Gothic Rhapsody: First Stanza
Lis moaned softly, rolling over; her movements were slow, sluggish. She judged that there wasn't much time left until sunset; relaxing again in the tangle of the bedcovers, she tried to figure out what had awakened her.
She turned her head slightly, listening; the sounds of an acoustic guitar flowed over her like mellow wine, bringing a faint smile to her face. Victor must have moved Zoey's things into the room next to hers; Zoey himself must be in there at the moment. She closed her eyes and sharpened her hearing, catching the rich tenor of Zoey's voice, mingling perfectly with the sound of the guitar.
He sounds . . . so sad, she realized, a hint of a frown replacing the smile. So--lost. What happened? Is he all right?
She flicked her mind outward, found Victor. A moment of silent exchange froze a knot of dread in her gut; Zoey had been upset and evidently angry at both the idea of fighting the Sabbat . . . and of becoming Bound to her. The knot tightened more, becoming a sick coldness that, were she mortal still, might have made her physically ill. According to Victor, Zoey had spent virtually the entire day sequestered in the bedroom; he'd come down for lunch, but hadn't spoken. Out of respect for his state of mind, the others hadn't attempted to pull him into conversation, instead discussing topics far lighter than the power of Kindred vitae and the dangers of the purge.
Lis opened her eyes, staring up at the ceiling in the darkness. The room wasn't actually pitch-black; there were no windows, true, but a faint glow of electric light crept under the door to the hall and the one that led into the dressing room of the suite next to hers.
You told him of the Bond, she said icily to Victor.
He asked, Elisabeth, her eldest ghoul replied cautiously; he rarely used her full name unless he was genuinely worried she was angry with him. You weren't going to keep him ignorant, were you?
No! No, a thousand times no! she cried back. I would never do that, Victor! Never in my life have I or would I let anyone I cared for be enslaved by blood against their will, and you know that!
Lis, Lis, he tried to soothe. It's done with. I'm sorry that I evidently said things wrong and upset him, but he needed to know.
It was my duty to tell him, Victor. Perhaps nothing could have softened the knowledge, but we'll never know now. She felt that knot in her stomach seemingly divide, a lump forming in her throat. Her eyes burned. He may never trust me.
Do you want me to ask him to go into your room and talk to you?
She hesitated for a moment. Yes.
Lis clearly heard Victor's steps pass her bedroom door to stop at Zoey's; she heard the knock, and the almost sullen way Zoey responded, the music halting. Victor's quiet, unflappable voice informed the young man that Lis would like him to step next door and speak to her; a moment later, the steward opened the connecting door.
Zoey's hair, caught back in the customary ponytail, shimmered like molten gold as he stepped into her room; he wore jeans and a teal-green T-shirt now, and his gracefully muscled arms were folded defensively across his chest. Victor stepped in briefly to quietly turn on one of the Tiffany lamps that stood on a table in the corner, then left again, closing but not securing the door.
"Zoey," Lis whispered, not sitting up. Tears burned her eyes; she closed them tightly. "Zoey, do you think so little of me? Do you sincerely believe that I would drag you with me into the very dens of those animals? Do you believe I would risk your body, your life, your mind--your very soul--like that? Angel, précieux amour . . . I would not do that to you. You are not ready to face that, and I would not force you into a situation that you are not prepared for."
He started to answer; she could sense that he was suddenly angry, thinking that perhaps she was disparaging his abilities--young men were always so touchy when it came to their pride!--but she raised a hand to hush him. "I do not mean to insult you, but you know I speak the truth when I say *you are not ready*, Zoisite. There is much you need to learn before I will ask you to fight beside me--not because I do not trust your abilities, but because I would *never* risk losing you like that." Her voice ached with conviction; he was quiet for a moment. She did not intrude on his thoughts, remaining silent. He still hadn't come over to the bed, didn't have a clear look at her.
"They told me about the Blood Bond," he said finally, his voice low and devoid of emphasis. "And that you never wanted them as anything but friends."
"Is that wrong, angel?" she whispered. "I had someone who I cared about very much, once. He disappeared in the fifteenth century, and I have not seen or heard of him since. I spent almost three hundred years alone before I dared to want anyone in my life in any kind of permanent relationship again. I needed a *friend* again, not a lover, and Victor was my friend. Grant and Claude helped me rebuild my bridges back to the rest of the world, by being my friends. They have not desired me since the early days of their relation to me; they *understood* what I truly needed then, and have never been less than satisfied with friendship. A few years ago, I dared to have an affair with someone--an affair that was forbidden by both of our societies. He was a musician too . . . but he had not the qualities you have. He was too full of dark passions, of anger and shadows. You are light that does not sear, fire that does not burn, passion that does not turn bitter; until *now*, Zoey--until *you*--I have not longed for the touch of a lover so badly as I have since the first night I held you."
"The Blood Bond . . ." He whispered it, sounding as if he were trying to cling to his anger. She could hear his soft tread on the carpet as he came closer.
"I would not have done it without your permission and understanding," she whispered back. "I treasure you far too much to lose your trust."
"Dios," he said suddenly, so softly it was hardly audible. He was silent then, his breath catching.
Lis realized what was wrong.
She was not Masked. He could see her as she truly was.
She opened her eyes.
He was *staring* at her, staring as if he could never look away, his arms hanging loose at his sides, his mouth open. Tears sparkled on his face, pure reaction to what he saw.
Because Elisabeth was so beautiful that she seemed a goddess come to earth, the very concept of feminine loveliness embodied. Once, she had met her "cousin", a fourth-generation Toreador named Helena, who was known to legend as Helen of Troy. Lis was, in every point, as heartstoppingly gorgeous, as stunning and captivating, as the fabled Methuselah.
Hardly any details of Lis's face and form had changed; her waterfall of hair was still the same flowing, lustrous deep-brown, sparked with red and gold. Her eyes were somewhat greener, no hint of brown in them, shading from dark to vivid from the pupil outward. When she veiled herself with Mask, she toned down her beauty--which, left as it was, would shatter the Masquerade. No mortal could quite match that radiance. She was *perfect*, utterly without flaw.
Zoey took a stumbling half-step toward the bed, seemingly unable to blink; she held up her hands, and he stopped dead. A moment's concentration, and the Mask seemed like a cloth thrown over a lamp, dimming the intensity of her loveliness.
"Dios," he whispered again, closing his eyes finally; one hand reached out to take hers, his fingers clenching tight. She was silent, ashamed of herself for slipping like that, afraid of what might happen now
Zoey never really was that aware of the passage of time that day, immersed as he was in his thoughts and his music. Sure, he'd stopped and had come down for lunch after being politely summoned by Victor--the in-house intercom system reached all the rooms after all--but he'd eaten sparsely and in silence. He did feel a twinge of guilt at Claude's veiled expression of dismay; the congenial cook probably thought that Zoey was disappointed with the fare. In truth, he wasn't; he was merely too wrapped up in his dismal state of mind.
As soon as it was possible, he'd gone back to the richly-appointed suite and had resumed his playing, once again using guitar and voice to try to give some expression to the whirl of feelings sitting like a tight knot in the pit of his stomach--along with the warm glow of coals he associated with the changes wrought by drinking Lis's blood.
A knock on the door brought him out of his reverie. His hand resting on the strings, quieting the music, Zoey glanced over at the door. "What do you want?" The mellow tenor was sullen, a sharp tone to it.
"It's Victor, Zoey." Without giving the blonde musician a chance to turn him away, the valet opened the door and stepped inside. Voice calm, the older man continued, "Lis would like for you to step next door to her room and talk to her."
Lis. . . Her very name made him shiver, but Zoey couldn't put a name to the feeling that overwhelmed him. Must be nightfall, or close to it. Well, I suppose I'd better get it over with. He slipped the guitar strap over his head, then lovingly set the acoustic down on the bed. Gracefully rising to his feet, he nodded. "All right, I'll go talk."
Frowning slightly at the odd inflection of the musician's normally mellow voice on the word "talk", the valet stepped into the dressing room and opened up the connecting door, hearing the soft sounds of Zoey's feet on the carpet behind him.
Swallowing his apprehension, the young man trailed after Victor into Lis's luxurious, slightly familiar room. Even after the other man had turned on a lamp--which sent jewels of scintillating light across the comforter but had kept the brunette Kindred's face in shadow--and had left them there alone, Zoey felt quite nervous indeed. A slender hand reaching up to nervously twist the end of a lock of fine hair that floated next to his face, he stepped up to the halfway point between the door and her bed, then stopped. Crossing his arms over his chest then, he waited for her to say something.
When she had first spoken, he had wanted to angrily deny her idea that he thought little of her. After all, he *was* grateful for all that she had done for him, and quite fond of her besides because she had come to his rescue so often. I don't think little of you at all, he had wanted to shout, but Lis's raised hand stopped him.
She was right in that. He was afraid that she would expect him to go on this hunt, and he knew he was far from ready for it. She does care about losing me then. Doesn't she know that I'm just as frightened about losing her as well?
That made him think again of the Blood Bond, of the apparently hopeless passion that would come from a third drink of Lis's heady vitae. It still bothered him how the others were treated. Zoey broached the subject, then listened to her response. Oh Lis. . . How can you be sure what they have never been less than satisfied with when they have no choice in how they feel in the matter? You wanted friends, and friends you got. Could they really have been able to be anything else?
Closing his emerald eyes for a moment as a sharp pain of something filled his heart, his soft, melodic tenor whispered out three little words as he walked the rest of the way up to her large, comfortable bed. "The Blood Bond. . ."
