A Little Prick

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SGM: Current and Past Stories

Rey woke up cold, wet, and lying on the grass of her own front lawn. Blinking into the merciless early morning light, she realized she was wearing club clothes, but had no recollection of putting them on. They were not only wet and ruined, they were torn. She had an uncomfortable feeling she didn’t have any underclothes, either.

Sitting up didn’t do much for her. She immediately discovered her head was spinning like she’d had more to drink than she ever remembered having before and the motion made her double over and be sick. The previous night was fuzzy in her recollection, to say the least. In fact, she realized she had absolutely no idea what day of the week it was, either.

She was chilled to the bone. It was bad enough she had a real fear of hypothermia. The warming sensation at her fingertips and toes was not a good sign.

Rey tried to get to her feet so she could get inside. She needed to get dry and warm clothes. A nice hot bath wouldn’t be amiss, but she vaguely remembered too much heat and hypothermia did not mix.

Stumbling only once, she manages to get inside her house, but not much further before nausea threatened again and she was forced to stop. Her brain felt so fuzzy, and her mouth so incredibly dry, the only thing that finally made it through her brain was the fact the clothes she was wearing weren’t hers.

The bathroom was no longer the place she wanted to go to. Instead, she walked unsteadily into the kitchen to where the phone was. Picking up the receiver, she thanks the powers that be that she’d had the foresight to program Mira’s phone number - the one for the apartment, not her old cell phone, into the speed dial.

There was a click, and then another click as her home phone got forwarded to another phone. Then it rang just one time before Mira answered. She made a comfortable sound before her cheery, “Good morning, Rey.”

“Mira…” Rey could barely form the words. “Help…” she dropped the received of the phone and lurched toward the kitchen sink before she vomited again.

The receiver echoed Mira’s cry of concern. “Rey! Rey hold on I’m coming!”

Rey wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, turned her back to the sink and let herself slide to the floor, supported by the cupboards. It took all of her energy just to stay upright and awake. She did not want to be passed out when Mira finally arrived.

It was barely fifteen minutes since the phone call when Mira burst through the front door. After a brief, somewhat frantic look around, she spotted Rey in the kitchen. From the wide, round eyes Mira gave her, Rey know she must be a heck of a sight.

“By the Duke’s scaly ass! Rey, you are pale as a ghost. What happened?” Mira looked her friend up and down intently, then put a hand on Rey’s forehead. Not stopping for an answer, she said, “You’re freezing,” then scooped Rey up in her arms as if Rey was a child, even though Rey was actually a bit taller than she was.

Mira carried Rey to the couch and took all the blankets she could see stacked in the corner of the living room and began to put them around Rey. She hesitated only a moment as she took in what Rey was wearing.

“I don’t know,” Rey murmured, now starting to shiver. “I just woke up on the lawn. The only thing I do know for sure is that these aren’t my clothes, and no underwear.” She didn’t know why she told Mira that, but it seemed to be important.

“Okay. Let’s get you warm,” Mira said. After tucking Rey in, she considered for a moment, then seemed to come to a decision. “Rey, I’d like to examine you, mystically-speaking, if you’ll allow it?”

“Go for it,” Rey whispered.

Mira was pretty thorough, but took one limb out of under blankets at a time. There was only two times she seemed really concerned however. The first time was when she examined the back of Rey’s left hand. The second time was when she opened Rey’s eyes wide, one after the other, and looked intently.

But then she smiled at Rey. “The important thing right now is for you to rest. Then we’ll talk.”

“Okay,” Re replied somewhat listlessly. “What day is it?”

“Sunday, hun. It’s Sunday morning. Sleep, and I’ll have cookies and orange juice ready for you when you wake.”

“That sounds nice,” Rey said as she drifted off to sleep.

It was night when Rey blinked awake. She was terribly thirsty, but there was a glass of water and even taller glass of orange juice waiting for her. Warm cookies were piled in a plate next to the glasses and she recalled smelling them just before she awoke.

Rey groaned a bit as she forced herself to sit up and reached for the orange juice. She forced herself to drink it slowly, but she couldn’t keep herself from making a low, half sigh, half moan of pleasure at downing the juice.

Mira waited in the comfy chair while Rey regained some of her strength. When she thought Rey was slowing down on the fluids and just munching cookies to get her blood sugar up, Mira spoke. “Are you feeling a little better?”

“That noise didn’t tell it all?” Rey asked with a soft laugh. Her body hurt, but she didn’t feel so cold anymore.

Mira smiled. It faded quickly when she thought about what she had to tell Rey. “Well, I have just a few bits of information. First is that someone has been in your head, rearranging the ‘furniture’.”

“Fuck,” Rey blurted out. “Can you tell what did it?”

“I’m pretty sure we know.” Mira’s expression was deeply sad and distressed. “Memory loss. You’re showing signs of serious blood loss -- you shouldn’t have gotten hypothermic. It’s cool but not that cold at night. But your heart slows when there isn’t enough blood to go around. Your body can become sluggish. You feel nauseous. Heaven forbid if you have alcohol, too.” It sounded a lot like she spoke from experience, since Rey knew Mira didn’t know the first thing about medicine. “I bet if we look, we’ll find bite marks.”

Rey’s face darkened with an angry frown as she shoved the blankets off. “We’ll find them. Do you think whoever it was left me to die?” The idea infuriated her.

“I think whoever left you didn’t care if you died or not,” Mira said. “We’ll find them. But first we need to figure out where you’ve been. Now, the other thing that I noticed was there was a mystical mark on your left hand.”

“What does it look like?” Rey asked. Mira drew it on a napkin so Rey could get a good idea.

The Seelie fae puzzled over it for a moment. “It’s an ancient symbol. Babylonian or Assyrian, I think. It means ‘good quality’ or ‘fine’, kind of how you’d evaluate an item, especially if it’s going to be used for magic.”

“That’s a scary combination,” Mira remarked. “Vampires and old, magical symbols. Do you feel strong enough to change out of those clothes? Maybe there is a clue there that will tell us where you’ve been.”

"Yeah, I can do it." She looks toward the front door. "I don't even remember leaving the house on Friday." Rey then looks around for Thorn and the others. At first she didn’t see anything, and then she remembered how they seemed to be afraid of Mira. Then, she spotted one fairy peeping out from behind a teacup left on the kitchen table. The fairy waved at Rey, but then ducked and hid when Mira glanced that direction.

Rey walked into her bedroom. Nothing seemed out of place - the floor was clean, drawers and closet doors closed, bed made, and her purse sat in the middle of it. “There’s my purse.” She looked inside it. “But not my wallet, keys or cell phone. If I go for a walk, I sometimes take just those things and leave my purse at home.” She shook her head. “I still don’t remember leaving the house.”

She sighed, and carefully removed the clothing she wore, being careful not to damage anything more than it already was.

“Do you have that thing on the cell phone where it can be tracked if you lose it?” Mira asked while Rey undressed.

Rey nodded. “I do.” She also thought she could lock out the phone until you entered the password, but she’d have to check when she logged into the app’s website. She looked down at herself and swore. She could see at least three bites on her: one on each breast, and one on the inside of her left thigh. She quickly turned her back to Mira. “How many bites marks do you see?” she asks, turning her head to try and peer down at her back.

“There is another on your right thigh, but behind a bit so you didn’t see. There is also one here, here,” Mira touched one place on Rey’s back and the on her right buttock, “and finally one here on the back of your right calf. Geez, Rey. Looks like you were a buffet for… more than one vamp.”

“You’re going to hold them down,” Rey said, her voice shaking with ice cold rage. “While I yank their fangs out with a pair of pliers. Then we’re going to stake them out in the sun. If that doesn’t kill them. I’ll douse them with gasoline, set them alight, and then roast marshmallows over the flames.”

Mira’s face was thoughtful though and she nodded. “Yes, of course. You won’t need gasoline, though. I’m a walking bonfire if I want to be,” she added a little distractedly. She kept staring at Rey like she was trying to think through something that was a tad more deep than she was used to.

Finally, Mira shook her head, unable to reach the end of whatever thought she was chewing on. “Let get to your computer and look up where your phone is.”

“Gasoline takes longer,” Rey replies as she walks to her office. “and the fear factor is so much higher. Pour it slowly over them, let them smell it, then toss a match and step back.” Luckily, the curtains across the windows were closed when she sat in her computer chair and powered the machine up.

As soon as the browser was loaded, Rey went to the software program’s website and logged in. She rapidly clicked through to the locator feature, and it gave a set of co-ordinates, and then an address. Rey copied it and then pasted it into Google and started the search. The address was for The Midnight Club. “I’ve never heard of this place before.” She shakes her head. The clothes looked like something I’d wear if I’d gone to Blood Tears, but this is almost halfway across the city, in the old downtown area.”

Mira stared at the name on the screen, her face unreadable. “I know that place,” she said. “It’s a vampire club. I’ve been there a few times.”

“Tell me about it.”

“The club or why I was there?” Mira asked. Her tone was cautious.

“I’d like both,” Rey replied, “but will settle for just about the club.”

“It’s a place where fang-bangers go for sex and to get bit. A place where vamps know they can feed without worrying someone will … where the victims are willing,” Mira said. “That’s not why I went,” she hurried to add. “I was with someone. This place… well the person I was with didn’t like whoever ran the place. I was needed as a kind of cover, so they wouldn’t be obligated to feed on some half-drugged ‘banger if they didn’t want to.” She paused as she stared off into space for a moment. Some memories she was avoiding threatened to get her in trouble so she cleared her throat and forced them away. She smiled, a little embarrassed. “Anyway there are lots of reasons someone might go to the Midnight Club, more than just sex or blood.”

“I would never go to a place like that, not a hang out for vamps gone wild,” Rey said firmly. “Not willingly, and certainly not alone.” She frowned, then said “would you mind waiting here for a moment?”

Rey stood and walked into the kitchen. “Thistle,” she called out softly. Thistle was Thorn’s female twin, and while she was by far the most shy of all of the little fairies living in her home, she never failed to come when Rey called.

The little fairy peeked out from behind to flour canister on the counter. “Yes, my queen?” Her little voice floated across the room like dandelion fluff on the wind.

“Do you know where I went on Friday, and when?” Rey asked gently.

“You were going to meet someone,” Thistle asked more than said. “Do an interview at the coffee shop by the train station. You left just before the sun started to go down.”

“Good work,” Rey replied. “Carry on.”

Thistle disappeared behind the canister once more while Rey returned to her office, still naked and unconcerned about it. "I don't remember going to meet someone, but I must have."

“Maybe someone who works there will remember you and who you were meeting,” suggested Mira. “If you are mentally ready to do this?”

“What do you mean?”

“I have a feeling all this may not be as straightforward as a kidnapping and … whatever else they did to you.” Mira hesitated to say it, but it needed saying. “It’s not easy to make you do something you don’t want to do. It’s really not easy to muck about with your mind, either. I think you should be braced in case you find out something that says you might not have been exactly unwilling.”

“You’re saying I may well have said sure, why not, use me as dinner?” Rey refused to believe she’d do that, but at the same time, she could see situations where she might not have had a choice. To protect someone she cared about.

“No. As I said, there are a lot of other reasons to go to the Midnight Club. I doubt you intended to end up like you did, but you might have been trying to do something else.” Mira spread her hands. “It’s just a thought. We won’t know anything until we dig some more, but I didn’t want you to go to this cafe angry because whoever you met there might not be the person who left you like that. It might have been someone you were trying to help.”

