"I'll take you." Angus punched in a number on his phone. "Ian? Ye wanted advance warning. This is it. I'm coming in with two." He dropped his phone back into his sporran, then wrapped one arm around Emma and pulled her close. Then he motioned for Phineas to approach.
"'Tis either us or the Malcontents," Angus told him. "Do ye want to spend an eternity attacking the innocent just to survive?"
Phineas took a hesitant step forward. "But I don't even know you, man."
"I'm Angus MacKay." He grasped Phineas around the shoulders. "Ye've made the right decision."
Phineas snorted. "Maybe I'm just coming for the Blissky."
Everything went black, but only for a few seconds. Emma's feet landed solidly in the foyer of Roman's townhouse.
Ian was standing by the staircase, his weapon drawn. His gaze passed over her, clearly not seeing her as a threat, then focused on Phineas. "Who are you?" He marched toward Phineas, raising his sword.
"Shit!" Phineas ducked behind Angus. "What's with you guys and the swords?"
"'Tis all right, Ian," Angus said. "I brought him here on purpose."
Ian nodded. "I had to make sure he hadn't coerced ye somehow." He slid his claymore back into its sheath.
Phineas peeked around Angus. "You know, you guys wouldn't have to act so macho all the time if you weren't wearing those skirts. It's called compensation, you know."
Ian grimaced. "Are ye certain I canna skewer him?"
"Nay." Angus patted Phineas on the back. "He's going to stay here for a while."
Ian gave him a dubious look. "Who are ye, exactly?"
"Oh." Ian's eyes widened. "Ye're here for Shanna then?"
"I didn't do it!" Phineas stepped back, raising his hands. "I don't even know a Shanna."
"That's what I always say." Phineas planted his hands on his hips. "But does anyone ever believe me? No."
"We believe you." Angus turned to Ian. "He's no' a real doctor. His title is somewhat... honorary in nature."
"That's right." Phineas nodded. "That's me, I'm honorary."
"And he's working for me now," Angus announced.
Emma smiled. Tonight had given her an excellent opportunity to watch Angus in action. She liked what she saw. He was a noble and kindhearted man.
He folded his arms over his chest, studying Phineas. "Can ye fight, lad?"
"What do you think? I'm from the Bronx."
"Ye must follow our rules," Angus continued. "And the main rule is ye can never harm a mortal again. No biting. Ye'll take yer meals from a bottle. Can ye do that?"
"Hell, yeah." Phineas looked at Ian. "Hey, you got any more of that Blissky around here? I'm still hungry."
"No more Blissky tonight," Angus ordered. "Ian, bring him a warm bottle of Type O."
"Sure." Ian strode to the kitchen.
Phineas wandered around the foyer. "You all stay here?"
"I'm just visiting," Angus explained. "Connor, Ian, and Dougal live here. Ye can live here, too."
"No shit?" Phineas's eyes lit up. He peeked into the library. "Cool."
"I expect ye to work for me."
"In exchange for room and board. I get it." Phineas peered into the living room. "Whoa, what a mother of wide-screen TVs. Do you get the Knicks?"
"Ye'll be working under Connor, and ye'll be paid twice a month."
Phineas spun around to stare at Angus. "Paid? Like real paychecks?"
Phineas's mouth dropped open. "No one's ever offered me a real job before."
Angus regarded him sternly. "Doona make me regret it."
"No, no. I'll be cool. I - I need a job. I have family that depends on me. I can send them some money, right?"
"Of course. But ye canna tell them what ye have become, or what kind of work ye're doing. Believe me, they willna understand."
"I kinda figured that." Phineas's eyes glistened with tears. "I have a little brother and sister. They're staying with my aunt, but she's got diabetes real bad, so she can't work. They all depend on me, and I - I've been real worried about them."
"You have no parents?" Emma asked.
Phineas shook his head. "My mom died of AIDS, and my dad ran off when I was little. I've been worried sick about my family. They don't know what happened to me, and those damned Russians wouldn't let me go."
Angus nodded. "Ian can drive ye home for a wee visit." He removed a wad of bills from his sporran. "This is an advance on yer first paycheck. Leave it with yer family, for I canna guarantee how often ye can go back to see them."
Ian came back with a bottle of blood which he passed to Phineas. "I'm Ian MacPhie. I still doona know yer real name."
"Phineas McKinney." He took a swig from the bottle.
Ian studied him with narrowed eyes. "I've known a few McKinneys over the years, but they never looked like him."
Angus shrugged. "He's one of us now. After ye drive him home for a wee visit, ye need to start his training."
"What training?" Phineas gulped down more blood.
"Oh hell, brother, I already know how to fence things."
Phineas's mouth dropped open. "You mean I get one of those gargantuan mother switchblades?"
"A claymore, aye." Ian grabbed Phineas by the arm and led him to the front door. "Ye'll be a warrior just like us."
"Cool." Phineas glanced back at Angus before leaving. "But I ain't wearing no skirt!"
He snorted. "I dinna help him entirely out of kindness. The Malcontents outnumber us, and Roman is opposed to transforming more honorable vampires. It puts us in a bind."
"I see." Emma nodded, then smiled. "But I still think you're sweet." He'd seen a goodness in Phineas that many would have overlooked.
Angus stepped closer to her. "So ye find me attractive, do ye?"
"Yes. And I trust you." What a huge change in just a few days. Only Angus could have managed that.
