Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Nautical Note: When you are sailing in a direction, you may come to a lull in the wind. You continue to coast, but you almost start to drift backwards. All is calm. But then, you will see the ripple of wind on the water, and it approaches, filling sails and pushing you in an unexpected direction.
Pam’s eyes scanned the line-up of men with hats standing behind the partition. Only in New York could Anubis Airlines have sufficient traffic to justify scheduled flights. Pam sighed. In another life, she would live in this city full-time. It wasn’t Paris with its gracious light and amazing architecture, but it had a vibe and intensity that made her feel almost alive.
The sign with ‘Ravenscroft’ was second to the right and Pam nodded. The driver fell into step behind her. Pam noticed he signaled and another vampire turned, flanking them and keeping a little ahead. “Paranoid?” Pam said out loud, knowing the driver could hear her, “Or should I be worried?”
“His Majesty considers any guest his personal responsibility from the moment they arrive in his territory. There have been no threats, but your safety is a matter of personal honor.” For humans, talking about honor and nobility sounded pretentious, but these were concepts that still mattered to vampires.
The driver swiftly moved ahead of her as they neared the doors to the terminal. He stepped on the pressure plate first, causing the doors to open for her and then gestured to the left. There was a third vampire standing beside the open door of an impeccable black limo. Pam caught his eye and he bowed low. When Pam got closer, the door holder offered his arm, allowing her the opportunity to use him for leverage when lowering into the seat. Pam smirked, “No touching!” The door opener smirked back and Pam was surprised. She hadn’t expected the folks working for New York to appreciate humor, especially snarky humor.
The driver was putting the car into gear almost before she was settled and in no time they were driving smoothly along the roads that would take them into the city. “I’m curious. Where has the King decided to house me?” Pam asked, keeping her tone nonchalant and selling it by checking her face in a small mirror.
The driver’s eyes were waiting for her in the rearview, “You are staying at His Majesty’s personal residence, in the Upper West Side.”
Pam’s fingers stilled. She had assumed he would place her in an apartment he controlled or a secondary residence. “Does the King have other guests?” she asked.
“No, Miss Ravenscroft,” the driver’s eyes flicked toward her again. “The residence rarely hosts guests,” and his eyes flicked back to the road. Pam sat back, absorbing it. There had been nothing in the invitation that would suggest she was being singled out. Pam ran through the possibilities. He could be curious. He could be curious about Eric. The King had history with both Thomas and Thierry, both of whom were Sheriffs in Eric and Sookie’s kingdom now. Perhaps he wished to hear more about their progress. Pam knew Maude, the Minnesota Queen, was not fond of Mikhail, Misha as he was called by friends and enemies, but when Pam asked whether she should change her plans, Maude scolded her, telling her not to be silly.
Rather than give the impression she was in any way nervous, Pam purposely stretched a little and reclined back on the seat cushion. She couldn’t tell for sure, but she was willing to bet she was sitting on custom-made, down cushioning. There was a mini-bar with an assortment of bottles in warmers and heavy Baccarat crystal goblets beside them. ‘Nothing cheap about this,’ Pam thought.
It wasn’t a long drive, but traffic slowed them. It gave Pam the opportunity to enjoy the changes in the buildings they passed and the skyline. One thing that set New York apart was its willingness to do away with the old in favor of the new. Unlike some cities that treated their architecture like sacred cows, New York was just as happy to build over, around, or encapsulate in such a way that they may have maintained the essence of the history while clearing the way for the city to grow. Pam felt this city dismissed the past. It was too busy making history to get stuck in it.
When the car pulled up to the curb, Pam couldn’t keep from purring. The front doors at the top of the stairs of the brownstone were open, light spilling down and over white masonry with black trim. There was a garden level entrance separated from the sidewalk by a wrought iron fence. The windows on each level were tall. Pam could tell from the slight shadowing they were all bullet-proof and light tight, but to the casual observer, there was nothing that differentiated this residence from the others on the street. Pam felt a tightening in her chest and for the first time in many years, she found herself reminded of her family’s London house.
“Welcome, Miss Ravenscroft,” an Asian vampire bowed. When he straightened, he said, “I am Andrew. I am Misha’s housekeeper.” He gestured toward the house, “If you would?”
