Home > Blood Gamble (Disrupted Magic #2)(12)

Blood Gamble (Disrupted Magic #2)(12)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Still, it’d been nice watching Juliet have so much fun. She didn’t buy much—I suspected this was because she and Jack were always saving money to put toward the hospital debt—but she was a good shopping buddy. She gave opinions in a way that was really sweet and supportive, gently nudging Laurel, Bethany, and even Tara away from unflattering choices. She’d encouraged me to try on a few things, too, but when it became clear that I was sick of it, she playfully recruited me to the opinion team. The whole thing was girly as hell, and I’d rather have been doing just about anything else, but . . . yeah. Juliet had clearly had a blast, and that was what mattered.

A light knock on the door interrupted my thoughts, and I would have probably jumped if I weren’t too tired. “Who is it?” I mumbled into the pillow. No one answered, because no one would have been able to hear that. I extended my radius to reach the door.

Witch.

“Scarlett? It’s Laurel. Can we talk?”

Oh. I didn’t know what she wanted, but I wasn’t really surprised, either. It was obviously that kind of day. I went to the door and looked through the peephole. The redheaded witch looked nervous, fiddling with her wave necklace, but she didn’t give off an “I’m going to murder you” vibe, so I shrugged to myself and let her in.

Laurel stepped forward without waiting for an invitation. She glanced around the room. “Nice digs.”

“Uh, thanks?” My room at the Venetian was palatial: an upper level with a king-size bed, and beyond it a whole lower level with a sitting area and windows overlooking the pool. Each separate area had its own television, and there was a third TV in the bathroom. A third television. Three. The whole thing was ostentatious to the point of discomfort, so I was trying to ignore it. “Um, do you want to sit?” I pointed down to the lower level.

Laurel followed me past the bed and down to the sitting area, dropping onto the loveseat. “That was a lot of shopping, right?” she said with a slight smile.

“For me, yes.” I shrugged. “But you didn’t come here to recap the day.”

“No. I want to know why you’re really here.”

I just raised an eyebrow. Laurel sighed. “You’re a null. I know you’re a null. I’ve heard about you—”

“Wait, from who?” I broke in. This was so surreal, this merging of my identities. I’d just spent four hours shopping and making polite small talk with this woman, and now she was here talking about our mutual hidden lives.

“Does it matter?”

I didn’t reply. She watched me for a moment, then nodded. It mattered to me. “Someone in my clan knows someone in the LA clan.”

“They don’t really call themselves that,” I said automatically. Outside of LA, most witches organize themselves by family. Each clan contains all the witch members of an extended family, plus a few others who live in the same town and know the family members. Los Angeles, on the other hand, doesn’t have a central family, so the witches organize themselves loosely under Kirsten in a sort of union or co-op.

“You know what I mean,” Laurel said. “My clan is aware of the powerful Los Angeles null. I just never connected that Scarlett with Juliet’s new sister-in-law.”

I watched her carefully, but I didn’t think she was lying. I was always sensitive about someone using my family to get to me—hence my fury at Dashiell—but Juliet had been friends with Laurel for years, well before she’d even met my brother. Of all the Old World factions, witches were probably the largest population, and they spent the most time with regular humans. So I didn’t doubt Laurel’s story . . . but I didn’t really trust her, either.

“I’m here for Juliet’s bachelorette party,” I insisted. “It’s a real thing.”

Her eyes narrowed just a little. “I’m sure that it is,” she replied, sounding just as careful as I had. “But from what Juliet says, it came together last-minute, less than a week after two famous vampires opened a show at the Bellagio. That can’t be a coincidence.”

Okay, now I was getting nervous. Laurel wouldn’t tell Juliet anything—how could she?—but she could blow my bachelorette-party cover within the Old World, which would put Juliet and her friends at risk. So instead of answering the veiled accusation, I tried to throw her off-balance a little. “Who controls the Las Vegas Old World?”

She reared back, just an inch. “The vampires.” She paused, reconsidering. “Well, sort of. The Strip and most of downtown belong to the vampires, and we don’t interfere. We do all our magic in the real Las Vegas, the actual city where regular people live and work. We leave them alone, and they leave us alone.”

“Do they?” I was genuinely curious. In most of the vampire-controlled cities I knew of, the undead were pretty hands-on. Werewolf packs and witch clans had to pay dues, run errands, and generally serve the vampire ruling class. Not everyone held the reins as tightly as, say, Malcolm, but they all held them.

Laurel shrugged. “It wasn’t always like this, but in the past five or six years, the vampires have been infighting. They haven’t had time to mess around with us when they’re so busy trying to topple each other. But things are changing now.” Her eyes sought mine, and something clicked: She wasn’t here to figure me out. She was here to ask me for something.

But it also seemed like she was being straight with me. The least I could do was reciprocate. “Dashiell, our cardinal vampire, encouraged me to see Demeter while I’m here,” I said, choosing my words with care. “He is concerned that the show is too revealing.”

“Is that all?”

“Has something else been happening?”

Laurel pushed out a breath. “You don’t know?”

Okay, that was enough. I was not the person you called for diplomacy and subterfuge. I was tired of playing games. “Not to overdo the Vegas puns here, but let’s put all our cards on the table, okay? Yes, Dashiell threw this bachelorette weekend together as a sort of cover story for me to come check out the show. And if you tell anyone that, or do anything whatsoever to put my sister in danger, I will shove a four-inch knife through your left eye socket.” I waved a hand. “Now you go.”

Laurel’s eyes widened, and for the first time I felt her magic flare as she instinctively tried a spell against me. She was pretty weak, but she probably could have thrown someone into a wall if she really pushed it.

Not me, though. Nothing happened.

Having her magic fail unnerved her, and Laurel jumped up, looking almost dazed. “Wow. So that’s . . . real.”

“Yeah. I am,” I said matter-of-factly. “Now, what did you really come here to ask me?”

She blinked hard for a moment, easing herself back down onto the couch. “My clan has a good relationship with two of the vampires,” she said after a moment. “A married couple. They’re not particularly old or powerful, but they were close to my great-great-grandparents, and they’ve stayed connected to our family in a friendly way. I would call them allies, but they don’t really do anything for us. We just . . .” She paused, searching for the right words to explain the relationship, but came up empty and shrugged. “We like them. They come to some of the family events, and they spoil our kids rotten. Sort of like godparents.”

“Okay . . .”

“Last week, one of them, Ellen, went missing. Wyatt—that’s her husband—was frantic. The vampires are always struggling for power, but Ellen and Wyatt are so weak that nobody ever bothered them before. Now Ellen has just . . . vanished.”

“And you think the Holmwoods are connected?” I guessed.

She held her hands out, palms up. “I don’t know. But Wyatt says that Ellen isn’t the first vampire to have vanished in the last few weeks, or the last. Something like thirty vampires have gone missing.”

“Thirty?” I blurted. “Well . . . shit.” I thought of Margaret, the vampire whom Dashiell had sent to check out the show before me. Was it possible that she hadn’t been killed because she worked for Dashiell? What if she’d just been killed for being a vampire? Or maybe that was jumping to conclusions. They could have been kidnapped or something, but why would anyone want a . . . gaggle of vampires? Coven of vampires? Murder of vampires? How had I gone this long without looking up the group name for vampires?

   
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