Harry looked thoughtful before replying to Marcus' direct plea for an alliance between Harry's vampires and the werewolves. Since Carlos, the actual pack leader for Marcus' weres, had remained with Desiree seated next to Renee at their table meant he may have made noises about Marcus' moving to our table but wasn't truly objecting. I knew Kenyon's madcap scheme to align the werewolves with his Dark Whisper vampires had been ill received by more than a few supernaturals, but I hadn't even thought that Marcus would be bold enough to suggest trading teams. The fact he had made the overture was still amazing me. All in all Kenyon needed the werewolves Carlos controlled to back his plans of territorial dominance. Add in that Kenyon hated being denied anything -- like any normal red-blooded vampire -- yet his proposed marriage between Renee, who was one of his family vampires, and Carlos, who was the crown prince of the local werewolf pack, had been proceeding despite deaths and damages -- Kenyon had some work to do. The collateral damage had so far been kept to a minimum but I wasn't holding my breath for that to remain status quo, given the past few evenings.
"Marcus, the marriage between your leader and Kenyon's vampire will take place. That is a given. The wedding has been formally arranged at much higher levels and inside more Byzantine courts than you could even know exist. They will marry next month no matter what happens in the next few weeks." Here he paused, and I could see he was working piecemeal through his word choices and trying not to offend Marcus. The intensity of Marcus was a bit frightening. He didn't have full control over his werewolf and Desiree -- a pretty feral werewolf under Marcus' command currently -- began to growl lightly. Her eyes met mine and I could definitely see her instinct to change was winning. She'd been hanging by a thread to her human form and Marcus' agitation wasn't helping. If she went full werewolf in the restaurant it wasn't going to end well. Feral werewolves during a moon phase weren't ever something I'd mess with and humans didn't have a single skill to keep themselves alive.
"Harry," I said his name softly.
"What is it, Natasha?" He wasn't being rude, just distracted. I tried to catch his gaze but he was still not grasping the potential problem. It had been a long night already but this was important. Desiree in full werewolf form slashing and carving humans into pieces wouldn't exactly be a low profile evening.
"Might we want to get these folks fed and to the diner's exit before the moon gets too much higher?" With that his eyes snapped directly into mine and he read my facial expression and the worry behind my calm demeanor.
The waitress, Brittany, came bursting through the kitchen doors with her arms full of platters. She blinked at Marcus seated at our table but kept her opinions to herself and simply dropped a large plate in front of Marcus before continuing to the next table. She definitely knew how to earn her tips.
The werewolves stopped talking and posturing and simply fed. They were quickly fueling, and Brittany politely asked if they needed anything else. Renee wasn't eating much -- most vampires could eat but didn't need to -- so she took a minute to reply, "Actually if possible can you get us another order of the chili cheese fries? They are delicious." She waved one indicating what she was talking about while nodding over to the nearly empty plate in front of Carlos who had nearly finished the first order.
"Sure thing. More sodas?" Brittany was getting a bit nervous. I could smell her fear on her as she looked at Desiree. Desiree was looking a tad feral so I figured that was part of the problem. Well, and that she'd polished off her meal in less than a minute. Harry called Brittany over softly to our table.
She walked to us and met Harry's gaze. It was all I could to do to not applaud; damn the man was wickedly good. I could feel him slide in and simply push her mind around to suit our needs. Soon she was smiling and nodding.
"Thanks! I appreciate the kind words. It really is a tough job. Most customers don't know." She was beaming and Harry hadn't uttered a syllable. I knew he'd praised her on the job and thanked her for her hard work. It was enough to appease her worries and push the oddities back from her short-term memory. As with any glamour or adjustment to the human brain it didn't necessarily stay, but she wouldn't be afraid. At least not for now -- we all smiled as she ran her tush back to get more fries for the werewolves. She didn't notice that most of their plates were damn near licked clean. The high metabolism of werewolves was fueled by massive quantities of food -- what else I didn't want to think, but I'd heard some tales. Archer's death compound just fed some of those stories from my end.
"So, Marcus," Harry spoke softly. I could hear his own careful word choices inside my skin. The blood of Harry's was some of the strongest vampire blood that I'd ever enjoyed and that it was currently running amok inside my veins gave me a warmth that I didn't want to explore too deeply. Simon, my Master, had strong blood and as my maker his was the blood I truly craved. When fledgling vampires are first turned, the Master's blood is like mother's milk to us. We fill our bodies and souls with the liquid we suckle from their necks, wrists, thighs or/and of the hundred of other spots we find to bite. Nothing less is ever as satisfying or tempting to us as the blood of our Master.
Harry's was damn near that tasty. He could have easily challenged Simon for me. That thought should have made me nervous but instead I had an erotic warmth tumbling through my veins -- tempting me more than was healthy. I shook my head and instead concentrated on Marcus. He didn't tempt me to do anything. His face was strong and his eyes were watchful.
