After four hundred and ninety-three years of teleporting from one place to another, Angus MacKay still felt an urge to peek under his kilt to ensure everything had arrived in fine working condition. There were some areas where a man, vampire or not, would hate to find himself shortchanged. He resisted, though, since he wasn't alone. He'd just materialized in Roman Draganesti's office at Romatech Industries, and the former monk was sitting behind his desk, watching him calmly.
Angus swung his claymore off his back. "All right, old friend, who can I kill for ye tonight?"
Roman chuckled. "Always ready for action. Thank God you never change."
Angus winced inwardly. He'd only been kidding. "Ye... do want me to kill someone?"
"Hopefully not. I think a good scare will be enough."
"Ah." From the corner of his eye, Angus saw the door open. "You couldna have Connor do the scaring? He's a verra frightful-looking man."
"I heard that." Connor entered the room, carrying a folder.
Grinning, Angus took a seat and lay the sheath containing his favorite claymore across his lap. "So what's the problem?"
"The slayer is at it again. A vampire was murdered last night in Central Park," Roman explained. "A Russian Malcontent."
"Och, that's good." Angus nodded. One less Malcontent to worry about. Those bloody vampires refused to modernize and drink the synthetic blood manufactured at Romatech.
"No, it's bad," Roman countered. "Katya Miniskaya just called and accused us of the murder."
At the sound of her name, Angus's grip tightened around the leather sheath. He kept his face blank. "I'm surprised she's still coven master."
Connor sat in the chair next to Angus. "She's vicious enough for it. I heard some of the Russian men complained about having a female master, and they dinna live through the night."
"Aye, she can be verra vicious." Angus felt Roman's sympathetic gaze on him and looked away. The monk knew too much. Fortunately, any transgressions he'd confessed to his old friend were held in strictest confidence.
"Katya's threatening us," Connor continued. "If anyone else in her coven is slain, she'll declare war on us."
"Bugger," Angus muttered. "So who is the slayer? He may be causing trouble, but he deserves a medal." He looked at his employee.
Connor snorted. "I dinna do it, and neither did my men. Ye pay us to protect Roman, his wife, his home, and his business, and there's only three of us for the job. We doona have time to wander about Central Park."
Angus nodded. As owner of MacKay Security and Investigation, he provided protection for a number of important coven masters like Roman. He'd recently reassigned five of Connor's men. "I'm sorry to leave ye shorthanded, but I need every available man in the field. 'Tis imperative we locate Casimir before he... "
Angus didn't want to say the words. Hell, he didn't even want to think them. For three hundred years, they'd believed the world's most evil vampire was dead, only to discover he was still lurking about and still intent on murder and destruction.
"Any luck finding him?" Roman asked.
"Nay. Nothing but false leads." Angus drummed his fingers on the leather sheath in his lap. "So do ye have any idea who the slayer is? Could he be the same one who killed a few Malcontents last summer?"
"We believe so." Roman sat forward, leaning on his elbows. "Connor thinks he's working for the CIA."
Angus blinked. "A mortal killing vampires? 'Tis highly unlikely."
"We think it's one of the Stake-Out team." Connor tapped the folder he was carrying. Written in bold letters across the front was Stake-Out Team.
There was an awkward pause, since they all knew the leader of the Stake-Out team was Roman's mortal father-in-law.
Angus cleared his throat. "Ye think Shanna's father is the slayer? No offense to yer wife, Roman, but I wouldna mind scaring the shit out of Sean Whelan."
Roman sighed. "He is a... nuisance."
Angus agreed, though he would have used more colorful language. "How many did the slayer kill last summer?"
"Three," Connor answered.
Angus narrowed his eyes. "Why did he stop for a while, then start killing again?"
"Since the beginning of March, two mortals have been killed in Central Park, their throats slashed," Roman explained.
"To cover up bite marks," Angus concluded. It was an old vampire trick. "So the Malcontents started this, and the slayer is exacting revenge."
