Chapter Eighteen

Look at me--now see yourself through my eyes. Look at you: the perfect man of my dreams.

SOLANGE TO DOMINIC Solange held her breath as she watched Dominic stride across the open ground toward the laboratory with his confident, superior air. She had no choice but to stay hidden in the trees, at least a hundred and thirty yards from him. Even then, the parasites quieted. They didn't go still, but they definitely ceased their tempting, painful whispers. She wanted to be closer, where she felt she had a chance to protect him, but once inside, he could only share with her by merging.

Her heart in her throat, she kept her gaze fixed on him. There were three human guards that she could see. Two were at the door of the lab and one near the southern corner. The guards watched him uneasily, but no one challenged him. They fell back under the shocking gaze of Dominic's piercing eyes.

She recognized the two jaguar-men off by themselves, keeping a wary eye on the group of vampires milling around the open yard. Both stayed close to the forest where they could easily shift and disappear into the canopy should they have need. They were heavily armed, something she rarely saw in the jaguar-men. They mostly relied on their cat for protection, but they were obviously not taking any chances meeting with vampires and humans.

A small group of immaculately dressed vampires stood to the right of the door, talking, trying to appear human, but the guards had sensed their unnaturalness and kept as far from them as possible. Occasionally one of the vampires would look toward a human and smirk, eyes feasting and saliva dribbling. It was deliberate provocation and told Solange that even the vampires were on edge. A meeting of this type was unheard-of. Representatives of several master vampires had arrived, but hunger was the most prevalent emotion she could read. There were few people to donate blood and if they wanted their meeting kept quiet, they couldn't have a massacre. The vampires had gone without feeding, and the smell of human blood had to be driving them crazy.

A sliver of moonlight fell across Dominic's face, highlighting the dark edges, the strong lines of his jaw and the gleaming, flowing hair. He looked exactly like what he was--a dangerous predator--and everyone and everything moved out of his way. She had seen him many ways: as the warrior prepared to go into battle; as a man, helping her learn to appreciate being a woman; and as a lover, fiercely passionate and infinitely tender. But she had never seen the legend in action.

Everyone gave him a wide berth, especially the vampires who recognized the legend striding into their midst. They scattered as he deliberately walked through their circle. No one spoke to him, but they didn't take their eyes off him, even as he walked straight up to the door. The guards actually held it open. He disappeared inside and the vampires closed ranks and began to whisper.

I don't like this, Solange protested. Couldn't you have gone in unseen?

Dominic had the blueprint of the laboratory in his head from the drawings Solange had made for him. She had spent hours hiding inside the facility and she paid attention to detail. He had to get inside the area housing the computers, and they had security codes for that.

This is what I do best, kessake . I will be fine. Just be ready and keep alert. They cannot spot you or our plan fails.

She hissed at him, and deep inside he smiled at his spitting little cat. I love you, too.

She subsided and he moved through the first entryway into the hall leading to the experiment rooms. She had said there were at least five scientists working on various experiments. They were human and involved with the society to stop vampires. Unfortunately for them, they were in league with the very ones they sought to stamp out. The vampires pointed them at Carpathians, and the human society members did their best to kill as many as possible.

He opened the door and the scent of blood assailed his senses. He had fed from Zacarias's workers, building his strength for the long night to come. He was going to be in two places at one time, a difficult feat for anyone. He was adept at it, but still, cloning oneself drained strength fast and he would need to be at the top of his game to do battle.

No one looked up when he entered. There were four men in lab coats surrounding a fifth man who was not human. He was dressed in combat clothes and his face was handsome, the dark eyes compelling, every hair in place in spite of the humidity and heat. He was having a difficult time maintaining, with the scent of blood so heavy in the room.

Dominic paid little attention to any of them, his attention caught by the sixth man in the room. This was the one who kept the vampire in line, kept him from falling on the lab techs and devouring their blood. He was the one in charge, the one who made certain the vampire in the chair allowed the humans to take the blood from his veins. Twice this one had narrowly missed being killed by Dominic. His name was Flaviu, and they had detested one another as youths. Flaviu had shown a proclivity toward harming animals even before he lost his emotions. Dominic had not been surprised to see him choose to betray the Carpathian way of honor very early.

