"Yours," Lex said, sensing an opportunity and pouncing on it. "You know about the Gen One slayings. The question is, why would you lie about it?"

"I don't publicly discuss Agency issues." Fabien all but spat his reply, puffing out his thin chest with self-righteous indignation. "What I know or do not know is my own business."

"You knew about the attack on my father before I mentioned it, didn't you? Were you the one who called for his death? What about the others who've been killed?"

"Good Christ, you are mad."

"I want in," Lex said. "Whatever scheme you're involved with, Fabien, I want in."

The Darkhaven leader expelled his breath sharply, then gave Lex his back as he casually walked over to one of the tall bookcases built into the silk-papered wall. He smoothed his hand along the polished wood, chuckling idly. "As illuminating and entertaining as our conversation has been, Alexei, perhaps it should end here. I think it best if you go away and calm yourself before you say anything more foolish."

Lex charged forward, determined to convince Fabien of his worth. "If you want him dead, I am willing to help get it done." "Unwise" came the hissed reply. "I can snap my fingers and have you held on suspicion of intent to commit murder. I may still, but right now you're going to leave and neither one of us will speak another word of this conversation."

The drawing room door opened and four armed guards filed inside. At Fabien's nod, the group of them surrounded Lex. Given no choice, he started to leave.

"I'll be in touch," he told Edgar Fabien with a light baring of his teeth. "You can count on that."

Fabien said nothing, but his shrewd gaze remained fixed on Lex with grim understanding as he walked to the drawing room doors and gently closed them tight.

Once Lex was out on the street alone, his mind began to churn over his options. Fabien was corrupt. What a surprising, and sure to be useful, bit of information. With any luck, it wouldn't be long before Fabien's connections were Lex's as well. He didn't particularly care how he had to acquire them.

He glanced up at the beautiful Darkhaven mansion and all its pristine luxury. This was what he wanted. This kind of life - lifted high above the filth and degradation he'd known under his father's boot heel. This was what he truly deserved. But first he would need to get his hands dirty, if just one last time.

Lex strolled along the tree-lined, meandering road and headed back down into the city with renewed purpose.

Chapter Ten

Nikolai woke up in total darkness, his head resting against the coffin of an apparently well-to-do Montreal man who'd been dead for sixty-seven years. The private mausoleum's marble floor had made for a hard few hours of rest, but it served Niko well enough. The night had been creeping dangerously close to dawn when he'd left Yakut's place, and he'd sure as hell slept the daylight off in worse places than the cemetery he found at the city's northern edge.

With a groan, he sat up and flipped open his cell phone to check the display for the time. Shit, just after one P.M. He still had about seven or eight hours to wait in here before sundown, when it would be safe for him to be outside. Seven or eight more hours, and he was already feeling itchy from sitting idle for so long.

No doubt Boston was wondering about him by now. Niko hit the speed dial for the Order's headquarters. Halfway through the second ring, Gideon picked up.

"Niko, for fuck's sake. About time you reported in." The warrior's vague English accent sounded a bit rough. Not surprising, considering that Niko was calling in the middle of the day. "Talk to me. You good?"

"Yeah, I'm good. My objective here in Montreal is fucked ten ways to Sunday, but other than that, 'sall good."

"No luck finding Sergei Yakut, I take it?"

Niko chuckled. "Oh, I found the bastard all right. The Gen One is alive and well and living north of the city like some kind of throwback to Ghengis Khan."

He gave Gideon a quick rundown of everything that had happened since his arrival in Montreal - from the ass-kicking welcome he'd gotten from Renata and the other guards, to the strange handful of hours he'd spent at Yakut's lodge, culminating with his discovery of the dead humans discarded out back and his subsequent ejection from the property.

He described the recent failed attempt on the Gen One's life and the incredible role Mira played in thwarting that attack.

Niko left out the part about what he'd personally seen in Mira's eyes. He saw no reason to share the details of a vision, which, despite Renata's insistence that Mira was never wrong, had roughly zero chance - no, scratch that; it had exactly zero chance - of happening now.

