The Past Is Back to Haunt You

Timeline: February 24th, 2008

Ann-Marie had returned from Albany. No one had known she was gone. Her lover Ironclaw was patrolling with his pack. Her brother still at the hospital for some reason. It was important she find someone, one of the group that helped her and were, in a way catalysts of the growing threat already festering in Maine. It was born here, and her blood had initiated it.

Though it was late, she went to the house, hoping Johnny, Lyla or any of the others were there. She didn’t hear any noise, but knocked still the same.

Ann-Marie…” A whisper echoed from the darkness behind her. Turning that direction, she saw Lyla dressed in her black outfit, the one she wore when they fought the Cult of Ishtar together. Lyla stepped onto the first wooden step of the porch. “Everyone’s asleep right now,” she said. “Are you looking for someone?”

“I guess I keep different hours,” she answered. “But yes I was looking for someone and I found her. Do you have time to talk. This is very important.” Her look was dead serious with a bit of worry and trepidation. Unusual for Ann-Marie.

“Of course. Come on, I know a quiet place. We can talk out here.” As Ann-Marie watched, Lyla’s eyes changed very subtly from pure bluish-silver to a slightly yellowish-silver. At the same time the irises enlarged from normal human size to something far bigger, hiding most of the whites of her eyes and allowing for her pupils to grow much bigger and accept more light. A faint glimmer reflected from them in an inhuman way — but it was a very lupine phenomenon. It was a small demonstration of power, using her natural abilities to grant herself superior night vision but as the forest was very dark and it was necessary to remain in human forms for them to communicate, it was very useful.

Once they arrived, Ann-Marie began, “There is a big problem brewing and I’m afraid it is partially due to you. Not you personally, but your entire co– I mean group. Ramiel, Michael, yourself, perhaps Daniel, and especially John. I’m not putting blame, but I need your help to fix it and soon before it spirals out of control.”

“What’s all this about?” Lyla asked curiously.

Ann-Marie answered, “I was told you ran into vampires some months back. Hence why Michael had tied me up when you first found me. They had caused problems for you and hurt you badly. I know this.”

Lyla nodded. “Yeah. They really fucked up my life. But one carries on,” she said. “Let’s see. That would have been ten month? Almost a year ago now. Last May.”

“But my brother’s solution has caused even greater problems. I believe this mage that took custody of my kin is using their knowledge to hunt and enslave other vampires, building a powerbase that could easily spiral out of control. We have the time and opportunity to stop it, though not much time. But I cannot do anything without your help.”

“Well,” Lyla said after some thought, “let’s start by blaming the right parties. None of that is John’s fault. If there is foul play, then it is solely the responsibility of this guy, this Mr. Silverton or whatever his name is. Sterling. Yeah, that’s what it is. He deceived John. If John knew what this guy was up to, he’d have handled things very differently. I’m sure of that.

“Now, of the two we know seem to be working for Sterling, we have one guy that attempted to enslave me. Apparently that awoke my heritage, so to speak, but not right away. He kidnapped me. I couldn’t tell you anything about him except what he looks like and that when he told me to do something, I found that I had to do it. I didn’t have a choice.

“The second guy was a fighter. And I mean he was damned good. Smart; he used cannon fodder to soften us up when he sprung his trap against us. Strong; he’s a hell of a good fighter. He uses a sword and does stuff with that thing you ain’t even seen in Kung Fu flicks. Fast; the way he moves, it’s like he’s Agent Smith from the Matrix; all dodging bullets and shit. Bad, bad, guy to try to fight.

“So you said he’s enslaving other vamps. You know who and where? We might begin a search for this renegade and his minions there.”

Ann-Marie answered, “I’m not blaming John. In fact I’ve tried to protect everyone involved in this. If we succeed then all will be well. What we need to do is to retrieve the vampires taken by this Sterling, alive. If they are wounded to the point of seeming dead, that is fine. A stake to the heart even better. Better still if we can free them from Sterling’s control and have them join our side! Once this is done, I will individually deal with each kindred, talking to them alone. I would appreciate this in the same way I would leave a werewolf to your kind, or a mage to Michael to deal with.”

