“Theodore Monrose is here to see you.”
Carlene Clementine looked up from her desk as her assistant began tidying up the magazines strewn about the coffee table. She saw the quick glance Shelly threw her way, as if the young woman were gauging the effect of her announcement.
Carlene didn’t wonder if her executive assistant understood the significance of Theo’s visit. Most of Carlene’s employees had been privy to the torrid details of her relationship with Theo. When their tumultuous affair ended abruptly, Carlene had rebounded by pursuing her late husband Kako, Theo’s best friend.
“He doesn’t have an appointment.” Carlene tilted her head and admired her latest art acquisition. Leon Machetti’s brilliant masterpiece depicted a burning forest with flames rising to consume the homes in its path. The irony surrounding her recent gallery purchase did not escape her. The very fact that Theo had decided to visit after all these years made her feel consumed by flames, too. Her heart raced. Her pulse quickened. She felt faint.
Shelly stopped fussing with the magazines and eyed the new oil painting hanging above the gas fireplace, too. “I love the colors. They’re so rich and vibrant.”
“I think so, too. Is Mr. Monrose alone?” Carlene asked, realizing she could only discuss fine art for so long.
“Yes,” Shelly replied, fluffing the pillows on a nearby red leather sofa. After a couple of unsuccessful efforts to perfectly align the cushions, Shelly finally slipped off her housekeeping hat and entered the adjacent bathroom. Standing in front of the full length mirror, she loosened the buttons on her blouse and smoothed her hands over the short black skirt, turning to check out her ass.
Carlene pushed away from her desk and stood. “Any idea why he decided to call on us at this late hour?”
“Yes,” Shelley replied, a hint of concern laced through the lone word.
Thoughtfully, Carlene tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. In many ways, she was prepared and had long since come to terms with her destiny, but at the same time, she wanted to challenge her forthcoming lot in life. It was her nature. Defiance was in her blood.
Shelly frowned. Her executive assistant must’ve assumed she was doomed.
Still, Carlene longed to refute what the supernatural super powers believed to be in their best interest. She wanted to rebuke their goals and aspirations at every turn, but she understood what an objection would cost her.
Leaders from the supernatural world were like predators on steroids when they handed down an appointment. Mortals were their prey. Without a song to sing or a prayer to recite, humans were open season when the elite ones—also called out as the super powers— came to call.
Some believed the supernaturals, regardless of their ranks or titles, should’ve been considered second class citizens. Instead, the blue guard, members of the new world government, chose to make the supernaturals their equals. In doing so, they often negotiated with the elite ones and gave new meaning to eliminating the competition.
Yes indeed. Carlene knew why Theo was there. Given the profit margins her company had realized in recent years, Theo was long overdue, especially since she’d deliberately broken the rules by trying to stay above the competition.
Her gaze returned to the painting. She could almost hear the flames roaring, the popping and clicking of burning wood. Her eyes stung from the heat. Her nostrils filled with the scents of an all-too-consuming fire, an inferno that wasn’t even real.
“Are you all right, Mrs. Clementine?”
Carlene jerked. Blinking rapidly, she regrouped. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“You knew it wasn’t safe here after dark,” Shelly pointed out. “Just last week we received the memo. Mortal women are not allowed in the city after six in the evening.”
“That’s the blue guard’s way of ensuring their corporate world maintains male dominance so larger profits will be realized by male owned and operated companies!” She took a deep breath, fighting back the anger. Theo’s presence there assured her that she had tested the blue guard, and they had met up to the challenge.
In many ways, Theo’s position in his society wasn’t that different from her own status in the mortal world. Among the supernaturals, Theo was considered part of the upper echelon. In the human business world, she sat upon the highest rung of the corporate ladder.
She enjoyed five-star restaurants. Theo, on the other hand, was a blood hunter, a designated vampire who handed down punishments and protected their laws. Carlene had tested the limits when she’d remained in the city past sunset. She’d broken the blood hunter’s law, and it wasn’t the first time. Now she’d pay the price, unless of course, she could convince Theo to swap securities. Perhaps trading places would work for some, but for Carlene, she knew Theo would convince her to go willingly.
She studied Shelly curiously, wondering if the young woman would be missed by family and friends if she could somehow arrange a trade—Shelly’s life in exchange for her own.
Her young administrative assistance was attractive, and the way she carried herself screamed, “I’ll have sex on command.”
“I wonder how would you feel about giving blowjobs in a vampire’s coffin?”
“I beg your pardon?” Shelly arched a brow. “Did you just ask me if—”
“Show Theo in,” Carlene interrupted her, unwilling to discuss the mistake of voicing her innermost thoughts.
“As you wish,” Shelly bit out, her quick change of demeanor noted and well understood.
She considered Shelly more than an employee. They were friends, on some levels. They’d often discussed the best way to break the treaty between the supernatural elite and human blue guard. In fact, Shelly once suggested that Carlene groom one of the younger interns for a future trade should the elite come forward with a mating call.
The fact that Theo had arrived there proved to her no exchange would be considered. The treaty between the supernatural elite and human blue guard specified unalienable rights protected by and guarded with the laws each race—the humans and the supernaturals—kept in place.
Carlene pursued the wet bar and went out of her way to ignore further eye contact with her assistant. “I’m sure he doesn’t have all night.”
“As a matter of fact,” Theo said, entering her office as Shelly stormed away. “All night is precisely what I have in mind.”