We maintained the show of causal small talk as we approached Harry standing by the cars. The streets weren't overly crowded with vulnerable humans but enough to be problematic if someone ran crazily from Dark Whispers ready to drain unwilling donors. Granted our steps were a bit faster than an average post club stroll but not enough to attract undue attention -- I hoped.
A young couple crossed the street avoiding us. They were half drunk and in their early twenties. I was starving again from all the adrenalin coursing through my veins but wasn't ready to snack on wandering drunks. With all the blood I'd had I should have been topped but the fight in the club had driven my adrenaline raging through me. Besides, also knowing that DB was trying to kill me really had my blood pumping in overdrive. It was burning up the blood I'd taken from the humans I'd supped on earlier. From the passing glances, I think the werewolves worried the couple more. Both Carlos and Marcus were pretty scary in their own ways. Lee, the newly minted werewolf, I didn't see as scary in the least. Granted he was still breathing faster than normal but he had a few good reasons. I didn't think that every night vampires and werewolves met for drink and gunplay. Marcus didn't have on his wraparound sunglasses so his icy calm blue eyes were flat and he was looking around like a mobster. He really needed to work on his public persona if he was going to hang around with the vampires.
Harry pushed off his car and met us saying, "Well, Natasha, wasn't that fun?"
Smirking I said, "A slice."
Giggling Renee added, "Or two." She was mocking her own slaying of fellow clan members while we fled the club.
We met smiles and flashed slight fangs. Our adrenaline was still pumped and the three werewolves weren't sure where to look. Marcus finally cuffed Lee and said, "See they do have a sense of humor! It's not all blood and gore."
Lee paled and shrugged. It had been quite a night for the boy: the carnage-filled meet, his near silver death experience with the wanna-be vampire bait, and assorted bits of fun with fleeing with us vampires -- all in the same evening. Harry nodded to both Carlos and Marcus saying, "Glad you guys could make it. I don't think Kenyon is staying around to give his 'lets all be friends' speech while he stabs folks in the back."
"To say the least." Renee said. We'd all seen Kenyon leaving rapidly once Jane was dragged off the perch while filming the meet.
I saw that she'd calmed down. She knew more about Kenyon than we did and I was looking forward to pumping her for more information. And I was positive Harry was equally intrigued with what Renee had to say as I was. The werewolves were just cream on top. Unrestricted conversations and not having to play the protocol games that Kenyon was usually forcing on all the vampires would give us an advantage. We hadn't really had a chance to find out their side of the whole wedding arrangement and this was an opportunity we couldn't resist. The workings of the werewolf pack may have been in the notes I'd been given but I preferred to watch and listen to the actual creatures. Not everything written was always the truth. Supernatural creatures knew that.
"Where were you thinking we should take this crowd?" I softly asked Harry.
He very well knew I wasn't up for offering my house since we didn't know where this was going to end, and Kenyon did know where I lived. I was positive that he didn't know about DB but he certainly kept tabs on me. Simon had made me go visit with Kenyon in neutral territory long before he set me up down here. The protocol was fairly rigid which meant once I'd arrived I had to register my address with the local Master, Kenyon. It wasn't one of those 'rules made to be broken' sort of thing in the vampire community. It could be a death sentence.
"On the road?" He grinned.
"How about one of our pack houses out in the East County?" Marcus volunteered.
Renee had stiffened and her eyes had widened a bit at Marcus' offer of the werewolf pack house. If I hadn't been watching her, I never would have noticed. She didn't say anything but I wasn't sure if it was because she didn't know anything or because she didn't want me to suggest instead that we go to her house. I pushed the worry aside and considered what was being offered.
Marcus waited as Harry and I exchanged glances. The werewolf was sincere in offering us use of one of the pack houses, but there was something they weren't telling us. There was a reason the werewolves were asking us to their pack territory other than being 'nice' to the vampires. Carlos remained quiet and Lee still didn't have a clue. He really was very young by supernatural standards. From the tension in his shoulders, I don't think he'd even been to the territory Marcus was talking about. Carlos was the reigning pack leader and it didn't seem like lowly new werewolves would be permitted to casually visit and wander around the head werewolves' houses in their spare time uninvited. The various living structures of the packs were pretty much a mystery to most vampires and I wasn't sure they didn't prefer it that way. And it wasn't like the vampire clans went out of their way to share our dirty little secrets.
Harry smiled and said, "That would be excellent. We better hurry. Marcus, why don't you go with Natasha and take Lee, and I'll take Carlos and Renee with me?"
