Reclaiming: Brenda's Story
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Where Are You, My Love?
Rafe was on the bed when I awoke and I turned over to find a smile on his face. "Hi," I said.
"Hey." He leaned over to give me a quick kiss of the mouth. "Sleep well?"
"Like the dead," I replied dryly. "What did you do today?"
"Hung out with Frasier," he said lying beside me. "He's pretty amazing. Hey, I heard the group that Christina was with in Austria is coming here."
"Really? I wonder if Jason is with them."
"I don't know. I heard there was at least one woman and the rest were men."
"Wow, that would be great if he came for her."
"Yeah." He was studying me intently, desire quite apparent in those green eyes. I leaned forward and kissed him and his hand cupped the back of my neck to deepen it. He rolled over on top of me and began to kiss a trail across my face to my ear lobe. One thing led to another and later, when we were done, Rafe suggested I get dressed because Christina would be looking for me before going off with Micky.
I was just getting into the shower when Rafe stuck his head in the door to the bedroom. "I'm going to go get something to eat with Frasier," he said.
"Okay." I went to the door and planted a quick kiss to his lips. "Come back to me," I told him passionately.
"Brenda," he began with a laugh, "I'm just going across that hall."
"I know." I shook my head quickly and kissed him again before he shut the door. I showered quickly and was just pulling on my robe when the bathroom went black. Blindly, I made my way to the bedroom and found it too had lost its lighting. I groped for the gun I had put in the nightstand the previous morning and prepared to exit when I heard gunfire coming from the front of the chantry. It sounded heated, but I was more concerned about Christina and Rafe.
I barely made it to the door of my suite when the lights came back on. I continued out into the hall and across to the door to my sister's suite. The door opened as I neared and Frasier stuck his head out. He looked very distressed about something, which struck me as funny because Christina had led me to believe he was a seasoned fighter. "Is everyone okay in there?" I asked.
"Something very weird is going on," he said between clenched teeth. He was looking up and down the hall as if he expected a specter of some kind to appear at any moment. I also noticed he held a very large handgun in his left hand that looked as if it had been modified in some way.
"What are you talking about?" I was beginning to feel alarmed. Where were Christina and Rafe?
"Come in here." He reached out with his right hand and grabbed my upper arm to pull me into the room. I heard to door close behind me, but I only felt relief to see Rafe standing across the room. He was dressed different, which confused me further, and he was visibly upset.
"Did you change your clothes after I got into the shower?" I asked as I started to cross the room to him.
"Brenda, where the hell are we? What's going on?" I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn't know what was going on, Rafe was speaking with a Spanish accent. Was he playing a trick or something?
"What do you mean, what's going on?" I glanced at Frasier, but his expression had turned from alarm to almost anguish. "We're at the chantry."
"The what?" I took a few more steps closer to him. He looked even more confused than before and I now noticed his mustache and goatee were gone.
""Did you shave too?" I was only about six feet from him now.
"What are you talking about? Where the hell are we?"
"Rafe." A tone of desperation entered my voice. What was going on around here?
"We heard a noise outside," Frasier said from behind me. I turned to listen to his explanation. "And the three of us went to check it out. There was this car down there and the guys down front were firing at the car. I went in to get my gun and when I came back, Christina was gone and Rafe was like this."
I didn't understand what was happening. I had a firm hold on my emotions but I knew at any moment my control could snap. "Where is Christina?" I asked very slowly.
"You tell me," Frasier sounded lost. I knew the blood bond between him and Christina was complete and I understood his reaction. I turned back to Rafe and closed the remaining few feet that separated us. When I stood in front of him I touched his face and studied his eyes, looking for answers that I hoped were there.
He jumped when my fingers came into contact with his skin. "Jesus you're cold. What did you do, go outside?"
That was all I needed to know. I dropped my hand and took a step back. I could feel my face and heart harden as I continued to take him in. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" My tone was the harshest I had ever heard it. I was beginning to feel violated again, like when we found the cameras and listening devices at my house.
"Brenda, you know me." His hands flashed in front of him in rapid tension. "You've known me for years. I live right next door to you."
"I have not known you for years, I've known you for two weeks."
"Hello. I live in the same duplex as you do."
"I don't live in a duplex."
