A knock sounded on the door. Alek strode inside, carrying a brown bag. "Phineas came through for us." He set the bag on Katya's desk. "He found the drugs you needed."
Katya peeked inside the bag. Excellent. She'd be able to make two dozen new doses of nightshade. "Thank you, Alek. How is the hunt for the slayers coming?"
Alek winced. "There was no sign of them tonight. I don't know how we can catch them if they've stopped hunting for us."
"Then make them start hunting again. Make them so angry, they have to come after you."
"It's simple, my dear." Katya patted his cheek. "All you have to do is kill some mortals."
Emma dragged herself to work Monday evening. After her date with Angus, she'd been unable to sleep well. Each time she dozed off, her mind and body betrayed her and replayed that glorious kiss. Then she'd wake up and refuse to think about it.
Instead, she considered the new idea of good Vamps versus the Malcontents. She'd heard Austin say that Shanna Whelan insisted there were two different kinds of vampires, but Emma had dismissed that as brainwashing. Any woman married to a vampire would want to think he was good.
Emma also knew that Austin had befriended one of the female vampires during the taping of the reality show. He must have gone through the same learning process she was going through now. And there was no way Austin had been brainwashed. He had the strongest psychic power ever registered at the CIA.
She wasn't sure what exactly had happened to Austin. She only knew that he and Sean had argued, then Austin quit and Sean blacklisted him from any government job. Ever since then, Sean was suspicious of all of them and more paranoid than ever.
When Emma strode into the conference room for the usual seven P.M. meeting, her two fellow team members were already there.
Alyssa frowned at her. "Are you all right?"
With a sigh, she realized she'd done a poor job of covering the dark circles under her eyes. She sat in a chair next to Alyssa. "I haven't been sleeping well."
"Too much partying, huh?" Garrett slurped coffee from a cup that boasted Too Hot to Handle.
While pretty-boy Garrett launched into another chapter of his romantic conquests, Emma tuned him out. She didn't believe half of it, and besides, the last thing she wanted to think about was romance.
Who in their right mind would kiss a vampire? She was lucky she didn't end up with a pierced tongue. And even crazier than that - she'd enjoyed it! Good heavens, what a kiss. Her face burned, just thinking about it.
"Emma," Alyssa whispered. "Are you sure you're not ill? You look awfully flushed."
"I'm... super." She sat up straighter when her boss strode into the room and slammed the door behind him.
Sean Whelan, their team leader, looked even angrier than usual. He marched to the head of the table and set down his laptop. "It's been ten months since my daughter was kidnapped by those vicious demons. Ten months! They've probably drained her dry by now and turned her into one of them."
Not if they drank synthetic blood from bottles like Angus. Emma had been told just the night before that Shanna was happy, but she knew Sean would never believe it. Her friendship with Angus was going to put her in an awkward position at work. This must have been what had happened to Austin. She'd try e-mailing him to see what else he had learned.
"Garrett, I want you to continue watching the Russians," Sean ordered. He turned to Alyssa. "How is your research going on Romatech?"
"Very well," Alyssa answered. "I've learned the names of the vampire employees by running their license plates. I'm unable to go inside, of course, due to their security measures, but last week I successfully hacked into their mainframe."
"Excellent!" Sean leaned forward. "Did you learn anything about Shanna? I need to know where she's living."
Alyssa winced. "There was nothing personal in the files about Draganesti or your daughter. But I did find a list of cities and towns where they're shipping the Vampire Fusion Cuisine. Obviously, those must be locations where vampires exist. I'd like to go investigate."
Emma frowned. Those vampires were all drinking their meals from bottles. They belonged to the good camp, and yet they were the ones ending up on Sean Whelan's database of vampires to be eliminated.
Sean sighed. "All right. But I still want someone watching Romatech. My daughter's been seen there several times. I'm hoping someone can manage to follow her to her new home." Sean glanced at Emma. "Can you take over while Alyssa's out of town?"
