Damson smugly looked up at Simon and said, "Master, is that worthy?"
Grinding my back molars I avoided answering. He wasn't talking to me even though I was his 'Master'. Yep, he was mine and yet he was directing his comments to my Master. I really detested him with all of his gaming and maneuvering. Nothing in my vampire life gave me pause until I'd made a fledgling -- broken one at that. Damson hated me and wasn't trying to please me but toss me to the lions. Looking at my minion staked on Harry's guesthouse floor, I just wanted to kill him and get on with my existence. It wasn't my choice anymore. We hadn't expected Damson to have anything more to say and color me surprised when I found out that my fledgling had been holding out on Simon. Simon, my Master, had sent both of us down to Southern California to find out what Kenyon was up to with the marriage of his vampire, Renee, to Carlos, the regional pack alpha werewolf. The whole time Damson had been trying to edge me out of favor with him. But now it seemed that in his quest to be top vamp he'd held something in reserve. He knew he'd been skating on thin ice with his attempts to dump me, so I wasn't shocked, just pissed.
Harry stopped texting on his cell phone and said, "Natasha, excuse me, do you have a second?"
Reluctantly I stood up and went to Harry's side. Simon looked up at us and arched his eyebrow in query. Harry nodded and said, "It's worthy, Damson. But you better tell Simon something more."
He was right.
DB, Damson Barlow, was well pegged down onto Harry's guesthouse floor. The eight wood stakes keeping him firmly in place hadn't budged a bit with all of his attempts to free himself. But then the Arizona vampires who'd bagged him had used some magic to keep him compliant when they'd captured his ass. The tainted blood DB consumed had blasted him with a fire that scorched his skin and then while he was unable to move, one of them had snapped off his needle thin fangs. He didn't tell us which vampire had broken his fangs off but we didn't bother to ask either. Fangs weren't fragile so it would have taken some serious strength to snap them. But then DB had been magically knocked out so that probably helped his tormentor. His broken incisors wouldn't be able to heal without massive infusion of blood from master vampires or a room full of donors. The dribble of my blood we'd given him was barely sustaining his existence.
Harry put his head near mine and asked, "Are you okay?" He pretended to show me something in a text message on his cell phone. There wasn't anything on the screen but I nodded and smiled softly.
I was touched by his concern but at the same time wondered if Simon would approve. I needed to be careful in my dealings with Harry since he'd given me his blood. Being literally torn between two vampires wasn't in my plans for survival. Simon trusted me, thankfully, but with all the chaos it could prove to be problematic if the vampire council decided that I'd become compromised like my fledgling. I really hated vampire and council politics. A minefield would be more fun to navigate than the bizarre landscape of nearly immortal predators since they played for keeps.
"I'm fine. Damson is trying to push Simon. And make his information sound more valuable than it really is. He doesn't have that much left." I spoke very softly. Damson could hear me but wasn't exactly in any position to argue.
Smiling with a brief flash of fang, Harry said, "We know."
With that I knew that Harry was linked into Simon nearly as close as a fledgling. I stored that tidbit of knowledge inside and nodded. It seemed like my worries about the politics of the vampiric flavor weren't necessary. Harry put a finger beneath my chin and tipped my face to his.
"Don't worry, Natasha. We'll fix this."
A wave of relief flowed over me. I was so tired and needed them to take charge. I murmured, "Thanks."
We both dropped down next to Damson. Harry stayed behind me and we looked across Damson's staked body over to Simon. My face grew flush. I was excited seeing that my Master was glowing with the power flowing through him from our clan. Harry was a part of it due to his giving me blood. Aligned in purpose we looked down at Damson. He was rapidly fading. The three of us smiled with the tips of our fangs exposed.
Something finally clicked inside DB's head and he began to rapidly speak.
"Well, after the troubles from the meet at Dark Whispers died down," I resisted rolling my eyes at his understatement about the resulting scene. DB had tried to shoot me during the fighting, slayings and screaming. I avoided remarking on it since I doubted he'd be around long enough to get another chance to finish me off. Some of my thoughts leaked out and he paled underneath the charcoal coating of his revoltingly flaking skin continuing with, "and Kenyon sent everyone out to control the situation from getting any further out of hand."
Damson made it sound like there wasn't that much going on and the supernatural creatures hadn't been trying to eliminate each other at a rapid rate. I, also, liked how he glossed over his efforts to find me and personally slay me when retelling what happened after everyone fled from the club. Damson had been on the prowl during the night, looking to kill me undetected by others. He had wanted to pin my death on the werewolves seeking retribution. Had he succeeded in killing me, he could have convinced the vampire council that he had nothing to do with my death quite easily. The thought of werewolves marrying into vampire clans was disturbing to more than a few vamps and weres. My death would have been a 'tragic' horror -- easily dismissed as the werewolves' fault.