Rey nods. “I was just thinking that myself. But, before we go anywhere, I’d better get dressed.”

Mira gave her a critical once over. “Whatever you choose, best hide those bite marks so vampires don’t think you’re out advertising for free snacks.”

“No kidding,” Rey said. She returned a short time later, dressed in jeans and a scoop neck long sleeved shirt, and carried her leather jacket. Her hair was loose but brushed, and she had a scarf tied stylishly around her neck. “I found another bite, on the back of my neck, hidden by my hair.”

“Interesting that, although they bites are new, they all look as if they’d been taken care of, despite how you were left. That’s part of why I have the feeling there is more involved here than meets the eye,” Mira said. She glanced in the mirror to check that she looked okay to go in public. She’d left so fast she hadn’t put much thought into what she’d thrown on, but was satisfied with the simple blue and green skirt and blouse. Only one thing was missing. “May I borrow a pair of shoes before we go?”

“Actually, there’s a pair of your shoes in the closet. You left them here a while ago.” Rey looked at herself in the hallway mirror. “But if the bites were tended to, why dump me on my lawn? Or maybe I was able to walk a few steps but collapsed before I got to the door….”

“Or maybe whoever dropped you off was not the same people as those that fed from you.”

Mira went and found the shoes, a pair of sandals, and slipped them on. When she returned she had another thought. “You know, it’s probably a good thing you don’t remember what happened. You don’t want to, given the number of bites you have. Trust me on that.”

“You’re probably right,” Rey replied. “But it would be nice to remember who hurt me, and who helped.”

She turned to look toward the living room. “Thorn, heightened alert, if you please. I cannot lock the door and I do not know how long I will be gone. The only people allowed to enter without being subject to immediate attack are Chase, Less, Mira and myself.”

The little sprite looked distressed. “But that includes…” He pointedly did not look at Mira. Nor did he leave cover. Rather, his small voice echoed from the direction of the living room.

“Exactly,” Rey said. “She is my friend and ally. She would never voluntarily harm me and mine in any way shape or form.”

He poked his head out from behind a pillow. “Really?”

“Yes,” Rey said with a nod. “Do you think I would call her for help if I did not trust her?”

He thought about that. “Um. Well…”

Mira leaned so she could see who Rey was talking to. “Oh how cute! A pixie?”

“Yes,” Rey replied. “The commander of my army, he is the best of them all. They are the reason I need no security system, and always know who’s at the door before they get to the front step.” Her voice lowers until only Mira could hear it. “They do not like being described as cute, lovable or anything like that.”

Mira looked at the pixie again and smiled. “A ‘’soldier’’! I see. Well that’s different, isn’t it? You must be a very powerful and disciplined force if you serve Honoré Lafitte.”

“And fierce,” Thorn added in a tiny voice.

“Uh hm. So I guess you or your army saw who dropped Rey off this morning?”

Thorns ears seemed to wilt a little. “No…”

“Well perhaps you should set up a forward post?”

“A for’rd post?” The pixie looked slightly more interested than intimidated.

“Well, it was nice to meet you,” Mira said. She thought it might be more respectful to let the little guy figure that out on his own. “I am a nymph. You can call me Mira.”

“A nymph?” He came around the pillow and sat on it. “But you are unseelie! Where’s your satyrs? Or haven’t any found you yet?”

“I was tricked into joining the unseelie court. I didn’t know I had a choice when I was so much younger.”

Thorn stared at her, wondering if Mira was lying, but finally discarded the suspicion. It seemed more likely to him that what she said was true. “They do that! Trick people.”

“Most fae do,” Mira remarked.

“Yeah, but they do it in a really mean way. They are never nice. Why don’t you leave and come live with Rey?”

Mira laughed at that. “I would if I could, but the Duke here doesn’t like “quitters”, so to speak. He makes sure everyone knows the choice of joining a court is a permanent one. Besides, I think I got used to dealing with them. I wouldn’t know how to deal with summer fae anymore.”

Mira glanced at Rey who was waiting on her.

“We need to go. Please take care of yourself and Rey’s house. And her army.”

Thorn drew himself up. “Oh I intend to! Queen Mac has the very best golden foodstuffs. We shall serve to the last mouthful!”

Rey couldn’t help but smile, and once again added a case of mac and cheese to her mental grocery list. “I have every confidence in you and your soldiers. I will see you later.” She walked out of the house and waited for Mira to join her.

“I like how you spoke with Thorn just now,” Rey said. “He and his fellows are very serious about their responsibilities, even if they don’t do it exactly the way we think they might.”

“I think they are very interesting,” Mira said with a smile.

“They are at that,” Rey said. “They were convinced you were The Enemy, out to seduce them away from my service and into horrendous sexual servitude. That you were invading their dreams, and distracting them from their duties.” She chuckles. “They have developed at least a dozen battle plans to deal with your potential invasion and attack.”

After they got into Rey’s car, Mira laughed out loud. “That’s really very complimentary.”

Rey nods. “It is. The only thing they have created more plans for is what to do if the mac and cheese supply is threatened.”

Mira chuckled at that. “They do have interesting quirks. I guess we all do.” Her remark was aimed at all fae.

The coffee shop at the train station was easy to find, and Rey was able to park her car at the apartment building nearby. That was where Chase lived these days, and she still had a visitor’s pass to park there. It made parking free that way.

A short walk later had them at the coffee shop. Mira had taken it slow, and Rey was grateful as her energy still felt very low due to all the blood loss. She knew it would be a while before her body could recover all it had lost, so it was wise not to move too quickly and use up what little energy she had.

The shop had a single barista working behind the counter. She looked to be in her mid twenties, so about their own age. She wore glasses, had dark brown eyes and her long hair was worn in a bun. Her blouse was a simple dark color and she wore a medium-length dark green skirt. Overall, she seemed a pleasant-looking individual. Given it was already early evening due to the long recovery nap Rey had taken, there was a chance she might be the same individual who was working the other night.

Rey walked up to the counter and smiled at the woman. “Hi,” she said. “Were you working here Friday night?”

She nodded. “Yup. I work every week from Thursday through Monday.” Her name tag read “Beverly”.

“I know this will sound a bit strange,” Rey said with a weak, embarrassed smile. “But do you remember me being here that night?”

“Vaguely. Sorry, I get a lot of customers on weekend nights,” she said.

“That’s okay,” Rey said. “I don’t suppose you remember the person I was here with? I’m trying to find the person I was here with that night. I’ve lost my wallet and was hoping they might have it. I’d really like to avoid having to go through the hassle of cancelling all my credit cards.”

Beverly thought for a moment, but then suddenly remember. “Oh yes! I remember. You were with another woman. She had dark hair, not very long. Cut almost in a bob. I’m not exactly sure. The one thing I do remember is that she had really striking eyes. Like silver or something. I thought maybe she was wearing contacts.”

“Silver eyes. Thanks.” Rey knew a person with silver eyes. If the person she was with was who she thought it was, she couldn’t be the person who was responsible for harming her. That left the possibility of what happened was because she was helping her with something.

After they walked away from the barista, Mira remarked, “Silver eyes, hm? Sounds familiar. That would be the hot werewolf with the bad attitude.”

“Her attitude isn’t all that bad,” Rey replied. “She was angry with you, that’s all. I need to call Lyla and find out what we did after we talked.” She sighed. “And I don’t have my cell phone. We’ll need to go into the train station to use a public phone.”

It didn’t take much to find a phone not in use. While Rey placed the call, Mira leaned against a privacy divider that separate the five public phones in this location and kept watch on her fingernails.

Lyla answered on the second ring. “Hello?”

“Lyla, it’s Rey.” Rey stopped to take a a few steadying breaths. Even this little bit of walking was tiring her out. “I need your help. I think.”

“My help? What did you find out? Are you done already?” Lyla asked.

“I don’t know,” Rey said. “I woke up this morning on my front lawn, covered with vampire bites, wearing someone else’s clothes, and no memory of anything that happened to me since Friday morning. I only know I met with you because the woman at the coffee shop gave me the description of the person I met there.”

“Shit. Vampires!” A frustrated sigh emanated from Lyla’s end of the line. “I’d contacted you to ask you to look into what was going on with a young man that one of my -- I mean that Kim had been spending a lot of time with. He’s behavior changed suddenly and she’s been really upset about it. I told you that she had sworn to me he wasn’t normally moody, but that he’d lately been ignoring her and spending a lot of time with other friends. I told her to just dump him and move on but she seemed unexpectedly attached. Plus, I personally think he might be a wolfblood, and a good way out for Kim. She’s too tough to put up with the games and rivalries the other males will get into over her.

“So, it’s not so simple as her just dumping him and getting over it. I don’t feel like I have the right to make her do that when he is really her best prospect right now.” Reading between the lines, Rey could tell that meant Kim wouldn’t have to force dominance issues with this guy, something she might have to go through with a male wolf, as it is very rare for male ferals to be less dominant than their mates. That made him a valuable catch -- enough for Lyla to want to make an extra effort to help her keep him.

“Chaska doesn’t think I should get directly involved, since this guy isn’t part of the pack. I thought he might be right so I asked if you’d be willing to find out what was going on with Kim’s beau. I never imagined it would bring you under the fangs of vampires.”

“You didn’t know the Midnight Club was a dance club and open buffet for them?” Rey asks.

“Never heard of that club. What happened does answer my question, though,” Lyla said. “Vamps. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to walk away from this right now. In fact, I think you should. I’ll handle things from here as far as Kim and her guy. Those vampires probably know a lot about you now and it might be best if you limited any and all contact with them.”

“I don’t have much choice,” Rey said. “After what they did to me, someone tended to the bites and brought me home, so someone cared enough to help. Plus, my cell, purse and wallet are still at the club and I want them back.” She sighed. “And to make things worse, someone put a mystical mark on me.” Rey quickly tells Lyla about the mark and what it means - at least from an occult or magical point of view. “I need to find out what it means, and if I need to get rid of it.”

Mira interrupted. “Um, hon? I don’t think that mark means what you think it means. I get one, too, when I go there. It’s like the Midnight Club version of a hand stamp. It goes away after a good soak or a couple showers.” Mira thought Rey was lucky she didn’t get the stamp on her ass, but decided to keep that remark to herself.

“Lyla, I need to find out why I ended up being dinner,” Rey said. “I would never, ever, willingly do that. If you asked for my help, and I tracked the guy down, there’s a good chance I may have agreed in order to rescue him. If I did, I need to know they kept their word, because if they didn’t, they’re going to pay for breaking their promise to me.”

“If any word was given,” Lyla pointed out. “I think you are asking for trouble. Maybe you should just cancel your cell service and your credit cards and call it even.”

It rankled Rey to think about giving up. She wanted to hurt someone, but a slight breeze would probably knock her over. But Lyla was right, and Mira would likely say the same. “I hope something good came out of this. I feel like shit. They nearly drained me dry.” She didn’t know if that were true, but it sure as hell felt like it.

“I’m really sorry it went this way,” Lyla said. “I’ll figure out where Kim’s Michael is and pick him up. Sounds like he might need some time in recovery, too, and maybe someone to slap some sense into him.”

“Don’t hurt him too bad,” Rey said with a soft chuckle. “He may be an idiot, but he’s Kim’s idiot.”

After Rey signed off on the phone, Mira asked if they would be continuing to investigate.

