"Fine. We'll just keep all the spy stuff a secret."
She nodded. "That would be the best for both of us."
"How did you find out?"
With another sigh, she leaned against the door. "The show made its debut on DVN tonight. Shanna saw it and recognized you. She called Connor, and they told me who you are."
He winced. "We thought you'd finish recording everything before the first show aired."
A knock on the door startled her. "That's my ride. I - I'll see you at the penthouse Monday night?"
"Yes. Wait a minute." He strode toward the door and switched off the alarm system. "You can go now. Good night."
She looked at him, her face pale. "Good night."
She was only a few inches away, but it felt like a chasm stretched between them. Two different worlds.
"Such a shame," he whispered. How would he ever get over her?
She grimaced. "Yes, it is." She opened the door.
Austin tensed when he saw the kilted Scotsman in the hallway. The youthful-looking vampire shot Austin an irritated look, then took Darcy's arm and led her away.
Out of his life. Back to the world of vampires. Austin slowly closed the door.
What the hell was he going to do? Betray Darcy and her friends? Or betray his job at the CIA? Either way, he couldn't escape the outcome. He would be a traitor.
Ian escorted her around the block to where he'd parked the car. "Connor just called. Gregori's been trying to find ye. He says yer boss wants to see you right away."
Darcy groaned. "Of course he does." Sly wanted to pitch a fit because of the mortals on the reality show. This was the conversation she'd dreaded. Great. Wasn't it enough that her heart was in shreds? She didn't want to lose her job, too. Besides, she still thought including mortals had been a great twist. How was she to know those mortals would be undercover spies? That little fact she would never admit to Sly. She was stuck in a weird position. She'd have to protect Austin and Garrett in order to protect herself.
Ian opened the car door for her. "I'll drive ye to DVN. Gregori's headed that way. He'll take ye home when ye're done."
"Thank you." Darcy climbed into the front passenger seat.
Ian zipped around to the driver's side and got in. "I have a cell phone if ye'd rather teleport. It would be faster."
Darcy fastened her seat belt. "I'd rather you drive, if you don't mind."
"All right." Ian started the engine and they drove off.
Darcy didn't want to try teleporting again. She was still too upset to concentrate properly. Her last attempt had been so embarrassing. Bouncing off the door? Sheesh. It had reminded her of a sci-fi show where the doors failed to swoosh open and the actors crashed into the door.
She realized she was trying not to think about Austin. Or his confession of love. Or his belief that they had no future. Dammit, future was the one thing she did have. In abundance. Why couldn't she spend it with the man she loved? Shanna was happily married to Roman. Why couldn't Austin be happy with her?
Do you expect me to make love to a dead woman? His words rushed back, flooding her with pain and frustration. They couldn't have a future. His mission in life was to battle her own kind. He would have to give up his job to be with her. He'd have to give up his whole way of life to dwell in the darkness with her. It'd been so hard for her to adjust. How could she expect him to do it? He was right. It was impossible.
Ian dropped her off at DVN. She wandered across the lobby, aware of the furious glares being cast her way by the other vampires. Great. She was enemy number one in the vampire world.
The receptionist frowned at her. "Mr. Bacchus is expecting you. I'll tell him you've arrived." She punched a button on her phone. "She's here."
She's doomed, Darcy thought as she walked down the hall. She knocked on Sly's door.
As Darcy entered, Tiffany rushed past her into the hall. Great. Hopefully, Tiffany had left him in a good mood. Darcy shut the door. Sylvester Bacchus stood behind his desk, his arms crossed, his brow creased with a ferocious scowl.
Tiffany must be overrated. Darcy squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. "You wanted to see me?"
Sly narrowed his beady eyes. "I watched the debut tonight. The whole freaking vampire world watched it."
Darcy swallowed. "That was what we'd hoped for."
He skirted the desk. "The show finished two hours ago. In that time, we have received fifteen hundred phone calls and emails. Do you know what they're saying, Newhart?"
"They... like the show?"
With a snort, he stopped in front of her. "They hate you."
She gripped her hands together. "I can explain - "
"I thought I told you that the Sexiest Man on Earth had to be a vampire."
"He will be. The mortals will never pass all the tests."
"Did I say you could include mortal scum on a vampire show?"
"No, but you wanted a big twist, one that would shock everyone. I believe I have accomplished that."
He raised a hand to hush her. "Let me tell you what you've accomplished. You've pissed off the entire vampire world."
"I - " She stopped when he pointed a finger at her.
He stepped closer 'til the tip of his pointing finger was an inch from her face. "I have two words to say to you."
She braced herself for it. You're fired.
The corner of Sly's mouth lifted. "You're brilliant."
Her eye twitched.
"You have single-handedly caused an uproar! This is the most exciting event since the introduction of synthetic blood."
Sly paced across the room. "We're averaging over seven hundred calls and emails an hour. Vamps all over the world are royally pissed. At us! It's fantastic."
"When Wednesday night comes, the entire vampire world will come to a screeching halt while everyone watches our show. Tell me, do they kick off another mortal in the next show?"
Darcy thought back. Yes, Nicholas was booted off when he dropped Lady Pamela in the mud. "Yes, they do."
"Great!" Sly slapped his thigh. "You're a genius, Newhart. It's like you've created a war on television. Vamps will be glued to the screen to make sure the mortals are defeated."
"They will be defeated, won't they?" Sly paused in mid-stride. "I'm warning you, Newhart, a Vamp has got to win."
"Have you finished recording yet?"
"No. We have three nights left."
"And the last night - when are you shooting that?"
Sly nodded. "I want to be there to personally hand over the harem and the check to the winner. It'll be great!"
Sly grinned. "That's it, Newhart. Good work."
"Thank you." She headed for the door.
"Just remember, a Vamp has to win."
"No problem." Darcy exhaled in relief as she strode to her office. She still had a job. And Austin had agreed that he and Garrett would get eliminated in the next round. In her office, she worked on the second show that would air on Wednesday.
After a few minutes, the receptionist came in with a stack of phone messages and emails. "Sly wanted you to see these."
Darcy thumbed through the messages. Oh, no. Vamps from around the world were complaining about the ex-harem's old clothes and hairstyles. Some were even poking fun at them.
Darcy had tried so hard to get the ladies to modernize. These messages might do the trick.
She worked until Gregori and Maggie arrived. They were relieved she still had a job and that the show would continue.
Maggie studied the messages that blasted the ex-harem's taste. "You know what this means?"
"That Lady Pamela will have the vapors?" Gregori muttered.
Maggie smiled. "Yes. But then, we'll be doing makeovers."
"This is just wrong," Gregori muttered. "You can't pay me enough for this kind of humiliation."
Darcy winced. "Actually, I'm not paying you at all." It was Monday night, and she was in the hot tub with Gregori and Vanda, getting ready to record the fourth episode of The Sexiest Man on Earth. "You agreed to help me out of the goodness of your heart, remember?"
Gregori sank deeper into the hot bubbly water. "That's my problem. I'm too damned nice. Nice guys never get the girl."