"I don't know what drugs you're taking, Brenda, but we live on the same street in Nashville. You live on one side of the duplex and I live on the other. We've lived there for three years and I've known you for four."
"You're not in Nashville," I turned to the other man in the room. "Frasier, go get Elvira or Micky, I don't care which, whoever you find first."
"Okay. Do you have any idea where Christina is?"
"No, but I'm going to find out."
"Okay," he holstered his weapon and left the room. The tight control I was keeping on my emotions failed me and I felt tears well up in my eyes and my shoulders begin to shake. My hands went immediately to my face to cover the blood tracks I knew would soon streak my face. I had no control over the situation and I didn't know what to do or what the hell happened to Christina or Rafe, but I knew I would get them back. At the core of this, I felt Michael.
"Brenda, what is the matter? You know me." His tone was pleading. He sounded like he felt concerned for my well-being but I couldn't help but feel put off by his mere presence. I felt him come up beside me and as he tried to place a reassuring hand on my shoulder, I backed away and dropped the hand that covered my tear stained face. I raised the gun in my hand.
"Who put you up to this?" I asked coldly.
I backed up even as he was making his way forward. "What the fuck happened to you?" he asked vehemently.
"Nothing. What have you done with my Rafe?"
"Jesus, you're a vampire and nothing happened to you?"
"Yeah. That's regardless-"
"It was the Spaniard wasn't it? I told you to stay away from him."
Who in the hell was The Spaniard? And what did he have to do with me being a vampire? Maybe he was talking about Antonio, he was Spanish, but I had never heard of anyone call him The Spaniard. "Who are you talking about?" I was so confused my head was spinning.
"This is so weird. I was in my living room, listening to the radio and then I'm on this balcony with a gunfight going on below me. Will you tell me what the hell is going on?"
"You were suppose to be - no, no -" I stumbled. Then I stopped to regroup my thoughts. "Rafe was supposed to get something to eat with Frasier. Christina -"
"Was that the guy that was in here? Christina? What the hell would she be doing here?" So he did know something about the people that should have been here. I had to keep my cool so I could get the information out of him that I needed.
"She's my sister," I said, studying his reaction.
"It was The Spaniard, wasn't it? When did this happen? I just saw you two nights ago."
"I just saw you five minutes ago." Here came the ultimate test. "Did the same people get a hold of him that got Michael?"
"Where's Michael?" His tone was too even to be my Rafe. He sounded concerned about the other man's well being, not what Rafe usually felt about Michael.
"I have no idea. I suppose you know him, too."
"Yeah," he replied, incredulously. Then came the bomb. "He lives next door with you."
That knowledge was more than I could handle right now. I was absolutely stunned. Michael and I together? And the knowledge coming from Rafe? What kind of game was this guy playing? I needed time to regroup my thoughts. I went to the closed door that led to the hallway and opened it, looking for the familiar face of Elvira or Micky coming to help me keep my sanity.
What I got was an entire group of people heading toward me. Micky, Bruce, Frasier, and Jason Kline, along with a woman and two men I didn't know came up to the door I clung to like a lifeline. I only really saw Micky and Bruce for the moment. Normally, the knowledge of Jason being here would have brought relief to me for Christina's sake, but now she was missing and so was my lover. I had no other eyes right now.
Upon seeing blood on my face, Bruce came immediately to my side, concern printed plainly on his face. Micky looked troubled as well and asked, "Brenda, what's wrong?"
"Micky, get in here. Something is really wrong." I opened the door wide enough to let him and Frasier in and they entered. I closed the door soundly behind them, not taking the time to respond to Bruce or take in the newcomers in the hall. I turned and found that the man who looked like my ghoul had retreated to the corner of the room where a table and four chairs stood close to a window.
No sooner had I closed the door then it opened again. "We need a minute," I said blindly and promptly slammed it shut again. Whoever it was that wanted in was persistent and the door opened yet again. "We need a minute," I hissed through clenched teeth and slammed the door again, even harder this time.
"That guy is hell bent," I heard Micky say behind me as I slammed the door shut a second time. "What's going on?"
My self-control was almost nil at that point. I waved the Glock that I still had in my left hand and said almost hysterically; "Do you see anything different about him? That is not Rafe. Christina is gone."