"I would not have done it without your permission and understanding. I treasure you far too much to lose your trust."
The faintest of smiles crossed his beautiful, masculine face at the sound of Lis's soft whisper. He trusted her more than nearly anyone else he knew, and hearing that, he knew his trust in her was well placed. Spun-gold eyelashes fluttering open, the golden haired human swept his gaze over the bed, following the contours of Lis's body under the blankets until he looked at her face. For the first time that night, in the jewelled light of the Tiffany lamp, he got a good look at Lis--and instantly lost all thought, literally stunned into a near stupor by just her beauty alone. Zoey never even knew that he'd been able to breathe out a faint, startled, "Dios."
It hurt to look at her, like he was staring too long into the heart of the sun, yet he just couldn't tear his emerald gaze from the sight of her. She was perfection, the epitome of feminine beauty and perhaps the archetype of beauty no matter the sex of the person involved. Her rich, dark brown cascade of silken hair was just the *right* shade of brown with just the *right* texture and shine. Her eyes were the deepest, clearest, most perfect green, fascinating in the play of light and emotion within them. And her face, classic in proportion, seemed to have been sculpted by God Himself to be every man's longing dream.
Still caught in the frightening rapture of seeing her in her true glory, the slender musician took a faltering step only to pull up short when Lis held up hands just as *perfect* and stunningly gorgeous as the rest of herself. As he watched, she suddenly changed, becoming the beautiful--but not gloriously so--Elisabeth that he was used to seeing.
Mind still reeling from what he'd just seen, Zoey breathed out another "Dios," and closed his watering, dazzled eyes. He reached out and took her hand tightly in his, bowing his head. Once before she had said that she had known others with better looks and better talent than himself. Now he knew that one of those "others" was herself.
Abruptly shaking, Zoey sank to his knees next to the big bed. "Not good enough. . . Nowhere near good enough. . . Oh, God. . ." His voice a shell-shocked whisper, he buried his face within the crook of his free arm as he leaned over the surface of the comforter. For the second time, Lis watched as the young human silently cried, his face hidden from view but his golden hair shimmering with each shake of his shoulders.
All over again, it was that night. Once more he had the overwhelming feel of being nothing but a ragged, dirty little street urchin compared to the glorious splendor of the angel of the night he knew. Why did she even bother with someone as plain looking and untalented as himself when she deserved someone much more than what he had to offer?
And himself. . . What a fool he was to have been vain enough to believe that he was handsome and talented in the first place. Now that he had gazed upon what "beautiful" truly was, he knew he fell far short of the mark. As Zoey's one hand clenched Lis's fingers tightly, his other hand curled into a near deathgrip onto the comforter; they remained that way for quite a while as Zoey cried.
"Dieu . . . no," Lis whispered, horrified at what her carelessness had done. How could she make him understand that *he* was beautiful to her--that he was *beyond* merely "good enough"? That her own reflection made her sick at times, knowing that her own inhuman perfection would set her forever apart from mortals--and from most other Kindred?
"No," she whispered again, as if the single word could undo the terrible mistake, erase the blinding image of her true face from the mind of the weeping, golden-haired man who had done the impossible and captivated her utterly. "No. Zoey, angel, *please* . . . listen to me, listen to me!"
He kept crying, shaking his head a little as he chanted those self-damning words over and over in a faint, broken voice. Pulling her legs under her, she touched the back of his head with her free hand as she leaned over him, a tight ache in her chest, her eyes burning.
"Zoey, don't--*please*, don't cry. Dieu . . . I'm sorry . . . I'm so *sorry*!" The last word tore free as a sob, and she felt dampness on her face. How long had it been since she last cried? Years? Centuries? "Zoey, stop . . . you *are* good enough, better than merely 'good enough' . . . gods, do you have any idea how precious you are to me? Were I offered the world, I would not trade you for it! Please, Zoey, look at me--it's all right now, you won't see my true face . . ."
He lifted his head a little, still shaking, looking half-ashamed that he'd started crying like that . . . and then his emerald eyes widened a little, seeing the bloody tears that stained her pale face. She looked almost like some alabaster saint's statue, weeping miracle tears--but no carven visage could match the anguish on her face.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered again, closing her eyes for a moment. "Ah, Dieu, forgive me. Forgive me for everything, Zoey."
"Why me?" he sniffled faintly. "Why do you want *me* when you deserve someone more--"
"More what?" she demanded, opening her eyes again, staring down at him. "More beautiful?" She cupped his chin with her hand, but not as softly as usual; he could feel the strength in her, though she didn't hurt him. "Angel, angel . . . gods, you take my breath away with your spun-gold hair, your jewelled eyes, your sweet smile. More talented?" And now she took hold of his other hand in her own, spreading his fingers with hers. "Your very soul comes through your hands into the strings." She reached up again and touched his larynx softly. "And your voice reaches to Heaven in its harmony. Zoisite, I have seen and heard a thousand mortals who strove their whole lives to reach the point where you are *now*."
You're only being nice to me.
She *heard* it, a thought that flickered across his mind as he stared up at her. With a swiftness that made it seem as though she'd simply teleported from the bed to stand on the bedroom floor, his golden hair stirring in the wind of her movement, her own dark-chocolate cloak whirling with her, she clenched her fists at her sides. "You accuse me of *lying*, Zoisite? Of simply saying what I think you wish to hear, not what's in my heart?"
He whirled where he knelt, wide-eyed, the thunder of her voice echoing in the bedroom. "Lis--"
"Vain child!" She roared it at him, anger, grief, shame, love all turning into a maelstrom within her. "Dare you believe that I would spin tales simply to amuse you, to soothe your pride? Yes, damn you--I am *beautiful*, beyond belief, but why should beauty, talent, power all make a *liar* of me? Were you truly so far beneath me, beneath my notice, *I would not have noticed you*! There have been hundreds, *thousands* of mortals who believed themselves handsome, clever, and talented . . . and not *one* of them has caught my attention beyond a few moments, a sip or two of their blood, a gift to help them on their chosen path! None of them have shared my bed, my blood, my very *heart*--"
"Lis," Zoey whispered, his face paling. She was magnificent and terrible in her anger--yet the tears still flowed, staining her white skin, trickling over the curve of her jaw to mar the column of her throat.
"*Damn* you for making me hope!" she cried at him; her entire body shaking, she fell to her knees, her hair drifting around her and her voice turning into a strained, agonized sob. "*Damn* you for making me love you!"
Lis's furious words and the sight of her crying hit Zoey hard, like a stinging slap to the cheek. Even more ashamed, a faint blush tinging his pale face, all the young musician could do was stare at her in shock, his handsome face devoid of all expression. God, he'd never meant to upset her so.
His green gaze remained fixed upon the ruby tracks that stained her perfect, marble-like skin. Blood. . . They cry blood. . . It hurt to see her in such a state. A shake of his head, silken wisps of golden hair floating gently around his shoulders and face with the faint movement, and one of his hands lifted nearly of its own accord to reach out toward her. Drink this in remembrance of me. . . This is the blood of the new covenant, which is shed for thee. . . His hand touched that deep red trail along her throat; with a gentle caress, he wiped the crimson liquid off the smooth column of her quivering throat.
In the beginning, God gathered together all of His angels and told them that they would worship none other. All of the angels readily agreed to this commandment with all their hearts, for they loved their Father so. But none of them loved Him more than Lucifer, the brightest, most beautiful of the Heavenly Host.
Then there came the time when God brought before His angels Adam, the first man. "Bow down and worship this, My creation," God commanded. All of the angels did so, for their Father had so asked it of them.
Save Lucifer. He alone refused to worship Adam. God again gave his commandment to Lucifer, and again Lucifer refused. "Because you are too proud to do as I have ordered, begone Lucifer! You are damned for eternity to Hell. Never again will you be in My Presence," God said, banishing the brightest of all His angels from Heaven.
Thus it is that the Devil was damned for his true love, for he so loved God that he would not break that first commandment, that he would worship none other. And though he suffers for eternity the torment of always being separated from Him who he loved so much, the Devil is sustained by the memory of that last moment of his love telling him, "Begone!"
She loved him. Of that, he had no doubt, seeing someone as proud and as powerful as Lis kneeling on the floor sobbing. Damn him, she had said. So be it. Let him be damned like the Devil in that old Arabic tale. Only he would be damned to be with his love, not separated from her.
Zoey already knew what was truly in his heart. It had become crystalline clear the moment Lis's agonized fury had stunned him out of his self-pitying litany. For a moment that seemed frozen in time, he looked at the thick, deep ruby liquid clinging to his fingers. Another change. Always the fear of the unknown, of just what the change would do, but Zoey also had the instinctive feeling that once this was done, no other could claim him in a similar manner. That he *could* live with, after all.
Swallowing hard, his emerald eyes flicked their gaze back to the gorgeous Kindred kneeling there before him, her bloody tears marking her face. At long last, his soft voice sounded in the stillness of Lis's bedroom, the multicolored patches of light from the lamp glittering over him and staining his golden hair into jewellike shades of brilliance.
She wanted him, loved him, thought he was truly worthy of her. He was an idiot to have believed otherwise. Lis was right; if he hadn't been good enough, he would never have been noticed that night back at that smoky dive of a club.
"I love you, Elisabeth. And I trust you with all my heart and soul."
Zoey thought it important to tell her that before he went through with the impulse that had filled his mind ever since he saw the crimson tears of her vitae on her face. His soft-spoken words said out loud, and somehow made more concrete in their utterance, he curled his unbloodied hand around Lis's neck. As his slender fingers sank into that wonderful, luxurious brunette hair of hers, he leaned forward and licked off of her the deep ruby tracks of her tears.