Flaviu stood up abruptly, exposing his fangs in a threat, yet backing away slightly to give himself more room. His gaze shifted surreptitiously toward the door. "You are-- unexpected."

Dominic ignored him, treating him as he might a lesser vampire--with contempt, as if he were beneath Dominic's notice.

The fangs slipped again, betraying the egotistical characteristic so prevalent in vampires. When he spoke, Flaviu's voice was raspy, as if he couldn't get his voice to work around his fangs. The vampire in the chair moved restlessly, earning him a reprimand from one of the surly lab techs. "What are you doing here, Dragonseeker?" Flaviu demanded, his tone high-pitched. "No one is supposed to be in here. You have to leave."

Dominic stopped moving around the room, examining each of the experiments and checking the slides under the lens of the microscope. The silence stretched and lengthened. He let the vampire squirm under his piercing gaze. Several more heartbeats went by and even the techs looked up from their work.

"Do you really think I will obey a worm like you? I have come at the call, but I will not walk blindly into a trap for anyone. Stand aside or challenge me, but think carefully before you do." His tone dripped contempt.

The room darkened. The tension stretched to a taut, thin margin. Hissing, Flaviu backed away from Dominic. The vampire sitting in the chair jumped to his feet, knocking the techs out of his way.

"Henric," Flaviu snapped sharply.

Instantly the lesser vampire stopped his forward motion, but his eyes glowed red with hatred. Without another word, the two vampires left the room. Dominic allowed a brief flare of satisfaction.

They're going to be waiting for you. The first chance they get, they'll ambush you.

I am well aware of that. I will lead them straight to you.

Good idea. I'm getting bored while you're having all the fun. Work your magic, Dominic, and get into the main room.

I scanned the techs as I came in, and none of them knows the security code to the room.

He glanced at the men, who immediately looked away and went back to their respective workstations, each clutching a vial of blood. He moved closer to one of the stations. Several vials of blood were labeled with various names, Brodrick's most prominent. Someone wanted to see if the jaguar-men had an effect on parasites. He moved closer and tested the nearest tech for resistance.

His brain was wide open, which made sense. The vampires would want men they could easily influence working the computers in the laboratory. He attacked swiftly, piercing the man's mind to search for the experiments. He shared his findings with Solange.

The techs believe the men working in this region have all been infected with an unknown parasite and they are working on a solution. It was suggested to them that the men who live and work here--meaning the shifters, although it is clear the techs do not understand they are shifters--might have built up an immunity against the parasites. So they are testing their blood against the infected blood. They had some results with Brodrick's blood.

Solange brushed against his mind, a gentle, loving slide that shook him with the intensity of feeling in that small, tender gesture.

"What are you doing in here?" The voice was harsh and commanding.

Dominic turned slowly, his gaze falling on the guard. The gun was pointed firmly at his chest and the eyes were flat and cold. He nudged the brain of the tech closest to him.

The tech responded immediately. "He's consulting with me, Felipe."

"Sorry, man," Felipe said, shaking his head. "They've got people coming in from all over and they don't seem right. I thought maybe you were one of them."

Dominic smiled easily. "Yeah, I got the vibe, too. They all seem a little arrogant, like we're beneath them or something." He held out his hand. "Dominic. Hopefully I won't be here that long."

"Felipe," the guard said, taking the extended hand.

Dominic tested his resistance. This man would have the security code to get into the room where the computers were housed. "I can see why everyone is on edge. Who are these people? Why are they here?"

Felipe shrugged. "Brodrick tells us who is coming and when they're going."

Dominic sent him a wave of camaraderie, a subtle testing of the man's acceptance. Felipe grinned at him and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Are you keeping count?"

Felipe nodded. "Damn straight. I want them all gone as soon as Brodrick gives the word. They make everyone nervous. Sooner or later one of the boys is going to accidentally shoot one of them."