"What do you mean?" Micky was stunned. "Where did she go?"
"I don't know." Tears started in my eyes again. "You need to talk to him because he thinks he knows me."
"I do know you, Brenda," the man across the room said.
"It's not right, Micky," I said shaky.
"I live in Nashville," Rafe started his story again. "And Brenda and Michael live next door..." If I had to hear the whole thing a second time I was going to scream.
"You're not in Nashville," I repeated.
"Where am I?" His tone signified that he was beginning to believe something that couldn't be real.
I was finally beginning to get a hold of myself. "You're in Salem, Massachusetts. Look out that window, do you see anything that looks like Nashville?" I knew he would be able to hear the ocean from that window and that alone would be a telltale sign. His face slackened.
"Jesus, what happened?" His reaction seemed conducive to someone who didn't know what was going on around him. Unfortunately, my wits weren't about me, or I would have thought to check his aura. Micky could tell I was upset so he came to my side and sat me on a couch that dominated one wall of the room, across from where this Rafe looked out the window.
"Just chill," he told me, calmly. "Let me talk to him. We'll figure this out." Micky then turned to Frasier and asked him what happened. Frasier reviewed the events again for Micky, giving him quick and concise descriptions.
"Sounds like Akari did some kind of ritual that may have switched the two of them," Micky said when Frasier had finished. To himself he asked, "Where's Christina?" Then to Rafe he asked, "Do you know Christina Strong?"
"Christina is dead," Rafe said simply.
I felt as if someone slammed me in the chest. Christina was dead? How? Who? I looked to Frasier and saw that he was as shocked as I was. The door to the room flew open and Jason entered, his eyes were glowing red like an animal's in a headlight beam at night. He quickly took a look around the room and immediately shrieked back from something, falling to the floor and covering his face with his trench coat.
The beautiful Hispanic woman I saw earlier popped her head in from the hall and I got to my feet. That must be Nina Rodriguez, I thought to myself, thinking of the Tremere Clan member Christina had told me about. I was about to greet the woman, but she quickly moved back into the hallway. A second later, a man dressed like a priest entered the room and left as fast as Nina had. He must be Cormac's nephew, Stephen, I thought, trying to understand the strange behavior of these newcomers.
My head was swimming with the knowledge that Christina and Rafe were missing and the strange behavior of these two people wasn't helping my frame of mind. The last man who came into the room headed straight to the opposite wall. He stopped in front of me and introduced himself quickly. "You must be Christina's sister. I am Cormac," he said and shook my hand, then continued to the wall and removed a large mirror that hung there and put it on the floor, reflection side to the wall.
"Do you not like the mirror?" Micky asked ironically, having watched the scene from where he still stood close to our other world visitor.
"My nephew has a deformity," Cormac explained. "It would be best left unseen." Christina was right, this man used few words to get his point across. Micky simply nodded as if he understood what Cormac was talking about, even though I didn't, and returned his attention to Rafe. The priest, Stephen, entered the room again and went to stand quietly next to his uncle.
Rafe looked tense at the arrival of the newcomers and Frasier was about to bounce out of his skin with worry over his new mistress. He was pacing back and forth in much the same way I had seen Christina pace many times before. I was back in control of my senses and I knew there were questions to be answered.
"Okay," I said approaching Rafe again. "Let's sit down and talk about this. There has to be a rational explanation." I indicated the table that Rafe still stood next to and he sat, gratefully. "Frasier," I said turning my attention to him, "I understand how you're feeling. I feel the same way."
"No, you don't," he said, but sat on the trunk at the end of Christina's bed and fidgeted with a string that hung from his pant leg.
Rafe seemed to be taking in everything. "What is this a freaking convention?"
"What are you talking about?" I asked taking a chair across from him. Micky moved to stand behind me.
He pointed around the room as he spoke. "Vampire, vampire, vampire, - and that's a werewolf," he said when he reached Stephen.
"Glad to see you have the same abilities," I said with a slight smile, filing the information of what the priest was way in my mind then turning my attention to Micky accusingly.
"I knew he was coming," he told my before I could say anything. "Sorry, I forgot to tell you."
"Where's Elvira?" I asked.
