"I would have done this before, if I'd known it would get this kind of response," he smiled down at me after getting a few kisses and a long hug.
The night was long, though, and every leader that had coercion placed by Twylec's Ra'Ak were calling the vids contrived or false and accusing the journalist and his backers of manufacturing lies in order to further a political agenda. Yep, no matter where you are, politics and politicians are the same. Sadly, many Alliance citizens believed them, so we were at a stalemate and no better off than we were before.
"Lissa, I do not wish to alarm you, but the hotel is on fire," Reemagar interrupted my vid watching.
"Crap," I muttered. "And we haven't even had dinner, yet."
News crews were on the scene as we all trooped into the central courtyard at the hotel's insistence, while the fire stations responded to the fire in our building and the two on either side. Yeah, somebody was after me, and the journalists already had that information. They'd heard from several factions and individuals already, all claiming responsibility and all hoping that Black Mist would pay them the reward money in the event of my premature death.
Some people will do anything for money, and some people will pretend to do anything for money. Journalists were falling over themselves as they attempted to get interviews with me. They shouted stupid questions such as "Were you afraid for your life?" or, "Will this force you to leave the Conclave early?" I wanted to give them the finger, but thought of Gavin and didn't. He would view that as conduct unbecoming any vampire and be embarrassed on my behalf. It was funny, actually, that Gavin was now my conscience.
The not so good news came later, and if there's worse news than somebody trying to burn down your hotel, it's that the hotel is now kicking you out because you're a security risk. How could I blame them? It didn't do anything to improve my temper, though. I was ready to fold home and fold back in for the meetings each day. We were approached by Alliance security, however, and were assured that they had a safe facility available for our use and protection.
When I arrived at the facility (under heavy ASD guard), I figured they'd already prepared for what had just happened—there were accommodations for all my crew, including a stockpile of blood substitute shipped in from Le-Ath Veronis. The facility was windowless, belowground and quite sterile—no paintings, comforts or extra supplies were provided. It reminded me of a bomb shelter, circa 1960s Earth. We set up our shields again. The hotel staff might have been very surprised to learn that even had the rest of their hotel burned to the ground, our rooms wouldn't have been singed. That's where the shields had been placed and they would have held no matter what.
We had guards now, right outside our rooms and outside the facility, too. A lot of trouble to go to, I think, when we could have saved them the effort. I wanted to go home. Nobody wanted me on Nemizan—except the ones trying to kill me and collect the bounty. At least on Le-Ath Veronis, some of the citizens were glad to see me. Thurlow, who'd been quiet until now, looked at me as if he were reading my mind. "We can sneak away with none the wiser, Lara'Kayan. You should go if that is what you want. We can be back in plenty of time."
"All right," I nodded. "Who wants to stay and who wants to go?"
Garde, Rigo, Grant and Heathe stayed to keep up appearances; the rest of us went to Le-Ath Veronis. We hadn't been there ten minutes before the attack came.
"The mirrors are placed, brother," Zethias smiled. "They believe they are safe on the darkened half of their planet. They will learn differently in a matter of ticks." Viregruz watched the monitor—he wished to see a major portion of Le-Ath Veronis' vampires die. His brothers on Nemizan were working to bomb and then burn the Queen's hotel suite—all knew that vampires were vulnerable in a fire.
We have failed with the explosion and fire, Viregruz received mindspeech from Ringolar. It is likely her Larentii mate placed shields and we cannot compromise those. The ASD has now placed the target in an underground bunker, where it will be more difficult to reach her. Send our brothers; we will implement the other plan.
Very well, Viregruz returned. They are coming now. Viregruz turned back to his monitor after sending Zethias and Levecus to Nemizan.
Solar mirrors—many of them—carefully placed at just the right angle, directed the sun at Lissia, my capital city. Any vampire not hidden away in a darkened spot might have been fried, if it hadn't been for my Larentii's ingenious designs. I wasn't sure how they'd known to place them ahead of time, but they'd done it. Light-gathering nets, invisible to the naked eye, were placed in just the right spots and bled the reflected sunlight away, shooting it outward into space.
My attackers thought they'd kill vampires—and lots of them. My vampires didn't even realize they were under attack. Thurlow and I destroyed the solar mirrors—he knew the Larentii trick of separating the atoms, and they floated harmlessly away. The nets were left in place, however, in case someone else got the same bright idea.
