Kip walked into Henriette Barker’s office, the secretary nodding as he walked past Kip, closing the door behind him.
“How can I help you?” Henriette said.
“Good evening, I’m Kip Kitwood. The thirteenth Leader of The Soci-“
“Just cut the crap and tell me what you’re doing here.”
Kip sat down in front of Henriette’s desk. He took a manila folder from his satchel and placed it in front of her. He flipped it open before he pulled his hands away.
“A release of information request?” Henriette narrowed her eyes.
“I just need you to sign the last page.” Kip pulled a pen from his pocket and held it towards her.
She didn’t move to take the pen. “You want me to sign a document without reading it?”
“Your predecessors did.”
“Why do you care? The last time I checked, you didn’t work for Law Enforcement anymore.”
“Maybe I get my kicks out of it.”
“Get them somewhere else.”
Kip followed her line of sight and noticed that her dark eyes were fixed on a line about the Pure Blood case. Kip grabbed the folder and shoved the papers back into it.
“If I sign, I want a copy to read first.” Her eyes locked on his. “If all you want is to play cop, let me bring my terms to the table.”
He knew there was something behind it but gave her the final page to sign anyhow.
“If you bring it to my sectary, he will copy it while you wait.”
“I can br-“
“Don’t even start with that, ‘I will bring you a copy’ bullshit. I want a copy of the documents you have in that folder. I want a copy, here and now, or the deal is over.” Henriette said. “I didn’t get to my position by letting arrogant arseholes like you screw me over.”
“Fine.” Kip stood up and followed the secretary when he opened the door. Once the document was copied, the man gave it back to Kip and sent him on his way.
Kip, Allen and Jo drove home and dressed for the Sliva wedding in silence only speaking in response to Sebastian. He told them to cheer up and gave them a sarcastic wave as he made his way out to the pool when they were leaving.
The wedding of Ivy Silva was the event of the decade, and Kip considered it a waste of time. They were paying homage to a Clan of vampires who wanted to drag them all back to the dark ages. They were Traditionalists through and through; vampires who admired the dark days before The Society. The Silvas’ believed that vampires should rule the world as highly intelligent apex predators. The Society, as it was, viewed as an avenue to power. If enough of the Circle decided to vote Esmerelda Silva leader in his place, there was nothing Kip could do. As Leader of the largest vampire Clan in the world and being officially older, she would get seniority over him. The Leader was picked from a pool of thirty Elder vampires, a new member-only allowed to enter when every older vampire had rejected their place or entered the pool. For most, a little power wasn’t worth the responsibility or the target on their back. The clock above Kip’s head had almost reached zero. Next July would be his centenary, and he’d be the longest-serving Leader of The Society. Only one vampire had left the position alive. If Kip had only a few months left to live, he was going to take Leopold with him. Leopold had ruined Kip’s life for hundreds of years; it only made sense that he return the favour. A life for a life, it was an equivalent exchange.
Kip focused on the piece of cake on his plate; butter cake with vanilla icing, big hit they had here. Kip held his fork and lilac serviette in one hand. His mouth was sore from the forced smile he’d kept throughout the wedding and reception.
“That was a waste of time.” Jo ate a fork full of cake as her blue eyes scanned the Blood Bath’s crowded ballroom. The lilac and white colour scheme clashing with the deep red walls and dark wood panelling of the room. She bearly took long enough to swallow before continuing. “So many important vampires took the time to come, and it was all a show to humiliate her ex-fiancé. How could Harrison have thought he’d cheat on Ivy Sliva and get away with it?”
“Want to try and sneak out?” Allen brushed the last of the crumbs from his fingers onto his black suit pants. Kip watched until Allen got a streak of icing on his leg. He held his serviette out to Allen. Kip carefully looked around for anyone else who might have seen. He’d expected Allen to have picked up some manners by now. If the press caught a photo, he’d never live it down. He could see headlines about The Leader’s ill-mannered Spawn now. Eating cake with his hands at a nice party then wiping his hands on his pants.
Allen wiped his hands and mouth on the serviette, then threw it on the table. He sighed and met Kip’s eyes. “It’s true, despite the thorough education you gave me I didn’t learn any manners.”
“No one would notice we were gone. Half of the guests weren’t even invited to the wedding.” Joanna said.
“Esmerelda will be back as soon as she’s finished talking to the media.” Kip moved some cake crumbs with his fork. Was this what it was like to have actual children?
