms and freed their limbs for fighting. My heart rate sped up and Beast bared her killing fangs in my mind. My arms automatically lifted away from my sides, ready for defensive moves. I couldn't help the smile that pulled back my lips as Beast thought,Fun!

"Yeah, she does smell of Leo. The Master of the City is sucking on his son's murderer,"

Sina said.

"Not just sucking, you ask me." The two women laughed, taunting.

"Actually, I'm the one who scent-marked the Hunter," Bruiser's soft voice said over my shoulder, "in the hopes it would keep her from having to kill some stupid little vampire for assaulting her or some stupid little blood-servant for living up to the designation."

"You calling us stupid, George?" Brigit asked, her eyes brightening in anticipation.

"You wanting to take us both on?"

"The thought is unpleasant in the extreme," he said. "It gives me nightmares."

Several onlookers laughed and the two women looked puzzled, until Sina got the sexual insult. She snarled and reached to pull a gun, stopping when her partner placed a restraining hand on her arm. But the woman's fingers held tight to the butt of a tiny weapon in a pocket holster.

"Her dress is a creation by Madame Melisende,Modiste du les Mithrans, not a vamp-whore. I believe that Jane has one of the designer's cards should you, or your mistress Adrianna,ever wish to dress well. Jane?" he asked as he took my little purse in hand, pulling the strap across my chest. I had forgotten it was there. "Ah, here they are." He extended a handful of cards over my shoulder at the little bullies, which brought his body in contact with mine. His other arm went around my waist, pulling me close against him. "Tell Adrianna the designer could make even her long, lanky body look sexy. To someone."

The twins behind me chuckled, and the laughter this time was more widespread. The two women glared at me as if I, rather than Bruiser, were the one who told them they and Adrianna looked dowdy. Brandon and Brian stepped up to either side of me, giving me a man on each side and one hanging over my back. Which felt rather nice, truth be told.

No one said anything else for a long moment. Almost in tandem, the two women turned on their heels and left the room.

"Sad," Bruiser said, dropping his arm to cuddle me, the cards still spread. "They really needed the fashion help."

The laughter was freer and the tension level in the group dropped dramatically. "I'll take a card," another woman said. She was only a bit shorter than I, muscular, with a wrestler's shoulders, and carried a semiautomatic holstered beneath her man-style jacket. "Jackie, with Clan Desmarais," she said to me, and shook my hand as she plucked cards from Bruiser's fingers. So she belonged to the one unaligned clan. "I could stand looking elegant. It isn't easy to look feminine with these shoulders.


"You're welcome," I said, not quite sure what had just happened.

The twins pivoted to look at me and at Bruiser, who still hung across my shoulder.

"You scent-marked her for Leo?" Brandon asked.

"Or for yourself?" Brian asked.

"Myself," Bruiser said easily. "But she's not falling into my arms as quickly I'd hoped."

I ducked out of Bruiser's arms and stepped next to Jackie, who had already shared Madame Melisende's cards with another woman. She looked at me through short bangs and said, "All they ever think about is sex. Take them to a museum and they stare at the naked statues; take them to a park and they ogle the joggers; take one to dinner and he thinks it's a prelude. Something about vampires pushes up their testosterone levels to a teenager's raging desperation."

"You trying to say you don't think about sex, Jackie?" Brandon said. "Because if you have trouble in that area, I could help you think about sex."

"Thanks for the offer, sugar, but I still prefer pure humans in the sack. It's the totality of the thing, you know? Human males think about sex only every other second. A male blood-servant wakes up thinking about sex and goes to bed thinking about sex and then dreams about it till it's time to wake up again."

"Not just sex," Brian mused. "There's fighting too."

"Hunting," Bruiser agreed. "Fishing. Fast cars. Making money."

"Fast cars and money lead back to dames, though," Brandon said.

"See what I mean?" Jackie said to me, and the small group laughed.

The laughter included me, which lent me an unexpectedly warm feeling; the emotion of inclusion wasn't familiar. And then the way she used the words "pure human" intruded into my thoughts. As if the blood-servants didn't think of themselves that way. Beast didn't either. They smelled . . . different.

"Why is Adrianna coming after me?" I asked, looking through the door where the two women had disappeared. "I have a feeling I'll be meeting her servants again soon. And it won't be for tea and crumpets." I was licensed to kill rogue vamps, not humans, or even blood-servants, no matter how annoying or dangerous they might be.

"I don't know, except that you carry Leo's scent marking, and therefore add to Leo's power base," Bruiser said. I noticed that he didn't add "I'm sorry."

A flush of anger pulsed through me. The forced scent marking, meant to protect me, had turned around and bit me, hard. My fists clenched against the urge to pull a stake and ram it into Bruiser.

Wary, the security types looked at the makeup of their own group, reassessing alignments. Three men turned and left the cluster. Silent, we watched them walk away. I pushed aside my anger for later. There were worse things to worry about right now.

"They've been listening to us chat," Brian said. "Not good."

"Taking info home to the new alliance," Brandon said.

"Lotta things keep coming back to old Rafe," I said, remembering him standing in the shadows, watching me, twice tonight. "Maybe I need to pay him a visit." And get a better sniff of him and his underlings, but I didn't add that. Nor did I miss the look Jackie shared with Bruiser, though I had no idea what it might mean.

"Rafael is a problem," a woman said. "A big problem."

The talk turned to recent changes in vamp politics and quickly became both tedious and bewildering as I listened to gossip about personal and clan relationships that had persisted for hundreds of years. Vamp gossip could originate in the seventeen hundreds, yet still be fresh and painful, and have an impact on clans today, on people dead and alive. Vamp blood feuds could last for centuries. I learned a lot but nothing that I could use. The only thing that mattered to me was the new coalitions and how they impacted my current contract. With Leo's scent marking on me, it was going to be hard to stay out of the brewing war.

And then I remembered the strange look Bettina had given me in the midst of her invitation to visit. Something wasn't right.
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