Wicked Circle

(The fifth book in the Persephone Alcmedi series)

A novel by Linda Robertson


For my agent, Don, who recently

embarked on the path of fatherhood.

May your journey be blessed.


Red-Caped Hero Thanks to:

My nephew Evan for letting me use his name; and also to Doug Kusak and Matt Grabski at the Great Lakes Science Center for answering all my questions about the steamship William G. Mather.

Java-and-Chocolate Thanks to:

My writing groups, OWN & CNW, to the gals at word-whores.blogspot.com, and to my beta-readers Shannon, Beth, Missy, Jon, and Andrea.

Margarita Thanks to:

All the readers that blog and review who took the time to read and spread the word! I called you out by name last time, but you are far too many to list now. SQUEE! My appreciation is truly heartfelt. Cheers!

Geek Hugs for:

S. A. Swann—for an invaluable critique. Michelle “Swann”—for the most incredibly scrumptious brownies EVER.


The Many-named Muse. Rock on!


Heldridge Ellington opened the small crypt door from the inside of the musty hole that served as the Wirt family’s final resting place. Although not a unique place for a vampire to shelter for the day, it did not suit Heldridge’s particular taste. But as it had been raining and dawn fast approaching, the place had met his specific needs at the time.

Cold rain spattered his blond hair as he emerged. The vampire swore under his breath.

Making every effort to keep his clothes clean, he wriggled free. If his luck held, he’d soon be meeting with the Excelsior—the highest authority in all of the Vampire Executive International Network—to reveal the immense secret Menessos and his court witch were hiding. Heldridge didn’t want to be discredited by arriving covered in cobwebs and grime. It was bad enough that he would smell of moist earth and old death.

He trudged toward the Congressional Cemetery gates. Washington, D.C.’s persistent rain had made a monstrous marsh of the ground—it sucked at his every muddy step.

Heldridge soon traded the mucky path for a solid sidewalk. He couldn’t meet the Excelsior with filth on his shoes, so he stopped and kicked a homeless man curled in a storefront alcove. When the man groaned and sat up, Heldridge showed him a twenty-dollar bill. “Get the mud off my shoes.”

The homeless man twisted onto his knees and shrugged out of his jacket. He tugged off his shirt and wiped the shoes with it, exposing his emaciated body to the rain and cold. When he’d finished, Heldridge inspected the job and walked away with the money still in his hand.

“Hey,” the homeless man cried, scrambling to his feet.

Heldridge wadded the cash and tossed it over his shoulder. He laughed as the man scampered into the rain to claim the paper before it was swept down the gutter and into the storm drain.

Hunger gnawed at him, but he dared not try to feed at the local blood bar; that was exactly what the area vampires would expect him to do. Instead of risking recognition and capture, he would feed unlawfully.

In an alley a few blocks away, Heldridge sated his hunger with a mesmerized donor in a dapper hat. It was illegal and dangerous, but this risk was necessary.

As he thought of how easily he had fed for the last decade at his own bar—the Blood Culture, which catered to the vampires of Cleveland—his outrage swelled.

Menessos had transferred his headquarters to Cleveland! Heldridge had barely gotten away from him, barely established himself as a legitimate vampire lord, and his night-father had followed him to measure his every move.

He thinks he’s found his Lustrata. His witch queen. If I can’t have autonomy in my own haven, then he can’t have her. If I can’t part them, once I tell the Excelsior what I know . . . VEIN will.

Heldridge wiped his mouth on his coat sleeve, immediately realizing the mistake. The scent of blood would linger. He shuffled his small packets of home earth from his coat to his pants pockets, then traded overcoats with the unwitting donor. This new coat reeked of cheap cologne, but that would be a benefit. Snatching the man’s fedora as well, he fled.

He flipped the collar up and lowered the hat brim so it mostly hid his flaxen hair. Hopefully, this was enough to conceal his distinctive features; Heldridge could have modeled for comic book artists. His chiseled jawline and broad-shouldered body had brought him much admiration.

Tonight, however, being easily recognized was a problem.

On K Street he strode directly toward the massive building where VEIN was housed.

With an easy gait he passed the building, examining the security. Two vampire sentries stood under the awning on either side of the revolving door, chatting. Though they scented him, it was a superficial effort. They detected the terrible cologne and dismissed him as a mortal.

Behind them the lobby inside was empty except for the receptionist at the desk. Relying on cameras, they kept the real security forces out of sight. This maintained a nonaggressive appearance in the nation’s capital— where lawmakers would be more than pleased to have an excuse to deem VEIN a threat.

Heldridge snapped his fingers and turned as if he’d forgotten something, then hurried back the way he had come. At the last second, he rushed toward the revolving door with inhuman speed.

He walloped the vampire on the right, grabbed his shoulders, and dragged him into the space of the spinning door. The unconscious sentry suffered a secondary impact with the floor as Heldridge used him as a temporary doorstop to block the other vampire from entering.

Inside the scarlet and dove gray interior, the lovely receptionist picked up a phone and pushed buttons. Heldridge sped by her, running directly to the elevator in the rear of the lobby, discarding the hat and overcoat on his way.

The doors parted, revealing a sentry vampire in a stark white shirt, black dress pants, and shiny shoes. His collar had been loosened. He was posed to keep whatever he was holding hidden behind his thigh. Smiling, he said, “It must be my lucky night.”

Heldridge was taller and broader than the guard, but vampiric strength was based on age rather than size. With immortals that was never easy to tell at first glance. “Escort me to the Excelsior.”

Вы читаете Wicked Circle
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату