A/N Thank you to my wonderful beta MissAlex for continuing to stick with this even though I've barely updated :)

Chapter 24

The Powers That Be


I let him go. I let him scurry away scared; scared but alive.

The boy didn't understand that he was already as good as dead. By my hand or James', it didn't matter. Although if my plan went smoothly, it would be death by James as I'd be too busy with Alice.

A smile curled my lips.

Alice. My sweet, sweet Alice. James was wrong to want her. She was mine. I'd seen her first.

I watched as lunch disappeared around the corner. No matter, I'd had enough for now. The boy's blood was no loss, it had never really sung to me as Alice's did, but now wasn't time to play cat and mouse. I had to see James.

Inhaling deeply, I let the remnants of the boy swirl from around my nostrils to the back of my throat. My eyes fluttered in ecstasy. It may not sing, but it still tasted divine.

I pushed away from the wall with my elbows, letting my long, confidant stride carry me down the corridor.

No more games. It was time to claim what was mine.

Making my way quickly to the basement, I silently went over my plan before burying it deep in the back of my mind; it would do me no good to let James smell my deceit so soon. He didn't really want her. He only wanted her because I wanted her. The fact that I'd claimed her as my mate, that she belonged to me, made him want her even more. He got off on the hunt. To him, it was a game, a dangerous one for us both. I tried to let him think he could have her, hoping that by letting him believe she was nothing to me, he would become disinterested in her. But no, he knew. He could smell my want, and he wanted her all the more because of it.

Disgust tasted bitter in my mouth. He already had a mate. It was my turn... and she would be mine.

He was sitting on the mattress with Mary crouched between his thighs when I rounded the corner. His eyes burnt red as they flicked away from her neck to greet me. I let him finish his meal, settling myself on the stool across the room. I propped my feet onto the boxes in front of me and waited.

I heard a satisfied snarl as James pushed Mary away and stood up. In two strides he was across the room, our eyes locked as he sat on the stool opposite me.

"Well?" he demanded. My eyes acknowledged Mary, who lay motionless on the floor. "Don't worry so, Laurent. I merely took a little more than I should have." He dismissed the girl with a nod of his head and swiped his hand over his mouth, removing the remains of dark liquid from his bottom lip.

"Well?" he repeated. His eyes bore into mine. He cocked his head to the side, "Laurent," he said, putting the correct accent to my name. "Don't have me beg." His ruby red eyes shone with twisted merriment as I cleared my throat.

"I want her a little while longer. She's such a pretty little thing." I let out a listless sigh. I knew that this would start a chain of events that there would be no going back from.

He was getting impatient and I doubted I could keep Alice for myself much longer. I was lucky he liked to play these silly power games. We'd played this before, many, many years ago before we became a coven, and him the master of it.

I swallowed, biting back my eagerness. "You have no need for her yet. Let me toy with her a little more before you end her life." I lowered my gaze, a subtle sign of submission although I could hardly bear it.

Slowly, slowly catch the monkey.

"You shouldn't play me so, Laurent." His voice was firm but his eyes still shone. "You can't keep her... but you can loan her awhile." His gaze didn't leave mine. He was waiting, shoulders hunched and ears pulled back. Ready.

"…and in return?" I questioned. With James there was always a price.

"The fact that you'll owe me is payment enough." He sighed heavily and stood up. "You have a few weeks then we're leaving. I'm bored. This not killing the humans affects me greatly." He shook his head wildly, rubbing his hands over his face.

I raised an eyebrow. "Indeed it does."

"Leave and take Mary with you," James instructed. "Victoria will be back shortly and I could do without the headache." And with that I was dismissed.

Victoria. She'd been mine too, but James had wanted what wasn't his to have. But not this time. This time victory would be mine.

I hid my excitement with a sigh and swallowed down the hunger that suddenly burnt my throat. I'd be glad to leave this place. I'd seen enough crazy to last me two lifetimes. It was a shame I couldn't leave the craziest of them all behind.

I walked over to where Mary remained sprawled out on the floor. The burn intensified as the slow steady rhythm of her heart caught me in its web.

I hesitated. I only needed a quick bite. I'd had a sip from the boy but not enough to kill the hunger. Glimpsing James' puncher marks, I rolled my eyes. It was always the neck. James hated hiding; the neck was a show of his defiance.

Sitting down on the old couch, I pulled her limp body toward me. Slowly, I pushed down her tee-shirt, my fingers gently grazing the taut skin of her neck. My fangs extended and sank smoothly into the flesh of her shoulder. My eyes closed. I took two pulls then let the thick red goodness slip down my throat before opening them again. James' laughter ricocheted off the walls as I pushed her from me. I took her by the scruff of her neck, and then exited the basement. I disposed of Mary not long after. She was awake but docile and quiet. It was one of the reasons she'd survived so long. She knew how to play dead.

Without having to worry about James, I returned to the seclusion block to see Alice. I was glad of the boy's distraction, otherwise I may have shown my hand too soon. As it was, Alice was now mine for the taking.