Simone flipped her black silky hair over her shoulder. "But I came early so I could see him, zat rat!"
Shanna winced at the way the French catwoman pronounced her r's. It sounded like she had phlegm stuck in her throat and was trying to cough it up.
Simone huffed. "He is so h-rude!"
Shanna gritted her teeth. Definitely something in her throat. Probably a furball.
Simone flung open the double doors to the parlor. The room was filled with women lounging about on the three maroon couches. They were drinking something from crystal wineglasses.
"Good evening, Simone, Maggie," the ladies greeted the two women in the foyer.
"Has our show started yet?" Maggie clunked into the room in her enormous black shoes.
"No," one of the ladies replied. She was sitting on the middle sofa, so Shanna could see only the back of her head. Her short, spiky hair was dyed such a dark red, it was more like purple. "The news is still on."
Shanna took note of the widescreen TV. An ordinary-looking male newscaster was on the air, mouthing words. In the corner of the screen a red mute sign glowed. Obviously, these ladies didn't concern themselves with current events. Beneath the mute sign, the black bat logo was displayed. They were watching DVN.
Shanna counted a total of eleven women, who all appeared to be in their twenties. Well, what the heck. If she was going to pursue a relationship with Roman, she needed to know why these women were here. She stepped into the foyer.
Simone filled a wineglass from a crystal decanter on the coffee table. "Has anyone seen ze master zis evening?" She perched in the far corner of the sofa on the left.
The purple-haired woman was admiring her long, purple fingernails. "I heard he's seeing another woman."
"What?" Simone's eyes flashed. Leaning forward, she plunked her glass down on the table. "You are lying, Vanda. He could not possibly want anozher woman when he could have moi."
Vanda shrugged. "I'm not lying. Phil told me about it."
"The daytime guard?" Maggie sat beside Simone.
Vanda stood. She was also wearing a black catsuit, but her belt was made of braided leather strips. She shoved a hand through her purple spiky hair. "Phil has a crush on me. He tells me everything I want to know."
Simone sank back into the couch, her gaunt body in danger of being swallowed up entirely. "Zen it is true? Zere is anozher woman?"
"Yes." Vanda turned her head and sniffed. "What is that?" She spotted Shanna in the foyer. "Well, speak of the devil."
All eleven women stared at Shanna.
She smiled and stepped into the room. "Good evening." Shanna looked the women over. Black clothing was normal for New York City, but still, some of these outfits seemed a bit odd. One of the ladies was wearing a gown that looked medieval. Another gown looked Victorian. Was that a hoop skirt?
The one called Vanda circled the coffee table and struck a dramatic pose by the television. Whoa. The neckline of her catsuit plunged all the way to her waist. Shanna was seeing a lot more of Vanda than she really wanted to.
"My name is Shanna Whelan. I'm a dentist."
Vanda narrowed her eyes. "Our teeth are perfect."
"Okay." Shanna wondered what she had done to make these women glare at her. Though there was one, sitting apart from the others, who was giving her a friendly smile. She had blond hair and modern clothes.
The one in the Victorian dress spoke, her accent making her sound like a Southern belle. "A lady dentist? I do declare, I don't know why the master would invite her here."
The one in the medieval gown agreed. "She does not belong here. She should leave."
The friendly blond spoke up. "Hey, it's your master's house. He can invite the pope if he wants."
The other women shot the blond a vicious look.
Vanda shook her head. "Don't make them mad at you, Darcy. They'll make your life miserable."
"Some life." Darcy rolled her eyes. "Oh, I'm so afraid. What could they possibly do to me? Kill me?"
The medieval one lifted her chin. "Do not tempt us. You do not belong here, either."
What a strange group. Shanna retreated a step.
The Southern belle glowered at Shanna. "Is it true, then? You're the master's new lady friend?"
Shanna shook her head. "I don't know who this master is."
The ladies chuckled. Darcy winced.
"Bon." Simone curled up like a contented cat in her corner of the couch. "You will leave him alone, zen. I came all ze way from Paris to be wiz him."
Maggie leaned close to Simone and whispered in her ear.
'Wow" Simone's eyes widened. "Zut alors! He did not tell her?" She huffed. "And he is ignoring me. To zink I wanted to have sex wiz him, zat bastard!"
Maggie sighed. "He never has sex with us anymore. I miss the old days."
"Me, too," Vanda said, and all the ladies nodded in agreement.
Jeez. Shanna grimaced. This master character had had sex with all of these women? He was downright creepy.
"He will have sex wiz me," Simone declared. "No man can resist me." She eyed Shanna with disdain. "Why would he want zis woman? She must be size fourteen."
"Excusez-moi? " Shanna glared at the rude Frenchwoman.
"Oh, look!" Maggie pointed at the TV. "The news is over. It's time for our soap."
The ladies forgot about Shanna as they turned to watch the television. Maggie punched the mute button on the remote control to restore the sound. There was a commercial on with a woman praising the yummy, rich flavor of a drink called Chocolood.
Vanda slinked around the couches and headed for Shanna. Upon closer inspection, Shanna realized Vanda's belt was actually a whip. And on the inside curve of one breast, Vanda was sporting a tattoo of a bat. Purple, of course.
Shanna crossed her arms, refusing to be intimidated.
Vanda stopped beside her. "I heard the master fell asleep in someone else's bed."
"No!" The other ladies forgot about the television. They turned to stare at Vanda.
Vanda smiled, enjoying all the attention. She patted her spiky purple hair. "That's what Phil told me."
"Whose bed?" Simone demanded. "I will scratch her eyes out."
Vanda looked at Shanna. The other women stared at her.
Shanna raised her hands. "Look, guys, you've got the wrong bed. I don't know this creepy master of yours."
Vanda chuckled. "Not very smart, is she?"
That was it. "Okay, lady. I'm smart enough not to dye my hair purple. Or to share a man with ten other women."
The ladies reacted - some laughing, some offended.
"Phil told me there was a man in your bed," Vanda sneered. "You woke up and thought he was dead."
The ladies giggled.
Shanna frowned. "That was Roman Draganesti."
Vanda smiled slowly. "Roman is the master."
Shanna's mouth dropped open. Could it be true? Could Roman have eleven live-in girlfriends? "No." She shook her head.
The ladies watched her with smug looks. Vanda leaned against the doorjamb, her smile triumphant.
A chill crept across Shanna's skin. No, it wasn't true. These women just wanted to hurt her. "Roman is a good man."
"He is a bastard," Simone declared.
Shanna's head reeled. Roman is a good man. She had felt it down to her soul. He wanted to protect her, not hurt her. "I don't believe you. Roman cares about me. He gave me this." The crucifix had slid to the side beneath her blazer. She pulled it out.
The women cringed.
Vanda stiffened with a hiss. "We are his women. You do not belong here."
Shanna gulped. Could Roman really have eleven lovers?
How could he kiss her when he already had so many women? Oh God. She pressed the cross against her chest. "I don't believe you."
"Zen you are a fool," Simone said. "We should not have to share Roman wiz someone like you. It is insulting."
Shanna stared at the women. They had to be lying, but why would they? The only logical explanation for their anger was that she was actually seeing their master. Roman.
How could he do this to her? Make her feel so special when he had a house full of women. What a fool she'd been, thinking he wanted to protect her from the bad guys. He only wanted her here so he could add her to his collection and make a full dozen. Simone was right. He was a bastard! Eleven women at his beck and call, and that wasn't enough for him. What a pig!