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"The demons always know when we have tried to fool them," the abbot told him. "Live bait is the only thing that works."
John didn't dare look into the window to see if Mercer was getting drunk or Ignatius was having a nervous breakdown. He couldn't believe Mercer was a member of the Brethren. In all the years they had known each other, he had never said a word to John. Of course, if he had, he would have been killed for it.
The first rule of the order is no one talks about the order.
"What of the breeders? Have you secured any?" Mercer's voice lashed out.
"We have only just begun the breeding program." Ignatius sniffed and cleared his throat. "We embraced the monastic life—as we were told to, I might add."
"The Lightkeeper is going to be very disappointed. We need new men to replace those who are killed by the maledicti, and docile women to breed more. You have enough desperate and poor in this community to build a young army in fifteen years. You do know how to set up a proper breeding facility, I hope?"
"I was trained to, yes, but we—none of us—" Ignatius coughed. "Pardon me, Father. The younger men, yes, of course, they will do as they have vowed. But the older men have been dedicated to Christ. They have lived in celibacy since their training. I think it beyond them now."
"I am sure they will remember how to plow a breeder," Mercer snapped. "But if you must, give them demonstrations yourself."
"Is there no alternative for us?" Ignatius's voice bordered on hopeless. "We have done some good things here. Could not others readier to respond be brought in to face this threat?"
"We leave the church work to the members of the church whom we protect. None of you are priests, Ignatius; have you forgotten this? I see you have. None of you belong here. You are not entitled to this life; it is only a farce. If you wish to redeem yourself, then do so in the prescribed manner. Carry on the Light of the World. Burn out the darkness of the evil ones who would extinguish it. Bring forth the next generation of God's warriors, that we may not be plunged into darkness." Mercer sniffed. "Did you cut yourself on that glass, man?"
John felt a distant, nagging pang, and looked down. He had been gripping the car keys so tightly that they had cut into his hand, and he was dripping blood all over the ground.
Burke rang the penthouse suite to inform Lucan that the seigneur was running late, but Detective Brown and her partner had arrived early. Cigarette smoke had sent the old man back to their car in search of his medication, but Samantha was coming up by herself in the elevator.
"When Detective Quinn returns, keep him downstairs. Inform me when the seigneur arrives." Lucan hung up the phone and turned to his seneschal. "Why can't you trace the flower deliveries?"
"They are not being ordered from, made, or delivered by any floral service, my lord. It may be that whoever is sending them has stolen the boxes and is preparing the contents himself. Burke said in both cases he found the boxes left outside the front door after someone had rung the delivery bell." Rafael pulled on his jacket. "I will greet the seigneur and entertain him until you are ready to receive him. How long will you take with the woman?"
"As long as I wish." Lucan heard the elevator bell.
"I'll take the stairwell." His seneschal hesitated. "She will be armed."
"So will I," he assured him.
Lucan sat down on the wide, butter-soft leather sofa and poured a glass of diluted wine. He sipped from his own, allowing the blood that had been infused in it to warm his cold veins. He had not yet fed, but the bloodwine would keep him from succumbing to the temptation of taking more of Samantha's blood.
When the suite bell rang, he called, "Please come in, Detective."
Samantha let herself in, and came to him. She wore a brown jacket, white knit shirt, and black trousers that Lucan imagined were as crisp and nondescript as everything in her wardrobe. Her straight brown hair—far darker than Frances's had been—had been pulled back tightly from her face again. Even with twenty feet between them, he could smell lemon on her breath and soap on her skin.
Temptation be damned. She was his kyrya, or would be before the month was out. He would sample more of her charms before she left.
"Thank you for seeing me," she said, taking out the little electronic device she used to make her notes. "I have some questions—"
"You look as if you have not slept since last we met." He lifted a glass and held it out to her. "Please take it. If you break this one, I have more."
The reminder of what had happened during their last encounter made her frown. "No, sir, thank you. I can't drink when I'm on duty."
"I can make you something else," he said, and moved closer to her. Her eyes were not dilated, and she didn't appear to be in any danger of falling under his voice control. Then he felt a gust of air against his back and remembered the windows were gone. The combination of her resistance and the unsealed room would make it twice as hard to lure her to him with l'attrait.