“You don’t think I should just cut my losses?” Rey asked, but then she remembered Mira’s tendency toward wanting just a little bit of payback against those who harmed her.

“Woozy or no, if someone chewed ‘’me’’ up and spat me out on my own lawn, I’d be out for blood.” Mira showed teeth. “You know that. If you aren’t up to it right this moment, I completely understand. Say the word and I’ll go down there and make sure they understand that to trifle with my friends carries a price in flesh.” The fiery glint in her eye proved she meant it.

“I’m not up for a fight,” Rey said, “but I want my stuff back, and I want to find out who helped me. It might not have been one of the vampires who took a bite, because why would they care if I remembered any of it. I’d probably be written off for crazy. Or they dumped me and the mysterious samaritan found me and helped me.”

“I can think of a whole pile of reasons, but we won’t know for sure unless we find someone who knows something. Whatever the real motivation is, it’s probably something we couldn’t guess at this point. I just know I’m really glad you don’t remember the experience. Those bites look like…” Mira stopped after she considered the kinds of questions Rey might ask her if she continued along those lines. She decided a safer course of discussion was in order, even if it was only slightly safer. “I think that if you remembered what it was like to get bit like that, you’d probably want to go back for more.”

"Look like what?"

Mira’s face flushed. What was striking about it is that Rey hadn’t known of anything that would cause that kind of reaction. The nymph had no issues going around half naked most of the time, so it seemed hard to imagine anything making her blush. But there was no mistaking the reddish tint the tips of her pointed ears had. “I’ve had bites like that. Only one at a time, though. Not a half dozen or more all in one night. If done right it’s really nice.” The red blushed brighter.

Rey stared at her friend. "I enjoy biting and being bitten, but never if it breaks the skin. Are you telling me vampire bites are like in some books - instant orgasm or whatever?"

Mira smiled as she recalled the dark passions the bite of a vampire -- the right kind of vampire -- could bring. “Think of an orgasm, multiply it by ten and then draw it out until you think you are going to lose your mind. ‘’That’s’’ what it’s like.” For a nymph who was once a street urchin addicted to heroin, such a vampire “kiss” was one hell of a replacement drug. One of the reasons she loved and respected her vampire allies so much was the fact they didn’t let it go too far. At least, she knew they didn’t hold it over her like a carrot on a stick, and she took pains not to ask for it. Well, not too much.

“And addictive as hell, I bet,” Rey said with a frown. Knowing her friend was probably hooked on it didn’t make things any easier, but she was too tired to get into a fight about it. “Let’s get going. If there’s any cash left in my wallet, I want to get a burger. Or two. I’m getting hungry.”

“Addictive? Yeah, in a way. Like really good sex, or pot or something. It’s more intense but I think it’s only a psychological addiction,” she said, attempting to downplay it. “Not a physical addiction, so long as you aren’t also drinking vampire blood. That might be a really serious problem, then. That’s a line I don’t cross. It gives the vampire a lot of power over someone that way.”

Mira was talking quietly as led Rey across the wide hall to the other side of the train station where a small food court offered subs, chinese, and burgers. When they got there, Mira said, “On me. You need your strength back, ASAP.”

“You sure?” Rey asked, knowing that Mira typically didn’t have a lot in the way of money.

“Yeah,” Mira said with bit of enthusiasm. “I just got paid Friday.” She handed Rey a twenty.

While Rey ordered her food, Mira found a table. When Rey rejoined her, she had a burger and onion rings, with a large drink. “Now that I’m looking at the food, I don’t feel all that hungry anymore. Not that I’m not going to eat it. I know I need it.” What she really wanted, though, was Chase. But she thought if he saw how weak she was, he might not be very happy, and she wanted to avoid that. She passed Mira the change, and then took a big bite of her burger.

Mira watched Rey eat, trying to read whether Rey was angry with her about the vampire bite thing. She didn’t see any sign of that, but she couldn’t shake the feeling she had disappointed her friend. A sense of anxiety over it made her nibble her lower lip as she sat in a somewhat awkward silence.

Rey looked up at her friend from her tray and saw the expression on her friend’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ve disappointed you,” she said. “I’m not a vampire junky.”

“Can you honestly tell me you never ask Remy to bite you?” Rey asks in a quiet voice.

“Sometimes I do. But I’m not going around begging for it from every vampire I see. I don’t feel sick and know that I can’t feel better unless I get another hit. I’m fine, and I know I’m fine. It’s nice, really, really nice, but I know I’m not going to fall apart if I don’t get it.” She paused, then added carefully, “They don’t dangle it in front of me or try to use it to barter with for favors or anything. I know other vampires are less… decent about it. Part of it might be because they don’t over do it. And I haven’t been bitten in a good while, actually, because I like how things are going with Drake and I don’t want to do something to upset that.”

Rey nodded and took another bite of her burger. She really wanted to believe her friend, but Mira seemed to have a distinct weakness when it came to Remy and his friends. “I’m glad to hear things are going well between you and Drake,” she said once she’d swallowed. “He really cares about you.”

Mira smiled. “Yeah, he does. I care about him, too. I’ve recently stayed a few nights over with him. To be with him, and also show that I trust him to protect me away from my warded home. I have an especially long list of enemies and potential enemies, so it’s a big deal to me and I know it’s a big deal to him. Next week, I’m going to invite him to my place for his days off instead. I want to show him my hot tub.”

Rey chuckled. “I wish I had a hot tub,” she said. “But, unfortunately, nowhere to put it. I know I could get an outdoors one, but I’d want privacy when I use it.”

“You should come use mine,” Mira invited. “There is also the spring at the hollow, though the water is cool, not hot.”

“True,” Rey replied. “But a big part of the enjoyment of the hot tub or pool would be sharing it with Chase.” She picked up an onion ring.

Mira snapped her fingers as an idea struck her. “I know! Next time I’m staying the night with Drake, I’ll call you. You and Chase can use my apartment.” It was warded against werewolves, but what that meant was that werewolf powers would be restricted there, not that it was some kind of physical barrier.

“Are you sure?” Rey said. “I’d be concerned about the security on your place making him feel… uncomfortable.”

“It’s the same for anyone, really,” Mira said. “As long as he doesn’t try to use his feral powers, he’s fine. It won’t stop him from entering or otherwise inhibit him at all. See the advantage of the wards is that no one but me gets to use supernatural powers there. Anyone comes after me in my own home, and I hold all the advantages. Except for witches. I don’t have wards against them, but then I don’t have any witch enemies that I’m aware of.”

“I’ll talk to him about it,” Rey replied. “See what he says.” She popped the last onion ring in her mouth, and wiped her hands and slips with a napkin, now finished her meal. “I’m done. We can probably get going now.”

“Feel better?”

Rey nodded. “Not up to full speed,” she said, “but at least my hands aren’t shaking anymore. If we end up in any kind of physical confrontation, though, I’m not going to do too well.”

“That’s okay. I’ll get physical for both of us, if need be,” Mira assured her. “No one is going to even touch you without going through me first. So, on to the Midnight Club?”

“Yes,” Rey said. “Let’s get this over with so I can go back to bed.”

“Perfect. Then all we need is a sponsor,” Mira said.

“You’re going to have to take care of that,” Rey replied softly. “I have no idea who bit me, but you have a far better idea of who might not be easily tempted, especially if they see any of the bites.”

“I would only choose from among five of them. Are there any of those you don’t want me to call?”

Rey really wanted to say not to call any of them, but the situation gave them little choice. “I trust you. Call whoever you think is best suited for what we need to do tonight.”

The one that was on the top of Mira’s list to call first was Remy. She never really knew his schedule so she could never be sure if or when he was available, but it was definitely worth a shot. She picked up a pay phone, dropped in a couple quarters, and dialed his number.

A young woman whose voice Mira didn’t recognized answered the phone - but she recognized the tone of it. The woman had very recently been having sex, and hadn’t come down from the high of it.

“Hi there, sorry to interrupt but I need to speak with Mr. Depres, please,” Mira said pleasantly.

“May I tell him who is calling?”

“Yes, please do. This is Mira.”

“One moment.”

Mira could hear the woman putting the phone down and the rustle of fabric followed by footsteps. A moment later, there were more footsteps, followed by the phone being picked up, then Remy’s voice caressed her ears. “Bon soir, ma petite. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?”

“My gratitude, if you could be available for a little while tonight. Rey had an interesting experience at the Midnight Club. We don’t know exactly what went on there, but it seems she left her cell phone and a few other personals there. Would you be willing to act as our sponsor tonight so she can retrieve them?”

“I never thought I’d hear Miss Lafitte and the Midnight Club mentioned in the same breath. How is she?”

“Weak. But recovering. It’s an interesting story and you might be able to convince her to share what she remembers of it,” Mira suggested.

“Perhaps,” Remy said. “Should I send a car for the two of you?”

“Actually, we can meet you because we have Rey’s car and we are not at home.” Mira paused, then added. “I really appreciate you taking time out for this, Remy.”

“It will be my pleasure to assist you and Miss Lafitte,” he replied. “I will meet you at the parking lot a block south of the club.”

“Great! We’ll head there now.” After Mira hung up, she updated Rey on what he said and they headed back to Rey’s car.

The trip through Mythic City toward downtown was uneventful as Sunday evening traffic was relatively light. They arrived at the parking lot Remy mentioned, but Mira reported he hadn’t arrived yet since he had to drive up, likely from Santa Fe. They had a few minutes.

“Are you ready for this?” Mira asked.

“As much as I can be, given the circumstance,” Rey replied. “I am concerned that something that happened last night might make those who there think I came back because I wanted more.”

Mira nodded. “That’s why I thought it really important we get someone to sponsor us that was strong enough to meet any challenge from those who might think that way. Remy can do it without drawing blood. If we fend them off ourselves, I think the whole place might turn on us and that’s not winnable. After all, no one likes it when food fights back. No one civilized anyway.”

Rey can’t suppress a shudder. “I don’t like this.” She looked around, wondering if she’d walked past this lot Friday night. If there were people from that night nearby, watching and wondering.

“What you did was really noble,” Mira said. “Even if you didn’t know what you were getting into at first, at some point you realized it but stuck with it anyway in order to help out a stranger. I can’t say I would have done the same. Now all we are doing is trying to put an ending to that night by getting your stuff back. Then you never have to come here again.”

“Famous last words,” Rey muttered. “I suppose we could go straight to wherever the lost and found is kept and see if my purse is there. So, what else do I need to know about this club? How should I act?” There was no way she’d ask Remy these questions. She just knew he’d take advantage of her.

“Stay close to Remy and me. If you seem to be acting on your own, someone will probably assume you are looking to hook up with a vampire. We also need to strengthen our Masks. When among other vampires I take a great pains to appear as just another mortal dish for Remy. They’ll assume you belong to him and leave you alone. If they think you are something other than mortal, it could damage what we’ve been building and also draw a lot of attention to you that you might not want. See, some vampires are really very good at sniffing out the presence of another supernatural. We need to never give them any reason to suspect us if we want to avoid notice. That said, your nature could be known to those who’ve had a taste of you. That’s not certain, though, so best play it cautious.”

“Okay,” Rey said with only a slight nod. She was thirsty again, and wished she’d thought to buy a bottle of water when at the train station. “Probably be best if we do it now, so as not to give any of them the opportunity to get a look.”

After a moment’s concentration, both Rey and Mira saw each other as if they were mortals and no more. It took concentrated effort to notice anything unusual about them.

