Ian nodded, his gaze dropping to Angus's lopsided sporran. "I thought I heard some noise up here." His gaze shifted to the sack of stakes on the desk.

Angus removed his pewter flask from his sporran, using the opportunity to straighten the leather bag. "I was just about to refill my flask. Would ye like a wee dram?"

"Aye. Thank ye for offering. Most Vamps would not."

Angus headed toward the mini-bar. "Why wouldn't I?"

Ian snorted. "Roman's ex-harem opened a racy vampire club, and the damned bouncer there says I'm too young to go in."

"Ridiculous." Angus located his bottle of Blissky and unscrewed the top. "Ye're almost as old as I am."

"No one believes it."

Angus glanced at his old friend with the smooth, youthful face. He'd found Ian fatally wounded on the battlefield of Solway Moss in 1542, and he'd transformed him there in the dark, amidst the groans of dying soldiers. What else could he have done? Leave a fifteen-year-old to die? At the time, it had seemed a terrible, tragic waste of youth, and Angus had thought he was doing the young soldier a great favor. But he had trapped Ian for all eternity with the face of a boy.

Angus sighed as he poured himself and Ian a glass. It just went to show him. Interfering with mortals was always messy and tainted with regret. He should never allow himself any sort of feelings for Emma Wallace.

"So, I take it ye found the slayer?" Ian peeked into the sack on the desk. "Are these her stakes?"

"Aye." Angus refilled his flask with Blissky. Bugger. His bottle was almost empty. "She tried to use a few of them on me."

"Really?" Ian's eyes widened. "Are ye all right?"

"Aye, I'm fine." Angus carried the two glasses back to the desk and offered one to Ian. "But I'm having trouble convincing her I'm a nice guy."

Ian laughed. "Why am I no' surprised? Ye do have a fierce look about ye. Maybe I should talk to her." His grin faded. "No one ever thinks I'm scary."

Angus patted him on the back. "They fear ye on the battlefield." He downed his glass and winced. Bloody strong stuff. But it would take the edge off his hunger for blood. And his lust for Emma Wallace.

He upended the bag and dumped some of Emma's stakes on the desk. He picked one up and read the word Mum.

"Aye, they can kill us." Angus picked up another stake. Dad. Bugger. No wonder she hated vampires so much.

Ian motioned to the computer. "There are some e-mails waiting for ye in the inbox. From Mikhail in Moscow."

"Och, good." Angus circled the desk and sat in front of the computer. He'd downloaded Emma's personnel file the night before. He'd learned a lot of interesting information, most importantly that her parents had been murdered in Moscow six years earlier. He had e-mailed his Russian operative for more information.

Given the time difference, Mikhail would now be in his death-sleep, but he'd e-mailed earlier to report on his findings. He had teleported into the police station in the middle of the night and copied the report on file. He'd attached the report. The first attachment was the report in Russian; the second one, Mikhail's translation of it into English.

Mikhail had done a thorough job. He'd sent a second e-mail an hour later that included a translation of the coroner's report and a copy of the crime scene photo. According to the coroner, both victims had suffered slashed throats and all their blood was missing.

Angus studied the photo. No pools of blood under the victims, so they hadn't bled out where they were found. The police must have assumed the bodies had been moved.

It was a typical vampire cover-up. Cut a throat so the fang marks no longer showed. The police had concluded the mafia was responsible, and that's what they would have told Emma.

Somehow, she knew the truth. The fierce love she'd felt for her parents had transformed into a fierce hatred of vampires. Like himself. Angus sighed.

"This is strange." Ian sipped from his drink as he rummaged through the pile of stakes. "They're all labeled Mum or Dad."

"Her parents were murdered by vampires."

"Aye, but I doona know how she figured it out. The Russians told her the mafia was responsible. Why would she suspect vampires? How would she even know we existed?"

Ian shrugged. "Maybe she witnessed the attack."

