Sweat trickled along the crease of my spine as I stood behind Tane’s chair. Like music playing in the background, nobody in the meeting paid any real attention to me. I was just a human caught in vampire society. Being a blood slave to the vampire king was a two-edged sword. My bond to Tane would last until death-do-us-part. His death, not mine. I would never age or get sick but I was still mortal.
Tane sat at the head of the conference table. Broad shoulders relaxed as his back molded into his chair much like a tiger watching his prey. The artificial light gleamed off the surface of his smooth bald head and the tips of his pointed ears. He faced some of the most powerful vampires in the world across the dark wooden table. Their bald-headed and pointed-ear appearance made them seem more like Tane’s brothers than just clan.
They stared at us in silence. Not unnerving at all.
“Why have you summoned me?” Straight to the point for a change. Tane’s whole existence revolved around subterfuge. I would have felt better if he’d started the meeting with a bluff or his trademark bravado.
“Why haven’t you brought Rurik?” Damius asked from the far end of the table.
Tane leaned forward and folded his arms on the surface. “I wasn’t aware Rurik had joined our clan, brother. Why would I bring him to one of our meetings?”
“This isn’t the time to play one of your games. Rumors are spreading, and we’ve gathered to warn you. Possibly to keep you from being executed.” Tane might be king of the Vampire Nation, but the Nation didn’t include his nasty clan and they apparently ran things differently among themselves. So when he had launched into action yesterday afternoon, ordering his private jet prepared when they summoned us, my Richter scale of oh-shit registered a 9.0 on a scale of one to ten.
“What are you talking about?” Tane spoke quietly. Some people attributed volume with power but someone with real authority never had to shout.
Sucking in my stomach, I stepped closer to his chair. Only Tane’s favor kept me safe. I was just a Happy Meal to these other vampires.
“We know Rurik is losing his hair.” Damius tossed a set of pictures on the table.
I controlled the urge to gasp and almost suffered an aneurysm. “How do they know about him?” I mentally sent this question to Tane. What the fuck? We’d been so careful to hide Rurik’s mysterious affliction but we hadn’t been able to find the reason for his slow hair-loss. His blood lust had recently grown stronger as well. We could only assume a poison at this point, yet all our efforts to find a source or a cure had turned up nothing.
Slowly, Tane inspected each picture. They were of the three of us in Mexico last month in our private rooms. A blush flashed across my cheeks. I wouldn’t prance around naked ever again. Thankfully, Rurik was the focus of each shot. “All this trouble because my companion shaved his head? He still has stubble over most of it. Obviously, not naturally smooth.” He ran his hand over his own scalp. “He’s insanely jealous for Connie’s attention and thought to copy my appearance. Should we shackle him for it?” Tane chuckled and tossed me the best fake amused glance I’d ever seen.
I tried my best to return it. All the while I was trying not to shit bricks. Some men went bald. Vampires didn’t, not unless they were Nosferatu. Rurik was Tane’s right hand vampire and our shared lover. So I was beginning to comprehend why Tane had dragged me to an emergency Nosferatu clan meeting and insisted Rurik stay at our hotel room across town. The sudden role reversal had done horrid things to my stomach. A room full of Nosferatu warriors would make any regular vampire toss their cookies. Let alone little human me. Antacids didn’t cover this kind of stress.
The brother to Tane’s left set a small clear bag with black hairs on the table. “My sources within your home sent me these from your bed a few months ago. Before these pictures were taken.” He pointedly stared at my blond hair. “Don’t tell me they came from her.”
Tane raised his eyebrow. “Pulled hair found in my bed is why you called this meeting? Who knows what Connie and Rurik are up to when I am away.”
The one on the right rested his hand on Tane’s arm. “I understand your attachment to Rurik, but you can’t make someone Nosferatu without a clan vote.”
Tane yanked his arm from his clan brother’s grasp. “You are making a grave accusation with very little proof.” He poked at the bag. “This…” He shook his head. “This is ridiculous.”
The vampires grew still like only their kind could and just the sound of my breathing broke the heavy silence.
“Either way, I doubt the rest of our clan will be pleased by this change.” Damius gathered the pictures. “We have also heard that Rurik’s blood requirements have tripled. Send for him. Let us examine Rurik for ourselves before the others learn of his hair loss.”
