“I guess that’s true.”
“It goes even deeper than just you,” he continued. “You took your teachings to your House, and as a result were able to shield the Eminence and his vampires when they were attacked in the Cloisters. If you hadn’t learned your particular style of magic, the Eminence was the only one who would have made it. His underlings—including his First and Second Knight—would have died. And that is what interests me.”
“That we saved Celestina, Josh, and everyone?”
“No. Well, somewhat. I was specifically referring to the fact that your friendship changed the future of both the Drake Family and House Medeis.” He pressed his lips together, his kind and handsome face turning grim. “And right now, we need some changing futures. Thus far, not much has changed for the better—except for House Medeis’s return and the Drake Family’s survival.”
“I think the fae may play a bigger, positive role than you think,” I said.
“You say that despite the Night Court’s attempts against you?”
“I was thinking more of the Paragon,” I admitted. “I think he’s like you, and he wants to change our future.” I hesitated.
In a conversation with Killian, the Paragon had said he was looking for something. Based on how reluctant he was to tell Killian, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t want me telling the Elite. And while I would loyally serve the Elite and help wizards however I could, I wasn’t about to sacrifice the Paragon when he’d only been kind to me.
Besides, Elite Bellus was an important-enough figure, he could talk to the Paragon himself.
“I don’t think the Paragon is hanging around the Midwest just for funsies,” I carefully said. “He might be another excellent ally.”
Elite Bellus studied me for a few moments. “I see. Very well. Thank you for the recommendation. I shall make an appointment to speak with him. Though he is technically more important than Killian, I am man enough to admit he scares me less, and is much more friendly.” He glanced slyly at me.
I copied one of Killian’s signature looks and raised an eyebrow. “That means you’re still hoping I’ll talk to Killian for you?”
I sighed. “I’ll mention to him you’re re-thinking some previous positions. But I’m not going to play mind-reader and tell him what you want. You’ll need a seer for that.”
“An opening from you will help pave the way.” Elite Bellus peered at me with an appraising expression.
He had looked at me similarly at the Summer’s End Ball. Recalling our conversation from then, I was quick to say, “I’m not Killian’s one, you know.”
“Mmm.” He casually glided over my somewhat defensive statement. “Regardless, an opening is all I need. For now.”
“Fabulous,” I drawled. “If that is all, I need to slip out. I am pretty sure the meeting is going to start soon, and I want to take my seat.”
“Naturally! Thank you, Adept Medeis. I appreciate your aid in this matter.” Elite Bellus winked at me, then strolled back the way we’d come, whistling as he went.
I watched him for another moment, wondering if I had made the right choice, then slipped into the assembly hall through the side door.
The room was by no means full, but it didn’t look like many vampires were lingering outside the main doors, so the meeting would probably begin soon.
I picked my way through the chairs, ignoring the red eyes and pinpricks of white fangs that flashed at me as I made my way to House Medeis’s spot. A few vampires sniffed then hissed as I passed, irritated by my foul-smelling blood.
I wasn’t too concerned—I could clear the room with a few drops of my blood—and I knew from my training that between my magic and fighting skills, I could get the drop on the average vampire. Possibly even a few Elders—the Family leader.
I caught Great Aunt Marraine’s eye and waved when I was just a few steps from our chairs, but Killian intercepted me, stepping in front of me.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Yep. I’ve got some things to talk to you about, but I’m guessing we don’t have time?”
“You can tell me as we take our seats.”
Killian nodded at the dais—which was positioned to be the center of attention in the room. At the top level of the dais was a fancy desk with two chairs.
“I am not sitting up there with you,” I said.
Killian frowned slightly. “Why not?”
“I’m not going to let you use me as a method of intimidation, and I don’t want to get dragged into vampire politics!” I growled.
Killian actually heaved his eyes to the ceiling. “I don’t want you to sit next to me for political reasons. Really, you’re starting to be almost as paranoid as I am.”
“What possible reason could you want me up there with you?” I demanded.
“Did I not say I was inviting you because I missed you?” Killian stressed. “That’s why I want you sitting with me.”
