After twenty years the chickens had finally come home to roost. This particular chicken came in the form of an out-of-shape, middle-aged man dressed in a red and white track suit with thick gold chains around his neck. He was the latest in a wave of unfortunate minions who’d come to take what belonged to her. Like the others, he had failed.

Kissera stood above the unconscious human, stiletto-heeled foot resting on his back. It was time to stop playing defense. These attacks wouldn’t stop until Fredericko had her ring. Her status. Her territory. She twisted the giant, twenty some odd carat ring back to its upright position on her middle finger. No way. He wanted below Downtown back? He’d have to kill her first.

This, the third attack in as many months, had almost worked. She toyed with the rip in her shirt. The mark was gone. Healed as soon as she pulled the stake out of her chest. An inch to the left and she’d have been a poof of dust. Taken out by a human. How embarrassing would that have been? Her hand shook a little, the events of half an hour ago fresh in her mind. Kissera grunted and gave the would-be assassin another kick in the ribs. “You started it, Fredericko.” Steeling herself, she banged on the door to the warehouse and waited. “It’s time I finished it.” For the longest time nothing happened. Finally, a young vampire clad in a white suit opened the door.

Kissera didn’t wait for the doorman to speak. She snatched the wannabe killer by his collar and dragged him inside. “Watch this trash for me,” she said before heading for the elevator. It was a dingy, pre-war thing and made its way to the fourth floor clanging and sputtering as if on its last legs. The inside door slid to the side, and she pushed the outer door open. Before her, a single room spanning the entire floor. To the left, filling the entire wall, a bank of security monitors. To the right, a blonde-haired figure reclined on a chaise lounge. Her feet rested on the back of a bare chested man. Kneeling by her side with head bowed was another man. A tube ran from his neck to the red stained lips of the relaxing woman. There was only the faintest scent of blood in the air, yet Kissera’s fangs throbbed. She swallowed hard. Damn, she should’ve eaten before coming over. The woman took another long pull on the tube then waved the kneeling man away. Finally, she raised her head and met Kissera’s gaze.

Oh, how she hated this posturing. Cassandra could’ve met her as an equal. After all, they were both NYC bosses. Cassandra wore an amethyst the same size and shape as Kissera’s sapphire and the older vamp’s territory sat right above her own. But no. She always had to remind Kissera that she was their Maker’s first. His first creation. His first love. In Cassandra’s mind, first meant best and the fact that their Maker couldn’t stand her when he died changed nothing.

Kissera swallowed the lump of hate forming in her throat and flashed to Cassandra’s side. “I found the problem. He’s downstairs.”

“You brought him here?” Cassandra sat up, icy blue eyes full of anger.

“He was in your territory.” Kissera said flatly. “Your area. Your problem.”

“He tried to kill you?” The slightest motion of her hand toward Kissera’s torn shirt.

“We need to end this.”

“We?” Cassandra quirked an eyebrow.

“You think he’ll stop at Fourteenth Street?”

“Fredericko knows better. You? You, are an easy target.”

Despite her tone, Kissera could tell she was stressed. She abandoned the Scandinavian accent she picked up from their Maker and took on the Greek one of her human past. “He’s bolder now.”

“Maybe he deserves it more than you.”

“You know Downtown functions better with me in charge.”

It was true. Before she took over, Fredericko had a strained, almost hostile, relationship with the Flying Dragons. Speaking the language and looking like one of their own, it was easy to get them on her side, and once she had their trust, the rest of Downtown quickly followed their lead.

Like vampire, Chinese was one of the masks she wore to blend in and make life easier. The only one who had known her true identity had turned to dust in her arms over a century ago. Who she was before getting turned wasn’t important anymore anyway. For all intents and purposes she was a vampire now. Blood gave her life. Sunlight was her enemy. Death, all but impossible save for UV exposure, a stake to the heart, or decapitation.

“Point made. What do you want me to do about it?”

“Call a meeting. We’ll vote on it.”

“You think you have enough support to win?”

Kissera clamped down a smarmy retort. Don’t take the bitch’s bait. “I’ve been running shit smooth as silk for twenty years. I got the Russians handled. The Triads will only talk to me. That’s how Fredericko lost this ring in the first place.”

“You think you can hold it just because you speak a little Cantonese? What if they discover what you really are?”

Kissera opened her mouth to run through more reasons why she should continue to hold Downtown. Stop. Results speak for themselves. There was nothing to prove to this jealous bitch. It was never about territory with Cassandra anyway. Don’t let her get in your head.

“Call the meeting.” Kissera turned on her heel and left.