"I'll go find her," Bruce offered and left the room post haste. I was vaguely aware of Cormac moving about the room while Jason was still cowering in his trench coat. When Cormac reached the bedside table, I noticed that he picked something up and held it for a while, then placed it in the table's drawer. After that, Jason rose nonchalantly and shook his coat lapels to resettle the garment on his shoulders.
"Tell us everything that happened before you ended up here," I said, giving Rafe my full attention.
"What, from when I was born or what?" His voice had a cocky edge I hadn't ever heard out of my Rafe.
Jason came forward and said menacingly through clenched teeth, "Tell her what she wants to know."
"Hey, I'm trying to get a starting point. What a month ago? Two weeks? Five minutes?"
"I was in my living room listening to music with my headphones. Then I was on a balcony. This guy, Frasier came out and asked me where Christina was."
"Did you feel anything funny?" I asked. "Did you see anything?"
"The Rafe that's suppose to be here," he replied, uncomfortably, "you and him are&Mac183;" he trailed off hesitantly.
"Yes." My voice was low and full of emotion. I knew I had to keep as much of my feelings hidden as possible. Excess emotions only tended to make high stress situation worse and I knew that wouldn't help to find Rafe and Christina.
"Hmm." He looked away for a moment and when he returned his eyes to mine he asked, "Is Sam alive?" By his tone I could tell that something had to have happened to Samantha in his world and that it wasn't good.
"Yes. Why wouldn't she be?"
He ignored my question and asked another of his own. "And he's not gay?" I could only think that he referred to my Rafe.
"He's kind of both," I said lowly, not really wanting to discuss this in front of anyone. Rafe's sexual tendencies were his own even though I was talking to his double.
He seemed to take everything in stride. "So, why is Jason on the other side?" He nodded to the man my sister loved more than anyone else.
"Who said we were good or bad?" I asked astonished. How much did he know about my kind in his world, I wondered.
"You've told me that quite often." He sounded familiar still, like the Rafe I knew and loved, but he lacked the quality in his tone when you talked about someone you loved.
"And so has he," Rafe nodded his head toward Jason. It was beginning to bother me that he kept referring to me as the Brenda he knew but I pushed the nagging aside, knowing the need for knowledge was more important than my agitation.
"Do you know him?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said with a tug of irony. "He taught you to hunt. He was your friend but he is dead now." His face was sober now.
"I hunted long ago," Jason said lowly and to himself. He was close to my side, intent as I was on the circumstances Rafe was laying out before us. I had no knowledge of him ever hunting, but at least his past linked with our alternate selves somewhat, unlike mine.
My head was swimming with unasked questions. Who killed Christina? What circumstances led to the other me to become a hunter? How did I meet Jason? No matter how badly I wanted answers to my questions I knew I would have to wait, if I even got a chance to ask them. Hopefully, Elvira knew of some ritual that would put everything right again because I knew that I couldn't handle losing Rafe so soon after finding him, not to mention what losing Christina would mean.
"Do you hunt as well?" I asked Rafe.
"Oh, no. I just live next door. You're the one with a license."
"To kill vampires," he said matter-of-factly.
"What is the government in on this?" Jason asked disbelievingly.
Rafe blinked and looked at Jason as if he should know the answer. "Yes, for several years now."
I glanced to Micky, not sure whether to believe what I was hearing. "What happened to the Masquerade?" I asked. Micky simply shrugged his shoulders, as confused as I was.
"Why don't we all go to the library or something?" Jason suggested. "That way maybe we can come up with a way to put everything right." I regarded him for a moment, relieved at the concern I found in his features. I knew then that he loved or at least had strong feelings for Christina just by the way he held himself. He was tense all over, ready to snap or jump at the slightest provocation. I prayed we got her back for his sake.
"Good idea," I said, standing. "Let's wait for Elvira and then go downstairs."
I glanced to the doorway just in time to see the Prince of Salem arrive. She really is a regal woman, tall and stately. Stephen, the Lupine priest stood in the doorway, unaware that someone had come up behind him. "Excuse me," she said coolly. Stephen jumped a little and moved to the side, muttering a low apology. She entered the room, Bruce a step behind, then and studied the newcomers for a moment. "When did you arrive?" she asked no one in particular.
"Just a few minutes ago," Nina replied.
