“That is a magnificent gown,” Margo said, coming up beside Kirk. “You look devastating, Philly.”
She got an equally surprising greeting from the vampire council leader. Phillida clung to Margo’s hands desperately.
“What am I going to do?”
“About what? Andres?” Kirk wanted to laugh, but something about Phillida’s demeanor held him in check. “It will pass, Philly. It always does.”
“No. This time he is serious, Kirk. He means to make her his bride. He is planning an engagement party to be held next week. They are to be wed in a month. On my birthday! And you can ask how I find this a personal rebuke?” She addressed Heinrich over her shoulder.
“I was not privy to that inf…..”
“Shut up, you idiot! Go away! When I want your sniveling, I’ll send for you.” She waved her hand impatiently at him.
Heinrich bowed and left, the look of loathing again in place as soon as Phillida’s back was turned. Kirk frowned at him, shaking his head very slightly as Margo diverted Phillida’s attention, asking about her gown. They chatted about it for a moment. Kirk took the opportunity to indicate to Heinrich he wished to speak to him later. Although not close friends, they were not enemies either. Heinrich was also a major power on the council and someone in authority needed to know about the trouble he and Drea were having.
“You may go, Petrov. I shall be fine with Kirk and Margo.”
“I shall be right outside, Mistress.”
He nodded, closing the door behind him. Phillida paced, though Margo tried repeatedly to distract her and get her to sit down. She alternated between cursing and weeping. Kirk finally stepped in front of her, halting her mid-stride.
“Phillida, dear, I have never seen you so distraught. You must calm down or you will make yourself ill. Come, sit beside me and tell us all about it. Perhaps we can talk some sense into Andres.”
“Everyone has tried!”
“Not us,” Margo said.
“Why are you being so nice? You hate me! Both of you! Are you working for him?” She grew suddenly suspicious.
“Don’t be silly,” Margo interrupted her new rant. “We knew nothing of this when we arrived here. We are completely in shock. As to why we’re being nice, I don’t know. I hate to see anyone as upset as you are. Perhaps it is because I have been badly hurt in my life that I have such sympathy with you. I do know how you feel, Phillida.”
The other woman took her hands, holding desperately. “It will do no good, but I shall tell you what I know of their meeting and subsequent courtship. Strange things have been happening in our community of late. Disappearances of some of our members led Andres to go out and investigate personally. Several of our members have pets who are models at the same agency as that girl.” She said this with such loathing, Kirk recoiled slightly from her.
“He started going to their parties, hoping to find a lead. Our people disappeared after attending the nightly soirees. At first, it was all business. Then he met her—and it all changed. She’s a complete ninny, a girl with no morals. Do you know she slept with him the first night they met?”
Margo blushed slightly, looking away from Phillida and Kirk. Andres had seduced her much the same way when he met her, as he had Drea as well. The evil old vampire could be quite persuasive when he wanted to be. Centuries of practice made him a masterful lover.
“That’s not so surprising,” Kirk said quietly. “Many women have found me charming enough to bed me the same night.” He winked at Margo.
“Don’t kid yourself,” she teased. “Not all of us are easy.”
He held up his hands in defeat. “Never mind. The point is, my dear, that is not the most damming evidence.”
“Then he started to buy her presents, flowers, chocolates. He took a ruby necklace from the safe and gave it to her. My necklace!”
Kirk knew that the necklace was, in fact, Andres’. One he’d made when he was a jeweler in Sicily three centuries ago, but he said nothing. Why draw attention to himself or interrupt her narrative?
“He continued to see her, lying over his whereabouts. Lying about what he was doing. He gave up the investigations into the disappearances and began to flaunt their relationship, openly going with her to parties. He even traveled to Milan when she was there for the spring fashion show! Milan! He never took me to Milan.”
She had been to Milan, with or without Andres, so many times, Kirk didn’t even know of them all. She was starting to lose the thread of her narrative, so Kirk brought her back.
“What of the disappearances? Has anything been discovered?”
“No. That is why I wanted to speak to you. I know that you have investigated crimes involving our people before. You were very successful. As Andres owns the modeling agency, he can arrange for you to do the catering or, as might be more effective, for you to model.”
“The girls can, not me.” Kirk protested. “I’ve got a face for radio.”
Margo giggled, hiding her laughter behind her hand. Kirk was devastatingly handsome and was well aware of it. He was also shy and didn’t like to draw attention to himself.
“If we went in as both,” Margo said. “We would have access to different areas. If Drea and I went in as models….”
“Not Drea,” Phillida said with finality. “She’s Andres’ spawn. She is not loyal to me. She would betray me.”
“No, she wouldn’t,” Kirk protested.
Margo squeezed his knee, shaking her head at him.