Remy’s car arrived as they finished touching up makeup that Mira recommended to help them blend in a little.

Rey thought she looked like death warmed over, but the Goth look Mira suggested made her pale skin look stark - and uncomfortably appealing. Luckily she was already wearing all black, and she supposed she probably look like quite a treat. The question now was, would the other things she was push the vampires away, or draw them closer?

“You look good,” Mira judged. “Let’s go see what Remy says.” She opened the door and hopped out of the car. When Rey joined her, they went to meet Remy.

The rear passenger door of the car opened and Remy got out. His eyes flicked over Mira, but shot to Rey and stayed there. A slow, sexy smile covered his face. “Good evening,” he said, with a little bow.

Mira watched, but kept silent. His greetings seemed to be directed to Rey and she wondered if he might forget something. Unmoved to remind him, she stood with a small smile on her face and watched Rey’s reaction to his attention. She also wondered if he might notice he could not see their fae forms -- at least not without significant effort on his part.

Rey return his look with one that was a combination of dispassion tinged with annoyance before nodding her head in greeting.

Remy’s smile widened and he turned to Mira, taking her hand in his and pressing a kiss to her fingers. “And good evening to you, ma petite.”

She smiled and returned his greeting. “It’s good to see you, as always,” she said. She secretly loved it when her men kissed her hand. She didn’t know exactly why, but Drake or Remy, when they treated her like that it always had the effect of brightening whatever mood she was in.

“You lovely ladies look different tonight,” he said. “Deliciously beautiful.” For a moment, Mira thought she saw a hint of fang in his smile.

The drive to flirt for the nymph was instinctive. “Charmer,” she said softly. She looped an arm through Remy’s right elbow and indicated Rey should take his other.

A brief expression of illness fluttered across Rey face, but whether it was because of the contact with Remy or the result of her ordeal so far, it was hard to say. Mira saw a calculating and concerned look in Remy’s eyes.

“How many of them were there?” he asked Rey in a surprisingly soft voice.

Rey glanced up at him, then looked away. “At least three, based on the number of bites. We didn’t think to take time to compare them all to get a solid count.” Her voice faded a bit, and her grip on his arm tightened slightly.

“How many bites?” he asked Mira.

“I saw five, but there was another on the back of Rey’s neck, under her hair, so that makes six. Of those five, I could tell there were three unique bite patterns. None of them showed evidence of ravaging like your more monstrous kindred might do,” she said quietly so her voice wouldn’t carry. “It was the canine teeth that punctured the skin, not those ones next to the two front teeth that get long for your scarier relatives.” She was no dentist but she knew her vampire bites well enough. The third type of vampire went unmentioned since they didn’t bite at all, but instead drew blood directly through the skin of their victims. “Someone also took away any memory of it,” she added. “Maybe covering their tracks? Or maybe an act of mercy? That many bites in one night…” They both knew that would be too much for one person to take without risking breaking the victim’s mind or spirit. “We’ve been playing detective, backtracking through what happened. She has a tracking thing on her cell phone that led us here. Her phone was still on so maybe its in lost and found.”

"How did you end up at the club?" Remy asked Rey.

"I'm not sure what led me there," Rey replied. "But I was trying to help a friend."

That did not surprise Remy. Rey's loyalty to her friends was both a strength and a weakness. Her friends were just as loyal to her, and were excellent targets for those wishing to make things difficult. Of course, those friends were not mere mortals.

“This should be a simple in and out,” Mira said. “Unless you’d like to ask some questions and figure out who did this to you?” she asked Rey.

"If there was some way I could make them regret what they did, I would love to know who they were," Rey replied. "To destroy them would be a delight, but I do not know if it will be possible tonight. What concerns me more is who helped me. I want to know who, and why." She shivered and felt a bit dizzy, and knew her face had paled even more.

"Mira, I am going to need you to get me and my car home safely when we are done here," Rey said. "I can't go in there like this. Even with Remy's sponsorship I'd feel like I was giving off 'I am weak prey, come get me' vibes. I can change that for a while, but it'll cost me."

"I will make sure you get home safely," Remy said with a gracious but surprisingly honest tone of voice.

"Why do you care?" Rey asked bluntly. "You know my opinion of your kind."

"True," Remy said with a slight nod. "But you are a friend of Mira's." Using Mira and Rey as a cover to go to the club suited his plans quite well. He’d heard of some things that went on there, and wanted to check it out. And if the ones who’d fed off Rey had learned about her, perhaps he could persuade them to share. If he… accidentally leaked the names of the vampires who’d harmed her to Mira, then perhaps Mira would find some measure of enjoyment in destroying them - and ensuring he was left the only one who might know the secrets they’d forced out of Rey.

Rey decided discretion was the better part of valor and said nothing more. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then Seelie magic swirled around her like a warm summer breeze. Her complexion regained a healthier tone (though she was still pale), and her body no showed any signs of the blood loss she was suffering from.

"Okay," she said finally. "I am good to go." Rey squared her shoulders and got ready to into the club.

Once she took Remy’s other arm, the three headed to the club. There was a tough-looking man out front, a mortal, but he took one look at Remy, bowed his head in recognition, and opened the door for them.

Inside was a riot of shadows, sound, and red and blue lights. Immediately disorienting, Rey could tell it was going to be difficult to get and keep her bearings in this place. It was not in any way made for the comfort of mortals, and that extended to the fae who came in mortal forms.

Small groups of guests knotted the large room. The bar kept a steady flow of drinks going and neither Mira nor Rey noticed any money ever going to pay for drinks; cash only was stuffed into overflowing tip jars stationed around the bar. Signs dimly illuminated the few exits from this room and they were difficult to spot between dancing forms and the forms of those engaged in more intimate social activity.

Rey was glad she was on Remy’s arm, and had no desire to go even so much as a step or two from his side. In this place, he was definitely the lesser evil. She gave up trying to get a look at the club as a whole, and decided to concentrate on the area immediately around them. She leaned in to Remy, pressing her body against his (if only to keep from being bumped into) and said into his ear “Would the lost and found be at the bar?”

As she said the words she saw something out of the corner of her eye - not movement, but a spot of stillness. She looked and saw a young man, dressed in typical club clothes, looking at herself, Remy and Mira. Or at least she thought he was looking at the three of them. She wasn’t sure she’d be pleased if he was looking just at her.

A very pale female blonde who, in her high heels, seemed to be mostly leg seemed to suddenly simply be there in front of Remy, Mira and Rey. The dark green dress that barely covered her ass made her flesh seem even paler than it was. That she was a vampire and relished the fact was unmistakable.

“Hey handsome,” she said to Remy. “I see you brought that delicious morsel with you tonight. And who is this? A new flavor?” she asked of Rey.

Rey looked again to spot the mysterious man she’d seen out of the corner of her eye, but he had disappeared, leaving her to wonder if he might turn up just as unexpectedly again tonight.

“Good evening, Yvette,” Remy said with an urbane drawl.

Remy knew Yvette to be ambitious almost to a fault, but with a strong sense of self-preservation. She was smart and devious enough to have survived politics among Aristos for eighty years, which for a socially active vampire was rather impressive. For all her ambitions, however, she had never seemed to manage achieve positions of any authority. Partly due to her looks, and partly because she just didn’t seem to have a lot of good luck, her station had really never risen higher than it was now.

She was the vampire mistress to a vampire crime boss. She was “allied” to of the Master’s lieutenants, MacConnaught. In truth their alliance was more about sex and having an attractive vampire on your arm rather than Yvette bringing something of real value to the arrangement. However, she was often useful to Remy because MacConnaught and Yvette never considered their arrangement to be exclusive. He strongly suspected Yvette resented that, actually, and so he’d found it rather easy to indulge her from time to time, knowing that pillow talk inevitably turned to her griping about MacConnaught’s inattention or perceived weaknesses. The information was very useful to Remy, and when he took advantage of the knowledge he was subtle enough about it that the information leak wasn’t trace back to himself.

Mira, used to how vampires treated mortals, remained meekly silent. It was after all part of her guise while here to seem nothing more than mortal. She had to wonder, though, how Rey would handle the role. Would she play along? Or might she rebel against the pet-like treatment mortals received here.

“I decided to give this one a treat,” Remy said, and took Rey’s chin in his hand. “She was very well behaved.” He smoothly turned Rey’s face away from Yvette, then slid his arm around Rey’s waist to hold her close to her side. He slid his other arm around Mira and drew her close as well, fitting her body much closer to his than he’d done with Rey.

Rey, for her part, just let Yvette’s words flor over her. She wasn’t at the club to start a fight, or to be recognized. She was just going to be an anonymous mortal, supposedly there for Remy’s pleasure.

She moved closer to Remy, and said into his ear, “If you’re looking to make a threesome into a party, I have room number three reserved. As usual.” She ran a finger down his chest and let her hungry eyes feast on him and his two mortal morsels openly.

“Perhaps later,” Remy said with an undertone of promise. “I put this little one through her paces earlier, and I’m not quite ready to share her yet.” His hand moved with possessive carelessness down Rey’s back to her rear, where it stayed.

Rey was not impressed, and truly wanted to smack Yvette, so she pressed herself closer to Remy, preferring to be up close and personal with him instead of calling upon her Seelie magic to bring forth the light of the noonday sun.

Mira was mildly amused, but also curious if Yvette might have useful information. Unfortunately, the woman simply wasn’t looking at Rey. Enjoying the ruse of pretending to be mortal, she looked about their immediate area with just her eyes so as not to seem as if she was completely ignoring Yvette. When she thought she noticed a familiar face past the dancing form of an enthusiastic couple, her breath caught and she thought her heart stopped. She blinked and the face that had of late appeared only in her nightmares was gone. Her pulse quickened reflexively and her grip on Remy’s arm tightened.

Yvette notice Mira’s tension but misread it as excitement. “I look forward to later, then,” Yvette said. Her gaze wandered toward Mira, to whom she gave an indulgent yet predatory smile. Then she looked at Rey, too, and paused. “I’m sorry. One night tends to blur into the next, but weren’t you just here a couple nights ago? With that boy?”

Rey looked up at Remy, as if waiting to be told what to do.

“What boy would that be?” Remy asked Yvette with a raised eyebrow.

“Not a friend of yours?” Yvette asked with a raised eyebrow. “Well, he was a regular here. Almost every night for the last… I don’t know. A few weeks? A month? It’s all the same to me.” She sighed dramatically. “So hard to remember names, you know, and details sometimes.”

Remy knew the woman to be a font of information and always on the lookout for something she could use. Yvette forgot nothing. Her strategy was to tantalize and then extract whatever payment she found adequate that evening. It was never money, not always a favor, and sometimes required and informational exchange. The cheapest way to get her to talk, he’d found, was in the languid afterglow of seriously good sex. Given who was with him tonight, it didn’t seem likely he’d get off “cheap”. Perhaps then it was time for the fae girls to pay their own way if they wanted something.

Remy casually looked around the room, and a slight look of boredom covered his face. “My dear, why don’t we go somewhere a bit quieter. And a bit more private. That way we can chat.” He looked down at Mira, and the tone of his voice changed, becoming more like master to servant. “And while Cara was very good,” Remy said sternly. “You were very naughty. You will not be allowed to play unless you behave yourself. Do you understand?”

Mira looked up at him with shadowed, glinting eyes and a wicked smile. But she nodded her understanding.