Pam examined the servant. It was obvious he was carrying a sidearm. She was certain the slightly baggy pants concealed other weapons as well. The man moved like a cat and Pam drawled, “I’m sure housekeeping isn’t your only skill.”
“Perhaps,” Andrew smiled back. “You have a reputation as a fighter, so it would appear I am not the only one who wears many hats.”
“Touché,” Pam laughed. Pam recognized the vampires carrying her bags to the stairs as being the same from the airport. “Is the King in tonight?” she asked, unfastening her coat and then turning so Andrew could expertly lift it from her shoulders.
“Unfortunately, no,” Andrew sighed. “His Majesty will be returning tomorrow night. He has been in Boston and was unexpectedly delayed. He begs your forgiveness.” Andrew didn’t look the slightest bit concerned as he started up the staircase. “I will show you to your suite, and I can arrange some dinner for you.”
“That is very kind of you,” Pam said automatically, her attention drawn to the paintings that graced the walls of the staircase. There were landscapes she was sure were from the Hudson School, but the higher they climbed, the more modern the art became. Pam saw works by Oppenheimer and Schiele. As they turned to climb another flight, Pam stopped. “Those look like Klimt drawings.”
“The King has a fine eye,” Andrew’s tone gave nothing away as he continued climbing. By Pam’s count they were on the fourth floor when Andrew stopped on the landing to indicate an open door. Pam stepped through to find herself in a small hallway. “To the left you will find the bathroom suite,” Andrew opened the door to show her white marble with a large tub and separate shower stall. Double sinks framed a dressing table and there were piles and piles of thick towels. A matching robe was suspended on a heated hanger.
“And this was is the bedroom the King set aside for your use.” Andrew pushed the door open. Pam’s bags were opened and one of the attendants was hanging her clothing in large built-in armoires. The bed looked like something out of Versailles, but more comfortable and there was a bench seat that ran under the windows that Pam knew overlooked the street. “His Majesty made clear you are to have full access to the house except the resting chambers on the floor below your own. Those are the King’s own.”
“That is most generous,” Pam said sincerely. When Pam dropped her purse and scarf on the bed, Andrew gestured, offering to take her on a tour of the rest of the house. There was a large library on the same floor as her bedroom, complete with a baby grand piano. The stairs led up again and Andrew showed her the roof terrace. There was a glassed-in area surrounding the staircase with a table and chairs that could be used in cooler weather, and on both sides of the central entrance, there were pavers with potted trees and flowers set in containers. It was a fanciful bit of nature surrounded by the lights of the city.
Pam couldn’t help herself. She wandered from one end of the roof to another, admiring each thing. Andrew loosened a little, and Pam could tell he loved this place. He took her past the Master’s floor to the second level. This was where the living room and several meeting rooms were located. The first floor had a dining room that opened through French doors to an enclosed garden complete with a small oriental structure that looked back at the house. Water tinkled and brightly colored koi rose to the surface. “This is also the floor where my apartments are located,” Andrew confirmed. “There is a basement, of course, but it’s mainly storage.”
‘And torture chambers,’ Pam thought, though she kept that to herself.
As they came in from the terrace, Andrew said, “Perhaps you would care to feed?”
Pam arched an eyebrow. The rumor was that Misha did not use Registry, preferring to maintain his own donors. “That would be most appreciated,” Pam smiled tightly. Instead of showing her into an office, though, Andrew took her back to her bedroom. Almost before she had a chance to sit down, there was a discreet knock on the door and two beautiful, thin women walked in. It was everything Pam had not to gasp. They were exactly what she would have chosen. Most monarchs presented a choice of male or female. “Your King is most kind,” Pam sighed.
Andrew bowed, a slight smile playing across his face, “Misha is most anxious that his guests are comfortable. Feel free to keep one or both. They are skilled and I believe you will find their blood type to be your favorite.” As he left, he turned at the door, “If you would like entertainment later, I can be reached on the house phone. Just pick up and press the ‘one’ and I will answer. There are clubs nearby, movies. This is the city that never sleeps. I would be happy to arrange something that meets your tastes,” and with that, he closed the door.
