From my vantage point in the lobby, I have a clear view of Vivian and Rafe. The entrance of the small curly-haired woman in a black leather duster causes the tension level to skyrocket and an angry buzz of power washes over me. Wonder what has Vivian’s panties up her butt?
“Well hello, ‘Alexandria the Great’,” the blonde sneers to Vivian. “You don’t know how happy I was to escort our criminal up here.”
Vivian looks pissed off, but before she can form a response the Tribunal member pushes past her.
“You’ve certainly done a lot to this little frozen corner of hell.”
The psychic energy level increases, and I realize it’s not coming from Vivian, but from the newcomer. Hmmm.... She appears to be leading with a show of strength, which usually indicates an underlying fear when revealed at a first encounter with an enemy.
“Would you mind pulling your power back in, Coraline?” Vivian states more than asks. “If you’re here to represent the Ancients, as one of their trusted Inner Circle, you should try to show a little class.”
Coraline touches a light blue pin on her jacket lapel, while anger colors her expression. She pushes out farther at the verbal slap from Vivian, the agitated energy feels like a nest of bees pulsing against my aura. My stomach starts to turn. God, I hope I don’t puke. The others will razz me about it for weeks.
“What’s the problem, Alexandria, darling? Afraid to have one of your elders embarrass you in front of your brand-new seethe?”
I’m not sure if the woman shields any portion of her strength or not. But, even an un-experienced vampire, like me, could see her power signature isn’t as high as Vivian’s—that is, if they’ve ever had a taste of the innkeeper’s wrath. Boss lady pitched me to my knees one time and almost made me pee myself, a fact I will never admit to, even under torture. Not something I care to repeat anytime soon. Judging from their interaction, Vivian can successfully shield her power even from vamps older than herself.
Shit. I’m going to need to find a garbage can soon. Glancing around I note Joanna looks equally green. What’s up with this crazy Tribunal bitch?
Paul shoots up from his spot on the couch and races to the front desk. He barely makes it to the trashcan in time. The lobby fills with the pitiful sounds of his retching, followed closely by the smell of regurgitated blood.
“Enough!” Vivian’s face betrays her first hint of irritation.
Quick as a wink, the buzz shuts down and the nausea leaves me. Whew. I would have tossed my cookies next.
Coraline’s face registers shock, but I’m not sure over what. Did she not expect us to get sick, or did Vivian somehow make her stop and take the older vampire by surprise?
“You insult yourself and those you represent with your childish display, Coraline. Put our differences behind us for the week, please.” Smoothing her hair behind one ear, Vivian stares the newcomer down.
Any response from the other woman is cut off by the main door opening. Three large male vampires enter with a much smaller figure bracketed between them. I’d like to say I could take the men individually in a fight—and if we’d still been human, I probably could. But I seriously doubt it now. This power and vampire age shit is humbling.
I pat the Smith and Wesson 500 at my side, reassured at least these fuckers can’t out run my silver.
Glancing over to Drew’s post near the pool entrance, I motion to him with a series of subtle hand movements, conveying my intent to move closer to the front of the foyer. He nods in understanding. I don’t like having so many unknown forces near Vivian and Rafe.
I slip in behind the four new arrivals as the doors whisk closed against the frigid air. Rafe looks up, meeting my eyes, but gives no other outward indication to reveal my presence. The bodyguard vamps stand about ten feet from me and they’re facing away. Obviously, the older vampires can hear me; I never intended this to be a covert movement. More in line with letting them know we aren’t slackers and are watching them.
Coraline moves near the foursome. “I’ll refrain from slinging barbs for the moment,” she says casually, “but don’t think this is over, Alexandria.”
The three guards are dressed all in black and wear hooded masks. I know most fellow vampires love drama, but what’s the point of the hood? It’s got to inhibit their vision in a fight.
Long dark hair falls past the shoulders of the slight frame of the silver chained woman the men surround. She can’t weigh much more than a hundred pounds. This is the badass vamp criminal? She’s the size of a child.
