Beckham stared straight ahead. He never even looked at her. “I’m happy to participate in the Permanent program. My Subject is Reyna. She is subordinate and the model of a perfect Subject.”
Reyna’s mouth nearly dropped open. What the fuck? Since when? She dropped her chin to her chest and stared at the floor, hoping to cover her disbelief with discomfort.
“Many of you know that I was outspoken against the Permanent position from the get-go…”
She hadn’t known that.
“Having Reyna in my home even for the past couple days has completely reversed that position. This is the future of Visage.”
Reyna tried to hide the shock from her face. What was he talking about? He hated having her in his house. He hated having her around. He hated looking out for her. Why was Beckham saying all of this?
Her eyes turned to their leader, and she saw the triumphant look on his face. What had she walked into?
“Reyna,” Beckham said, gesturing her forward.
She put one foot in front of the other and felt her body seize. Everyone was staring at her. Everyone was waiting for her to say something. Her hands were clammy, her skin cold, and she felt like she might faint. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
She put a hand to her heart, and her chest was pumping up and down with her erratic breathing. What was she supposed to say? What did they expect of her? Oh God! The expectations.
No. She couldn’t do this.
“Reyna,” Beckham said softly. He touched the small of her back, and she sank into his touch. He pulled her toward him. “I apologize. She doesn’t like public speaking.”
“Sick. Going to be sick,” she whispered.
“I’m going to take her out of here,” he said immediately. She wasn’t sure if he was really concerned at the moment or just embarrassed, but she couldn’t care. She felt like she couldn’t breathe, and she was going to hyperventilate.
“Yes. Make sure she is all right, Beckham,” Mr. Harrington said. Beckham started walking her toward the back door. “Humans. Such fragile things. Well, the Permanent positions will begin rolling out for all top Visage employees as soon as we find suitable choices…”
The door shut behind them, and Beckham placed a hand on her shoulder. “Reyna, calm down. You’re fine. Everyone is gone.”
“S-sorry,” she stuttered. She put a hand to her forehead and the other was holding his jacket.
“When you said you didn’t enjoy public speaking, I thought you meant that you weren’t fond of it. I didn’t think you meant that you would freeze up and almost pass out.”
“Oh hey, public speaking makes me almost pass out,” she quipped.
“Do you always do that?”
“Use sarcasm as a defense mechanism.”
“You think?” she asked. Her breathing was slowly coming under control. She leaned heavily back against the door and threw her head back.
His eyes widened as he stared down at her exposed throat. She felt him inch toward her. Her own body stilled at his approach. For a moment, it was as if the world revolved around them. As if she had been waiting her whole life for him to get close to her. Then he took a step back and cleared his throat. “I should probably return.”
She closed her eyes, not sure if it was in fear or in embarrassment at what he must have seen in them. “Fine. Go.”
“Your heart is racing,” he growled softly, so close to her she could practically feel him on her.
“Yes,” she murmured. She knew what that meant for a vampire. His hand brushed her neck gently, and she almost stopped breathing altogether. “Becks?”
She opened her eyes when the pressure disappeared, and he was gone. She straightened in surprise. She looked through the glass, back into the room, but he was nowhere to be seen. What the hell? Where had he gone…and why had he disappeared so suddenly when he had touched her?
Beckham was an enigma wrapped in a mystery.
Reyna stayed leaning back against the door until she finally calmed down, her pulse returned to normal, and her breathing wasn’t ragged. Though she was confused about what had happened with Beckham, her mind was back to functioning on a normal level.
She didn’t know what had scared him off, and she knew asking him would do no good. She hadn’t been with him all that long, and it was clear that he didn’t like to answer questions or for her to ask them.
A few minutes later, the staff meeting dispersed and all the vampires exited the room. She plastered herself against the wall, suddenly feeling very vulnerable without Beckham there next to her. But people barely glanced at her as they left. The flow reduced to a trickle, when Rowland and Cassandra appeared with their subjects and Mr. Harrington.
“Ah, there you are, Miss Carpenter,” he said. “I don’t believe we were officially introduced. William Harrington.”