Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(25)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(25)
Author: L.A. Banks

"Whatchu gonna tell him, man?" Stack whispered.

"The truth, and beg for mercy," Yonnie said, no quiver in his tone, his gaze straight ahead, his pace steady as they walked. "If we bullshit him that's a sure death."

Heads turned slowly as they passed. All eyes were trained upon the two young lieutenants walking toward the booth. The music seemed to get quieter as they approached. The entire club froze, then gasps rippled through the room as two Hell-dogs appeared and snarled to stop Yonnie and Stack's approach.

"Gentlemen," Carlos said, materializing out of a beam of blue club light. "I like what you've done with the establishment." He stroked the heads of his beasts and snapped his fingers twice, commanding the dogs to sit, and then extended his crest ring for Yonnie and Stack to kiss.

"We added a new subterranean level," Stack said quickly, bowing and stepping back from Carlos after appropriately acknowledging his rank. "While you were gone, we converted the basement level for VIPs so the club can stay open twenty-four hours without a light intrusion. It's fully stocked with top-shelf and the territory's best females."

Carlos nodded and smoothed the front of his black Armani suit, his gaze sweeping the club floor. His line of vision settled on Yonnie, who looked him square in the eyes. He liked that. A man with courage. A man of few words, wise enough to hold his counsel until he was asked to speak. Carlos smiled. The collective tension in the establishment abated. The music resumed.

"Walk with me, Yonnie. Let's have a conversation."

Yonnie nodded and neared Carlos.

Appearing relieved, Stack stepped away from his partner's side, his eyes holding an expression of pity. Carlos watched Yonnie stiffen from the corner of his eye.

"Feed the dogs," Carlos ordered as they left Stack. "They require a hundred and eighty pounds of meat. Take it from the old inventory in the freezer. I want that bullshit out of my club, understood? Only top-shelf from Nuit's old holding in here, but no new bodies." He glanced at the dogs, angry that he didn't consider feeding them the leftovers from Blood Music. Carlos resumed walking with Yonnie a few paces behind him.

They climbed the stairs to Carlos's old office, and for a bit, nostalgia settled into Carlos's bones. He approached two bulked security vamps who parted for them to pass. The good old days, when he was alive and this club had been the crown jewel of his human empire. So much had changed in such a short time, and he'd learned just how relative time was.

Carlos took in his environment, walking around the spacious room, remembering, and fingering objects on his old mahogany desk. The room now seemed so small, so plain, compared to what he'd experienced since then.

"Sit," he bade Yonnie, as he found his old high-back leather chair and sat in it. He was amazed at how ordinary it felt in comparison to his council throne.

But Yonnie didn't sit. He stood before the wide desk, his eyes glittering with both fear and respect as he stared at Carlos.

"Sir, we have a problem."

Carlos laced his fingers together and made a tent. "I know."

"Philadelphia was a disaster."

A slight smile tugged at Carlos's mouth as he stared at the young vampire. Yonnie couldn't have been more than eighteen years old when he turned. He wasn't concerned about Philadelphia. But he was aware of the strong Guardian nest that had been uncovered there. Perverse amusement filled him. He now understood the chairman's reactions to his visits to council chambers. So he waited, gathering the patience to watch how Yonnie would function when there was bad news to deliver to the boss.

"We got blindsided there," Yonnie said, his expression stoic, but the beads of perspiration forming on his brow gave away his calm exterior. "We'll go back and address it, will root out all Guardian teams in your territories. Our resources had been strained - "

Carlos held up his hand. "Let the Guardian teams, wherever you find them, be."

Yonnie blinked twice. "Sir?"

"Strategy," Carlos said, his gaze assessing every inch of the young vampire. "When their side gets that strong, it's because our side has kicked up a notch. If Guardian teams are flooding my zones, then it stands to reason that the light has picked up on more than me in the area." Carlos's smile disappeared as Yonnie's body swayed. "This is why I asked you to have a seat."

Yonnie nodded and sat slowly, his attention riveted to Carlos. "You were breached by another master?"

"Appears so," Carlos murmured, renewed fury making his incisors lower a half inch.

"We'll take him," Yonnie said quickly. He stood again and began pacing, his agitation creating a crackle of electricity throughout the room.

"Your men couldn't take a well-fortified Guardian team," Carlos said in a blase tone. "You're third-gens, and that's my fault."

Yonnie stopped pacing and horror filled his eyes.

Carlos shook his head and stood. "I should've had seconds in there watching my back." He began walking in a wide circle around Yonnie. As he watched pure terror reflect back at him from the vampire's young face, an old wound opened inside him. Alejandro should have been here. Julio should have been here. Miguel should have been here, just like all the others should have. "All my family is gone... all my old hombres, at a time when I need them most." Carlos chuckled, and a sad, hollow sound echoed throughout the room. "Fate is a curious thing. I didn't think I'd survive this long without them."

He stopped and stood before Yonnie. He reached out and placed a hand on Yonnie's shoulder. He wasn't surprised when Yonnie closed his eyes, resigned to his fate.

"How old are you, man?" Carlos asked, his voice low and gentle. It hurt him that Yonnie was trembling.

"I was turned at eighteen."

"Open your eyes. Talk to me. How long ago were you turned?"

Seeming surprised, Yonnie opened his eyes. A silent understanding connected them. They both knew that Carlos could have dredged him for the information, but hadn't invaded his mind.

"Respect," Carlos murmured. "Some things, between men, are just not done." He dropped his hold on Yonnie's shoulder and appraised his light almond complexion, wiry light brown Afro, and hazel eyes. "You've got a Southern accent," Carlos said, leaving Yonnie and walking to the far side of the room toward the bar. He studied his old crystal decanter, which was now filled with blood, and poured a half goblet, offering one to Yonnie. "You ever miss your living family?" Carlos asked, extending the tumbler.

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