Her blood tasted much the same it had the night before--heady and intoxicating, with that faint burn like strong alcohol. Once tasted, he felt the need for more. Licking off his finger, he swallowed, then slowly opened his eyes.
I wonder just how my feelings are going to change. . .
"Zoey . . ." Lis could barely whisper his name, hearing his soft tenor murmur those simple words--words that meant so much to her. She wanted to raise her hands to hold him back, to keep him from touching her; she felt painfully fragile somehow, as though she were about to shatter. But she couldn't move, even as his fingers slipped gently around the back of her neck, his green eyes deepening just before they fluttered shut. Her own eyes closed as he leaned forward.
Dieu . . . the slow, gentle, catlike brush of Zoey's tongue over her cheek felt *nice*; for some reason, it didn't even faze her to know that, with every little lick, he was forging the chain of his own slavery. She wasn't forcing him to do it; he *knew* what he was doing, and yet he didn't hesitate, kissing and licking away the bloody tears that stained her face. She put her arms gently around him, just *holding* him, feeling the warmth of his young, living body against her ancient, undead flesh.
Lis knew the moment the third taste of her blood took effect on him. The love she sensed from him grew suddenly deeper, more intense, full of nigh-uncontrollable passion. She was his muse, his guiding star, his drug; he craved her the way a starving man craves food. For a moment, he dared to think of the possibility of losing her; the thought made his heart twist with despairing rage, determination to protect her, cherish her, never let her go. Without her, he would have nothing--his very soul belonged to her, yet that seemed *right*; she was the most perfect creature imaginable . . . who better to have such power over him? He knew he could trust her with the gift of his heart; that knowledge soothed any fears he still had.
Let it pass, Zoisite, she whispered into his mind. You know the Bond exists--you need not be enslaved by it. You will know if I am in danger, if I am hurt; you will feel my emotions.
I . . . I do feel it, he answered, sounding awed. Oh, Lis . . .
I will sense your emotions as well, be able to know if you are endangered. And I will do everything in my power to keep you safe, angel. I swear it.
I want to keep you safe too, Lis. Not just because of the Bond.
No one had made her feel quite this way in far too long; she hugged him tighter, burying her face against his shoulder. Stay with me, Zoey.
There are times when profound changes are actually very little indeed to what had been before. As he stared at her in enraptured wonder, Zoey knew that he really had changed very little at all. He had already had a desperate passion for this angel of the darkness; all that really was different is that it could no longer be ignored.
Then came her silent command to let it pass, and the raging desire mellowed slightly as he was given permission by *her*--his goddess, his inspiration, his angel of the night--to just feel it and not let it consume him. As she pressed her willowy form against his and asked him--yes, it was a statement, but he could sense that it was still a choice; her ghouls had good reason to praise her for her fairness--to stay, Zoey's lithe form relaxed against hers, fingers caressing through her silken hair at the nape of her neck.
Of course, I'll stay. He grinned as he gently rubbed a cheek against her hair, his mental presence once again sparked by that devilish humor. After all, I did spend all day here, even though I was supposed to be doing other things.
Oh? Lis too regained her sense of humor; Zoey chuckled softly as he felt her teasing, mock indignation. You had other things more important then moi?
"Hardly," the musician murmured back, his tenor tinged with amusement. "After all, I *am* still here."
That you are. The Toreador smiled as well. There was something thrilling and triumphant about this moment; this special mortal was all *hers*, tied to her through chains of blood that he himself chose. That incompetent Prince Byron, the poet Primogen Marcheau, anyone *else* that even thought they might have a claim were now left out in the cold. Zoey. . . Did you believe me when I said that I would have told you of the Bond?
"Sí, I certainly did. You have always been fair in your treatment of me so far, and answered what questions I have asked--" He would have gone on had a rather obnoxious, strident, electronic chirp not interrupted them at that moment. Oh God, the pager. Go away; I'm busy.
Of course, as all things electronic, it would do as it was told and nothing else. The little machine continued its insistent, clarion call no matter how hard the blonde man wished it to stop. Talk about a mood-breaker. All right, all right; just shut up already. "Sorry, Lis," Zoey softly murmured. "But it's got to be an emergency. I told everyone that has the number to *not* call unless absolutely necessary."
"Quite all right, angel. Go ahead and answer it." The brunette Toreador loosened her hold on the young musician, making it a series of caresses that left him shivering in pleasure; after all, he did still have the details of his own life to deal with. Besides, he was just so fascinating that she wanted to learn more about him and his circumstances. With an elegant gesture, Lis pointed to the phone sitting on the finely-crafted bedside table. "You can use the phone in here."
A nod of acknowledgement and he gracefully rose to his feet, slender fingers slipping into the front pocket of his jeans as he did. Fishing out the small, black plastic pager, Zoey pressed the light button on it and glanced at the number. What the hell could Frank want? He always calls my voice mail, not my pager. An odd little frission of dread ran through the ponytailed mortal as his emerald eyes spied the 911 code affixed to the phone number. Something was dreadfully wrong if their manager was paging him like that.
A few quick, graceful strides took him over to the phone. Snagging the handset, he stuffed the now-silent pager back into the pocket of his flatteringly snug, black denim jeans and poked out the phone number with a slender digit. As the burring tone of the ringing telephone sounded against his left ear, under which his single earring of green zoisite glimmered, Zoey absently plopped himself down onto the rumpled bed.
Her brownish-green eyes watching every move of the musician's graceful body, Lis remained kneeling upon the plush carpet of her bedroom for a moment longer, that satisfied smile still curled upon her lush, full lips. When he sat down upon her bed, she elegantly rose; standing was far more comfortable than the rug-cushioned floor.
The ringing sounded a trio of times before the click of it being picked up caught Zoey's attention. "Hello? Zoey, is that you?"
"Yeah, it's me, Frank." The musician's frown deepened; Franklin Meyers was well-known for his unflappable personality, yet here he was on the other end of the line with an almost frantic tone to his baritone voice.
"Thank God you called back right away. There's been trouble."
"Trouble?" Zoey felt adrenaline surge as a wave of fear washed over him. His sense of foreboding had been correct. His smooth tenor taking on an abrupt sound, he continued, "What *sort* of trouble? What's happened, Frank?"
"It's Alex, Zoey. He's gone. . . Missing."
"What? What do you mean, 'missing'?" The blonde guitarist's heart skipped a beat. Of the other three members of his band, he was the closest to Alex, the bassist. The slightly younger man was the closest thing Zoey had ever had to an actual brother even though their relationship was certainly better described as being just really good buddies.
"I just got a call from his parents hoping I knew where he was. They were gone all day and had just gotten home only to find the place ransacked. It was *thrashed*, Zoey, but as far as they can tell, there's nothing actually *stolen*. The other guys have no idea where Alex could be; in fact, they were under the impression that he was home sleeping, trying to catch up now that he seemed to be over the nightmares. Mrs. MacInnis said that it looked like a fight had happened in Alex's room, and the police just aren't talking to me right now."
Zoey's face went pale as he heard his manager's rapid-fire explanation. Almost immediately he thought of Prince Byron and the Sabbat both. Dear Lord, I hope Alex hasn't been dragged into anything because of me. "I've. . . not been around any of the guys since yesterday afternoon. This is the first I've heard of anything." Even to himself, he sounded rather lame, but it was the truth.
"I know that, Zoey. Just. . . If you hear anything, for God's sake, let us know. Maybe you know of a place he might have gone that the rest of us don't?" Frank sounded almost hopeful, and the musician cringed inwardly at not bring able to just produce Alex out of thin air. Dios, the bassist's mother had to be going nearly insane with worry by now.
"I promise, Frank. I'll do what I can." It might not be much, but I'll try.
"Good. God, I hope he's all right and just out drinking somewhere, safe and sound. I'll let you know if anything more is found out."
"You do that. And I'll keep an eye out for him myself. Later, Frank." Without even waiting to hear the manager's farewell, Zoey replaced the handset on the touch-tone phone. Feeling numb inside, he just sat there for a moment, trying to take in the fact that his best friend was gone, apparently under violent circumstances. Finally, however, he glanced back over to the Kindred that now owned him, body and soul, his emerald eyes troubled.
Elisabeth's curiosity had been just too intense; she'd switched on the Heightened Senses and eavesdropped on both ends of the conversation . . . even though it was tempting to just listen to the sound of Zoey's heartbeat, the rhythm of his breathing, even the faint whisper of his golden hair where strands of it brushed against his cheeks and neck.
She gazed back at Zoey for a long moment; he started to speak, but she held up a hand in that rather regal manner of hers. "I know, Zoey. I heard all of it." She spun on her heel, dark hair flowing and dancing around her, and strode into her dressing room. "Do you want me to help?"
"I . . . yeah, Lis. If you *can* help--please. He's my best friend."
Dieu--she could hear the pain in his voice, and it made her wince in sympathy. "I know what it is like to fear for a friend, Zoey. I will do all that I can to help." She pulled open a drawer, tugged out underwear. "I . . . must confess guilt, angel."
"Guilt? Guilt for what?"
"It was my doing, the nightmares. I am not without my pride and petty temper; your bandmates called me something I found objectionable, and I retaliated without thinking. I am sorry, angel."
"What'd they call you?" He sounded baffled; well, he *had* left the stage before the offensive remark was spoken.
"Your keyboard player referred to me as 'a piece of ass,'" Lis answered, just a bit snippily. That *had* been rather ungentlemanly of the man, and Lis generally expected a little more polite behavior from those around her.
