She should have killed him.

She shoved the memory aside. She was a coven master now. She didn't need any man, and she wasn't going to let this arrogant creep on the phone jerk her around. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"I am an associate of Casimir." The voice paused.

Katya waited, but he remained silent. Maybe he thought the mere mention of Casimir would scare her to the point she'd be unable to carry on a conversation. She snorted. "So?"

"He is unhappy with you."

"Big deal. I'm not real happy with him, either." Casimir had let everyone think he had died in the Great Vampire War of 1710. He'd left everyone feeling defeated and leaderless.

A form wavered beside the empty chair, then solidified. He was a chunky man with a neck thicker than his head, wispy brown hair, and cold blue eyes that regarded her with bored condescension. His gray suit and leather briefcase looked strictly business, but Katya knew danger when she saw it.

She eased around the back of her desk, making a show of hanging up her phone and sitting down. Her new position put her close to her blowpipe and supply of nightshade darts.

His lips curled into a sneer. "Thank you for seeing me." He snapped his cell phone shut and dropped it into his coat pocket.

Crap. He'd used her voice as a beacon. "Who are you, and what do you want?"

She carefully kept her face blank. She'd heard his name mentioned in whispers over the years. He was Casimir's favorite hit man. "How do you do?" She motioned for him to take a seat.

He didn't. The bastard preferred staring down at her. He gently deposited his leather briefcase in the chair.

She lifted her chin. "How come you're awake? Has the sun not risen where you and Casimir are hiding?"

His eyes narrowed. "Casimir's location is none of your concern. As for me, I teleported from Paris. I cannot stay long."

"Your arrogance is not becoming." He stepped toward the desk. "Make no mistake. Casimir has allowed you to remain in power. He could remove you at any moment."

Katya tried hard to show no reaction, but she could feel the blood draining from her face. When Casimir removed someone, it was permanent. Was that why Jedrek had come? Did he mean to kill her tonight? "There is no reason to be displeased with me. This coven was poor until I took over. Now we're rich."

"There has never been a female coven master before."

She stood. "You think I'm not tough enough for this job?" She motioned to the floor behind Jedrek. "Say hello to Boris."

Jedrek glanced at Boris without comment, then returned his gaze to her. "You dress like a slut."

"These are my hunting clothes. I'm guaranteed several quarts within five minutes. I like to call it fast food."

"You took over by murdering Ivan Petrovsky."

She shrugged. "An ancient and time-honored method for career advancement."

"Petrovsky was the one who saved Casimir's life at the end of the Great War."

She was screwed. "I didn't know that. Everyone thought Casimir was dead."

"According to my sources, Ivan admitted Casimir was alive before you killed him."

She swallowed hard. One of her coven members was snitching on her. "Galina and I are doing an excellent job as co-masters. Perhaps you would like to meet her?"

"But such a good one. The men are very happy."

Jedrek slammed a beefy fist on the desk. "You fool. Casimir doesn't want happy followers. Why do you think the enemy calls us the Malcontents?"

Katya planted her hands on the desk and leaned toward him. "My coven follows all the traditions of the True Ones. We feed off mortals. We manipulate them for money. We detest the weak vampires who drink from bottles like babies. And when Casimir is ready to slaughter them, we will be there."

Jedrek snorted. "How can you fight for Casimir when you cannot defend your own coven? How many of your members have been slain in the last year?"

Crap. The little snitch was doing a thorough job. "There were three murders last summer. And one last week. But I have taken care of it."

"How? Did you capture the slayer?" Jedrek glanced back at Boris. "Is this the slayer?"

She was tempted to say yes. "He is... involved in the matter. As I said, I have the situation under control."

"Casimir wants proof of your commitment."

"Proof? That's easy enough. Say good-bye to Boris." Katya grabbed the wooden letter opener off her desk, marched over to Boris, and stabbed him through the heart. He turned to a pile of dust on her carpet. "Shall I pack you a to-go box for Casimir?"

Jedrek's arched brow indicated he was not impressed. "Casimir wants the slayer. He has special plans for him." The hit man turned to the chair where he'd deposited his briefcase and removed a small electronic device. He wandered about the room, watching a small screen on the device.

Katya dropped her letter opener on the desk. "What are you doing?"

"Casimir doesn't believe you can properly defend your lair. He heard Draganesti teleported into your home last spring and rescued someone you were holding prisoner."

"Ivan was in charge then. We've had no invasions since then, and I've increased the number of our daytime guards."

Jedrek continued to move about the room, looking at his device. "Did you know Angus MacKay was here in New York?"

Jedrek sneered. "I'll take that as a no."

"I'm sure he comes often. Draganesti is one of his clients." Not that Angus would ever bother to see her.

"Interesting that he's here at this time, don't you think?"

Did Casimir suspect Angus was involved in the slayings? Well, he had killed more True Ones in the Great War than anyone else, and his company had a nasty way of investigating matters and dispensing their own brand of justice. The last time she'd seen him was last spring at the Gala Opening Ball. He'd acted like he didn't even know her. He'd only looked at her once when he'd slapped her with sarcasm. And what is yer idea of fun? Were ye planning to kill someone tonight?

Damn him. She should have killed him a long time ago.

"Aha!" Jedrek ran his fingers along the back of a curtain rod, then plucked off a small metallic object. "Still think you're qualified to lead this coven?" He dropped the listening device on her desk and smashed it with a paperweight.

She winced. How long had her office been bugged? Who was doing it? Draganesti? Or Angus MacKay?

Jedrek unscrewed the receiver to her phone and located another listening device. He glanced at her with a sneer. "Pathetic." He crushed the bug with the paperweight.