It should have come as a relief to him to know that. The last thing he needed was to get mixed up with a female, especially a piece of work like Renata. Yakut's blood-bonded mate. The thought still gnawed at him, far more than it should. And he wasn't feeling particularly chipper about the fact that even the slightest recollection of that kiss with her was enough to render him as hard as the granite tomb that surrounded him.

He wanted her, and there had been a split second as he was leaving the lodge that he thought she might come after him. He had no reason to think it, but it had been a nudge in his gut, a sense that maybe Renata might run up behind him and ask him to get her out of there.

And if she had? Christ, he might have been just stupid enough to consider it.

"So," he told Gideon, mentally steering himself back to reality. "The net of it is, we can't count on any cooperation out of Sergei Yakut. He basically told me to shove it, and that was before I called him a sick fuck in need of a muzzle and choke collar." "Jesus, Niko," Gideon sighed, probably, on the other end of the line, scrubbing his hand through his spiky blond hair in frustration. "You really said that to him - to a Gen One? You're damn lucky he didn't tear your tongue out before he sent you on your way."

Probably true, Nikolai acknowledged to himself. And he'd have lost more than just his tongue if Yakut knew the kind of lust he had been feeling for Renata. "You know I'm allergic to ass-kissing, even if the ass in question happens to be Gen One. If this was a total public relations mission, you picked the wrong guy."

"No shit." Gideon chuckled around another low curse. "You coming back in to Boston, then?"

"I see no reason to linger. Unless you figure Lucan will look the other way if I decide to go back and put a torch to Yakut's house of horrors. Put him out of business, at least for a while."

He was kidding...mostly. But Gideon's answering silence told him that his fellow warrior knew the wheels were turning inside Niko's head.

"You know you can't do anything of the sort, my man. Way out of bounds."

"And doesn't that suck," Nikolai muttered.

"Yeah, it does. But this kind of thing belongs to the Enforcement Agency, not us."

"Tell me how Yakut is any different from the Rogues we take off the streets, Gid. Hell, from what I've seen of him, he's worse. At least the Rogues can blame their savagery on Bloodlust. Yakut can't even cling to blood addiction as his excuse for hunting those humans out there. He's a predator, a killer."

"He is protected," Gideon said, firmly now. "Even if he wasn't Gen One, he's still a civilian, still a member of the Breed. We can't touch him, Niko. Not without a lot of serious shit hitting the fan. So, whatever you're thinking, don't."

Nikolai exhaled sharply. "Forget I said it. What time should I plan on catching a ride back to Boston tonight?"

"I'll have to make a couple of calls to get a flight plan filed on short notice, but the private jet 's still waiting for you at the airport. I can text you the time once I have it firmed up."

"Okay. I'll chill and wait for your go."

"Where are you at, anyway?"

Nikolai glanced at the coffin behind him, the other one across from him, and the bronze urn gathering dust on a pedestal against the back wall of the dark mausoleum. "I found a quiet little place to grab a rest in the north end of the city. Slept like the dead, in fact. Or with them, at any rate."

"Speaking of dead," Gideon said, "we've got a report of another Gen One killing overseas."

"Christ. Picking them off like flies, aren't they?"

"Or trying to, from the looks of it. Reichen's following up on the report from Berlin . Got an e-mail from him that he'll be calling in later today with an update."

"Good to know we've got eyes and ears that we can trust over there," Niko said. "Shit, Gideon. Never would have thought I'd have any use for a Darkhaven civilian, but Andreas Reichen is proving to be a damn good ally. Maybe Lucan ought to officially recruit him into the Order?"

Gideon chuckled. "Don't think he hasn't considered it. Alas, we're just a part-time gig for Reichen. He may have the soul of a warrior, but his heart belongs to his Berlin Darkhaven."

And a certain human female, from what Nikolai understood. According to Tegan and Rio, the two warriors who'd spent the most time with Andreas Reichen at his Berlin headquarters, the German Darkhaven leader was romantically involved with a brothel owner named Helene.