"Yeah, that would be terrible," Dominic said, sarcasm dripping from his voice. He pushed a little deeper into the guard's brain. The man really didn't like the visitors, and that could be used to Dominic's advantage. Felipe was head of security and the vampires hadn't thought to protect his brain--of course, none believed a Carpathian hunter would infiltrate their meeting.

"Brodrick's got a couple of his men guarding him. He calls them the `elite' and they certainly think that entitles to them to do whatever they want. Every time a woman gets brought in, they're all over her. And they like to hurt her. They're cruel bastards. We just keep away from that side of the lab when they've got one here." Dominic felt Solange's reaction, her sick, churning stomach, her racing heart, and the sorrow that she couldn't prevent the jaguar-men from kidnapping women and bringing them to a place where others allowed their atrocities. We will make certain Brodrick cannot continue. He sent her the reassurance even as he pushed deeper into the guard, planting more seeds of friendship. Felipe would come to believe they'd known one another a long while and that he could confide in him.

"Brodrick's got a lot of men coming in," Dominic said, pushing uneasiness into the guard's mind. "Something big must be going on." He amplified the uneasiness, glancing toward the room where the computers were housed.

Felipe's gaze followed and he frowned, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "I counted seventeen big shots, and a few that seem to be serving the others." The guard took a few steps toward the door, obviously growing worried enough to check on what was likely his main responsibility.

Dominic gleaned from his mind that three computer techs worked around the clock on their research, finding psychic women and tracking lineage. Now was his moment. The guard was going to open the door, and he would have to be in two places at one time. Dominic separated himself from his own body, leaving his clone to step away from Felipe, to stand across the room in plain sight of all the researchers and Felipe, lifting his hand as the guard glanced around to make certain that when he punched in his code, no one else could see the complicated numbers.

Dominic allowed his real form to dissolve into molecules, lighter than air, floating around Felipe like dust particles as the guard punched in his code and opened the door to peer into the main room. Dominic simply floated inside. Satisfied that the tech was working and no one had disturbed him, Felipe closed the door. Dominic heard his footsteps receding.

Josef was a young Carpathian, considered a wild teenager, although he was in his early twenties, and he was obsessed with computers. Dominic had contacted the boy for aid, knowing the information in the computers would be vital to the Carpathians. These women were potential lifemates. They were also in need of protection. Before the entire operation could be destroyed, they needed that information. Josef had developed a virus that would destroy the entire network the jaguars and vampires were using. Once uploaded, the virus would spread like wildfire and destroy everything, filtering from one computer to another without detection until it was far too late for anything to be saved.

Dominic floated across the room until he was hovering around the tech. The man was engrossed in his work, uncaring that the woman he was gathering information about might end up kidnapped and raped, or dead and thrown away like garbage by the men employing him. Dominic probed the tech's mind. Again, he was astonished that the man wasn't protected. He shimmered into substance, standing behind the tech, burying his fangs in the man's neck. The blood was energizing, and he took enough to exchange, so he could monitor the tech from a distance as well. He allowed a small amount of his own blood to drip into the tech's mouth. The exchange gave him complete control. It mattered little that the tech would ingest parasites, as he wouldn't be alive that long. The tech took the tiny drive from his hand with the program that would allow Josef to take over the computers from a distance. He could download all the data they needed, and when he was done, upload the vicious virus.

Once Josef's program was in the computer, Dominic took back the drive and had the tech open the door. He floated out to reconnect with his body. The computers were now in Josef's more than capable hands. Dominic had other work to do.

You're certain the boy will be able to retrieve all the data and really destroy their network? Solange sounded anxious.

He knows what he is doing, Dominic reassured, sending up a silent prayer that he was right. Josef was wild, but he was highly intelligent and programming was his first love.

Reconnecting with his body sent a tremor running through him, and for a moment his legs shook. He stored that reaction in his mind. He couldn't afford the couple of seconds it took to readjust when he was in the midst of the vampires. One moment of weakness, of vulnerability, and he would be torn to shreds. He was one of the most feared--and therefore the most hated--of Carpathian warriors. And vampires had long memories. They existed on a steady diet of hatred and revenge.