“Thank you,” Pam said simply, tucking bills into their hands. Andrew had not exaggerated. They were delightful, limber, and willing. Had Pam met them under different circumstances, she might have asked the brunette for another play date, but under these circumstances, she knew it would be a mistake. Pam hadn’t had time to sweep the room for bugs, but she assumed there were several in place. If her host wanted to spy on her techniques, he was welcome; it wasn’t as if she was shy. Pam was certain it wouldn’t take much trolling through cyberspace to find any number of videos in which she had a starring role. Pam’s attitude was if you had no modesty, then no one could hold it over you.
As the blonde smiled up at her before being lost to the winding of the staircase, Pam did have a momentary twinge, thinking of Twy. The affair with the publicist was mostly over, at least as far as Pam was concerned. It had been fun, but in the end, Twy was able to satisfy some needs, but not all. “Oh, the challenge of being a sophisticated female!” Pam said out loud, and with a sigh, turned around and headed back into the bathroom to turn off the water.
With another sigh she slid into the bathtub that was the perfect size for two regular sized people. With her small frame, Pam could almost swim in it. Vanilla with lemongrass oil was on the side of the tub, along with rose petal scrub. They weren’t exactly her favorites, but they were good guesses. Somehow it made Pam feel flattered and not stalked. When the water cooled, the vampire checked her watch. One in the morning. The evening was still young.
Flipping through her clothes, she chose a black leather skirt and a soft black leather top that plunged just short of her navel. Platform Louboutin and her near-white hair pulled into a tight ponytail completed her look. Pulling out her phone, Pam called a cab and headed downstairs.
Andrew met her in the front foyer. “Miss Ravenscroft? You look delightful. May I summon the car for you?”
“That’s okay, Andrew, I didn’t want to disturb you, so I made my own arrangements. I’m heading out to check on my downtown club. I’ll be home before dawn. Should I…”
“I will be waiting for you, Madame. If you would allow?” and the housekeeper held out his hand for her phone. His fingers flew, “If you call that number the car will swing by for you when you are ready. There is no need to have your transportation become a chore.”
“I appreciate it,” Pam waved her hand, “but I am a big girl. No one needs to stay up.”
Andrew’s smile dropped and he said in a serious voice, “What I said earlier, Miss Ravenscroft, about the King’s sense of obligation? If you don’t take the car, it will be up to me to explain what I did to anger you.” Pam wasn’t sure if the housekeeper was kidding her, but he didn’t look like he was joking.
“Fine,” Pam sniffed. “I’ll call!”
“Thank you, Miss!” Pam felt embarrassed that he was so obviously relieved.
There was a honk outside and Pam walked through the door Andrew opened. She made her way to the waiting taxi, climbing into the faint smell of cigarette smoke, cumin, and gasoline. As they headed uptown, she considered that having a private car with blended blood warmed in Baccarat crystal wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Fangtasia on the Wall was doing well. It was a weeknight, but the line was healthy. The bouncers were well-dressed, handsome, and alert. One was a vampire and he recognized her the minute she unfolded from the taxi. “Mistress Pam!” he called out. “Welcome to your club!” That got the attention of the other bouncers and those standing outside. Cameras clicked and people called for her attention. The rope was lowered and the door held open. Pam saw a bouncer talking into his wrist and within five steps of the entrance, the manager was in front of her, bowing low.
Pam insisted on an exacting tour. She would come back in a few nights, but earlier before things got started, to confirm whether she missed anything, but she knew from experience, she rarely did.
By the time two hours had elapsed, Pam had catalogued over thirty changes or improvements she wanted to make. All in all, the club was aging well, but this was New York and New Yorkers were demanding. She texted Maxwell asking for some changes that could be done without major disruption. Her eyes flicked over the video screens. Removing them would be one of her suggestions. Walls of screens were over. It was time for something new, perhaps something with holograms. After a quick perusal of the books and turning down the manager’s offer for refreshments, Pam called the number Andrew had provided.
“You are still at your club, Miss Ravenscroft?” the voice at the end asked.
“Yes, how long?” Pam glanced at her nails. Her manager was becoming tiresome. His pandering had turned to toadying and Pam found she was anxious to be gone.
“The car is already out front and ready when you are,” the voice told her.
Pam thought about the street entrance. There was no parking lot and she didn’t recall seeing an open spot on the street. “Great, I’m headed out now,” she could tell from her manager’s look that she had not hidden her skepticism.
