“As much as it pains me to admit,” I say once the furry fucker shuts up, “I agree with Jon. He has a smart suggestion and I think you can trust Asa to make good decisions.” Dria’s expression reveals some sexual frustration, which is clearly much better than her earlier deadly anger—I’m glad to see our sparring did her some good. “Drew filled me in on Asa’s latest field report.”
“And?” my oh-so-patient wife demands.
“Emiko tracks the hunters while they look for her. She’s damn good and Asa thinks she knows he’s watching her,” I answer.
“I found a trail leading from Melvyn’s cabin to the hot tubs and then to the pool wing,” says Jon.
Vivian taps her nails on the table, which is a much less stressful habit than her angry pacing. “So the killer came in the way the hunters have been instructed?”
“Yeah.” Jon nods. “Want to have Drew call the others in and bring them up to speed? Like I said, it would give me a chance to sniff out who may have killed the loner.”
“Alright, it’s as good a plan as any,” Dria replies.
My wife heads down to the basement, as Jon and I depart for the dining room.
Stan leans back in his chair, a cunning look on his face, staring off into the lobby. He sips casually from a cut-glass tumbler filled with blood. The sight is a little disconcerting; most of the guests drink from mugs or straight from a vein. I shake off my repugnance at his glass selection and put on my host face. “How are you feeling, Stan?”
The crazy bastard’s gaze swings my way, making me glad I’m not Emiko. “Not bad. This terrain is a challenge. Very hard to determine the criminal’s whereabouts.”
“Weren’t you paired with Stephen?” I ask as Jon moves from behind me to the entrance near the lobby, positioning himself to scent the hunters as they trickle in.
“Yes, I was. But the tiny bugger couldn’t keep up and I left him about an hour ago.”
Liam and Jet enter from the lobby, wrapped in huge terrycloth robes and big smiles on their faces.
“Hot damn! I haven’t felt this alive since we were last here,” says the normally stoic Scotsman.
Jet heads behind the counter; already familiar with where we keep the blood bags. “And that’s one hell of a battle axe you brought with you,” the Asian vampire adds while loading the microwave with two pouches.
Sanji trails in while the two guzzle their meals mixed with coffee, the perennial vampire favorite. The petite Indian vampire has a rosy glow to her skin. The cold may have affected her, but she’s ingested such a large amount of vampire blood from Bebe she appears content.
A smug smile forms on her face, “Did you three hear about Bebe yet?”
“No,” I say. “I was waiting until everyone arrived to tell them.”
Stan perks up, slamming the tilted chair back to the floor. He dabs blood from his mouth with a napkin. “What happened to her?”
“She caught Emiko and they fought.” Sanji stares out the window, serene as she recalls the memory. “Unfortunately for her, but fortunate for me, Emiko won.”
The others sit in silence a moment, whether from shock or out of respect, I’m not sure. I glance over at Jon to see what he thinks about the four undead in regards to Melvyn and he shakes his head. Crap. Could mean it was Bebe or Donald. Jon will have to venture out to where Asa cleaned up her body to rule her out.
“We can’t let this ex-enforcer get the best of us,” Stan says quietly.
“What do you suggest?” asks Jet. “We do something other than what we have been doing—which is hunting her to the best of our abilities?”
“Is it truly the best you can do?” comes his sociopathic response. “Are you out there having fun or are you hunting to kill and drink her blood?” A sneer forms on the man’s good ‘ole boy features. “You both sit there in your fluffy robes like you’ve just come from the showers after a hard squash match.”
As the tension in the area rises, Jon wisely slips out of the room. It’s never a good idea for a delectable werewolf to be too close when the shit hits the fan with angry vampires.
“Hey now,” I say in my most diplomatic and soothing tones, “each person here came for their own reasons. Do you think it’s wise to pick fights amongst yourselves or better to focus your energy on the prize?”
Liam gives me a nod of respect. Jet picks up his mug, leaving with a parting shot to Stan, “Shut up, you crazy fuck. I don’t need to prove myself to you.”
Sanji still sits calmly, with a cat-ate-the-canary grin on her face, obviously not affronted by the words of her fellow vampires. “Where’s my Vikram?”
The possessive tones in her question rings clear; she really does treat him more like a bonded mate than a member of her seethe. “Vivian saw him in the gym meditating and let him be,” I say.
“Then I shall do the same,” she says in her clipped, old-fashioned accent. “Perhaps I’ll try relations with a human for a change of pace...” and as she trails off she locks eyes with me.
Crap! Does she think I’d go for a roll in the hay just because she’s feeling high on vampire blood and wants a human? “Umm... er... ah...”