"Somebody want to explain?" Her attention now rested on Micky and myself.
"My Prince," I started, "through means by which we have no idea, it seems as if there has been some sort of shifting going on here. This person is not the Rafael Brown we know."
"Shifting, huh?" Her tone was even as she took in the room and all those in it.
"Yes. And Christina is gone as well."
"She went where?"
"I think she must have shifted, too. Rafe said that in his world she is dead. So if there's no one for her to switch with that would explain why there isn't a version of her here." It was the only thing that made sense.
"Who killed Christina?" Cormac asked as he approached the table. When he got close, Rafe stiffened and made to rise. Cormac must have understood his apprehension and stopped.
Rafe didn't verbally answer the question, but looked at me evenly. It took only a few seconds for the realization to dawn on me. Of course, it all made sense now. In the other world I was a hunter and it would stand to reason that if Christina was dead it was me who killed her. It was a hard fact for me to face. Christina and I may not have the closest relationship but I knew I would give my life for her, just like I would for Elvira or Micky or Rafe. They are my family and I would do anything to insure the safety of any of them. "Can we do this?" I asked Elvira. "Can we bring them back?"
"There is nothing in the library but I have heard of it. I can see where Akari would use it."
"Where can we find the ritual?"
"We'd have to find Akari," she said simply.
"Give me five minutes to change," I said as I nodded to her and left quickly, going across the hall to the room I had shared with Rafe. I pulled on the first pair of pants and shirt I could find. My hair was almost dry now and I pulled it back in a high ponytail on the top of my head. I saw Rafe's jacket still hung on the back of a chair in the room and I slipped it on, needing the slight comfort it afforded. I didn't see his guns and holsters anywhere so I assumed that he had them on his person.
I opened my door in just under the five minutes I allotted myself and found Nina coming down the hall. She was coming from the direction of the stairs, so I thought she must have went to the main floor for something.
"I was sent to get the others," she said. "There's been a delivery." My heart sank. Please no more roses, I thought to myself.
"For who?" I asked.
"I'm not sure." She seemed like a really nice person and I hoped that I would get the opportunity to get to know her after this whole mess was settled.
We reentered Christina's room to find Jason on the floor where he appeared to be meditating. Stephen and Cormac were standing by a bedside table. I saw Stephen pick up a frame that held a picture of Jason and in a blink of an eye they both disappeared.
I was shocked. And just as I was about to say something, they reappeared and Stephen returned the frame to the table.
"Micky, what in the hell's going on in here?" I asked none too nicely. "Some kind of guru meeting?" I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I couldn't believe they would come into a Chantry they hadn't been to before and just begin to rearrange things and disappear like they'd been born here. This was utter insanity.
"There is something hanging around Jason that he can kind of see and now Cormac can, too," Micky explained. "Use Auspex."
At this point I was too upset to try. Then I remembered that this Rafe shared the ability to tell supernatural creatures so I went to his alternate's side and dropped to my haunches next to him. "What do you see?" I asked.
"It's a ghost," he said simply as he squinted as if to get a better look. "It's Christina and she's really pissed."
"What is she doing?"
"Running from him," he said, indicating Cormac. I looked up as he asked Nina to step into the hallway and opened the drawer to pull out Christina's cross. Again I was amazed at the liberties this man thought he could take with other people's things, especially Christina's things. Then they disappeared again.
All of a sudden I saw Jason fall onto his back as if he had been pushed. I went to his side and asked if he was all right.
"Yeah," he said with a cough as I helped him to his feet. He was visibly shaken and I pulled him to a chair for him to sit as Cormac and Stephen appeared again. Cormac was off balance and fell to one knee, catching himself with the hand that still held Christina's cross.
"What in the hell is going on?" I demanded.
"Yes, please share," Micky added.
Cormac rose slowly and settled his jacket on his shoulders. Frasier seemed to realize that someone was touching his mistress' possessions and he jumped to his feet.
"What the hell are you doing with her stuff?" he demanded harshly.
"That was not our Christina," Cormac replied calmly.
"Yeah, well that's my Christina's stuff and I don't think you need to have your fingers on it." Frasier looked like he was about to be pushed over the edge and I could tell that Jason hadn't liked Frasier's possessiveness over my sister. In fact, when I looked at him his eyes were glowing red again and there were claws extending from each of his fingers.