“As far as the specific kindred you fought, I have an idea of what they did and I can give those who join us some general rules on what to avoid. As for a starting point, I say Portland, Maine. Some kindred very important to me disappeared there.”

“Hm,” Lyla mused. “It seems to me that the lynch-pin might be this guy Sterling. I think John even has a way to contact him. Maybe we can do both; set a trap for Sterling and then track the vamps down. I have no compunctions against killing that Sterling or anyone else who might be abusing their powers to twist people. I have a thing about kidnappers.”

Ann-Marie smiled, “Thank you, you have no idea home much this helps my kind. We must be very careful though, in the end my people must never know the details of who you are. Also, if Sterling can enslave the mind of that many of my kin, can we ask Michael to help protect us, if he can?”

Lyla raised an eyebrow. “Actually, if anyone could protect us from magic, it would be Ramiel.”

Someone whistling a tune was heard. it sounded like it was approaching the house.

“Do you hear that?” said Ann-Marie.

She nodded and listened a moment. “Sounds like John. He usually whistles on his way home from work,” she said.

“Really?,” Ann-Marie said quizzically, “That’s new. I’ll get him and bring him back here.” Ann-Marie left the grove and walked toward her brother. When she was close she said quietly, “Johnny.”

“What the … Geeze Louies Grace, give a fella some warning.” John put his hand over his heart and blew out a huff of air.

“Could you come with me for a few minutes. We need to talk.”

“Sure Grace what’s up?” John said amiably.

The two of them made their way back to Lyla as Ann-Marie quietly caught John up on their conversation. Upon meeting up with Lyla, she said, “I’ve caught Johnny up on the situation, and he knows that I don’t blame him.” To the two of them, “Do you have any questions of me or any ideas on how we can solve this?”

“Well,” John said, “I could call Sterling and tell him I know where another vampire has its lair and see what he has to say. Maybe he would send his minions to talk to you Ann Marie and we could talk to them in return or break them of the spell you think their under. But I don’t know how to keep Hengis from mind-controlling you or us as you say he did his friend.”

Ann-Marie answered, “Are you talking about making your sister bait? I trust you all, so if I do this please don’t lose me. Lyla, you said Ramiel might be able to protect us. As far as the vampires are concerned, just don’t look them in the eye. Don’t catch their gaze. It is hard, but it is the surest way to avoid some unpleasantness. I don’t know how to stop a mage outside of killing him. Is there a way to break the spell?”

Lyla said, “Well, I’m not positive, but I think so. If anyone can break a spell, it’s my Ramiel, though. I think he is even better at it than his teacher, or soon will be.”

Ann-Marie seemed confident in Lyla’s assertions of Ramiel’s skill, “Very well then. When they get back from Baltimore, what do you think we get them all caught up on what is going on, get everyone’s input, and then proceed on our game plan. One thing to consider, do we lead him here, or investigate in Portland and find his own turf?”

“Ann Marie,” John said, “I won’t use you as bait without your consent, but that’s all I know that Serling is interested in. Maybe I can tell him that another Vampire contacted me asking about Hengis and Cay, which has the advantage of being the truth, and that I arranged a meeting if he is interested in sending someone. Frankly I would rather have the home ground advantage.

“As would I,” Lyla added.

“Just a thought. Aubrey had told me that she didn’t want any more vampires in Eldon Well. If we can’t have home ground advantage, is there a neutral site we can go to? In addition, I think there might be some things to learn in Portland,” said Ann-Marie.

“Might be,” Lyla said, “but we don’t have to invite them into town. The territory ranges for miles beyond the city limits of Eldon Well. In fact, the site that Cay ambushed us might be neutral enough territory. I don’t mind making the deal slash ambush somewhere else, though. I think, if I’ve pieced this together right, John first contacted Sterling out of Concord, so that’s another option in addition to Portland.”

“Do you think this Sterling is responsible for what happened to me and that other poor wretch in Concord?” questioned Ann-Marie.

