Misguided Angel Page 42

Paul scoffed. "Victoria? Isn't she in like, Switzerland or something?"

"You're lying. You've been lying since the beginning," she said softly. She didn't need to interrogate him to know. "That whole thing with Piper and Bryce and Victoria was a huge lie."

Paul slumped against the wheel. "Okay, fine, I lied about that. But if you want me to tell the truth, you'll have to do the same."

Deming raised a quizzical eyebrow. "I don't follow."

"I know what you are. You don't have to keep your secret from me. I know you're one of them."

"One of who?"

He looked into her eyes. "I know the Committee's just a cover. That there are people in this world who don't die, who keep coming back every hundred years."

"You're insane. I have no idea what you are talking about." My God, had they been this sloppy? How was it that he knew their secrets? Talk about a security breach. Paul was neither a Conduit nor a familiar. How did he know?

Paul cleared his throat and looked out the window, and answered as if he had heard her question. "I've been a student at Duchesne for a couple of years now. I've seen things. I've heard things. Guys like Bryce Cutting are pretty careless. I know most of the kids at school are blind, but I'm not. I know what you are. And it's okay."

Deming shook her head. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said evenly. "What I do want to talk about is why Victoria Taylor was in your car just now."

"It's a stalemate then," Paul said amiably. "You want me to tell you the truth, but then you won't give me the courtesy of doing the same."

Suddenly, Deming remembered the words from the video. Vampires are real. Open your eyes. They are all around us. Do not believe the lies they tell.

Then Paul's words: People who don't know I exist. It's demeaning. She had dismissed his attitude as the usual resentment against the popular crowd, but it was more than that. He had a key to the school, and Victoria had been hidden in the attic. Then with a start she realized two things had been bothering since she'd learned of Stuart Rhodes's kidnapping. One, that at Rufus's party, Stuart had been standing next to Paul Rayburn. They were friends. Two, that it was a tasting party. The only humans invited were familiars and those who were about to become familiars. And yet Paul Rayburn had left the party unchosen. No bite marks. That was not supposed to happen. Committee rules forbade such a thing. Paul had seen too much--he should have been marked.

Deming had another epiphany. Jamie Kip's party was closed as well--only vampires and Conduits, familiars or about-to-be-familiars. Evan Howe had entered the party an ordinary boy and had left as Victoria Taylor's familiar. Deming would bet that Paul Rayburn had been at Jamie Kip's party--who knows how many parties--and had left unchanged. Unclaimed. Here was a human who did not feel any loyalty to the vampires, and yet was privy to their secrets.

Then she saw it as she looked into his bright blue eyes--the memory that had eluded her so far. The night of Jamie's party, Victoria was arguing with Piper, and had stormed off. She had made it as far as the hallway, when Paul had come out of the shadows and placed a black bag over her head and dragged her back inside. He had waited until the changing of the Wardens at dawn to slip away with his hostage. That way no one had seen them. No records. No eyewitnesses.

Deming felt a sense of horror at her discovery. Paul meant something to her. When she'd bumped into him that morning she knew it was more than just bloodlust. She'd felt something for him she hadn't before, in centuries of being alive. Attraction. Affection. Respect. Admiration.

Love? Maybe. It could have been. But now they would never know.

"Why, Paul?" Deming asked.

He smiled. "I'd suspected there was something going on for a long time, but I wanted to know for sure. Especially when my pal Stuart was tapped to be part of this 'Committee' and I wasn't. It didn't make sense that he would get in and I wouldn't. So one afternoon I hid in the library during one of their meetings and I saw and heard everything. I confronted Stuart--told him I knew, that I shot some video too, and I was going to put it up on the Internet, show everyone the truth.

"The whole world should know what you guys are. You run the place and no one even knows. It's not fair. You're not gods."

"No, we aren't," Deming agreed softly, thinking of that ancient battle in Heaven. "We aren't gods." They had certainly learned that the hard way.

"Why are you looking at me that way? You think I did something wrong? No way. It was all Victoria's idea to play hostage. Do you even think a human could overcome a vampire? Be serious. Anyway, I told Stuart what I was going to do, and he told her. She came to me and asked me not to post the video yet. She had something better in mind. She said that she and Stuart were in love, and they wanted to leave the Coven because they weren't allowed to be together.

"They were 'bonded' to other people. But if these other people found out, Stuart and Victoria would burn. They were scared of the--what do you guys call her--the Regent? They talked about Jack Force--about how what was planned for him would happen to them if anyone found out. So Victoria came up with this hostage thing. She said if we could make it seem like they'd died, no one would ever come looking for them. She said she knew how to fool even the Venators.

"She gave me detailed instructions. She was really concerned about timing. She said they were being watched all the time."

Deming nodded. How would Paul have known about the Wardens otherwise? She hadn't paid much attention to his affectus before, when he'd told her that fanciful tale about Victoria and Piper, but she was paying attention now. Everything she was reading indicated that he was telling the truth.

"I know you don't have any reason to believe me. I heard about you. Stuart told me. His dad is on the Conclave. You're some kind of super-vampire sleuth or something."

"What else did Stuart tell you?"

"That Victoria's waiting for him. See, she's been in the city the entire time. They're leaving for the European Coven. By tomorrow everyone would believe Stuart was dead, and they were free to go."

So if everything he was telling her was true, and his affectus seemed to prove it, plus the fact that Victoria, a vampire, could never have been subdued by a human against her will, then it was all a prank--a silly prank made by vampires who were in love with the wrong people and wanted to leave the Coven, and a human boy who wanted in on a big secret. Maybe the biggest secret of all.

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