Georgia grimaced at the mention of bagged blood. “No offense, but I’d rather go into debt to this Shade than drink bagged blood.”

My lips twitched. I remembered a time when I’d have agreed with her. “Suit yourself.”

Giguhl raised his claws with a huff. “Wait, what about dinner?”

“Sorry, G.” Adam grimaced. “We’re going to have to take a rain check. Orpheus and the Despina are waiting for us.”

“Well, that’s just great,” the demon said, crossing his arms. “I give and I give and I give. And what do I get in return? More orders! I don’t exist just to do your bidding, you know. I have rights!”

“Give it a rest, Norma Rae,” I said with an eye roll. Gods save me from demon diva fits. “This way you’ll be able to check on Pussy Willow.”

The demon stood straighter. “Hmm, you have a point.” He turned to Mac. “You wanna come with? PW will be thrilled to see you.”

Mac shook her head. “If I don’t report to Uncle Mike’s soon I’ll have to spend the night listening to a lecture about punctuality and respect for one’s Alpha.”

“Okay, we really need to get going,” Adam said. “Mac, let us know how your talk goes. Giguhl, behave yourself.” He turned toward Alexis and me. “You guys ready?”

Just before I followed them out the door, I remembered Giguhl couldn’t escort Georgia to Vein in his demon form. I stopped in the doorway and yelled, “Giguhl, change forms!”

A pop echoed through the apartment. A gasp and a curse followed. “That’s not right,” Mac growled.

“Oh, please,” Giguhl hissed. “Like anyone’s gonna believe you’re disgusted by a little pu**y.”

“The pu**y part’s not the problem,” Georgia responded, her tone positively arid. “It’s the double entendre between your legs.”

“Bitch, please,” the demon cat responded, obviously enjoying the banter. “One night with this bad boy and you’ll give up the poon forever.”

Alexis shot me a confused look from the hall. “What the hell are they talking about?”

“Trust me.” I shook my head and shut the door behind me. “You don’t want to know.”

13

In conclusion,” Adam was saying to Tanith and Orpheus half an hour later, “we now believe the two murders are connected.”

Once again, we were sitting around the conference table in Orpheus’s office. We’d had Alexis start with her findings, which frankly didn’t amount to much. No one at Vein the night of the murder saw a damned thing. She also said when no witnesses turned up, she’d asked Slade if she could see the security footage. Naturally that was a dead end, too, because Slade didn’t allow cameras in the back rooms, to protect his customers’ privacy.

After Alexis finished her report, Adam took the lead on relaying what we’d learned from Mistress Bianca. His observation about the murders being connected grabbed the leaders’ interest big-time.

“They certainly sound connected,” Orpheus said. “Unfortunately, the human’s death also means your trail has dried up.”

“Not necessarily,” I said. “Mistress Bianca told us that she’d been approached by some rough vampire elements about supporting a change in the Black Light District leadership.”

The Despina perked up. “Oh?”

I nodded. “Apparently, Slade’s alliance with the Despina shook up some old resentment among the city’s vamps.”

“Who’s behind the movement to oust Slade?”

Adam looked to me to explain. “Tiny Malone.” I grimaced. “He runs a strip club in Alphabet City. He’s little more than a hustler. Hardly powerful enough to give Slade a direct challenge for power.”

Adam stepped in. “Unless he could work behind the scenes, sowing discontent among the vamp population while also undermining Slade’s authority by making it look like he’s not in control.”

Orpheus nodded. “Sounds like you need to go pay this Malone a visit.”

Ugh. I knew it was inevitable, but the very idea left a bad taste in my mouth. Especially since I knew the minute I walked in his club, Tiny would recognize me.

Alexis had been mostly quiet during the discussion. I assumed she was allowing Adam and me to take the lead, as Orpheus had instructed us to do. But the scowl on her face indicated she was annoyed we’d been the ones to get the new lead. “What exactly is our objective when we approach him?”

I squinted at her, wondering if it was a trick question. “Obviously, we’re going to talk to him to figure out if he’s behind the murders.”

“Talk,” she snorted. “You ask me, we grab him off the street, take him to a remote location, and beat the truth out of him.”

I had to bite my lip to keep from pointing out that, in fact, no one had asked her shit. Next to me, Adam opened his mouth to respond, but the Despina beat him to it. “I concur. Swift, decisive action is the best approach.”

Adam shot them both a disbelieving look. “Pardon me, but at this point all we have to go on is hearsay. If we beat him, he’ll maybe confess but only because he wants the pain to end.”

“There’s no maybe about it,” the Despina said without a trace of concern. “Torturing confessions out of criminals is Alexis’s specialty.”

The vampire cracked her knuckles. “Back in Los Angeles they call me the Iron Maiden.”

I closed my eyes and prayed for patience. When I opened them again, Adam was staring at the females like they’d grown two more heads. “Well, Iron Maiden, it’s common knowledge that you can’t trust confessions from torture victims. And since our goal is to find a killer, not just a random, forced confession, I think we’ll skip the beatings for now.”

Tanith narrowed her eyes at the mancy. “That’s not your decision to make. Orpheus, what do you say?”

“I am committed to finding the murderer as quickly as possible.” He cleared his throat and shifted in his chair, clear signs there was a “but” coming. “However, in this case, I don’t believe we have enough evidence to justify such extreme measures with Mr. Malone.” The Despina stiffened, but he continued. “Sabina, Adam, and Alexis will question Mr. Malone. If they feel that harsher measures are warranted based on that conversation, then I’ll consider your suggestion.”

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