Assassin. That got Jared’s attention immediately. “Boss?” he asked, confused.
Nicolas just paced, running his hand through his hair.
Babette started pounding on her keyboard. It took her several minutes of searching before she found what she was looking for in meeting minutes. “Stupid witches. No detailed assignment records, but they record discussions,” muttered Babette. She turned to her father and said, “They have put a contract out on you. Apparently, you are trying to destroy the Rede.”
“That’s stupid. Why would I bother now?” asked Nicolas. “I could have just let them fall apart after that war with the Fae instead of helping them.”
“It says here that several witches had you as their last image before they died,” said Babette.
“I haven’t touched a witch since Elspeth and I parted company,” said Nicolas defensively as he stopped pacing and ran his hand through his hair again.
“That was three hundred years ago. Why would they think you are causing trouble now?” asked Jared.
“It says here that you killed several witches for refusing to answer your questions about how to bring down the Rede,” said Babette.
“That is just plain ludicrous. First, assuming I wanted to know something, I wouldn’t have to resort to threats and murder,” said Nicolas. His expression did not leave anything to the imagination how he felt. “Second, I already know several ways. Why on Earth do they think that?”
Babette started pounding the keys again. After several minutes and several swear words, she stopped typing and sighed. “Okay. There are no reports filed that refer to you or to a threat to the Rede. The only thing I can find is the meeting record from last week agreeing to bring in a cleaner to deal with a threat,” she said, putting air quotes around the word threat.
“So this is a High Council thing. Find out who is on it now,” said Nicolas.
* * *
He would come for her. There is no way he would not. The mating attraction would just be too strong. Running was pointless. She needed to decide her course of action by the time he reached her. If the Rede was right, she needed to kill him before he wiped out every living witch. If her mother was right, killing her mate would deprive her of the other half of her soul. It seemed selfish to consider her own needs over her entire race. But then, putting your mate above all others was hard-wired into her genes. What was the right thing to do? Was he truly her mate, or did he somehow find out about the contract and just said he was her mate to get her to lower her defenses? She needed to find out, and quick.
She opened her laptop in her office and started pulling up her contacts.
* * *
Jared knocked lightly on the office door before poking his head into the room. Nicolas had his head in his hands as he sat at his large desk, lost in thought. “Boss?” he asked.
“Yes?” said Nicolas as he lifted his head.
“Ricardo found the ones who placed the bombs,” said Jared.
“Who?” asked Nicolas.
“Witches. I had Babette look them up in the Rede’s system on a hunch,” Jared started.
“And?” said Nicolas, his voice harsh in his own ears. He hated it when people drew out explanations.
“One of the Rede’s assassin teams,” said Jared.
“So they sent more than one team. Do we know where they are?” he asked.
“We do,” said Jared, grinning.
Nicolas stood up and straightened his jacket. “Well, let’s go have a chat.”
* * *
The police barricade stopped them several blocks from the United Nations. Traffic was being diverted off of 47th Street and onto Park Avenue. Jared drove down 46th Street and found additional blockades set up. Once Nicolas saw 2nd Avenue had barricades up as well, he had Jared pull into the parking lot at Turtle Bay Liquors, named after the famed neighborhood. They got out of the town car and headed back towards the boutique hotel where the assassins were reportedly staying.
They only got a block before a cop stopped them from turning down 3rd Avenue. Nicolas locked eyes with the officer. Once the officer relaxed, he asked, “What happened?”
“Several women were murdered at that boutique hotel around the corner. It was brutal and bloody,” the officer said. “It looks like an animal tore them apart, which makes no sense. The only animals on the island are at the zoo,” referring to the famous Central Park Zoo.
Nicolas and Jared looked at each other. Nicolas then asked, “You got names?”
“Nah. They had no IDs with them and the hotel register did not show anyone in the room,” said the officer.
“We were never here,” said Nicolas. After the officer nodded, he and Jared headed back to the car.
“Torn apart, huh?” asked Jared.
“I would bet my penthouse it looks more like a vampire than shifter,” said Nicolas. “Maybe Babette can find something.”
“This will not look good,” said Jared, his expression tense.
“No, it will not,” said Nicolas. “Call all my children home. Except Gabriel and Guillermo. We cannot afford to lose their territories. Just advise them we may go to war. Andre is on vacation somewhere in the amazon jungle. We can update him when he gets home.”
* * *
“Thanks for calling me back, Elspeth,” said Gabby as she settled into the window seat in her office. She settled the phone on her leg so she could still drink her whisky while she viewed the video call screen.
“No worries. What can I help you with?” asked her friend. Elspeth slipped a pencil into the messy bun barely containing her mass of curly auburn hair as she sat in her well-appointed office, “You haven’t called for a consultation since you had to track down that Fae who was raping women and erasing their memories.”
“Oh, yeah. Even with your help, it still took me three months to track that bastard down,” said Gabby. “Actually, I am calling for me this time.”
“For?” asked Elspeth.
“I met someone who says they are my mate,” said Gabby.
“That doesn’t sound like a problem,” said Elspeth.
“How can I trust it?” Gabby asked.
“Well, since you said they identified you as their mate, it depends on what type of paranormal they are,” Elspeth started. “Obviously, they are not human.”
“No. Vampire,” said Gabby.
