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In a blink, the demon disappeared into the silhouette of the smoke stack. Then, Rhiannon felt slender fingers brushing along her shoulder, slow and coy. She spun to find Vivienne lounging happily on her stomach atop another chimney, slipped there through the shadows without a sound. “What we have heard about you,” she said, “is far from rumor.”
Rhiannon jerked away. “Don’t touch me.”
The corner of Vivienne’s smile twitched, for a moment becoming hard, an irritated scowl.
“Your kind is only the Fourth Blood of the Drogh Lord’s kingdom,” she hissed.
“The werewolves and shadiil came long before vampires. We are older than even the oldest of your race, gravespawn, something you and your mother would do well to keep in mind.” Rhiannon bristled at the insult.
“Older than vampires, but still the spawn of beasts,” she spat.
“Rife with a touch of madness because of it, I’d say.” Vivienne fell silent, searching Rhiannon carefully.
“They say you have been mad once.” Rhiannon’s spine straightened. A wary prickle traveled through her shoulders and a low growl started deep in her throat.
“Drank the blood of another vampire, didn’t you?” the shadiil purred.
“Drained a rival warrior to death, just as a rabid thrall does, and lost your pretty little mind.” Rhiannon’s hand returned to the hilt of her blade.
“You haven’t exactly been the same since then, have you, Rhiannon Donovan?”
“It’s a lie,” she muttered.
“I am not a thrall. I know my own mind and I am not rabid!” Vivienne’s smirk returned, as if renewed by the anger she’d provoked. She slid her knees out from under her and dropped to the rooftop, backing Rhiannon down.
“You were expected to become the first Archon in the history of the Blood Circle Council to bear four fangs,” she said.
“A vampire colder and crueler than any ever squirted out from between her dam’s thighs. Colder and crueler than most who were sired with a bite, perhaps. What happened to you, Rhiannon Donovan? Where did your strict, disciplined focus and cold-blooded dedication go? Where is the tigre méchant et sanguinaire, the malicious and bloodthirsty tiger?”
“Back away, shadiil,” the vampire spat.
“I am still a Weapons master.” Vivienne stopped, tilting her head, scanning Rhiannon up and down with giddy cruelty.
“They were wrong about you,” she said.
“You are no Archon.”
“It no longer matters to me if I am.” Green eyes glittered.
“My race knows better, little Rhiannon. My queen knows better. You will throw off every expectation the bloodsuckers have of you. You will throw off every expectation everyone has of you. You are no Archon at heart.” She stood close enough that her pretty, elfin nose almost touched Rhiannon’s. The vampire realized she’d stopped growling, caught off guard by those glowing, hypnotic eyes.
“Non, non, Rhiannon. At heart, you are nothing less than a Councilwoman herself.” Rhiannon snorted. “You are the one who is mad, shadiil,” she muttered, turning to slip down the way she had come.
“Run off. Let me hunt in peace.”
“I am not teasing you, ma chérie,” Vivienne said with a smile.
“This is what the seers have told us: you will become the greatest vampire among all vampires.” “Your seers are blind.” With a cold rush of shadows, the other demon appeared out of the darkness before her, materialized in the silhouette of the window casement.
“Enough of grand talk then, since it bothers you so,” she murmured.
“Reconsider hunting with me. We will find this beast and put it in the ground. You can go back to your race a hero and get back on the path you pursued so hungrily before you lost your mind.”
“I didn’t lose my mind!” Rhiannon insisted, pushing past her.
“The shadiil prides of London and our werewolf allies will be far more helpful to you than your own kind. We are not so busy prattling about the blame and covering up our blunders. You will find us to be far more pleasant company.”
“I don’t want company.”
“Arrêtez, ma cher...wait.” Rhiannon paused, another growl escaping her. Vivienne strolled up to her side.
“May I see your teeth, ma beau chérie?” Rhiannon sneered.
“What?” Vivienne lunged, putting her soft hands to Rhiannon’s face and nudging her lips away from her teeth. As the curious beast inspected the bracketed fangs in eyeteeth and canines, her smile quirked up at the corners even more. She started to purr, her tongue peeking out to run over her dark lips.
“Oh...they are most lovely, bastard child,” she murmured, stroking one hand along Rhiannon’s cheek.
“So lovely, I could almost bite you myself, and send you home to your mother with my naughty teeth marks all over your tight little body.”