Reyna finally stood from her seat and with a brave, quiet voice said, “No.”

All eyes turned to her. Beckham faced her as well and she could see the questions whirling in his dark orbs. But his face showed none of it. He just waited patiently for her to explain herself. He put the ball in her court. She intended to keep it there.

“What do you mean?” Tye finally asked. “We don’t have a plan. We don’t have an army. We have five humans and a mad scientist. We’re a ragtag team of survivors. We can’t even find the rest of Elle after the bombing. It makes perfect sense to use what we have. And if Beckham is willing to build an army of vampires for our cause, how the hell can we say no to that?”

“I’m not saying no to an army. We desperately need more people,” Reyna agreed. “But Elle is not dead.”

“The bunker was destroyed. We’re scattered,” Meghan reminded her. “We’re not much of Elle.”

“Elle isn’t a place. It’s an idea. It’s the idea of equality between humans and vampires. That humans shouldn’t be subjugated to vampires for their gains. That vampires should have rights like you and I. That we can work and live and thrive better together than against each other. As long as that idea exists, then Elle isn’t dead. It is within me. It’s within all of you.”

Washington beamed at her. “I’m still Elle.”

Jodie stood up. “I’m Elle.”

Gabe grinned and shot her a two-finger salute. “I’m Elle.”

“I’m Elle,” Meghan said with a tender smile. “Always have been.”

“Me too,” Tye said.

Beckham’s eyes were appraising, as if seeing a different creature than the one he had left back on that patio on New Year’s Eve. As if she had molted her skin and come out as someone else entirely.

“I guess I didn’t understand my own philosophy on the subject. I am Elle,” he conceded to her, acknowledging her as the leader she had somehow developed into. “But it seems that you are now the heart of it.”

Chapter 8

Beckham’s proclamation stunned the rest of the group. Reyna was standing on a precipice. Her life irrevocably changed. Altered and rearranged. No longer was she on the sidelines of her life. She was in charge. She was in control.

“We all know that the main goal is to take out Harrington and hamstring Visage. With Harrington out of the helm, we can go a long way toward reducing Visage to their actual purpose rather than stretching their influence as they have been doing the last decade. No more prisoners under their headquarters. No more taking advantage of the poor. No more Blood Census or identity bracelets. Absolutely no feeding camps,” Reyna said. “Balance. Equality. That’s what we want.”

Everyone was nodding. As if they were all getting back on the same wavelength after so much loss.

“Our first priority remains making contact with the the safe houses and regrouping with the rest of Elle.” Reyna turned to Beckham. “You have someone good with tech?”

Beckham’s grin was a feral thing that sent chills down her spine. He was giving her a look that said he wasn’t used to being ordered around. There were few he allowed it from. Very very few.

“Zoya,” he finally said.

The black woman stepped forward. She was short but lethal. When she smiled, it was more like a grimace, her fangs revealed in all their glory. Reyna was glad to have never met her before she started working for the good guys.

“At your service,” Zoya said with a wicked gleam in her eye.

Reyna paused for a second before speaking. She didn’t know how she felt about ordering around Beckham’s army. But she’d deal with that later. “Zoya, work with Tye, Gabe, and Meghan to reach the rest of our group. Once we’re back to capacity, then we can begin to form a plan as to how to stop Harrington.”

A well-thought-out and thorough plan. Not like the one she’d ad hocked together out of anger from Brian’s capture. One that would cripple William Harrington for good.

Zoya moved to speak with Meghan, Gabe, and Tye while Beckham turned to address the rest of his inner circle. Katarina laughed at something he said and then dragged Philippé out of the room. Gerard melted into the background and stood like a statue. It was hard to believe this sinister vampire had been her driver. What had he been doing acting as chauffer when he was Beckham’s second-in-command?

“Inspiring speech, miss,” Genevieve said, appearing at Reyna side.

Washington was standing next to her. “It truly was.”

“Reminded me of the old days with Mistress Elisa,” Genevieve said with a dreamy expression on her face. It was as equally hard to believe this meek and demure woman was a vampire.

“Who is Mistress Elisa?” Reyna asked.

Washington’s lips turned down. “My wife.”