I alter my opinion when I gaze upon her delicate, almond-shaped brown eyes and linger on her tiny waist. Maybe more of a curvy, petite eighteen-year-old with classic china doll good looks.
I always did like the exotic Asian beauties.
“Tell me her name, Cora.” Vivian says.
“You always were one for business first, weren’t you? I’m enjoying this little moment. After all, it was a long flight.”
The old blonde must have recovered from her shock because she decides to pace around Vivian and Rafe in a show of arrogance.
“I always wondered what it was that made you such a successful enforcer. You came on board almost a hundred years after me, and they still haven’t had another one like you.”
A small gasp from Joanna across the room sends Cora’s head whipping around.
“Haven’t told them how old you are? Or what you did before you set up shop as a veritable madame for the undead?”
“Does this pretty speech have a point, Cora?” Vivian glances at her wrist in what looks like a show of annoyance or possibly boredom, I can’t tell.
“No, not really. I volunteered to stoop to the level of delivery girl specifically to come up here to torment you. You’ve still got a lot of enemies in the Tribunal, myself included.” She says the last with a grin on her face.
“Pity.” Vivian looks away and then pointedly back at Cora. “They wouldn’t need my money so badly if the Ancients had invested more wisely in the stock market back in the late nineties.”
Cora’s disgust shows clearly on her face. Man, she’s one nasty bitch. Wonder what Vivian did to her in the past. Vivian watches her with a clear sociopathic detachment, which makes me change that thought real quick.
Nope, on closer consideration, I’ve got no desire to know what happened between these two. All I know is I’d rather be on Vivian’s good side than any other place else on Earth.
“Enjoy this hunt you all have planned. I’m sure it will be the last,” Coraline says.
“Can we get on with this please?” Without waiting for an answer, my master turns her attention back to business. “The theater room in the north wing,” Vivian indicates the hall past the front desk with a sweep of her arm, “will be where you can introduce the felon to the hunters, go over her crimes, and state the rules.”
Vivian walks up to the men near the rogue. With one searing look from her intense green eyes they take a small step to the side, giving her access to the prisoner. “Have you eaten lately?”
The smoking-hot Asian vampire shakes her head.
“Paul? You okay?” Vivian asks, turning toward him.
His voice reveals no indication of his earlier puking. “Yup.”
“Good. Whip her up a pot of blood coffee. Heavy on the blood.”
Without a backward glance, Paul heads off in the direction of the kitchen to fulfill the order.
“Drew,” Vivian continues, “lead the enforcers and their charge to the theater. Asa, follow up and stand guard.”
As we head down the hallway, I hear Vivian issue a few more commands.
“Joanna, personally call every hunter and inform them the briefing starts in thirty minutes.”
The sound of Joanna’s steps, rushing to obey, follows us down the hall.
“Coraline,” Vivian’s voice sounds sickly sweet this time. “Could we speak privately, please?”
The doors ahead swing open at Drew’s push and we usher the four inside before I can hear a response from the Tribunal’s representative in the lobby.
Forty-five minutes later, the theater has less than a quarter of its seats filled with our seven vampire hunters. I sent a text to Cy, once the name Emiko was announced by Coraline two minutes ago. Hopefully, he’ll pull up some info on the fugitive soon. The quiet guards continue to stand at attention near the movie screen, but have not removed their hoods. Drew informed me earlier, in a whispered tone, that the hood protects their identity on this mission while they remain active enforcers for the Tribunal. Not being recognized would give them the element of surprise when tracking a rogue sentenced for death.
He made it sound like being chosen as an enforcer was an honor, but I’m not so sure. To be a solider in a war is different from being an assassin on retainer. But maybe that’s just me.
The whacky Tribunal chick looks like she’s finally going to share some more details. I’m happy to see she’s managed to be in the room with Viv for more than five minutes and not started to spout a bunch of hate. I wonder how Vivian managed such a feat from the woman.
