Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(24)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(24)
Author: L.A. Banks

"But you don't trust anyone in the department? No one?" Her eyes scanned his face as tears streaked her ashen cheeks.

Berkfield kissed his cross then kissed her lips fast. "No. Your mouth to God's ear, you are going to visit your sister tonight, with the kids. Make the calls, get the bags from the garage that I always told you to keep ready, and drive. You get in the car and dial the priest's number - memorize it when I give it to you. Okay?"

Marjorie only nodded, obviously too traumatized to speak. Her stricken expression cut into his conscience. What if this was all pure insanity? He'd made his wife memorize safe-house numbers, keep clothes in a garage to escape at a moment's notice as though they were fugitives. He'd run drills with his children to keep them readied... all the while telling them that mobsters were the culprit, that his job had hazards that could spill over to them... but he'd never imagined the danger would be vampires.

He'd vowed to give the Guardians the early part of the evening to purge Damali, but Carlos knew it would be impossible to make it through the entire night without going to her. Still, there were security issues that he had to address, if he was going to keep her safe. That reality held him steady, honed his focus to razor clarity. It was about finding the motherfucker that had breeched his borders and had put his woman at risk.

When the earth opened and the swirling blackness died down, Carlos stood on the front grounds of his Beverly Hills lair, huge chains wrapped around both fists, a beast at either side of him, straining to break free of their leads.

"Chill," he said firmly, his head tilting. He heard it, too. Damali's bloodcurdling screams slammed into his brain. Not a good sign. The sound agitated the hounds, but it drove a spike through his skull. The Guardians were not confining his baby; they were torturing the living shit out of her! The only relief was that they hadn't dusted her.

Carlos closed his eyes. He had to give them time to work on her. He had to ignore her call. She had to ride it out to become human again. Only his council-level status gave him the wherewithal to resist her cries, but even that power was questionable. He let his breath out slowly and wound the chains in his fist tighter. It was about caring for her enough to let her live the way she was intended.

He forced the dogs to heel, giving them a hard tug by their chains, and began walking the perimeter of his grounds with them so they'd know the borders that they were confined within. "Not the postman, not the cops, not a kid chasing a ball - only I feed you," he muttered as he walked the monsters, noting how they snarled, sniffed, and occasionally looked at him confused when Damali's voice pierced their senses. "I know," he said, dropping the chains and stroking their ugly heads to calm them. "It's f**king me up, too. Stay!"

The more aggressive of the two animals growled low in his throat and walked in a circle, going from the edge of the land back to Carlos, but then settled down. He had to feed these creatures梘o find a miscellaneous vamp or local demon so the animals could get a topside feed on, even though they'd fed well on the way up.

It had sent a serious message within all the lower levels he'd passed, and the news was out, couriers were on notice. Every region was now aware that a council master was going topside and was taking no prisoners, if crossed. Courier ranks stood aghast as he donated a few of them to the cause of proving his point. Even the were-realms were giving him wide berth. The little stop down there garnered respect with Hell-dogs at his heels. And every region knew that council masters didn't do topside, unless there was a serious mission at hand.

But the other issue was he had to do something, anything, to get the sound of Damali's cries out of his mind. As her voice escalated, he gave his dogs a hard glare. "Conceal. Stay. Guard." He watched them sulk away, dematerializing as they took winged flight and bent the top branches of a mature oak tree as their lookout post. Only their glowing eyes told him where they were.

Blood Music made the most sense as a primary feeding ground, to his way of thinking - it had been the epicenter of Nuit's territory. The hounds would get the scent from Nuit's tracer in the meat, and any old dons left, rebels, or human operatives marked from that region, would be blocked from ambushing him. So, he went there.

"Good evening," Carlos said with a calm smile as he materialized in the plush outer lobby of Blood's sixty-sixth-floor penthouse. He remembered being brought here when first turned... ironic how life... and death could be. At the bottom one minute, at the top the next, but wasn't the promise that in the last days, the first should be last and the last should be first?

He studied the sumptuous leather seating, dark marble along the walls, and the huge reception desk of the same materials, bearing the Blood Music insignia crest and logo - that would have to go. So would a few of the tired human artists on the label. But all things in good time. Too hasty a move would further alert the four topside masters, and unfortunately, Nuit's music empire was still producing plenty of negative results for the vamp nation. It was already tense in the empire, given that a councilman had not elected to stay seated on a subterranean throne.

As he moved toward the front desk, the pale, willowy vamp receptionist at the front desk blanched and held her breath for a moment before responding.

"Master Rivera, uh, oh, a... good evening. We didn't know you were coming or when you'd want your new offices readied." She jumped up from her desk, and hit the console. "We'll have that immediately rectified, sir. How can I make you comfortable in the - "

"I want a board meeting of all my vice presidents, now, in the war room." He smiled at her more broadly and gave her a wink. "You can chill. Only top brass changes in a hostile takeover."

"Got a bad feeling, man," Stack said, peering around the new additions to Club Vengeance.

Yonnie only nodded and continued to sip his drink. Downing it quickly, he ordered another round for himself and his partner. "Two Chivas, double color. Top shelf," he told the bartender without glancing up, waiting as the bartender mixed liquor and blood. He knew Rivera was close. The hair on his neck was crackling with electricity. Every curly strand of his Afro felt like it was on fire.

Accepting his drink, he suddenly stood as he watched Stack nearly topple his short rocks glass when he knocked back the shot and set the drink down hard. "It's time."

Stack was slow to get up and follow him. Yonnie brushed past the eager females that greeted them as they cut a swath through the frenetic club crowd. Almost as quickly as their popularity had been ignited, he could feel it wane as he wound his way up the spiral staircase and crossed the first floor on his way to Carlos's old office. The females in the club had their line of vision trained on the boss's VIP booth. Furious energy radiated from it nearly twenty-five yards away.

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