She gritted her teeth. Jedrek was going to enjoy telling Casimir about this. "I can protect this coven. And I will capture the slayer."

"Good." Jedrek dropped his bug detector into his briefcase and snapped it shut. "I'll expect delivery in a week."

"Saturday." Jedrek shrugged. "Like I said, Casimir is unhappy with you. He's just looking for a reason to remove you."

To kill her. Katya clenched her fists. "I suppose he has a replacement picked out?"

"Yes." Jedrek straightened his tie, smiling. "Me."

"That is ridiculous. You're not even Russian. My members won't take orders from a Pole."

"Half Polish, half Russian." Jedrek shrugged. "Casimir doesn't give a damn about our heritage. What he wants, or demands, is loyalty."

"Prove it." Jedrek checked his watch. "Time for me to go."

"I will prove it." Katya marched toward him. "I'll do more than capture the slayer. I'll give you Angus MacKay."

Katya smiled. At last she'd gotten a reaction.

Jedrek snorted. "You think you can capture the general of the Vamp army?"

"Wouldn't Casimir love to have him?" And wouldn't she love to watch him suffer. "I'll deliver him and the slayer by next Saturday. And you can stop lusting after my job."

Jedrek sneered. "We'll see about that. You'll never pull this off." He vanished.

Katya took a deep breath. Now she had to capture Angus MacKay. That would be extremely difficult. Was he involved with the slayings? It was very coincidental that he was in New York at the same time, but whether or not he was involved, it no longer mattered. She'd promised both Angus and the slayer, and her life was going to be very short if she didn't deliver them both by Saturday.

Crap! She needed a plan. Katya paced about the office. It would take a whole team of men to capture Angus. And once she had him and the slayer captured, she would have to hold them prisoner without them escaping.

She needed silver. Tons of silver. Thank God the coven was now rich. Months ago, she and Alek had teleported into a few shops in the Diamond District, helped themselves to some loose gems, then teleported to an associate in California who had paid them 1.2 million dollars. They were back, all cozy in Brooklyn, before the police even knew the gems were missing.

She would make a room of silver. That would keep the slayer and Angus unable to teleport to freedom. And she would need lots of nightshade. Her supply was running low.

She paused when another problem occurred to her. How could she turn Angus and the slayer over to Jedrek on Saturday? He wanted her to fail, so he could take over her coven. She couldn't trust him at all. No, she would have to deliver the prisoners herself. Not easy, when she wasn't quite sure where Casimir was. Somewhere in Eastern Europe or Russia, she would bet.

Galina would help. Her neck was on the line, too. Didn't she own some place in the Ukraine?

Katya called Galina and Alek on the phone and demanded they come immediately to the office. Then she grabbed a pen and started making plans. Who could the slayer be? Only a vampire could possibly kill another vampire, and she strongly suspected the slayer was one of Draganesti's coven members. Or perhaps one of Angus MacKay's employees. Or even Angus MacKay himself.

Damn him. He would finally get what he deserved.

She looked up when Alek strode into the office. "We have one week to capture the slayer and Angus MacKay, then deliver them to Casimir."

Alek's mouth dropped open. "One week? When did this happen?"

"I've heard of him. He's an assassin for Casimir."

Katya sighed. "He'll be... removing Galina and me if we don't make the delivery."

"I want you to find the slayer. Have our members work in teams of three. One can act like bait to draw the slayer in, while the others stay hidden and ready to attack."

"I'll get right on it." Alek started toward the door, then hesitated. "I - I never said anything, but... "

"What?" Katya glared at him. "We don't have much time."

"What?" Katya rushed toward him. "You saw the slayer, and you never said anything?"

"They shot me with silver bullets. I was in so much pain, I didn't know what was happening. And then the girl, she came up from behind. We never saw her coming."

"The girl? They? Are you saying there are two of them?"

"Yes. A male and a female, working together. He shot me full of holes while Vladimir was feeding. Then she snuck up behind Vlad and staked him in the back."

Katya grabbed Alek by the shirt and pulled him forward. "You fool. Why didn't you tell me this before?"

"I - I had to get the bullets dug out. The silver was killing me. I had to go to an emergency clinic and take over the nurses' and doctors' minds. It took the rest of the night."

Katya gritted her teeth and pushed him away. "You could have told me the next night."

He hung his head. "I was ashamed. Vladimir had been a close friend. I should have saved him somehow."

Katya sighed. "So you're certain there are two slayers? A man and a woman?"

She smoothed down his shirt where her grasp had wrinkled it. "You failed to save Vladimir, but you can save me and Galina."

"I will." He gave her a beseeching look. "I'd do anything for you, Katya. I swear."

She'd always suspected his willingness to help was based on more than loyalty. She patted his cheek. "Help me catch the slayers, Alek, and I'll do anything for you."

His eyes glimmered as he looked her over. "They're as good as dead." He rushed out the door, nearly running over Galina.

"Where's he going in such a big hurry?" Galina asked.

"We're rushed for time. Don't you own some sort of fortress in the Ukraine?"

"It's more like an old manor house. Why do you ask?"

"You're leaving tonight. We need a prison cell, completely lined with silver. I'll give you the money."

Galina raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows. "We're going to hold a vampire prisoner?"

"More than one. The slayer, or perhaps two slayers. And Angus MacKay."

Galina's mouth dropped open. "The general of the Vamp army?"

"Yes." And the bastard who had abandoned her years ago. "I wouldn't be surprised if he's one of the slayers." And he was working with a woman? That made Katya's blood boil. She hadn't been good enough for him, but this bitch was? "Casimir wants them. Either they die, or we do."