I wanted to grab him and kiss and demand that he be careful, too. Tell him I didn’t care if he could accept all of me or not because I needed all of him. But he was already gathering my sister into his arms and running off, followed by four other Pythian Guards. He’d not soon recover from Orpheus’s death. None of us would. But in the meantime, we all had to focus on staying alive.

I allowed myself a moment to watch his retreating back. His broad shoulders tensed with Maisie’s weight. I’d always admired those shoulders, so strong and capable. But I didn’t have the luxury of mooning over my personal heartache. The murders of Orpheus and Tanith were a crisis of epic proportions, and until it got sorted out, everything else had to get shoved down.

I turned toward Giguhl, who stood in front of Rhea like a bodyguard, all shoulders and claws ready to defend. “We need to get Rhea out of here.”

Giguhl’s eyes widened when he saw my burden. “What happened with Maisie?”

“She passed out. Adam’s going to take her to her rooms.”

“I can’t leave him,” Rhea said. “I won’t.”

I knelt down beside her. “The Guards will take care of him. But it’s not safe for you here.”

Tears rolled down her face. “Who did this, Sabina?”

Fighting my own urge to cry, I said, “I don’t know.” I gently helped her rise. “We have to find the Queen and Persephone. They’ll be in charge until Maisie recovers.”

Just then, a fae guard ran up, panting. “The Queen and the Council are convening in chambers. All ranking members of the races need to report there.”

“We’re right behind you.”

He nodded and ran off to spread the word to the others.

I turned to Rhea. “I need to get some weapons.”

She nodded. “Let’s stop by my rooms, too. I’d better pick up some healing supplies while we’re there.”

I hesitated. “We’ll drop you off at chambers. Give Giguhl a list and he’ll gather—”

She shook her head. “Absolutely not. Whoever did this killed my best friend. I will not hide like a mouse when I could be helping.”

I knew better than to argue. Rhea was one of the toughest females I knew—hell, she was one of the toughest beings period.

Just before we set off, Alexis ran by. All the other guards were busy trying to calm everyone down, but she was running in the other direction.

“Alexis,” I called.

She stopped and shot me a venomous glare. “What?”

“We’re supposed to report to chambers.”

“I’ve got to do something else first.”

I frowned at her. “What?”

“That’s none of your f**king business,” she spat out. In her hand, a dagger glinted in the torchlight. I looked down at it and saw the tattoo on her arm.

I grabbed it for a better look.

“Get off me,” she yelled, and tried to push me away. But I held on tight.

“What’s this?” I demanded. The tattoo I’d barely glimpsed the other night hadn’t been a dagger at all. Instead, her wrist bore a red triskelion. Just like the one I’d seen at Spank. The one Mistress Bianca said indicated the bearer was a vampire who partook of blood-sport games. The kind of being who’d own vampire gloves like the pair found near Marty’s body at Vein.

She glared at me as if I’d lost my mind. “It’s a f**king tattoo.” She jerked her hand way. “I don’t have time for this shit.” She ran off without another word.

In shock, I watched her go. The world seemed to spin and my mind filled with a dozen damning memories that supported my new suspicion.

“What was that all about?” Giguhl asked. He’d seen the tattoo, too, but hadn’t put the pieces together.

“Remember the symbol we saw at Mistress Bianca’s dungeon?” I said. Giguhl went still and stared after the running vampire.

“Oh, shit,” he breathed.

Rhea came up, frowning with worry. “What’s wrong?”

“Come on, I’ll fill you in on our way to the Council chambers.”

Fifteen minutes later, I had two guns, three knives, and a mission. I’d gone over my suspicions about Alexis with Rhea while she gathered her own supplies—potions, amulets, herbs. Giguhl listened, too, adding his own damning details to my list of evidence. By the time I finished telling Rhea everything, she stopped and nodded. “If Alexis is really the killer, we need to warn the Queen and Persephone in case she tries to take them out, too.”

Instead of winding our way back through the massive mansion, Rhea flashed up directly into the Council chambers. Since everyone was already on edge, our arrival was greeted with the unholstering of guns and the static of defensive magic. Luckily, the Queen realized it was just us and yelled for everyone to stand down.

We ran over to her makeshift mission control at the front of the room. Aides and Council members rushed around. Vampire and mage guards eyed each other as potential enemies instead of the allies they believed they were just an hour earlier. The faery security watched with intense expressions and weapons at the ready should hostilities break out.

“Any news?” Rhea asked the Queen.

She looked like she’d aged another decade in the last ten minutes. “We tested the goblets. It appears the killer added apple juice and strychnine to the wine.”

“Jesus,” Giguhl breathed. “Just Tanith’s and Orpheus’s?”

“Mine as well.” The Queen shook her head. “But I’m… difficult to kill.”

My eyebrows rose. Supposedly, Orpheus and Tanith were pretty hard to kill, too, but they were dead. What was it about the Queen that made her so invincible? I would have asked but there were bigger mysteries to solve right then.

“I’ve got Pythian Guards and Tanith’s security detail questioning the servants,” Maeve continued.

“Not to be disrespectful,” I began, “but shouldn’t Persephone be involved in running this investigation?”

The Queen’s frosty brow rose. “Persephone has disappeared.”

“What?” Shock sharpened my tone. “How is that possible? Where’s her security detail?”

Luckily for me, being in crisis mode had softened the Queen’s normally tight-assed insistence on protocol. “I can’t get a straight answer from anyone. The vamp guards claim that Persephone became someone named Alexis Vega’s responsibility once Tanith died, since Persephone is now officially the leader of the vampire race. But no one can find this Alexis either.”

Source: www.StudyNovels.com