“I think Aubrey meant Vampires coming to stay not visit,” said John. “The last time Cay came here for Hengis we met at the hub and I called him from Eldon Well. As for Portland, if we can take some of his minions and get some intel out of them before we stick our heads into the Lions den I think that would be smarter. I wasn’t at the place in Concord but I don’t see what that would give him if he is based in Portland and why not just use his tame Vamps for it? That feels like a separate issue but one we need to deal with anyway. We should tell the others in the morning when they get back. Can we get any help from your community if we need it Ann Marie?”

Ann-Marie answered, “That is what I am worried about.” her words will filled with trepidation. “If we, together can stop Sterling, free (not kill, this is extremely important) the kindred and end the threat to vampire kind and anyone else Sterling may have his eyes on, then I will come out smelling like roses, you will safely remain anonymous to kindred kind and we will be left alone. I can get some help for basic information I believe, but physical help, no. You see, my kind generally eschews working with any other supernatural and we take our secrecy very seriously, even beyond what others do. It is what I explained to you that night on the balcony Johnny. If we fail, then all hell could break loose. I would like to avoid that, and I can’t get into the details. Let’s just say I would rather we not fail. So, together, we won’t. You’ll all have my gratitude.”

“I won’t make any promises about Hengis, Ann-Marie. He’s the one that started all this and he has some sort of Jedi mind control. ‘N right now I would say intel is what we need the most and will be worth more than a battalion. What if Sterling hasn’t limited himself to vampire kind? What if he has werewolves and mages too? As an old colonel of mine used to say ‘The better prepared you are going in, the more likely you will come back out in one piece.'”

“I agree, we should be prepared for all possibilities,” Ann-Marie said. “However, I really think to put this to an end once an for all we need to end the circle of violence. Hengis attacked your friends including you, Lyla. You are now my friends as well. Whatever his reasons for doing so, he was defeated and sold off to a mage to be enslaved. All of you are alive, yet you my brother still seem to want him dead after the indignity and shame of enslavement. Where does revenge end?” Ann-Marie paused, “I don’t know about Jedi, but I do know that if you simply avoid his gaze you will be fine. Take him down and don’t destroy him and I assure you he will be dealt with. But by my kind, in our way. This is very important Johnny. I can’t stress this more. All of the kindred must be retrieved. I want to prevent a reoccurance of any situation like this. As far as Sterling is concerned, he should die, or all we do will delay the inevitable. Eventually he would recover and seek revenge. I am fairly sure the kindred (even Hengis) will simply slip away into the darkness never to be seen again. Thus the circle of revenge ends.”

“Ann Marie you are being a bit two faced there and I am calling you on it,” said John. “You are calling for the end to the circle of violence against your kind but you are calling for us to end the mage’s life. You are talking about all of us being alive and okay, saying that is the plan for your kind and then give the mage the death sentence because he will want revenge and all we will do is delay the inevitable. I am saying Hengis deserves the death you told me it would have been ok to give him and do the same to Cay if I can’t get a promise to leave us alone. Or we should leave the mage to what ever governs the mages society. I know they have an organization I went to one of their meetings sort of. I am willing to deal with the situation I helped cause but if I can’t pass judgment on your kind then we can’t pass judgment on the mage he has to be turned over to the mages to deal with maybe they would give a some chains that would cut off his power.”

“As far as the mage, that is different. Hengis’ crime is being an idiot and taking on you guys. What he did was horrible, but limited to a select group. Once defeated and dealt with he will, in one way or another go away. Sterling’s crime is far more reaching. Imagine if someone captured a werewolf and got the names, locations, traditions, etc of all the packs in the area and was using that information to enslave them and to create an army. Would the werewolves let him live? I doubt it. Even if, for instance Lyla spared this villain out of pity, would the other packs do so? If we don’t kill Sterling, other kindred will do so, those whom we don’t ever wish to draw attention from. Things of ancient power far beyond any who solve problems with a bomb as opposed to our scalpel. I would accept the mages dealing with their own, if what he doing is a crime to them. I’m not sure it is. I’m happy if his memory could be wiped, but somehow all of the knowledge of the kindred he has collected MUST be destroyed. Or something terrible will happen. Let’s not fail and go there.” Ann-Marie’s voice was filled with frustration. Unusual for her.
“I understand what you are saying,” argued John, “but you are being two-faced if the only problem you have with his enslavement is the fact that a mortal is doing it. I would think that you would have more of a problem with an immortal doing it because then its forever. I mean eventually a mortal will die and then they would be free but its neither here nor there.