It was unusual for a Breed male to have more than a casual, short-term relationship with a mortal woman, but Niko wasn't about to question it since Helene was also proving instrumental in the Order's intelligence-gathering efforts overseas. "So, listen," Gideon said. "Cool your heels where you are, and I'll let you know once I have your departure info for tonight. Sound good?"

"Yeah. You know how to find me."

The murmur of a velvety female voice, soft from sleep, carried vaguely through the receiver.

"Ah, hell, Gid. Don't tell me you're in bed with Savannah ."

"I was," he replied, leaning hard on the past tense. "Now that she's awake, she says she's tossing me over for a hot shower and a cup of strong coffee."

Nikolai groaned. "Shit. Tell her I'm sorry for the interruption."

"Hey, babe," Gideon called to his beloved, blood-bonded mate of some thirty-odd years. "Niko says he's sorry for being such a rude bastard and waking you up at this ungodly hour."

"Thanks," Niko muttered.

"You're welcome."

"I'll check in with you again from the plane heading home."

"Sounds good," Gideon said. Then, to Savannah on the side: "Hey, love? Niko wants me to tell you that he's hanging up now. He says you ought to come back to bed and let me ravish you slowly from your clever and beautiful head to your delectable little toes."

Nikolai chuckled. "Sounds like fun. Put me on speaker so I can listen at least."

Gideon snorted. "Not a chance. She's all mine."

"Selfish bastard," Niko drawled wryly. "I'll catch you later."

"Right, later. And Niko - about the Yakut situation? Seriously. Don't even think about being a cowboy, yeah? We've got bigger issues to contend with than trying to corral one loose-cannon Gen One. It's not our area, especially not right now." When Niko didn't immediately agree, Gideon cleared his throat. "Your silence isn't exactly giving me the warm fuzzies, my man. I need to know you're hearing me on this."

"Yeah," Nikolai said. "I'm hearing you. I'll see you in Boston later tonight."

Niko closed his cell phone and slid it back into his pocket.

As much as it fried him to think of turning a blind eye to Yakut and his sick activities, he knew Gideon was right. What 's more, he knew that the Order's leader, Lucan, as well as the rest of the warriors at the Boston compound would say the same thing to him.

Forget about Sergei Yakut, at least for the time being. That was the sensible, smartest thing to do. And while he was at it, he would be wise to forget all about Renata too. She'd made her bed, after all. The fact that she'd evidently made it with sadistic scum like Sergei Yakut was none of Nikolai's business whatsoever. Beautiful, ice maiden Renata was not his problem, so good riddance to her.

Good riddance to the entire nest of vipers he'd uncovered in Yakut's domain.

Just a few more hours to kill before nightfall, and then he could put it all behind him.

She never had gotten used to sleeping through the daylight hours, not in the whole two years she'd been living in service to a vampire.

Renata lay in her bed, restless, unable to relax and close her eyes even for a few minutes. She tossed and turned, flipped onto her back and blew out a sigh, staring up at the timber rafters.

Thinking about the warrior...Nikolai.

He'd been gone for hours - nearly half an entire day - but she still felt the weight of his contempt pressing down on her. She hated that he'd seen Yakut feeding from her. It had been hard to pretend she wasn't ashamed when he caught her gaze from across the room. She'd tried to appear unaffected, defiant. Inside she'd been shaking, her pulse jackhammering almost out of control. She hadn't wanted Nikolai to see her like that. Even worse that he had learned of Yakut's brutal crimes and clearly thought her to be a part of it as well. She couldn't get the withering, accusatory look he'd given her out of her head. Which was ridiculous.

Nikolai was Breed, like Yakut. He was a vampire, the same as Yakut. Like Yakut, Nikolai had to feed on humans in order to survive. Even in her limited understanding of their kind, Renata knew that drinking from human beings was the only way the Breed could obtain nourishment. No convenient vampire-friendly blood banks where they could pick up a pint of O-Negative for the road. No animal predation as a substitute for the real thing.


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com