"So you gave them all nightmares for a solid week?" Zoey poked his golden head into the dressing room, then blinked in appreciation of the sight of Lis in aqua-green silk lingerie, pulling a pair of dark blue jeans up her long, shapely legs.
"All told, I think it was the mildest thing I could have done," she replied, sounding a little ashamed of herself. Taking a turquoise-hued silk blouse from a hanger, she tugged it on, then fastened the onyx buttons swiftly before tucking the shirt into the waistband of the jeans. Stepping over to her dressing table, she began to comb her luxurious hair.
"I *wondered*," he said a little reproachfully. "For all of them to have such awful nights . . . it sure put a damper on band practice, you know."
"Angel, I will gladly make up for the loss in any way you and your friends deem fit. Would you like a professional studio session?"
"You can arrange *that*?" He sounded startled, understandably.
"Zoey, even if I had no contacts in that field, my money alone could purchase you whatever you desire." She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. "I am *very* wealthy, angel. I have been building my fortune since before the Dark Ages. I own a large number of companies. Including a recording studio, by the way." She named one of the premier recording groups in the world, and had the satisfaction of watching Zoey's eyes go almost perfectly round, wide with amazement. "Kindred have unparalleled opportunities for financial gain, Zoey. We are immortal--we can make long-term plans. Long-term, as in *decades*. Centuries, sometimes."
At least the tangent had diverted his focus a little, taking some of his attention away from the immediate situation with his missing friend. The reminder of just how old Lis was helped bring to mind what he had seen of her actual power as a Kindred; the idea seemed to give him hope.
She finished tying her long hair into a thick, heavy braid, then slipped into soft suede calf boots. Pulling a dark-brown bomber jacket from a hanger and stepping into the bedroom, she nodded toward the connecting door. "Get whatever you need, Zoey. I'll need you to drive us both there, if you would."
There was still one police cruiser on the street in front of the apartment building when Zoey's sleek green Mustang pulled into a parking space. The blond musician frowned slightly, but Lis remained cool, confident. Their footsteps echoed in the stairwell as they climbed up to the right floor; Zoey led the way to the apartment door.
Alex's mother, her eyes rimmed with red from crying, opened the door. "Zoey? Do you know--"
"Yeah," he answered gently. "I'm sorry. I came to see if there was anything I could do to help."
"Who's your friend?" the older woman asked, even as she let them into the living room. Near the hallway, Alex's father was talking quietly with a uniformed police officer.
"Elisabeth," the Toreador replied urbanely, inclining her head regally in greeting. "Excuse me a moment." She strolled over to the hallway, her braid swinging slightly against her back. She had to repress a smile at hearing Mrs. MacInnis's hushed voice behind her.
"Is that your girlfriend?" the woman started in on Zoey. "She's lovely . . ."
"Pardon me," Lis said calmly, circling past the two men. She spotted the open doorway, crossed with crime-scene tape at the top; light spilled through into the hall.
"Ma'am, wait, you can't go in there!" the officer protested, following her. "That's a crime scene--"
She turned. Her eyes seemed huge for a moment, pulling the man easily under her sway; she reached past him with her mind, catching the other man's mind with Telepathy. "I'm a private investigator, Officer--Mr. MacInnis contacted me earlier. You will not detain me from my examination of the scene." He nodded slowly, stepping back again, looking faintly dazed; Alex's father was nodding as well, the "reminder" implanted in his mind. She turned and entered the room.
It *was* thrashed, the disarray almost total. Some cleanup had began out in the main room, but this area had not been touched yet--which was good, in Lis's opinion. She could already smell blood in the air; none was immediately visible, but a few moments of careful exploration uncovered the source. Several spots of drying blood, none larger than a quarter, marked the floor near the bed, half-hidden beneath the toppled nightstand. Crouching down, she touched a finger to the sticky stuff, then put her fingertip in her mouth.
Human blood. None of the sting of Kindred vitae. There's not enough here to indicate a serious injury, thankfully.
She sniffed the air again; there was a *second* source of blood scent, distinct from the odor of the human's, and she went looking again. This time, she found the source faster; kicked under the bed, leaving a smear on the floor, was a small folding knife slicked with red. Another careful taste, and she frowned. This is Kindred, all right. She rubbed her thumb over the pads of the other four fingers, using the power of Vicissitude to smooth out the telltale whorls and lines of her fingerprints, then put her fingers carefully on the handle of the knife and closed her eyes, concentrating. Part of her Auspex array included a sort of psychometric power, the ability to read impressions from objects; the Kindred called it Spirit's Touch.
Lis caught a glimpse of the boy, the mortal bassist. He was pulling this knife from the bedside table, opening the blade to defend himself. Metal struck flesh--she could sense the flash of pain from the target--and then the knife was jerked from the young mortal's grasp. She perceived the assailant, then--a tall, angular man with a ring of metal pierced through his eyebrow; blood stained the shoulder of his chain-draped leather jacket, running from the shallow wound in the side of his neck. He dropped the knife; a booted foot kicked it under the bed.
The Toreador moved slowly through the room, touching here and there with her blanked fingers, gleaning impressions and images from the destruction. When she had a reasonably complete picture of what had happened, she returned to the bedside, reaching under to take the knife. Wrapping it in a few tissues pulled from a box lying next to the topple nightstand, she slid it into her pocket; Kindred blood could not be allowed to fall into the hands of mortal examiners. She used another tissue to wipe up the smear on the floor, ensuring that no trace remained to be found by the naked eye. She stroked her other hand over her fingers, restoring her prints--no need to make Zoey flinch when she took his hand--and walked out of the room.
"At first guess, I'd say the young man was either abducted, or put to flight by the intruders," Lis informed the cop. "There's no sign of anything being stolen, though the parents'll have to make a complete inventory to confirm that. Given the presence of blood in the room--" She heard Mrs. MacInnis gasp, and the softer, swift intake of breath from Zoey-- "I suspect he might be injured, but not severely. There's only a few drops in there--maybe a bloody nose or a very light cut. Keep me posted, please." She reached into her jacket pocket and produced a card; according to the name on the card, it belonged to a small private investigation firm in the city. She owned it, naturally.
"Uh . . . thanks," the cop managed as she swept past him, pausing only to tuck another card into Mr. MacInnis's hand with an encouraging wink.
"My . . . you didn't tell me she was a private eye," Mrs. MacInnis was saying to Zoey; Lis held out a hand, and the blond man stood to take it.
"Well, uh--she's really good," Zoey assured the woman confidently. The gaze he flicked back at Lis was slightly less confident, but she merely smiled at him.
"Give us a call if you hear anything?" Alex's mother implored; Lis nodded graciously as they left the apartment.
"What did you find?" he asked her the moment they were in the car. She was almost surprised that he'd waited that long.
Quietly, calmly, her gaze never leaving the street ahead as Zoey drove, she told him what she had "seen" in Alex's room. Two Kindred had crashed through the door, fangs out, obviously not caring about the Masquerade; Alex had put up a surprisingly good fight against the pair, drawing blood from one with the small knife, throwing the other one up against the dresser hard enough to put his leather-jacketed back into the mirror, shattering the glass. He hadn't been badly beaten--the thug who'd been knifed punched him several times, bloodying his nose, but the second Kindred had forestalled any more serious violence by what looked a great deal like a Dominate command to "sleep." Alex had gone limp, and was carried out of the room by the pair.
"I suspect they were Sabbat, Zoey. I don't think anyone in Byron's court actually saw you or the band; Byron's childe, though, obviously had seen you, and most likely the others as well."
"Oh, God," the young musician whispered; he had to pull to the side of the road. Sitting there, shaking, he didn't resist when she put her arms around him and held him gently against her.
The sleek Mustang purred in a well-oiled, smooth way as it sped down the streets of the city in twilight, quite the contrast to the mental state of the blond man behind the wheel. His knuckles white on the black vinyl, emerald eyes focused on the road and traffic ahead, Zoey's mind remained remained in an almost trancelike state of numbness. Almost anything could be happening to Alex; after what he himself had endured, the guitarist just didn't dare let his imagination run wild. To do so would only bring back his own memories and further fracture his peace of mind.
As he turned the last corner and drove up to the apartments, a flash of a memory did slip through his guard.
Zoey sits comfortably on a stool in the storage unit the band uses to stow their equipment and perform practice in. Hands lovingly caressing the Fender, he tweaks another knob on the head with his left hand as his right repeatedly plucks the string. All of his concentration is focused on the sound, looking for just the perfect tone, so he isn't even aware of the fact that Alex has finished his can of soda. Even the sound of the aluminum can being crushed in the bassist's hands doesn't catch Zoey's attention. In fact, the guitarist has no true concept of what's going on around him as he tunes the Fender until the sensation of something bouncing off his head shatters his concentration. Looking up, emerald eyes narrowing in annoyance, he hears the sound of a pop can hit the concrete floor. Alex normally has quite the innocent look on his youthful, slightly freckled face, but the look of pure amusement in his bright blue eyes as the bassist runs strong fingers through his wavy, shoulderblade-length, deep red hair makes him seem just far too innocent. Seeing that Zoey's about to chew him out, he winks at his friend and says a single word. "Gotcha!"
That alone is enough to make Zoey's anger fizzle out, and the blond guitarist laughs. "Two points, Alex. Was a hell of a shot. . ."
The sight of the police car still there at the apartment complex jolted Zoey out of the memory. God, would he ever see that jokester's sly grin and hear his infectious laugh anymore? And if he did, would his friend ever be the same kid he'd come to know and like so well? He was still frowning, worry filling him, as he parked the deep green convertible behind the black and white--strange how they still called them that though the majority of forces these days used cars that were mostly white--then quickly stepped out of the car and circled the hood to pull open the door for Lis.