“Vivian informs me the werewolves, who will also attend this hunt, have been caught flying in some bad weather but will be landing within the hour. Since the wolves hunt mainly by smell, they have agreed we can do this portion without them.” She paces in front of the small group, clearly loving the attention. “We’ll wait until they’re settled in and ready to go before officially starting the hunt.”
At this point, Coraline elaborately gestures to the Asian woman standing among the hulking men. As if everyone hadn’t already been checking out the felon.
“Behold, your very own chance to be an enforcer and hunt a fellow vampire.”
The small, round-faced vampire lifts her face defiantly to the group.
“Emiko was once an enforcer herself. She served the Tribunal for five years before deciding she would rather expose our kind in a bloodthirsty killing spree—where six drained bodies of Argentine government officials were left virtually on the Tribunal’s doorstep.
“For the trouble she caused with our relations in Buenos Aires and in murdering key humans collaborating with the Tribunal, she has been sentenced to twelve years of starvation while wearing silver chains. Emiko chose this hunt instead.” Cora’s showmanship has come screaming to the surface, she seems to be thriving on the drama in this pretty little speech. “Since maintaining one’s sanity past ten years in silver has never been achieved, I think she made a wise choice.
“If she can elude capture for five days she will gain her freedom and be allowed to pay the Tribunal a high yearly stipend for her release.”
Nods from the master vampires gathered indicate their understanding.
“If you happen to catch Emiko and can kill her before she kills you, she is yours to drain.” At the surge of excitement this brings in the room, Coraline raises her voice in a dramatic flourish. “Beware. She is over two-hundred-and-fifty-years-old and highly skilled as an enforcer. She will not be easy prey and she will be hunting you—even as you hunt her.”
The following silence feels charged. I know from our briefing, Vivian plans to announce some hotel guidelines next.
“Thank you, Coraline. Please send our collective thanks to the Tribunal of Ancients for allowing this hunt to take place. There are a few guidelines I’d like to point out.”
Vivian raises two small silver manacles and affixes one to Emiko’s right wrist. She moves the heavy silver chains confining the woman to do so, but manages it quickly enough with the help of thick gloves protecting her hands. The second one clicks into position and the chains slide back into place.
“These bracelets hold a liquid silver poison and a needle to inject it into your bloodstream,” she says looking Emiko directly in the eyes. “It will not kill, but will incapacitate you if you try and leave the fifteen square mile compound. Allowing any hunter to kill you easily.”
Vivian turns to face the rest of the room. “There will be no killing of my employees, on either side—mistake or otherwise. To do so means the hunt is called off, no money is returned, I send your asses home, and Emiko goes back to Brazil in chains.
“I know you all agreed to this ahead of time, but I want to make sure we’re clear. Are we?”
Vivian takes a moment to meet the eyes of each hunter and Emiko’s as well. Everyone nods.
“Oh yes, we wouldn’t want to set ‘Alexandria the Great’ loose on the guests now, would we?” chimes in Coraline.
Damn, I guess it was too much to hope she’d hold her venom in for long. I first heard the title in a conversation a few months ago. Unfortunately, I couldn’t turn up anything from my private research on what this Alexandria the Great, may have done.
A gasp goes up in the crowd from half the vampire masters. It’s safe to assume the older ones have heard of my master’s exploits in her old role, even if they didn’t know it was her. Wonder if I can discreetly pump some of them for info or whether that’s not a wise move.
Emiko’s reaction is unexpected. She tilts her head at Vivian, examining the older vampire with an expression I can’t decipher. Sometimes, I really hate being the young one and the low man on the totem pole. Like there’s so much the generals are keeping from the enlisted men. I hated it in the military and I hate it now.
One thing I learned from the Army—there’s a time and a place for questions. And if a person wants answers, they need to determine when the best time is to ask those questions.