“Well, a vampire would know. You would have been the very best thing they have ever smelled in their life,” said Elspeth. “Well, your blood anyway.”
“So, no mistakes?” Gabby asked. She bit her lip. This was so not good.
“No. Vampires and shifters get it right the first time. Scent is majorly accurate. To you and me, chocolate is a wonderful smell. It would only rank as a ten on a vampire scale for a vampire who adored chocolate. Their mate would be a thousand,” said Elspeth. “They wouldn’t just say you are their mate unless they were absolutely sure.”
“Why didn’t I know he was mine?” asked Gabby. “Shouldn’t I have known?”
“Well, that depends on your power. If you had premonitions or psychometry, then maybe. Otherwise, you likely wouldn’t,” admitted Elspeth. “My mate is a shifter. Even with my foresight, he still had to tell me. I cannot see anything for myself, so a lot of good my skills did for me.”
“Wow,” said Gabby.
“Worse, I had been in love with a vampire for decades when I met Marcus. In seconds, that changed. As soon as Marcus kissed me, I knew,” said Elspeth. “Ironically, I hadn’t believed Marcus at first. Then he backed me into the wall and took over my mouth. He didn’t stop kissing me until I absolutely knew.”
“How hard was it to tell your vampire?” asked Gabby.
“Not as hard as you would think. I was just straight. He knew I wasn’t his mate. He said he would miss me, but he understood. Being together was a choice, not Fate,” said Elspeth.
“So, you just packed up and left?” asked Gabby, who was still trying to wrap her head around anyone’s world changing so quickly.
“I did. Nathan was understanding. He still hadn’t found his mate the last time I talked to him,” said Elspeth. “He said he was ready for whenever Fate decided he was worthy.”
“Nathan?” asked Gabby.
“Yes. He went by Nathan then. He goes by Nicolas now. Nicolas Drake. He is the vampire Lord of the Northwest.” said Elspeth. “Do you know him?
Gabby jerked in shock, and the phone fell off her leg. “No. I don’t know him. I have heard of him, of course,” said Gabby hurriedly. Good thing Elspeth hadn’t seen her face.
“He cares about his people,” said Elspeth. “He is a good man.”
“As a vampire Lord, wasn’t he bossy?” asked Gabby.
She laughed. “He had his moments. Marcus does, too. All Alphas are like that,” said Elspeth. “But they are sexy as hell as they do it.”
Gabby laughed. She was then silent for a moment as she thought about Elspeth’s words. “How can I tell if this man is my mate without physical contact?” she finally asked.
“Let’s see,” said Elspeth as she pulled out tarot deck from the drawer in her desk. Elspeth shuffled the cards and pondered Gabby’s question. She laid a three card spread with two cards on the bottom and one card on top. “Okay, here we go. I pulled the Empress for you. Powerful, but feminine, nurturing, and creative. I pulled the Emperor for your soul mate. The Emperor is a strong, masterful man who is always in control, has power, and financial stability. That screams Alpha to me,” she laughed.
Gabby just groaned.
“And the money card,” started Elspeth.
“Money card?” asked Gabby. She didn’t remember that card in the tarot deck.
“Not literally. I meant as in the important card. The third card represents your relationship,” said Elspeth. “The Knight of Cups. This is the most romantic card in the entire tarot. It means new love, a new way of living is on the horizon. The lesson of the card is to keep your mind and heart open!”
“That could just mean anyone,” said Gabby, not sure if she was buying into this.
“Hang on, Miss Doubter.” Elspeth laid out five more cards. “Okay, this spread is about your soul mate. King of Wands for your soul mate. It means he is a leader. The ten of Wands says you are struggling with an immense weight on your shoulders. The seven of Wands says with hard work, you will get through it, but the seven of Swords tempers with a warning to watch out for those around you. And the journey card is the World. This tells me you will succeed on this journey even if you have significant challenges.”
“This is not helping,” said Gabby. “How is a journey the same as finding my soul mate?”
“I pulled another card for clarity. The Lovers. It clearly says your lover will help you on this journey,” said Elspeth as she tossed the card on the spread. “The journey refers to your life, by the way.”
“Shouldn’t the Lovers been the fifth card if he really was my soul mate?” asked Gabby.
“No. The Lovers card implies a choice. The World card is the card of Fate. You have no choice in this,” said Elspeth. “Both spreads say the same thing. Your soul mate will figure prominently in your life. Keep an open mind. Since your vampire made it clear to you he is your mate, you really do have your answer. You just have to accept it.”
“Great,” said Gabby, blowing out a big breath.
“Having a mate is the best gift Fate can give you. You only get one. Besides, I can tell you with absolute certainty, Fate has bound your lives together,” said Elspeth.
"I will make an enemy if I agree to this. Can you tell if they will succeed in their plan for me?" asked Gabby on a whim.
Elspeth added another card to the pile. "The Moon, reversed. This is the card of confusion," she said.
"What does that mean?" asked Gabby.
"It means there is no answer yet. If in doubt, trust your mate," said Elspeth. "He won't want to lose you."
Gabby thanked her friend and hung up. She stared out the window, thinking about what she had heard. The reading really didn’t tell her anything other than Nicolas was going to have a critical involvement. It really didn’t clarify if it was because she killed him or if she died because she failed the Rede by saving her mate. She could not fathom any possibility that Nicolas had the power to subdue the Rede. No vampire was that strong.