"Don't even think about running away." She narrowed her dark eyes on the men. "You will talk."
That had probably been her favorite line as mistress of a torture chamber. Roman exchanged a look with Angus.
"Enough!" The reporter waved the makeup person away. She touched a miniature earphone in her right ear and tilted her head to listen to someone's voice. "We're on in thirty seconds. Places everyone." She posed in front of the cameraman, her black dress revealing much of her oversized bosom.
Implants, indeed. She must have gone to Dr. Uberlingen in Zurich. He was the only vampire plastic surgeon in existence, and for a large fee, he could help a vampire spend eternity looking young and beautiful. The reporter's implants had probably helped her nab one of the coveted jobs at DVN. The Digital Vampire Network was still fairly new and flooded each week with hundreds of hopeful vampires, each dreaming of being the next big star.
Catching vampires on film had been impossible until the advent of digital cameras. Now digital technology had opened up a whole new world of possibilities and problems. In fact, Roman wouldn't be surprised if this was how the CIA had learned of their existence. They could have discovered the secret frequency DVN used for broadcasting.
Gregori's phone rang. He flipped it open and stepped away. "Hey, Connor," he spoke softly. "What's up?"
Roman focused on the one-way conversation.
"A house in New Rochelle?" Gregori asked. "What happened?"
The cameraman cued the reporter, and she instantly brightened with a high-wattage smile. "This is Corky Courrant, reporting for Live with the Undead. We have a special treat for you tonight. We're live at the biggest vampire bash of the year! I'm sure you'll want to meet our celebrities for the evening."
She motioned to Angus MacKay and gave some facts about him, then did the same for Jean-Luc Echarpe. Roman turned away to catch snatches of Gregori's phone conversation.
"Are you sure?" Gregori whispered. "Dead? "
Roman gulped. Were they talking about Shanna? His mind visualized an image of her lifeless body. No! Not his Shanna.
"Roman Draganesti!" The reporter moved in front of him. "I have thousands of viewers who would love to meet you."
"This is not a good time, Miss Implant." Roman felt Jean-Luc jabbing him in the back with his walking stick. "Uh, Porky. No, I mean - " Damn, what the hell was her name?
The reporter's eyes flashed like dragon fire. Her smile tightened into a snarl.
"Mademoiselle Courrant," Jean-Luc cut in. "May I have the pleasure of the first dance?"
"Why, yes, of course." Corky aimed a vicious grin at the camera as she curled her claws around Jean-Luc's arm. "This is every woman's dream - dancing with the grand coven master of Western Europe. Why, he's practically royalty!" She strolled into the ballroom with Jean-Luc.
Roman strode toward Gregori. "What happened? Tell me." Angus joined him, followed by Ian and Laszlo.
Gregori pocketed the cell phone. "Connor followed Ivan Petrovsky to a house in New Rochelle. Ivan and his friends went inside. Connor thought they might be holding Shanna there, so he went around back, levitated to a second floor window and teleported inside."
Roman's nerves tensed. "Was she there?"
"No," Gregori replied. "All the rooms upstairs were empty."
Roman breathed a sigh of relief.
"But they did have a mortal captive on the first floor," Gregori continued. "Connor listened in on them. Ivan was furious that Shanna hadn't shown up. Then they killed the mortal. Connor was sore upset 'cause he could only listen. He knew he couldn't defeat four vampires by himself."
"Bugger," Angus muttered.
"Connor heard them receive a call, and then they all rushed out the front door. He went downstairs and found their victim. A U.S. marshal."
"God's blood." Roman grimaced. "He was probably Shanna's contact."
"Bloody hell," Angus muttered. "No wonder the CIA wants us dead. 'Tis vampires like Petrovsky that give us a bad name."
"I don't want to hurt anyone." Laszlo fiddled with a button on his tux jacket. "Can't we convince the CIA that some of us are peaceful?"
"We'll have to try." Angus folded his arms across his broad chest. "And if they doona believe we're peaceful, then we'll have to kill the bastards."
"Aye." Ian nodded.
Roman frowned. Somehow, their Highlander logic escaped him. "So where is Connor now?"
"He's on his way here," Gregori replied. "So is Petrovsky. Connor heard him talking about something he's planning to do here."
"Och, we must be prepared." Angus strode into the ballroom.
Roman waited by the door. The band was playing a waltz. Vampire couples swirled around the floor. Jean-Luc and the reporter danced by, the French coven master shooting Roman a pained look. Angus was giving his instructions to a regiment of Highlanders in a comer of the ballroom.
Ivan Petrovsky was on his way to cause trouble. At least they knew about it ahead of time. It was the unknown that made Roman sick with worry. Where the hell was Shanna?
* * *
The clock on the taxi's dashboard read eight-fifty. Shanna was running late, but at least she was no longer being followed. Thanks to the driving skills of her taxi driver, Oringo, they had shaken the black SUV off their trail.
"This is the street." Shanna glanced at the piece of paper where she'd written the address. "Fifty-two sixty-seven. Do you see it?"
The street was dimly lit, making it hard to read the numbers on the houses. They passed a house that was completely dark.
Oringo slowed down. "I think that was it."
"The dark one?" Why would Bob wait in the dark? An icy finger of doubt tickled the back of Shanna's neck. Bob had sounded strange on the phone, too.
Oringo pulled over to park. "Here you are. I make fifty dollars extra, right?"
"Yes." Shanna removed her billfold from her purse. She glanced again at the dark house. "Does that look safe to you?"
"Looks empty to me." Oringo took a bite of his pastrami sandwich, then twisted in the seat to look at her. "You want to go somewhere else?"
She swallowed hard. "I don't know where else to go." She scanned the area. There were several parked cars along the street. Was that a black sedan? The tickle on the back of her neck drifted down her spine. "Can you drive by that black car?"
"Okay." Oringo coasted up the street, slowly passing the sedan.
Shanna peeked over the backseat. Seated behind the wheel of the sedan was a man. "Oh my God!" He was the same man who had cursed in Russian in front of Roman's house.
He stared back at her, his eyes narrowed.
Shanna turned her back to him. "Drive! Hurry!"
Oringo stomped on the accelerator. The tires squealed. Shanna glanced back. The Russian was yelling into a cell phone. Oringo reached the end of the street and swerved into a left rum, cutting off her view.
Oh shit. The Russians had found out about the safe house. Where on earth could she go? "Aaargh." She sank down in the seat and covered her face.
"You okay, miss?"
"I - I need to think." A friend, she needed a friend. Someone who could hide her, loan her some cash. Think! She tapped the heel of her palm against her brow. She couldn't go far. She was almost out of cash now. A friend, somewhere close.
"Radinka!" Shanna sat up.
"What?" Oringo gave her a worried look in the rearview mirror.
"Can you take me to Romatech Industries?" She fumbled through her purse and pulled out the paper she'd printed earlier. "Here's the address. Just outside White Plains." She leaned forward to show it to Oringo.
"Okay. No problem, miss."
Shanna settled back in her seat. Radinka would help her. She was kind and understanding. And she had said she worked evenings at Romatech. There would also be security at the facility. And lots of people working there. Including Roman Draganesti.
Shanna shuddered. No way would she ask that womanizing creep for help. She'd explain to Radinka that she had no desire to ever see Roman again. She only needed a safe place to hide until she could contact the U.S. marshal's office in the morning.
Poor Bob. She hoped he was okay. Memory of the Russian in the black sedan made her skin crinkle with goose bumps. She peered out the back window. "Are they following us?"