Good. Lucan preferred a challenge.
Samantha looked past his shoulder. "Where are your windows?"
"I grew tired of opening and closing them." He gestured to the sofa. "Please sit down, Detective."
She approached his furniture with an endearing amount of admiration and mistrust, as if she wanted nothing more than to stroke the fine leather but expected to have her hand slapped if she did so.
Lucan also knew what she was feeling at that moment. He had planted the suggestion in her mind, and now she would be fighting the compulsion to tell him everything about the murders, as well as the less obvious desire simply to be with him. The fact that he was implicated in both murders clashed with her needs, making her intellect war with her instincts.
He decided to test her resolve. "Have you made any progress in discovering who killed the woman?"
"Her name was Lena Caprell," Samantha said. "We have some new leads to follow. We… I can't discuss the details."
Yes, fight me. Lucan admired her all the more for her strength of character. That she could deny him meant that whatever she gave him would come from her own desire, not a reflection of his. He wanted an equal, not a servant.
She deliberately looked into his eyes. "What can you tell me about a man named J. R. Montgomery?"
"Only that he is dead. My assistant told me of his unfortunate demise." Lucan enjoyed returning her scrutiny. She did not blush, as any other bespelled human female would, and the set of her mouth indicated she was neither enchanted nor absorbed by his physical presence. "A terrible thing."
"Is it true that you hired Mr. Montgomery and his company to renovate part of your nightclub?"
"I'm certain that one of my people did. I don't involve myself in the business at that level." She wore no jewelry again, but she had the skin for pearls. Lucan imagined wrapping her in long, long strands of them: white and gold and pink and black…
Samantha ticked off something on the device in her hand. "Do you know anything about a cross that belonged to a Temple knight named Noir de L'Anfar?"
"I believe the term is Templar," he said softly. He liked hearing his priestly name on her lips. "And no, I avoid crosses and men with complicated names."
She eyed him. "But you did see Mr. Montgomery shortly before he was murdered."
"Did I? I can't recall." While contemplating which pearls would look best against her breasts, he realized he had never gotten a proper look at them. "Why don't you take off your jacket? You'll be more comfortable."
She gave him an exasperated look. "Lucan, if you want me to help you with whatever trouble you're in, you've got to stop making moves on me."
"Is that what I'm doing?"
Shaking her head, she pocketed her device and stood. "I'd better go downstairs and check on my partner."
"I did not ask you to strip to the skin, Samantha." He hid his smile behind his wineglass. "Of course, if you are inclined to, we can move our discussion into my bedchamber. My lack of windows affords pleasant ventilation but little privacy."
"I'll be back in a minute." She pivoted to go.
"If you leave," he warned, "I will not answer any more of your questions without my attorney present. I believe he is in Barbados for the next two weeks."
Samantha swung back around, and he saw that he had made her angry. Incredible. She had more resolve than any human female he'd ever known.
"You'd better start taking this seriously, Lucan. A lot of people who were involved with you are being murdered." Temper improved her color and made her eyes come alive.
He wondered if fucking her would make her glow from within like this. A week in bed with him and he'd make her blaze like a fire in midwinter. "Is two a great deal?"
"One is too many."
A week wasn't going to be enough. He'd need a month, perhaps two. "Alas, the world is a vicious place, and we but the wretches who must navigate through its horrors." He got up and walked toward her. "I do like Fort Lauderdale, so I am counting on you to make it a safer place for me."
"First your lover is murdered, and now a man who was working for you. It's as if someone wants to shut down your business and your life." She skirted around the sofa, putting it between them. "Are they trying to get to you; is that it? Have you been threatened?"
"Why would someone threaten me but kill two other people?" he asked as he came after her. "It would make more sense to kill me."
She avoided him neatly by mirroring his movements. "Has anything like this happened to you before you came to Florida?"
Too many times. "No." As the word left his lips, the wineglass on the coffee table cracked.
Samantha's expression turned uneasy as her eyes shifted from him to the wineglass and back again. "Let's take a break. I'll be back in a minute with my partner." She headed for the elevator.