Exposure Level 2 - 10 | i

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Anabella was in a dark place. Benji was in a private health care facility that would provide him with the care he needed. Care that was not available in regular hospitals. He was going to make a full recovery. As soon as he was awake, Anabella instructed Hanna to—smooth things over. A boy his age did not need to have such memories. In his room in the Ungaro's private ward, he was isolated from news about his parents. If anyone slipped even the barest of details around him—the backlash would be grim. Anabella was going back on her long-held preference to keep the humans in her family at arm's length.

Carmela's circumstances remained the same. She was still behind bars. According to the human laws, she was guilty beyond any doubt. There were calls for the death penalty. Through it all, Carmela said nothing to defend herself. She refused to speak to the police, her lawyer and even Anabella. She just sat there staring in silence. Eyes puffy with tears. Anabella could access her mind to find the answers she sought but inside the police station, it was impossible. Well, more ill-advised than impossible. All the voices of reason around her told her that breaking Carmela out was a bad idea. If Carmela went missing, all eyes would turn to Anabella, and that was not the kind of attention they needed right now. She was inclined to agree, but that did not mean she liked it.

The two most crucial objectives of those who remained in Pentorium was to find Passerini and an antidote to counteract his virus. Anabella sat on her lounge chair her room pitch black. What was the purpose of all this? Of infecting the vampires, pushing them to expose what they are? Yes, it would incite public hate among the humans, cause a rift form between the species and start a race war on a level the humans have never seen but still—was there more to it? Have the humans turn against the vampires and in time the werewolves and then what? Anabella wasn't sure if there was more or if she just wanted there to be.

Though Passerini pulled the trigger, Salvay was the mastermind behind everything that was happening. Salvay was not a man to sign his name to anything without the guarantee that he would benefit. How was Salvay to profit from all this? He was also a vampire. The humans would turn on him in the same instance.

"What are you playing at you little snake," Anabella wondered aloud.

A knock at the door had her hissing. She got up to answer it. What part of do not disturb was so difficult to grasp?

"What?" Her tone was mean and clipped. Xavier, the human mercenary whom she appointed as part of her team, was on the other side. The rules of the Secrets Act were slightly bent to allow him access to Pentorium and all its secrets. In times like these, all help was welcomed.

"Mr. De Rege asked me to check on you ma'am," he said.

Xavier was a good three inches taller than Anabella. He looked like a man who could hold his own in a fight. And he had proven that he was. His dark brown eyes were intense, meeting hers without flinching. His hair, a jet-black, was tied at the nape of his neck by a leather strap. Her eyes moved to the throbbing vein in his neck, up to his lips. She forgot her initial intent to put him on blast for disturbing her.

"Are you afraid of death, Xavier?" Anabella turned, dropping her bed robe. The only thing she was wearing. She disappeared into the dark of the room leaving the silky garment in the wash of light from the hallway.

Xavier stood looking down on it.

"Are you afraid?" Anabella asked again. She could see him though he could not see her.

Taking her up on her challenge, Xavier came into the room closing the door behind him.

***

A second knock at her room door woke Anabella. Xavier shuffled in the bed beside her. Taking her robe off the floor, she went to answer. Philippe, Anabella knew, was on the other side of the door. She belted her robe around her waist before opening the door. She greeted him with a forced smile.

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