Dominic made his way through the laboratory. It was actually smaller than it appeared from the outside because the walls were thick to withstand an assault as well as to keep the inside cooler. There were sleeping quarters for the men who lived there, five scientists and three computer techs. The barracks were attached, housing seventeen guards. There was no evidence that the jaguar-men stayed, which fit with their personalities. They would want to sleep in the forest where they could see or feel an enemy coming at them.

One room had several barred cells. There were bloodstains on the cell floor as well as blood spatter on the wall from the women slaughtered there. No one had bothered to clean up, and the stains were piled on top of one another. Any prisoner would have to endure lying in the cell knowing others had been murdered there. The sight sickened Solange and he felt her silent weeping.

There was no way to save them all, kessake ku toro s?vamak-- beloved little wildcat. In this life we can only do our best. He sent her warmth and comfort.

I know, it's just that they needed someone, and the thought of them dying like that, all alone, scared, with no one to help them . . . She trailed off.

His heart melted a little. His Solange. Tenderhearted. Who would ever believe the truth of her? I cannot be late for this meeting, Solange. Are you up to this?

He felt her instant reaction, the steel spine, the unfailing courage. Her need to protect him. Of course I am. There was a bite to her voice, a definite reprimand, the implication that he had no need to ask.

Dominic knew she was ready, but he wanted her to know it. The sight of the cells had really shaken her. He strode boldly from the laboratory into the open yard. The vampires had gathered just beyond the open area around the building, far enough away that no one else had the opportunity to hear them.

Giles held court, with at least twenty vampires around him, while his own lesser vampires guarded his back. Dominic had to admit it was an amazing sight, one he had never dreamt he'd witness. Vampires' egos were too big, and they didn't stay for long in the company of other vampires. And food sources would eventually disappear. As it was, the hunger radiating from the group was so overwhelming that, even though he'd fed well, he still felt a ravenous appetite.

The heartbeats of the human guards patrolling around the building were overly loud, a thundering drum calling to them all. Dominic subtly fed the hunger, increasing the need as he slipped into the group. His parasites leapt and rejoiced, answering the call of the others in the bodies of the surrounding vampires.

Solange had gone very still, afraid for him, but he knew her hands were rock steady on her weapon. She had them in her sight now and a part of her settled in spite of the danger.

"Dragonseeker." Giles's voice cut through the whispers of the parasites and the hissing and growling of the vampires.

He had known the master vampire would single him out. He was legend among them. The murmurs started, and he stayed standing while they all turned to look. Black hatred added to the crushing hunger emanating from the group. He took a step and they parted immediately, stepping back away from him as he moved toward Giles. He didn't look right or left, but kept his challenging gaze on the master vampire. He walked with utter confidence, his expression holding both superiority and contempt.

Giles looked him up and down, as if Dominic were beneath him, but the lesser vampires moved closer as if he'd given them direction. "I heard rumors that you had joined our ranks, but did not believe them."

Flaviu stepped away from Giles, revealing exactly who had told the master the Dragonseeker was among them. Take a good look at him, Solange. I will be sending both him and his friend, the one off to his left, after you. Tell me before you kill them so I can shield the sounds and flash.

No problem. The confidence in her voice reassured him. She could handle the pair. He gave Giles a cocky, mock salute as he shrugged his shoulders. "Ruslan used to make sense. Whether he does now, we shall see."

"You have sworn allegiance."

Again Dominic shrugged. "If he has found a way to take down the Dubrinsky family, I will aid him. Draven Dubrinsky started this entire mess by selling out my sister's lifemate to Xavier. His father should have destroyed him, but he allowed him to continue while the rest of us were required to defend our people. We need a strong leader."

Giles nodded slowly, looking a bit relieved. It was clear he didn't want to have to try to defeat Dominic in battle. His relief was apparent to the other vampires as well, and they moved back as Dominic returned to the rear of the group. He didn't want any of them behind him. He could easily spot the ones who had been followers for some time. They were far more comfortable within the group, while others, like him, stayed slightly apart.

