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Dresner’s mood swung to a delighted laugh so quickly, it made Sid’s head spin. “I can imagine,” she giggled, sounding far more girlish that she ever should.
That was one thing Sid found rather uncomfortable about the good professor. She didn’t only study vampires, she seemed enamored of them. And though Dresner had never said as much, Sid was convinced that her vampire expert had “donated” blood on more than one occasion.
Sid winced as the professor’s giggle finally trailed off. “Well,” she said, feeling uncomfortable. “Anyway, as I was saying, I’d barely begun to tell Aden what I was there for, when he got a phone call from someone named Bastien. I think that must be his assistant, the guy who met me at the elevator.”
“His lieutenant, you mean, and he’s far more important than you might think. His full name is Sebastien Dufort. His friends call him Bastien.”
“Lieutenant, gotcha. I don’t know what he said, but Aden told him they were leaving immediately, then hustled me out of there.”
Professor Dresner made a noise that sounded suspiciously like disappointment. Had she been hoping for tales of Sid’s adventures in vampire debauchery? But when the professor spoke, it was to ask something else entirely. “He didn’t say where he was going?”
“No,” Sid responded drily. “He barely said good-bye. But I overheard one of the guys on the phone on my way out. Maybe Bastien, I don’t know, but he was saying something about Silas. Whatever that is.”
“Not a what, a who,” Dresner said absently. There was a pause during which Sid could hear her shuffling something on the other end, then she said, “I’m sorry, dear, I’ve just received a message, and I have to respond to this. Different time zone, you understand.”
“Oh, of course. I didn’t mean to interrupt. By the way, Aden asked me to come back tomorrow night—ordered me actually, but—shall I call you?”
“Please do. I hate to rush, but I really must go.”
“Okay, I’ll talk—” But she was already gone. Sid frowned at the phone, then shrugged philosophically. Dresner was an odd duck, but a useful one. Sid tucked her cell phone away and wondered who Silas was to Aden that he went rushing off so suddenly. And the more she thought about it, she also wondered why Dresner’s entire demeanor had changed when Sid mentioned the name Silas. The prof knew a lot more about local vampires than she’d been willing to tell, almost as if she worried that Sid would scoop her big story. In fact, the only way Sid had gotten her to tell as much as she did was by promising a quid pro quo. Sid would tell her everything that happened, everything she discovered, once she managed to meet the right vampire, and in exchange Dresner would tell her how to make that meeting possible.
Sid pondered the possibilities. Maybe Dresner knew where this Silas was. Maybe Silas was another challenger, and Dresner was rushing off to be there for the big showdown between the two powerful vampires.
For all of a minute, Sid considered calling Dresner back and asking to go along. But a minute was all it was. The prof might delight in the vampires’ brutal natures, but Sid was more cautious. The little she’d learned about vamps told her a challenge at this level would be bloody. And Sid was more concerned about making sure that none of the blood flowing tonight was hers, than she was interested in watching a big, bloody vampire showdown.
ADEN TRANSFERRED from the private to the main elevator along with his vampires. These four were his own, his children. Once he became a vampire lord, they would form the core of his command structure. He trusted them with his life and quite literally held their lives in his hands. He also loved them in a way it was difficult to admit, even to himself. He had sworn off caring about anyone so long ago that he’d have thought he’d forgotten what it felt like. The most shocking thing to him, when he’d created Sebastien more than a hundred years ago, was the powerful bond he’d felt toward the new vampire. Even then, he’d assumed it was only because Bastien was his first. But with every new child he brought into the world of Vampire, the bonds became tighter to all of them.
That reality had nearly dissuaded him from becoming a vampire lord, the idea of all those vampires, hundreds, maybe thousands, looking to him for their very lives. So many hearts beating in cadence with his own, so many ties binding him ever more tightly.
But it was in his nature to seek power. Whatever it was that had made him Vampire had gifted him with the power of a vampire lord, and he could no more resist the lure of that power than he could his thirst for blood. And tonight, he would take one more step toward that goal.
Silas was a child of Klemens’s, one of the dead lord’s favorites by all accounts. Many of Klemens’s surviving vampires—ignoring the fact that they only continued to live because Lucas had offered them protection after their Sire’s demise—now looked to Silas as their next lord. It made Aden’s challenge even greater, and it meant he’d have to kill many more than just Silas before his rule was secure.