She summarized her findings, told her manager she’d be back, and then allowed him to escort her to the door. The bouncers opened the exterior doors for her, and there, on the sidewalk was the black limo. The driver touched his hat, opened her door, and bowed, treating her as if she was royalty. When he slid behind the wheel, Pam laughed and shook her head, “A girl could get used to this!”
“My King will be pleased we have met your expectations,” the vampire answered smoothly. The car moved over the curb and within fifteen minutes, they were back at the brownstone. A vampire was on the sidewalk offering his hand to assist her from the car. Andrew opened the door, and then moved behind her to assist her with coat and gloves, asking, “How was your evening, Miss Ravenscroft?”
“Wonderful, Andrew,” Pam replied. As she approached the stairs, she saw a pair of soft slippers. She glanced at Andrew.
“If you wish,” he didn’t meet her eyes. “Your feet may appreciate a change in elevation.”
“These are pretty high,” Pam laughed and toed out of her heels to slip her feet into the slippers. She could almost hear her feet sigh in relief. “That was most considerate, Andrew. Thank you.”
“You are the King’s special guest,” Andrew bowed again, “Let me know if I may be of further assistance this evening. You will find warmed blood in the library. Rest well,” and he waited in the hall until she was well up the stairs.
Once she was on her floor, Pam stripped down to her panties, laying her leather outfit across the slipper chair. She put on the robe from the bathroom and walked across the tiled foyer to the library. As Andrew had said, there was a decanter set on a warming plate, cut crystal glasses and a vase of freshly cut orchids. “Wow,” Pam sniffed the orchids before draping herself across the chintz chair, “It’s good to be King!”
When she rose, Andrew informed her that although the King was in town, he had not returned to the residence. “I am certain he will return at some point this evening. He mentioned his interest in meeting you, but he asks that you not disrupt your plans on his account.”
Pam was surprised to realize she was disappointed. Even though she had confirmed there were bugs in her room, she found she wanted to meet the vampire who lived this well.
The car was called and Pam headed over to the Village to inspect Fangtasia in Green. The crowd was a little smaller than the one she had seen at the Manhattan venue, but that was to be expected. The crowd was also a little younger, but they seemed to be spending as much if not more. The accounting books confirmed her suspicions. It was a different vibe, looser somehow. The dancing was more frenetic. Pam considered enlarging the dance floor here, maybe alternate dance platforms to give the action a more three-dimensional feel. One of the women she had met at the brownstone her first night in the city walked up and asked if she would care to dance. One thing led to another and Pam found it was near dawn when she left.
When she exited the club, the car was waiting for her. Like the night before, Andrew was at the door and slippers waited on the stairs. Pam drew a bath before retiring. She knew the sheets on her bed had been changed, as they had last night while she was out. The towels were fresh. The flowers were fresh. Everything was meticulously clean. She reached for her phone, starting a favorite piece of piano music and then closed her eyes, allowing the smells and music to transport her.
On the third night when Andrew informed her the King had returned late last night, but had already left, Pam said, “I’m going to start thinking he’s avoiding me.” Andrew smiled and asked where she would like to go this evening.
“I should probably work this evening but I think I’m going to take a night off. Suppose the car can drop me off downtown? I thought I’d do some shopping, maybe poke around a little.”
“Of course, Miss Ravenscroft,” and the car was there.
It was Thursday night and Pam knew that Neue Gallerie New York stayed open until nine on Thursdays. These extended hours were recent, a nod to vampire guests. She took her time, browsing the standing exhibits and then sampling the visiting art. When Pam couldn’t wait any more, she walked into the central gallery. She took a seat on the neat white bench positioned directly in front of the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and sighed. It was like visiting an old friend. Pam found it mesmerizing. The color and composition, the slight smile, it called to her in a way she couldn’t describe.
There weren’t many people here tonight, but after a time another vampire came into the room. He seated himself on the bench, the one that was positioned farther away from Adele. He was dressed casually, black pants and a white, button down shirt that looked custom made. When Pam glanced back, she saw his gaze was also captured by the painting and, feeling a little self-conscious, Pam turned around and said, “There’s plenty of bench here if you’d like to be closer to her. I’m willing to share.”
“You’re sure you don’t mind?” His accent was difficult to place, New York, but something else too.