Rafe comes forward to remove the silver chains from Emiko. Of everyone in the room, he’s the only one immune to the painful effects of the metal.
Coraline holds off from any more parting shots at Vivian and announces, “Emiko will have a head start of three hours. The rest of you should rest, feed, meditate—prepare yourself however you choose. The vampires and the werewolves will all start out at the same time.”
Rafe discreetly hands Emiko a map and a small flashlight with which to read it. It will help her to know where the sensors for the silver poison have been placed. He whispers to her while opening the door, but all of the undead hear him, “Heed the warning about killing the employees or it won’t be the chains you need to fear. It will be Alexandria.”
No reply comes from Emiko as she slips into the darkness.
As the hunters file out of the room, Drew and I trail them down the hall.
“I’m heading to the command center to make sure everything is in place,” I tell him.
“Good. I’m going to check with Jon and see if the wolves have landed yet.”
He heads off through the lobby toward the front doors, and I turn right to enter the dining room. The guests of the hunters are hanging out sipping hot drinks. By the scent, it appears the humans have coffee and the Indian vampire has some blood mixed in spiced hot tea with milk. Ugh, even I wouldn’t drink that.
I use my master key card to swipe the locked door in the kitchen, which allows me access to the owner’s suite. Plastic cases, from Rafe’s most recent movie marathon, litter the coffee table. The basement door lies in the hall beyond their compact kitchen. I head down, trigger the secret door, and pause a moment when I detect another vampire.
Surprisingly, it’s Joanna who awaits me downstairs in the command center. “Hey, Joanna. What do you need?”
Joanna walks behind me and locks the sliding wall-door separating the old cinderblock basement workroom from the hidden complex of basement rooms.
“I have a need and I want you to scratch it.”
Does she mean what I think she means? Is this my lucky day?
Joanna starts to unbutton her blouse. It is my lucky day—hot damn! Before I know it, she’s throwing the shirt across the room to land on a chair and I’m left staring at a gorgeous set of tits in a black bra.
“Um, okay.” Never one to pass up an opportunity, that’s me. “Here or in one of the side rooms?”
“Anywhere is fine.” She starts in on her belt and my eyes are drawn away from her chest. “Wasn’t that info on Vivian odd? Can you believe she was an enforcer before?”
“Hmm.” There, that seems like a safe answer.
“That angry cheerleader-looking bitch from the Tribunal was really old.”
“Hmm?” Blood is hightailing to my crotch in a pounding rush, words seem beyond my scope right now.
“I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the age of older vamps in the past decade. I’d say Coraline’s power signature felt over seven hundred or close to it.”
“Hmm.” Man, she talks too much. When will she be naked? Maybe I can help. Moving closer, I run my hand down her side and around the back. I’ve got my hand on the bra clasp, about to spring her breasts free when she stoops to lower her pants over her hips.
She’s only wearing a tiny black thong and the sight paralyzes me for an instant. Now that I look at her awesome body, it occurs to me I’ve never been with a vampire lover before. I wonder what it will be like? Geez, I need to turn my brain off and focus on getting my dick in her.
“Have you ever had vampire blood before?”
I raise my eyebrows in question. Obviously I’ve had Vivian’s, we all have.
She looks down and away. “No, I mean from a lover?”
She knows I’m under two years old, so I guess it’s a reasonable question. “No.”
Joanna’s gaze returns to mine. “We’re going to have loads of fun then.” Her eyes fill with heat as she reaches for my shirt.
I quickly move to help; pulling it over my head, tossing it in the same direction hers went.
“I’m going to bite you…” she says, “and I’m going to let you bite me… and then I’m going to…”
God, she’s got to stop talking. I think I know what will shut her up. I unzip my pants and heft my erection out for her to see.
“Oh... But first, I’m going to pay some special attention down here…” With that last comment, she sinks to her knees.
Her hot, moist mouth engulfs the head of my cock and I have one last thought before the pleasurable sensations overtake me: Ahh, blessed silence…