“Promise me you will drink some of Cousin Ambrus’ bottles while I’m away? Don’t worry that it’s the last case, he’s promised to send more.” Zaira looks across her living room at Sandor, who is scrunched into her elegant red Roche Bobois couch.
He looks up from the thick paperback he’s had his face buried in. “Do you have any coffee thermoses? With sipping lids?”
Oh yes, the opaque containers.
“I’m sure there is something on one of the shelves in the butler’s pantry,” she tells him. “I’m serious, though, Sandor. You really must tend to your nourishment. I’ll be home in forty-eight hours.”
He nods and returns to his book.
She isn’t satisfied yet. “I should tell you that I don’t know my neighbors up the road well at all. I really doubt anyone will call or drop by. So, you’ll be fine?”
“Yes, Zaira. I’m going to use the computer in the library if that’s alright? I want to learn about this Python programming language.”
Delighted relief flashes across her face. “What a fun idea! I’ll introduce you to Gil next week and you’ll already have something in common.”
Instinctively she sweeps forward in a bow and utters a farewell in the old Uralic language.
High above midtown Manhattan in a glass-walled office, Joel Anderson leans back in his custom-designed, ergonomic executive chair. The gleaming walnut and titanium desk in front of him is spacious and free of clutter, with only the thinnest, latest model laptop lying open on it. The laptop’s backlit LED screen is the only light in the dark room, except for the sparkling city outside, far below the glass walls of the spacious corner office..
The features of Joel Anderson’s face are revealed in a noir-ish chiaroscuro by the cool blue light coming from the laptop. His is a smooth face of thirty-six years, clean-shaven, regular features, and just the tiniest curl of a sneer at the corners of his mouth. His brown hair is clipped in an edgy, current style by the hand of some Italian celebrity hairdresser.
Still leaning back in his chair, Joel’s hand moves forward and clicks a button on the mouse, his eyes scanning whatever has just appeared on the laptop’s screen. He suddenly swivels his chair around to face the night sky, not looking at anything in particular, just pleased at how much of New York is visible from this window.
The deal had been amazingly simple to close. The terms were favorable, Dean Divers was okay with yielding thirty percent. But, none of this is even the point. Joel clasps his hands behind his head, his subtle natural sneer widens into a genuine smile. Investment creates wealth, innovation. That’s enough for some people. But, power is the real coin of the realm.
“Don’t be evil,” he says under his breath, in a mocking tone.
Ironically, only blocks away from Joel Anderson’s lofty office, Zaira sits at a choice table in an absurdly expensive restaurant with her two investment partners, Anatol Kaminsky and Deborah Roehr. She convinced them that offering two million dollars to BubbleTrendz in exchange for twenty-five percent of the company was a good starting tactic. She expected Anatol to balk at the twenty-five percent, and he did, but he came around. He and Deborah both want a piece of the action in “this hottie startup”, as Anatol had drolly referred to it. They all agree that Dean won’t relinquish control of half his company, and Anderson’s offer is asking for thirty percent at two million two. Zaira’s hope is that Dean will take the flat two million and hang on to the additional five percent. The faxed term sheet has been sent and maybe he’s already reading it.
Zaira is wearing a sculpted white wool suit by a prominent New York designer; the fabric is almost luminous in the candlelight and contrasts with her dark red hair. She sips sparingly from the glass of 2005 Lafite Bordeaux that Anatol has insisted upon ordering. Without the ingredient of human blood in this drink, Zaira’s biological tolerance for it is sharply diminished. She’s been careful, as always, with her entree as well.
“You eat like a bird! No wonder you’ve got such a fabulous figure,” Deborah quips good-naturedly as she spreads Normandy butter on a bite of bread. Deborah is blonde, more ample than Zaira, but sensuous and satisfying to look at. She’s dressed in designer black, her thick hair coifed to frame her face to maximum advantage.
Anatol sports salt-and-pepper sideburns and a thousand dollar suit. His eyes hint of a distant Tartar ancestor, his smile is sophisticated, but good-natured.
These are the partners of KFR, Kaminsky, Farago and Rhoer, a venture capital firm established three years ago. Two humans and a vampire incognito. Incognito except for her name. You have to keep your name is Zaira’s resolute belief. Despite the guises, somewhere in your life you have to keep your name. Otherwise, the centuries will just erase whoever you might be.
— to be continued —