18.2 | The Vigil Never Ends

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When Ren returned to Dimitrovich Manor, much earlier than anticipated, he was appalled to find it dark and empty.

As he stormed toward Viktor's house, which pulsed and glowed with merriment, he ground his teeth in anger.

He'd been in a bad mood to begin with tonight. Misha had dragged him all the way to that warehouse, dropping conspiracy theories about Emil, and they hadn't found anything. Not a single clue.

Ren supposed he should have been happy that Emil was in the clear, but he'd been gone for thirty-six sleepless hours. He wanted to rest and shower, not hunt down Nika.

And the fact that she'd vanished wasn't even the main problem. The manor was empty. Where were the keepers he'd assigned to guard her?

He didn't waste a second when he arrived next door, dodging past drunken youth until he located the nearest keeper.

"Minister Kostopoulos," Ren demanded over the music. "I need to see him."

He was guided to a lounge, where Viktor reclined on a low-lying couch and purred at pretty faces. Ren held his breath, lest he inhaled the drug-infused smoke threading through the air. When his glare settled on the golden-haired prick, a tense quiet befell them.

"Romanovich." Viktor's debonair drawl made his hackles rise. "Last time we spoke, I believe you rejected an invitation to my bed."

A mixture of amused chuckles and suggestive hums rippled through the other revelers. Viktor took a drag from a long, curved pipe, and despite his heavy-lidded eyes, he managed to look utterly complacent.

"Get out."

The growl tore through Ren. He didn't have the patience for Viktor's games tonight. The party-goers had the good sense to flee, leaving Ren alone with the Rogue Minister. Which hadn't been a situation he desired to find himself in. Ever.

"Where is she?"

Viktor squinted, blowing rings of smoke into the air. "And here I thought this was a booty call."

Ren's nostrils flared. "I'm going to give you five seconds to answer my question before I do something that gets me fired. Lucky for me, I'm a highly sought-after keeper, so I won't stay unemployed for long."

A scoff. "You wouldn't—"

In a heartbeat, Ren had him by the collar of a pretentious silk shirt. Dragging Viktor to his full height was like plucking a dandelion from the field.

"Where is she?"

Viktor's throat bobbed. "I assume you mean Nika." Ren's only confirmation was a throaty growl. "She left."

"To go where?"

"Another party, outside headquarters."

Shit. This would be a much longer night than Ren had hoped for. Damn it, Nika.

"How long ago?"

Viktor blinked rapidly. "Uhhh...twenty minutes?"

With a huff, Ren shoved him back onto the couch, and he was gone before Viktor could wink or whistle.

He didn't bother going into Dimitrovich Manor again, instead spearing for the detached garage. If Nika was heading outside of headquarters, she would've needed a vehicle.

Surely enough, Ren discovered, she'd taken one of Markos's SUVs.

It was a small mercy, and Ren hailed his gratitude to the Oldbloods as he yanked his phone from his pocket. A tracking device was mandatory in all Ministry vehicles, and as Markos's head keeper, Ren had access to the system. A red blot on the map indicated she was still on the highway, aiming toward human territory, by the looks of it.

He opened his contacts, a thumb hovering over Markos's name, then hesitated, considering all that Misha had told him, all of Nika's secret meetings and escape plans.

Ren closed his contacts and pulled up the map again, watched the red marker steadily moving toward a small city. No, he wasn't going to inform her father, he wasn't going to stop her.

This time, he was going to follow.

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