Remy didn’t know if she would. He was setting things up to give her an out, a way not to get involved with Yvette, because he had every intention of being the one to taste the nymph’s blood tonight and was in no mood to share.

Mira spoke demurely and quietly enough she knew it would be hard to hear her unless their senses were as highly tuned as she knew Remy and Rey’s to be. “Master, may I get a glass of wine for myself?” She nodded toward Rey. “Soda for her?”

Behind her smile, her quickened pulse rate belied her calm. She wanted to use her request to take a look around and be sure she only imagined her vampiric nemesis here.

“Go,” was Remy’s response, his eyes on Yvette rather than Mira, watching to see what the vampire’s reaction would be.

When Mira was out of earshot, but uncaring that Rey could hear, Yevette remarked, “Nice.” Her eyes followed Mira’s retreating form with a similar hunger to that which she had shown for Remy. “Is she broken? Or a… servant?”

What she meant was a complete mystery to Rey. But Remy understood what she was talking about perfectly. Vampires, especially aristos like himself and Yvette, liked the security that came from establishing a stable “herd” of mortals from which they fed. It was useful to addict them in return on the taste of their powerful, vampiric blood. This eventually leads to addicts that are then usually broken in spirit and molded into whatever wretch the vampire found amusing until the fun ends and the vampire got rid of them. Servants, however rated a little better. Still addicted to the powerful blood that animated vampires, they were treated better and through the power of the vampire’s will, is better sustained, mentally speaking. The addiction didn’t torture them and break their soul as thoroughly. There were a couple degrees of servant, as well. Should a vampire bond with a mortal, then that mortal became as long-lived as the vampire himself and they shared an empathic link. Vampires choose such mortals very carefully however, and keep the existence of such a bond an absolute secret. For, should such a bonded mortal be killed, it could drag the vampire down into death as well.

It was for that reason that the most precious servants to be chosen for such a bond were also very capable. Perhaps, if it was possible, possessing even powers of their own either taught by the vampire or because the servant possessed supernatural power already.

What Yvette asked, politely, was whether Mira was a blood-addicted commodity or a useful servant. He knew she would not try to pry details of exactly how close a servant she was, but Yvette, if interested, might want a “trade” -- a blood addicted mortal for the name and all she could remember about another mortal.

Remy gave a little gallic shrug. “She serves me well.” And Mira was far more useful to him than any blood addict, because she was devoted to him, and no other vampire could use their blood to tempt her away.

Mira returned with a purse trapped under one arm and two drinks in her hands. Her mission had been only partly successful though, depending on how one looked at it. The fact that a look around had not revealed Xavier to be present in the club was somewhat reassuring, but the place was big, had as many rooms above as a mansion, and the lighting was poor enough to make hiding easy. However, the bartender had let her paw through the lost and found box while he filled her glasses and she’d spotted Rey’s missing things.

After handing Rey the coke, she then gave Rey the purse, too. The purse wasn’t Rey’s, but what was inside of it was and Mira determined that Rey needed something to carry this stuff. If Yvette noticed the lost-and-found purse, she didn’t say anything. Mira sipped her wine as she returned to Remy’s side, looking about over the rim of her glass. Though alert, she wasn’t as tense as before. Wherever Xavier was, he wasn’t near her right now and that was about as good as she could expect.

Mira asked Remy’s permission to speak to Yvette. “May I?” Remy nodded.

She smiled at Yvette. “I find sometimes a little exercise helps me remember things. Would you care to dance?”

Yvette looked a little surprised, and laughed at her. “Not in public. Not with you, little pet.” Her eyes went to Remy. “But I think an invitation to dance from him would be just the thing.”

Remy’s smile turned just a little bit wicked. “Would you care to dance?” he said more than asked, playing his part in the little game.

“I’d be delighted, Mr. Depres,” Yvette returned. She let him take her hand and lead him away to where they had a little more room to maneuver.

Mira moved closer to Rey and kept an eye on Remy and Yvette. She huffed a little. “Nothing more annoying than an undead slut,” Rey thought she heard Mira mutter.

“Naughty Mira?” Rey whispered into Mira’s ear, her voice with the faintest hint of laughter. “If he could have read my mind, he’d have been very displeased with my thinking everyone here could use a bit of a tan.” She moved in until her body was almost touching Mira’s and put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. It was an unconscious gesture, seeking the comfort of touch when she felt uncomfortable. She couldn’t help but wonder if the vampires who’d fed on her were in the club, and if they might recognize her. Or if the person who helped her was here too.

Mira smiled and chuckled, forgetting her momentary hurt when Yvette had laughed at her suggestion. “I’d say they’d be more than little surprised. But then it’s hard to get information out of toast.”

“A shame that,” Rey replied, and glanced at Remy and Yvette. “I wonder what he’ll want for any info he gets out of her.”

“I don’t think you’ll need to be concerned at all,” Mira said, observing their dancing. Yvette obviously preferred close dancing. “She’s kind of an octopus out there, don’t you think?”

Rey shrugged. "Everyone has to have a talent," she said, then her voice becomes softer. "What if he finds out who bit me? I want..." She wanted them dead. More than dead. Burnt to ashes and the ashes spread to to four winds and in running water. At the same time, hunting them down would be costly, dangerous, and could have complications for everyone in the Golden Mesa.

“Maybe those involved didn’t know who or what you are. Or maybe you let them get to you so the one you came to save could get away or be taken away,” Mira suggested.

"If I did save him, he hasn't made contact with those who care about him," Rey replied.

“What was his name?” Mira asked.

"I'm not sure. Michael something."

“Just a first name? Okay. Any description?” When Rey shook her head no, Mira replied, “I can ask around here and see if any of the mortals might remember you with someone, if you like. We might get a description then and from there maybe a grip on who else you were with.”

Rey nodded. "I think it's important."

“Okay. Stay here. Don’t talk to anyone or make eye contact with anyone until Remy or I return. I don’t want to lose track of you,” Mira told her. She waited until she got the answer she wanted.

“Yes, ma’am,” Rey said with a little smile. She pulled her arms in close, looking around casually but making sure she didn’t appear challenging or inviting in any way.

While Mira was gone, Remy and Yvette continued to dance. From her place, Rey could tell they were also talking. Perhaps Yvette was giving Remy just what she’d promised already. A glance in the direction showed Mira engaged in a discussion with a tall, thin man. By his pallor, Rey thought he might be a vampire, but that was hard to say in this crowd and in this lighting. The next time she looked around, however, she couldn’t see Mira at all.

The dance mix played for what seemed like a long time, though Rey was reasonably sure it lasted only ten or fifteen minutes. She was left alone, but sensed and notice out of the corner of her eyes, she was being watched by various parties. Some might have had passing interest, others not so passing. When Remy and Yvette parted company on the dance floor, Rey had time to worry how he might react if Mira wasn’t back.

“Got it,” said a voice from behind. Turning, Rey was relieved to see Mira was there. Her glass had been refreshed and she had a self-satisfied smile on her face. “Let’s see what Remy got from Yvette first, though.”

As Remy approached, Mira smiled and asked, “Done already? I thought Yvette just might draw the dancing out for an hour or more if she could.”

“I told her I’d dance more with her later,” Remy replied. “And that I needed to deal with my pets.”

Rey couldn’t help but bristle at the tone of her voice but she said nothing.

Mira, though, was amused. “So, did she come through?”

Yvette had told Remy that the mortal Rey was with was Michael Davies. Davies had been coming to the club for some weeks, and had been hanging with a crowd of younger, ambitious vampires. Spawn of both some of the ruling nosferatu of the city as well as a couple aristos who seemed to think that hanging around the nos would give them a political leg up.

Yvette recalled Michael introducing Rey to his friends and Rey seeming very friendly to them. They hung out, had some drinks, and danced. Two of the nosferatu left, leaving one nosferatu vampire and the two aristos with Rey and Michael. The nosferatu was clearly the leader of the little clique. Yvette didn’t know their names, but gave descriptions of one male nos, a male aristos and female aristos. They were simply too young for her to care about. At some point the five of them must have left together. She isn’t sure of the time or even if they really did leave in each other’s company because she’d lost interest at that point. It could be they used one of the rooms upstairs. Or slummed it in the “holes”. That’s what regulars called the dirty, cold, basement cells maintained by the club.

Mira listened the whole way through, then said, “She came through as promised. Kudos to her, but I was able to pick up some gossip you might like to hear.” Her canary-eating smile said she got a lot more than mere gossip.

“It turns out one of the vampires that was with you the other night is here tonight. And I was able to squeeze him for quite a bit of information.” She winked at Rey, as if that meant something she should know. “But don’t worry. He’s no threat to you, I think. I overheard him moaning to some buddy how he recently lost his besties, so I inserted myself into the conversation a little.

“From what I can piece together, you and this Michael guy asked these vampires to knock it off. That Michael was going to stop coming around and that they were going to let him go. Apparently, things got heated. But there isn’t supposed to be violence here, strictly speaking. At least, not in front of everyone. Not what he said, that’s what I’m saying. Anyway, you must have threatened a scene or something, but worked out a deal; they let Michael go and leave him alone, and if they had a problem with it then they could deal with you.

“It seems like you let them take you some place where you wouldn’t get mobbed by a bunch of vampires or end up with a score or more dead as collateral damage. Maybe you underestimated what they could do to you. Young or not, a vampire is a serious foe to try to handle alone, much less three of them.

“They took you down to the Hole and grabbed a cell. They had you at first. You’d never been bit before so when it hit you, you were probably shocked. Things went the way they wanted for a while. You don’t need those details. Aristos have a heck of a whammy, even without powers. But the terror a nos can inflict, I understand, is real bad. But someone stopped. Maybe came up for air before finishing you off. Or maybe you got a second wind and got hold of your senses. I don’t know. What I do know, is that you got all glowy bright on them. The two that were generally in front of you got fried. To the bone. The one behind you, who happens to be the guy I talked to, ran.

“I think you are okay, Rey, so long as the survivor is smart enough not to talk to his sire, his master about it. He might, but I don’t think he can because he ran straight into Mr. Klein. I’m sure you remember him,” Mira said. “Klein apparently found you on the floor and decided to do a little damage control. I think we can figure out the rest.”

Rey nodded, trying to control the freak out she was feeling start to build. “I need to get out of here,” she said, her voice a bit unsteady. Why did he get involved? He could have just left her, or given her to someone else to finish her off. That would have solved the problem. Did he do anything else to her, other than remove her memories of what happened? Did he read other things in her mind? Secrets? Things that could hurt those she cared about?

Mira grasped Rey’s arm with a steadying hand. “Don’t. I mean, yes we can go. But don’t freak on me, okay? All we know is that he wiped out some memories and dumped on your lawn. There is no evidence that he did anything to harm you. Right?”

“I know,” Rey said, trying to keep her voice even. “Which is why I need to get out of here. The atmosphere of this place, is making things worse. I just want out of here.”

Mira hugged Rey and then turned to Remy. “If I may walk her out, ‘master’?” She couldn’t help the amused smile that appeared on her lips. “I’ll be right back. There’s something else I must ask you about.”

Remy nodded. “Take her out before she draws a lot of attention to herself.”

Mira walked Rey out of the club and toward the car. When Rey got into the driver’s seat, she found Mira hadn’t walked around to join her inside the car just yet. She leaned down to talk when Rey rolled down the window. “I’m going to find out if Klein did anything to your head but pluck out the memories of getting fed on,” she said bluntly. “I don’t blame you for wanting to get out of there. You’re exhausted. I don’t know how long it will take to accomplish what I want. Are you going to go home?”