He held her by the shoulders. "Then trust me on this. Ye're in grave danger. I want ye to spend the night with me."
Somehow Emma didn't feel that a night alone with Angus MacKay would be entirely danger-free. But it would definitely be exciting. "It's not as bad as you think."
Angus frowned at her. "Alek knows ye're the slayer. No doubt he's told Katya by now, and they're looking to murder you."
"Maybe, but they don't know my name or where I live. Until they figure that out, I'm relatively safe."
"Relatively is no' good enough. They know ye're mortal and easy to kill. They know I'm helping you."
"All the more reason for us to separate."
She fought the urge to melt into his arms. "It's not that I don't appreciate your concern. You're very kind - "
"Kind, my arse. 'Tis more a case of pride and stubbornness. I'm determined to keep ye safe, lass, and I willna be thwarted. I'm a man of my word."
An honorable, medieval knight in shining armor. He was so irresistible, she could almost forget about his undead status. Almost, but not quite. She touched his cheek. "I know you're an honorable man, but I don't think I should be alone with you."
With a gasp, Emma spun around. Two men were standing by the staircase. Very handsome men. One was wearing a kilt. She recognized him as Robby from Paris. The other man was wearing an expensive suit and a knowing smirk. They must have teleported in.
"The answering machine was on." Robby dropped his cell phone into his sporran. "We heard ye needed help, Angus."
"Indeed." The suited one smiled slowly as his gaze swept over Emma. "I can see your hands are full."
She blushed. Was there no privacy at all in the vampire world? At least tonight she was fully dressed. She strengthened her mental firewall to block all attempts at telepathy.
"Thank ye for coming." Angus strode toward the front door and punched a button on the security panel. Then he approached the visitors and patted Robby on the back. "Thank ye for coming, but are ye leaving Jean-Luc unguarded?"
Robby shrugged. "He insisted he dinna need a nurse-maid, and ye needed me more." He bowed to Emma. "How do ye do, Miss Wallace?"
"I'm fine, thank you." Emma adjusted the strap to her bag on her shoulder. The stakes rattled.
The one in a suit smiled. "La signorina likes to live dangerously."
Emma recognized his voice as the first one who had spoken. His Italian accent was faint, but still there.
Angus motioned toward him. "This is Jack from Venice."
He rolled his eyes. "Angus is always trying to anglicize me. I am Giacomo di Venezia."
With a snort, Angus glanced at Emma. "If he tells ye his family name is Casanova, doona believe it."
"Ah." Giacomo placed a hand over his heart. "You wound me, old friend." He bowed to Emma. "Consider me at your service, signorina."
Who were these guys? Rob Roy and Casanova? Emma couldn't believe how much her life had changed in just a few nights. It was enough to drive her to drinking Blissky sans blood.
"Any news about the search for Casimir?" Angus asked.
"The latest rumors indicate he's somewhere in Eastern Europe," Robby answered.
"We can rule out Poland," Giacomo added. "I was just there with Zoltan and his men. We found a village that experienced a number of unexplained, sudden deaths a month ago. We believe he was there, but has moved south."
"Then we're catching up with him. Good." Angus nodded. "Meanwhile, I have an assignment for you here."
"Can we eat first? I've been working for over eight hours now, and I'm starving." Giacomo's dark eyes glimmered as he gazed at Emma.
Angus shook his head. "Doona tease her, Jack. She has stakes, and she's no' afraid to use them."
He chuckled. "I hear Roman's new drink is excellent."
"Aye, Blissky. This way." Angus led the two men into the kitchen while he explained about the murders in Central Park.
Emma stood alone in the foyer for a few seconds, then decided she might as well go into the kitchen, too. She pushed open the swinging door.
"Ye'll be keeping the park safe every night." Angus stood at the kitchen counter pouring Blissky into glasses.
While Robby and Giacomo asked questions, Emma surveyed the kitchen. Refrigerator, microwave, pristine stovetop. Obviously, no one did any real cooking here. Her gaze wandered toward the table and did a double-take when she spotted red lace. Her mouth fell open.
She glanced back at the trio of vampire men. They were busy with their Blissky, drinking and praising it in all its gory glory. She edged toward the table, then making sure she blocked their view, she plopped her bag of stakes on top of her panties.
She whirled around at the sound of Angus's voice. "Yes?"
"Would ye like something to drink? We have some soft drinks, and I still remember how to make a cup of tea."
"Cola's fine. Something diet, please." She circled the table to sit facing them, then rested her hands on top of her bag. Slowly she dragged it toward her.
When Angus turned his back to open the refrigerator, she slid the bag to the edge of the table. The red panties fell into her lap. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor. She leaned to the side to see where it landed.
"So you've managed to kill four Malcontents?" Giacomo approached the table.
She slapped a hand over the red underwear in her lap. "Yes, I have."
"Amazing." The Italian Vamp sat across from her and set his drink on the table. "A mortal killing vampires. You must be fearless."
"Emma is verra cool under pressure." Angus filled a glass with ice.
Oh, right. Very cool. She only went berserk the night before when she discovered herself in a strange place with no underwear.
"Well, she is a Wallace," Robby observed.
She doubted her famous ancestor had ever tried to hide red underwear. She set her bag in her lap, then slipped the panties inside. She reached down to retrieve the paper that had landed by her chair.
"Did you drop something?" Giacomo asked.
"No." She grabbed the paper and then straightened, slipping it also into her bag. "Just a mosquito bite on my leg. Itches like crazy."