He almost envied her her calm and confident manner, but then again, she *was* an outsider to this, drawn in only because he had asked her to help. Zoey couldn't help but feel somewhat proud and relieved that the stunning Kindred had agreed to put her talents to work on helping his friend. If anyone could rescue Alex if it turned out to be Kindred that had been responsible for the bassist's disappearance, the elegant Toreador elder could do it. Thank you, Lis. This really means a lot to me. . .
The gorgeous brunette didn't need to answer that thought, though a small smile of satisfaction curled upon her lush, red-tinged lips as she trailed behind the slender form of her youngest ghoul and ardent lover.
The deepening night seemed to get progressively gloomier the nearer the blond musician got to his friend's family's home. The place wasn't that bad of a place, but it did show signs of wear and tear and mild abuse from the tenants along with mild neglect from the property owners. He walked along the now-familiar path still in a daze, still not letting himself really *think*. To do so would overwhelm him with anxiety and worry.
And it was all Zoey could do to make himself stand there in the living room of the apartment and face the distressed Mrs. MacInnis as Lis walked through the apartment like she owned the place The young musician felt profoundly guilty as he gazed at the rusty-orange carpet, the modern Danish style furniture in browns and golds, the brass table and floor lamps, the glass and brass coffee table, the off-white painted walls--everywhere save directly at the sniffling, middle-aged woman with the bedraggled copper hair and reddened, sky-blue eyes. However, when Alex's mother asked if that was his girlfriend, he couldn't help but sweetly smile and glance over at the regal woman as she somehow made the police and Alex's dad believe her made-up story.
"Yeah, she's the new girlfriend Alex has been raving about, Mrs. MacInnis. And she's beyond lovely. She's gorgeous." His soft voice held a note of awe-tinged joy as he answered her.
The mature woman did smile in return to the happy look on her son's best friend's face. Raving was an accurate term; the bassist had gone and on about Zoisite being out of it all week long like he had been on cloud nine. But that made her think of her son's persistent nightmares and Mrs. MacInnis felt the tears welling up once again. Alex hadn't told her what he dreamed that kept making him wake up screaming every time he tried to sleep, and now she had to wonder if she would ever see her son again.
"Shh," Zoey had caught the tiny sob; looking at her and seeing her puddling up again, he hesitantly put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure it'll all work out. Can you do me a favor? Where are the other guys?"
"Why are you asking that?" came the deep voice of Alex's father. Mr. MacInnis looked much like the stereotypical Scotsman, with bushy, deep auburn hair, a stocky, compact build and emerald green eyes.
Biting his lower lip a moment in thought, the ponytailed guitarist's quick mind sorted through various ways of expressing what he wanted to say. "Well. . . Considering the past week and the fact that something's seemed to have happened to Alex, I just wanna check on them and see what they have to say. Maybe they saw something?"
"I wouldn't worry about your other friends at the moment," the police officer replied. "They're down at the station giving statements. One of them seemed to think that they might have attracted the unwanted attention of a gang--"
That made Mrs. MacInnis gasp in surprise and Mr. MacInnis scowl.
Zoey himself frowned as well, his jaw tightening and his graceful form stiffening slightly; he idly wondered what sort of trouble Tony or Rick had thought they had run across. God knew they had had their moments of running with the wrong crowd.
"--so they were more than happy to go to the station and hang out there for a while," finished the big, burly cop.
Thank God for small favors. In the middle of a cop shop, they *should* be safe enough. Not even the Sabbat would risk that sort of exposure. . . I hope. . . Shaking his head slightly, long, golden ponytail swishing silently against his back, the young musician forced himself to stop thinking along those lines. Maybe it was just a regular, mundane group of bad-ass, mortal gangbangers that had done this? There was always that hope.
"What about you, Mr. . . ?"
Startled out of his thoughts, the slender guitarist fixed the cop with his emerald gaze, taking a seat in one of the comfortable, reclining chairs. "Pardon me? What about me what?"
"What do you know about all this?"
"Nothing, really. I spent last night and all day today with my girlfriend, Elisabeth. As for Rick or Tony saying something about running afoul with a gang, this is certainly the first I've heard of it. They might be roommates and band members, but I don't keep track of all of their comings and goings." Zoey sighed, shaking his head once more before looking over at Alex's parents. "Believe me, if I knew something, I'd tell you about it, but this has been as big a surprise to me as it has you." Forgive me, but I can't open my mouth and say, "Hey, I think maybe a bunch of bad-ass vampires came and grabbed your son and you might ever see him alive again." I'm so sorry. . . God, he hated this deception, but it was necessary. It had to be done, no matter what.
It was just then that Elisabeth swept back into the living room, giving everyone there the rather disturbing results of her investigation and taking over the place through the sheer force of her presence and personality. Although he'd found her preliminary statement unsettling enough, he could tell that there was more--more that only they were going to know. With a sinking feeling, Zoey knew right then and there that Kindred were involved.
After doing what he could to reassure the MacInnises and walking with Lis hand in hand back out to the car, the blond musician once more acted the perfect gentleman, opening the Mustang's passenger door for her then shutting it once she was in. He stood there for a moment, a stray breeze in the faintly chilled air stirring his soft, wispy hair as his emerald gaze swept over the lights of the city at night. Out there, somewhere, the wolves had taken their prey for whatever ungodly reason; even with Lis helping, there was a chance that he'd never see the redheaded bassist again.
Once he was in the car, he knew they were safe from prying ears. Turning over the engine and revving the motor for a moment, he finally asked her the question that was preying on his mind.
"What did you find?"
The inquiry hung there between them as he put the Mustang in gear and pulled away from the curb. Hell, no, he had no idea where he was going; he only knew that he needed to drive away from there. If it were possible, he'd drive away from Lis's quiet words, escape the growing sense of horror that was filling him, making him ill. The final straw had come when Lis had told him that it was her educated guess that the Sabbat were involved.
Shuddering too hard to maintain safe control of his beloved Mustang, the slender youth turned off to the side of the road and shut the car off. Anxiety and dread washing over him with an intensity that made him sick to his stomach, his hands clenching the wheel, Zoey was sure of two things.
First of all, Alex wouldn't be at the cemetery the guitarist had been taken to. The dark-chocolate haired Kindred sitting next to him had eradicated that particular pack of Sabbat, so this was a different pack with a different lair. The redhead could be damned near anywhere.
Second, the Kindred hadn't cared if Alex had seen them for what they really were. From what he understood, there were only three possible outcomes now. They had meant to kill Alex, turn him into a ghoul, or Embrace him as one of their own. Either way, they had busted up the bassist's place and had grabbed him for a specific purpose.
His body shuddering from the stomach-knotting riot of emotions, Zoey was barely aware of his night angel, his true love, putting a slim, elegant arm around him and pulling him against her. Letting go of the wheel, he instinctively turned to her, wrapping his arms around her casually dressed form. Resting his head against her shoulder, where his hair glimmered faintly like molten gold against her bomber jacket in the light of a halogen streetlamp, he nuzzled against her as he clung to her. Lis would somehow see to it that everything would be all right. He knew this; it was a fact as basic as the fact that he needed air to breathe. And if, somehow, she couldn't make it all right, she would see to it that the responsible parties would pay dearly.
"He could be anywhere in the city, Lis. What am I going to do? God, for all I know, they're looking for a way to get the other two." The situation was hopeless; he felt so small and helpless in the face of this, and frustrated and enraged at himself for not being able to do *more*. Caught up in the knot of overwhelming emotions, Zoey fell silent and hugged Lis tight, hoping that she would be able to give him some sort of guidance.
"He could be anywhere in the city, Lis. What am I going to do? God, for all I know, they're looking for a way to get the other two."
Elisabeth closed her eyes in sympathy for the fear and anxiety she heard in Zoey's voice; she held him close, feeling the trembling of his slender body. Dieu, this was a mess. The motivations of Alex's attackers were so unclear; they had taken him alive, but why? Few mortals were worth such trouble in the eyes of the Sabbat--cheap entertainment, food, slaves, and potential childer were more easily obtained by those wild, amoral Kindred. Homeless people, runaways, gang members, and street criminals were the usual targets; despite their habitual flouting of the Six Traditions, the Sabbat did have an understanding of the practical nature of the Masquerade, and at least made a token effort to protect it by avoiding too much attention.
"We will find him, angel," she whispered into Zoey's golden hair. The words should have seemed inadequate, an empty platitude; still, the knowledge of her power and influence lent weight to them.
As if to punctuate her statement, there was a soft trilling sound as the cellular phone in her jacket pocket rang. She eased her grip on Zoey enough to slide a hand into her pocket; shaking back her hair as she turned on the device, she put the phone against an ear whose lobe was adorned with a turquoise teardrop suspended from a fine silver wire. "Yes?"
"Lizzie," Victor said abruptly, "you'd better haul ass to the fourth precinct house. Grant's been listening to the police scanner, like you told him to, and evidently there's a huge ruckus going on down there. They're putting out distress codes like you wouldn't believe, hollering for assistance."
Lis's body went rigid as a steel bar. "*What*? What's the situation?"
"Grant says they're reporting that there's a bunch of armed, hopped-up crazies running through the place. There's already four officers down and several more wounded."
The Toreador looked swiftly to Zoey. "Your friends are at the police station?"
She could *see* the sudden fear in his eyes. "Yes . . . oh God, Lis, what's going on?"
