The Plot Thickens - 8 | ii

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Ava's concern about going to Pentorium fell on deaf ears. According to the others, the vampires would just have to learn to play nice. They were all in this together despite the conflicts of the past. Ava could not help but consider the fact that this mess was all of her doing. In her overzealous attempt at gaining equality for her people, she triggered a vicious war. Many lives were lost and from the ashes, a greater monster was born. Two monsters. Make that four—the King, Sven, Salvay, and Passerini. Her actions have had destructive consequences, and she could not blame the vampires for not being able to look or see past that. One had to be there to witness and understand the full extent of the devastation.

With Marx unable to take point, she was at the front of the line. She was now Marx's reluctant second in command. Ava was not sure when she inherited the title, but it appeared that the position has been hers for some time. While she was away, Roan was in charge of the happenings on the Mountain. Scouts scattered across the wooded acres to keep a constant vigil.

Ava followed the directions Vescovi gave her to find his home. She knocked feeling out of place as she waited for an answer. Vescovi's Butler was the one to open the door his lips in a thin line.

"Your highness."

He bowed stepping aside to allow her entry.

"I am not a queen," she said, moving pass him into the foyer.

"May I take your cloak?"

"No," Ava said. "Thank you."

She followed him as he led her to the others. They were in the drawing room waiting for her. Vescovi was the only one to approach her in greeting. He held out his hand, and she looked down at it.

"I cannot touch you," she told him.

"Ah, yes. My apologies. Please, sit." He gestured to the empty chair beside the one he was occupying when she came in.

Sitting down Ava took note of the scornful looks the other two gave her. No. It was a good thing she was not holding on to hope of forgiveness. They had to live through that, and now they were wading through the murky aftermath. Ava knew she would hate herself too if the roles were reversed. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

Vescovi cleared his throat breaking the awkward silence in the room before saying, "How is Marx?"

"Alive," Ava said. Vescovi raised an eyebrow, and she scrambled for something else to say. "And well." She was not 'emissary' material. Her definition of diplomatic talks was sucking the soul from her enemies. "His journey continues."

"And yours brought you here," Anabella said. "Why?"

Ava wanted to put the woman in her place, but she bit her tongue. "I was informed that some matters should be discussed in person."

"Such as?" Philippe asked. His tone was less hostile, but his eyes—they told another story.

"Penny found Sven's location. He's with Salvay at his mansion."

The three looked around at each other.

"You mentioned the possibility of her being able to track him," Vescovi said.

"And she did."

"I can scramble a team in five minutes—"

Vescovi held up a hand cutting Anabella off. "That would be premature."

"Premature?" Anabella asked. "We know where they are. We can take them."

"Things are already touch and go, Anabella. Tensions are already building to a boil. We need not push it any further until it is necessary."

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