Misguided Angel Page 34

TWENTY-NINE

New Rules

Later that afternoon, Deming counted a dozen kids from Bryce's crowd crammed into two pushed-together tables in the back of the local pizza parlor. This being the Upper East Side, the place looked more like an art gallery than a casual neighborhood hangout, with a grand domed glass ceiling above the dining room, overlooking a sweeping view of the park.

Right in the middle of the festive group was Mimi Force, but as the Regent had warned, she gave Deming no indication that she recognized her, and didn't even glance in her direction.

Deming found a place between Croker "Kiki" Balsan and Bozeman "Booze" Langdon (did they all have such silly names?) and directed her attention at the conversation.

Daisy Foster, a fellow senior, was talking about Victoria's abrupt departure. "Ugh, Vix is so lucky. The European Coven lets them do anything. Have you seen the latest rules from the Committee? Now we have to register prospective familiars for blood tests and psychology profiles before they 'allow' us to have them. It's crazy!" she said, picking up a slice of pizza and taking a tiny bite. "Who has the time?"

"It's for our own good," Mimi said, shaking her empty Diet Coke can. "Only a certain kind of Red Blood makes a good familiar. There are a lot of risks, and diseases can be inconvenient and costly. The Wardens really should have done this before."

Daisy scoffed. "Until you got all fancy-schmancy on us, you were the worst offender, Mimi. I mean, how many familiars have you had? None of them are registered, I'll bet."

"Yeah, why don't you tell us about what really goes on in the Conclave? I mean, is Vix really in Switzerland?" Willow Frost cackled.

Mimi responded mildly. "I got an e-mail from her the other day. She's spending spring break in Gstaad. We can meet her there if we want."

"She never said anything about a ski trip! Since when were you guys so close?" Piper blurted, looking a bit hurt. If the girl had done her best friend harm, she certainly knew how to hide it, Deming thought.

"That Vix," Stella Van Rensslaer said. "I can't believe she didn't even let us throw her a good-bye party. She just up and left! And whatever happened to her little boyfriend? We never see him around anymore. Don't you think it's weird? How the two of them are gone all of a sudden? Remember what happened with Aggie Carondolet and all those people a couple years ago? I bet the Conclave's hiding something."

"Well, someone could tell us, but won't," Piper accused, looking directly at Mimi.

"I told you guys, it's an honorary title. They don't actually let me do anything. I mean, c'mon," Mimi protested. "They just gave it to me because Charles has been gone so long. The Conclave makes all the decisions. I don't even get invited to meetings."

Deming thought it was smart of Mimi to not let her peers understand the breadth of her newfound powers and responsibility. For one, they wouldn't believe it anyway, since she was so young. And two, some in the Coven might be uncomfortable to know the extent of her influence.

While Azrael and Abbadon were two of the Blue Bloods' fiercest and strongest fighters, their power had always been held in check by the Uncorrupted. With Michael and Gabrielle missing, this was a whole different scenario. No wonder the Conclave was planning a coup d'etat.

Froggy tossed a bread stick in Bryce's direction, and an epic bread stick fight broke out between the boys, with the girls laughing and screaming for them to stop--they were getting garlic in their hair.

Deming noticed the rest of the customers were looking at their table with sour expressions. The vampires were making a spectacle of themselves, drawing attention. They were acting just like Red Bloods. Foolish and careless. Deming caught Mimi's eyes, but the Regent looked resigned.

Outside, Mimi sent, and excused herself from the table. A few minutes later, after paying her portion of the check, Deming followed her to a back alley behind the restaurant, where they would not be seen by the rest of the group.

"You're supposed to check in with me every morning. What've you got so far?" Mimi asked. "The rats in the Conclave already have the scribes dismantling the Repository. How can they think I don't notice?" She shook her head in disbelief.

"I'm still getting in with them. It's only been three days," Deming said. "There hasn't been anything to file yet. It takes a while to break these things."

The Regent tugged on a lock of her hair nervously. "My sources tell me they're planning to go in a fortnight. They're going to take over headquarters and lock me and the Venators out."

"There's nothing you can do?"

"I can't show my hand until I can give them the killer. It's the only way to keep the Coven together and convince them to stay."

"I'll have your killer before then."

Mimi hugged herself tightly. "You'd better. Keep me posted on your progress." She left to join the group, who were now congregated on the sidewalk, and after a few minutes, Deming did too.

"We're headed to Stella's," Piper said, upon seeing the Venator. "Her brother is home from Brown and he has the most adorable friends."

"Not me," Deming replied a little abruptly. Her impromptu meeting with the Regent had annoyed her. All right, she had to act faster, did she? She looked over to the group of boys horsing around by tossing Froggy's iPhone between them.

She said good-bye to the girls and walked over to Bryce. "Walk me home?" she asked, barreling her way through the crowd.

Bryce looked her over. They had spent the last couple of days hanging out in the same crowd of people but had not exchanged two words to each other until this minute. Not that it mattered, really, as long as he fancied her, and Deming had never had a boy turn her down yet.

"Sure, why not," he said, as she knew he would. His voice was like Tabasco and honey: hoarse and sweet at the same time. "Catch you guys later," he told his friends, as he and Deming walked away.

Deming studied the handsome boy at her side. She had seen a lot of injustice and cruelty in her time as a Venator, and careless disregard for life offended her deeply. She did not care if it was an immortal or mortal one, each life was valuable. Had Bryce Cutting decided that Victoria's was not? And if so, why?

She'd promised the Regent she would find Victoria's murderer. Deming had not yet made a promise she couldn't keep.

Prev Next