Home > Midnight Labyrinth (Elemental Legacy #4)(4)

Midnight Labyrinth (Elemental Legacy #4)(4)
Author: Elizabeth Hunter

“Yes, you do,” Ben said. “Don’t play dumb. Throw them a bone. Let them pay us back.”

She shrugged. “I don’t need anything from them right now.”

“It was two days’ work at the most—”

“And I refused to let them pay us for that reason,” she said.

“The O’Briens are a huge clan,” Ben said. “They’re independent, and they don’t like owing people.”

She smiled. “Well, they owe us now.”

“I know you live for racking up favors,” Ben said, “but we live here at their pleasure.”

Tenzin laughed.

The vampires in charge of the great city of New York were the O’Briens, a clan of earth vampires who’d taken over the city in a violent coup and held it for a century through numbers, wise bribery, and clever manipulation.

Ben and Tenzin had moved to New York with the understanding that Tenzin—a highly powerful and connected vampire—would demonstrate no ambition that would challenge the current vampires in charge. She would also use her influence and connections in Asia to increase foreign trade.

“All I’m saying,” Ben said, “is that unless you want cause an intercity incident, piss off a powerful earth vampire clan, kill a bunch of people, and take control of the city—which obviously you could do if you really wanted to—we should probably just meet with Novia and let her do something nice for us so her sire feels better.”

Tenzin dropped from her room and hung upside down, her face level with Ben’s. Talking to her like that was always disorienting.

That was, of course, why she did it.

“Is there something you need?” Ben asked.

“I’m hungry.”

“Doubtful.” He’d seen her drink a tall glass of blood three days ago while she was binge-watching a British reality show. At Tenzin’s age, she didn’t need much blood to survive.

Nevertheless, she glanced down at his neck and licked her lower lip.

“Don’t piss me off, Tenzin.” That was not their agreement. They were partners. He wasn’t food.

“Novia said she wants to meet at Gavin’s? Why Gavin’s? There are too many humans there.”

And Tenzin couldn’t be around humans too often. Unlike most vampires, her fangs never retracted, which could lead to some awkward staring in the wrong places.

“Gavin pays the extra tribute to have neutral pubs in every city,” Ben said quietly. “Novia is leveling the playing field, making the effort to accommodate your status. We should meet her.”

Tenzin narrowed her eyes. “You meet her first. Tonight.”

“Fine.” Massaging egos was all part of the vampire package.

Tenzin flew back to her room and Ben continued organizing his books, mentally composing the email he’d send to Novia.

Ben Vecchio might have been born in the Bowery to good-for-nothing human parents, but he’d been raised and mentored from the age of twelve by his adoptive uncle, a fire vampire of fierce reputation and a deep desire to be left alone. Ben knew more about immortal politics than most vampires. Their world operated on a carefully balanced network of allegiances, loyalties, family ties, and favors. It was feudal, but it worked.

Most of the time.

 

Tenzin watched him as he slept that afternoon.

Shining boy.

The lines around Ben’s mouth and eyes had deepened. Not much. But he’d grown from the young man she had known and into the man he would become.

Even so, he was her shining boy, eager to fix problems, fight battles, and seek treasure. He’d dragged her to this metal city and made her a nest in the sky, quick to reassure her of his plans.

It will be brilliant. It will be fun. We’ll get rich. Well, I’ll get rich and you’ll get richer.

Tenzin smiled.

Ben would go to the meeting with the young vampire and charm her into a solution both Tenzin and the New York hierarchy could live with. He’d negotiate with smiles and debate with quips. Ben was both her partner and her better half. He was one of the few humans who’d ever understood her, and possibly the only one who’d never feared her. Even her own sire feared her.

Not Ben.

He picked and poked at her as a hobby. He antagonized her and did it with a smile. She pushed him just far enough to drive him crazy. Why?

It was fun.

Their partnership was good. He was finding his way and meeting his people. Making connections and learning the ways of their world. He had time as long as she was with him. As long as she watched. His human experience would only add to the being he would become.

Of course, he did have that white knight tendency.

She’d have to fix that.

White knights had a tendency to get their armor bloody, and that could not happen.

Not until it was time.

 

 

2

 

 

The Bat and the Barrel, newest whiskey pub in the Bowery, was the kind of place where privacy was treasured, quiet conversations could still exist, and everyone kept their eyes to themselves as they sipped some of the finest cocktails available in Lower Manhattan. It was populated by the rich, the ambitious, and the immortal.

Carefully curated blood donors of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities drifted among the tables, serving drinks. Though Gavin Wallace’s pubs were open to humans, only the vampire clients and the humans who worked for them knew that the servers were available to sample. A discreet reservation and the human who served your martini could also be your dinner.

If that was your thing.

Ben watched as Novia O’Brien, favored daughter of Cormac O’Brien, brushed a thumb over the cheek of the handsome server she’d fed from in a private room. The server’s smile was easy, and Ben had a feeling the young man was a frequent partner. Novia gave him a little wave as she walked into the main room.

She was attractive, as most vampires were. Her skin was the color of sunbaked clay, her hair a riot of red-tipped corkscrews. Her bloodlines were Caribbean, but her loyalty was to the Irish vampire who’d sired her. She was young, around Ben’s age when she’d turned, and looked to be in her early twenties. In reality, she was probably around thirty or forty. Still young for a vampire, but rising quickly in the hierarchy because of her drive and connections.

“Hey!” he said as she sat. “Long time, no see. How’s it going?”

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