It wasn't so much a question as an order but I thought it was nicely worded, like he nearly had a choice. Harry didn't ask where they were parked or offer to let them drive, so I didn't say another word. After all, Harry did out rank me by at least a century or two. My pocket vibrated again reminding me that I still had the cell phone Harry had slipped to me earlier in the bar before my cell phone had been grabbed by Kenyon's thugs. I made a mental note to cancel that account before morning.
Pulling out the cell phone I asked Harry, "Okay, whose phone is this?"
"Yours. You better answer. Simon really isn't that patient you know." He grinned and directed Renee and Carlos to his car.
The engaged couple didn't look that comfortable with the idea, but neither of them verbally objected. I wasn't sure how the joining of the vampires with the werewolves were going to work out in the long run but Renee and Carlos both looked more than a bit uneasy just sharing the car ride out to Carlos' home. Where in the East County remained to be seen but I needed to answer the phone before my Master got mad.
"Hello?" I put a finger in my free ear and waved the werewolves towards my car I'd already unlocked. They looked at me and Marcus took the front seat while Lee slunk into the back. I swore I could see his tail but that had to be some sort of optical illusion since they both were still in human form despite the full moon.
"It's about time." Simon sounded put out. I didn't know why since he hadn't expected me to call until the meet between the vampires and werewolves was over which would have been a few more hours at the earliest. But my job wasn't to question my Master.
"Yes, Sire?" I didn't see the point in arguing that he'd called me on a strange phone, because Harry was his confidant more than I was.
"Why'd you let DB screw up the meet with the bottle of champagne?" Simon obviously had another set of eyes on me. He knew about the champagne cork that had revealed Jane, Kenyon's pet minion, up in the rafters filming the meet and drenched Kenyon. A two-for-one screw up and now it seemed Simon was holding me personally responsible for my fledgling.
"It's complicated," I said. The layers upon layers of plots and plans were getting more and more Byzantine as each night passed. We weren't any closer to finding the murderers of Jessie and Buddy and now with Kenyon screwing up and running out on the meet it certainly wasn't going to happen tonight. I guess Kenyon felt it was more important to change out of his wet clothes than repair the damage between the vampires and werewolves. Not to mention he needed to figure out a good story for having the powerful Master pendant. Harry probably knew whose, but I was still in the dark.
"When isn't it complicated? It's always complicated with you." Scorn and frustration laced his words, "Never do you just leave it alone. There has to be some drama or trauma. First you had that stupid sex tape on the computer with vampires being literally exposed. That didn't just go away now did it? I had to pay to have it cleaned up." He sighed and continued, "Still you are mine and that makes it my responsibility. But why do you always have some reason to make it all smoke and mirrors and then act like it has such a huge importance? You make it complicated." Disgust choked me and I tried to come to terms with what he was saying. It was true that DB was my creature but the accusation in Simon's voice was foreign. He was bringing up things that no longer were important and dismissing all my hard work down here. He wasn't a cruel Master like Kenyon -- this was something else. I wondered why Simon was on edge and taking it out on me. I stiffened my back and simply waited. I felt Simon slip inside my skull. It wasn't something he did often but he was capable of that and more. It was kind of an odd feeling but I had gotten used to it over the decades. I didn't resist but let him run through my thoughts and feelings. He exited with a whisper of a kiss and I felt my lips curve slightly. If he'd been completely angry with me he could have easily crippled me or blanked my memory.
I was conscious of the two werewolves sitting inside my car waiting for me to get in and drive. There was no way they weren't hearing every word. Vampires and werewolves had exceptional hearing. I resisted cringing and cursing. Barely.
"Go to the werewolves' clubhouse and find out what's going on. Kenyon won't lick his wounds for long and he's going to come out swinging. Harry will instruct you what to do next. And try and get some rest, Natasha." His tone was softer. A peace descended over me with his words. He'd definitely been afraid. He knew something more than he was saying. Whoever was filling him in on what happened at the club had pushed some buttons and told him something bad. My thoughts had helped answer some question he had, but still I wasn't looking forward to hearing what upset a Master vampire of Simon's class.
"Yes, Sire." I hung up and got in the car without a word to the werewolves. Harry had already left and I waited for Marcus to give me directions.
"Head to the freeway. We need to get on 8 and head east." I was glad Marcus didn't say anything about my Master's call. It still sat like a lump of lead inside me. Make that silver, burning my soul.
Part of me knew I'd screwed up by not having more control over DB, but Damson wasn't some puppy dog to be put outside without dinner. Hell, he'd take out the neighborhood for spite if I did something like that. But he had shot at me and was getting too arrogant. Which was saying something for a vampire. I followed Marcus's directions while my mind twisted and turned.
To be continued ...