Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(14)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(14)
Author: L.A. Banks

"I know we have major problems topside!" the chairman shouted, fangs suddenly eight inches and growing longer by the second as he grabbed Carlos by the throat. "We got a visit from the seventh level last night. They sent harpies to inform us that that the Neteru might have turned. Speak to me, now!"

The force of the chairman's grasp was crushing his Adam's apple, but Carlos managed to croak out, "She's not turning. She's in flux."

The chairman dropped him and began to pace. "Explain," he said in Dananu.

Thinking fast, Carlos threaded every truth he knew with the best lies. The fact that the senior council member had asked the question in the old language was not good, but it also meant that he was unnerved by the level-seven inquiry, and that was potentially advantageous.

"As you gentlemen know, I have been protecting this package since the day I was turned." Carlos took his time. This had to be an airtight game. "After the incident in Brazil, where we lost Counselor Vlak, and with Nuit's seat also open, our council was suddenly and extremely vulnerable. We need five points of the pentagram territories inhabited by a throne-level master to keep the power flow at peak levels."

"Dispense with the history," the chairman snapped, his patience gone. "Explain the flux."

"You gave me a month to work on her, to keep her confused, in an open state. I marked her, and even her family had its guard down after my team's performance in Brazil."

Carlos glanced at the still-seated councilmen, who nodded their approval, and he could feel his body temperature begin to normalize as the chairman moved away from him to take a seat at the table. But their icy glares said they were waiting for more answers.

"The repeated bites I delivered were not enough to turn her, just influence her. I know that she cannot be allowed to die, or be compromised."

He waited until the old chairman nodded.

"But I still had the tracer of ripening were-demon on me from... let's say... a brief indiscretion I had while tracking the Neteru."

Again, he waited, and when the old men around the table smiled, he began to relax. "Bottom line is, the scent caused an international courier to get confused, try to rush the Neteru, and he nicked her," Carlos said, puffing up to seem indignant. "To keep her family placated, I took her home so they can perform whatever rituals are necessary to flush her system of the bite overdose - the courier's is now added to mine. Her womb has to remain inviolate."

"That fool!" the chairman exclaimed, aghast. "If you had not exterminated him, surely I would have."

The chairman's statement was met with a round of murmurs from the others at the table.

"My point exactly," Carlos replied with confidence. "I had to smoke him right in front of her. But it worked to our advantage."

"The Guardians will be able to rectify this?" The chairman's eyes searched Carlos's.

"That's why I took her to her compound before responding to your urgent page. Nothing short of a serious emergency would have made me do something like that, Mr. Chairman."

It was a standoff. He could feel the chairman trying to break through his mental barriers. All he could hope was that the Covenant had not rescinded the prayers they'd had around him that created a Vampire Council blind spot.

Finally, the chairman sat back and closed his eyes. "Our apologies," he said in a soothing tone. "You do appear sufficiently alarmed by the incident. We are all under duress."

Carlos nodded and let his breath out slowly. "Thank you."

"The timing of this situation is very delicate." The chairman was on his feet again, slowly pacing behind the table.

"Don't worry, I've got this under control," Carlos said, holding up his hand, hoping to arrest the old man's agitation. "It was perfect."

All eyes were trained on Carlos as a lopsided smile tugged at his mouth. "I saved her, yet again, from danger when I dropped the courier. I brought her to her people and asked them to pray away the turn, to find an antidote. I, a vampire, asked them to pray."

The chairman stood so still that Carlos wasn't sure if the old man was even breathing. "Brilliant," the senior vampire whispered. "What then?"

"She argued with them, because, of course, they were angry at me for putting her in harm's way... but she 'went against her entire team and even the Covenant. . .for me. We have fully co-opted the Neteru, gentlemen." Carlos allowed the silent awe to sweep through the three elder vampires.

Triumphant, Carlos lifted his chin higher as fanged smiles slowly opened on the faces around the table. The chairman threw back his head and laughed.

"Rivera, each time you come to council chambers, you delight me. And, your plan, now, young man?"

This was it: the bargaining hour. Time to call in more resources, and to buy him and Damali more time.

"I still want her people protected until the very end so she doesn't get nervous and think I've started picking them off one by one. I've invested a lot to keep her on my side."

"Done," the chairman murmured, rubbing his long, pointed chin with satisfaction.

"I can't travel down here by courier for a while, even though I know the two empty seats creates a power drain, but it'd only be temporary. I can come down for serious business, meetings on significant topside matters, but I shouldn't risk going back and forth unescorted on a regular basis. I need to stay topside to keep the vessel out of harm's way. None of us knows how many scattered rebel forces from the civil war still remain at large."

All the bald heads around the table nodded their consent.

"These are indeed unstable times, Rivera. You have been our best insurance, thus far."

"But my lairs are wide open. I haven't had time to set up lieutenants I can trust. So, I'll need some Hell-dogs to watch my back while I handle my territory realignments."

"There are four other masters topside, Mr. Chairman," one of the other councilmen said with concern. "Each continent has one. Nuit's old territory was ceded to Carlos, and it is vast with breechable borders. Surely we can authorize some safeguards for our esteemed Councilman Rivera?"

The chairman nodded. "Absolutely. While he is in-lair, his perimeters must be held. But, as you travel you'll need bodyguards, of some sort."

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