Marcus wasn't a werewolf to be causally toyed with by humans or vampires. The stories surrounding him weren't pretty and sweet. But I knew they were true. His eyes were dead nearly as much as some old vampires I knew. That wasn't ever a good thing. He was Carlos' second and enforcer. He'd made more than a few problems disappear. I still didn't know everything about werewolves, but Marcus was crystal clear to me as a problem. His anger wasn't buried deep but a second away from exploding at any time.
"Yes, Harry?" Marcus was being respectful, but a trace of arrogance was a whisper behind the question. Marcus didn't defer to many creatures and he was fighting his own instincts to snap and bite. Carlos' second-in-command was a barely leashed death machine. Vampires for the most part tended to be more in control, I'd found over the decades. It was like werewolves blew so hot they didn't know how to chill and step back long enough to act properly. But then vampires and werewolves were very different creatures.
"Are you acting as lieutenant and negotiator for Carlos and his pack?" The words were quietly spoken but the question was huge. Whatever he replied would make or break any sort of arrangement between Carlos and Kenyon.
"Yes, Harry. I am acting as negotiator and lieutenant for the pack." Marcus didn't hesitate but I heard Carlos sigh softly. A new bridge was being built. The roadways were no longer straight -- I could see the betrayals ahead.
I felt my fangs prick my lower lip lightly. A hunger for blood, chaos and betrayal ran along my nerves. Dark Whispers was in for dark times. The bloodshed would be epic. Renee was soothingly stroking Desiree's arm like a child petting her favorite cat. Sure even strokes meant to calm the werewolf. Desiree had thankfully stopped growling but she'd leaned into Renee obviously needing more physical contact.
I was still turned towards Marcus and still far too aware of his muscular thigh pressed firmly next to mine. The scorching warmth from his body whipped through me creating some naughty cravings. Not just for blood. Part of me resented the physical intrusion into my personal space but werewolves were known for the amount of touching and caressing they needed. I bit my own tongue letting a drop of blood fill my mouth. I rolled it around like drop of the finest cognac tasting Harry's power. It appeased my immediate hungers.
Harry's eyes blazed and he looked at me and said, "Natasha." Nothing more. I guess he was aware of how I curbed my appetites. From the look he was throwing me I knew that he could tell it wasn't just blood I desired. I smiled, pulling my fangs back in and said, "Yes, Harry?"
He wasn't fooled by the innocent tone in the least. He sighed and shook his head slightly at me. I turned back to Marcus and said, "So you are the negotiator then?"
I was trying to redirect the conversations both aloud and invisible. The waitress was still hiding in the back so we didn't have to pretend everything was 'oh so perfect'. And it certainly wasn't normal. The waves of magic flowing inside the small coffee shop had to be sending out beacons to all the supernatural creatures in the area. So much for discretion and hiding in plain sight, we were lighting up the night.
"Yes, I am." He didn't bother looking at me but met Harry's eyes straight on and nodded. I heard a slight whimper from Desiree and could see that she was nearly entwined over Renee's entire body and shaking slightly. I breathed in and could smell the animal warmth of Marcus and the earthy fetid under scent of nature. The magic flowing was making the diner into some sort of den for the werewolves. I looked back to Harry again to see his eyes had narrowed.
The werewolves were being taken seriously by the raw magic in the area. That meant not only was Marcus able to negotiate any sort of treaty between the werewolves and vampires, but that the powers behind the pack were in full agreement. This wasn't some casual decision. I was more than a little impressed by Carlos' weres. They weren't just soldiers to be used in war and expended, but a real force to be reckoned with in any battle. Harry nodded in agreement to my unspoken thoughts. His mind was eased into mine and I allowed him free passage; there was danger ahead, and I needed the support.
Renee gasped, breaking all of our focus and said, "Stop. Stop everything. We need to get out of here now. Kenyon is out actively prowling for me."
I don't know why I hadn't thought of his blood tie to Renee but her words struck us deeply. She was Kenyon's to call and if she said he was looking for her she'd know. Dangerous -- we weren't that far from the club.
"Good enough." Harry stood with a fluid movement and called for Brittany. She came rushing out with a full plate of chili cheese fries.
"Something wrong?" She saw us all standing and grew anxious that something had been messed up with our order. Her fears of getting no tips rose up and she looked at the TV. The fires were still being displayed and the banner still totaling numbers of acres burned and loss of houses and structures. Her fears and concerns rose like a miasma scenting the already rich air. I wasn't sure Harry could zap her brain again this soon.
"Nothing, we just got a call and need to leave. Can you put the fries in a to-go box and add five more orders of chicken for the folks we're meeting?" Harry easily explained and by adding more food that way made it seem innocent. Had we stayed too much longer we would have had to order Desiree at least another plate full of food if we wanted her to stay in human form. She wasn't doing well. Marcus' inattention had given her too much room to worry and she didn't like being in her human state longer than necessary. I didn't think a feral werewolf in the diner would be easily dismissed.
To be continued...