Home > Christian (Vampires in America #10)(4)

Christian (Vampires in America #10)(4)
Author: D.B. Reynolds

Raphael gave him a look that said, Get to the point!

“As you know, Anthony intends to abdicate in favor of whoever wins a territorial challenge. I wish to compete, and I want your permission to do so.”

Raphael tilted his head, staring at him from beneath lowered brows. “You don’t need my permission. I don’t rule the South.”

“Not in name, my lord. And I mean no disrespect to you or to Anthony, but everyone knows it is your power that holds the South together.”

He braced himself for an angry response, but Raphael seemed mildly amused instead. “Assuming that’s true . . . why would I grant this blessing you seek? What do I gain? You are, after all, the child of my enemy. My very dead enemy.”

“I want only to compete fairly, my lord, as vampires have done for centuries.” He deliberately met Raphael’s hard, glittering gaze. “As for what you gain . . . when I win, you will gain a powerful ally in the war which we all know is coming. Mathilde is dead. But Hubert is not, nor Berkhard. And there are others.”

Raphael’s gaze sharpened shrewdly. “And being such a staunch ally, you will, of course, want to share everything you know of their plans.”

Christian was silent for a moment. He’d intended to share what he knew, but not until after he was Lord of the South, when they’d become allies in fact. If he told Raphael everything he knew right now, the Western Lord could simply decide to kill him before he could leave tonight. Telling him would be an act of trust, something not easy to come by in the world of powerful vampires.

“Trust is not a common currency in our world,” Christian said.

“And yet, we must start somewhere,” Raphael replied.

Oddly, had it been Mathilde on the other side of that desk, he would never have considered turning over what he knew. Not until he’d achieved his own goal of ruling the South, and had the power of a territory behind him. But Raphael had a reputation for integrity among his own people, and he was right . . . if they were to be allies, they had to start somewhere.

“I would be happy to tell you what I know, as a gesture of goodwill between us.”

Raphael shared a glance with his two vampire advisors, but it was Leighton who spoke. “What happened to your vaunted duty to your Sire?” she sneered.

“Mathilde is dead, my lady,” Christian said gently. “And I owe her allies nothing. My fate is now mine alone.” But he returned his attention to Raphael and said, “One more thing, my lord.”

Raphael gave him a questioning look.

“I will be bringing my lieutenant into the territory. I am not the only contender for the South, and I want someone loyal at my back.”

“Where is he now?” Juro asked, speaking for the first time.

Christian regarded the big vampire. “Mexico,” he said, letting his amusement show. “The lately-departed Enrique was very generous in his welcome to Mathilde and her allies. I doubt even Vincent understands yet just how many European vampires are roaming his territory.”

Raphael frowned. “Very well. Bring in your lieutenant. I will speak to Anthony, and Vincent, too. I expect Vincent, at least, will eventually want to speak to you directly, but you can begin tonight by briefing my people on everything you know about your colleague’s plans for the continent.”

Christian smiled slightly to cover the irritation he was feeling. “With respect, my lord, they are not, nor have they ever been, my colleagues.”

There was no reason for him to linger after that. And since no one had offered him a seat, he was still standing, which made his departure easier. His gaze skimmed the vampire lord’s still-glaring mate, and rested on Raphael.

“My lord,” he said.

Raphael gave him an almost imperceptible nod, but Christian figured that was all he was going to get. So he did the same, then turned and walked out of the room, keenly aware of Juro looming up behind him.

“We’ll use the conference room,” Juro said, drawing his attention to a pair of open double doors on his left. Christian veered into the designated room, just as Jared exited Raphael’s office and headed his way. So far, the visit had gone as well as Christian could have hoped, but it still pissed him off. He was not their enemy, though he easily could have been. If he’d been anchoring that damned power circle, as Mathilde had wanted, it wouldn’t have collapsed quite so easily, and maybe not at all. He frowned at the thought, and made a note to somehow find out what had gone wrong in Hawaii. He didn’t mourn its failure, but it would be . . . educational to know the details. One never knew when obscure bits of information might come in handy. He was a vampire lord, after all. Or he soon would be. He didn’t even entertain the possibility that he would fail in the South. It wasn’t going to happen.

He strolled over to the conference room’s far window. It had the same spectacular view as the one from Raphael’s office, although it was displayed less dramatically—no floor-to-ceiling windows here. Putting the windows at his back, he watched silently as Jared and Juro moved around the room. They were both powerful vampires, and seemed eminently confident that they were in control.

But then, Christian was still hiding his true strength. He was over 230 years old, and more powerful than either of these two. And he was tired of being treated like a second-class citizen.

He didn’t move from where he stood, didn’t make any grand gestures or call attention to what he was doing. He simply smiled between the two of them, and then slowly released a taste of his true power. Not all at once—doing so might have alarmed Raphael—and not the full measure of his power, either. The only time a smart vampire showed his full strength was in battle. It was always better to keep one’s enemies guessing.

But he revealed enough to let Juro and Jared know exactly whom they were dealing with. He studied their faces as they took in the truth. They were good at concealing their reactions, but Christian caught the slight widening of Jared’s eyes, the subtle shifting of Juro’s stance, as if readying himself for an attack.

“Relax, gentlemen,” he said. “We’re allies now, right?”

Juro’s gaze narrowed slightly. “For better or worse,” he growled.

Christian let that hang in the air a few moments, then said, “The night will not last forever, and I want to be safely out of Raphael’s territory before the dawn, even if that means sleeping on an airplane between here and Houston. But since we’re all such great friends, perhaps I can simply summarize the information, then e-mail you the details.”

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