Misguided Angel Page 36

"Hey guys," she said, walking over to the clique of girls dangling their feet in the water.

"Oh hi, how was the copter ride?" Stella asked, but then turned away before Deming could answer. No one else bothered to say hello. Piper made a face before turning away. Piper had taken Deming's blow off the other day to heart, and had not been friendly ever since. But then again, Piper was exactly the sort of girl who would be annoyed that her new friend had found a boyfriend. Some girls were just built that way, and there was nothing Deming could do about it. Not that she cared. She wasn't here to make friends.

Deming felt a bit impatient for being stuck at a silly party. She was only there so she could finally cross Bryce Cutting off her suspect list. After tonight, if Bryce's affectus didn't reveal anything related to the case, she would take another look at the case file. She had been convinced that she would find her killer in this group of hedonistic self-centered teenagers, but after a week in their company, she began to think she might be on the wrong track. It annoyed her to have wasted so much time: Victoria's killer was still out there, and the Regent was counting on her to keep the Coven together.

She left the girls and found an empty bedroom, where she could change into her swimsuit. After she was dressed, she joined a bunch of kids who were gathered around the bar in the kitchen, surprised to find that a few of them were Red Bloods.

One of the boys looked up when she came near. "Hey, Deming, right?" he said. She had seen him around the Repository, arguing with another scribe who was stuffing books into boxes.

The Regent was right to worry; the Conclave wasn't playing around. If Mimi couldn't find a way to stop them, they were going to take the vampires underground again.

"You're Oliver," she said, shaking his hand. "Mimi's friend." She had bumped into him once leaving the Regent's office.

Oliver's lips twitched. "That's a new one. She's not my friend here."

"Nor mine," she told him, and they shared a conspiratorial laugh.

"I didn't know there were going to be humans at the party," she told him, accepting a red Solo cup full of grain alcohol and a dash of Mountain Dew. The liquor was for the humans. It made their blood taste sweeter during the Caerimonia, for when the vampires would drink later.

"We're friends with Gemma Anderson, Stella's Conduit. As for all the one-lifers on the guest list, I think this is one of those recruitment parties," he said, meaning the Blue Bloods had invited a group of humans they thought would make good familiars. A "tasting party," they sometimes called it.

"Your hat's not in the ring, though," she said, noticing the small bite marks on his neck.

"All the good ones are always taken."

Oliver smiled at that, but it was a wan smile, and it told her everything she had to know.

Whoever his vampire was, she was no longer with him. Poor sap.

"Do you know Paul?" Oliver asked, turning to the guy hovering behind her.

"We're in Spirit of the Self together. Hi," Deming said.

"You mean Satan and Self-Interest," Paul said with a sly grin.

"The Devil will have his due," Oliver quipped. "I took that class last year. You guys are on Paradise Lost now?"

Deming took a sip from her cup and winced at the taste. "Yes, Paul here thinks Milton was too kind to Satan. Made him too much of a romantic figure for us to love."

"It's the bad-boy syndrome; chicks dig it," Paul said, his bright eyes flashing. "Speaking of," he mumbled under his breath, just as Deming felt a cold hand on her bare shoulder.

"There you are," Bryce said. He didn't bother to greet the other boys. "C'mon, we're out by the pool."

"Excuse me," Deming mouthed to Oliver and Paul as she walked away with Bryce. "God, you don't have to be so rude," she chided as they slipped into the shallow edge. "Just because they're Red Bloods, they're not completely useless. One of them's in the Repository."

She wrapped her legs around Bryce under the water. "There's a room upstairs . . . just for us," she whispered, breathing into his ear. "You're not . . . bonded to anyone are you? Not yet, at least?"

"Nmm." He kissed her neck. "You?"

"Actually, I'm a starborn twin. I don't have a bondmate," she told him. It was a rare thing in the vampire world, to have a trueborn sibling. Starborn twins were two halves of the same person, made from the same empyrean star that split and produced two spirits instead of one and were identical in every aspect.

Deming would never understand the laws of the blood-bound, of the celestial soul mates.

Of those who were self-contained and yet incomplete. Many of the starborn became Venators, like Sam and Ted Lennox.

Once every hundred years or so she had a romantic relationship with someone who had lost their bondmate, but mostly she kept to herself. Starborn vampires usually lived out their cycles alone.

But it didn't mean she had to be alone all the time.

"Meet me upstairs," she told Bryce. She was going to coax the dark angel out of his shadow.

THIRTY-TWO

Interrogation

Bryce loomed over her body, dark and gorgeous in the moonlight. She ran her fingers over his firm abdomen, tracing the line of each muscle. His kisses were deep and insistent, proving he was the kind of boy who always got what he wanted. Any other girl might have been thrilled, but after kissing for what seemed like hours, Deming was bored and impatient to get down to business.

He stopped kissing her neck for a moment and looked in her eyes. "Something wrong?"

he asked huskily since she had stopped--what was she doing? Oh right, dutifully moaning and clutching his hair.

"No, not at all . . ." she said, and decided to go for it. It was one of the reasons she was such an effective Venator. She didn't need to use the glom to get people to tell the truth. She seduced it out of them. She became their best listener, a shoulder to cry on, someone to confess to, someone who understood. And now, with Bryce on top of her, it was the perfect time to ask something he did not expect to hear. "I'm worried about Victoria, what Stella said the other day.

Do you think it's true? That maybe she's not in Switzerland and the Conclave is hiding something?"

"Who knows?" Bryce asked. "I mean, it's not the first time, right?"

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