Angus shook his head. "They would have never let her survive." He double clicked on her personnel file to open it, then skimmed through it. "She was in Edinburgh when the attack took place."

Ian leaned against the desk. "But she's psychic, no?"

Angus glanced up from the report. "Ye may be on to something." Had she somehow witnessed her parents' murder in her mind? It would certainly explain her rage and need for revenge.

"Did ye convince her to stop?" Ian asked.

"Well, she is Scottish."

His smile faded. "Gregori will be lucky if he lives another week."

Ian's mouth twitched. "He complained to Roman about you."

Angus shrugged and started typing an e-mail to Mikhail.

Your next assignment: Locate the vampires who murdered Emma Wallace's parents.

It might be an impossible request, but Mikhail would give it his best shot. Angus clicked on Send, then noticed Ian was still hovering by the desk. "Anything else?"

"Aye. Roman wants to see you. Shanna, too. She says it's been six months since yer last checkup."

Angus shook his head, smiling. Was there anything Roman wouldn't do for his wife? The man was so besotted, he'd actually opened a dental clinic at Romatech so Shanna could continue her profession in a safe place. Most Vamps had been a bit wary of having a mortal poking around their mouths, so Angus had been the first in line to show his support. Then he'd quietly suggested all his employees get a checkup. Anything to help Roman. The monk had saved Angus's life and given him a reason to live. Angus wanted his old friend to be happy, but he couldn't understand how marriage to a mortal could ever work.

Mortals were so short-lived. So emotional. Their wounds were all recent and raw, whereas a Vamp had the luxury of centuries to cushion the blows.

Emma Wallace was the perfect example. Her whole life was focused on a passionate quest for revenge. But her life was so short. She should be enjoying it, not squandering it away on some creatures that would still be here a hundred years from now. He really needed to get through to her. And take away the rest of her stakes. He located her profile sheet from the Stake-Out folder and found her address and phone number.

"Hello?" Ian waved a hand to get Angus's attention. "Roman is waiting for you. He's at Romatech with Shanna."

"No' tonight." The fastest way to Emma's apartment would be to call her and use her voice to teleport. But would she be there after his silly remark about wearing something sexy?

"All right," Ian conceded. "I'll tell him ye're joining us tomorrow night for Mass."

"For what?" Angus scowled at having his attention drawn away from the problem at hand. "Mass?"

"Aye. Father Andrew does a Mass for us Sunday nights at eleven. Roman had a room made into a chapel at Romatech. Then Shanna had the bright idea of offering free Fusion Cuisine afterward. We have about thirty Vamps showing up now."

Angus scoffed. "I doona need a priest praying for me. Unlike Roman, I'm verra happy being a vampire."

"So ye have no regrets?"

Angus shrugged. Every life had regrets, and his life had been longer than most. "I've always done what I thought was right at the time." And prayed that others didn't suffer for it. He glanced at Ian's permantly youthful face and winced inwardly. "I have made... mistakes."

"Then we'll see ye tomorrow."

Angus sighed. "Tell Roman I'll see him sometime tomorrow. I canna say when. I need to see Emma every night until I can convince her to stop her slaying."

"Connor thinks we should help, that ye shouldna handle this on yer own."

"He's wrong," Angus gritted the words out between clenched teeth while he glared at Ian.

"Right." Ian's innocent blue eyes widened. "Ye're the boss." He backed away toward the door. "Roman's going to want to know why ye canna come tonight."

Angus scowled at Emma's address on the profile sheet. "She has more stakes in her apartment."

"Ye're invading her home? Alone? She'll put up a hell of a fight, for certain. Let me come with you."

"She's murdered four vampires that we know of."

Angus stood. "I said I can handle her."

Ian hesitated, his hand on the doorknob. "Ye're no' immortal, Angus. None of us are."

Angus softened the scowl on his face. "I know. I'll be fine, lad. I'll see you when I get back."

