Caleb owned the sleek private jet that came for them and employed its vampire pilot, but few people knew that. Probably a good thing, or whoever had attacked him would have confiscated it.
Once the three of them were settled in the plush seats that formed a circle for conversation, Bart leaned forward, worry etching deep lines in his forehead. “Is Caleb all right? Is he hurt?”
“He’s fine, but he’d probably be relieved to know we’re coming for him.” Things had happened so fast, Enoch hadn’t contacted him yet. He wanted things in place first.
“Is he in pain?” Bart and Claudia had been in the battle against Okon, Ragnar, and Yerik. Bart had seen Caleb grimace in agony when they leapt on his back to try to suck him dry. Not that they could have. But until that moment, Enoch hadn’t realized that Caleb felt pain. He knew his friend had lost the Light, but he hadn’t considered everything that entailed.
Enoch shook his head. “No pain, he’s just angry and confused. He doesn’t know where he’s being held.” Caleb’s emotions roiled through Enoch. There was no mistaking them.
Bart nodded, satisfied. “I’ll send him telepathy that we’re on our way.”
Claudia’s gaze settled on Enoch. “Do you have a game plan?”
“You won’t like it.” Enoch waited until Bart was finished with his message, then continued. “When we get there, I want you two to stay in the casino’s foyer and let me go on alone. It will make it easier for me to use the Light.” If enemies jumped him in the narrow, underground tunnels, it would be difficult to maneuver and aim. He’d rather blast indiscriminately.
Bart locked gazes with Claudia, clearly unhappy. “It will make things easier for you, we understand, but you’ll call for us when we can help, won’t you?” Bart didn’t like sitting on the sidelines. He was a man of action.
“I’d rather be part of a team. You know that,” Enoch said, “but I don’t want to hurt anyone on accident. I am worried that leaving you behind will put you in danger, though.”
Bart gave a grim smile. His brilliant white teeth gleamed against his swarthy complexion. He wasn’t exactly handsome, but he exuded strength and confidence. “Let enemies come for us. Once you told us where Caleb was, we called for a few generals to meet us there.”
Enoch relaxed. One less worry. A handful of generals could take on an army. “Then I’ll find Caleb while you deal with any other problems.”
It wasn’t much of a strategy, but it was the best they could do. They had no idea what they were up against.
When the pilot landed on the street that led to the casino’s parking lot, they squared their shoulders and expected the worst. He taxied them to the huge, double front doors that opened into the foyer and waited while they exited before finding a place to park. He’d stay with the locked plane.
Walking to the casino’s entrance, Enoch remembered his last visit here. Two beautiful, male vampires had stood just inside the doors, out of the sunlight, to greet guests. Not this time. Lights spilled from every window as guests cavorted twenty-four hours a day. Two massive vampires, dressed in black leather like Bart, blocked their entrance. Their fangs dropped into place when they sniffed the air and realized their new guests weren’t mortals. Bart smiled and pointed toward the one on the left.
“Mine,” he said. He finished him while Claudia snapped the neck of the guard on the right. Claudia, once a Vestal Virgin with the curves and beauty that went with serving a goddess, was nearly as deadly as her husband.
“Not very well trained,” Bart said, watching a breeze blow the true deads’ dust away.
Enoch couldn’t help but glance at the casino—a marble pleasure palace with a central dome that soared five stories high. He shook his head, bemused, then glanced at the surroundings. Marble columns and floors. Huge chandeliers and gilt ceilings. Just as before, a tall, female vampire strode toward him. Zorinda’s tumble of honey-gold hair fell past her shoulders and her sun-kissed skin glowed almost as brightly as Caleb’s. She smiled at him.
“Still undead?” Enoch asked. “You sided against Caleb?” None of Caleb’s regular employees were in sight. They must have died, trying to protect him.
She shrugged shapely shoulders. “A girl has to do what a girl has to do.”
She frowned at Enoch’s companions. Nearly as tall as Bart, she’d been an Amazon before she’d been bitten and changed. She might look like a long slink of sensual pleasure, but Enoch knew she was lethal. So did his friends.
Bart took a wary stance. “Who’s your new master, Zorinda?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Are you toying with me? Enoch already knows.”
“So it is Samiel.” Bart’s lips pressed together in a tight line.
She tilted her head to the side, studying him. “Caleb can’t have any idea where he is. How did you find him?”
Bart gave an enigmatic smile. “For me to know, and you to wonder about. A vampire secret.”
“I don’t know it.” She sounded surly.
Enoch raised his eyebrows, feigning surprise. “Then Caleb didn’t trust you that much.”
