Misguided Angel Page 17

It was beyond tiring being angry all the time, and Mimi craved the physical exhaustion her punishing workouts brought her. Most days after leaving the gym she would go home numb and too beat to do much else other than laze on the sofa with her laptop, replying to IMs and updating her status on social networking sites. On this particular night, the town house was empty when she returned, which was not a surprise. Trinity was out at some society function, as usual. The house was too big for just the two of them. The maids kept to themselves, and the silence was so depressing that on most nights Mimi had both the stereo and the television blasting while she surfed the Web.

She threw her smelly gym clothes into the hamper and took a quick shower. Still wearing her bathrobe, she fired up her computer and clicked on her in-box, scrolling through the list of unread messages. Blinking at the top was an e-mail from an unknown address. Even though the Committee's tech team begged her to stop doing so, Mimi routinely disregarded warnings about the danger of Internet viruses hiding in unknown e-mails, and as a result her computer crashed several times a month. She couldn't help it; she was too curious to not open them.

She clicked it open. The e-mail was empty save for a link. Mimi hit it, and braced for the onslaught of computer havoc, her system breaking down, or some kind of dirty video appearing on her screen. The link did take her to a video, but not one of the pornographic variety.

The screen showed a hazy video, a bunch of jerky handheld camera angles, until finally Mimi noticed that the two dark shapes in the middle of the screen were actually teenagers necking on a couch.

So it was one of those videos after all, she thought, ready to close the window. But something stopped her. As the camera zoomed closer, she realized the teenagers weren't just hooking up. The girl's face was obscured by her long hair, but Mimi could see that her lips were pressed against the boy's neck, and blood was running down her chin, as his body twitched and convulsed in an ecstatic spasm.

It was all too familiar--the boy's fervid motions, the way the girl was holding him--gentle enough to keep his frenzy in check and yet firm so that she could keep him right where she wanted him. How many times had Mimi done the same exact thing in the same exact position? It was practically out of the Committee handbook. You didn't want a familiar's head to roll back lest he or she lose oxygen, or choke on his or her own tongue.

Mimi watched, frozen in her seat, as the girl pulled away, and for a moment, the camera zeroed in on her ivory fangs, and they caught the light, revealing their needle-sharp beauty--so much finer and sharper than any computer-enhanced prop. Meanwhile, the boy slumped back into the couch, drugged, defeated, and for the next forty-eight hours, useless. The girl, her face still in shadow, kissed him sweetly on the lips and stood up from the couch.

On the bottom of the screen was a date and a time stamp. That was just last weekend, Mimi thought, as the image cut to a larger room, where many more teenagers were gathered.

Wait, wait, wait! There was something familiar about that room, with those damask curtains and that Renoir on the wall. If you got too close to the painting, you tripped the silent alarm and the house majordomo would shoo you away. She'd been to that apartment many times. It was Jamie Kip's parents' penthouse and this was his eighteenth birthday after-party. Mimi had been there Friday night. She'd left early, bored by the scene. The newest Committee members were little eager beavers, hopped up on their first taste of blood, and she was still too angry to have much fun.

When the camera focused on the girl again, her back was turned, and she disappeared in a blink of an eye, only to reappear across the room, laughing next to the keg. This was no trick, no visual effect, no clever editing. It was clear that the girl had been in one place and then without any natural explanation for it, in another. Dear God, don't tell me. . . . The camera caught more vampire tricks. Stupid junior members showing off--someone lifting the grand piano with one hand, another party guest turning into fog. The usual juvenile exuberance, vampires drunk on their newfound powers that came with the Transformation.

A cold knot began to form in Mimi's stomach. Who the hell was videotaping them? Blue Blood parties were strictly closed--vampires and familiars or soon-to-be-familiars only. That was the policy. This was against every rule in the Code. This was exposure. It was online. Had anyone else seen this? Mimi felt the hair on the back of her neck tingle.

The scene faded and words appeared. Vampires are real. Open your eyes. They are all around us. Do not believe the lies they tell.

The Mistress lives!

The who? The what? Mimi was still trying to absorb what she'd read when the screen shifted again. Another room, but now the girl was shown tied up, bound and blindfolded, with a gag in her mouth, still unrecognizable. That was Venator rope, Mimi could tell from the silver stitching. What was going on? What the hell was happening? Who was that girl?

The screen faded to black, replaced by more text.

On the eve of the shadow crescent . . .

Watch the vampire burn.

A match was struck, and a fire burned, filling the screen. Smoky dark flames that danced around an ebony center. The Black Fire of Hell.

Mimi shut off the computer, banging down the screen on her laptop. She found she was trembling. It was a joke, wasn't it? Someone from the party had decided to make a funny video.

That was all it was. It had to be. Jamie Kip and Bryce Cutting probably put it together to spook her. They still couldn't accept she was their Regent. It was just a joke to them.

Still, Mimi didn't sleep well that night. She wished she could just forget about it, delete it, and like any normal teenager, go back to counting the number of her friends online. But she couldn't. She was their leader. She was responsible for the safety of every vampire in the Coven.

She wasn't going to lose one on her watch. No way. Not this time. Not after Charles's blind denial of the existence of the Silver Bloods . . . and Forsyth's betrayal of the Conclave. Whatever this was--a new Silver Blood threat, or something else?--she had to be prepared to deal with it.

She had to take action. This video had been sent to her for a reason.

SIXTEEN

The Conspiracy

The sixty-inch monitor on the wall showed the vampire's face full of terror, frozen on the screen. Mimi looked around the conference table on Monday morning to make sure everyone had a chance to absorb it. She had skipped class for this, but even Trinity could not argue that this was less important than passing AP Mandarin.

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