Ian nodded. "All right." He left the room, calling back over his shoulder. "At least ye'll have the element of surprise."

Angus winced. No, he didn't. What a fool he was. And what a clever and feisty lass she was. She would probably have another trap ready for him. Blood rushed to his groin in anticipation. God help him, he was out of his mind.

Katya Miniskaya smiled politely as one of her Russian coven members entered her office. It was Boris, one of the whiners. Alek had informed her two months ago that Boris was complaining about her behind her back. Apparently he was upset that two of his whiny friends had suffered unfortunate, fatal accidents in her office.

She motioned to the chair in front of her desk. "How may I help you?"

His eyes lingered on her lace camisole too long before he sat. "Alek says you're offering a reward to whoever killed those mortals in Central Park."

"I am." She had suspected Boris was responsible. She'd also suspected he was stupid enough to fall for this bait. "Are you saying you killed one of those mortals?"

"Maybe." He lifted his chin with a challenging glare. "Maybe I killed all three. What's the reward?"

Katya stood slowly. She still had on her hunting clothes - a black lace camisole and a clingy skirt sliced up to her right hip. She wore nothing underneath. Dressed like this, she could usually scrounge up dinner in less than five minutes. Mortal men practically lined up to donate blood. She would feed from several, play with one or two if they were pretty enough, then send them away with their memories erased and an erection they couldn't explain.

She perched on the edge of the desk and crossed her legs so her right leg was exposed up to the hip. "What kind of reward would you like?"

He licked his lips. "I was thinking money or a bigger coffin. Or maybe - " His gaze feasted on her body, then lifted to her eyes. "You."

Her grip tightened on the edge of the desk, but she kept her smile even. "Are you admitting to the murders then?"

"Hell yes, I killed the women. Fucked them first, then drained them dry and slit their throats."

"How sporting of you." Katya pushed away from the desk and returned to her chair.

Boris shrugged. "There's plenty more where they came from. It's not like we're going to suffer from a food shortage." He grinned. "So are you giving over?"

She sat. "I am your master, not your whore."

Anger flashed in his eyes, and he stood. "Galina does it. She's upstairs right now, entertaining Miroslav and Burien."

"Then get in line. Galina enjoys boosting morale with her revolving door policy. I'm the one running this coven, and I have real business to attend to."

He snorted. "You're only master because you killed Ivan."

"Something you didn't have the balls to do." Katya opened her top drawer and inserted a dart into a blowpipe. "No, you attack defenseless women and call yourself a man."

He stiffened. "It is no crime to kill mortals. It is our right." His eyes narrowed. "There's no reward, is there? I should have known you were a lying bitch."

"Oh, there is a reward." Katya lifted the blowpipe to her mouth, and with a puff of air, she sent the dart flying straight to Boris's neck.

"I - " He stumbled back with a stunned look. He yanked the dart from his neck. "Nightshade?" He crumpled to the floor.

"It works fast, don't you think?" Katya strolled over to his paralyzed body, then placed a foot on his chest. She pressed down on the stiletto heel. "How do you like your reward?"

"You see, normally I wouldn't object to a mortal dying. I've killed quite a few myself. It's your motivation I object to. You're trying to cause a war between my coven and Draganesti's. You think if a war erupts, I'll be replaced. And you thought I was too stupid to figure that out." She leaned over. "I'm not going anywhere. You, on the other hand - "

"Damn." She glanced at the phone, then at Boris. "Don't go away." Chuckling, she strolled back to the desk to answer the phone. "Hello?"

"Is this Katya Miniskaya, co-master of the Russian-American coven?" The masculine voice had sneered over the word co-master.

She tamped down on her anger. A male vampire would never get this kind of disrespect. Only one man had ever recognized her talent and potential. He'd praised her for what others failed to see. She'd set out to seduce him for the sheer challenge, but she'd fallen into her own trap. She'd fallen for him. And the bastard had abandoned her.