***

Saying she was worthy and proving it were two different things. While Kissera waited to hear about the NYC collective’s meeting, she worked twice as hard at securing Downtown. The movies made the life of a crime boss look so exciting. Like it was all drug deals, strip clubs parties, and shootouts. Reality was much more boring. Meetings. Lots of meetings. Sure, some of those meetings ended with bloody displays of power. A few live demonstrations with a garrote separating a man’s head from his shoulders got the gangsters in line quick enough. Her vampire minions were not as easy. Fredericko’s takeover attempt had exposed a deep rot in Downtown. It was her own damn fault. She’d been running it on cruise control for too long.

Cleaning house was quick and brutal. No middlemen or contract killers. Anyone who had doubts about who was in charge got turned to dust by her own hand. Everyone else either left the territory before she got to them or decided she was better than the devil they didn’t know and kept their mouths shut.

Two weeks after her meeting with Cassandra, Kissera walked her streets with fresh eyes and renewed purpose. Everything, from the after hours clubs all the way down to the strategically placed homeless, operated according to her wishes. Only one thing sullied a beautiful spring night.

The vampire following her since she crossed Delancey was not as subtle as he thought. She headed toward the water where the only humans around were of the mind your own business type. When she got to the East River Promenade, she pretended to take in the view, ears perked for his approach. At the last second, she whipped around to face him.

“Stop following me.”

He halted dead in his tracks. “I’m not–”

Kissera held up her hand. “You don’t live here so you’re not one of mine. Why are you here?”

“Just thinking of moving to the neighborhood. Heard about the recent changes. Checking things out.”

She eyed him, mind working overtime. He could speak the truth. He could be a spy. With the assassination attempt fresh in her mind, her paranoia spiked sky high. “Checking me out you mean.”

The young vampire remained silent. His body language appeared neutral, but something wasn’t quite right about him. Speak the truth and I won’t kill you.”

In the space of a heartbeat, he was on her, fangs bared, weapon in hand. She ducked his first strike. Second. Third time was the charm. He hit her in the gut with a thin metal rod no bigger than a knitting needle. It pierced her skin and she doubled over in agony. Silver. The one thing she really feared.

Vampires and silver didn’t mix well in the best of circumstances. The skin on her hands sizzled like hot grease in a pan as she pulled the vile object from her gut and flung it into the river. The wounds healed, but the silver had done it’s job. Poisoned blood rushed through her veins and she rolled on the ground clutching her midsection, gritting her teeth. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of her screams.

As Kissera staggered to her feet, he came at her again. This time she was ready for him. He knew how to hurt her. How to really hurt her which meant he was a bigger threat than anyone that had ever come for her before. Silver caused incredible pain to vampires, but to her kind, it incapacitated and if it hit her heart or brain, she’d be dead in an instant.

She held her chest and dropped to her knees as if another of the needles had hit its mark. It was a dangerous play. He could’ve snuck up on her and a put a silver bullet in her heart to end her for good. That would solve your problems. She pushed the thought to the very deepest part of her mind. I promised him I would live. I want to live. I’m going to live.

The vampire assassin was good. Too good to be as young as he was. He couldn’t be more than two maybe three hundred at best. If this was an even fight he could’ve ended her by now. On the power scale, at a little over two hundred, Kissera was an average vampire at best. But this wasn’t an even playing field and this young one didn’t stand a chance.

She gathered her thoughts and reached into power she’d buried over a hundred years ago when she washed the last of her lover’s ashes off her body and abandoned her true nature. Even though it had been decades, tapping into her demon power was easy as turning on a faucet. The power of her people, ancient and enduring rushed through her, filling her, strengthening her.

The man moved toward her and with her will she stopped him in his tracks. He was paralyzed, mid thrust like a sculpture of an ancient Olympian about to release a javelin. His eyes widened at the unexpected move.

“I’m sorry he sent you,” she began. Strength fueled her body as she got to her feet. The silver in her veins burned like acid. She shoved the pain to the back of her mind. This was nothing compared to what had happened before. “You had potential to be a great assassin. Too bad you chose to side with him.”

“He won’t stop. Downtown belongs to him.”

Kissera shook her head. “Downtown belongs to me.”

She could have ended him with a simple strike to the heart with his own weapon. She could have ripped his head off, making his death instant. None of that would do. The collective would require proof of Fredericko’s treachery. For that he’d have to stay alive.

“Under normal circumstances, tonight would be your lucky night. You will live to see another moon. Maybe more than one.” She took one of his needles in each hand and in one smooth movement stabbed him through the eyes. His throat contracted and mouth opened in an agonized scream. Kissera licked a fang and smiled wide. “Although by the time I’m done with you, you’ll pray for death.”