**Please note, this excerpt has only been spit shined. It hasn't completed the editing process.
“You’re the boss.”
Demetrius scowled at his closest friend. “You’re an ass, Rourke.”
“Yes, I am, but seriously, it’s your call.”
Shoving his hair out of his face, Demetrius growled in frustration. He wanted to throttle the male. Or head to the gym and spar with him. Or go for a run. Something other than sitting in this fucking board room, his mind going numb from all maybe-we-should-do-this and no-that-won’t-work and what-we-outta-do…
Life was way better when he had to pretend to be interested in nothing but a warm and willing female. And then another one, and another one.
Demetrius almost groaned. How long had it been?
Fuck. A year ago, the answer would’ve been “since last night,” or even “five minutes ago.” Not anymore.
The other vampire serving in their new government, the TriSpecies Synod, Zohana spoke up. “I’ll back whatever you decide, D. You haven’t steered us wrong yet.”
“Thanks Zoey. Thanks a lot.” He tapped the table. Five of his most trusted friends sat watching him, waiting. “I think we should investigate more. Figure out what’s going on.”
“Coulda said so, Zoey.”
The stoic brunette shrugged, her intelligent doe eyes flashing with mirth. “I didn’t want to sway your decision.”
“The shifters are having a hard enough time getting used to working with us, incorporating vampires into their Guardian ranks.”
“Our Guardian ranks,” Rourke interrupted.
Demetrius waved him off. Maybe he’d be more concerned merging the vampire and shifter world if he didn’t have demons on the brain. “I want solid evidence that demons and vampires are working together. I want to know who, what, where, when, and why before I bring any of this to the Synod.”
“Technically, it’s already been brought to the Synod since you and Zoey know about it.” Bishop Laurent, might look like a thug, but he was a crafty bastard.
“True. The Vampire Council was funding Sigma to do their dirty work. We destroyed them and found evidence of use of the dark arts. All we can make are assumptions. I want details.”
Rourke pushed back from the table, crossed his arms, and looked even more dark and brooding than normal. “I’ve been studying the pictures of the altars we found in the Sigma compounds before we destroyed everything. I haven’t been able to pinpoint who’s involved.”
“But the fact that we found altars—plural—leads me to believe there’s been an underground network of vampire’s practicing dark magic. Otherwise, where did those running Sigma get the knowledge?”
Zoey gave the most unfeminine snort. “If it was just worshipping the dark arts, we wouldn’t be sitting here worrying our pretty little asses about it. We all suspect they’ve been able to accomplish more. The vampires who are a teeny bit upset about Demetrius overthrowing the Vampire Council, and then helping form the Synod, are scrambling for any source of power they can use to take control back.”
“And it hasn’t been a recent development,” Bishop rumbled in his deep baritone.
Demetrius didn’t have to stop and consider his massive friend’s words. Dude was right. “Why haven’t we known? Every one of us in this room all feels strongly that there’s some underworld shit happening on earth. We’re going to prove it and put a stop to it.”
Creed Chevalier grinned. “No one can say you ever lack confidence, boss.” With his dirty blond hair and light blues eyes, he was a one-eighty from Rourke’s olive complexion and black eyes. Even in personality, since Creed’s hobby was teasing Rourke about his serious demeanor.
Rourke was solid. Demetrius had grown up with the male, knew him longer than anyone in the room. He hadn’t once seen the guy lose his temper. He’d seen him do everything from fighting to fucking, the guy didn’t lose control. Ever.
“Let me hit the clubs.” It was the first Demetrius heard from the other female in the room, Ophelia Lefevre.
“I haven’t been stopping you.”
“No. The clubs.”
He frowned. “They’re all shut down.” Prime families had loved their versions of country clubs that held a more refined version of debauchery than in mainstream vampire society. The delights of spiked blood drinks and tasty flesh were second only to the underhanded political dealings among the guests.
