Kip excused himself when his phone rung, waving over an employee to clean up the mess. It was Sara Armstrong. He ducked into an alcove, pressed talk and held it to his ear.
“I hope you’ve had time to duck off and feed while you’ve been at that fancy party,” Sara said.
“I haven’t had a chance to visit the feeding rooms because Esmeralda has only left my side to talk to the media,” Kip said. “Why are you calling?”
“Here’s what’s interesting. I decided to get a coffee while I was waiting for an important email. I was on the Law Enforcement floor when I stopped to read it. While I was standing there, Eric Silva invited every vampire working to the wedding reception. I was invited too, but the fucks I give are non-existent because everything to do with weddings is so bori-“
“Get to the point, Sara. You didn’t ring for a casual chat.”
“I’ve placed my new desk, so I can look out that great big window in my office that overlooks the Major Crimes bullpen. Eventually, someone who didn’t belong entered the floor and started walking towards our private elevator. I would have stopped the elevator with him in it if he got to it. That Arron one who has a crush on you crash tackled him and got the attention of Geoff and Henriette.”
“Where is this man now?”
“They’re interrogating him as we speak. Feed before you come, you might not get a chance for a while. Don’t worry your pretty little head. I’ll have my bright red claws in him before you get here.”
Kip sent Jo and Allen a text about where he was headed then made for the parking lot. Sebastian could pick them up; he had to feed at some point.
He almost dropped his phone when he saw Esmerelda Silva was leaning against his red Mustang. She wore a tight, knee-length dress that showed ample cleavage. With her dark curly hair, pale skin and bright blue eyes, she was attractive and knew it. After one hundred years of trying to woo Kip to gain his favour, she couldn’t understand why he didn’t pull like the men before him. The truth was, he had fallen for it, for her, the first time they’d met in 1099 when she was the bright-eyed village girl named Enid. He knew it was insane after all this time, but when he looked at her, he remembered the look on her face as she betrayed him to Leopold on the promise of immortality. A two-year relationship didn’t trump a betrayal and hundreds of years of hate. She’d known Kip as Wigberht then Wybert, the names Leopold had given him when he forcefully turned him and stripped his identity. It’d been hundreds of years before they met again in 1913 with Esmerelda never shy about who her Sire was, and it had all came flooding back. Vampire grudges ran long and deep.
“Kip, Darling,” Esmeralda cajoled. “I was wondering where you ran off to.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t send your errand boy after me.”
“Arthur? He’s around, but I wanted to talk to you myself.”
“Ivy will invite you to a little dinner party she is hosting next week. It is only a small event, so just you and a date. Make sure you bring one.”
“Someone you trust.”
Kip paused as he reached to unlock his car, he’d never even talked to Ivy Silva, why would she invite him to a party? “What is this about? Really about. No bullshit.”
“I think her branch of the Silva Clan is doing something behind my back. Something that could crumble the whole Clan if rumours are correct.”
“Do you mean something that could place the entire Clan under Ivy and Simon’s control? Something that could cause you to lose your power?”
“They’ve made moves I don’t approve of. Unfortunately for them, I’ve lived a lot longer than them, and they aren’t the first to target me.”
“You still haven’t told me what you want me to do.”
She sighed. “It’s hard enough for me to ask you for help. Don’t rush it.”
“I can’t help unless you ask me for something. Use your words.”
“They’ve been inviting important vamps to dinner parties over the last few weeks. Those who remember what happened won’t talk and those who don’t, can’t.”
“You want me as the Vampire Leader to accept an invitation to a house, that when people have returned from it, are missing their memories?”
“Lie. You may be a bit dense, but you lie as easy as you breathe. They’re vampires, not mages; they aren’t going to bind you to some unbreakable vow.”
“What do you want to know?”
“When I said ‘I think’, what I really meant is, I know what they are doing and how stupid it is. I need proof. I know you see me as some darkager who wants vampires to go back to the pre-Society days. The truth is I’m not like that at all.”
“What are you really like? I’ve known you almost one hundred years, and your reputation has preceded you.” Kip had never asked her anything like this point-blank before.
“I don’t understand why your Sebastian gets a benefit of a doubt as a Spawn of Leopold, but I don’t. I may play the darkagers, but I’m not one. I want power, and many of them hold powerful positions.”
“You want me to trust you when you openly want my job.”
“There’s a reason I split with Leo the first time he was arrested. The Society wasn’t even a thing back then, but I wanted something different. Something better.” Esmeralda met Kip’s dark eyes. “Your puppetmaster can’t stand the idea of me being in charge of her precious experiment.”
“If you’re looking for a darkager, maybe look up your own strings.”
“You’re not the first to tell me that. I’m here because I had my own changes to make.”
“A stalemate, while you do this one little spy mission for me. In return, I will grant you one favour. Anything you could ask for. My advice, save it for when you are brave enough to break with Ruth.”
“I’ll do it, but you have to answer one more question.”
“You’re the only one I trust enough to say no. You wear your politics on your sleeve but know how to play the game.”
Esmerelda stood aside so he could unlock his car. “Maybe I’m not the evil you think I am.”
“That’s to be decided.”
“Give precious Arthur a call when you’re done.”
“He’s always been your favourite.”
“Arthur is loyal and intelligent while not having ideas above his station. The perfect second in command. Some will take on the position proudly. When I take my rightful place as Leader, I’m sure I will find a position for someone with your experience.” Esmerelda walked off, the click of her black designer heels echoing through the quiet parking lot. A car was picking her up far enough away for her to have a grand exit.
Kip shook his head and hopped into his car. He sped out from the parking lot, his own needs and consideration about what Esmeralda had said could wait. Someone had literally tried to walk into his office. Had Esmeralda been trying to delay him, or did she really need his help?