I uneasily rolled my shoulders—we were getting back into territory I wasn’t totally comfortable with because we’d never really taken the time to define what we were. (We never had the chance—or we hadn’t, until we’d resumed our…friendship?)
I glanced at the chair. “Okay, but what is everyone else going to think?”
“What I want them to think, and what I’m attempting to display.”
“I knew politics were wrapped up in this somehow,” I muttered.
“That was your cue to ask what I’m attempting to display.”
“Fine. What are you attempting to display?”
“That we’re equals.”
His response surprised me so much my balance actually wobbled for a moment. “I’m sorry…what?”
Killian adjusted his cuff links and grinned slightly at me. “I’m the Eminence. No one sits on the same level as me. If I was trying to make a statement that you were under my power I’d tell you to stand with Celestina. But by giving you a seat next to me, I’m stating we’re on equal footing. It will show just how highly I think of you.”
I had to admire Killian’s sharp intellect and the way he could understand politics. More and more it seemed to me he wasn’t the tyrant of the Regional Committee of Magic just because he was powerful and intimidating. Rather, he understood power structures, and how to communicate without words.
Normally, that might make him even more scary.
I mean you have a fabulously rich vampire who rules over his physically superior race uncontested and is generally feared. Why not just throw in genius-like brains for good measure?
But this actually reassured me. Because Killian would use his same ridiculous intellect against the Night Court.
Still musing on the implications, I thoughtfully pressed my lips together and glanced out at the vampires.
Pale faces and glassy red eyes stared back at me.
“And,” Killian swept a hand through his hair, showing how relaxed he was despite the stares, “if you sit next to me, we can talk to each other and increase the fear we inspire together without anyone knowing I’m just asking you how long you fed my underlings expired blood packs.”
“I talked to some of the kitchen staff this week about a few…plans. They mentioned missing how you rotated the fresh and old blood packs in the fridge for them.”
“Oh. Yeah. Okay, fine,” I massaged my forehead and hoped I wasn’t going to regret this. “Let’s do it. But now I want to know what shady plans of yours required input from your kitchen staff.”
Killian flashed his fangs at me and sauntered off to the dais without replying.
I waited until I caught Great Aunt Marraine’s eye again, then motioned after Killian.
The sassy old woman wriggled her eyebrows at me then smoothed the bright pink stripe in her silvery hair.
I shook my head at her, then hurried after Killian.
Instantly my phone started buzzing. I glanced down at it to see it was a message from Momoko and Franco, who were seated with Great Aunt Marraine and the two other wizards who had opted to come, April and June.
A quick swipe silenced it—I was pretty sure I didn’t want to know what that duo had to say to me right now—and I climbed up the short set of stairs.
Killian had really planned his attack—there was a steaming mug of tea and a cup of water waiting for me, as well as a little bowl of fancy European chocolates.
“Nice.” I plopped down in my chair, which was so big and ornate it felt like it swallowed me. “Are you ready to hear what the Elite had to say?”
Killian stabbed a straw through a blood pouch. “If I must.”
I blabbed a summary of my conversation with the Elite—focusing on the fact that the Night Court was in trouble with the other fae, and staying away from Elite Bellus’s thoughts about intermingling. (That was a different conversation for a different day, preferably over the phone when Killian could try and charm me with his smokey voice but not touch me and set my brain on fire.)
“Interesting,” Killian said when I finished.
I watched him as I peeled a shiny wrapper off a chocolate. “He said you probably knew all of this already.”
“I did.” Killian steepled his fingers and studied me. “But that he gave you the information anyway is very curious.”
I shrugged. “I gave you the message, so as far as I’m concerned I have nothing more to do with it. How is the turn out for the meeting?”
He stirred, his eyes glittering as he gazed out at the vampires he represented. “We have representatives from twenty-nine Families. Most of them are local, some of them are just annoyingly nosy.”
I stared out at the vampires—it looked like there was closer to a hundred vampires than twenty-nine. “I assume that more than one representative is attending per Family?”