Archangel's Prophecy (Page 56)
Ignoring the sofas in the living area, Elena walked to the large sliding doors that led out onto a small balcony. Jade obligingly opened them for her, and they stepped out to speak in the cold winter air.
She spotted two of the Legion on the walls of the building, one on either side of the balcony. Jade, however, didn’t seem to notice their motionless gray presence. “I’m guessing this has to do with good old Harry Ling?”
“You keep track of him?”
“I have better things to do than spend my time on that pissant.” Jade sniffed and straightened the cuffs of the pristine white shirt he wore under the tailored lines of his suit jacket. “But I keep my ear to the ground—I heard someone finally got tired of his brand of a*s and tried to slit his useless throat.”
Jade clearly didn’t know her link to Harrison. Elena had been careful not to broadcast her family connections; newspapers and magazines that tried to run articles on Beth or Jeffrey or their tragic family history invariably received a visit from a cold-eyed senior angel or vampire—and had learned to leave that hot potato alone.
It was the one point on which Elena had no scruple in using Tower might. She wasn’t about to put her family and friends in an enemy’s sights when she could keep them out. Not that the information wasn’t out there. People just had to dig to find it.
It was obvious Jade hadn’t bothered. A stroke of luck for her. “No fan of Harrison’s, then?” she prodded.
Jade brushed off the snow that had settled on the balcony railing. “Why else would you be here? You know Harrison tattle-taled on me to Andreas.” Leaning one arm on the clean railing, he looked at her with eyes gone hard as gemstones. “Andreas is not a forgiving angel.”
“Where were you when Harrison was attacked?” Elena asked point-blank, then gave him the date and time of the assault.
Jade frowned . . . before flashing a smile wide enough to show fang. “I have an alibi. Fucker picked a perfect day to nearly get dead—otherwise I might’ve been working alone in my apartment.” Retrieving his phone, he brought up a photograph of a pretty black woman wearing pink lipstick that matched her pink dress, her gaze coy and her lashes long. “I was on a date with this sweet thing.”
“You have her contact information?”
“Sure—we met on Fang Love.”
“The vampire dating site?” Elena looked him up and down. “Why do you need a dating site?” Jade might have sticky fingers, but he also had the sexy-danger thing going on and he had money to burn.
He ran his hand down his lapel, his smile pleased at the implied compliment. “I work and work. No time to meet women in the clubs—and I want to meet a nice girl, not one of the barflies. Senataye and I went to that little blood café in Soho.”
That “little blood café” was part of Elena’s accidental business investment that had struck a vein of gold. What had started off as a source of cheap blood in the Vampire Quarter had expanded into multiple outlets across the country—including a high-end boutique in Soho that offered premium blood and was open twenty-four hours a day.
Marcia Blue, the publicity-shy brains behind the entire thing, was already planning blood café world domination.
Elena knew their properties had surveillance cameras, so Jade’s alibi would be easy enough to check. She also knew that a vampire as wealthy as Jade could’ve hired an assassin to do the dirty work for him—however, that didn’t dovetail with the personal nature of the threat against Beth and Maggie. “Why didn’t you ever go after Harrison?”
“Well, first,” Jade said, “I was too busy begging and screaming at Andreas that I was sorry.” His face hardened again, eyes flat. “Then, after I’d healed enough to get even, the imbecile ran off on his half-witted escape attempt.”
No one, Elena thought, should be able to switch moods that quickly. “Talking of imbeciles—stealing from Andreas? What were you on?”
He groaned. “High on my own bullshit. I want to go back in time and slap myself stupid.”
“I like you better for owning your idiocy.” In reality, she was fairly sure Jade was a sociopath with very little actual empathy for anyone beyond himself.
“It was either that or stay an idiot like Harry.” Snorting, he looked out over the snow-blanketed shadows of Central Park. “By the time a hunter dragged him back home, and Andreas got through with punishing him, time was dragging on. Because then, I had to wait for him to heal, because what use was it beating him to a pulp if he started off as pulp anyway?”
Laughter that melted the green and made her understand why nice-girl Senataye had accepted a date with a man who probably saw her as a trophy. “And then, when he finally wasn’t a sack of broken bones anymore, I had my fingers in other pies.” An avaricious gleam in his eyes. “That was when I realized the smug s**t had done me a favor. After Andreas terminated my contract, I couldn’t even get a job cleaning toilets. Angels blacklisted me.”
“Big, fat motive right there. Lots of prestige working for a senior angel.”
“Sure, but a lot more prestige being a big man on my own.” Jade flashed his fangs. “I was f****d after clearing my debt to Andreas, lived on cheap blood, and used what funds I had left to set up an online gaming enterprise designed for long plays, bets that last years. It. Took. Off.”
Taking out his phone again, the vampire showed her his figures. “No other site caters to immortal gamblers like this, and the best thing is, I collect my money from every angle. Registration fee, per-bet fee, yearly renewal fees for long bets, cut of final winnings. And the membership keeps growing.”
Elena folded her arms. “You’re telling me you got too busy to worry about vengeance? Like Andreas, you don’t seem the forgiving type.”
“I know, I know, it sounds like pure bull.” Jade held up his hands. “But I like money and the power that comes with it—that’s what got me in trouble in the first place. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy pounding on Harry if he appeared in front of me, but I’m not going to waste my valuable time hunting him down.”
“Say I believe you,” Elena said, because the money angle did make sense in light of his personality. “If you didn’t have any reason to harm Harrison, do you know anyone else who did?”
“No one with enough balls to creep into his house and slit his throat,” he said after several seconds’ thought. “And when his kid could’ve walked in on it? Ice f*****g cold.” Elena didn’t think she was imagining the hint of admiration in his tone. “I was the only big fish he tried to sink. Others were all small fry, admin, maids, trainees. No one dangerous or physically inclined.”
Elena felt like kicking the balcony railing. She found Jade disturbing, but her instincts said he was telling her the truth.
Another dead end.
“I have been a bad host.” Jade straightened. “May I offer you a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee, if you prefer?”
“No. I’ll be on my way.” She’d tell Vivek to keep an eye on Jade electronically, see if he made any questionable moves financial or otherwise, but she didn’t expect Vivek to turn up anything relevant to the murders. “Thank you for your time.”