Rey nodded. “I’d love to just crash at Chase’s because it is closer, but I need to be somewhere I can relax without fear, and last I heard he was out on a bounty.” Her home was the only place she felt safe at all times. Chase’s apartment was about as close as any other place could be, but only when he was there. “I’ll text him, though. We were supposed to be going out in a couple of days, but I doubt I’ll be able to.”

Mira reached through the window and rested her hand on Rey’s shoulder. “It should be me. I’d like to stay with you and make sure nothing happens until you are back on your feet. But I think I need to do this, try to find out if Xavier did something to you for your future health’s sake if nothing else. I don’t want you to be alone and possibly vulnerable at a dangerous time. Please use my apartment. Kiera’s there. Or ask Lyla - a whole pack of werewolves isn’t something even someone like Klein will have any hope of handling. Plus, she owes you for putting you in this situation in the first place. She should at least put you up for a night or two. Okay?”

Rey nodded and let out a tired sigh. “I’ll call someone.”

“Are you still okay to drive?” Not that Mira was in any way a capable driver. But she could call a cab with the best of them.

“Yeah,” Rey said. “I’ve still got enough in me to get to wherever I’m going to go before I crash.”

“Okay. Thanks for calling for me today.” She pushed further in and gave Rey and slightly awkward but well meaning hug. “I’ll see you soon.” After withdrawing from the car, she waited to see Rey off with a wave, then hurried back into the Club.

Spotting Remy at the bar, she slipped through the crowds and stopped next to him. “You were very nice to Rey tonight,” she said.

“It isn’t difficult when she is being civilized,” Remy said in a tone that Mira recognized as his combination of bemusement and taunting.

Mira laughed and said, “Fair enough.” She scooted around and sat on a bar stool next to him. “I’m worried about her. She is an orderly person and something just put a very big something out of place in her world.” She looked to Remy, “We -- I -- need to know what Klein did to her other than removing a few memories she is better off without.”

Anything dealing with Klein terrified her, as well. She knew just how helpless she was against his mental powers, but she refused to be a coward about it. Rey needed this.

Mira was watching Remy hopefully. “Would you find out?”

“I suppose I could,” Remy replied.

“It would mean a lot to me,” Mira said, giving him her best nymphette look. It was muted somewhat by her rather mortal appearance. “Also, he’s here.”

“Did you see him?” Remy glanced over the room, casually looking to see if he could spot Klein. Now that he was looking for him, it wasn’t hard. Klein was seated across the room, one of his floozies seated next him, at a table. Remy noticed he’d been looking at Mira but then raised his glass and smiled at Remy when he realized Remy was watching him.

“Yes,” Mira was saying. “But I lost track.”

Remy nodded. “Did you see her off safely?”

“She’s heading for a safe place and about a score of furries to watch over her. She’ll have fun while recovering.”

“Why will she be having fun?” Remy asked.

‘’Oops,’’ Mira thought inwardly. ‘’I shouldn’t have said that.’’ Well it was either lie, which she was terrible at, or try to be a little graceful about her slip. “She’ll be recovering but you know how she has some friends that are shifters? Well, she has a ‘’lot’’ of friends who are shifters. And they owe her for getting her into this mess anyway. She only came here for Michael out of that friendship. They’ll take care of her and I know they’ll make it up to her.” She felt it was up to her to watch out for Rey in the best way she knew how -- by doing exactly what she was doing now.

Remy filed that bit of information away for future examination. He was never sure what Mira meant by a “lot”, but she wasn’t prone to exaggeration often. It would be interesting to know exactly how many of Rey’s friends were shifters. It might be useful to know, as well as how she might fit into the pack hierarchy. If she was highly regarded, then a threat to Rey could galvanize a shifter response. He’d observed such an event a long time ago, and there was little left of the offending vampires that even the sun and fire weren’t needed to ensure they’d never come back. “It’s good that she has people to look after her like that.”

“Everyone needs someone to watch their backs. You have Carson, Annabeth and the rest. She has her furries…” Mira mused and then paused. ‘’Hey. Who’s got my back, exactly? Especially if I’m supposed to be going under cover against Baron Carnifex.’’ Her thoughts made her frown. Unseelie fae didn’t trust other unseelie fae to watch their own backs. There was very good reason for it. That’s why she had seelie friends. But they couldn’t be associated with her if Less’s plan for her to go under cover was put into play.

She wished she’d thought through all that before, and now had to set the matter aside for the present issue of confronting Klein.

“Something wrong?” Remy asked.

“Not really,” Mira said. “I was just reflecting that my… people don’t watch each other’s backs. They stab them. Which is just one of the reasons I prefer hanging with your people.”

“You have no backup at all? What about Miss Lafitte and the many-eyed gentleman?”

“They are my friends, true enough. And they’ll help if they can, but lately it’s become all too clear that they risk too much if I’m around too much. Then their own people won’t trust them, either,” Mira said. “It’s not that big a deal, really. I have my safe places, and my outs. That apartment you got me is awesome and you know I … uh, put very strong security of my own on top of what you already provided,” she assured him.

Remy nodded, understanding the need for special security. He also knew he was exempt from that security. He wasn’t surprised that Mira had done it, and he was going to make sure she would never believe she should revoke that exemption.

“So Klein. Do you think he’ll be a problem?” She had every intention of sticking with Remy from this point on like she was glued to his hip, at least until she knew Klein wasn’t near.

“Depends upon whether or not he’s in a sharing mood,” Remy said with a slight shrug and stood. “Let’s go find him and see.”

Remy lead the way, skirting the edge of the dance floor, looking for the vampire in question. He eventually spotted him, sitting at a table in one of the far corners of the club.

When they got close enough for her to see, Mira noticed Ellie seated with him. “Oh gods. Awkward.”

“Problem?” Remy asked.

Mira sighed. “No. It’s just I’ve never met the man who remodeled my brain and the woman that was the model for it in a social situation before. I don’t know if I should grab Ellie and compare notes or try to run something very pointy and very hard through Klein’s right eye. And then Ellie, as an act of mercy.”

“This should be interesting, then.” Remy continued toward Klein’s table. “Good evening, Xavier,” he said.

“Remy. Please, will you join us?” Xavier offered graciously.

“I’d be delighted,” Remy replied and sat, omitting the usual holding of Mira’s chair, as courtesy for a pet just wasn’t done. “The club seems a bit less busy than usual,” he commented.

Seeing the table was a chair short, Mira looked around. The closest table had one unused chair and a chair right behind someone who’d stood to greet a newly arrived guest. She took his chair and quickly sat. His startled cry when he went to sit but fell on the floor instead gave her a petty flash of pleasure that teased out a small smile.

Ellie noticed her little misdeed and snorted softly to hold back a giggle, but if Xavier noticed he gave no sign. “Perhaps. It is Sunday after all. Plenty of our guests have day jobs tomorrow.”

Remy nodded. “I understand there was a little… disturbance, earlier this weekend, down in the Holes.” From what Remy know of Xavier, he wasn’t much for small talk and inane chatter. Better to be polite while getting down to business.

“A little, I would say. But not one most know anything about.” Xavier gave Remy a meaningful look. “Unless one wanted to stir up a fuss.”

Remy shook his head. “Your handling of the situation was quite adept. I’m just curious as to your involvement. And if there might be a way from me to benefit from the work you did, with regards to the young lady.”

Mira’s eyes widened in surprise, but to her credit she kept her mouth shut. Xavier was looking at Remy in some bemusement, himself. He knew Mira quite well and knew some of her friends from their past clashes. “Interesting,” he said. “Given who was involved I think you could benefit greatly.”

Xavier’s smile was pleasant as he considered. “The what and who is quite valuable, I would say. Which is exactly why I made sure that no one else had these facts.” The mercenary vampire was obviously fishing to see how willing Remy might be to make a deal for that information. Further, his implication was that there was something more valuable to be gained than simply the how’s and why’s of Rey’s involvement.

Remy considered for a moment what he knew of the vampire in front of him, which was not a lot. While they travelled in the same circles, Xavier’s interests and ambitions were different than his own, so they rarely came into contact with each other. But there were some things Remy did know about the other vampire from what Mira had told him.

“Speaking of valuable,” Remy replied nonchalantly. “I have one or two items you might be interested, if you’d like to make a trade.” He decided to pretend to be generous, and offer Xavier one of two things Remy knew he wanted. “The Bakersfield Queen Anne armoire, and the Belle de Reve manuscript.” Both of those items were rare; the armoire being the more costly of the two. Bakersfield’s work was prized; while he made many tables and chairs, he’d made only four or five armoires, and three of those were destroyed when the furnituremaker’s workshop burned down with him in it. The manuscript, however, was even more rare. It was a mostly unknown manuscript written by the Marquis de Sade, in which he recorded some of his most “beautiful” dreams, wherein he committed all manner of atrocities in an effort to see how far he could push his victims before they broke and became just as depraved as he was.

Xavier smiled as if only mildly interested, but something in his posture told Remy he had Xavier’s full attention with those offerings. “Are you offering both?”

Remy really didn’t want the armoire anymore, as it no longer fit into his plans for the room it was in, but he could see that Xavier really wanted the book. “I’m offering the armoire to hear what you information you have. If its as valuable as you claim, then the book is yours as well, for the full details.”

Xavier thought about that. But, recalling he didn’t exactly have a long list of people lining up for this information, he decided the price was fair. And he was fairly sure Remy would give up the book after he heard what Xavier had to say.

Mira couldn’t help but notice how Ellie looked at the simple blouse and skirt she wore. They were casual, certainly not club clothes. That embarrassed her a little because she knew better and it made it obvious at least to Ellie, that Mira hadn’t planned to be here tonight.

More worrisome, however, was the deal Remy was making. Mira wondered if he was interested for himself, or if it was all for Rey and her, then how she was going to make up for it she had no idea.

Xavier nodded. “That’s fair.” He paused to see if Remy might decide to send Mira away out of politeness. When he didn’t, Xavier spoke again. “I learned that Mira’s young friend Rey came here the other night in order to disentangle and young man of interest from some vampires who’d discovered a particular taste for his … kind. While human, he carries with him an interesting heritage, and it comes through in the power of his blood. A couple young aristos and a nosferatu were particularly attracted to his blood. I don’t think they understood what it was about him that drew their attention, but Rey Lafitte’s involvement shed some light on it for me. I believe he has a connection to shape shifters. Werewolves to be precise. I believe Lafitte may have connections among that kind and came here to retrieve him before he might be made a permanent pet of the little… vampire coterie that had discovered him. While not a shifter himself, I believe he nonetheless had some value to those that were.

“Even more interesting is what happened when she did distract this young coterie, and who these vampires were. Or rather, who their sires were. Does that sounds like something worth a rare manuscript?”

Remy waited for a moment, thinking about it. He already knew what happened to the vampires, but the opportunity to learn who had lost their “children” to the powerful fae would be worth the manuscript, because that information gave him another tool, or perhaps a weapon, for his plans. He began thinking about what else he might have in his vast collections to give Xavier to make the other vampire “forget” everything he’d learned and not share or sell the info with anyone else. Ever.

Remy nodded. “I believe it does.”