"I'm on my way down," she snapped into the phone. "You and Grant get the van and get there as soon as you can. I might need you." She turned the phone off and shoved it back into her pocket, then opened the car door, unsnapping her seat belt and sliding out.
"Lis?" Zoey was climbing out the driver's side, looking startled.
"Stay here," she said, glancing around swiftly to get her bearings. "There's trouble at the police station. I think the Sabbat is going after your other friends as well."
"I'm going with you."
"No, you aren't." She pivoted, winding up to start the run to the station.
"I'm going *with* you, Lis!" he shouted; she turned, startled by the defiance in his tone. He rounded the hood of the car, his hands clenched into tight fists at his sides. "Lis," he said, far more softly, "these are my *friends* we're talking about. I'm not going to stand around doing nothing if they're in danger."
She gazed at him for a long moment; then, slowly, she nodded. "Very well, angel." She stepped over to him and wrapped one arm around his ribs, bending slightly to tuck her other hand behind his knees, lifting him easily into her embrace. "Hold onto me. I am going to be running *very* fast, and it will not be very comfortable for you."
He obeyed, putting his arms around her neck, closing his eyes as he rested his head on her shoulder. "Thank you, Lis," he whispered, his warm breath tickling her throat.
She sent blood roaring through her body and leapt from a standing start into full speed.
Zoey had just started to believe that yes, maybe things would look up and turn out all right--it was actually an easy thing to do, with the ancient, powerful Kindred there holding him and murmuring--when the sharp little sound of her cell phone shattered the calmness of the moment. In fact, the golden haired musician felt a flicker of annoyance at the interruption. A frown settling on his beautiful face, he leaned against Lis and listened to her side of the conversation, eyes gazing unfocused down the road and off into the distance.
His irritation deepened, fear once more adding to the mix as he felt his lover's slender, undead body stiffen against him. Whoever it was, you can damned well bet they weren't calling in to give them a happy piece of news. The fear only magnified by leaps and bounds when Zoey heard Lis's wonderful, mellow voice ask where the other two band members were.
Pulling back, a thrill of pure terror shooting through his gracefully muscled form, the guitarist shook his head in dumbfounded disbelief. Long, silken ponytail swaying with the movement of his head, he softly groaned. No way. . . No *fucking* way. . . Mind numbed from the sudden thought of Sabbat trashing an entire police station *just* to get his other friends, his sweet tenor held a shaky tone. "Yes . . . oh God, Lis, what's going on?"
The Toreador elder didn't answer. Instead, she ended her conversation with one of his fellow ghouls--most likely Victor--and bailed out of the Mustang in a controlled explosion of movement. Startled by the sudden activity but also jolted out of his stupefied state, he managed to call out her name even as he started unfastening his own seatbelt. Slipping his elegant form out of the driver's side of the convertible, a stray breeze of the night air ruffling through the silken cloud of spun-gold hair that surrounded his shoulders and face, he frowned in sudden determination when Lis told him to stay put.
For whatever ungodly reason, they were after Rick and Tony. Madre de Dios, he wasn't going to sit by and not do *anything* at all. They were in trouble--and the Sabbat *might* get lucky and hurt Lis. That last thought slammed through him, sending a sharp stab of emotion through him, fueling the frustrated rage simmering in the pit of his stomach. He was going with her, damn it. Walking around the front end of his sleek, deep green car with a swift, graceful stride, body tense and fists clenched tight enough to turn the knuckles white, he did his best to make her see that he needed to go. True, he probably could not resist her if she *insisted* he stay--even this small, desperate defiance caused the newly formed emotional tie to her to make him worry about angering her--but he had to try. His melodic voice softer again, he stepped up to stand in front of her. Green eyes staring at her, imploring her to relent, Zoey sighed. "Lis, these are my *friends* we're talking about. I'm not going to stand around doing nothing if they're in danger."
Time seemed to stand still as Zoey waited, holding his breath; it was a breath released in a soft sigh of relief when the stunningly beautiful woman relented and gathered up his graceful form in her arms. Well aware of the bursts of speed she was capable of, he did as she asked and wrapped his arms tight around her. "Thank you, Lis." The words were a soft whisper of gratitude; the musician gently nuzzled her shoulder with a fair-skinned cheek as he closed those large, emerald eyes and pressed his face against her.
A dozen police cruisers were scattered up and down the streets surrounding the station. Shouting and gunfire shattered the peace of the evening; faint screams could be heard inside the building.
Stopping beside one of the trees that grew through gratings in the sidewalk, Lis set Zoey down gently. "Are you all right?"
The young musician was wide-eyed and trembling; his golden hair was a windblown mess around his pale face. "Dios," he mumbled unsteadily. "That was . . . very fast." Then he turned to look at the station house, biting his lip at the sound of another thready scream from inside. "Tony, Rick . . ."
"It will be all right, Zoey," she told him firmly. "I want you to stay here while I go inside--"
"No," he said immediately. Her newest ghoul was indeed as stubborn as hell. "I'm going too."
She reached up to the tree beside them, breaking the end of the lowest limb and stripping off twigs and leaves. Twisting her fingers around the splintered end of the short shaft of wood, she broke away the smaller fragments to leave the longest, most solid point intact, then handed him the crude stake. "Remember, angel," she murmured gently. "Aim for the heart."
He clenched his fist around the stake, nodding slightly. Taking hold of his free hand, she wrapped a cloak of obscurity around them both, making them effectively invisible; leading him silently through the confusion of panicked policemen and scattered vehicles, she walked brazenly through the front doors of the station.
Glass lay shattered on the floor from the broken windows; the front desk had been hurled into the wall. A pool of blood seeped from beneath the desk--probably the man who'd been on duty there lay trapped under the heavy piece of furniture. Lis didn't slow down, stalking across the lobby and through the broken double doors that led back into the main room.
Chaos. Desks were overturned, the air thick with the stench of cordite and blood; several of the overhead fluorescent lights had been broken, a few torn halfway from their moorings in the ceiling. Several officers were taking shelter behind the toppled desks, and someone was groaning over and over, an ugly gurgling sound. Even as the Kindred and the ghoul moved slowly through the mess, raucous laughter sounded from the hallway on the far side of the room. A man in uniform, bleeding from an ugly gash across his stomach, staggered out of the hall and half-fell behind a desk; a few cries of horror sounded as two uninjured officers hurried to help him, trying to stay behind cover.
Lis tugged Zoey down with her in the shelter of one of the desks, dropping the fog of Obfuscate. "Don't get spooked, angel," she whispered. "I'm going to do a little checking around, but it does look a bit strange." She closed her eyes and sent her awareness leaping free of her body; that elegant frame relaxed into limp immobility as she went. Scanning through the building, her psychic form undetected, she quickly found what she was looking for.
Zoey's two friends were barricaded in one of the offices down the hall. Six Kindred were ranging up and down that hall and the stairwell, searching. Even as Lis watched, three officers in the stairwell started firing at two of the vampires; one stumbled back under the hail of bullets, but the other took the hits and raced at the policemen, long claws sprouting from his fingers, baring his fangs in a snarl. The racket attracted the other four Kindred, who went to the aid of their comrades.
That gave Lis the opening she wanted. Snapping back to her body and reestablishing the concealment, she stood, pulling Zoey gently with her as she went swiftly towards the hallway. Once they were in the shadows of the corridor, she dropped the Obfuscate; at the proper door, she extended her own claws, sank them into the top corners of the door, and wrenched it halfway off its hinges.
Your friends are in there, Lis told Zoey silently. Get them out of here. I'm going to take care of the Kindred.
This part is my concern, angel. Help your friends, but the Kindred belong to me.
This time, he didn't keep up his protests; he turned instead to work on getting the door open. She caught the flash of surprise as he took hold of the half-broken door and tugged, to be rewarded with a cracking groan as the wood split; he had just discovered how much strength her blood lent him. A slight smile touched her lovely face as she strode down the hallway.
The stairs held a running battle between the cops and the Kindred; several more officers had joined the first three, and they were managing to hold their ground. Still, as Lis arrived, one of the vampires sprang powerfully from the foot of the staircase, the semiautomatic in his fist chattering rapidly as he fired in midair at the cops.
Lis's solution to that problem was simple; she raised her hand, as Dr. Marshall had done in the Primogen council chamber, and used a sort of telekinetic force to snatch hold of the Kindred. He had just enough time to realize that he wasn't moving under his own power before she flicked her wrist upward, hurling him straight up the stairwell to smash into the ceiling three floors above. Another motion brought the broken body spinning back down--right past the astonished officers--to slam into the first set of stairs, spraying blood; the noise of bone shattering upon impact was gruesome.
Before anyone could quite focus on her standing there in the hall, Lis called on a power she'd learned from a Lasombra who'd turned traitor to the Sabbat; she summoned shadows, plunging the already-dim area into a murky darkness. The moment the lights went, she raised her voice, adding a tone of unopposable command. "Officers! Get up the stairs!"
No arguments there. She heard them clattering up the stairs, even as she heard the Kindred hissing in shock. One spoke, putting a final seal on her suspicions. "Bishop? Bishop Catherine?"
"You wish," she answered. Then she was among them, a shadow-cloaked blur of fangs, claws, slashing speed and brutal strength.
Yet one slipped past her, scoring her ribs with sharp talons along the way as he broke for the hall. She whirled to follow, but felt a shock of pain as one of the other Sabbat Kindred sank a heavy knife into her back, barely missing her spine.
She knew her four ghouls could feel that pain as if it were there own and would know she was in danger, but she spun to deal with the knife-wielder. Zoey! Zoey, be careful! One is coming back your way!