Anger flared in her tawny eyes before she tamped it out. “Would you like me to escort you to him?”
Claudia dismissed her and walked toward the office behind the check-in counter. “If you want to, or we can find him ourselves.”
They couldn’t, but it was better that Zorinda didn’t know that. It was a bluff, but Enoch could sense Caleb, and they’d drop back and subtly let him take the lead.
Zorinda hurried forward, as Claudia knew she would. The girl didn’t like taking second place. Zorinda led them to the private elevator in the office. When its doors opened, Enoch locked gazes with his friends.
“I enter. You don’t. This is as far as you go.”
Bart nodded. He motioned to the foyer and a group of generals crowded together under the high dome. Enoch saw Ulrich, Amado, and Eva, among others. All top generals. He sighed his relief.
Zorinda’s brows scrunched together. “I take it they’re deadly.”
“I’d call them invincible.” No one loved brawls as much as Ulrich did, maybe part of his Viking past-life.
Her face twisted into an unhappy scowl. “Fine. Let me take you to your friend.” She waited for Enoch to join her, then punched the code to take them two floors down to an underground tunnel. This one was wide and well-lit. It led to employee apartments, Caleb’s suite, and the casino’s surveillance room. They walked a long time.
At the end of the tunnel, two huge, iron doors opened inside the mountain that served as backdrop to the casino. She unlocked the doors and led Enoch down long, narrow, slanting corridors. It was pitch black, so he held up his hand and called on the Light to see. He slanted his hand toward the ceiling, but it was so high, he could barely make it out. He could call for more Light, but that might not be healthy for Zorinda. Metal doors, high off the ground, lined each side of the passageway. They were painted with silver to ward enemy vampires away. Each opened with a secret latch, hidden from view, and protected individual caves chiseled into the rock—vampire lairs.
They turned a corner and Samiel stood in front of one of the caves. Caleb was here. Enoch could feel him. Samiel gave a slight bow when they approached, then he whistled. Doors flew open and vampires threw themselves on Enoch. Zorinda leapt into one of the empty caves and yanked its door shut.
Fangs gouged Enoch’s shoulders and neck. Claws scraped his back and sides. Damn it, another shirt ruined! It was one of Voronika’s favorites—black silk. She complimented him every time he wore it.
He waited until as many vampires were piled on top of each other as possible, then called for the Light. It burst out of him, and his enemies turned to dust.
Enoch swiped at his shirt to rid himself of the ashes. His wounds healed before he was finished, but his shirt was ripped to shreds. He shook his head in disgust. “Such a waste. This was hand tailored. Why attack me? I told you the One let me keep the Light.”
Shaken, Samiel rubbed his face and chest. He looked surprised. His skin was crimson red, as if terribly sunburned. “I decided you were bluffing.”
“I never bluff.” Enoch’s dark brows pulled together. “I hope you didn’t send more rogues after Bart and Claudia.”
“And if I did?”
“You caused even more true deaths. Bart brought his generals.”
Samiel grimaced. “It took me a long time to build my army.”
“Then I should thank you for bringing them to us, making it convenient to dispose of them.”
Samiel’s shoulders tensed. He’d always had a temper. Enoch had always found it easy to push his buttons.
“Enough with the niceties.” Enoch pointed to the third cave down the hall. “You can release Caleb now.”
“How did you know where to find him?”
Enoch wanted to make it very clear that Samiel couldn’t hide Caleb from him. “You can never use Caleb as a negotiating point. We have a bond. I always know where Caleb is and how he feels.”
“You and Bart?” Samiel sounded frustrated. “How?”
“No idea. It’s just always been there.”
“And if I don’t open the door?”
Enoch gestured to Samiel’s face and arms. “I turn you into a crispy critter. I can’t kill you. You’re immortal, but I might remind you, you now feel pain.”
Samiel blinked, surprised. “I’ve never experienced that.”
“That’s a good thing. Want to try it?”
Samiel scratched more. “I don’t think so.”
“In that case . . .” Enoch gestured to the door.
“I get it. I’ll rescue your miscreant angel.”
“I rescued him. You’re releasing him, because you have to.”
Samiel scurried up the stone wall with his new vampire skills and opened the latch.
Caleb blinked when light invaded his darkness. He jumped down to Enoch and smiled. Then he waited for Samiel to descend to them and wrapped his fingers around his neck.
“Not for us to decide,” Enoch said. “The One will have to deal with him.”
Caleb dropped him to the floor, and Samiel inhaled a deep gulp of air. Then Samiel spread his hands at his sides in surrender. “Give me a break, Caleb. All I want is what you have.”
“So you came here to take it.”
“No, I asked you to join with me, to create an empire together.”