“Excellent. These young vampires made up a part of a coterie.” He removed his phone from his inner breast pocket, tapped on it, and then slid it across the table. Remy was able to read it was easily. There in a notepad app, Xavier had noted a name, “Kiyani”. After Remy had read it, Xavier took it back and deleted the virtual page. “The name I showed you is whose coterie it is. The deceased were childer of…” He tapped again on the phone, then passed it to Remy.

“Hernando, Farraday” were on the screen.

These names were immediately recognizable to Remy. The first, named “Kiyani” was the only known child of the current Master of the City, Nayeli. That made Kiyani a nosferatu, probably one of those that had left rather than stay to “play” with Rey. Hernando was well known as Nayeli’s right-hand man. Originally also from Mexico like his master, he was trusted with the dirtiest and most difficult tasks for Nayeli. Since Hernando was also nosferatu, that meant the deceased young nos vampire was his child. The next name, “Farraday”, probably referred to the sire of the other deceased young vampire. Max Farraday was a wealthy aristos who was tight with the Master of the City. He had several “child” vampires, but would also likely be extremely upset to learn what had happened to his “daughter”.

The names told Remy a lot. For one, these young vampires weren’t nobodies. They were important to their sires and their sires were extremely important people in vampire society. And Rey had killed them. If they were to find out who killed their offspring, they were likely to after Rey just on principle if nothing else. That could start a chain reaction because Remy knew Mira would react, and if Mira was caught by his rivals, that could expose the new and extremely valuable “back entrances” to Mythic via Faerie he’d so recently gained from her.

It was also obvious that the information Xavier had would be very valuable Hernando, probably valuable to Farraday, and of possible value to Nayeli since what happened affects the coterie, the ring of vampires her own vampiric daughter leads.

To add extra value to the information, Xavier threw in the circumstances of their demise. “I discovered the two vampires destroyed by Lafitte to have been… burned. Sunlight. In fact, she nearly gave me a tan when I arrived to settle things down and do a little damage control. So. That one has very interesting magical talents, a fact I know would be of keen interest to the Master of the City.” Something that got Nayeli’s interest usually didn’t survive very long, Remy had noticed.

Xavier continued. “By way of cleanup, I plucked relevant memories from Ms. Lafitte’s pretty head and had one of my enforcers deliver her home. I have also preserved the… bodies of her victims in case an investigation should be called for. I wouldn’t wish to stand in the way of justice.”

Remy nodded. “Would the three experimental journals of H. H. Holmes be adequate compensation to keep the events of that night between us, and to ensure the survivor remembers a different version of that night, once they got Miss Lafitte in private?”

Xavier considered. Serial killers weren’t really his thing, but on the other hand he knew those journals would be very valuable to certain collectors. Collectors willing to pay a lot of money for such a thing. He smiled and then nodded once. “I believe I’d be satisfied with such an arrangement.”

Mira was left wondering who this Holmes was. The only one she knew of was Sherlock, and that was a fictional character as far as she knew.

Rey brought out his own cell phone and typed a message ordering the packing and delivery of all the items offered to Xavier, and that they be taken to one of Remy’s warehouses he used for such transactions. He showed the message to Xavier and then sent it, as a sign of good faith, and so the other vampire would know where to claim his new belongings. “They should be there for you by sunset tomorrow.”

Xavier nodded. “It’s a pleasure doing business with you.”

“Likewise,” Remy said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, the night is still young enough for me to find a great deal of enjoyment of it.” He stood, but did not yet leave, waiting for his “host” to say goodbye, as was only polite.

Ellie broke in for the first time. “Master?” she addressed Klein. “Can Mira come over to play next weekend?”

Amused, Klein smiled indulgently. “That would be fine by me, but it is not my decision. You’ll have to ask her master.”

Mira frowned and looked rather disturbed.

Ellie got off her chair and went to Remy. She went to her knees before him and looked up hopefully. “Can Mira come play with me next week? Please?”

“Perhaps,” Remy said with a smile of his own. “Such a reward will depend on how Mira behaves.”

Ellie brightened. “Thank you!” Careful not to touch him, despite her gratitude (she didn’t have permission), she got up and retreated to Xavier’s side. “I’ll see you next weekend, Mira,” she said.

Mira smiled pleasantly and said, “Yeah. Looking forward to that.” Like it was a lobotomy, she thought to herself.

“Good evening,” Xavier said, putting a merciful end to the conversation while it still amused him.

Once Mira and Remy were well away from Xavier and his pet, she ventured, “All that sounded really expensive.” She watched Remy’s face, trying to read him. Although she never was able to, it didn’t stop her trying.

“What I got in exchange was worth it,” Remy said with a casual, fluid shrug. “I find I’m bored of this place for now. If I’m going to be spending some more time with Yvette tonight, I need to prepare.”

“With Yvette?” Mira had thought their deal done with the dance, but she hadn’t heard what had passed between them on the dance floor and it made her curious. She was rather relieved that Remy thought he got something important for himself. Maybe that meant she was off the hook.

“She has some more information, and I need to spend some more time with her later to get it,” Remy said.

Mira nodded. “You’ve been very helpful tonight and I really do appreciate it. Do you want anything from me tonight?” She wasn’t looking to get in his way if he wanted to enjoy himself without her around. At the same time, she didn’t want to run away before he had a chance to ask if he wanted something. That would be rude.

Remy gave her a sexy, hungry smile. “There are always things I want from you, ‘’ma petite’’.”

A little thrill ran through her body and her lower parts reacted immediately. She blushed. “Then maybe I should stick around.”

“An excellent idea,” Remy replied.

After they made their way past a less busy part of the bar, Mira stopped to lean against it and looked around. “So, if we are done with this place, where to next?” When he didn’t stop there, she was forced to hurry up to match his pace, which only made her more curious.

“Somewhere quieter,” he replied. “Where I will have fewer distractions.” He paused, and offered her his arm again. She took it but maintained a deferential posture in order to maintain her role in front of the people at the club.

He led her out of the club and waited at the curb for his car to glide to a stop to pick them up. He got into the back, then held out his hand to help her in beside him. The interior of the back of the car was warm, with just enough light for her to see Remy’s outline in the shadows.

She climbed inside, then shut the door behind her. She tapped the thick plexiglass that separated them from the driver and was satisfied it was dense enough to muffle open conversation. When she settled back in her seat she smiled with the recollection of a memory. “It was this car when I showed you the little ice trick from a tear. I had to ask you to pinch me because I couldn’t make myself cry a tear. Remember that?”

Remy nodded, and wondered why she brought it up.

“Seems so long ago now,” she mused. She seemed to let the recollection go as she settled back into her seat.

“Seems like only yesterday to me.” Remy took her hand and placed a lingering kiss on her fingertips.

Remy’s limo was big. It had double, facing seats in back so that passengers could face each other. Mira scooted across to face him and leaned forward in an intent, almost intimate way. “You know? Sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have Drake. And yet I always want more.”

"Perhaps he is not giving you everything you need."

“Maybe I’m just…” she shrugged and grinned mischieviously, “being a nymph.”

Remy smiled. "I can see how it can be a challenge for some men to keep up."

She took that as a compliment. Smiling, she said, “That’s nice of you to notice.”

“It’s hard for me not to, ‘’ma petite’’.”

Mira dropped her sandals with a wiggle of her toes so she could free her feet. “Where have you decided we should go?” she asked idly.

“I am going to drop you off at your apartment,” Remy said. “I have some business I need to complete, and then pick out a few things to share with Yvette.”

“Business? Or pleasure? Or both? Because I’d be happy to help with that,” Mira said. She illustrated the point with an unsubtle stroke of his calf with the top of her foot.

“I suppose I could make it a bit of both,” Remy replied with a low chuckle. He pressed the intercom button and gave some rapid instructions in French. The driver replied, and Remy released to button.

“Did Miss Lafitte’s situation disrupt your plans?” he asked, settling back into his seat.

“When she called it was the early morning. I was with Drake, but I wouldn’t say I had plans exactly,” she explained. “More like that was sort of a plan concluded. I was glad Rey called me, actually. I like that she felt she could trust me enough to be the one she called when the chips were down. Or at least, that I was on a short list of people she would call. But look at you! You have been a tremendous help tonight. It sounded like it cost you quite a lot so I’m glad you were able to get something out of all this, too. I know I did.”

“And what was that?” Remy asked.

“I know Klein goes to that club at least sometimes. One day I’ll catch him without a lot other vampires around, and unaware. Then I’ll lobotomize him and if survives that, the fun will begin,” Mira said. Her tone was casual and interested, like she was discussing a trip to the store.

“If he’s lobotomized,” Remy commented, “he likely wouldn’t be aware of what you were doing to him.”

“No, but I would. That’s good enough for me.” She made a mental note to look up 1950s-style lobotomies in the library some time.

"I cannot deny he does have his uses."

“Yes, but he’s like the one canon that feuding families have and he’s mercenary. He can devastate anyone who pays the right price. Doesn’t that make him more dangerous than useful?” Mira asked.

Of course, she didn’t understand that Klein had a certain code of ethics that meant he would not act directly against a former client. If his clients thought he might, they would have to kill him after they used him. Basically, if you could afford his unique services, it bought you a certain amount of immunity as well. Plus, Remy had never heard of Klein actually using any of his powers against a fellow vampire. Bad for business.

“No,” Remy said with a slow shake of his head. “Not to vampires, at least.”

“So, no lobotomizing or vengeance-taking for now?” Mira looked a little flustered, but not angry at the idea.

“It would be appreciated.” Remy smiled at her.

“Fine,” she said a little deflated. “I’ve got more pressing stuff to worry about anyway.”

“Like what?”

“I got totally fucked in a jungle by these one guys and I think they are showing up here. I need to make sure they don’t come after me or Rey again,” Mira said, her voice tense.

“Is it something I could help with?” Remy asked, his mind already going over strategies on how he might help, and how he might direct Mira down certain paths to eliminate some of his obstacles at the same time.

“Maybe. Do you know anything about were-jaguars?” she asked.

“No, but I could find out,” Remy replied. “I have some resources I could use. What do you need to know?”

“Weaknesses would be good. I found out the hard way what at least their leader is capable of. Aside from the whole turn into a jaguar and kill stuff thing. Everyone else thinks I’m obsessing over this issue. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I don’t think I’m wrong. I think they’ve left the jungle for whatever reason. Did you know this state used to have jaguars in the wild? It did. Only, I’m not so sure they were the ‘’natural’’ kind of jaguars.”

“What do you mean, the natural kind?”

“I think the only jaguars that have been anywhere in this whole state in the last century were probably actually were-jaguars,” Mira said. “That’s how come they are so hard to find. And also why they are always -- in every account -- shot to death illegally.”

“Interesting,” Remy said. “I will see what I can find out. Have you seen any of them, including the ones from the jungle?”

“I think I have.” She wasn’t proud of that moment. She’d been so shocked when they ran across the were-jaguar that had been kidnapped along with Jason and others, she’d passed out. And then later after they dropped him off, she swore she saw him take out a cell phone that was identical to the one she’d lost in the jungle.

She licked her lips anxiously. “Remember the phone I told you I’d lost in the jungle and needed to have it canceled? I was ashamed to tell you the rest of that story. If you don’t mind I’d like to just give you the Cliff Notes version. In the course of a task my friends and I were performing, we ended up in the jungle. It was Central America, I found out later, Yucatan Peninsula. There, Rey was attacked by a wild boar and knocked out. A jaguar killed the boar and then took off with her. I gave chase only to find her about to be raped by some native dude.