"Are there any news crews fresh on the planet?" I stalked through the hallways of my palace, guards, servants, mates and comesuli trailing in my wake. I wanted to know if anybody had been notified so they could circle like vultures and record images of vampires frying. There were a few words I wanted to say to them if that was the case. Information was provided; Gavin, Tony, Drake and Drew supplied it with help from Trevor and his department, and we had six news crews in a meeting room at Adam's casino in no time flat.
"What did you know, and who told you?" I demanded, after Merrill had come to place compulsion for me. They'd all gotten information—after paying a hefty fee to a high-ranking advisor on Twylec. They didn't look comfortable, either, when I informed them that the show they'd come to see had been canceled.
"You knew something was going to happen and you failed to notify anyone." I was beginning to feel extremely angry. Turning to Gavin and Tony I hissed out, "Get Bryan." Bryan arrived quickly, with a handpicked news crew. He asked the questions, I stayed out of the picture. I was supposed to be on Nemizan, still, twiddling my fingers inside an underground bunker.
Connegar folded in and I gave him the biggest hug, after giving one to Reemagar, who was offering me the Larentii equivalent of a foolish grin. They'd protected Le-Ath Veronis. I held both their hands as the news crews spilled their guts to Bryan, and they trilled softly when I found out how bloodthirsty the journalists really were. They wanted to see death and destruction and were ready to interview guests from Casino City after happily recording vampires screaming, dying and turning to ash.
With help from my oldest vampires, I now had half a dozen news crews in front of casinos in Casino City, all telling viewers via live feeds about the crisis that had been averted on Le-Ath Veronis.
"We have no specific information," I heard one reporter say as I stood with my mates and security team, my arms crossed angrily over my chest. "We only know from an unidentified source on Twylec that an attack was planned, and someone among the news crews passed information to the authorities so the attempt could be prevented."
Bryan had one of his vampire reporters there, and he was asking questions. We hadn't told the news crews to spill their guts to him so he was getting the runaround, but he knew it was coming. He asked the questions anyway, and anyone watching the newsfeeds would see evasive reporters. The information that I'd wanted to be passed along was given out—that Twylec had somehow been behind all this. When the newsfeeds and interviews were over, we sent the news crews packing—Trevor and his department made sure they were loaded up and moved off world in as little time as possible.
Viregruz cursed and then proceeded to destroy his private study. His brothers would have to destroy the bitch Queen, but their plans included destroying Nemizan with her. No matter—in the aftermath, the Reth Alliance would be scrambling, making it easy for him and Solar Red to take it over. New leaders would come quickly and more le'meruh would be implemented. Viregruz calmed himself and sent for a Blood Captain. Prylvis would be notified and Solar Red would prepare to send out more Ra'Ak priests at a moment's notice. The Reth Alliance would be theirs—sooner than anticipated.
"Thank goodness that's done," I muttered as Gavin followed me to my suite. I was shocked to find Roff and his brother, Markoff, waiting outside the door.
"Lissa, Giff's child has come," Roff said. I stared at him. He should be with her, celebrating. He seemed sad and upset instead.
"What's wrong?" I said immediately. Markoff's face reflected the emotion displayed by Roff, so I knew something had happened.
"Rolfe is trying to convince her otherwise, but well," Roff stared at his shoes.
"What my brother is attempting to say," Markoff took up the conversation, "is that Giff fears for her child. She knows of your father's betrayal and interference, and of the price on your head. She refuses to allow you near the child. She worries that Toff will not be the only child taken. I know this is a blow, and I have her resignation," Markoff handed an envelope to me.
I stared in shock at the envelope now in my hand. It was addressed to me—in Giff's hand. "The baby is all right?" I looked up at Roff.
"Yoff is fine." His face looked gray. The baby was fine—I just couldn't see him. Giff wouldn't allow it. If a more crushing blow could be delivered at the end of that long and awful day, I didn't know what it might be.
"Rolfe is trying to convince her that this is foolish," Roff held out a hand.
"Tell him not to bother. I'm going back to Nemizan, now." I folded away before anyone could stop me.
I'd wondered why Giff hadn't come to see me after I'd told her about Toff. Well, Griffin wasn't done harming me yet. He'd saved Wyatt at Toff's expense, and the expense of everyone around him. Since he'd broken the rules and interfered, there was no telling how many ripples that act had created, or how many lives might be affected before those ripples stopped somewhere. I intended to go to Nemizan, just as I'd said, but I took a detour, first.