“I don’t intend to leave her any time soon so the least I can do is share the view with a fellow admirer.”
He stood and Pam could see he was short, but not as short as she was in stocking feet. His chest seemed a little over-sized for his body, but he was well muscled. He sat down at the far end of the bench, careful not to crowd her, and turned his face back towards the painting. After a bit he asked, “Have you seen the special exhibit?”
“Austrian decorative glass?” When he nodded, his eyes remaining on Adele, Pam replied, “I browsed it before I came in here. Lovely.”
“You like Klimt?” and this time he turned her face toward her. Pam catalogued his face. It was strong, but not handsome. His nose was off center and his teeth were a little large for his mouth, but his eyes were attractive.
“I do,” Pam answered and arched an eyebrow. “I am drawn to the work of the post-Impressionists and Modernists. There is something honest about the German and Austrian artists of that period. Hard to believe their work would be repressed by their own people.”
The man nodded, “Repression is always hard to understand. When there is a meeting of the minds, why should the material,” and he pinched his arm, “the packaging make such a difference?”
“Pam Ravenscroft,” Pam said by way of introduction.
“I know,” he replied, and Pam realized that she had just met Mikhail, the King of New York.
“Did you know I was here?” Pam asked him.
He chuckled. The way his eyes crinkled and his cheeks lifted almost made his face handsome. “No,” he shook his head. “No, in fact I came here thinking I would avoid you. I thought a woman such as you would be busy going to clubs on a Thursday night, not wasting her precious time looking at old things.”
“I go to clubs for a living,” Pam said quietly. “It’s business. Loud music and people willing to spend money. I won’t deny there’s a rush in scoring big. I like to win.”
“Me, too,” the King laughed, and then he nodded his head, “Mikhail.”
“I know,” Pam smirked.
“But you didn’t,” he said knowingly.
“No,” she confirmed, “I didn’t. You surprised me.”
The King’s eyes crinkled again, “You are honest with me! You are an unusual woman, Pam Ravenscroft. You make me wish to surprise you again,” and he held out his hand. Pam placed her hand in his and he lifted it and lightly kissed its back. With a brief smile, he placed her hand back on the bench and then, wordlessly, they both turned to look upon the magnificent painting and stayed there until the guards asked them to leave.
They rode together in a town car Pam assumed was the King’s own. They entered the brownstone and spent a good part of the evening admiring the art that adorned his staircases. The library on Pam’s floor had books cataloging more. As the evening stretched, Misha (‘You must call me Misha. My friends do’) asked if Pam had enjoyed the donors he provided.
“I’m sure you know already,” Pam teased from her perch on his bookcase ladder. “You have the room wired, don’t you? Listening? Watching?”
“I have the option of both,” he agreed with a shrug. While she didn’t like it, she appreciated that he was immediately honest. “I will tell you I haven’t been recording.” When she looked skeptical he chuckled, “From the way you are acting, I can see that was a mistake. You enjoyed yourself, then?”
“They were as skilled as advertised,” Pam replied.
“I can invite them back,” he offered with a lift of his goblet.
“I don’t do seconds on paid help,” Pam shrugged, earning her another chuckle from the monarch.
“No, Zolotse, neither do I,” and he leaned back.
“Okay, I’ll bite,” Pam purred, pouring herself a tumbler of the blood. “Zolotse?”
“It means, my golden one. I will see you forever in my mind, sitting in the Galerie, your back so straight, gazing at Adele. Adele was all gold, but you? You shone brighter,” and Misha drank, then rose. “It has been a delightful evening, Pamela Ravenscroft. Perhaps you would do me the honor of accepting an invitation to spend another evening with me during your stay?”
It was on the tip of Pam’s tongue to decline. She had follow-ups and scouting for possible future sites. She promised Maude she would be returning in four days and she had five days’ worth of work since she’d ended up taking tonight off. He stood up and his face fell just a little as he anticipated her negative answer, but just as he was turning to go she heard herself say, “I’d like that.”
Misha’s face lifted, his smile beamed, and Pam felt unreasonably happy to have pleased him. As he leaned forward to lift her hand, she said, “You understand, I’m not attracted to men.”