If they didn’t already know. This made me more nervous than the garrison of guards standing outside the room. Apparently, the clan brothers thought they should bring a small army with them, where we only brought Kam, the sole wolf shifter of the group. I chewed on my bottom lip. Poor planning on Tane’s part? I couldn’t believe that. He’d kept our group small for a reason. Inwardly, I cringed. That didn’t reassure me.
All that work to hide Rurik’s hair loss for nothing: Wigs, checking his suits for loose hairs before meetings, Youtube videos on comb overs. When he arrived at the meeting how would we explain the smoother sections of his scalp that didn’t show in the pictures? The stubble would eventually fade. Then what?
Tane leaned back in his chair. “Connie, send Kam for Rurik and make me something to drink. There’s a bar in the room off the hallway.”
I startled at the mention of my name. Habit almost had me tell him to get his own freaking drink but I managed to hold my tongue and escape the room.
Shit. Rurik was on the Nosferatu radar. I didn’t know the total number of members in Tane’s clan, but I was sure it took more than the five present to police all the vampires in the world. These were warriors bred and trained. If they wanted you dead, you died.
I exited the meeting room and came face-to-face with a group of armed vampire guards. Kam, my personal shifter bodyguard, stood apart from them. He leaned against the wall, appearing bored. His dark chestnut hair reached his shoulders but he kept it back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. I’d seen many a female throw themselves at the muscular shifter’s feet. I couldn’t really blame them. He had that rugged mountain man look that some women loved. I liked my men less furry. He met my nervous glance.
I approached him. Before I could open my mouth, I sensed Tane slip inside my head.
“Run!” The order was whispered yet sharp like a strike of a whip. “Get Rurik out of the city. This is worse than I suspected. They’ll kill him. I’ll get you as much time as I can.”
I stumbled at his sudden retreat from my head and landed against Kam. With wide eyes, I met his golden gaze.
He gripped my arms and his nostrils flared as if he could smell my fear. Quickly, his gaze shifted to the other guards in the hall. He knew something was wrong but neither of us could verbalize anything in front of these warriors.
Swooning against him, I did my best impression of a fainting southern belle. “I don’t feel well. Take me home. Tane will meet us there later.” We needed to vamoose. Tane had insisted on staying in a separate hotel across town. He must have suspected something, or maybe it was from past experience with his clan. Either way, he did well by keeping Rurik out of easy reach.
Kam scooped me in his arms and strode to the elevator, hitting the button with his elbow. The muscles in his arms tensed as if preparing to attack at a moment’s notice. With my mind, I tried to touch Tane, but he shielded against me. The mental walls he could build blew away anything I’d ever encountered. Being king meant he kicked ass on high levels of vampire abilities. His brothers were strong, but he was stronger.
The door slid open with a ding, and Kam carried me inside. None of the guards questioned us. What damage could a small human woman and a hulking wolf shifter do? As soon as the doors closed, Kam set me back on my high-heeled feet. “What’s going on?” He took up most of the space in the small area.
“They want to kill Rurik. We have to get out of the city.” Pressing my hand to my stomach, I fought rolling nausea. “I’m a blank. I don’t know this city and I haven’t an idea how the fuck to hide from Nosferatu. I mean, they only have to scan the minds of surrounding humans to find us, right?” They’d done this in Rio last year when hunting Colby, my old slayer boss. We had barely survived that fiasco and we only had to deal with one rogue Nosferatu, not five working together.
Kam’s face paled. “What about our Master?” His pack served Tane and, by proxy, me.
“I think he can handle himself. They want Rurik dead, not him.” I slapped his rock-hard abs. “Focus. Where can we go?”
“The marina. Master Tane had his yacht brought here. He’d thought to surprise both of you with a cruise of the Mediterranean.”
My heart fluttered at the gesture. Since we’d become a three-way couple, he’d been non-stop romancing us. Damn his stupid brothers for wrecking that trip.
“Give me your cell.” My dress didn’t have enough material for pockets.
Kam pulled out his phone.
I dialed Rurik’s number from heart. My pulse hammered in my ears as I listened to the ring. I disliked speaking mind to mind but at the moment I would have been thrilled for Rurik’s velvety presence in my thoughts. We didn’t share a blood bond so such a link was difficult. Distance made it even tougher