Images flitted through Darcy's mind of Connor feeding his own blood back to her. She swallowed hard. "Go on."
"To reverse the process, a vampire would be completely drained by another vampire, so the bite will release the chemical that induces the vampire coma. Then, if the subject is infused with human blood, he should awaken as a human."
Darcy took a deep breath. "And you say it failed?"
"The first attempt did." Shanna grimaced. "That poor little pig. I objected, but Roman said it was the only way."
Darcy stiffened. "They made a vampire pig?"
Shanna made a sour face. "Yeah. It sounds terrible, I know, but I'm grateful Roman didn't go ahead with his original plan and do the experiment on himself." She shuddered. "Thank God we talked him out of that."
Roman was willing to risk his life in order to be a mortal with his wife. "He loves you very much."
Shanna nodded. "He's at Romatech now, trying to figure out what went wrong. Laszlo has a theory, but if he's right, then the experiment will never work."
"Oh." Darcy's heart sank lower.
"Laszlo believes it's like turning back time, that the vampire in question must be returned completely to his former human self. In other words, the human blood infused into him must contain his own specific human DNA."
"They can't insert Roman's DNA into some synthetic blood?"
"That's what Roman planned to do, but last night they discovered his DNA was mutated. And since Roman is over five hundred years old, there's no way to know what his original human DNA was like."
"Oh." It was impossible. She was still trapped. Forever.
Shanna leaned back in her chair, frowning. "That last discovery has really screwed up everything. We were so sure we could have children, but now..."
"You wanted to have children with Roman?"
"Yes, very much." Shanna gazed off into space. "It seemed so simple. Roman just erased the DNA from live human sperm and inserted his own. We tried artificial insemination a few times." She splayed her hand across her belly. "I could be pregnant now. I hope so."
Darcy sat up, alarmed. "But you just said his DNA isn't human. It's mutated."
"Roman only figured that out last night. Now, he wants to stop the attempts to get me pregnant."
"But you don't?"
Shanna shrugged. "I love him just the way he is. And I would love our child, no matter what."
Darcy's gaze lowered to Shanna's abdomen. "The baby's DNA would be half vampire."
"I know." Shanna smiled. "Don't worry. We only attempted insemination three times. Chances are nothing happened." Her smile turned sad. "I wanted children so bad."
"I'm sorry." Darcy reached over to touch her hand.
Shanna squeezed her hand back. "I'll keep praying. And I'll pray everything works out for you, too."
Darcy sat back, releasing Shanna's hand. "I'm afraid it's hopeless for me."
"There's always hope." Shanna's eyes twinkled. "I believe I told Roman that once."
Connor's image wavered before them, then became solid. Darcy's nerves tensed. He placed a plastic DVD case and a manila folder on the coffee table. On the folder, written in bold letters, she read the words STAKE-OUT TEAM.
"Sorry it took me so long." Connor took a seat in the blue toile chair opposite Shanna. "While I was at the townhouse, we received another call from Katya."
"Oh, dear." Shanna frowned.
"Who is she?" Darcy asked.
"Katya and Galina are joint coven masters for the Russians," Connor explained.
"Female coven masters?" Darcy asked. "I didn't know such a thing was possible."
"It is revolutionary," Connor admitted. "They took over after Petrovsky died."
Shanna snorted. "You mean after they both killed him."
"Aye, those are two ladies I wouldna want to anger." Connor grimaced. "But they are verra angry now. Another one of their coven was murdered tonight in Central Park."
"How many is that now?" Shanna asked. "Three?"
"Aye. Three Malcontents killed in the last few weeks. Katya accused us of doing it. I denied it, but she's certain we know more than we're saying."
"Do you?" Darcy's journalistic instincts kicked in. "Do you know who's doing it?"
"I can make a bloody good guess." Connor gestured toward the folder. "Our wee friends from the CIA. The Stake-Out team."
Darcy thought back. "Didn't you mention them before? The night of Shanna's wedding?"
Shanna nodded wearily. "My father's in charge of the Stake-Out team. He tried his best to stop my wedding."
Connor frowned. "They're up to other mischief as well."
Darcy glanced at the folder with a sense of foreboding. "How can a mortal manage to kill a vampire? Wouldn't a Vamp use mind control to stop him? Or simply teleport away?"
"Each member of the team has a certain amount of psychic power," Connor explained.
"My father has quite a bit," Shanna added. "I inherited my abilities from him."
"I see. So, these mortals are vampire slayers with psychic power. It sounds frightening."
"It is." Shanna sighed. "I tried to tell my father there were two kinds of vampires - the good, bottle-guzzling, modern Vamp and the nasty Malcontents. But he wouldn't listen. He hates all vampires with a passion. Roman's afraid he would even hurt me now that he considers me a traitor."
"I'm so sorry. It must be very difficult for you."
Shanna gave her a sad look. "My father's making it difficult for everyone. Even you, I'm afraid."
"Me? But I've never met any of them."
"My father held me prisoner for a while until Connor was able to rescue me," Shanna continued. "I met most of the team, so I recognize them when I see them."
Connor moved to the couch, next to Darcy. She immediately stiffened. "I am sorry, lass, but ye must know about this." He turned the folder to face them and opened it.
The first sheet of paper was titled Sean Whelan and contained information on him.
Connor pointed to a box with the number 10 inside. "This is how the CIA ranks psychic power. A ten is the highest." He turned the page to reveal Sean Whelan's photo.
Connor turned to the next profile. It was on Alyssa Barnett. Psychic power: 5. Connor turned the page to her photo, then continued to the next profile. Emma Wallace. Psychic power: 7.
"She's British," Connor commented. "Transferred over from MI6, most likely because of her psychic abilities. It is a bit rare amongst the mortals." He turned to her photo.
The women were young and pretty, Darcy noticed. "I've never seen any of these people."
"Just wait." Connor turned to the next profile.
The page was titled Garrett Manning. Psychic power: 3. Connor turned to his photo.
Darcy gasped. She was looking at Garth Manly. "No. This must be some kind of mistake."
"No mistake." Shanna frowned at Garrett's photo. "When I saw him climb out of that limo on your show - I couldn't believe it."
Darcy jumped up and skirted the coffee table. A CIA operative on her show? She paced across the room. "I don't understand. He auditioned for the show. I picked him myself."
"Well, he is rather handsome," Shanna conceded. "I can see why you would choose him."
Darcy paced back toward the sofa. "He was easily one of the best. You should have seen the others. They were so - " She halted suddenly. The others had been so bad. Unbelievably bad. Her shoulders slumped. "I was set up. From the beginning."
"Probably so," Connor agreed. "But you shouldna flay yerself over it. The question now is why is he there? What is he planning to do?"
"I - I don't know." Darcy paced across the floor again. "He's been behaving himself. As far as I know."
"No one on yer set has been harmed in any way?"
"Still, you should double yer security, especially during the day. I'll gladly take care of that. I doona like the thought of a vampire slayer living in the same house as yer Vamps."
"Oh, my God." Darcy halted, breathing heavily. All her friends could be in danger. All the male contestants, too. And all because she had allowed a CIA man on her show. "This is terrible."