So Roman was still trying to save people, and the Scottish warriors were still righting for a just cause. Shanna wondered what Roman was doing now. He hadn't even tried to see her since his declaration of love. Maybe he'd realized their situation was hopeless. "So how does this work?"
"We've divided them into two groups." Gregori motioned to the group on the left. "That group will be watching a power-point presentation and filling out a questionnaire about the new restaurant. The second group will be testing different formulas and rating them according to taste. When they're done, the two groups switch places and start over."
"What do you want me to do?"
"They'll be testing the drinks here in front of the window. They'll rate each drink themselves, but I'd like you to watch their expressions and jot down their reactions."
Shanna noted five legal pads. "Are there five drinks?"
"Yes. Three new formulas that Laszlo put together, and then, Blood Lite and Chocolood. Just put a mark under the headings Like, Neutral, or Dislike. Okay?"
"Sure." Shanna picked up a pencil. "Bring on the Vamps."
Gregori grinned. "Thanks for your help, Shanna." He opened the connecting door and entered the participant room.
Shanna heard him go into a lengthy dissertation regarding the new restaurant. Then the first vampire came to taste the drinks. He was an old man in a stained raincoat. A scar ran down his face, zigzagging through the gray whiskers. He finished the first drink, then burped.
"Was that a dislike?" Shanna asked.
"Neutral," Connor replied.
"Ah." She marked the notepad and followed the old vampire to the next drink. He took a big gulp, then spewed the contents all over the window.
"Yeech!" Shanna jumped back. Blood everywhere.
"I would say that was a dislike," Connor said.
Shanna snorted. "Brilliant observation, Connor."
He smiled. "'Tis a gift."
At least all that blood wasn't making her nauseous. She really was improving. Gregori wiped the window clean before the next vampire's turn. This one was a plump, elderly woman with gray, tangled hair. She worked her way down the line of drinks, clutching her big bag to her chest. At the end of the line, she put her bag on the table. She looked around, then grabbed a bottle off the table and stuffed it into her purse.
"Oh, my gosh." Shanna looked at Connor. "She just stole a bottle of Chocolood."
He shrugged. "The puir woman is hungry. She can have it."
"I guess so." Shanna had finished with the first group when the bag lady doubled over and moaned.
Gregori rushed over to her. "Are you all right, ma'am?"
"I.. Do you have any restrooms here, young man?" she asked in a gruff voice.
"Yes, of course." Gregori escorted her to the door. "This man will take you." He motioned to one of the Highlander guards who stood by the door.
The bag lady left in the company of a Highlander. It was the second group's turn to test the new formulas. Two hours later, Shanna was relieved when the whole process had finally finished. The back door to their room opened and Radinka peeked inside.
"Are you done yet?" she asked.
"Yes, finally." Shanna stretched. "I had no idea these things were so tiring."
"Well, come with me for a bite to eat. That'll perk you up."
"Thanks." Shanna picked up her purse. "I have a feeling Connor will want to come, too."
"Aye, I have sworn to keep you safe, lass."
"You're a sweetie." Shanna smiled at him. "Is there a little lady vampire waiting for you somewhere?"
He blushed and followed the women into the hall.
"Where are we going?" Shanna asked.
"The employee cafeteria." Radinka walked briskly down the hall. "They have fabulous cheesecake."
"Yes." Radinka sighed. "It's to die for."
As soon as the phone rang, Ivan Petrovsky grabbed it. "Yes?"
"I'm in Veszto's lab," Galina spoke quietly. "I need help."
"I knew I shouldn't have sent a female." Ivan motioned to Alek. "Keep this line open till we get back."
"Yes, sir." Alek reached for the receiver.
"Okay, Galina. Talk." Ivan focused on her voice and teleported to Veszto's lab at Romatech. The small chemist lay on the floor, watching them. He was still conscious, terror making his eyes large and glassy like a deer caught in headlights.
Ivan inspected Galina. She looked like a frumpy old hag. "Excellent. I would have never known that was you."
She smiled, displaying a blackened tooth. "It's been fun. I acted like I needed to go the restroom. A Highlander escorted me, and when he opened the door, I pricked him with a dart."
"Where is he?"
"He fell into the restroom. I wasn't so lucky with this one." She opened the door to reveal a Highlander on the floor.
"Shit! You can't leave him out there in the hallway."
"He's huge. I couldn't budge him."
Ivan took hold of the Scotsman under the arms and dragged him into Veszto's lab. "How long was he out there?"
"Not long. I pricked him, then ran in here and pricked Veszto. When I couldn't move the guard, I called you."
Ivan dropped the Highlander on the floor, then shut and locked the door. "Did you set the explosives?"
"Yes. The guards at the door checked my bag, so it was a good thing we hid the C-4 in my clothes. I stuck it under a table in the cafeteria. It'll go off in about forty minutes."
"Excellent." Ivan noticed the Highlander watching them, listening to their plans. "I've always wanted to do this." He knelt and withdrew a wooden stake from his jacket.
The Scotsman's eyes widened. A strangled sound vibrated in his throat as he struggled in vain to move.
"He can't defend himself," Galina whispered.
"You think I give a shit?" Ivan leaned over the Highlander. "Look into the face of your murderer. It's the last thing you'll ever see." He plunged the stake into the Highlander's heart.
The Scotsman arched. Pain registered on his face, then his body crumbled into dust.
Ivan brushed the stake against his thigh to clean off the dust. "This will make a good keepsake." He slipped it into a jacket pocket. "Now for the little chemist."
He walked over to Laszlo Veszto. "Your weakling of a coven master couldn't protect you, could he?"
Veszto's face had paled to a deathly white.
"You shouldn't have helped that Whelan bitch escape. Do you know what I do to people who get in my way?"
"Come on." Galina rushed to the phone. "We need to go."
Ivan hefted the chemist up in his arms. "Hold the phone for me." He listened to Alek's voice, then teleported back to his house in Brooklyn. Galina followed.
Ivan dropped Veszto on the floor and kicked him in the ribs. "Welcome to my humble home."
Shanna enjoyed another bite of cheesecake as she looked around the dimly lit cafeteria. She and Radinka had taken a table by the window. Connor roamed about for a few minutes, then found a newspaper to read. They were the only customers there.
"I like working at night. It's so peaceful." Radinka emptied a packet of artificial sweetener into her tea. "In another thirty minutes, this place will be crammed full of people."
Shanna nodded and looked out the window. Across the garden, she could see the lights of another wing of Romatech. Roman's lab was over there.
"Did you see Roman tonight?" Radinka asked.
"No." Shanna took another bite of cheesecake. She wasn't sure she wanted to. Or that he wanted to see her. It had to hurt when a guy confessed to loving a girl, and she ran away, crying.
Radinka sipped her tea. "For the last two nights I've been doing some research for Roman. I left the information in his lab, but he says the final decision will be yours."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"I know that, dear. So, you should discuss the matter with him. Connor can take you to his lab."
Jeez. As a matchmaker, Radinka was relentless. Shanna glanced at the large clock on the cafeteria wall. It was already five-ten. "I don't have time. I came here with Gregori and Connor, and they said we were leaving by five-fifteen, right?" She looked at Connor for support.