Harry looked at me and said, "Well, if nothing else, Natasha, you always seem to attract the strange elements in life!"
Scowling at his comment, I kept my mouth shut because I couldn't deny it. The 'in life' struck my funny bone though. He'd seen some odd things happen around me that really weren't my fault over the decades. Harry always seemed to be near me when things went sideways.
I tried to keep a grin off my face. It wasn't just from the blood play with the thugs on the beach. Besides, the suggestions we'd given the six boys weren't going to be easily erased. They were going to become somewhat upstanding youths and not rob and scare tourists. Both of us had resisted killing them but sipped a pint or so off a few. So they'd be a tad anemic but then if you played with knives you should expect them to be used on you now and again. The Zero kid that was their leader would need a few stitches and probably some serious therapy from his encounter with Harry. But I was now ready to go to Dark Whispers and find out what was happening.
Catching my thought Harry said, "So is DB keeping you in the loop about Kenyon's little plans or playing it fast and loose like usual?"
He really did know us too well. I turned the question over in my mind and found some words. "Damson has been his usual sick, sociopathic self. That answer your question?"
"Yep, he's still trying to find a way to get out from being your fledgling I gather." Harry pinpointed the underlying issue I had with my vampire. DB wasn't tightly wrapped by anyone's standards, and tended to resent the Master-Fledgling bond. I wasn't a Master with a clan but having made him and being decades older than him, the title was still used. I wasn't overly comfortable with the clan set up but I'd made him so he was mine.
"Some stupid minion came to DB last year with an elaborate tale of rebellion and rogues getting power from killing their masters and fellow fledglings. DB likes the idea but isn't quite ready to make the leap. Simon finds it amusing to watch me yank the leash and make him come to heel." Simon was my Master and one of Harry's generation. Not that I was positive of any of their exact ages. Mystery and lies shroud vampires existing past a century mark. I was guilty of it, too, so I couldn't fault them for the secrecy.
"With age comes responsibility, Nat, you know this." His voice was soft. I liked that he didn't lecture and just made it a statement, flat and there for me to digest at my leisure.
"True. I guess that's what I get for picking him up out of the gutter." I shrugged. He was a sharp tool, but DB wasn't easily redirected. His natural survivor instincts coupled with his ruthlessness made him strong and scary. Simon requested that I allow DB to scope out Kenyon's set up, knowing Kenyon wouldn't be able to resist the insane vampire. He'd been playing with the Dark Whisper clan for too long by my measure but Simon wasn't willing to let me pull my fledgling back without knowing everything that was being planned. Part of me figured that Simon was also keeping me on his leash and watching me wiggle a bit.
Slowly we left the beach to retrieve our cars and go meet Kenyon at his club. I needed to find out what was happening with the werewolves. There was a feeling of raw magic in the wind and I could hear the feral natures of the pack prowling in the dark. They wanted blood for their dead mate and I didn't know if Kenyon would be able to pull them from each other's throats. As I headed towards the side street where I'd parked, I found Harry was still close behind me. Looking towards my car I could see a sweet black sports car parked two cars behind mine.
"You parked behind me?" It wasn't really a question.
"Naturally." He answered with a grin.
There were scattered sets of couples strolling arm, meandering casually towards the main street and the noisy establishments for an evening's entertainment. Hearing their conversations, it'd be dinner first then either on to a club to hear music, over to a bar for after dinner drink or down to the beach to walk along the ocean. All in all Pacific Beach was a party town. The bars and clubs were always hopping and the congested living conditions seemed to intensify the party theme that spilled out from the bars and restaurants at all hours of the night. It'd been a sleepy town for so many decades, but somewhere in the past thirty or so years it became a destination spot for teenagers, college students and predators looking for both. The beach access made for an endless opportunity of crime and passion. The closest couple passing by us were kissing and caressing each other. They certainly weren't looking to be victims. The only thing I could feel from them was lust and love. Not necessarily mutually exclusive thought processes but it overrode their natural cautions. Sex was a trigger all right and both of them had different ideas of how that'd be going later.
"A penny for your thoughts," Harry broke into my musings. That honeymoon couple we'd supped from earlier definitely was giving me a dreamy blood hangover. The musings romping through me were romantic and stupid. I needed my head back in the game.
"Nothing, Harry. So we doing this?" I was at my car and had triggered the door from my key fob alarm. The chirping stopped and the lights blinked.
"Doing what?" Harry stopped and waited for my reply.
"Going into Kenyon's club on his command." Disgust laced my words.
"Of course. Keep your enemies closer, Natasha." He was smiling. No fangs but there was a wisp of danger. He didn't care for Kenyon at all. Not a shock for me but still nice to know he still was independent. Time and distance had a way of changing vampires. It was good to find Harry was still the same.