“We are starting to talk in circles. Let’s get together when everyone gets back and we have our mages and werewolves and vampires oh my all together. From what I can tell right now we are both agreed that we need more information. And that at least you and I are going to try and set things right. So I say, we table killing and not killing and punishments until later this morning. I’ve been up since 5:30 this morning, yesterday morning now with Mrs. Koalszski delivering her baby and its so late now I can’t focus on my watch.

“I know you are tired brother,” she put her hand on his shoulder. “I agree. We will gather when the others return from Baltimore. Know though, when I mean, ‘mortal’ I mean literally everyone else than vampires and spirits. And his enslavement is part of a larger issue, one that could threaten us all. As you think about things, consider this: it is much easier to kill in combat than to execute someone. The stain upon one’s soul won’t wash away easily.”

Ann-Marie finishes, “We’ll talk later when we all can discuss it.” She thinks to herself, To think, the bloodthirsty vampire is asking for restraint, while the doctor wants to execute someone. but she doesn’t say it. She loves her brother to much to do so.
John shook his head and rubbed his eyes, as he was just too tired to try and make her understand that the best plans might not survive contact with the enemy. They might have to kill everyone going in. Nam had been like at times. He would never forget the twelve year old with a stick he had killed nor the assassination missions but he was just to tired to think any more he could tell it was going to be a long night and the dreams would not make his sleep peaceful.

“Goodnight Ann Marie, good night Lyla. The hospital should expect me in around noon and I will get off at 6 if everything goes as planed can can you make sure I am up by 11:30 at the latest?”

“Good night dear Johnny,” she kissed him on the cheek. “We’ll talk tomorrow night.” She looked at him as he departed, hauntingly. If we fail, she thought, the Inquisitors will come and destroy us all. I can’t allow that to happen. She turned to Lyla, “Well, what do you think?”
“Hold it!” Lyla said with irritation and barely controlled anger. “I do have something to say here and I don’t appreciate being talked over. So let me tell you both how it’s going to be.

“My personal view — Ann-Marie I don’t appreciate the assumptions you are making about me and my kind because you’re just plain flat wrong. Way I see it, every last vampire and the mage, all of them, should be put to death. It’s the best and most efficient way. And anyone that comes sniffing around fucking with with me or my friends will get the same. Period.

“But that’s not how it’s going to be,” Lyla continued, “because we are all friends here. We are going to compromise — I try not to slaughter the whole lot of them, and Ann-Marie gets her people back. Ramiel and Michael get to deal with their mage. You are not a mage Ann-Marie, and therefore you don’t get to decide what happens to them.

“And John, if there are mundane humans enslaved, you get decide what’s best for your own kind.”

Lyla folded her arms in satisfaction. “There. We’re not going to argue about this point because if you push it, I swear the werewolves will kill them all. Right?” The question was rhetorical to the two of them; she simply continued. “Good. John and I’ll talk to the others in the morning.”

“Sorry about making you feel excluded Lyla, I guess Ann Marie and I were falling into some old family habits. Lyla you do know that there might not be any of your kind involved right?”

Ann-Marie smiled a bit, “Yeah, I guess we did. We didn’t mean to be rude.”

John continued, “Lyla you do know that there might not be any of your kind involved right?”

Her stance didn’t change. “So?”

“Actually John, it is definitely possible that this Sterling could go after werewolves too.” Ann-Marie paused, continuing, “I need you all. I’ve really found a place to belong for the first time in years, a place of my own; and I don’t want to lose it. I really don’t want to lose all of you.” She looked at both of them with kindliness. “Let’s get everyone together when they get back from Baltimore and we can go over the game plan and goals. I do know that Sterling will be a pariah to my kind. Even if he survives they will hunt him. I can’t do anything about that. But I am content to leave his sentence to Ramiel and Michael, as long as all the kindred are recovered extant. I fear there is more to this than meets the eye.”

