Andre quickly opened the doors to the large hutch containing the security command center in his quarters. Elsewhere was a large office dedicated to the palace’s security and surveillance systems, but he preferred having complete access in his own rooms as well. To a casual observer, the hutch resembled a huge entertainment center that was shuttered when not in use, but when fully engaged, there was little doubt of the purpose of the multiple screens, tracking maps, and keyboards.
As he quickly queued up the surveillance videos from both the hallway in front of his quarters and the adjoining passageways, he sneered through his gratitude that, in their arrogance, some vampires refused to acknowledge human technological advances.
BeauChamps apparently didn’t consider that Andre had ordered the entire palace to be equipped with all manner of surveillance equipment, and had neglected to command his weres to silence in the performance of their duties. Thankfully, said weres were quite talkactive.
After shooting him with muffled silver bullets, a pack of five weres had descended upon Rasul and subdued him with a large silver net. After realizing that he did not have a key to unlock the keyless entry system guarding Andre’s quarters, two weres had drug the struggling but silver-weakened vampire off while the other three remained to figure out how to enter his apartment.
Although they had tried simply knocking to lure Emma into answering, their polite tactic ended when it became apparent that she wasn’t falling for their tricks. Soon they began attempting to break into the apartment and, during their endeavors, they talked.
Andre and Sigebert were both growling as they listened to the weres. According to what the weres said, BeauChamps had hired them to kidnap both Rasul and Emma. He planned to torture Rasul into revealing palace information before ending him. If they weren’t able to obtain Emma, then BeauChamps would torture all the information out of Rasul that he could and then offer to exchange Rasul for Emma since, in his opinion, “vampires would gladly fork over a human in exchange for one of their own”.
Pacing and snarling, Andre thought hard for a few moments, then quickly cleared his screens and secured the doors of the hutch. He grabbed his phone and called Wybert who informed him that the weres were in separate cells and that the fight scene was being cleaned. Andre ordered Wybert to remain with the prisoners.
As he ended the call, he ordered, “Sigebert, stay in here with Emma. Have Alphonse and Conall guard the door, and have Evan and Hollander sent to the Queen’s door.”
Sigebert nodded and grabbed his own phone which looked tiny in his huge hands.
Andre left immediately and mentally spoke with his Maker en route to the lowest part of the palace.
Three hours, two dead weres and one slightly nauseated Wybert later, Andre showered and changed in his dungeon office as he composed himself before reporting to his Queen. While he had learned little else of use from the rank weres, they did cement his recent findings and cause for alarm.
Rasul, while a highly-skilled and loyal vampire, was no more immune to torture than any other vampire, and he did know information that BeauChamps would find relevant. The weres hadn’t known where Rasul was to be kept; the two that had taken him were only supposed to meet “some vampires” at the back loading docks, drop off their victim, then scatter to the winds. Apparently they were successful as they’d timed everything so that they hadn’t encountered anyone after scurrying from the hallway.
En route to his Queen’s chambers, Andre cursed fervently as he realized that he had no way of tracking Rasul’s location since his Maker was no longer among the undead. He wondered, however, if Rasul had bonded with anyone as that would be another way of locating him. He doubted it, though. Rasul was something of a coquin. He just wondered how long Rasul could keep his mouth shut.
He nodded to the guards, now four of them, standing in front of Sophie-Anne’s door as he entered, and didn’t blame Wybert for taking an automatic step back from him as he approached. He had been a bit brutal with the weres, but that’s the price they paid for attempting to take his Emma.
The most hostile prisoner had been left barely alive so he could tend to him more on the morrow. The were’s gratuitous eagerness for his sordid task had earned Andre’s “special attentions”…and silver dust…lots of silver dust.
As Andre neared his Queen, his lips twisted as he contemplated the intense internal burning the were must be feeling after drinking the silver-infused water. Well, Andre had promised the foul beast that he’d be burning inside and out and he was most certainly a vampire of his word.