But Aden had never shied from death. Some people deserved to die. And others, like Silas, chose their own path, placing themselves in death’s way. Or Aden’s, which was usually the same thing.
“Bastien, do we have confirmation on Silas’s whereabouts?”
“Yes, my lord. Our source called a second time to confirm that Silas is at the West Loop blood house.”
Aden frowned. “That’s a public club, isn’t it? How many humans are we going to have to deal with?”
“The club has a private room, my lord,” Travis supplied. “That’s where we’ll find Silas and whatever humans have been chosen for the night. Shouldn’t be more than a few once we get past the main room.”
“You know the layout of the club?”
“Yes, my lord. There’s a rough sketch on your phone.”
Aden pulled out his cell phone and checked the diagram. The club was in a former warehouse, and the layout was straightforward.
“All right, we go in the front and directly to the back room. Silas might have a watcher, but that won’t matter. It’s not like we can conceal our entry, anyway. Once in, it’s take no prisoners. It’s safe to assume Silas will have more fighters than the five of us, but power and skill count for more than numbers. We show no mercy, gentlemen. None of Silas’s people are to leave that room alive. I’ll handle Silas myself.”
A chorus of murmured assents met his orders, and then the elevator hit the ground floor, and they flowed through the lobby and out onto the Chicago street. It was a cold night, and the few pedestrians who happened to be passing by shrank back as the five determined males pushed through the glass doors and into the long SUV waiting at the curb.
Aden took note of every single person in his vicinity, categorizing and dismissing them as he went. He’d been born a slave, but the warrior blood of his Scottish ancestors flowed in his veins. Those genetic gifts had been honed to perfection on behalf of his vampire Mistress, until he had become a superb fighter and a brilliant strategist, the most lethal weapon in her arsenal. And now those skills, that lethality, were about to make him the next vampire lord in North America.
The drive to the West Loop and the renovated warehouse was short. Klemens had established the warehouse as a blood house long before his death at Lucas’s hands. Aden had to admire the strength and discipline it must be taking for Lucas to maintain control not only of his own territory, but all of Klemens’s former territory as well. Especially when at least some of those vampires didn’t welcome him as their new lord. Fortunately, his friend wouldn’t have to carry that burden much longer.
Aden and his crew parked a short block away from the warehouse entrance. They were too big and too noticeable to approach unremarked upon, whether walking or driving, so Travis took the nearest parking spot that could handle the big SUV.
There was a line of customers waiting in front of the club, every one of them eager to donate blood to whatever vampire crooked a finger. Aden had been to plenty of blood houses over the years. He and Lucas had shut a few down back in the day. But it wasn’t his choice of donor. He much preferred a private party for two with someone like Sidonie Reid. In fact, before too much longer, he and the lovely Sidonie would be having that party. But first . . . there was Silas.
The club was crowded inside. Being a warehouse, it had high ceilings, rough brick walls, and a floor that was cold concrete beneath his boots. But it was no more than 2,000 square feet, rectangular in shape, and with a brightly-lit bar running nearly the full length of the back wall.
Aden and the others shoved their way through the crowd, ignoring the delighted squeals of blood groupies and the occasional groping hand. A few vampires objected loudly to their sudden appearance, but quickly fell back when they got a good look at who the newcomers were. A path cleared before them rather quickly, as vampires faded into the crowd and took their human companions with them.
“The private room, Sire,” Bastien said in his ear, nodding at a wide metal door to one side of the long bar. It was painted an unimaginative bright red, but at least the color made it easy to spot in the flickering light of the dark warehouse.
Trav reached the door first. It had an ordinary metal door knob, which he twisted experimentally, finding it unlocked. He shared a skeptical look with Aden. Where was the security on this supposedly private room?
“Is there an anteroom inside? A second door?” he asked Travis, needing to shout to be heard over the noise, despite their enhanced hearing.
“Not that I’ve seen, Sire,” Trav shouted back.
Bastien came up on Aden’s other side. “Something’s not right here,” Aden told him. “They’re expecting us.”
Bastien looked up and met his eyes. “You think our source was playing both sides?”
“Maybe. But it’s too late now. This changes nothing, except that now we know they’re waiting for us. Stupid of them. They should have left a guard on the door. Ready, gentlemen?”