Misguided Angel Page 35

THIRTY

The Girlfriend Role

Dating Bryce was almost too easy. After he'd walked her home from the pizza place, they were immediately an item. The next day at school he was already waiting for her after each class so they could make out in the hallways. She was still getting used to the taste of his tongue in her throat and having to answer to "Babe."

Now it was a Saturday afternoon, and the boys were indulging in their usual post-crew practice ritual: video games and lounging. Bryce had invited her to meet him at Froggy's town house. When she arrived she immediately excused herself to the powder room upstairs but crept into Froggy's bedroom instead. In the time it would take Red Blood agents to dust a fingerprint, she had already performed a thorough survey of Froggy's immediate surroundings and family background.

She had downloaded a copy of his hard drive to send to tech, and performed a test in the glom to see if she could find any clue in the spirit memory. If he had been the culprit, she would have been able to detect traces of guilt, horror, or violence in his immediate physical surroundings. Especially if he had been handling devil flame, which left a distinctive smell years after it had burned out--the fire in Rio was still smoldering. But the only thing she could detect was a malodorous waft from the laundry basket containing his socks.

She sighed as she slid back Froggy's bureau drawer. Just as she'd suspected, there was nothing extraordinarily good or terrible about the boy, who carried the spirit of a minor angel with a rather uneventful history. As for his cycle parents, the Kernochans had almost no interest in Coven business. Neither of them had ever served as an Elder or a Warden; they were apolitical types who wouldn't be able to fight a Silver Blood if their lives depended on it. If once they had been God's warriors, they were now America's bankers. As far as she could tell, the only thing they were interested in was the stock market.

"Babe? You still up there?" Bryce called.

"Be down in a sec, sweetie," she called. The girlfriend role wasn't one she had played before, at least not for an assignment, although she had had boyfriends, of course--everyone did nowadays. It was becoming terribly fashionable to play with those eternal bonds, to flirt with destiny. The older generation was taken aback by how casual the newest incarnation of vampires were with their heavenly duties. Look what had happened to Jack Force--a real shame. What a waste. He would be put on trial to burn the minute he returned to New York. If the Coven still existed, that is. Otherwise, Deming had no doubt that Mimi would hunt Jack down herself, even without a trial.

Deming was always careful not to get too involved with any boys, and to cut it off before it became serious. She knew as well as anyone that once you found your bondmate and identified each other in the cycle, it was Game Over.

As for Bryce, his immortal history had checked out clean as well, regardless of his dark angel profile. However, she noticed that his affectus was obscured, a cloudy white, which meant he was hiding something. Whether it had anything to do with Victoria's murder, Deming couldn't tell yet. She had to find a way to get closer to him somehow, so she could read his memory and find out what he was keeping in shadow. She didn't like to feel rushed, but with the Regent demanding daily reports, Deming had to find a way to ramp up her game.

The glom memory from Jamie Kip's apartment had backed up the eyewitness stories--Victoria had left Evan on the couch and hung out with Froggy and Bryce at the end of the party. There were no spirit traces that indicated an assault or a kidnapping in some way. If she had been taken against her will, Deming would have sensed it. No. Victoria had left with a friend, but one who was no friend to her. Was it Bryce? Was that what he was hiding? Had his dark angel tendencies taken over? She did not want to be prejudiced against him, but it was hard not to be when there was no other explanation.

Deming made sure the room was as messy as she'd found it and climbed down the stairs to find Bryce and his friends sprawled on the couches in the Kernochans' shrouded family room.

Like many wealthy New Yorkers, their home was filled with museum-quality, priceless art and antiques lovingly chosen by a decorator on a monthly retainer. Yet, as Deming understood, no one ever used any of those beautiful, perfect rooms.

Instead, the designer always left one windowless room in the back, filled with comfortable couches and a giant TV, which meant that ninety percent of life in the town house was spent in one crowded room, while the rest of the expansive apartment sat empty, ready for its close-up for a Shelter magazine shoot that would never be allowed. The Blue Blood elite kept low profiles--the better to keep the masses from getting wind of their privilege and rising up to chop off their heads. Even if Marie Antoinette had survived (she was currently in cycle in the European Coven as one of the world's most famous and demanding movie stars--with her taste for cake intact), the vampires had learned their lesson.

"We were thinking of heading up to Rufus's in Greenwich. He's having people over this weekend," Bryce said. "Chopper's going to pick us up in an hour. We're staying over; you in?"

An overnight trip, twenty-four hours with her mysterious new boyfriend and her prime suspect in the death of an immortal. This was the opportunity she was looking for. She gave him a brilliant smile and promised to meet him at the helipad with her bags ready.

THIRTY-ONE

House Party

The King estate sat on twenty acres of beachfront property in southwestern Connecticut.

Rufus's father was one of those hedge fund types who had managed to make money off the recession instead of losing it, by betting against the economy. Deming wondered how much of that fit in with the Vampire Code to enlighten the human race. It seemed in the present, many of the vampires were not interested in helping humanity as much as they were interested in helping themselves to as much as possible.

It was dark when they arrived, the party already in full swing. Deming followed the boys into the house to find the hallway littered with tossed-off backpacks and discarded clothing.

Loud rap music was playing, accompanied by splashing noises. Rufus King, who had graduated the year before and was a freshman at Yale, greeted them with expansive hugs. "Hey, thanks for coming. Pool's in the back."

The house had an outdoor pool covered by a tarp, as well as an indoor pool located in a glass atrium in the middle of the house. Deming walked with the group toward it. Bryce's friends were already in the water, so he immediately removed his pants, shirt, and socks and dove in with a loud whoop, wearing only his boxer shorts.

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