“I have no desire for an empire. I told you that.”
“But I need you. The One took away my Light, just like He did yours. I’ll grow weak without it.”
“Then why not ask for my help instead of killing my most loyal vampires and locking me away?”
Samiel sneered. “You promised to help me once before, and then you failed me.”
“Not on purpose. You know that!”
“How many?” Enoch didn’t care about their silly quarrel.
Samiel stared at him. “How many what?”
“How many of Caleb’s vampires did you kill?” Enoch had met and liked the vampires who’d worked here. Samiel must not think much of an undead’s life, but most of them hadn’t asked to be changed. “I’ve met vampires who constantly struggle against their bloodlust and work to lead decent lives. That obviously doesn’t matter to you.”
Samiel heard the anger lacing his tone and moved away from him. “I thought if Caleb turned me down, he’d turn against me.”
Caleb rolled his eyes. “What for? I don’t care what you do, as long as it doesn’t affect me. If the One wants you Home, he’ll send a minion to fetch you.” He looked at Enoch.
“Minion?” Were Samiel and Caleb both trying to annoy him? Enoch’s dark eyes blazed, and Caleb backed down.
“Or a warrior to clean up the messes you make.”
Enough! Enoch asked the question again. “How many of your men died in the attack?”
“Most of them.”
“Darius, Alex, and Jagger?” Enoch particularly liked them.
Enoch stalked to the door Zorinda dove behind, grabbed its edges, and yanked it off its hinges. Without a word, he shot Light at her and watched her burst into dust. She had worked with the vampires here, been their friend. And she’d betrayed them. He turned to glare at Samiel. “How did you get her to help you?”
Samiel threw up his hands. “Don’t hurt me. I won’t lie. I let her drink from me, and I took her to bed.”
“She turned traitor for angel blood.” Enoch crushed the heavy door into a ball and tossed it in the cave. He’d let Zorinda sip from him the last time he’d visited here. She’d craved all things angel, and he thought that would ease her curiosity.
Caleb turned to him and looked grateful. “You rescued me again, and you didn’t have to. No one would have cared if you’d left me to stew in that cave.”
“Samiel had no business stuffing you there.”
Caleb grinned. His golden beauty lit up the dark corridor, and his brilliant blue eyes sparkled with humor. “For whatever reason, thank you.” Then he turned to Samiel, and his brilliant glow blazed with menace. “I greeted you as a friend, and you betrayed me. You and Zorinda.”
Samiel hurried to explain. “I only needed a little time to get my bearings, to decide what to do, then I’d have let you out. When I rebelled”—He pinned Caleb with an accusing glare— “you were supposed to join me, remember?”
“Enoch pinned me to the ground. I couldn’t.”
“While you lived in luxury, I spent decades in the pit.”
“Not long enough.” Enoch wondered why the One always forgave him.
Samiel whirled to confront him. “You’ve never liked me.”
Samiel opened his mouth to argue, then stopped, grinning. “At least, you’re honest. I wish I had whatever you see in Caleb. You’re a loyal friend.”
Enoch was tired of their chatter. “What now? Do you go home? There’s nothing for you here.”
Samiel locked gazes with Caleb. “You have to understand how I feel. I want freedom. I want a place to call my own. I’m tired of being sent off to do the One’s dirty work.”
Enoch’s stomach knotted when he saw Caleb’s face.
“I do understand,” Caleb said, “but you have to make your own way. You have to establish your own place in this world.”
“Will you give me pointers?” Samiel asked.
Enoch interrupted. Time to set rules. “Nothing that harms mortals or takes away their free will.”
Caleb’s expression revealed his inner struggle. “I’ll have to bite you, make you a vampire like me. Only blood will keep up your strength without the Light.”
“Caleb!” What was his friend thinking? How could he possibly trust Samiel—the snake in the Garden of Eden, the whisper that drove Cain to kill Abel?
Samiel turned to him, as if reading his thoughts. “The One sends me to test mortals. That’s my job, to make sure people are faithful. I don’t like my job any more than you probably like yours.”
Enoch didn’t know what to say. Samiel was right. When the One first sent him to Earth to clean up after Caleb, he’d resented it. But now? He was growing to like it here.
Samiel gave a knowing smile. “Give me a chance, Enoch. Let me find what you and Caleb have. Let me be free.”
Enoch and Caleb turned to each other. How could they condemn Samiel for wanting what they had?
“There are rules,” Enoch said. “Only sipping from mortals, no turning them against their wills. No harming them.”
Samiel nodded. “I’ll follow them.”
Would he? Enoch doubted that, but surely he deserved a chance. Still, he worried.