"I stayed close by Kenyon to make sure we kept tabs on him and his vampires, like you wanted Master." Again he wasn't addressing me but Simon. I nearly made kissing and sucking noises to taunt him but kept my mouth shut. Simon had used DB knowing my fledgling's faults and didn't need my help controlling him.
"The following night I met with Kenyon at the club and he was on the phone with some werewolf. He mentioned he'd got some great shots of traitorous vamps and rogue weres." Jane, Kenyon's human minion, had been surreptitiously filming all of us from the rafters of the club. She was recording Kenyon's 'rise' to power for the future generations, it had been whispered. I just thought it was for his future blackmail enterprise and from the frown on Simon's face he was in agreement with me.
"Which werewolf?" Harry asked softly.
Damson's forehead wrinkled as he tried to remember the name. Finally it came to him and he said, "Archer. Yeah, it was some werewolf named Archer."
We all avoided meeting each other's gazes since we knew exactly what had happened with Archer. Hell, if he'd been sent the pictures from Kenyon they certainly weren't around anymore. Archer's attempts on Harry and my lives along with a few key werewolves had resulted in his death and the immediate torching of his sick compound. The fire sort of went out of control a bit and from the newscasts I'd gathered that it was still burning the countryside ... and rapidly edging into a few non-rural, heavily populated areas. There'd been some mandatory evacuations and the smoke was still drifting through the area even over to where we sitting, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The winds had died down during the evening but they picked up once the sun rose, pushing the flames and cinders around the county.
The ash and smoke crept inside the guesthouse scenting the air with bits of death and destruction. I wondered how close the fires were to the coastline. It wasn't impossible for a firestorm to race across the county in the space of an evening.
"Did Kenyon talk to anyone besides Archer about the pictures and video from the meet?" Simon asked slowly, as if it wasn't very important.
Again DB's forehead scrunched up as he racked his memory. Simon could have easily dove into DB's brain and searched, but with all the insanity that made up my fledgling's desires and thoughts I didn't blame him. It took a minute then he answered, "Not that I can remember. I know that Archer was supposed to meet him a day or so ago but I haven't been around to see if that happened."
He smirked looking at the stakes in his body and lifting the little bit of eyebrow left on his face. Even at death's doorway DB was still a cocky bastard. His arrogance was quickly coming back.
"What about the Arizona vampires? Did he show them the video?" Harry casually asked.
"Nah, he told me that Mistress Cynthia had to earn her spot first." Damson really thought that Kenyon trusted him -- I found that hilarious. Kenyon wasn't known for his vampiric skills or playing well with others. Hell, he'd basically executed what was essentially a 'made' vampire in order to get the pendant he wore to the meet -- that alone made Kenyon dangerous. The council hadn't picked Kenyon to rise up through their ranks and Kenyon's acquisition of the pendant marked him as a vampire of power. Not something I thought but Kenyon could argue he 'earned' it.
I couldn't resist, "Well, it looks like Cynthia might have done that." He wiggled beneath the stakes as it dawned on him that I was probably right and that he was part of that 'earning' process.
We all looked at DB and I waited to see what Simon was going to do. DB was trying to smile but it just was an eerie grimace that sent a chill down my spine. He had outlived his usefulness as far as I was concerned, but I didn't know what else he'd squirreled away in his mind that might be helpful. I could feel that Simon was wrestling with a similar dilemma. It was our turn to figure out if we wanted to use Damson as bait for the remaining Arizona vampires. Harry had yet to weigh in with his opinion. His fellow vampire, Peter, had been instrumental in placing Damson inside Harry's guesthouse so he had a say on when we killed my fledgling.
Harry pulled his cell from his pocket where it had been vibrating again. Whatever he read seemed to give him closure because he nodded to Simon and said, "Anytime."
Simon was still glowing softly from his pulling energy from our clan. He shut his eyes and twisted something around for a minute in his mind. He too nodded as he opened his eyes looking at Damson.
"Master?" Again DB wasn't looking at me but Simon.
"Yes?" I answered causing him to jerk as he spun his gaze to me. We'd pretty much been ignoring the true protocols of fledgling vampires in order to extract as much information as needed from DB. He'd crossed so many lines in his quest to topple me that he'd grown sloppy. My answering him startled him back to reality. A fissure of fear raced through him as I began to hum softly.
Simon and Harry sat back on their heels and watched me mesmerize my fledgling. I sunk deeply into his skull and began to weave a story. I didn't have to give him any comfort so I didn't. Instead I draped his mindscape with the horrors of his existence. I etched bits and pieces of the destruction that he'd cut through the world during his time as a human and as a vampire. It wasn't a pretty sweet picture.
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