In the aftermath, a chartered flight arrived from Rome, and the killings started, the truce broken.
The girls tasted hollow and vapid, even from the femoral artery; something that should be deep and rich and good rendered sour, with a champagne aftertaste. These same girls that took her hand and writhed in ecstasy as her fangs punctured their skin, they would have scorned her, before she was rich, before she was beautiful, before she was famous. Before her Embrace. Before, before, before.
Olivia lay face down on the sofa in the penthouse next to Shen, dressed in her pyjamas. Shen sipped alcohol-laced blood from a hipflask, half-watching a Frasier rerun.
Olivia sighed into the cushions. “I’ve pulled the faces of most of the new arrivals. The hunters, I mean. Got the guys on the gate keeping an eye out for them.”
“That’s great.” Shen looked her over critically, then turned back to the screen. “You shouldn’t have intervened, you know. He’d made his choice; it was his right to die.”
“Oh, c’mon Shen,” Olivia raised her head. “I feel bad enough about this entire thing, I don’t need you guilting me about it, too.”
Shen sipped at his flask. “Why’d you do it, then?”
“Because I couldn’t just stand by and let him die. Not because of me. Not because of some-” Olivia closed her eyes and buried her face in a cushion. “-some bullshit prophecy dream I had.”
“And you agreed to the favour, and let an unknown vampire, probably a Ravnos, into our home?” said Shen.
“The favour is on me, Shen. Not you.” Olivia waved an arm. “And besides, the Ravnos can get in here any time they want. They showed that when they dumped Jed here.”
“I guess.” Shen seemed mollified. “Was that my phone?”
Olivia listened to the chatter as the signal interfered with the electronics in the room. She sighed. “It’s in your pocket, Shen.”
“So it is.” Shen put down his flask and pulled out his phone. “Huh, looks like Elysium tonight.”
It was an ancillae only affair, the sheriff on the door. Olivia gave him a careful look-over as she approached. He wore tired-looking stonewashed jeans and a long coat, and his aura was pale, golden flecks coalescing in a halo around his head. He returned her intent gaze, and nodded, waving her in.
There were, Olivia noted, far fewer ancillae than regular Elysium attendees, only twenty or so of Grimouth’s recognised camarilla members present. Kristina spoke to only one other Ventrue at the bar, the Prince surrounded herself with a handful of Toreador, and Dante stood talking to Cain in a quiet corner, the room entirely devoid of other malkavians.
Dante joined her at the first opportunity, a decided spring in his step. “Olivia! A wonderful evening! With the most exclusive company.” He gestured about himself.
Olivia inclined her head. “It seems we are without our clanmates tonight.”
“They are about Devon. Doing official business.” Dante spread his hands. “You know how it is; a little work here, a little work there.”
“And you have no business for me?” Olivia played at disappointment.
“You run Goodwin Industries,” Dante countered.
Olivia sighed. “Still, I suppose it’s for the best, with things as they are.”
“Yes,” Dante smiled coldly. “Not everyone has a private army to protect them, if the hunters come knocking, Olivia.”
“I suppose they don’t at that.”
As if by a hidden signal, all the primogen looked up, made their excuses, and headed for the central table. Shen joined Olivia at the bar, looking decidedly more inebriated than before, and the primogen began to talk. With no neonates present, they didn’t bother to silence the council to observers, and Olivia listened in, interested.
They traded numbers, small numbers, tens and twenties, denominations unspoken, passing slips of paper between them. Money, perhaps? Or favours? Olivia blinked, rewinding the footage that her glasses had captured and playing it back more slowly. Still a mystery.
There was a crash from outside, and Olivia flinched, her head resounding with unexpected loudness. The primogen looked up, each of them looking to an ancilla. Dante looked at Olivia. I’m all he’s got, she realised.
“C’mon, Shen,” said Olivia, talking the Tzimisce by the arm. Sighing, he stoppered his flask of blood and tucked it into his pocket.
The carpark outside was still, and empty, save for a white cross, planted in the ground perhaps twenty feet from the door. Pinned to it, a man.
Olivia felt her beast scream and slam against the walls of her conscious mind.