Giles stood and everyone went silent. "We have come together for one purpose--to see to the destruction of the Dubrinsky family. All over, envoys for the five are meeting with our members to let them know the time is near for us to rise up and take over ruling."

A roar went up. Under cover of the energy, Dominic fed the hunger cravings. He needed the scent of blood to enhance the effect, and stared hard at the guard who was keeping an eye on them, his gun close, and his knife in his hand as he carved a stick of wood. His hand slipped and he yelped, jerking his blade from his grip. Blood welled up. Dominic sent a small breeze building behind him, pushing the aroma straight into the mass of hungry vampires.

Giles held up his hand and waited for the crowd to quiet. Several turned their heads toward the bleeding guard. The guard paid them no attention, not realizing their appearances covered monsters and he was in grave danger. He walked several steps, calling out to his companion, blood dripping onto the ground. Dominic fanned the breeze just enough to send another burst of scent into the air.

"Dubrinsky lives as in the old days. We have gone to modern technology, and in the end that will defeat him. He rules his little corner of the world and forgets the larger picture. We have acquired wealth and used it wisely. Our company owns a satellite and we have pinpointed Mikhail Dubrinsky's favorite resting place."

The roar went up again, a thunderous shout that covered the subliminal message Dominic sent into the conclave. Hunger. Gnawing, biting hunger that refused to leave. Starved for blood. Wonderful, aromatic, adrenaline-laced blood. Human guards walking around thinking they were in charge, holding their pitiful weapons. Humans were so fragile, one tearing bite of the flesh and the delicious hot blood pumped out like a fountain. So many of them, enough that with just a few moments of heady work the conclave could indulge. Open a few arteries and the blood would spray everywhere, enough to feed everyone.

More heads turned toward the guard. Two of the vampires licked their lips and one's disguise slipped just a bit, his dark, thick hair, disappearing to reveal his true nature, the graying wisps that were left covering his scalp.

Solange, the two vampires, Faviu and his buddy Henric, are getting very hungry. I am going to send them your way.

About time, she responded. I was thinking about taking a nap.

"We have a three-point attack planned, but first we will hit Dubrinsky where it hurts. He has a weakness for the people in the village near where he lives. We will attack the humans, his women and children. They will believe the main attack will be centered there, but in fact we will follow his movements by satellite. He will not expect an attack from the air, from the ground and from beneath the ground simultaneously. He will be destroyed."

The guard had disappeared around the corner of the laboratory, but Dominic replicated an image of him, blood dripping, heading into the forest, and he projected that image into the heads of Henric and Flaviu. The two vampires looked at each other and then at the others. Saliva dripped from Henric's mouth and Flaviu exposed his fangs twice. Dominic simply waited, allowing the image of the guard to replay in their heads.

"We will, of course, have a few practice runs. We will try such an attack first on a couple of our greatest enemies in order to perfect the attack on the prince."

Dominic's heart lurched. Zacarias! Are you getting this? They have to mean your family. Your people are in danger.

Power flowed into his mind. Zacarias. There was no edge, as if the continual call of the vampire had been pushed away by sheer will. Zacarias had more will--more heart and courage--than any other warrior Dominic had known. He would do his duty, protect his family, and there would be no worry of turning until after the job was done.

I hear. I have sent the news to my family and it is being sent to the prince as we speak. Josef is nearly finished copying the data from the computers. Get out of there.

Dominic smiled a little at the absolute authority in Zacarias's voice. He would expect obedience. Everyone obeyed Zacarias. They always had. Zacarias was swift and deadly, and held tremendous power. He didn't have patience for those who didn't follow his word. He didn't speak lightly, and if he said something, that something became law.

Will do as soon as my task is complete.

Dominic broke off, needing his attention centered on Solange. She was in the trees, moving fast, drawing the two vampires away from the safety of the conclave. He moved a little deeper into the circle of vampires, wanting to make certain he was seen and couldn't later be blamed for the disappearance of the two. More than anything, he wanted to destroy Giles. The vampire had grown powerful and arrogant.

Solange. Can you kill them?