“Vampires with power can’t stand to not display that power. They might not have been into all that dark shit, but they were into their gatherings. Once they start to gather, it’s only a matter of time before the darkness creeps in to use them. ”
“After what I did, many prime families would be willing to be used.” Demetrius considered Ophelia’s suggestion. “Aren’t you afraid they’ll think you’re a spy?”
“Not if I go in bitching about how arrogant and power hungry you are. About how you didn’t share the power when you elected Zoey to sit next to you on the TriSpecies Synod instead of me.”
Ophelia had a real bite to her voice. Utterly believable. Every member in this room decided who’d sit on the council, and many of them thought Ophelia would’ve made a good candidate. Only she’d adamantly declined. I’d rather dig my eyeballs out with a dirty Q-tip.
“Be careful,” he warned her.
“That’s so sweet,” Creed piped up. “How come you never remind me to watch my back?”
Demetrius ignored him. They were all highly protective of Ophelia. Petite, with warm chocolate eyes, and skin that shimmered like polished topaz, she drew on the protective instincts of them all. Bishop had called her Gem, joking that she was their precious gem, but the busted nose he’d sported afterward ended that attempt.
“We need to start with the fifteen members of the council who oversaw Sigma. Each and every one of them had to know what was going on, perhaps even helped them. We’ll split the families up for each of us to investigate.”
His phone buzzed on the table top. It was his assistant. Surprise alone made him answer it. He’d taken pity on Betty when he’d found her wandering the streets after having served a councilmember’s household for centuries. No council meant no more money for the family, and they’d booted Betty like last season’s Piguet watch. Her knowledge of technology hadn’t even approached the rotary phone era, but she was learning. Slowly.
“Master,” she hollered.
Demetrius winced, pulling the phone away from his ear. “Betty, love. You don’t need to shout.”
“Oh. Apologies, Master. There’s a young female here to see you.” Betty’s volume hadn’t lowered in the slightest. And she refused to quit calling him master. “She insists it’s urgent, and she wants to speak with you privately.”
Bishop covered a snicker; Creed snorted. Demetrius glared at them both. Betty clucked after them like the mother hen she’d been for several hundred years, and they loved to see her frustrate Demetrius.
“I’m in an important meeting.” That I told you about. And told you not to disturb me. “Find out what she needs and I’ll see if one of us can help her.”
He heard a hushed voice come through the phone. It was soft, but firm. His mysterious visitor was quite insistent.
“Betty, please. You don’t need to yell into the phone.” A dull ache throbbed at his temples and he debated going back to Morse code with his assistant.
“Apologies again, Master. Her name is Callista Augustus, and she must speak with you.”
He looked around the room. Their looks must match his own: questioning with raised eyebrows. “Edgar Augustus’ daughter?”
Demetrius yanked the phone from his ear. Damn. He’d meet with her before Betty and his iPhone set off a migraine. “Fine, I’ll be right out.”
Rourke sat forward with his elbows on the table, his fingertips steepled. “Crazy Edgar never lets his girl out of the house.”
“Oh, she’s gotten out,” Ophelia disagreed. “What daddy don’t know don’t hurt him.”
“I’ll take Crazy Edgar then,” Demetrius said, “since this Callista insists on a private showing.”
Bishop grinned. “You always get the private showings.”
Not these days. “Let me know who’s investigating who and we’ll reconvene in a week, same time. This all stays between us.”
He rubbed his temples as he left the meeting room and made his way to the upper level where Betty’s office was attached to his. The compound was designed so their living quarters and armory were underground, while the offices and gym were above ground. Only the board room was in the lower levels because they often met during the day when things were quiet. So he wouldn’t get disturbed. Like tonight.
This Callista would’ve been searched for weapons and his guards would’ve evaluated her scent for intent to harm. The fact that she’d made it as far as Betty’s office was a good sign for Demetrius.
Taking the stairs, he racked his memory with each step. Edgar Augustus. The male’s powerful bloodline had helped him earn a council chair in the late 1800’s. He was at least another hundred years older than Demetrius’ one-twenty. If he recalled, Edgar’s daughter was young, perhaps a teenager?
He entered Betty’s office.
No. Definitely not a teenager.