Lis sensed Zoey's emotions--sudden fear, anger, hate. And a determination that seemed as immovable as a mountain.
Dieu . . . if he were hurt by the vile creature . . .
She gouged her fingers into the ribs of the final Kindred, tearing his chest wide open, then ripped out his heart; the body was collapsing into dust even as she spun to race down the hall, feeling sick with fear for her young lover.
Lis was in time to see the sixth Sabbat member's mad rush impale him on the stake that Zoey held steady, like a hunter facing a boar; the Kindred froze, momentum carrying him past Zoey as the young ghoul released his grip on the stake and sidestepped. The staked vampire crashed to the floor, the impact pushing the bloody point of the wooden shaft out his back, transfixing him completely.
Zoey looked from the motionless body to Lis, a shaky smile on his face.
"Well done, beloved," she whispered, coming up to him quickly. He wasn't injured at all, and she felt total relief flood through her. "Your friends?"
"They should be out front already," he answered. "I told them I'd follow them--oh God, Lis!" He was staring now at the bloody wounds along her side; the gash in her back throbbed painfully.
"De rien, angel--it's nothing." She took his hand gently. "Let's get out of here. Grant and Victor should be out there now; I need to contact the Primogen, begin the repair of the Masquerade--"
"Consider said repairs already begun," a deep, calm voice interrupted. The sound was thrillingly masculine, echoing faintly.
A tall man strode into the corridor, which immediately seemed to grow smaller with his presence; his straight blond hair hung loose to his shoulders, and his intense green eyes swept over the scene before him. His dark business suit was perfectly tailored to his well-muscled frame.
Without more than a glance at Zoey, the newcomer took Lis's hand from the ghoul's grasp, lifting her slender fingers to his lips for a kiss. "Elisabeth. You've become no less beautiful or impressive with time, I see."
"Siegfried." The name was a faint sigh on her lips, which were curving slowly. "You've not lost any of your charm either, have you. What brings you here?"
"Victoria Moore let me know that a certain party is being planned, and that you, my dear, are the hostess." He still hadn't let go of her hand. "How could I miss a chance to enjoy your company?"
"Behave yourself," she chided him gently, taking her hand back firmly and nodding towards Zoey. "This is Zoisite de la Vega, my newest retainer."
Zoey looked like he wanted to kick the tall blond man right in the jewels, but he managed a grudging nod of greeting.
"Zoey, this is Prince Siegfried of Vancouver, a member of the Ventrue clan and an old friend of mine." She put her hand back into Zoey's, and felt his fingers tighten on hers.
How close a friend? he grumbled.
Bed-close . . . but never as special to me as you are, beloved angel.
Once, not too long ago, Zoey and the band had travelled to Montana to see some of Rick's family. Taking advantage of the speed limit laws there--now since repealed--that allowed drivers to travel as fast as they wanted during daylight hours, the blond guitarist had taken his friends' joking dare. Pushing the accelerator to the floor, Zoey had pushed the sleek Mustang to its limits, making the landscape around them a surreal blur and giving them all the sensation that the convertible was skimming the ribbon of asphalt on a cushion of air.
That was nothing compared to what he'd just been through. Everything about the run to the station was beyond surreal, the glittering lights of the city blurred, multicolored streaks, the feeling of flying, the roaring of the wind of their passage in his ears, the prickly heat of friction and the pressure of the air resisting their unearthly speed surrounding his certainly unaerodynamically engineered form. Lis's acceleration alone was enough to make him feel flattened up against her sensuous form--something which, in normal circumstances, he'd rather enjoy.
Zoey found it a pleasant surprise indeed to be able to stand on his own when the dark-chocolate haired Kindred came to a stop and set him down. Shuddering, trying to get his bearings as his slim body tried to adjust to suddenly not moving, he glanced around.
It was the same as always, this slightly rundown part of town. Not prosperous enough to have the slick polish of the newer sections or newly renovated areas, nor impoverished enough to have the desperate decay of the worst parts of the city, the buildings surrounding them were unspeakably average. Wear and tear, as well as a few examples of the various efforts of artwork done by grafitti artists and taggers, marked the structures, dirt and trash lined the street where curb and asphalt met, and not all the signs, awnings and pain on the store windows were pristine, but hey, it was nice, normal, mundane.
Save for the sounds of gunfire and screams from the building in front of which Zoey and Lis stood. *That* caught the musician's attention, pulling him out of the shock of flying without an airplane. Emerald eyes huge, he felt his heart leap into his throat, immediately concerned about his friends. God knew if Rick and Tony were wanted alive or not; he was determined to do what he could to see that they were left alone.
Again he had to assert himself, and again Lis had the grace to relent. God, she was so wonderful, being so understanding. He watched in admiration as she turned a branch into an effective enough weapon, then took it in hand with grim determination settling in his heart.
It would almost have been the strangest thing he'd ever done, walking through that chaotic mess of shattered glass, blood, splintered and overturned furniture, frantic shouts, broken lights, sounds of pain and suffering, chilling laughter and gunfire like he was on a nice walk through the park with Lis, only he'd already had a number of strange things happen in the last week or so of his life. Eyes huge, his hands squeezing both crude stake and the Toreador's slender digits, his numbed mind managed to realize that the dark angel at his side must be doing *something* for them to not be noticed. No way could we just waltz in here like this normally. My God, it looks like a tornado's hit! Where the hell are Rick and Tony? They all right?
Just then, Lis dove behind one of the desks, dragging the slender musician down with her. Despite her whispered warning, Zoey still blinked in mild surprise as the gorgeous, vibrant woman he'd come to love suddenly seemed to just slip away. Though he'd managed to shift position as he knelt behind the sturdy oak desk to cradle her in his arms when she relaxed, he frowned, fretting slightly, as his beloved angel of the night lay limply propped against his solid form. It was yet another reminder of what she truly was--an animated corpse. The ponytailed guitarist shivered, but continued to hold her in his arms as the chaos around them continued. From the sounds, it seemed as if the main action was down the hallway a bit.
Then Lis was suddenly there again, pulling her noble form from his grasp and taking his hand in her own again. A gentle tug and he was back on his feet, black boots making soft sounds on the linolium-tiled floor of the precinct house as he followed behind the Toreador's swiftly moving stride. From the determination in her entire stance, Zoey figured that she must have found something from that psychic scouting.
Sure enough, Lis confirmed that as she paused by a particular door and ripped the thing from the top hinge with a single, powerful tug. Wincing at the sharp crack as well as the shouts of dismay from behind the shelter of the broken barrier, the musician this time didn't argue much at all with the brunette Kindred. He knew he really wasn't up to fighting Sabbat, though he'd do his damnedest to try to keep his beloved angel of darkness from danger, and his friends really were more of a concern than going toe-to-toe with a slavering, snarling antitribu of some clan or other.
The spark of fear that ran through him at the thought of the Toreador elder battling it out with other Kindred--yes, he *did* worry about that, even though he knew quite well she could take care of herself in nearly situation--touched off the coals of power sitting in the pit of his stomach. An abrupt flare of heat filled his limbs as Zoey tugged on the splintered door, and he almost fell backwards from the force of his inhumanly strong tug that broke off the door the rest of the way. Holy shit. . .
Those very same words were echoed in a voice that, despite the obvious terror, Zoey instantly recognized--words which were followed by frightened whimpers and the sounds of a mad scramble to the far reaches of the room beyond.
"Oh, fuck, they've found us!" Tony sounded just as scared as Rick had. Zoey really couldn't blame them.
His wind-tousseled hair swirling around him, the blonde guitarist grabbed the metal filing cabinet blocking his way. Amazing what strength adrenaline gave normal people in a crisis; the guys had shoved the cabinet, a desk and a couple of heavy chairs in the way of the inward-swinging door. Even more amazing the strength that was doing a slow burn through his own veins. With just the slightest of heaves, the heavy, metallic cabinet went sailing to crash noisily against the wall to the left of the doorway.
That garnered twin shouts of horror in reaction, followed by soft whimpers. Guilt stabbing him at making the guys even more scared than they already were, Zoey called out, "Chill, guys. It's me, Zoey. I came to help get you out of here."
"Zoisite!? What the fuck?"
Scanning the room with his emerald gaze, Zoey was rather relieved to see that this room seemed virtually untouched by the rest of the chaotic whirlwind that had engulfed the rest of the cop shop. Other than what friends had shoved in front of the door, the place was pretty much normal looking--an office of some sort. Spotting the auburn-golden-brown haired keyboardist and the drummer with curly black hair slowly rising up from behind another sturdy desk near the opposite wall, Zoey flashed them a bit of a grin. Thank God they hadn't *seen* him toss that filing cabinet; he needed to *remember* that he too had to keep up the Masquerade. Forcing the fiery strength to dampen down, the guitarist shoved the desk barricading the entryway aside with a grunt. "Here you are partying and you didn't invite me."
"*Real* funny, Zoi," Tony groused, a hand nervously flicking aside a stray lock of his straight, mid-back length hair. "It's a goddamned freakshow out there and you're making *jokes*?"
"Christ, Zoey! They just came busting in and started spraying the joint with bullets. And I swear to God I saw claws and fangs on one of them!" Rick bounced out from behind the desk, his movements as excited and nervous as his light baritone sounded.
"Yeah, right, whatever," Zoey did his best to sound like he was scoffing the drummer's statement in disbelief. "Come on! You need to get the hell out of here."
"I ain't going anywhere until those nutballs are under control!" Tony shook his head, stubborn in his fright.
