Sitting next to Erin in their small office at Praesidium’s headquarters, felt colder than being in Albania’s biting night air. She hadn’t acknowledged his presence even though he’d tried to speak to her twice and quite frankly, was starting to get on Zach’s nerves.
“I’m the only one you’re going to single out for this bullshit?” he asked, taking off his jacket and cranking up the air conditioning. Erin might be giving him the chills emotionally, but he’d gotten accustomed to the colder climes and now his body felt as though it was overheating as they waited for Damian. His partner’s expression remained indifferent and he threw his hands up,
“I’m not going to do this with you anymore Erin, like really, what the fuck? Don’t you think I would have told you if I could?”
Erin turned slowly towards him, disbelief mixing with resentment that he’d heard from her, lacing her tone as she spoke, “What. The. Rasshole. Are you kidding me right now?”
Zach was surprised. He’d only heard Erin use that word a few times before and it was always when she was beyond irate and it’d never been directed at him. It was Barbadian profanity and the one time she’d explained it and the many ways it could be used, both good and bad, Zach had long ago decided it wasn’t one of those that he’d want to experience in the latter instance.
First time for everything, he thought and softened his tone, “I felt like I was doing the right thing, I’m sorry I hurt you but—”
Erin turned on him again, “Hurt me? I’m sorry, but when did we enter some teen drama? You betrayed me and you did it for months not caring for one minute how it’d make me feel.”
Zach stood and paced the floor, trying hard to temper his rising emotions. “You can’t be serious. All did was think about how it’d make you feel, I even tried to get out of it, but this is our job Erin, we do as we’re told, at least some of us do.”
Erin jumped to her feet just as angrily, looking at him squarely, making him stand still to face her. “Oh sure, turn this all around on me, I should just feel fantastic that my upstanding, grade A partner here does everything by the book no questions asked, well last time I checked, you’re supposed to look out for your partner, not go behind their back and screw them over.”
Zach threw his hands into the air again, “I’m fucking done. When the fuck did I ever screw you over? I’ve covered for you, kept you out of lockup more than once, done loads of things I never would have on jobs and gotten into masses of trouble constantly all because of you, and now you have the fucking gall to say I screwed you over? What a bloody laugh.”
Erin opened her mouth to say something else, but Zach turned away. He slumped into the chair at his desk, the conversation over for him. He didn’t want to hear any more of her baseless accusations and if she wanted to continue arguing, she could do it with someone else.
“You two don’t intend to kiss and make up then?” Damian entered the office, looking just as grave as they both felt.
“You were listening,” Erin observed. No wonder he’d excused himself just as she’d arrived. He’d left her and Zach to hash things out and work out their issues before doing anything else.
“Plan didn’t work,” Zach added, catching on.
Damian slammed his fist on the nearest table and broke into one of his tirades. “You lot listen to me. Your petty shite ends here, do you hear me? You’re not getting split up and you’ll be working together for a while, so sort it, to fuck, out. Do you hear me?” He looked at each of them in turn, their petulant nods no better than children. Damian pulled up another chair and motioned Erin to sit. “No one’s filled you in yea?” he asked her.
“No,” she replied, shaking her head. She’d heard bits and pieces of what was going on, but with the staff running around as though they’d lost their heads, it had been hard to get full sentences out of anyone. Damian began to speak, then as if thinking better of it, he opened the floor to Zach instead.
“Ms. Monroe’s daughter—”
“You mean Lauren,” Erin interjected and Zach ignored her. She was always on his case for referring to their superiors by titles.
“She’s gone missing and has been for a few days now, almost as long as you were with Jacob.” He didn’t look at her, could feel her annoyance as she stared daggers at him.
“Any leads?” Erin asked, directing her question at Damian.
“The boy’s all over it, you can ask ‘im.”
Damian you cheeky bastard, Zach thought.
Erin’s gaze settled on her partner, “Well?”
Zach could think of many things he wanted to say to that little word … he gave into his sensible side instead. “There was a note left in Ms. Monroe’s bedroom, she says it’s in Lisbet’s handwriting, but the analysis hasn’t come back from the lab yet. We’ll know soon if it was really her who wrote it.”
“What’d it say?” she asked.
Damian interjected, “‘Don’t look for me, I don’t want to be found’”
“Doesn’t mean it’s her that wrote it, someone could have made her,” Erin said thoughtfully.
“We’ve considered that and would be running with it if it wasn’t for this.” Zach handed a file to Erin, who refrained from snatching it from him.
She opened it, its contents giving her pause, “Is that?”
“Yes, Nikolai.” Nikolai Henrikson was Lisbet’s father. He was a vampire of the highest order who had fathered two dhampirs, Lisbet and her half-brother Aleksander. Though Lauren and Nikolai were on good terms, it was with the understanding that he would have no contact with Lisbet, an agreement made before she was born. However, the photographs Erin now held in her hands, showed the seventeen-year-old Lisbet with her brother and father, laughing together at a small eatery near her private school, the time dates scattered over a period of more than six months.
“They’ve been in contact for a while,” Erin murmured.
“You can imagine how her mother’s taking that bit on top of it all.”
Erin looked up at both Damian and Zach, “So what happens if the note is real and she doesn’t want to come back to Lauren? Wouldn’t exactly be a surprise, she’s not the easiest person to deal with.”
Damian hushed her, “The Deputy Director of Praesidium’s daughter has gone missing, doesn’t matter what the girl wants, you’ve got to bring her back.”