By: Anne Olsen and Michele Bumbarger

Chapter Thirteen

"Partnership," Holland Manners smiled from his position at the head of the board room table and folded his hands on the table in front of him, "is indeed a wonderful, wonderful thing. It has always been the philosophy, the heart and soul of Wolfram and Hart if you will, to be there, to support our clients because we know that when it matters most, our clients will support us." Lean faced, with sandy hair thinning and graying, Holland Manners still managed to be an imposing man. Perhaps it was because of his manner, the way in which he carried himself with pride and authority, or perhaps it was the way those around him shrank into themselves, understanding that he was the man in charge.

Or perhaps, Lindsey McDonald reflected, it was just that Holland was greased and slick enough with the dirt and oil slick of Wolfram and Hart that no one ever considered opposing, questioning, or looking the other way when he spoke. Allowing his eyes to roam slowly over the faces of those present, Lindsey had to admire the way Holland held them all enraptured. Young, silly Philippe, still trying so desperately to claw his way upwards and make a showing; Lilah Morgan with her eyes bright, lips slightly tilted upwards in a smile, a pen held delicately against those reddened lips. Freshly reddened thanks to the lipstick Lindsey saw her trying to furtively apply before stepping into the board room.

Lilah Morgan was a real piece of work. Not truly a threat to Lindsey and his place in the firm, as much as she might have hoped and wished it otherwise. Just an annoying bug, an attractive annoying bug with great legs and appealing curves, but a bug nonetheless. Still, Lindsey kept his eye on her, because even the smallest threats could unseat one in a place like the law offices of Wolfram and Hart.

Philippe Roche was much less a concern to Lindsey. Philippe had botched up - badly - with their clients and he was seeking a way to make it right. First in allowing that abomination of a vampire, Angel, to get close to Cordovan and Giselle at all; if that had not been enough to earn Philippe a quiet conversation behind Holland's closed office door, his failure to take care of the problem had certainly been reason enough. Lindsey had decided to step in, take the young man under his wing as Holland had taken Lindsey when he first came to the firm, and poor stupid Philippe was all effusive thanks and gratitude.

He thought Lindsey had a kind moment. He didn't know that Lindsey just wanted the boy under his watchful eye. No more screw ups. And no interfering with the plans Lindsey already had in the works.

Philippe Roche was a means to an end. Eventually the boy would figure that out. He would figure out that no one in the employ of Wolfram and Hart was his friend.

If he lived that long.

"I can't begin to express to you, Kristoph, how much you're being here means to me," Holland continued, his words a dull drone that pulled Lindsey from his thoughts, "to all of us here at Wolfram and Hart, really. You and Giselle have come across a fascinating preface shall we say, in the advancement and evolution of humanity. I'm sure you understand when I say that the senior partners are most interested in working out some sort of compensation for you if you can be of any assistance in turning that precious girl and her two friends into the firm's hands."

"And that compensation would be?" The question came not from Cordovan, whom sat quietly watching Holland while his body guards, two well dressed vampires in full demon guise watched the remainder of the room. The question came from Giselle Vasal, seated besides her half-human lover and conveniently across the table from Lindsey. Convenient because it gave him the opportunity to admire the priestess of black magick, however much she might have denied the truth in that title, and she was well worth admiring.

Giselle was possessed of an exotic beauty, made all the more potent by the fact that she clearly knew it. Creamy, flawless mocha skin was highlighted with ebony hair; piercing emerald eyes gazed shrewdly at Holland, calculating his every word, and possibly his every motion.

"Oh, come now, Giselle, you should know better by now. We're all friends here. Friends and partners," Holland replied smoothly, his smile growing even more effusive than Lindsey would have thought possible. "You scratch our back, and we'll always scratch yours. Unless you have some objection, Giselle?"

"No." She shook her head, settling back in her chair. Actually settling was not quite the word for it. She seemed to melt backwards, becoming one with the furniture as though she owned the office and everything in it. It was enough to make Lindsey force himself to hold a straight face, to not smile in appreciation. "No objections. It's only that the girl is … corrupted. I think I might have gotten a little carried away with things, and I'm sure the senior partners don’t want damaged goods.

"The two boys, however, I'm sure that we can arrange something, someway of seeing that the senior partners get what they want."

"And you get what you want," Lilah accused, her gaze narrowing as she stared down the table at the witch. "Is that the way the game plays, Giselle?"

Somehow Giselle managed to pour more emotion into a single pout than most women managed to spill in a lifetime. "What are you talking about, Miss Morgan? I'm trying to do what's in the best interests of Wolfram and Hart."

"Let's not have bad blood between us," Holland interjected before the argument could get fully started. "Lilah, Giselle is only looking out for all of us. It would be a terrible to shame to end up with that girl in our hands if she's useless. What would the senior partners think?"