“Hey, Lyla is there any word from Ramiel or the rest?” John said as he rubbed his tired eyes.

She rolled her eyes, “They didn’t tell me squat. Rey asked for the weekend off, so I assume they’re back by now.”

“Perhaps, but likely, like you dear brother they need sleep,” said Ann-Marie in a motherly way. “Perhaps we can reconvene tomorrow evening; however, I do have a few private matters for the both of you. Since you are very tired Johnny, I will talk to you tomorrow night after the meeting. Go an get sleep, you’ve earned it.”

“Đêm Lợi ích, Tôi sẽ nhìn thấy bạn ngày mai.” John had said, Good night I will see you tomorrow, in Vietnamese. John was really tired.

After John had entered the house, “Lyla, I need your help on another matter closer to home,” said Ann-Marie.

Lyla looked both interested and pleasantly surprised. “Oh? What can I do to help?”

The vampire looked at Lyla the Lupa saying, “I have come to enjoy my time with Ironclaw a good deal. He is a good man. Things are going quite well actually. That being said, I know he doesn’t tell me the intricacies of the pack, nor do I really need to know. I respect secrets. What I am burdened with is what to tell him about this situation. I respect Ironclaw and want to tell him what I am doing with the group, but I don’t really want him to involve himself as it has nothing to so with the pack. Basically, what do I tell him?”

“Ironclaw’s first duty is the security of the pack and this territory. I isn’t likely to leave the territory for another except to attack or to expand our territory,” Lyla said, “so if you want to talk to him about this feel free. Just don’t expect him to decide to go to war or on a hunt with anyone who is not specifically a threat to his pack or his territory. And actually, you know I’ll be telling him what I’m up to anyway, so you know he’ll be aware of what’s going on.”

“I’ll let him know when I see him too. I don’t want to keep him out of the loop on something that could kill me. Permanently, that is,” she pondered, “but I really don’t want to take him from his pack. But should we fail, he should be aware of Sterling.”
Lyla smiled. “Well, you’re not going to be able to take him from his pack, per se. But yeah, he might like to know what’s going on and why this is of personal interest to you.”

Lyla paused in thought, then decided this was as good a time as any. “You and Ironclaw… you guys really have an Underworld kind of thing going, don’t you?”

“You mean the propagan… I mean movie,” she smiled knowing her Freudian slip was purposeful. “I suppose we do, and it’s great! When we are together we consume each other mind, body and soul. Yet, he only gives me what I need, and teases me otherwise. I treat him similarly, testing his resolve. It’s amazing. The best part is that each of us respects the other, so as much as I like you Lyla, details won’t be forthcoming.” She said with a teasing grin.

“Details I can get,” she said, “but more what I’m interested in is how your vampire kin might react. For us, we react more as individuals of a group, not as any kind of area, city or country-wide group. Therefore, Ironclaw only had to worry about the reactions of those of us in his immediate pack, and that was solved simply because he’s Ulfric and gets to choose who he mates with. No problems there. But what about your kind? I mean, I know there is some kind of society based on what you told us of their concerns about this mage tonight. Are they also going to have a problem if they find out how … intimate you are with a werewolf? I doubt if Ironclaw would care if they did have a problem with it, but I’m curious.”

“It depends on how I describe it,” Ann-Marie said. “IF I describe it. One of the reasons I came here is to be on my own. To create, as far as kindred are concerned, my own territory, my own domain. What I do in my domain is no one’s business as long as I do not reveal the details of kindred society. You are werewolves and mages. You know we exist, but don’t know the details. For your safety and mine, this is best. It is not unheard of for Kindred, especially of my line and my particular belief system to make allies outside of vampire kind. Then again, we are not well liked by some of the others, but I doubt they would ever hear of me — I don’t advertise it — or if they did they wouldn’t believe a vampire would live in the wild. We generally like to be near our herds in the cities.”, said Ann-Marie.