"Yes." Although Emma was no longer sure she wanted to find Shanna. What if the woman was truly happy? But how could a marriage work out between a mortal and a vampire?
"Damned bloodsuckers," Sean muttered as he searched through a file on his laptop.
As she had many times before, Emma wondered if her boss had been bitten. She'd suspected several times that he must have been the victim of a vampire attack. His hatred was so intense.
She'd considered telling him a few times about her slaying activities. In theory, she knew he would understand. But she also knew how obsessed he was with finding his daughter. He'd be furious that she hadn't interrogated the vampires before killing them. But how could she? The only way she managed to kill them was to take them by surprise.
With a sigh, she realized the point was now moot. It looked like she was going to have to retire from slaying for a while. If what Angus said was true, and the Malcontents were going to hunt in groups, then she needed to take a break.
"Here it is." Sean turned his laptop screen to face them. "I was watching Draganesti's house Friday night and spotted someone new. Anyone recognize this guy?"
The blood drained from Emma's face as she watched the surveillance video. There on the sidewalk, approaching Roman Draganesti's house, was Angus MacKay. That was the first night she'd met him, when she'd thought he was a gorgeous and mysterious human. If only he were.
"Another Scotsman in a kilt," Alyssa murmured. "Aren't there several living in Draganesti's house?"
"I wouldn't call it living, but yes." Sean pointed at the claymore on Angus's back. "This one is different. He's heavily armed, as you can see."
"He looks like one of the Scottish guys we saw in Central Park," Garrett said. "You know, that night when the Russians vampires were there. I saw a bunch of guys in kilts, but they all look the same to me."
Emma shook her head. How could anyone ever forget meeting Angus MacKay? She watched him on the computer screen as he climbed the steps to Draganesti's townhouse. He paused at the top, looked around, then vanished.
Emma sighed. Yes, he was, and if she was smart, she'd stay far away from him. He was much too tempting.
"Well, Wallace? What do you say?"
Emma jumped when she realized Sean was watching her. "Pardon?"
"You watch the vampire Nightly News every night," Sean said. "Ever seen this Scotsman before?"
She carefully kept her face blank. "I've never seen him on the news." That much was true.
Sean crossed his arms. "You've never seen him at all?"
"No." Heat crept into her cheeks. What was she doing? Lying to protect Angus? No, she calmed herself. She was simply protecting herself and her own secret slaying activities. She couldn't talk about Angus without explaining her own business in the park.
Sean closed his laptop. "I'm out of patience with these stake-outs. We need to actually do something." He headed to the door. "Go to your assignments for now. I'll let you know what I decide."
Within ten minutes the men were gone. Alyssa was busy at her computer, hacking into Romatech's files. Emma settled at her desk and turned on the television that was rigged to receive the Digital Vampire Network.
At eight, the Nightly News began with Stone Cauffyn droning on in his monotonous voice. Emma watched it each night while she scanned police reports, looking for possible vampire criminal activity.
She tried focusing on the police reports, but the words blurred before her weary eyes. What was Angus doing tonight? She'd checked her e-mail numerous times, but there'd been no message from him. Was he having second thoughts? Maybe he'd come to his senses and realized, like her, that a relationship between them was doomed. And that hurt.
She turned up the volume on the telly. A commercial was on, selling some sort of exercise DVD, starring the famous Parisian fashion model Simone. It sounded silly to Emma, but one part caught her attention - a warning that the superior lifestyle of the nonbiting Vamp could lead to gum weakness or even fang loss, therefore making exercise a necessity.
The nonbiting Vamp? Here it was - more evidence that Angus was telling the truth, and so-called Vamps no longer fed off humans. Why would DVN lie about it when they believed their audience was made up entirely of the Undead? As far as Emma knew, she was the only human watching DVN, and the vampires didn't know it. So whatever she saw on DVN was probably true.
