"Ye lost yer fang? Holy Christ Almighty," Connor whispered. "I've never heard of that happening before."
"Neither have I," Roman confessed sadly. "And I've been a vampire for over five hundred years."
"Wow! Maybe it's old age," Gregori suggested, then winced at the look Roman and Connor gave him.
'The only explanation I can think of is our new diet." Roman wrapped the tooth and stuffed it back into his pocket. "It's the only variable that has changed since we became vampires."
Connor frowned. "But we're still drinking blood, man. I doona see the difference."
"It's how we drink it," Roman explained. "We no longer bite. When's the last time either of you extended your fangs?"
"I don't even remember." Gregori tugged at one end of his black bow tie to unravel the knot. "Who needs fangs when we drink our meals from a glass?"
"Aye," Connor agreed. "And if ye doona keep them retracted, they'll be clinking on the glass, getting in the way."
"Right." Roman didn't like his conclusion, but it was the only explanation he could come up with. "I think it's a case of 'if you don't use them, you'll lose them.' "
"Bugger," Connor muttered. "We need our bloody fangs."
Gregori's eyes widened. "Well, we can't start biting mortals. I refuse! All the progress we've made would be lost."
"Exactly." Roman nodded. Gregori Holstein was annoying at times, but totally committed to their mission of making the world safe for vampires and mortals alike. "Perhaps we could come up with some sort of exercise program."
"Yeah!" Gregori's eyes sparkled. "I'll get right on it."
Roman smiled. Gregori attacked every problem with unfailing enthusiasm. It was times like this that he knew promoting Gregori had been a wise choice.
The kitchen door swung open, and Laszlo rushed toward them. "There's a problem, sir. The lady insists the implantation procedure is best achieved in a dental office. And she refuses to return to her place of work."
"She's right about her clinic," Roman conceded. "No doubt the police are all over the place by now."
Connor closed a fist over the hilt of his Highland dirk. "Laszlo told us there were some bastards wanting to kill the puir woman. Those bloody whoresons."
"Yes." Roman sighed. He had hoped Shanna could fix his tooth in the safety and privacy of his home. "Gregori, you'll need to locate another dental office, one close by that we can use."
"No problem, bro."
"I'd better watch the lass," Connor grumbled. "We canna have her digging about in our fridge." The Scotsman hurried back to the kitchen.
Laszlo plucked at a loose button on his coat. "Sir, she mentioned a specific product that would greatly increase your chances of a successful reimplantation. She was certain that any dental office would have the product on hand."
"Good." Roman removed the handkerchief-wrapped tooth from his pocket and handed it to Laszlo. "I want you to go with Gregori and take care of my fang until I arrive."
Laszlo gulped and stuffed the fang into his lab coat pocket. "We.. we'll be breaking and entering, won't we?"
"Don't worry about it." Gregori gripped the small chemist by the shoulder and herded him toward the front door. "The place will be empty, and the mortals will never know what happened."
"Well, okay, I guess." At the door, Laszlo halted and looked back. "I should warn you, sir. Even though the young lady was forthcoming with information, she insists that she will not, under any circumstances, put a wolf's tooth in your mouth."
Gregori laughed. "She thinks it's a wolf's tooth?"
Roman shrugged. "It's a logical misperception on her part."
"Well, yeah." Gregori gave him an exasperated look. "But why didn't you just plant the right perception in her head?"
Roman paused. Laszlo and Gregori watched him, waiting for the reply. God's blood. Hadn't he endured enough humiliation for one night? "I, uh - I was unable to gain control of her mind."
Laszlo's mouth dropped open.
Gregori jolted back. "Snap! You couldn't control one measly mortal?"
Roman clenched his fists. "No."
Gregori slapped a hand against his brow. "Snap!"
"Why the hell are you snapping? Are you a turtle?" It was times like this that firing Gregori seemed to be the wise choice.
"It means I'm floundering in stunned disbelief. Sheesh, bro. You gotta keep up with the latest lingo."
Laszlo frowned, his fingers fiddling even faster with a button. "Begging your pardon, sir, but has this ever happened before?"
"Maybe you are getting old," Gregori suggested.
"Screw you," Roman growled.
"No, no. You gotta sound more modern, bro. Try using the F-word." Gregori paused, then his face slowly turned pink. "You, uh, were referring to me, weren't you?"
Roman lifted an eyebrow. "The young can be a little slow."
Laszlo paced across the foyer. "This is somewhat beyond my area of expertise, but it seems to me that it is highly likely that you are missing a distinct possibility."
They turned to stare at the small chemist.
He licked his lips and yanked at a button. "Since Mr. Draganesti has never experienced this sort of.. uh, problem before, the answer may not lie in his abilities or uh, lack thereof." The button tumbled to the floor, and the chemist leaned over to pick it up.
"What are you saying?" Gregori asked.
Laszlo slid the loose button into his coat pocket. "I mean the problem may rest with the mortal."
"She's extremely strong-willed," Roman conceded, "though I've never known a mortal who could resist our power."
"I agree." Laszlo nodded, attacking the last button on his lab coat. "But the fact remains that somehow, she did resist. There is something different about that woman."
There was utter silence while Laszlo's announcement sank in. Roman had already suspected she was different, but to hear one of his smartest scientists reach the same conclusion - it was unnerving.
"This is bad," Gregori murmured. "Really bad. If we can't control her, then she's.."
"Fascinating," Roman whispered.
Gregori winced. "I was going to say dangerous."
That, too. But even the thought of danger seemed appealing to Roman tonight. Especially when it involved Shanna.
"We could try to find another dentist," Laszlo suggested.
"No." Roman shook his head. "We have only a few hours of darkness left, and you said it yourself, Laszlo - the tooth must be fixed tonight. Gregori, take Laszlo to the nearest dental office and secure the premises. You can take his car. It's out front. Laszlo, do what you can to save my fang. Give us thirty minutes, then call my office upstairs."
Laszlo's eyes widened. "You'll use my voice to teleport?"
"Yes." It would be the quickest way to get the procedure over with. But they would never be able to do it unless they had full control of Shanna's mind and could erase her memory afterward. "Gregori, come back as soon as you can. I'll need you and Connor to assist me with the dentist. We have to gain control of her mind."
"No problem." Gregori shrugged. "At the club, I erased a hundred mortal minds all at once. This will be child's play."
By the worried expression on Laszlo's face, it was clear he didn't share Gregori's confidence.
"It should work," Roman said. "Even if she can resist the power of one vampire, she'll be no match for the three of us."
While Gregori and Laszlo hurried out the front door, the words of the chemist echoed in Roman's mind. There was something different about Shanna. What if he couldn't gain control of her mind? She'd never agree to implant his fang as long as she believed it belonged to an animal. He'd spend the rest of eternity as a joke. The one-fanged wonder.
And he didn't dare tell her he was a vampire. She wouldn't want to implant his tooth. She'd react like Eliza and want to bury a stake in his heart.
"Tell me you found Shanna Whelan." Ivan Petrovsky glared at four of the best thugs the Russian mafia had to offer.
They avoided looking him in the eye. Cowards, all of them. Ivan had insisted on staying close to the dental clinic in case Shanna Whelan was hiding nearby. These four men had completed their search of nearby alleys and come up empty-handed.