Frasier saw this as well and pulled his gun from its holster and held it at his side.
"Okay," I said raising my hands to stop an attack before it happened, "There's some sort of delivery downstairs. Can we get out of this room please?"
"Yeah, let's go downstairs," Micky suggested and gestured for Rafe to move forward. "He seems to connect with you best," he said and I took the hint that I would be responsible for him.
"Do we want to let him be out and about?"
"As long as someone is with him," he said pointedly. "I don't think he should leave the house."
I nodded my head in agreement as I noticed Jason's claws retracting as he stood, glaring at Frasier who had holstered his weapon. We made our way downstairs then and found a large framed mirror standing in the hall. Written in French on the mirror in blood was a message geared toward Bruce and signed R.C. It said for him to be at the park at midnight or that the girl, and I took it to be Bruce's mortal descendant Rachel Black, would suffer if he didn't. Elvira and Bruce were in the hall waiting and he was talking to someone on his cell phone.
They told us that they didn't know whom the mirror was from but that a woman driving a U-Haul truck delivered it. From the description Jax gave us it sounded like Michael's new girl.
"Sounds like Vivian," I said to Elvira, feeling a little better about the situation. At least now I had something to do. Giving Cormac, Nina, Brother Stephen and Jason the information on what had been happening was like an eye in the storm.
"That means Michael," she replied.
"Michael?" Jason asked.
"Yes," I said turning to him. "You remember Michael." They had both been involved in the chain of events that led to Elvira's takeover of Salem.
"Yeah," he half-laughed. "Smart ass. What's he got to do with anything?"
"Well, for some time now he's been involved with a Sabbat pack that's causing trouble in town. I don't know how long he's been with them."
"Are you talking about Michael Moorecock?" the alternate Rafe asked. "Don't tell me he's a vamp, too?"
"Yes," I replied.
"For a while now," Jason interjected. I noticed Cormac approaching the mirror and saw him lay his hand on its frame. His eyes closed and from his stance I figured he was attempting to do a Spirit's Touch on it to see what he could learn.
"Oh, this is too weird," I heard Rafe say but I was now interested in what information Cormac was getting via his touch on the mirror. When he was finished he described the pictures he'd received from his viewings. The most important being that it was Roger Campbell that had written on the mirror and that Michael and his two ghouls, Vivian and Birkoff that put it into the van that brought it here. The evidence of Michael's involvement with the pack was growing by leaps and bounds every day and what little hope I had of helping him was dwindling past the point of me being able to do anything for him.
To bring the newcomers up to date, Elvira quickly reviewed the events that had taken place over the last week. Including the fact that Roger was a Lasombra and that Vivian had lived in Salem and was at one time a member of the Black Rose Coven.
I was anxious to get to the park and we all agreed to get there early, hoping to set a trap. Micky and Sarah were staying behind, he was waiting for some information to come in from one of his contacts but they said they would come by the park around the time of the meeting. Rafe was also staying behind with Elvira in hopes of giving her information that could help in bringing back Christina and the other Rafe.
We left the house within twenty minutes, taking one of the Chantry's limousines. On the way, I told them what I knew about the pack. "There's one Lasombra for sure," I said referring to Roger as I looked around the group of people I didn't know except from what Christina had told me. The only person present I knew I could trust was Bruce and that made me feel better. Everything would be all right; it had to. "There's a Tremere with them as well as Michael Moorecock, he's Venture. There's at least a couple others but I don't know their clans." I didn't tell them that Akari was Elvira's childe. It wasn't important to them; they didn't need to know.
"There is a shapeshifter with them as well," Cormac added. I looked at him in surprise but he didn't offer an explanation and I didn't ask. If there were indeed a shapeshifter among them the evidence of it would eventually come out.
I quickly explained about the house where the pack had been staying, leaving out the details about Michael slashing the mother's throat. I just couldn't form the words to make him look like an even bigger monster. I still held out hope that there was some valid reason for his presence with the pack.
We arrived at the park without incident and pulled into a parking area. "Has anyone been here?" Nina asked, out one of the tinted windows. It was late and there wasn't anyone in sight.
"I know the park, and so does Bruce," I replied as we all got out of the vehicle and got flashlights from the trunk. We found an area in the park that was perfect for an ambush and split up. Jason and Frasier climbed into a couple of trees to act as lookouts, while Cormac and Nina stayed together under a dark clump of trees. Bruce and I stayed together as well and went across the open area to take position under another group of trees. I don't know where Brother Stephen went. He disappeared almost as soon as we exited the limousine and I had to admit that I was a little glad. I haven't spent much time with Lupines and he made me a bit nervous. What the hell was Cormac thinking when he brought him along anyway?
"They're here," Bruce whispered in my ear about twenty minutes later and indicated an odd shadow that was heading our way. "You might want to signal them." I flashed the light quickly in Cormac and Nina's direction then, just as we had set up and pulled my gun. Bruce stepped out from behind the tall oak where we had been waiting and the shadow dispersed enough to reveal Roger Campbell.
"Good evening, my childe," Roger said in French to Bruce who had continued forward and now stood a few feet from the other Lasombra. "It's good to see you got my message."
"Yes, I got it. You need to brush up on your French, though. Your pronunciation is a little off." As far as I could tell the other man's French was perfect but Bruce's knowledge of the language was far older than mine since he was a few hundred years older. I was sure to some extent he was being serious.
"You have been too long from you clan," Roger continued, unabashed. "I invite you to rejoin us. Your skills are needed."
"I have been too long from my clan?" Bruce asked, maintaining the rouse that he was Tremere.
"We know you are one of us." Roger was beginning to sound annoyed.
"When I was created there were no clans," Bruce scoffed. "My clan is Tremere."
"I know you are one of us," Roger said with that sly smile I was beginning to hate. "We have been watching you closely since you came up from the ground. Keeping an eye on you and waiting for the perfect opportunity for you to rejoin us."
"I can't rejoin anything I never belonged to," Bruce said evenly and simply. "It wasn't by choice that I was created. I won't be involved with those who forced this upon me."
"I was not your sire," Roger insisted. "That is not how we all do things."
"Correct my if I'm wrong," Bruce began, sounding like he was getting upset now, "but I understand that you think of people as food and nothing else."
"And what are they if they're not?"
"I have lived for 1100 years and I have resisted the temptation of human blood." That was the one thing Bruce couldn't bring himself to do. Feed from humans. I've always thought something horrible happened before his torpor that left him with that affliction.
"So you think," Roger scoffed. "Where do you suppose your blood comes from every evening? Do you think they keep cows in the back just for you?"
Bruce was silent for a moment before he replied, "Even if it is human blood it was given freely, by donation. It wasn't forcibly taken."
I couldn't take any more belittling from this jerk. Stepping out from behind the tree I asked in an even voice as I started to raise my gun, "What have you done?" I knew there would only be a short time before his shadows confined my hand again and I prayed that Bruce or one of the others could stop him in some way.
Roger laughed as he raised his arms. "Ah, that's why I wanted you to bring your friends, Bruce. Most of them are Tremere and we can use them as well." He looked over to where Cormac and Nina were and gestured them forward but they didn't come out.
I now had Roger in my sights and I felt the familiar pull of shadows attempting to encircle my hand once again but I jerked away from them and seemed to succeed. From the corner of my eye, I saw Cormac raise his gun to shoot as well. I thought I saw Nina throw something that appeared to be a card that was grabbed by a shadowy tentacle that rose from the ground.
I pulled the trigger of my Glock just as a shadow enshrouded Roger and it was then that things went into overdrive. Bruce moved forward to attack the other Lasombra and the shadow moved away very fast. We all chased him but were blinded by a flash of white light. I felt what seemed to be a person, maybe Bruce because he was right behind me, being thrown into my back. Everything went dark.
I saw visions of myself and Michael walking hand-in-hand in a sunny meadow. He smiled down at me as I reached up to remove his sunglasses and we kissed tenderly. Then I was lying on a bed in a hospital room. Michael was there with me and I was in incredible pain but I couldn't remember ever feeling so happy.
Then I realized that I was standing on the other side of a white picket fence that surrounded a duplex. Antonio was there, talking to Michael who was standing just inside the door. I won't let The Spaniard hurt my family I thought to myself. I will kill him first. Then I fell to the ground and lost consciousness.
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