Continuing, “If we solve this problem, I will be in a position to possibly declare to the other kindred that I am Prince of upper New Hampshire and this is my domain. In fact, if we do this right, my friends in other places will likely endorse this. Mind you, it might be a domain of 1 (or three if those two from Concord play ball), but I’ll be left alone just the same.”

“Still, I really don’t like the Honeywells, or anyone else outside of those who saved me and Ironclaw to know what I am. My natural instinct is to silence them. But, I’m playing ball, trusting that they will keep the trust the promised. Still, it bothers me.”

Lyla shrugged. “As far as the local people, this is their home. They’ve been aware of some amount of the supernatural world for generations; it’s your choice to be near people like that, as it was for each of us. Personally, I find it easier and less worrisome that the town elders are aware of us and here’s why. If there is ever a slip-up, some kind of mistake and the average local sees something they shouldn’t, the elders are there to take care of things and cover for us. If they weren’t, the unsolved murder rate would be far higher here. I can say that for certain.

“Visiting other places, like New York City or just about any city, really makes you appreciate the arrangements here. Besides, they really don’t care to know any of the details of what any of us does, so long as we leave the locals alone. I guess it’s an adjustment, though, huh?”

“Yes, definitely as far as them knowing. Though I see the advantages,” she replied.

Lyla stretched and arched her back as if working out cramped muscles. “As for me? I’m a city girl. Oh, I’ve finally learned appreciate the wilderness and the quiet places like this town. But I still live for the chance to roam a different kind of wilds — the city itself. And even better, the Shadow of a city. Dangerous, mysterious, glorious — you can’t imagine unless you’ve seen it! And then there’s the mundane side, this side of the world where I can express my human side. Yup, nothing like a city. But when things get hairy there — as the always seemed to when I was traveling a lot, now I have a place I can retreat to and be safe.”

“Having a safe haven is reassuring for certain. Now, the dark underworld of city life, I know that well on the west coast, Chicago and everywhere in-between. I’ve seen things Lyla that would make your skin crawl and put a fear in you that you cannot imagine. I’ve also seen beauty and wonder you can hardly dream of. Someday you may experience both. I’ve been alive a long time, and I’m young for my kind. The east is more of a mystery. I’ve only been to a few places and never New York. We have…rules when we enter an obvious domain of another group of kindred vampires.”

“What I’m saying is, I’m a west coast woman who would love to have fun in the big city with you, should you ever wish to. Hell, I was a regular at the Filmore and the Avalon Ball Room in the sixties, not to mention feeding off hipsters in the Haight-Asbury. I knew the blood of Grace Slick and Jimi Hendrix amongst others. It was fun. So, yes, as you know I can handle myself clubbing. You’ve grown up a lot since we first met, I bet you are the center of attention with the men.”

“Which is right where I like to be,” Lyla grinned. “Although now this might but a crimp in my style.” Lyla place a hand over her still-flat tummy.

“For a time. In my opinion, the rewards of creation outweigh glamour. If I were you, I’d be more worried that everyone finds that hot, young mysterious brunette Ann-Marie more alluring. But then again, you are no longer on the market are you?” she said a bit tongue-n-cheek.

“Ha-ha,” Lyla said. “As for being on the market, I was never for sale. And that never slowed me down, so why should I let it now? Ramiel doesn’t.” It was difficult to tell how Lyla meant that or even if her own feelings on the matter were clear.

“Color me confused. You mean you and Ramiel aren’t exclusive?” said Ann-Marie.

Lyla shook her head. “Well, not really,” she amended. “I guess I have been for the past several months, but he’s not. I just haven’t had the time to spend chasing down rich marks lately.”

Ann-Marie laughed, “So that is why you were after that guy! Always wondered that. For me, he was a light snack. Hmm, you know Lyla, in the end money isn’t the end-all, its your experiences that matter. Not so much the conflicts and the stress, but the little things, the new things you try, the places you go, the people whose lives you change for the better. At least, that’s how I see it.”

