When she saw me enter, her lips puckered up like an anus. “Mr. Lazarus.” She nodded regally like she was balancing a tiara on her head instead of a mop of kinky frizz. “Sabina.”
“Hey, Tanith.” Her eyes narrowed at my use of her given name. Too damned bad. I wasn’t her underling anymore. “I wish I could say it’s been too long, but—you know.”
The last time we’d seen each other was three months earlier just after we’d returned to the Seelie Court fresh from our victory over Lavinia and the Caste of Nod in Louisiana. Not long enough in my opinion.
“Orpheus tells me you’ve settled right into mage life,” she said. “I wish I could say it’s a surprise you shed your illustrious vampire heritage so easily but—you know.”
The corner of my mouth twitched. As implied insults go, it wasn’t half bad. Alluding to the shame of my mixed blood was a smooth move on her part, but I was beyond caring what any vampire thought of me, especially a former Domina.
“I was hoping to meet that twin of yours,” Tanith continued. “I’ve been told she is your mirror image.”
I opened my mouth to respond, but Orpheus interrupted. “Maisie has gone into seclusion to meditate and prepare for sharing a prophecy at the Imbolc festival.”
I flinched in confusion. Why was he lying to Tanith?
“Ah, yes,” the Despina said. “I understand. I must admit I’m quite eager to hear what the Oracle has to say about our new future as allies.”
Orpheus cleared his throat. “As am I.” He shifted and shot me a meaningful look. I wasn’t sure if it was a warning to keep my mouth shut or a promise that he’d explain his reasoning later, but I held my tongue either way. I was no more eager to discuss Maisie’s situation with Tanith than Orpheus was.
“Let’s begin,” Orpheus said. “We don’t have much time before we have to get on a conference call with Queen Maeve.”
“Why hasn’t the Queen come to the city for the meetings?” Adam asked, taking a seat next to me.
“She refuses to leave the court unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Orpheus explained. “She’ll be here for the treaty signing, of course, but all the negotiations are happening virtually.”
I raised my eyebrows in relief. As much as I didn’t enjoy seeing Tanith again, I thanked the gods for saving me from suffering the Queen’s mercurial moods, too. Of the two evils, I preferred to take my chances with the former Domina over the fae monarch. While Tanith tolerated me because I was occasionally useful to her, the Queen hated me. Flat-out, unapologetic hatred. The grudge had something to do with a turncoat ambassador who’d tried to kill me but ended up faery flambé courtesy of my Chthonic magic. The Queen never forgave me for killing him, despite the proof that I’d only been defending myself against a traitor to her crown.
A movement behind Tanith caught my eye as a female approached her from behind. The same female I’d seen on the sidewalk outside Central Park. “Who’s she?” I demanded, ignoring the stern look from Orpheus for my rudeness.
Tanith raised a pale hand. “This is Alexis Vega.”
Alexis looked like something out of vampire discipline p**n . She wore a long-sleeved black shirt and leather pants. A holster circled her hips, displaying two massive sidearms. I couldn’t see the lower half of her, but I’d bet cash money she was wearing stiletto boots. This chick’s entire getup was about intimidation, and if I hadn’t used the same tactics myself, I might have been impressed.
She met my gaze across the table and nodded slightly.
“You two have a lot in common, Sabina.” Tanith was oblivious to the tension zinging past her as the bodyguard and I sized each other up. “Alexis was an Enforcer before she was promoted to my personal guard.”
“Oh, yeah?” I barely managed not to roll my eyes. “You look familiar,” I said. “Have we met before?” I was testing her, wondering if she’d fess up to witnessing the murder scene the night before.
Although, to be honest, I also was curious whether we’d crossed paths back in Los Angeles at some point. Most likely, she’d graduated from the same Enforcer school that turned me out in the 1970s. But even if I hadn’t met her before, I certainly knew her type.
“Miss Kane, you know very well you saw me last night outside Central Park.” She smiled. “Just as I saw you.”
The corner of my mouth lifted. “Touché.”
I kept my eyes on the vampire, looking for signs of guilt. Honestly, now that I knew she was the Despina’s guard, she’d fallen way down the suspect list. Plus, if she’d killed the human, wouldn’t she deny being at the scene? However, I’d had enough experience with the last person on the list being the bad guy that I couldn’t completely disregard her. But all the normal tells were absent—no tightening of the mouth, no fidgeting, no squinting or evasive glances. Either Alexis was telling the truth or she’d been trained very well. My guess was the former, but I planned on keeping an eye on her, just in case.
Orpheus cleared his throat, a not-so-subtle reminder that the clock was ticking down on our meeting. “We understand there was some excitement at Vein last night.”
Shit. Right. I pulled my gaze from Alexis and shifted in my seat. Since this was mage business, I deferred to Adam out of habit. Plus, he always did a better job with the niceties of talking to leaders. I usually ended up kicked out or yelled at or worse.
“Yes, sir,” Adam spoke when I didn’t. “Sabina was meeting with Slade Corbin when it happened. I was watching Pussy Willow’s performance with Giguhl. It wasn’t until The Shade’s nymph reported the murder that we became involved and went with him to survey the murder site.”
“Yes, I was briefed by Mr. Corbin on the specifics.” Orpheus grimaced. “Dreadful business.” Tanith made the appropriate noises but her expression remained coldly detached.
“Does Slade have any leads yet?” Adam asked.
Orpheus and the Despina exchanged a look I couldn’t read. “Actually, that’s why we’ve brought you in. If Slade is correct and the culprit is a vampire, the ramifications for the peace treaty are potentially disastrous.” He pressed a fist into his palm. “Swift, decisive action is crucial.”
I shifted in my seat. “You said ‘murders,’ ” I began. “I guess that means Slade filled you in on the park murder, too?”