Josh stationed himself by the door and murmured their location into the communication device on his wrist.
Abigail rested her hands on the wrought-iron railing and peered down at the circular drive two floors below. "There's no one here."
Madison huffed. "Do you expect them to pull up in a car? They're vampires! They'll fly in. I expect they'll want to land right here on the balcony." She scanned the night sky. "Do you see them? They'll probably be in bat form."
Abigail crossed her arms and leaned against a thick white column. She could hear horns blaring and the hum of traffic in the distance, but here, they were in a small green oasis of quiet. The grounds were well lit and colorful with spring blossoms. She really ought to enjoy the gardens before the heat of summer invaded. Take time to smell the roses. But she could always feel the clock ticking, warning her she was in a race against time to save her mother.
She sighed. "You do realize it's physically impossible for a full-grown man to shrink his mass down to the size of a bat?"
Madison gasped and pointed. "Is that one?"
"Looks like a crow."
"Oh." Madison pressed a finger to her mouth as she considered. "The meeting's going to start soon. I wonder what's taking them so long."
"Well, it's a long flight from Transylvania."
Madison scoffed. "Don't be silly. They're already here in America. They're all around us."
"I guess I've missed them somehow."
"Well, duh! Of course you missed them. We never know when we're actually seeing them. They're good at blending in. Oh!" Madison's eyes widened. "I know what the problem is! They can't enter our house until we invite them."
"Yes! It's a vampire thing. Trust me. I'm a bit of an expert. I've read all the latest books." Madison stretched her arms out and raised her voice. "Oh, creatures of the night! I call upon the Undead! You are welcome in our humble abode!"
Humble? Abigail stifled a laugh. "Maybe it's working." She pointed to a limousine that was turning into the driveway.
"Don't be silly, Abby. They'll fly in as bats." Madison scanned the horizon.
"What happens when they change into human form? Will they go into the Oval Office completely naked?"
Madison giggled. "That would be so cool! But no, they'll be very well dressed. Tuxedoes, probably. They have expensive tastes."
Abigail watched as the limo came to a halt on the driveway. A group of Secret Service agents swarmed the car with their high-tech gadgets, making sure it hadn't been tampered with. The head Black Suit opened the door, and a man climbed out.
Her breath caught. There was something about him that immediately seized her attention. That alone was strange since she'd never been the type to ogle men. Maybe it was the way he straightened as he got out of the car. He was graceful, but manly, as if he had great strength and power that he kept quietly in control.
She could only see his back, but . . . wow. He was tall and lean, and his expensive suit fit his broad shoulders to perfection. His dark brown hair was a bit long, the ends reaching past his collar, but it looked soft and thick and so very tempting to touch. If only she could see his face.
A second man emerged from the limo. Shorter, stockier, older, with a reddish-blond buzz cut. He acted like he was in charge, talking urgently to the Secret Service agents. The mystery man seemed content to stand silently by. The shorter guy introduced him to the head Black Suit, and he turned to shake hands.
He was stunning. Abigail leaned against the railing for a better view. All she could see was the right side of his face, but what a profile. Good Lord, a man could melt butter with a profile like that. A sharp, straight nose, high cheekbone, and a jawline that curved into a strong chin. Wow. He should be on the cover of one of her mother's books.
Who was he? He seemed too young to be a politician. Maybe the older guy was the politician, and this guy was his aide? But tonight's meeting was being attended by experts in defense, so he might be from the CIA or the Pentagon.
She edged closer into the shadow created by the column so she could spy on him unnoticed. He was listening to the head Black Suit now. His skin was a bit pale in comparison to the other men. Hmm, pale skin, extremely attractive, well dressed, expensive tastes. She might be able to convince her sister that a vampire had indeed arrived at the White House.
"I don't understand," Madison mumbled, still scanning the horizon. "Why haven't the vampires come?"
Something happened with the mystery man. It was a minute, subtle change, but clear as day to Abigail. His shoulders suddenly seemed broader, and his head tilted ever so slightly. Had he somehow heard Madison? Impossible! They were two floors up.
He turned and peered up at Madison. He had heard her! And his face. His entire face was visible now.
"Wow," Abigail whispered.
His gaze immediately shifted to the side.
Straight at her! Good Lord! Abigail gasped and scrunched deeper into the shadow. How could he hear a whisper? And how could he possibly see her in the dark?
She waited. Any second now, his gaze would shift back to Madison. Men always looked at Madison. She was standing beneath a porch light, her blond hair gleaming, her pink dress glittering. She was the princess of the White House.
Abigail struggled to catch her breath. He was still looking at her. Oh God, she was feeling light-headed, like she might faint. Don't be silly. You never faint. You're a scientist. This was nothing more than a chemical reaction. It had never happened to her before, but she understood the process. Her brain was simply releasing dopamine. By the bucketful.
She edged around the back of the column. She was good at disappearing. After all, she was the forgotten daughter, and that was the way she liked it.
She waited while seconds ticked by. He would have given up on her by now. He'd be focused on Madison. She peered around the column.
She gasped. He was still looking at her! She pressed a hand against her chest. Good Lord, her heart was going crazy.
And then he smiled. A slow, devastating one that curled to the left in a lopsided fashion before transforming into a full-fledged smile. With dimples.
She slumped against the column. Dopamine overload. Skyrocketing tachycardia. Okay, now you can faint.
"Come on!" Abigail rushed toward the staircase.
"What's the big hurry?" Madison struggled to keep up with her. She passed her dog bag to Josh. "I can't run in these heels. I'm afraid I'll fall and hurt Dolly."
Josh's jaw shifted slightly, his only sign of annoyance, but Abigail noticed it.
"I'll take her." She grabbed the dog bag and ran down the stairs, quick and nimble in her athletic shoes.
"Not so fast!" Madison yelled. "You'll scare Dolly!"
Abigail glanced at the bag. Dolly was poking her head out and grinning like she did whenever she was in a car. "She's fine!"
"What about you?" Madison's voice filtered down the staircase, along with the clunking sound of her heels. "Why are you acting so weird?"
Good question. Abigail paused when she reached the ground floor. It wasn't like her to fixate on a man. "I . . . want to know who he is."
"Who?" Madison clambered down the last of the stairs with Josh beside her, making sure she didn't fall.
"The guy who got out of the limo." Abigail started down the Center Hall and called back over her shoulder. "There was something different about him. Don't you think?"
"I didn't get a good look at him. I was too busy looking for - Oh my God." The sound of Madison's footsteps stopped abruptly. "You think he's a vampire?"
Abigail blinked. Did she? No, of course not. Vampires weren't real. She glanced down at the bag in her hand, and Dolly tilted her head, regarding her curiously. "That would be crazy, wouldn't it?" she whispered.
Dolly yipped in agreement.
"The voice of reason." Abigail continued toward the West Colonnade. She'd seen the hysteria all over the Internet. She'd even watched the video that claimed to show a vampire being beheaded. It had looked like a movie clip to her, starring a kilted Scotsman as the hero, killing his foe with his mighty claymore. The guy he'd supposedly decapitated had turned to dust, but that was easy enough to fake with special effects.
As soon as she entered the West Colonnade, the toy poodle began to bark. Abigail stopped. She'd never seen Dolly this agitated. The dog was scratching at the sides of the leather tote bag, her yipping growing more frantic.