Reyna whipped around and saw a man walk in. He was tall, fair, and not exactly handsome, but he carried himself with authority. She couldn’t imagine anyone else barging into Beckham’s office otherwise.
“Batiste,” Beckham said casually. She could hear an edge to his voice though. This must be one of the vampires to be wary of.
“Is this her?” His eyes crawled her skin, and she suddenly felt completely exposed in her small black dress.
“Yes. Reyna, this is Rowland Batiste.”
Rowland stalked across the room and held his hand out. She slowly placed hers in his.
“Hi,” she said uncertainly.
“Pleasure is all mine, mademoiselle. You are simply magnifique.” He kissed her hand dramatically. “William was right. The absolute best.”
“Do you mind, Rowland?” Beckham said, suddenly standing right next to her and touching her elbow.
She knew that she shouldn’t gain warmth from his nearness, but she did. Rowland made her skin crawl. There was something about him that sent off bad vibes. She suddenly understood what Beckham had meant in the elevator. Rowland was dangerous. She could feel it in her very being. It scared her that Beckham was somehow the good guy in this situation. Everything about it terrified her.
“Mais bien sûr.”
Reyna looked up at Beckham quizzically. She didn’t understand what he was saying. “Is that French?” she asked.
Rowland laughed. “Indeed it is. I said but of course. Where are my manners?”
“Lacking as usual,” Beckham said dryly.
Rowland continued to chuckle as if Beckham had honestly said something funny. Reyna could see Beckham was quite serious. He didn’t want anyone, especially not this Rowland, to touch her.
“William wants us in the meeting room in five. I’m going to bring my pet as well. Wait until you see her. She’s what you Americans call a knockout.”
Beckham waved him off irritably, and Rowland left the room. Reyna released a breath at his departure.
“Is that the kind of person you meant when you said you were nice?”
He was still looking at the door, but he hadn’t released his hold on her. His voice was stern when he spoke next. “Yes. That is exactly what I meant.”
“Do exactly what I say,” Beckham said as they approached the open conference room door.
She nodded her head minutely. After her encounter with Rowland, she wasn’t looking forward to this meeting. She was about to enter a room full of very powerful vampires, and if nothing else, that alone had frightened her into silence.
She just wished she knew what the hell she was doing here.
As Beckham entered the large conference room, Reyna tiptoed after him with her head down. The room was already full and buzzing with excitement. She prayed that she was invisible, but she knew that she stuck out like a sore thumb.
Beckham took a seat near the back of the large rectangular table.
“Sit here,” he said, pointing to the seat next to him. The seat dwarfed her figure, but she was in no position to argue.
A few minutes later, the room quieted, and a man walked inside. He was hunched over and relying heavily on his cane. His hair was thin, his skin pasty, and he seemed even paler than the other vampires. If she hadn’t known he was one, she would have thought he was just a dying old man. But all of the men and women in the room were very clearly vampires with their perfect complexions, perfect outfits, and perfectly beautiful young bodies. And they all very clearly were deferential to this man.
He walked to the head of the table, and then eased into his chair. She would have thought with how frail and sickly he looked that someone would have rushed to his aid to help him sit, but no one moved. She also expected him to be completely not threatening, but when his eyes swept across the table and found her seated next to Beckham, she knew he was lethal.
A shiver ran up her spine, and she quickly averted her eyes. This was not a man to be trifled with. Not even in his condition.
“Welcome,” he said. His voice boomed despite the apparent illness. “For those of you who don’t know who I am, I am William Harrington, Founder and CEO of Visage Incorporated, and today is a great day for the company.”
The room was silent, and she could feel the anticipation growing.
“You have all contributed immensely to what has happened on this day. I have been working toward this outcome for us for over twenty years, and today we have our victory.”
Reyna swallowed. This didn’t sound good.
“As you all well know, since the White House has made the announcement, the Blood Census was passed through Congress and signed into law by the President.”
Everyone seated at the table applauded, but she just looked around in confusion. A Blood Census? What the hell was that?