The chemist nodded slowly. "I believe it would be."
"Good." Roman strode toward the door, then paused. "I'd appreciate it if you kept this conversation between us."
"Of course, sir." Laszlo plucked at the strings that had once held a button in place. "I won't say a word."
Roman hurried to his own lab to work on his daytime formula. He turned on his CD player. Gregorian chants filled the room, helping him to concentrate. He was so close.
Before he knew it, the chants stopped and Roman glanced at the time. Five-thirty. Time always flew by when he was involved in a new project. He called Connor and teleported to the kitchen. "How's everything?"
"Fine," Connor answered. "No sign of Petrovsky's men."
"She's in her room. I left some diet cola and brownies by her door. They disappeared, so she must be all right."
"I see. Thank you." Roman headed for the staircase and stood in the center of the spiral. With a glance at the top landing, he teleported there in a second. He went in his office and stopped short when he saw the blood-red velvet chaise. What a fool he'd been to bite her. And a bigger fool to blurt out that he loved her.
He trudged toward the wet bar for his bedtime snack. Should he go to her room to check on her? Would she even speak to him? He unscrewed a bottle and popped it into the microwave. Maybe he should leave her alone. Her reaction to his confession of love had not been good. He'd give her time. And he wouldn't give up.
"Damn it to hell!" Ivan paced back and forth in his small office. He'd watched the news on DVN, and even though the explosion at Romatech was the top story, it hadn't accomplished much more than blowing up one lousy storeroom. Not a single Highlander had been blown to tiny bits or burned to a crisp. And as far as Ivan could tell, the city was not experiencing a sudden increase in hungry vampires on the prowl. After blowing up Draganesti's supply of fake blood, he had hoped to see a difference.
"Maybe the Vamps keep a supply of synthetic blood in their homes," Alek suggested. "They just haven't run out yet."
Galina curled up in one of the wingback chairs. "I agree. It's too soon to see a shortage. Besides, Draganesti probably has supplies we don't know about."
Ivan stopped pacing. "What do you mean?"
"He's supplying synthetic blood around the world. He could have plants we don't know about."
Alek nodded at her. "That would make sense."
Galina raised an eyebrow. "I'm not as stupid as you think."
"Enough." Ivan resumed his pacing. "I need a plan. I haven't hurt Draganesti enough."
"Why do you hate him so much?" Galina asked.
Ivan ignored the harem girl. He needed to get back into Romatech. But how? Tension grew in his neck, pinching the nerves.
"Draganesti is the one who built an army to defeat Casimir," Alek whispered to Galina.
"Oh. Thanks for telling me." She gave Alek a sly smile.
Alek, damn him, smiled back. With a growl, Ivan popped his neck. That got their attention. "Any sign of Highlanders?"
"No, sir," Alek answered, keeping his eyes off Galina. "If they're out there, they're staying hidden."
"I don't think they're attacking tonight." Ivan resumed his pacing. The door to his office opened and Katya entered. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Hunting." Katya licked her lips. "A girl has to eat. Besides, I heard some good news at one of the Vamp clubs."
"What? Our bomb killed one of those stupid Highlanders?"
"No." Katya smoothed back her long hair. "Actually, I heard the damage was minimal."
"Crap!" Ivan grabbed a glass paperweight off his desk and smashed it against the wall.
"Now, now. Throwing a tantrum won't help, will it?"
Ivan zoomed over to Katya and grasped her by the neck. "Neither will a show of disrespect, bitch."
Her eyes flashed. "I have good news if you care to hear it."
"Fine." Ivan released her. "Out with it."
She rubbed her neck while she gave Ivan an irritated look. "You want back into Romatech, don't you?"
"Of course. I said I would kill that little chemist, and I mean to keep my word. But the place is crawling with those stinking Highlanders now. We can't get in."
"I believe we can," Katya countered. "At least one of us can. Romatech's vice president of marketing has invited poor Vamps to the facility tomorrow night for a market survey."
"A what?" Ivan asked.
Katya shrugged. "Does it matter? One of us could go, disguised as one of the poor."
"Ah, excellent." Ivan patted her on the cheek. "Very good."
"I will go, sir," Alek announced.
Ivan shook his head. "They saw you at the ball. And they would recognize me, too. Maybe Vladimir?"
"I'll go," Galina offered.
Ivan snorted. "Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not. They wouldn't be expecting a woman."
"True." Katya sat in the chair next to Galina. "I know a makeup artist at DVN. And we could use their wardrobe room."
"Great!" Galina smiled. "I could be a fat old Vamp tramp."
"A bag lady," Katya agreed. "No one would ever suspect you."
"Since when do either of you make decisions around here?" Ivan glared at them both. They lowered their heads, looking properly submissive. "How could Galina capture Laszlo Veszto? And if a Highlander is guarding him, how would she subdue him?"
"Nightshade," Katya whispered. "You have some, don't you?"
"Yes." Ivan rubbed at a knot of tension in his neck. "In my safe. How did you know about it?"
"I used some once. Not yours, of course. But you could let Galina use it."
"What is nightshade?" Galina asked.
"A poison for vampires," Katya explained. "You prick the vampire with a dart, and the poison goes into his bloodstream and paralyzes him. He's still conscious, but unable to move."
"Cool." Galina's eyes lit up. "I want to do it."
"All right. You can go." Ivan perched on the edge of his desk. "Once you locate Laszlo Veszto, call and teleport back here with the little bastard."
"Is that all you want me to do?" Galina asked quietly.
Ivan considered. "I want another explosion. A bigger one. One that will really hurt Draganesti."
"In that case," Katya suggested, "I think you should kill some of the people he most cares about."
Ivan nodded. "Those bloody Highlanders."
"Oh, he cares about them, I'm sure." Katya ran a finger over her red-painted lips. "But his real weakness is the mortals."
"Exactly," Galina agreed. "He has plenty of mortal employees. We could put a timer on the bomb so it will go off at sunrise."
"That's it!" Ivan jumped to his feet. "Draganesti's precious mortals will be dying, while he and his Highlanders are forced to return to their coffins. There won't be a bloody thing they can do about it. It's perfect! Tomorrow night, Galina will plant the C-4 in an area where the mortals gather."
"Their cafeteria, perhaps?" Galina exchanged a wry look with Katya.
"I know where," Ivan announced. "Their cafeteria."
"Can they see me?" Shanna watched the scroungy assortment of vampires through the window.
"No." Gregori stood next to her in the viewing room. "Not as long as you keep the lights off. It's one-way glass."
Shanna didn't know anything about market research, but she figured it had to be more interesting than watching television all night. "I'm surprised there's such a thing as poor vampires. Can't they use mind control to wheedle money out of people?"
"I suppose," Gregori answered, "but most of these people were already broken before they became vampires. They only think about their next meal, like a junkie and his next fix."
"That's so sad." Shanna observed the ten vampires who had come to Romatech for a free meal and the fifty-dollar incentive. "Vampirism doesn't change a person very much, does it?"
"Nay." Connor stood at the door. He had insisted on coming along as her personal bodyguard. "A man will stay true to his heart even after death."