“I can tell by that horrid smirk on your beautiful face that you’ve been using your dreadful talents this evening. Does this mean you can finally tell me what’s been going on now? How is Emma, anyway?”
Sophie-Anne didn’t want to make any sort of a fuss over her little human friend, but she was a little concerned about her. Ok, she admitted somewhat vaguely to herself, maybe she was a bit more than a little concerned, but she did study her recent manicure while she waited for Andre’s response. If she happened to keep her head turned in his direction during her brief wait, no one said anything.
“Emma is still secure in my chambers. Sigebert and the were-lynx from the kitchen are with her, and I’ve posted Conall and Alphonse to the door,” Andre reported while pacing. “As I thought to you earlier, Rasul has been kidnapped after being weakened by silver bullets and a silver net. I do not yet know where he was taken, and since his Maker is finally dead, I have no way of locating him. He isn’t the type to bond, so that option is out.”
Eyes still dark and fangs still protruding, he turned to face his Queen. “Via surveillance and interrogation, I’ve discovered that BeauChamps did intend to take both Rasul and Emma this night. He will torture Rasul for information. If he had gotten Emma, then Rasul would have been ended after his usefulness expired, but as he failed, he plans to hold Rasul in trade for Emma since, and I quote, “vampires would gladly fork over a human in exchange for one of their own”.”
At this, Sophie-Anne jumped up from her seat on the sofa. “No. There will be no ransom. Negotiations with BeauChamps are officially over. Take him out, Andre. I don’t care how you do it, just get it done,” she snarled.
Sophie-Anne paced in a circle for a few moments in deep thought. “That land would have been beneficial, but he’s just not worth the hassle. Have your best trackers…fuck, you know what to do, my child. Your only duties as of now are to keep Emma safe, find Rasul, and end BeauChamps in the most painfully humiliating way you can. “
With a sharp nod of both gratitude and understanding, Andre commanded Wybert to guard their Queen, and left.
Five steps into the hallway, Andre came to a sudden halt as a certain realization floored him. Stunned, he momentarily castigated himself, then a second later he reversed his course and returned to his quarters.
Once inside, he called to Tracy and ordered Sigebert to escort the were-lynx to a true guest room, “communicate” to him the room number, and to then resume guarding his Queen. He instructed Tracy to return to her mistress at Emma’s call later in the day.
Sensing Andre’s impatience, both nodded and left quickly. The moment they left, Andre turned on his heel, entered his bedroom, and quietly closed the door. He stopped a few steps away from the foot of the bed and took a deep, unnecessary breath. Emma’s warm, soft scent permeated through the entire apartment, but was deliciously concentrated in his bedroom.
Since she wearing one of his shirts and was under the covers, he had to assume she must have woke up at some point after he left. He hated to think that she might have been scared when he wasn’t there to offer what meager comfort he could.
For a very long moment Andre simply gazed at Emma, sound asleep curled up in the middle of the bed. He then removed his shoes, socks, pants and shirt as he approached her. His eyes remained dark and his fangs remained fully extended, but for an entirely different reason than before.
Clad only in his silk boxers, he lifted the covers on what he figured would be his side of the bed and slid in beside Emma’s sleeping form. As he turned on his side to lean over her, it occurred to him that his bed had never been this warm, or comfortable, and that his sheets had never felt so soft before.
He slowly, carefully, brushed her dark hair away from her face and gently stroked her cheek as he began quietly calling her name. A few moments later she stirred, then sat up with a gasp.
After blinking a few times, she looked over at him, and blushed when she noticed his bare chest. He laughed when she immediately slid back down and jerked the covers up to her nose.
“Andre, what are you doing in here?”
His face turned deadly serious in response to her breathless question.
**This chapter is a bit short, but I wanted to go ahead and get it out to y’all. (*ducks flying projectiles because of the inappropriately timed cliffy*) Reviews spark the muse, ma chickadees!*