I had never explained my actions to the Council, and I wasn’t going to start now. But Tristan was my friend, and I respected him too much to not tell him what he wanted to know.
“I would have invited Denis’s team along, but you know how busy those guys are down there. Chris and I did our due diligence, and we knew exactly what we were facing when we went in. A nest of seven vampires is nothing we haven’t faced before.”
Tristan nodded. “The Council says you should have followed protocol and called in one of the teams from Houston or Atlanta once you located the nest.”
“We could have, but we would have been too late to save those two human teenagers. And saving human lives is our first priority, is it not?”
“It is.” His fingers tapped out a rhythm on the arm of the chair. “I’m required to tell you that you are too valuable to risk your life needlessly. And that you must follow procedure next time you are in a similar situation.”
“Now that we have that out of the way.” He smiled and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “How was New Orleans?”
“Busy. We helped Denis’s people with a lamprey infestation, and we raided a gulak operation that was breeding bazerats. They could use some more people down there.”
“I’ll bring it up to the Council.”
“Good.” I knew Denis would have another team at his disposal by the end of the week.
Tristan gave me an amused look. “Surely it wasn’t all work and no play. It is New Orleans after all.”
I shrugged. “We ate, we drank, we listened to some good music. Chris got to know the locals a little better.”
The two of us laughed because we knew how much his nephew loved getting to know the locals. Chris treated the females well, and he never made any promises he couldn’t keep. He’d left a trail of pining hearts from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
“I heard Vivian is there for two weeks. Did you see her?”
“Yes. We spent some time catching up. It was great to see her again.”
He smiled fondly. There were few who knew Viv and didn’t like her. “Why didn’t you stay on a few more days with her? You didn’t need to rush back here.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Careful. You are dangerously close to sounding like my mother.”
My mother had two missions in her life: protecting humanity and seeing me happily settled. After almost two hundred years, you’d think she would let the second one go.
“Irina wants her son to be happy. It’s what every parent wishes for their child.” Sadness flickered in Tristan’s eyes, and I knew he was thinking about Madeline. Over fifty years had passed since she’d left, but she was never far from her father’s thoughts.
“I am happy,” I grumbled.
He chuckled and looked around. “How long are you planning to stay this time?”
“Three or four days and then Chris wants to visit Longstone. From there, who knows?”
“Sometimes I envy you, my friend.”
“I keep telling you to come with us. Claire is more than capable of managing Westhorne in your absence.” And the Council would learn to deal with it. They deferred too much to Tristan as it was. The Seven ruled together, but at times they treated him like their unofficial leader.
“One of these days I’ll take you up on that.” He ran his hand through his blond hair. “How would you feel about postponing your trip to Oregon? We’ve received word of a possible vampire problem in Maine, and I was hoping you would look into it.”
“Maine? That’s werewolf territory. Vampires usually avoid that place like the plague.”
“True, but there have been a number of disappearances in Portland in recent weeks. Four human girls have gone missing with no trace, all close to the same age. The authorities there have no evidence or leads. I might have dismissed it if we hadn’t also gotten word of several dead bodies with animal attack listed as the cause of death.”
“Do we have anyone in Portland now?” We didn’t keep a permanent Mohiri presence in Maine because it was usually very quiet there.
“Erik’s team is in Boston and they’ve been monitoring the situation, but they haven’t found anything. We considered the possibility that the deaths could have been caused by a rogue wolf, but the werewolves would have dealt with it by now.”
I rubbed my jaw. “Erik’s good. If he can’t find any leads, what makes you think I can?”
Tristan smiled. “Because you are the best at finding things when no one else can.”
“Now you’re just trying to butter me up.”
“Is it working?”
“Maybe.” He had piqued my curiosity, and he knew it. Mysterious disappearances in a quiet place like Portland, that was the kind of job I couldn’t resist. “I’m sure Chris won’t mind waiting a week or so to visit Longstone.”
“Good.” He clasped his hands together. “Perhaps you should take a team with you, just in case.”
I laughed at his not-so-subtle attempt to get me to comply with the Council’s wishes. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary. I’m sure this is nothing Chris and I haven’t handled before.”
“Famous last words, my friend.”
The corner of my mouth lifted. “You’ll see. We’ll be in and out of Maine in no time.”
“Looks quiet here, Nikolas.”
I glanced at Chris and went back to studying the occupants of the club. He was right. This crowd was mostly college students who were more interested in dancing and hooking up than doing something nefarious. But Intel had identified this club as a place of interest because it was close to where the teenage girl had disappeared last Saturday. And our guys were rarely wrong.
“Let’s give it another ten minutes, and then we’ll head out.”
Chris nodded and turned away to do another slow circuit of the room. “I’ll meet you back here in ten.”
I leaned against the wall, ignoring the restlessness plaguing me since we’d arrived at the club an hour ago. Five days in Portland without a lead on the vampires who’d taken those four girls. The vampires were still in the city; of that I was certain. There’d been several other deaths since we’d arrived in town, vagrants who did not make the five o’clock news. These vampires were good at staying out of sight even as they made their presence known. What I wanted to know was what had brought them to Portland, and why were they still here?