“I love sex,” Lyla said. “All kinds of it and in all kinds of ways. I have since I was a girl. When I got older and my brother and I had to go out on the road, it was my best tool to use to keep us solvent. Food costs money for us, you know, even if you don’t have to worry about it. Food, shelter, clothes, all that stuff costs a lot. So, I used my looks to help myself to a few men I thought could live without quite so much as they had. I specialized in seducing married men because they’d think twice about sending cops after me — so long as I kept the thefts to relatively small amounts — because they’d stand to lose far more than that if their wives ever found out.

“Ramiel’s style was different. He slept with women just for the joy of it — especially the desperate ones that didn’t get enough attention from their husbands. Those were the ones most likely to give him some token or trinket. I usually took those and pawned them for cash later. Eventually I invested a lot of it in various… enterprises. Deals where names were not so important. I used some of that to set up a few small operations here and there that still go on and provide an occasional kick back. Nothing attention-getting. Never anything that might challenge established or organized crime. We always kept on the move so much that if we did run into trouble, we’d just leave. Nothing was worth staying and fighting for.”

“I’m 23,” Lyla continued. “And I’m still in my prime. I can get any guy I want if I try hard enough. It sucks to be trapped in the boonies all the time, so yeah. I’m looking to get out there and get some nice clothes, drink good wine, and have a good time. I’m going to be a mom, but I’m not ready to give all the good stuff up just yet.”

“Sex can be a zesty enterprise. Usually it is merely a means to an end for me, sometimes consummated. Other times once I have them in my power, the Kiss is more than enough to make them glad they met me and forget what I do to them. Ironclaw is one of the rare exceptions where I have sex for fun and romance. I do love the romance of it. I have a sophisticated side of me, that revels in posh style, good company, and the finest of things. We should go into Boston and have a night of arrogant fun. Perhaps that could happen after the Sterling situation is closed?”

Lyla smiled. “That sounds good to me, though if you don’t mind I’d prefer some place I can really let my hair down and cut loose a little rather than anything… mmm… stuffy and arrogant.”

“I never said stuffy!” Ann-Maire joyfully quipped. “I mean we are who we are, beautiful, smart, witty and stunning in class and looks. Others just have to accept that!” There was a sarcastic undertone to her words. She was prideful, but didn’t seem to take herself as seriously as one might, at least on these things.

“But should we go, I’ll need some prep time. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Boston and I’ll have to make sure certain people know I’m there so as to avoid problems. Don’t worry about it, its a vampire thing.”

Lyla laughed and grinned. “Oh, such a worrier! It’s not so different for me, either. I’m sure to find myself in another pack’s territory and if they catch me, then they’ll likely clobber me good. But such is the risk to have a little fun, no? If someone catches on to us, we can lead them on a helluva chase, right?”

“Right!” Ann-Marie said with assuredness. “Well, you probably have things to do. I’m off to meet with some friends east of here.”

Lyla stopped as curiosity gripped her. “Friends east of here?”

As Ann-Marie turned to leave, she pause, “Yes. There are several of us that meet to discuss nature, life, the Goddess and to give thanks to her. You may join us if you wish. It is a religious service and I am priestess for them.”

Lyla thought about that, wondering if there was a whole pack of vampires lurking out in the woods. Or would that be a pod or flock? She really didn’t know what the term might be.

“Yes,” she decided. “I’d like to meet your friends, if it’s not an inconvenience.”

“No, of course not. One thing. They believe in the supernatural, but are not really aware of it personally except through me. They are a small, but growing group of humans with potential and a love of all aspects of the Goddess.” She paused, “They don’t know I’m a vampire, but they believe. That’s the important thing. So come along, open you mind, and maybe you might learn something that intrigues you. There is always room for a friend.”

Lyla took a couple steps back toward Ann-Marie. “Well then,” she said with a smile, “I’d be especially interested in meeting your friends.”

“Follow me then, they are meeting at midnight twenty miles from here.” She smiles devilishly as usual, “Try to keep up!” With that Ann-Marie transforms into a wolf and tears off into the woods.

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