"We take her word for it that the girl is useless?" Lilah pressed. "We should at least see her. Test her ourselves. It's only fair. Like you said, Holland, we wouldn't want to disappoint the senior partners."

Holland's lips twitched as he regarded Lilah. The older man was amused by her determination, Lindsey could tell that much. Giselle and Cordovan were not amused, however, and it could be seen in the way their eyes coldly regarded the lawyer sitting besides Lindsey.

Poor Lilah simply hadn't figured it out yet. There was a time to fight and a time to compromise. This was one of those times. Besides, it was a battle she had already lost, she simply didn't realize it yet.

"I think that considering our past relationship with Kristoph and Giselle, we have every reason to trust Giselle in her estimation," Holland remarked with that trademark smile. Clapping his hands, he pushed himself to a standing position and adjusted his sport coat. "Now, Kristoph, Giselle, why don't you step into my private office, and we can discuss the further arrangements we need to make."

Lilah rose immediately after Holland, nearly scrambling over Lindsey's chair to reach the man before anyone else did. "What else do you need, Holland? What would you like for me - and Philippe - to do?"

Lindsey knew that Philippe had been included as an afterthought, and if Lindsey knew it, Holland knew it. He shook his head at Lilah's doggedness, his gaze meeting Giselle's as she flowed gracefully to her feet, allowing one of Cordovan's trained vampires to pull out her chair and adjust her shawl.

Persistent. Giselle mouthed the word, meant for Lindsey's eyes only and he could only nod and smile slightly. He was never one to give too much away - not to anyone.

"Well, of course, you'll be joining us," Holland replied without missing a beat. It was unclear whether he truly wanted Lilah there or not, but perhaps he figured having her where he could keep an eye on her was better than having her listening at keyholes. "Along with Lindsey."

Lindsey was not surprised by the addition. Philippe was his protégé for the moment. Kristoph Cordovan and Giselle Vasal were Lindsey's clients by proxy. Of course he would be there; he would be there to watch Philippe, to see when he could trip the boy and make him fall.

Means to an end.

"I'll be along in a moment, Holland," Lindsey promised. He took his time to gather up his legal pad and the briefs and pens covering the table. In truth, had he been in a hurry, it would have taken him but a few moments to scoop the entire pile into his briefcase. But he didn't want to hurry. He didn't need to hurry.

He worked slowly, meticulously stacking and organizing papers as the entourage poured from the board room. Slowly and deliberately making certain that every numbered page was in the proper order before placing them in the leather portfolio. Making certain the fountain pens were properly capped before being clipped onto the portfolio.

The sound of the door opening again was expected and predictable. A quick glance across the table revealed a small woman's handbag gracing the chair that Giselle had recently vacated.

Lindsey opened the briefcase. "You forgot your purse."

"Kristoph thinks I'm becoming absent minded," Giselle purred.

The door clicked closed behind her and Lindsey smirked, lifting his head to look up at her at last. "Well, that would be a very bad and very dangerous thing, now, wouldn't it?"

"Depends on who you ask and what side of the fence you're sitting on."

"And what side are you sitting on, Miss Vasal?"

"Do you always ask questions that you know the answers to, Mr. McDonald?" She slipped into his personal space, close enough for him to feel the heat of her body and smell her perfume.

A quick, guarded glance revealed that the board room door remained tightly closed. Lindsey met the challenge in that emerald gaze with a challenge of his own. "You're supposed to be taking care of Angel. Remember, that's the plan. You help me get Angel out the picture, I get ahead with Holland, and you get ahead with Holland. Remember?"

"It's always about Angel, isn't it? You and Kristoph can't think of anything else."

"Don't compare me to your boyfriend, one of us is fully human."

Giselle's eyes racked over his body, "Only on the outside."

"Angel needs to be stopped before he can become more of a problem. Russell Winters, the demon drug cartel - he's going to become a problem sooner than anyone knows. And I want to be on top when that happens."

"Trust me, Lindsey," Giselle moved in closer, her fingertips lightly brushing invisible fuzz from his collar, "when that time comes, you will be. Angel will be out of the picture soon enough, and that little girl will be nothing but a broken memory. You just need to have a little patience."

Lindsey reached into the briefcase and wrapped his hands around the plastic case that he knew was there. He snapped it open in front of her eyes, barely catching a glimpse of the syringe and vial of amber liquid before snapping it closed again.

"Just remember the plan, Giselle." Lindsey tucked the case into the scoop neck of her dress, ignoring the gasp of surprise and indignation that came from her. "Remember the plan, and don't do anything to get us both killed." He snapped the briefcase closed and was halfway across the board room before he turned back to flash her a smile, "You better hurry, I'm sure Holland and your boyfriend want to know what's keeping you by now."

[Back to Chapter Twelve]

[On to Chapter Fourteen]

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