Lot meets the new Coven Master and dabbles in politics.
London – 1844
The couches at the Coven Master’s house were too low for the fellas. Tomas, the new master, was sitting with his legs so far apart he could’ve engulfed a frigate and Bran’s legs were folded at an uncomfortable angle. The last time we’d been there I’d killed five vampires and knocked over the previous Coven Master, so the tension in the air might not have solely been the seating arrangements.
The maid finished pouring tea into three delicate cups on a silver tray perched on an end table. She handed a cup to Tomas, bobbed politely, then passed another to Bran and bobbed. She stared at me, she might never have met female vampire before. I hadn’t.
I winked at her. She blushed and hurried out the room.
Tomas watched, one eyebrow arched with a sardonic elegance Josef would’ve been proud of. ‘Have you any intentions of becoming a Coven Master?’
I stirred my tea with a spoon that looked tiny in my small hands, Bran’s looked like a toothpick. ‘I have a house full of children, that’s enough childishness to be putting up with, thank you.’
‘A woman who comes in and knocks a master down like a skittle seems to be one who would prefer directness,’ he observed.
I sipped my tea. ‘Sending your note to my husband was very indirect.’
His lips twitched. ‘Legally you are your husband’s property.’
Bran’s teacup rattled, he bent down to pick up his spoon and smiled apologetically.
Tomas’ gaze was fixed on me, searching. ‘It’s only polite to ask his permission to speak to you.’
‘I’m my own,’ I said.
‘As am I,’ he replied.
He smiled. ‘The Saracen turns vampires so rarely I would expect one of his to be nothing less than exceptional. Not all younglings could down a master.’
I bumped my leg against Bran’s. He was staring at the cup clasped in his lap, his head bowed as if he was trying to hide behind his escaped hair.
I balanced my teacup on my knee and reached across the back of the couch to caress the nape of his neck. ‘You want to be direct, be direct.’
Tomas set his cup on the couch beside him. ‘A smart man removes a threat, a wise one befriends it.’
I smiled. ‘I never met a wise man.’
Tomas glanced at Bran. I rested my hand, claws extended, on the arm of the couch. Tomas inclined his head. I flexed my fingers and my claws retracted. Bran watched us from the corner of his eye.
‘Why’d you summon me?’ I asked. ‘I don’t think you’re worried I could overthrow you.’
His power throbbed inside him brighter than Bran’s, it stung my eyes when I tried to look. With the previous master I’d had surprise and sheer gall on my side, it wasn’t a trick I could pull twice, from the way Tomas watched me it wouldn’t have worked once on him.
‘I was born a slave,’ he said. ‘I have no intention of making slaves of others.’ His gaze fixed on my scarred hands. ‘I suspect you feel the same.’
I turned one hand over giving him an unobstructed view of my scars. ‘Governments should help people up. Not stamp on them when they’re down.’
‘Then I think our interests are aligned, Mrs O’Connor.’ He sat forward. ‘The world needs to change and people like us are the ones to do it.’
‘People like us?’ I asked.
‘Those The Empire likes to keep under the boot.’
I sipped my tea thoughtfully.
‘If you are interested in joining The Coven a Master always needs an Enforcer of a similar mind,’ he said.
I shrugged. ‘Bowing to authority isn’t my strong suit.’
Tomas smiled. ‘I’m much the same myself. I would expect you to work with me, not for me. I’m not one of the old masters.’ He glanced at Bran. ‘My vampires are not my playthings.’
‘Not interested.’ I drained my tea.
For all his words I wasn’t convinced Tomas was interested in an alliance with a baby vampire. Now, Josef was a vampire anyone would want an alliance with. There I was, whether his fledgling or his lover, a potential route into his good graces.
Tomas sighed when it became clear there wasn’t a ‘but’ coming. ‘Perhaps you’ll change your mind as we get to know each other.’
‘Perhaps.’ I traced my fingertip around the lip of my cup. ‘People don’t tend to work with me, they just decide it’s better not to get in my way.’
Tomas laughed, it came from deep within his barrel chest. ‘With that ferocious look in your eyes I’m not surprised. No wonder Josef loves you.’
‘That’s a leap.’
His chuckle was a rumble. ‘He signed away his influence to protect you. It’s definitive.’
Bran looked up.
My teacup shattered against the floorboards. ‘What?’
Read more episodes of Nine Shillings or Lot’s first adventure, Victorian Mistress, here.
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