"Harry, what good can come from Kenyon's plan? I mean Jessie is dead. True death! Buddy is dog food. And I am now the runner up in the maid of honor game. I doubt Renee much wants to get married to Carlos. This isn't some love match but a well-orchestrated alignment of territories. The werewolves don't know Kenyon like we do and he'll toss them all in front of the bus without a blink." I spit out. There I'd said it. Harry wasn't one to gossip so I knew my rant was safe with him.
"Natasha, it's not about Kenyon." Harry stepped close and continued, "It's about vampires and werewolves finally getting together and finding a path to peace. The pride of Kenyon is legendary amongst vampires but he's unknown to the werewolves. If he wants to be the leader of this change it'll be rough but if there are fatalities it'll be his clan members not anyone else. That's acceptable to the Masters."
He meant Simon and others outside Southern California. The vampire world was watching and waiting. Harry was their representative, while I was basically just part of the possible clean up crew he'd tap if the need arose. Harry's vague government background always gave the vampires an edge when everything went south in a big way. His current title had something to do with Homeland Security but his previous job last time we'd been together was FBI. It didn't matter what the title was; he or what part of the government he had some connections with meant he could and did make messes disappear. And at times vampires did leave bodies in their haste to scratch the basic itches.
The worst combination of supernaturals in my mind was vamps and weres. The whole idea of another vampire/werewolf war was making me itch in other ways. Blood baths are cleaner than the outright draining and dismembering that was the usual result of such clashes. I'd been around far too long and seen too many clan members fall into rages over werewolves to be comfortable with Kenyon's game.
"I'll see you at the club," Harry closed my door and waited for me to roll down my window.
"There's a parking lot around the corner that is under surveillance by Kenyon's minion. I'd suggest you park a block over and near the back of the club. It's easier to leave on your terms that way." He flashed me a grin. It was good advice and I wouldn't have parked in Kenyon's lot with or without Harry's warning because I didn't trust Kenyon. I let Harry think he was helping. That old world charm was welcome after the insanity of the past few days. It was something Simon would have said, and made me miss my Master.
Waving to Harry, I started my car and rolled my window back up. He waited until I pulled away from the curb before he walked to his car. I pulled my cell phone out and dialed Simon. I had a flutter in my stomach as I waited for him to pick up.
"Child, you aren't at the club yet." Yeah, DB was keeping Simon in the loop. I smiled at the notion of my revenge on my fledgling. It would be wickedly delicious.
"Heading that way right now." I blew through a yellow light and checked my mirrors automatically. I didn't need to get pulled over and ticketed. Pacific Beach was a cesspool with the cops keeping peace one ticket at a time. Thankfully it was too early for the DUI checkpoints they set up most evenings. That was an unnecessary delay on a good night.
"Good. Watch for Harry. He's working for our interest. He might appear to be Kenyon's friend but it's all a part of the ruse." Simon didn't know I'd just spent the last hour with Harry and I didn't feel compelled to share.
"Thanks, Simon. When this wedding is done, can I grab Damson and come home?" I really needed to know the nightmare was ending sooner rather than later. I wasn't fond of Kenyon and the next month was going to push me into his world deeper than I'd like.
"We will see. The wedding is still a month away, and I might need you to stay and tie up some other loose ends." Simon wasn't being coy but brutally honest. I'd done plenty of clean up for him over the years and knew he was talking about the possibility of Kenyon's death or banishment. Both were probable outcomes that wouldn't surprise me. He and Harry both were working on the same team, and that reassured me that the Masters would sanction any measures I felt that needed to do.
"Okay, I'm getting to the freeway now. I'll call you later if you wish." The traffic was getting heavier and the drivers more erratic. Playing vampire games with Simon wouldn't help. He was organizing something more than I was privy to, but I knew better than to ask. He'd tell me when the time was right. Just talking to him calmed me a bit.
"Call if you need. I'll be up," with that we said our goodbyes. The traffic was heavy through the freeway merges and around the airport exit. I continued towards downtown and felt lighter than I had all night. The honeymoon couple had buzzed me and the altercation with the would-be thieves invigorated me even more.
The streets around the club were surprisingly empty. It was as if the word had gone out to all the locals to stay away from downtown. With the vampires and werewolves both prowling for the slayers of Jessie and Buddy the tension had to be palatable even to humans. The club was closed for a private party according to the sign hung on the door, I noticed when I passed the entrance. I easily found a parking spot under a light and on the corner a block away from Dark Whispers. I'd have no trouble leaving. Harry had been a few lights behind me when I left Pacific Beach. It easily could've delayed him ten or fifteen minutes to travel that distance so I was pretty surprised to see him pull in behind me almost immediately. He must have driven eighty or more to keep up with me. I smiled and got out of the car.
"My, haven't seen you in a while." I laughed and waited for him to join me.
"Yes, it's been forever." His grin was enchanting. I was happy he wanted to walk in with me. It would give me status coming into Dark Whispers with Harry. A curl of delight chased through my blood. It'd been good feeding with Harry and my concerns about the meet were less with Harry at my back.
To be continued ...