He gave her a knowing look from beneath his brows, “Now, Pamela, we both know that’s not the truth. You are attracted to me, and I am attracted to you. You may be confusing attraction with sexual desire. They can mean very different things for sophisticated people, and we, Zolotse,” and his kissed her hand, “We are sophisticated people.”
The next days were a whirl of activity. Pam worked and then would meet Misha in different places. He took her on a guided tour of the old Garment District, regaling her with stories of hunting down the alleys and by-ways. Pam shared her thoughts on the direction fashion was taking. She wasn’t surprised to hear Misha was invited to all the major shows, “But I rarely go. Who would I laugh with? But now? Now I will have a companion who understands the nuance!” They visited museums that had late hours, and on their last evening together Misha arranged a special viewing at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. They walked the galleries lit just for them.
Later, at the brownstone, a stunning brunette appeared and they shared her in the King’s large bed. It was passionate and foolish and Pam promised herself she would never stay in the New York King’s residence again.
“Who did you meet?” Maude asked her on her return to Minnesota.
“What makes you say that?” Pam had reared back.
“I know you Pammie, and you are glowing.” Pam shook her head and joked it off, but later, when the large basket of yellow roses arrived, Maude gave her a knowing stare.
The Minnesota Queen plucked the card before Pam could retrieve it. “Zolotse?” she smirked. “Oh Pam, you sure know how to pick them!”
“You can’t believe the stories, Misha. She and Northman have remained very close over the years. To think they would sever relations over his Fae Queen is too thin! My spies tell me she saved the Fae’s life. That doesn’t sound like the kind of relationship that would lead to a falling out with her Sire. It’s more likely the opposite and she’s working for him in some way.”
“What does it matter, Carlo? Pam is a businesswoman. Northman is no problem for us. He is busy in Louisiana. He doesn’t have the money or the ambition to create trouble.” The King stretched a little, then settled back so the Were could resume massaging his upper back. “Did I tell you I met the Fae? Sookie Stackhouse. She was at Sanctum when I went there for the Lady’s funeral. She has a pretty kind of face. Her chest is large, which is what I assume attracted Northman. These country vampires are all the same.”
“She is related to Niall,” Carlo added.
“Again, so what?” and Misha swatted the Were as a way of venting his annoyance with his second. He rolled over so he could face Carlo before saying, “What does it matter? What power do the Fae have in this world anymore? It’s like marrying a Russian princess. The title is there, but it has no meaning. She is an interesting ornament with a curious pedigree, no more.” He turned to his masseuse and said “I’m sorry, Jack. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
“No problem, Majesty,” the well-muscled man bowed. “Would you like me to resume?”
“No, no,” and Misha hopped off the table, “Carlo has ruined it for me.”
When the Were left, the New York King flicked a towel around his shoulders and said “So, what was so important that you had to disturb my massage? We both know my sexual appetites are fleeting, so Pamela is not truly the problem.”
“No, Majesty,” and Carlo bowed low, “The Ravenscroft woman is not a problem.” Misha’s eyes narrowed and his lips lifted. It was one of the things he liked about Carlo, he could read a situation, so he knew Carlo would not say her name again unless invited. When he was sure his second was suitably cowed, he walked over to the low chair and sat. Only then did Carlo straighten up, and then he said, “There are reports that the witches in the South are threatening vampires. They have found a way to remove glamour.”
“How was this verified?” Misha frowned. “It could be the witches are simply introducing their ideas. Even we can’t remove glamour completely. There are gaps, loss.”
“It is said they used vampires to test it. There are still gaps, but many of the main memories remain.”
Misha drew air through his nostrils. It wasn’t that he needed to breathe. He hadn’t needed that in centuries, but it satisfied some instinctual need to test the environment around him. ‘My security blanket,’ he thought. Once he was certain his surroundings were safe, his mind could turn to the problem at hand. “I am assuming they are threatening vampires in general? This isn’t aimed at any one vampire?”
“Our spies tell me that covens here have been communicating with the ones in the south. Local chapters are debating whether they should take advantage of the opportunity this new magic presents.”
“I hope you have arranged a demonstration of how foolish that might be,” Misha’s voice was soft, almost gentle. For those who knew him best, they knew it was when he spoke this way that he was at his most dangerous.