Solange sighed. Of course she could kill them. Dominic persisted in worrying. Before it would have aggravated her, but now she knew loving someone meant you fretted about their safety. She was certainly apprehensive about Dominic surrounded by a crowd of very hungry undead.

Henric dissolved into vapor, searching through the trees for the missing guard or the blood trail that would lead to him. Solange positioned her arrows over her shoulder, the crossbow behind her back, and used a liana to slip from the canopy to the ground. She did her best to look helpless, fluffing out her hair and humming, trying to look like a lost tourist. She wandered aimlessly, leaving tracks an amateur could find, but all the while making her way toward the second vampire, the one Dominic had called Flaviu.

Flaviu stepped out from behind a tree and bowed low. "You look lost."

Solange sent him a tentative smile. She had practiced a million times with the crossbow, now she had to get it right. "I am lost. My friends and I are backpacking and I got separated from them." As she talked she moved into position. Now or never. Henric wouldn't be gone long. Now, Dominic.

Solange didn't wait for an acknowledgment. The crossbow slid into her hand, the arrow fitting smoothly as she brought it up and shot almost in one continuous motion. The head of the arrow pierced Flaviu's chest and ignited, the flash white-hot. He opened his mouth but his heart had incinerated in his chest and his body slowly crumbled to the ground, the fire spreading from the inside out. The vampire burst into flame and rolled, his grotesque mouth stretched thin over long, stained fangs. He snapped at her, clawing the earth, trying to drag himself across the vegetation to reach her. The smoke rose, a blackish red, strange shapes with open mouths appearing and then subsiding.

Solange backed away from the undead as the remaining flames burst into a bright fireball and ashes rained down.

Get out of there, Dominic hissed. Run.

She sprinted away from the evidence of a burned vampire. There was no wind below the canopy, but thunder rumbled in the distance and the heavy layer of mist that had developed began to turn to a steady drizzle. That might help remove her scent, but she doubted it. Henric would be coming after her.

She leapt over a rotting log, sprinting for the small cache of weapons she'd hidden a hundred yards ahead in the huge sprawling tangle of roots. Her cat suddenly leapt, slamming hard against her bones, frantic to get out. Instinctively Solange changed directions. Behind her she heard a high-pitched yell.

"Stop, woman!" Henric sent the order, pushing hard at her brain.

Solange stopped abruptly and turned to face him, her movements uncoordinated, like a jerky puppet. She blinked at him, shaking her head, fear stamped into her expression.

Henric smirked, now that he had her under his control. He wanted her terror, wanted the adrenaline flowing, lacing the blood. The high he got was better than sex to him. He crooked his little finger at her.

Solange didn't feel the pressure in her brain. She shook her head violently and let out a little squeak. What did most women do when they were terrified? When she was terrified--and she was fairly scared--her mind raced with every weapon possible she had at her disposal. Long ago, she'd learned that her intellect and her ability to stay calm were her two most powerful weapons. In this situation, she was certain a gun, knife and definitely her crossbow would be more helpful.

She made a move as if to run, but her feet refused to move. "What do you want?"

"Are you having trouble running?" Henric taunted. Deliberately he allowed his civilized mask to slip, showing her the skin stretched taut over his skull, his bloodred, glowing eyes and his dark, bloodstained teeth revealed by a parody of a smile.

"Help!" Solange twisted and turned frantically. "Someone please help."

"No one is coming to help you." Henric took a step toward her and watched as tears swam in her eyes. "No one is going to come. No one can save you."

"What are you?" Deliberately she recoiled, wringing her hands together.

Henric shuffled a few steps closer, drawing out her fear, feeding on it. He looked down at his hand. His fingernails lengthened into long, razor-sharp talons. Smiling, he looked back up at her.

Solange held her crossbow and now she was smiling. Now, Dominic. "Then I guess I'd better save myself," she said aloud as she shot the arrow.

Henric tried to dissolve, but she was close, almost too close. The arrow shot him through the heart and nearly pushed out the back when it ignited. Henric, half substance and half mist, shrieked and howled. He spat curses at her as he tried to dislodge the arrow burning white-hot from his back to his heart. The arrow had gone through the center of the withered heart, impaling the organ and holding it to form. Solange calmly fit another arrow into her crossbow and shot him a second time, watching with cool detachment as he burned to ash. She took a breath and let it out.