Liam saves me from forming a coherent response. “You touch him and our hostess won’t be happy.”
Sanji giggles, “Look how uncomfortable he is... isn’t it cute?”
“Oh, yes,” Stan chimes in. “I can see I’m surrounded by vicious killers eager to hunt one of their own. You people are pathetic.” He rises from the table, takes his half-full glass with him, and ventures out into the lobby.
A commotion near the front doors brings me to me feet and I follow the affable looking killer. Asa knocks the snow off his boots on the mat near the door and nods in my direction.
“Any news?” I ask. Much to my dismay, Sanji has trailed after me as well. Liam brings up the rear, so I don’t think I’m in immediate danger of her trying to jump my bones.
“I think another hunter is missing. Who has come in so far to warm up?”
“Missing?” Stan booms from his perch on the sofa in the lobby’s conversation area. “How the fuck does a hunter go missing with a GPS?” He waves one of the cell phones we handed out last night.
Asa digs in his outer coat pocket, producing a similar phone “By dropping this in the snow. I found it near the employee apartments on the northern edge of the property.”
By now, Jet has heard the conversation and joined the small group forming in the lobby. Stephen wanders in from the pool and watches the proceedings with interest.
“Who hasn’t come in yet?’” Jet asks me.
“None of the wolves and Donald.”
Asa takes off his coat and hangs it on the wall. “Did you tell them about Melvyn, boss?”
Sanji’s liquid tones draw all eyes to her. “I don’t remember a Melvyn in the theater at our briefing.”
“He’s a wolf,” I reply. “And he was murdered right after the release of the hunters.”
“Murdered?” Liam exclaims. “Are you sure?”
I look over to Jon who shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders; indicating he doesn’t think the killer is among the vampires in the room. “Oh yeah, there was no mistaking the blood bath.”
Stephen takes a loud slurp from his mug, “Why are we just hearing of this now?”
“We had to be sure it wasn’t one of you,” I say in my most diplomatic voice.
The good ‘ole boy vamp lumbers to his feet. “What the fuck? You don’t think Emiko did it, but one of us?”
I raise my hands in a placating gesture as Asa crosses the room to stand by my side. “Settle down.” Jon pushes off the wall and moves near the front desk, directly to my left. “We’re not accusing you, but facts are facts. Emiko’s scent was not at the scene.”
A rustling above turns all faces upward. Coraline leans over the railing in the balcony loft space above the lobby. “Trouble in paradise?” she asks with unmistakable humor in her tone. “I see Alexandria’s men forming a united front. So soon?”
Dria strolls in from the dining room, pent up strength fairly boiling at her shields. “What seems to be the problem?” she asks, knowing full well all that’s taken place in here the last few minutes. “Did you all not pay to come up here and remove your civilized masks—to hunt with your true nature?” She heads past me and walks over to the enraged vampire holding an empty crystal glass. “Was there a part of you that thought this was going to be easy?”
Stan shakes his head.
“Then be advised—there are two killers on the property. One we know of and one we don’t. Your numbers have already been cut by two—Bebe and Melvyn. Trust no one. Rely on your own skills... and you just may come out of this week alive.”
With a dramatic flourish she turns back, throws me a wink only Asa and Jon can see, and tilts her head up at the blond looking down on us all. “We promised excitement and adventure. We warned of death and danger. Now the rest is up to them.”
She then aims her gaze at every hunter, pausing individually on each one—Sanji, Liam, Stephen, Jet and Stan, “You can bow out and enjoy the rest of your week inside the inn, or you can warm up and head back out into the cold to match your wits against two killers. Which will it be?”
As the vampires talk amongst themselves, slowly building the fire Dria started, Asa and I follow my wife’s subtle head tilt to join her in the dining room.
“Let me handle these guys,” she says. “I can get them back outside in a little bit and we can figure out what to do next.”
Raised voices from the lobby bounce off the walls and the three-story high lofted ceiling. Heated tones convey their passion and excitement over the recent updates. I shake my head at the sheer madness of this endeavor. Excited killers make me uneasy, go figure.
Turning to the shaved vamp I say, “Asa, you need to find Emiko before the hunters do. See if she’s the reason Donald is missing.” I pass a hand tiredly over my face.
“Darling,” my wife says, “go, get some rest. Even a couple of hours are better than nothing. Asa, report back when you find something.”
Nodding my agreement, I plant a light kiss on her lips and head through the kitchen to our suite. Dria’s voice reaches me as I open the door, “If either one of you sees Sanji go near him again you need to step in. It would be bad if I started killing the guests, yes?”