“They have been informed,” Carlo confirmed, “Still, it will be hard for all of them to resist the money. They are looking for blackmail, selling back our stories for enormous wealth. Most believe that all vampires possess untold riches, fountains of wealth.”
“The Christians should have finished those bitches off when they had the chance. Who started this?” Misha pushed out of his chair and headed to the shower.
Carlo followed, “We are not certain, Majesty. It could be those in the South would know better. It is a dangerous skill.”
“One we can either exterminate or glamour away, eh?” the King asked.
“I have heard from our Clan Chief,” he paused when the King growled, “this matter is to be discussed in Boston next month at the Summit. In the meantime, we are to handle any incidents as local affairs. We are reminded that there are Witnesses and too many humans who are willing to release video of us doing bad things on the Internet.”
Misha’s mouth worked a little before he said, “If Nabila had the subtlety required to be a true Clan Chief she would have pulled us together in an emergency session. She may be able to speak in the language of money, and I, for one admire that, but she lacks finesse.”
“Perhaps you will need to correct that, Majesty,” Carlo bowed again.
“Perhaps,” and Misha smiled, “And why are you calling me ‘Majesty?’ We are friends, Carlo!” His second smiled and nodded, but they both knew that staying on Misha’s good side required dancing the fine line between familiarity and obedience. Carlo was dancing well, and if he managed to survive a few more years, he could expect to step into any other kingdom with high marks, perhaps even aspire to be named Regent. If he failed, he would find himself running bridges in the dark of night with wooden stakes affixed to make the game livelier, like his predecessor. “Well, we don’t have to worry about those Silent Witnesses, do we, Carlo?”
“No, Misha,” and Carlo laughed, “They go where we say. They are most appreciative of their anonymous benefactors and most happy to have the organization and support their local chapter provides.”
“Good, good. So simple. Give them plenty of money, offer to help them organize, and soon, they are doing your bidding. Too bad my fellow monarchs haven’t figured it out!” and the King chuckled. He finished his shower and walked out, grabbing a towel. “And, how are things in the good kingdom of Indiana?”
“He fled his own kingdom, his tail between his legs!” Carlo shook his head, “He is in Mississippi, licking his wounds. He had left his second. We could take the kingdom…”
“No,” Misha shook his head. “There is no need. He is humiliated. Keep sending our little presents. They won’t be able to keep up and the humans will be outraged.”
“I don’t wish to question you, Lord, but doesn’t this reflect badly on all of us? My purpose in asking is only to understand the subtlety of your plan,” and Carlo waited.
“You don’t think this is just about revenge?” Misha asked him.
“No, Misha!” and Carlo laughed in a way that acknowledged his belief that the King was teasing, “You would never allow an opportunity like this to be about one thing. You will have other goals.”
“You have learned well! You are right, of course.” Misha moved back into his private sitting area. The massage table was gone along with the towel warmers and oils. He walked to the antique serving cart and poured himself warmed blood.
There was an arrangement of yellow roses in a low, cut crystal bowl and he thought of her, the sounds she made as she locked eyes with him. His Pam had tasted delicious, as delicate as rose petals, and then he drew in more air, surprised at the direction his thoughts had taken. Since when was Pamela Ravenscroft ‘his’? He shook his head and filed it away, a problem for another day. “It is an easy thing to point out that no other vampire territory has these problems, only Indiana. We will offer to help police our own, clean up this terrible mess, and put measures in place to make sure it never happens again.”
“There are those who worry that this will push the humans into making laws that will work against us.”
Misha smiled, “With the money we provide to certain politicians, the access to our blood? I doubt it. There will be chest beating and fist shaking. These humans are dramatic beings, but in the end, they will accept our offer. Poor Bartlett Crowe! To be revealed to all vampires as too weak to rule!”
“It will be open season on him,” Carlo nodded.
“Yes, too bad!” Misha chuckled.
“Have you heard from Thierry lately?” Carlo asked.
“We have a lively correspondence,” Misha smiled. “He does well. He is too far removed to have much useful information, but he lets me know how my gifts are doing in that part of the world. He is most successful, and getting richer, but then again, it is expected. All know that any vampire who trains with me develops into a successful vampire, a money maker. I make them better and then I set them free into the world, and since each of you succeeds, each of my graduates is sought after.”
“An opportunity for which I am most grateful,” Carlo bowed. “My King!”