There was, Olivia considered, nothing in the world quite like the taste of someone who wanted you. Fear made the blood bittersweet and thick as butterscotch, greed made it sour and anger curdled it. Desire, though, not merely a sense of physical need but an intellectual hope, a sense of connection… that made it taste white-hot, almost good enough to hurt, a feeling that prickled at the back of the throat and filled the heart. Warm and languid, Olivia thumbed through her phone, the mortal’s scent still on her hands. What had her name been? Ah. With a motion she wiped the contact details. You could never be too safe.
It was fast approaching midnight, Dante at the door again.
He caught Olivia by the shoulder as she stepped inside. “You should go make friends with the new kid by the bar. I expect the Prince will be getting the idea to put her in your care soon.”
“And this will be the Prince’s own idea?” Olivia narrowed her eyes.
Dante gave a sideways smile. “The Prince will think that it’s her own idea, if that’s what you mean.”
For all that it was only three nights after the previous, the atmosphere at this Elysium could not have been more different. Gone was the party atmosphere; the kindred standing around in small, insular groups, talking in low voices, drinks untouched. The Prince wore a severe dove-grey dress, corset laced impossibly tight, and though her silvery laughter still carried across the hall, her eyes were flat and dark. The Sheriff sat close to her, his jacket hanging on the back of his chair and his sword bared across his knees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jack had not been issued with an invitation, and he had gone to keep watch for the blue-haired kindred at the pub.
“You know, you smell really nice.” Morgan, the new kid, a leggy blonde kindred with faintly glowing red eyes leaned over the bar as she talked to Shen.
“Thank you! It’s mostly disinfectant.” Shen caught Olivia’s eye, looking a little worried. “Hygiene is important,” he added.
“Oh, you’re funny,” the blonde laughed. “I like that. Your friend is pretty cute too.”
Olivia smirked and shook her head, but Shen beamed. “Thank you. I’m a doctor.”
Morgan smiled back, her hand on Shen’s knee. “Maybe you could give me a checkup sometime.”
“At this rate this conversation will end with you on my operating table,” said Shen, quite innocently.
Olivia coughed into her hand, shaking with concealed laughter. What had his sire done to him, she wondered, to make him so bad at talking to women? Perhaps it was a Tzimisce thing.
She felt the atmosphere pull tight in the moments before the Justicar’s arrival, the malkavians drawing together in clusters, the nosferatu looking to Cain for direction and the tremere’s robust debate quieting. Finally, the conversation from the Harpies dulled to a low murmur, and she saw the muscles in the Prince’s shoulders tense.
Shen leaned over to her. “Hopefully this won’t be another Miss Valentine,” he said quietly.
“Hopefully,” Olivia agreed.
Shen’s gaze darted from side to side. “Lucius said they were considering my sire for the Red List. That Valentine petitioned for it, before she…” he trailed off. Luna Valentine had been an elder with powerful connections in the Camarilla, and three months ago they had helped to kill her.
Olivia’s skin began to crawl. “That’s why the Justicar is here?”
She closed her eyes, trying to block out the thoughts, and her ears, like traitors, found the conversation repeated in other voices, at different tables. They are a liability. Why the fuck hasn’t the Prince offed them yet?
The fear in her stomach writhed like a snake, and she fought to keep it down.
Shen tensed. “Olivia?”
“I’ll be ok,” she said, shaking her head.
And then the Justicar walked in.