Two factions - the Vamps and the Malcontents. Why would Angus object to her killing Malcontents, other than his concern for her safety? He had said something about leaving vampire justice to him. Did that mean he killed Malcontents? If he did, why not let her help him? They could be a team.
What was she thinking? She was already on a team. She closed her aching eyes. This was all too confusing. Her loyalties were getting all screwed up.
She refocused on the police reports. There on page two was the news she dreaded the most. A body had been found this morning in Central Park. A woman's body with her throat slashed.
"Nothing. I spilled coffee." Emma strode into the kitchen area where she could fume in private. Damn! Another vampire murder. She couldn't just ignore this. Either Angus MacKay was going to help her, or she was going solo. She was not going to let more innocent people die.
She hurried to her laptop to write him an e-mail, but something on the telly caught her attention. Corky Courrant had started her gossip show called Live with the Undead. Half of the screen was taken up with a picture of Roman Draganesti.
"Remember, you heard it here first!" Corky screeched in her strident voice. "It's the most miraculous news ever! Roman Draganesti is about to become the first vampire in history to be a father!"
"What?" Alyssa came running over.
"Yes!" Corky laughed. "Hard to believe, isn't it? But just look at this exclusive video we obtained last night. Roman and his mortal wife have started going to Mass on Sunday night, and my cameraman caught them as they were arriving."
Emma punched the record button on the television's VCR. If there was news about Shanna, her boss would want to see it.
A video flashed onto the screen, fuzzy at first, then sharpening on a building in the distance. Emma recognized it as Romatech Industries. The cameraman was obviously far away, but he managed to zoom in on the front door as a black car pulled up to the entrance. A youthful-looking, kilted Scotsman climbed out of the driver's seat and opened the car's back door. Roman Draganesti stepped out, and next to him was Shanna Whelan. A huge, very pregnant Shanna Whelan.
Emma's heart leaped. Good heavens! How could such a thing happen? Surely a vampire couldn't father a baby?
The video stopped, and Corky reappeared on the screen, grinning. "I know what you're thinking! You're thinking Draganesti couldn't be the father. But he's a scientific genius, the inventor of synthetic blood and Vampire Fusion Cuisine. So, I for one am thoroughly convinced." She waved the camera closer, then whispered, "He is the father."
Emma pressed a hand to her chest. Good God, what was Shanna thinking? Was she having a half-human, half-vampire baby?
"Oh my God," Alyssa repeated. "Sean is going to go ballistic."
"We have to tell him," Emma said.
Alyssa scoffed. "Don't look at me. He said I could go out of town, and I am out of here." She rushed to her desk and gathered papers. "He's going to go berserk."
Emma had to agree. How on earth would she break the news?
Never trust anyone or anything. Sean Whelan had learned that the hard way. And when you added vampires with their mind-controlling capabilities into the mix, then anyone could be turned against you. Anyone.
After his daughter's betrayal, Sean had hoped to recapture her by staking out Roman Draganesti's townhouse on the Upper East Side. He'd left a surveillance van parked across the street for the first few weeks, but the damned vampires had caught on. His tires had been slashed, and his surveillance equipment stolen. He'd tried a variety of cars and SUVs, but parking was such a bitch, he couldn't always find a place close enough.
So, eight months ago, he'd rented a small room catty-corner across the street. It was damned expensive, but Homeland Security had gladly footed the bill when he'd explained he was observing a terrorist cell.
He strode into the tiny room and with a swipe of his arm, he cleared a space on the small table for his laptop. Empty take-out containers tumbled onto the floor, and he reminded himself for the jillionth time to take out the trash. Later.
For now, he was anxious to see what the video camera had recorded the night before in his absence. The camera squatted on top of a tripod by the window, its lens carefully positioned to peek between two slats of the blinds. Sean peered out the window. Draganesti's house was usually quiet this early in the evening, and tonight appeared no different.