Excerpt: Blood & Destiny
Blood & Destiny Copyright 2010 Kaye Chambers All rights reserved – a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
I recognized the vampire at the door and felt the smile dawning despite my unease at being here. He met it with an answering smile but didn’t move down from his post. He signaled the man in charge of the rope to let me in. I breezed past the gatekeeper, glad I didn’t have to stand in the haze of his cologne.
“Destiny, come to sample our… pleasures?”
I rolled my eyes at Peter who apparently had drawn the short straw to be put at the door supervising the human bouncers who were holding back the growing line.
“Yeah, your charm just couldn’t keep me away.”
He slapped a hand that could only be called delicate across his heart and made a sound as if he were wounded. The sheer drama of it made my smile widen despite my best efforts. Peter was Roman. As in the Roman Empire, not a citizen of the Rome we know today. He would have made an excellent stage actor, if he could be bothered with such plebian pursuits. In his former life, he had been a senator before being seduced by a mysterious person of the East. That was as much of his story as I’d managed to glean. He was very good at deflecting curiosity.
“Nonetheless, he will be glad you’ve come.” Like the really old ones, Peter didn’t call Marcus by name. In days gone by, the anonymity of the king had been what kept not only him alive, but also helped the group escape when the authorities were set to exterminate them.
The vampires were a lot like a tribe of gypsies. Their king was their authority and the entire system was still slightly feudal. By rights, I should have known more about Marcus than I did. But if Peter was good at deflecting curiosity, Marcus was a master at it. Somehow, our conversations didn’t get around to answering my questions. Maybe he was better at distraction because he had my number in a way Peter never would.
“Let’s hope so.”
Even though I grumbled it under my breath, Peter heard it as he signaled the bouncer to open the door. The heavy base of the club music drowned out the sound of his laughter and I was glad for it. My last visit had ended badly. Marcus had been content to wait me out. And they said cats had patience.
It always surprised me not to be stepping into a mass of people when I walked into the foyer, but the Vantage was laid out better than that. Most of the people were packed onto the central revolving dance floor on the main level. Two sweeping staircases on the sides of the foyer led to the elevated members-only areas. More public seating ranged closer to the bars stationed on each of the remaining walls on the main level. I took it all in at a glance before sweeping my gaze up the staircases to find the target of my visit.
Marcus Smythe, his latest pseudonym, had a woman pressed against the sweeping banister on the staircase on my right. Closer examination brought the realization that his hands might be around her and on the banister, but it wasn’t him doing the pressing. She had herself practically glued to the front of his silk shirt and designer pants. Having fallen victim to his allure before, I could definitely relate to the feeling. Today, though, I was made of sterner stuff, or at least I hoped so. Crow never tasted good, but I’d be eating it before I could ask him to come down to examine the file photos.
I trotted up the stairs without a second glance at the loitering bouncers beside them. They made no move to stop me thanks to the little gold pin on my shirt. Reaching Marcus, I slipped my hand on his arm and tugged. He let me pivot him as I moved past. Because of her insanely high heels, his would-be body decoration had to let go or risk being knocked down the stairs. Stopping a couple of steps higher, I turned to see a touch of laughter shining back at me from his face. I felt that bright, almost happy look all the way to my toes.
“Pardon me for interrupting your takeout. You can have him back in a second, miss. Can you spare me a moment, Marcus?”
“For you, always.” Even his voice was smooth as honey and absolutely without an accent. It promised all sorts of sinful things. Having experienced a wide variety of them, my body revved up against my better judgment.
“Well, remember you said that in about five minutes.” I muttered it under my breath, but I knew he heard me. We’d see how far his always went after my apologies.
Leaving him to make his amends with his date, I turned to climb the rest of the stairs, veering off toward the private alcoves once I reached the top. If I weren’t afraid he’d take it the wrong way, I’d have gone over to the personal elevator that rode up to his apartment for extra discretion. With my luck, he’d take the change in venue to mean I wanted to totally make up for our last fight. Since I wasn’t ready for that, I chose a private alcove with a sheer curtain where anyone could see us talking because talking was all we were going to do.
Even reminding myself of it for the third time, I could hear the echo of the lady protesting far too much about her innocent intentions. Were my intentions totally innocent? Could I have turned to someone else to identify Betsy Vincent’s mysterious lover?
Probably, but Marcus really was the shortest road down the path. After a week missing, short paths were the only way I could find her alive. If she was still breathing on her own, that is.
Settling into the alcove facing the stairs, I watched the sexiest dead man I’d ever seen glide toward me. It took some effort to remind myself that alive was better than dead, any day. Really.