"Yes," Roman agreed. "After those mortals were murdered, I threatened to run Katya and her coven out of the country. So it's logical for her to assume we're the ones retaliating."
"Aye. No one would ever believe a mortal capable of killing a vampire." Angus frowned. This was lousy timing. He didn't have time to go hunting for some mortal slayer, not when Casimir was growing his army by transforming criminals and murderers into vampires. The evil vampires needed to be stopped before they outnumbered the good Vamps and another war erupted. No doubt that was exactly why the Malcontents were stirring up trouble at this time. They wanted to distract Angus and his employees from their true purpose.
"Hi, guys!" The door swung open, and Gregori strode inside. "What's up?" His grin faded as he studied everyone's faces. "Sheesh, you look like you've been to a funeral. What happened, MacKay? Did you get a run in your fancy knee socks?"
"They're called hose," Angus grumbled.
Gregori snorted. "Oh, that's manly. Wait, I know what happened. You put your kilt on backwards and when you sat down, ouch! Your little sword-shaped kilt pin poked you in the ass."
Angus arched an eyebrow at Gregori, then glanced at Connor. "How can it be that ye havena killed this one?"
Gregori blinked. "Excuse me?"
Roman chuckled as he fumbled in a desk drawer. "Play nice while I'm gone."
"Ye're leaving?" Angus asked.
"I'm going to Shanna's doctor appointment with her." He set a bottle of reddish-amber liquid onto the desk. It boasted a shiny gold label that said Blissky. "This is for you, Angus. We start selling it next week."
"Och, good." Angus stood and picked up the bottle. He'd been waiting for Roman to finish his latest Fusion Cuisine drink. "I've sorely missed the taste of good Scotch whisky."
"Enjoy." Roman headed for the door. "I'll be back in an hour or so. Gregori will let me know what you decided."
Angus dragged his eyes away from the bottle of Blissky. Why was Roman's mortal wife going to the doctor at night? "Is there a problem with the bairn?"
"No. Everything's fine." Roman avoided looking at Angus.
Bugger. There was a problem. The monk had always been a lousy liar.
"Boy, you should see Shanna. I swear she's huge." Gregori spread his arms wide enough to indicate a hippopotamus.
Roman cleared his throat.
Gregori winced. "But she's still as lovely as ever."
Roman smiled faintly. "I'll talk to you later, Gregori. And thank you, Angus, for helping us find this slayer."Angus smiled back. "Ye know me, I'm always ready for a good hunt." When Roman shut the door, he turned to Connor and Gregori. "All right, you two. What's wrong with the bairn?""Nothing." Connor slanted Gregori a warning look."Yeah, right." Gregori rolled his eyes, then circled the desk to sit in Roman's chair.Angus frowned as he opened the bottle of Blissky. He'd get the truth out of Gregori later."Back to business." Connor dropped his folder on the desk. "These are the profiles and photos of the Stake-Out team, minus Austin Erickson, who's working for us now."Angus yanked out the cork and was rewarded with the smell of fine Scotch whisky. "Maybe Austin knows who the slayer is."Connor winced. "He does. He told me last summer he'd convinced the slayer to stop.""Bloody hell, he dinna say who it was?""Nay." Connor sighed. "I should have pressed him harder. I tried calling him just now, but he and Darcy have gone undercover in Hungary, looking for Casimir.""Bugger," Angus muttered, then gulped down some Blissky. The concoction of synthetic blood and fine whisky burned his throat, wove a warm trail to his belly, and left a smoky aftertaste on his tongue. He slammed the bottle down. "Och, that was good.""It smells good." Gregori reached for the bottle.Angus grabbed the bottle and sat on the desk.Connor smiled as he opened the folder. "One of these four people is the slayer."Gregori picked up the first profile. "Sean Whelan. Boo, hiss. I betcha he's the one.""'Tis true that Whelan hates us, especially after his daughter married Roman." Connor retrieved the profile from Gregori. "But Austin acts protective