“Which did you do?” she breathed.
“Rising up from within is easier. Unseating a ruler can be done if you can assess their weaknesses and then gain the support of the other vampires already within the organization. Building something big enough to contend with the lord’s army and then slaughtering hundreds of well-trained vampires is nearly impossible.” He paused and met her eyes. “I did the latter.”
She shivered. “Wow.”
“And I did it in five years. Here. In this city. In territory that had been ruled by a lord for three centuries longer than I’d been alive. I was the youngest lord to ever rule a territory of this magnitude. I was thirty when I was turned and had only been turned twelve years prior to becoming a lord. I ruled on a high like that for a solid decade before it all fell apart fifteen years ago.”
She did some quick math in her head. Thirty when he was turned. A dozen years as a vampire before becoming a lord. Ten years as a lord. Fifteen years since being a lord. Beckham was…sixty-seven. And people considered that young? Holy fuck!
“You’re sixty-seven?” she gasped out.
He nodded resolutely. “Thirty-seven years since I was turned. Relatively young for a successful vampire. I was extremely young for a lord.”
“How did you do it, then?”
“I was a ruthless murderer. And I gained the loyalty and respect of every single person who worked under me, from my second all the way down to the lowest dreg. No one was ever going to turn on me. Not in my organization. Not the way I worked.”
Reyna saw suddenly how he had gotten where he was. How he was such an incredible businessman. He had been running a different sort of business for much longer.
“How did you end up going from a lord to working with Harrington?”
His face was carved out of marble. His onyx eyes were dark gems cut into the hard surface. A deep sorrow suffused him all at once. It enveloped the room, sweeping everything into its orbit.
“My second was killed.”
The way he said it made it perfectly clear that his second in command had been incredibly important to him. So much so that he still couldn’t discuss what had happened.
“When my second was gone, I simultaneously wanted to walk away from everything I’d earned and to burn the city to the ground. William showed up a couple months later as I tracked down and killed every person who had been related to the death. He offered an alternative. He offered me the blood type cure.”
“And you accepted it just like that?”
Beckham laughed harshly. “No. I told him to go fuck himself. He said that he knew who had killed my second and that he was able to think more clearly because of this cure. More clearly than I ever had before. If we brought the vampires out of the darkness together, he would help me hunt down the person who had done it and kill them.”
“Did you find out who did it?” she whispered.
“Yes. And he paid dearly for what he had done.” His eyes returned to what had happened that day.
“So, Harrington offered you a new life and you accepted it.”
“Yes. We orchestrated the financial collapse. Between the four of us, we had enough resources tied up to cripple most countries relatively easily.”
“Harrington recruited two other lords—Rowland and Cassandra.”
“Ah,” she said. Rowland’s name made her stomach turn. “Cassandra wasn’t a lady?”
“Ask her that and she’ll tear your throat out.”
Reyna tried not to think about the fact that he’d been a part of the financial collapse. Of all the things, that was the one that hit her strongest. If the economy hadn’t collapsed, her uncle wouldn’t have turned her and her brothers onto the streets. They might never have ended up in the warehouses. She never would have joined Visage.
“What about the girls?” she asked, forcing the words out. “Penelope said something about…about her being a test?”
“Harrington thought I’d kill her. He thought that if I did it would keep her father in line. He was trying to revitalize the slums and doing too good of a job.”
Reyna froze. “You were preventing him from helping people?”
“The crash keeps people desperate enough to work for us,” he said without emotion. “It did for you.”
Fuck. She felt sick. It was worse knowing that all her fears were a reality. If the world knew this, they’d hate the vampires so much more than they already did.
“Yes. I helped ruin your life. Only to have you show up at my door and let me ruin it a second time.”
“You might have been a part of it the first time. But you saved me the second time.”
He shook his head. “You still don’t understand.”
“No, I think you don’t understand. You can throw anything at me, Becks. You could kill mothers and children and puppies.” She paused and grinned slightly. “Okay, maybe not puppies. But whatever it is you did that you thought was so terrible isn’t going to be enough to turn me away. I see you. I know you.”