They're dead, Dominic. Where do you want me?

No injuries? Not even a scratch from running through the forest?

She heard the concern in his voice and carefully inspected her body to ensure she had no cuts or scratches. I'm good.

Make your way back to your original position. I will get things going here. Everything is in place. When all hell breaks loose, these are the leaders I want you to try to take out.

Solange studied the images in his mind. She recognized Giles and his lesser vampires. Dominic had paid attention to four others. One looked older, unusual for a vampire to make that choice, a distinguished, silverhaired man wearing, of all things, a business suit.

He goes by the name Carlo. He has been living in Sicily so long he thinks he is part of the Mob.

She could see that. He certainly looked intimidating. The second man was slender with the cold, flat eyes of a killer. He wore casual clothes and he made her shiver for no reason at all. His hair was longer and drawn back in the usual Carpathian style. His jaw was pronounced and he idly swung a chain. He stood a distance from the others, and his gaze was watchful.

Akos. He used to travel with a falcon. I would not be surprised if he uses a harpy eagle to watch the skies, Dominic warned. Wherever he goes, there is a bloodbath.

Great. He and Brodrick are probably friends.

Men like Brodrick and Akos have no friends, only those they use as pawns. Do not underestimate him. If you have the shot, take it when the frenzy starts.

Solange was a little uneasy with the word frenzy. What are you going to do?

Turn them on one another. As soon as Josef gives me the word that the virus has had a chance to work through the computers and destroy the data and spread into the network, I will destroy the laboratory as well.

"He's going to turn them on one another," she muttered aloud. She had a picture of vampires devouring one another in her head.

She climbed back up the tree and found her favorite resting place. Two boughs made a nice little cradle for her to stretch out in, her weapons close. Her favorite sniper rifle lay waiting, and she checked it out of habit. No one had disturbed her blind, but she cast around for tracks, always careful of the jaguar-men.

I'm in position. She used the scope to take a better look at her targets.

The third image he sent her was of a short, stocky man who could easily have passed for a jaguar male. He had thick, ropy muscles on the frame of a serious body builder.

His name is Milan. He will try to outdo all of them for viciousness just to prove a point. If you cannot get him, get clear. If you only have three shots, Solange, make him one of them.

Will do. I know what I'm doing.

They can take to the air, he reminded.

She flooded his mind with warmth. It was strange to have someone concerned about her well-being. I'm not the one in the lion's den. Show me the last one.

This is Kiral. The man had chosen the form of a young, virile man. He wore skintight jeans, and she doubted seriously if the bulge in the front was really his. She was fairly certain he'd stuffed his pants.

He can choose his form, Dominic reminded.

She could hear the humor in his voice. That is just obscene. He scares me with that package. I think I'm shooting him first.

Dominic's soft laughter soothed her nerves.

She took her time studying each potential target. The vampires were all talking at once, but she could feel the tension in the air, in spite of the distance. The rain fell steadily, making her cradle a little slippery, and she tied off a couple of vines for added safety. Thunder rumbled, and twice, in the distance, lightning forked.

The air felt charged, as if violence would erupt at any moment. She realized she wasn't the only one feeling it. There was movement on the roof of the laboratory. Guards crawled across the flat rooftop, staying low, getting in position. They were heavily armed and Felipe led them. Solange was fairly certain Dominic had prompted him somehow to gather his men to defend themselves from a potential threat--but she knew they were the bait.

Giles continued to stir up the vampires, pitching the plans to them and emphasizing technology and how Mikhail Dubrinsky, the prince of the Carpathian people, lived in the dark ages and refused to change with the times. Solange could see the crowd had grown restless and many of them were having trouble keeping up the illusion of their appearance. Hunger beat at them and the scent of blood was heavy in the air. She didn't know how Dominic was amplifying the smell with the rain falling, but he managed.

With businesslike precision she fit her scope to her weapon and the rifle to her shoulder. She was certain the frenzy was about to start.


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