“Problem with the cake.” Viktor Crumble stood in front of their table; his grey eyes fixed on the piece of cake on Kip’s plate. Though they had never met, Kip recognised him from the file. Viktor Crumble was a shorter man with a stocky build. In the harsh light of the ballroom, it was hard to tell if his hair was dark blonde or light brown. His current hairstyle was hardly an improvement on the one in the photo. It was a bearly tamed shaggy mess that sat on the rough border of long and short. His sharp grey eyes broke the spell his almost frilly shirt and patterned lilac suit attempted to cast. The suit and hair were an odd contradiction. Why put so much effort into an outfit and almost neglect one’s hair? Why dress to match the decor? Why the sudden urge to talk to Kip?
“I’ve never been a fan of cake. I’d much prefer rich dark chocolate.” Kip placed the fork on the table and smiled at Viktor as he held out his hand. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
“Viktor Crumble. I own the cake shop across from the Headland Gardens.”
“Prime real-estate. You’d have to be a little pet of Simon Silva or Raphine Clair to set up shop there. Can’t say I’ve heard of a vampire with a cake shop before.”
“Simon is my patron.” Viktor lent a little closer. “We eat food for pleasure. Desserts are the ultimate symbol of eating for pleasure.”
Kip picked up his glass of wine and leant back in his seat. “I might have to check out this cake shop of yours sometime.”
“You said you don’t like cake.”
“Did I?” Kip put his wine down and slowly used his fork to eat some cake. “You must have misheard me.”
“I have somewhere to be.” Viktor walked off.
“Does he get that pissed off at everyone who doesn’t like his cake?” Allen said.
“No. That’s just Kip’s charm.” Jo looked Kip in the eyes. “Do you have to fuck with him before you fuck him over?”
Kip put the fork down. “It’s called intimidation.”
“Why the hell do men feel the need to have dick-measuring contests?” Joanna stood. “I need some more wine if we’re going to sit through this shit any longer.”
Kip looked at Allen, who shrugged as he slid the cake from Kip’s plate to his own. Kip stood and decided to catch Jo before she reached the bar. He hasn’t said they couldn’t go home. It wasn’t like he wanted to be here anymore then she did.
Kip wasn’t sure how he managed to crash into the teen. He’d grabbed her arm on reflex to keep her steady on her feet. She looked at him for a few shocked seconds, her cheeks flushed. Then ducked down to pick up the plates of cake she’d dropped.
Kip put the phone he’d been about to use to call Jo in his pocket and joined her. “I’m sorry. It was my fault. I was looking at my phone in a crowd. Let me help.”
Her eyes went wide, and she paused to hold out her messy hand. “Frances Underwood. I’m sorry for crashing into you, Sir. Don’t help. You’re the vampire Leader you shouldn’t be cleaning up my mess.”
She was scared of him; Kip felt sick. Kip shook her hand, ignoring the feel of the icing on his fingers. He gave her what he hoped was his most genuine and reassuring smile. He didn’t need to scare some human kid because he was an idiot. Her Ameican accent marked her as the child of a Society employee, who’d made the trip from New York. “Are you Blaise Underwood’s daughter?”
“Yes. I’m only here because my father’s name got picked at random. We don’t know the Sliva’s personally. My father’s the only Human Representative invited. Please don’t fire him; he had nothing to do with this. I’ll pay for the plates.”
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
She relaxed visibly and gave up on her attempt to clean up the porcelain shards and cake crumbs. “Honestly? I just want to go home and study for my yearly exams. I was supposed to finish in June, but now I have to do an extra year of school or quit. All because my father dragged us halfway across the world.”
“I was looking for my friend who wants to leave. This party is for the Slivas’ and their friends. It’s okay to feel out of place, I do.”
“I did get something out of it. Esmeralda Sliva told us about the cake shop that supplied the wedding cake. Their blog has some incredible photos on it. My parents are going to get my brother’s birthday cake from there. He’s thirteen so its kind of a big deal.”
“The one near The Headland Gardens? That sounds nice. I enjoyed the cake tonight.” Kip forced himself to smile. He’d sound nuts if he warned her off going. If she believed him and said anything to her father, suspicion about Viktor’s shop would leak up the food chain until it reached Henriette Barker’s desk. They’d be safe together. Blaise was a trained vampire hunter and could handle himself.