of the slayer, and he wouldna feel that way about a former boss who blacklisted him."Angus enjoyed another gulp of Blissky. "'Tis no' Whelan. The man hasna got the balls for it."Connor handed him the next profile. "This is Garrett Manning.""Whoa!" Gregori jumped to his feet, pointing at Garrett's photo. "That guy was on the reality show last summer." He gave Connor a stunned look. "You told me Austin was masquerading as a contestant, but you didn't say anything about this guy."Connor shrugged. "There was no reason to tell you.""Aye." Angus nodded. "Ye're not important enough to know everything."Gregori made a face. "Piss off."Connor chuckled. "I seriously doubt Garrett is the slayer. He has verra little psychic power, and he was busy doing the reality show last summer when the first slayings occurred.""Well, who else is here?" Gregori turned over Garrett's photo. "Whoa, a babe.""Aye." Connor nodded. "The last two are female.""A female mortal killing male vampires?" Angus plunked his bottle on the desk. "'Tis no' possible."Gregori snickered. "So much for your theory about needing balls." He made a grab for the bottle of Blissky.Angus stood, taking his bottle with him.Connor passed him the next profile. "A female slayer would explain Austin's protectiveness.""Whoa, baby. She's hot." Gregori grabbed the photo.Angus studied the profile on Alyssa Barnett. Psychic power: five. She was brand-new to the CIA. No field experience prior to the Stake-Out team. "She's no' the slayer.""Bummer." Gregori dropped the photo and reached for the next profile. "How about this one? Emma Wallace."Angus stiffened. "The Wallace?""You mean like Braveheart?" Gregori's eyes widened. "Hey, did you guys know him?"Connor snorted. "The puir man was executed long before we were born." He turned to Angus. "'Tis a common name these days.""'Tis the name of a warrior." Angus snatched the profile from Gregori. Psychic power: seven. Black belt in several styles of martial arts. Trained by MI6 in antiterrorism. His heart began to pound. Could it be true? Could the slayer be a female?"Sweet." Gregori was practically drooling over her photo.Angus set down his bottle and yanked the photo from Gregori's grasping fingers. His heart stammered and lunged up his throat. No wonder Gregori was panting like a hound dog. She had creamy pale skin that contrasted dramatically with her rich brown hair. Her eyes were a golden-brown that glimmered like amber. There was a sharp intelligence in her eyes. A strong will. A fierce passion that marked her as a warrior."She's the one," he whispered.Connor shook his head. "We canna be sure until we catch the slayer in the act."Angus set her photo down. Her eyes seemed to be following him, calling to him. "We'll catch her. Tonight. Connor, you take the northern half of the park, and I'll take the southern half.""I'll come." Gregori took a swig from Angus's bottle. "I can spot a good-looking babe a mile off.""Hey." Angus grabbed his bottle back. He'd been so intent on Miss Wallace's photo, he hadn't seen Gregori nabbing his Blissky. "And what will ye do when a black-belt slayer knocks ye down and whips out her wooden stake?""Oh, come on, dude." Gregori straightened his tie. "No woman wants to kill a sharp-dressed man.""Angus is right." Connor gathered up the profiles and photos and closed the folder. "Ye're no' prepared to fight a slayer. Stay here and tell Roman what we decided to do.""Damn." Gregori tugged at his shirt cuff. "Not fair."Angus removed a pewter flask from his sporran and filled it with Blissky. "'Twill be a long night. This will keep me warm.""I'll fetch my claymore, and we can go." Connor headed for the door."Wait." Gregori's mouth twitched. "You two guys are going to Central Park in the middle of the night, wearing skirts?" He laughed. "No one's gonna believe you're looking for a woman."Angus glanced down at his kilt. "I dinna bring any trousers."Gregori snorted. "You mean you own some?""Doona worry." Connor rested a hand on the doorknob. "Today was St. Paddy's Day. The city is full of men in kilts. No one will think twice about it."