Zoey could easily out-stubborn his bandmates; he had already done so on a number of occasions. Snorting softly, he held a beckoning hand out to the other two men. "It's being handled, Tony! How the hell do you think I was able to get here? Just get to the front of the building. There's a couple of new friends of mine there that'll see to it you're all right."
"The way to the front's clear?" Rick asked, sapphire blue eyes glancing anxiously around as he strode up to the shorter man.
"It is for the moment. Hurry the fuck up and get out of here before it's not." There were times Zoey cursed the innate softness of his mellow tenor voice; this was one of them. As always, his voice just seemed to not take on a harsh tone, even when he really wanted it to.
However, the pair of terrified musicians didn't need to be told twice. Assured that there was a relatively safe way out of this insane place, the two younger men damned near ran Zoey over in their haste to get out. Sidestepping them, hand still gripping the makeshift stake--hell, a pity he didn't have extras to give the guys, just in case--he called out after his rapidly retreating friends, "I'll meet you out front in a moment!"
He didn't get an answer, nor did he expect one. Leaving the room in which the pair of Ravens had taken shelter, Zoey hesitated a moment, wondering where exactly Lis had disappeared to. He could pick up the sounds of a struggle somewhere in the distance, but the acoustics of the building made it difficult to pinpoint precisely where in the distance the fight was raging. Taking a step forward down the white-tiled hall in what he thought was the appropriate direction, he suddenly hissed in pain as he felt first the rake of talons along his side, then the fiery agony of something stabbing into his back.
No, not his back, *Lis's* back! Dios! She was hurt! Tossing caution to the wind, he lept to rush to her defense, not caring that it was probably Sabbat Kindred he'd be facing. All that mattered was that Lis was in trouble and needed whatever assistance he could give her.
His graceful form was already sprinting down the hall, the sound of his boots echoing eerily in the hushed silence of the corridor when Lis's warning made him skid to a halt. His green gaze sweeping over the area ahead, he felt a jumble of emotion swirling within him as he made eye contact with the punkish-looking figure that seemed to suddenly loom up from nowhere just a short distance away.
"Well, lookee here. . . It's the one that got away. You ain't gonna be so lucky this time, prettyboy." The leather-clad biker type leered at the young musician in a way that made Zoey's skin crawl. Let's pay the Torry bitch back by twisting her little toy into a pretzel.
The blond guitarist suppressed his shudder, bringing up his makeshift stake into a defensive position. It had been quite a while since he'd last fenced, but the inner calm and fluid mobility were easy to tap into given all the training he'd had in the past. Zoey had just enough time to find that peaceful feeling of being centered before the vicious-looking Kindred came at him, dashing madly down the hall.
Aim for the heart, and let his momentum do the work for you, Zoey. Bracing himself, his weight rocking forward slightly on the balls of his feet as he flexed his knees, the golden haired musician lifted the tip of the stake just so. . . then grunted as the force of the impact shivered down his arm. Sidestepping and letting the sharpened branch go, long ponytail of tangled hair fanning out with the graceful movement, he watched--half in wariness and half in awe--as the biker vampire fell unmoving to the floor, the point of the branch making a small tent in the surface of this silver-studded, black leather jacket. Sensing the presence of his angel of the night, Zoey glanced over at her with a little smile of victory. He'd had gotten at least a little bit of payback to the Sabbat for what they'd done to him.
The thrill of winning his first actual confrontation and the relief brought about on both their parts as Zoey and Lis reassured one another that things were pretty much all right was short-lived, however. Next thing the musician knew, a stunningly majestic figure of a man was stepping in and taking Lis's hand from his. Biting back his pissy little growl, Zoey flicked his gaze over the neat, aristocratic blond man that seemed to just waltz in and take over. Great. . . Yet another charming "friend", and I look like hell. A sulking expression settling on his handsome face, emerald eyes narrowing slightly underneath his spun-gold lashes, he lightly folded his arms over his T-shirt clad chest and gave Prince Siegfried a slight nod of acknowledgement. What I wouldn't do for a brush right now. Dammit, my hair's got to be a rat's nest from all that wind.
Although just slightly mollified when the gorgeous brunette reached out and gently took one of his hands from his chest to hold it again, Zoey couldn't help but sullenly ask, his thoughts a mental growl, How close a friend?
Bed-close . . . but never as special to me as you are, beloved angel.
How nice. Again the emerald eyes looked over the debonair prince, Zoey's sensual lips pressed into a petulant line. Think he might insist on getting. . . reacquainted? Yes, the guitarist already knew that Lis wouldn't do anything that she didn't feel like doing, no matter who the person insisting was, but he still thought the question before he could stop himself. The idea that the prince here had once been in Lis's bed rather rankled him, no matter the silliness of the emotion. Softly sighing, Zoey kept his eyes on the two, wondering what was going to happen next. So far, it had been one hell of a crazy night.
Think he might insist on getting. . . reacquainted?
Lis had to stifle a laugh at her young lover's piqued tone. She squeezed his hand gently, drawing him just a little closer to her side. Dieu, he looked so gorgeous with his hair a wild, windblown mass of soft gold around his perfect face--an angel gone native in T-shirt and jeans. I doubt it, Zoey.
What makes you so sure? he grumped.
"Siegfried?--oh, *there* you are." The voice was soft, feminine, touched with a distinct upper-class British accent; a young-seeming woman with long, silky hair the color of brown sugar came quickly down the hallway to the side of the tall blond Prince.
"Julie," Lis greeted her warmly, extending her free hand to clasp the other woman's fingers in a friendly hold. "It's good to see you again."
"Elisabeth Maurier? It's been a long time." Her smile was gentle, and genuine, as she shook Lis's hand. "Who's your friend?"
"Zoisite de la Vega, my newest retainer." Lis flicked a glance at Zoey that indicated he'd *better* be polite; the young ghoul took Julie's proffered hand, then blinked, evidently startled. Julie's flesh was warmer than he'd expected. "Zoey, this is Julie Foster of Clan Tremere, a dear friend of mine." And she's Siegfried's lover.
Oh. So I guess you are sure he won't want to renew the acquaintance, was Zoey's slightly sheepish mental reply.
Quite sure. "Well," the Toreador elder murmured, glancing from the Ventrue to the Tremere, "I suspect we should, as they say, 'make tracks.' No point in lingering about for questioning."
"Indeed," Siegfried replied, putting an arm lightly around Julie's shoulders. "Are you still in that place with all the flowers?"
"Where else would I be?" Lis smiled at him. "I won't be available tonight--I've some things that need doing." She glanced significantly down at the immobilized Sabbat vampire who still lay motionless on the floor. "However, I'm sure you can contact Victoria Moore, the city's Ventrue Primogen. Or, if you feel tolerant, Prince Celeste Byron."
"Lis, I have to ask . . ." Julie looked a bit apprehensive suddenly.
"Don't worry, Julie," Lis reassured her. "The Primogen and Regent of the Tremere in this city is Corinth Marshall. He *might* know who you are, but I doubt any members of his chantry are aware of your . . . awkward condition."
The Tremere nodded, looking relieved, as Lis bent down and effortlessly hoisted the staked Sabbat member onto her shoulder. The Prince of Vancouver and his advisor walked off toward the front of the building as Lis straightened again.
"What's Julie's 'condition'?" Zoey asked softly, curious.
"She's a Tremere rogue. Siegfried protects her from the wrath of her clan, but understandably, she tries to keep a low profile when she's outside Vancouver. Cory won't take action against her if he finds out she's here; he's a tolerant sort, and he wouldn't dare cross Siegfried." She held out her hand. "Come on, Zoey. Let's get out of here."
Of course, there *are* times that jumping to conclusions only makes you land in a mess. This was one of those times, Zoey swiftly decided as he made himself smile back at the warmer-than-he'd-expected Tremere woman when what he *really* wanted to do was have the earth swallow him up whole. He didn't *mean* to be so jealous, but he just couldn't help himself. Lis was so wonderful, so *perfect*, that he couldn't imagine anyone else not wanting her as much as he did.
Still rather embarrassed by his sullenness, the young musician watched in silence as the dashing Prince of Vancouver and the pretty woman that was his lover-and another good friend of Lis's; how many friends did she have in the area? Probably quite a few, being as old as she was--talked with the dark-chocolate haired Toreador. Zoey wryly smiled as Lis's sultry voice mentioned to the others that they would be busy; he couldn't help but hope that *he* would be one of the "things that needed doing". As it was, he certainly understood that the Sabbat-kebob needed to be dealt with--as well as his friends. The wry smile shifted to a frown on his handsome, expressive face. What the hell exactly am I going to tell them about what's going on?
Abrupt movement caught his attention, pulling the blond guitarist's quick mind from the cock-and-bull story he was trying to concoct. Emerald eyes getting just a bit wider as the gorgeous brunette Toreador once again showed her true strength--the Sabbat-on-a-stick just had to be quite a bit of dead weight--Zoey focused instead on what had just been said by the two women. Trust her and love her though he might, it was still more mentally comfortable to maintain the illusion that she was just another stunningly beautiful, worldly and *human* female.
As he took the Autarkis's free hand in his and followed his beloved angel of the night from the miniature war zone, Zoey couldn't help but wonder what Julie had done to merit the censure of her clan.
|Second Song, Third Stanza||Second Stanza||The Silverlands|
This page formatted and © by Dianna Silver
"The Silverlands", "The Obsidian Tower", "A Character's Chronicle: Zoey's Story", "Argent Stag, Silver Rose", "The Rose Garden" and the "Rose Realm" all © 1997 - by Dianna Silver. Some material also © 1998 - by Krissy Ryan.
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