“I tried to get her away from him. He’d saved her life, but sex without permission was kind of too far. The weird thing was that Rey was out, right? But her body was moving on its own, like she wanted it. I pushed him away and the next thing I know I have my jeans off and my own ass is sticking up in the air like a cat in heat. I couldn’t stop myself or do anything to stop him.” She shook her head to dispel the memory.

“Anyway. He raped the hell out of me, somehow getting my body to mutiny on me. Less tried to save us and was pounced on by three other were-jaguars and was driven off. After a while I was able to pull myself together and I fought back as well as I could.” From her tone and the look on her face, Remy got the impression it hadn’t gone well for her.

“When I finally escaped -- or he let me go -- the only thing I could keep in my mind was to flee or be there forever, happily his little sex slave. I didn’t think about cell phones or pants, I just grabbed Rey and ran like our lives depended on it. Because it did. Later I realized he had my cell phone with all my contact information on it.

“So a little while ago when Rey and I broke up this kidnapping ring, one of the men we freed turned out to be a were-jaguar. What are the odds, right?” Mira said, expecting him to agree.

“Go on,” Remy said with an encouraging nod.

“He was one of them. Had to be. When we let him out of the car, I saw him take out a cell phone with a pink case and Hello Kitty motif as we drove away. ‘’My’’ cell phone!” Mira nodded. “Oh yeah. I don’t know why yet, but they are here. Rey thinks I’m imagining things, but I’m not as fucked up as I used to be. I know what I saw. That guy had my old cell phone. Has. I’m sure they are out there somewhere, building a harem and having litters of little jaguar cubs. Why, I don’t know. Yet.”

“Did he know who you were when you rescued him?” Remy asked.

“I’m not sure. But I was sure enough he was one of Jaguar Man’s buddies to attack him. Those guys are really buff and really fast!” She shook her head. “Also, pretty obvious he didn’t mind tussling with me. Looking back on it, I’m surprised anyone was able to capture him and tie him up like we did.” Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I suspect he was a plant. Maybe his boss got him in that vampire slave-trade house where they were auctioning off the shifters, just to see if he could spot Rey and me. The fact he’s got my old phone is proof I’m not making a mistake.”

“Do you have any way to identify him?” Remy watched Mira’s face, and couldn’t help but wonder if Rey might be right. Still, he would check into things. If there were werejaguars, he wanted them first, before any other vampire could find them. They could be quite useful, if they were amenable to working for him. And he could find a way to convince them - or drive them out of the Santa Fe area forever - if they weren’t.

She nodded. “Yes. He said his name was Tlaloc.” She also gave him a detailed physical description, because she got a rather good, close look at him while he was naked. And he her, but she left that part out. “But I don’t know the name of the one that got me in the jungle. The one I think is their leader. I don’t think I could describe him very well, either.”

“Alright,” Remy said with a nod. “I’ll see what I can find out.” As he spoke, Mira could feel the car coming to a stop.

Her bright eyes more than her nod showed her gratitude. “If you could find something out about this, even if it’s just that I’m making too much of it, I’d be really grateful.”

Remy smiled. “Before I forget, I don’t suppose you know where this Tlaloc spends his time?”

Mira grinned. “No. But… well I have some things I’ll be researching. Other people I think may have been victimized by Jaguar Man. I don’t have anything else at all about Tlaloc.” She did take a moment to give him the address of the warehouse they found him, however.

Remy recognized the address - it belonged to a younger, minor vampire who hung out at the fringes of vampire society. It might be fun to take it from him, he thought.

The car door opened, and Remy got out. He turned, and offered Mira his hand, to help her exit the car. She stepped out, sandals in hand and looked around, and realized they had arrived at the little apartment complex where they often met. The one that held the best - and strongest - memories of sex with Remy.

The rest of this part of the story is on the blog. Because it heads into an erotic genre you need the password to view it.

Much later, Remy watched Mira’s quietly resting form. One thing about the nymph was that she had surprising stamina — and resilience. His researches had proven that not all fae possessed those qualities. Of course, she could never match his own stamina since he need only take a taste of her supernatural blood to restore himself while she would continue to wear down.

Satisfied she would not wake soon, Remy slipped on his suit coat nearly soundlessly (he had already taken time to clean up and dress) and then walked over to a replica of an 18th century painting depicting a French nobleman. He pressed along the bottom and it popped open with quiet click. Inside was a safe and fingerprint pad. A touch and couple twists of the dial opened the safe to reveal a couple little boxes with several cables feeding into it. It had no markings on it and if anyone had seen it, it would have been easy to believe Remy’s explanation that it was merely a small security system.

In fact, it was fed video from a number of cameras hidden throughout the apartment. One just under a wall shelf, another mounted in a cabinet, two in the bedroom, one in the bathroom, and the one from which he was expecting particularly good footage of Mira’s face taken from the fireplace camera.

Remy popped a little memory chip out of the machine, unsnapped a little case and put a fresh one in. He took the chip he removed and carefully placed it in the now empty case, then tucked it into his inside coat pocket.

He glanced down at the nude Mira sleeping on the couch. Lovely little thing. He wondered if she knew how close she really was to being his. Her clothes were shredded, totally useless now, but how she was to get home wasn’t his problem; she’d said she didn’t care about clothes after all. Creativity was required of his allies. He was certain she’d figure something out.

Rey headed for home, but felt the expected fatigue coming on faster than she expected. She turned off into a public lot, called Lyla on her cell phone and waited while it rang.

Lyla picked up and greeted her. “What’s up, Rey? Are you feeling better?”

“That’s why I’m calling, actually,” Rey replied. “I got my purse and such back, no problem, but the effects of the weekend are hitting me really hard, and the vampire situation may not be completely resolved. I’m not going to be able to look after myself, let alone protect myself, for the next week or so. Do you think you think you could send some people to meet me at my house and help out until I’m back on my feet again?”

“That’s a long way from our home territory,” Lyla said. “I could do that, but I’d be limited in who I can send. Chaska is sensitive about keeping track of his pack lately. I do appreciate you looking into the Michael situation. In fact, he’s safely with Kim now.” Rey knew why Chaska was sensitive about his packmates. It wasn’t long ago that a kidnapping and slaving ring had been dismantled that had targeted his wolves. “What about you coming out to the ranch? You’d be welcome here, you’d have all the protection you need, and you could bring Chasing Fire if you wanted to.”

The thought of recovering without having to listen to the training maneuvers of her army was very appealing. “I’d like that, though I’m not sure about Chase. He’s working right now. I’ve got some clothes in the trunk, and I’ll ask him to grab me some things from the house. It wouldn’t be a good idea to send anyone else. My security system won’t like it.”

Lyla said, “You have security now? Good. About time, I’d say! I hope it’s a really good one. Vampires love poking around where they don’t belong so I’d expect some poking to go on there. See you at the ranch, then. Come any time of the day or night. You’ll be welcome here.”

“I’ll be there in about half an hour,” Rey replied. “I’ve learned some of the details of what happened that night. Did Michael tell you anything?”

“Not me, but I think he and Kim probably spoke a lot. I haven’t had time to catch up with her,” Lyla said.

“I’ll tell you what I found out after I get to your place,” Rey said. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

Rey was almost falling asleep at the wheel by the time she arrived at the ranch. Even without seeing how pale and shaky she was, she knew without a doubt she was now paying for the magic she’d used to get through the time she was at the club. Before she got out of her car, she sent Chase a text, telling him where she was, and that she’d be there for at least a couple of days. She added she hoped he come see her there when his job was done.

Her entire body aching, she got out of the car, grabbed the “go bag” she kept in the trunk, and tried not to stumble too much as she approached the front door.

Someone answered, but she was too tired to care. She remembered Lyla guiding her to a bedroom and a string of questions as she got Rey into bed, but the only thing she remembered was telling Lyla the vampires that had fed on her weren’t going to be a problem anymore, and that she’d hummed “You Are My Sunshine”. When Rey’s face hit the soft pillow and her body covered in a thick, warm comforter, she passed out and floated in bliss for a time.

The first thing that Rey noticed as she slowly regained consciousness was how deliciously warm she was. Her body stirred slightly, and that brought to her attention thing number two: she was in a man’s arms, and she had intimate knowledge the man they belonged to.

She turned in his arms and nuzzled the side of his neck, and she was about to give Chase a playful lick, Rey realized they were not alone in the bed.

With a sleepy frown, she lifted her head and saw it was Jason and Andy flanking her and Chase, and realized that they were contributing to the warmth of the bed - and probably part of whatever security arrangements Lyla and Chaska had made. She knew Jason better than Andy, and she’d met Andy twice. Both of them were reasonably far down the pack hierarchy, so there would be no posturing between them and Chase - for which Rey was thankful. Chase disliked pack politics, and so did she.

She put her head back down on the pillow, and gave Chase a little kiss on the spot she’d planned to lick. Rey sighed happily and snuggled closer to him, not caring if she woke him up, because she really liked being in his arms.

“Feeling better?” Chase said in a hushed voice. He didn’t want to wake the others until he had a chance to say a proper hello.

Rey lifted her head so he could see the contented smile on her face as she nodded. His deep, sexy voice always had the same effect as if his hand had touched her, and her eyes revealed how quickly she was waking up - and how quickly the rest of her was looking forward to the possibility of more.

He kissed the side of her head, then nudged one of the other men awake. Jason moved, blinking to wakefulness. “Is there some of that soup?”

Jason nodded.

“Can you set some heating? She’ll want to eat after being asleep so long.”

Jason slid out of bed and made his way out the door. Since he was naked and Rey was facing that way, she couldn’t help notice he, like most werewolves, was very well toned.

She couldn’t help but smile a bit as she watched him walk away. “This place always offer some of the best views,” she commented, and then turned her attention back to the man who provided the best view of all. “How long have I been asleep?”

His amused look became concerned. “Two days and change. It’s Tuesday, late morning.”

“Not as long as I thought it might be,” she said softly. “I’m glad you’re here.” She paused for a moment. “Was my text coherent? I was really tired when I sent it.”

“I think it takes more than a little intimate nibbling to make you go wibbly-wobbly,” he said with a smile.

She chuckled softly. “You’d certainly know that. I used some of my magic to help me get through a situation, kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul. It got me a lot closer to full strength for a while, but it exacted its price. A few more days in bed, and I’ll be good as new.”

“You had quite some bites on you,” Chase said, turning serious. “What did they do to you? Were they Mira’s friends?”

Rey shook her head. “No. Kim’s in a relationship with a male wolfblood, and some vampires got their fangs into him. I got them to let him go and leave him alone, but after Michael left, they took exception to my interference. I don’t remember what happened, but I was told they had the upper hand for a while, but they’re no longer a threat.” She frowned. “Did Lyla tell you I was humming a silly little song before I passed out in bed?”

He shook his head no.

Rey chuckled. “It was ‘You Are My Sunshine.’” While she didn’t know if Andy was awake, she knew Lyla’s hearing was good enough that if she was close, she’d hear what Rey was saying. “I wield the power of Summer. Apparently, I reduced two of the three vampires who attacked me to nothing more than charred bones with sunlight, and the third is too scared to do anything or tell anyone.”

Chase puzzled over that. “How did you manage to do that? I didn’t know you could channel fire.”

"I can't channel fire," Rey said with a slight shake of her head. "Though I could start one if I had a magnifying glass. I can actually create sunlight, and sunlight turns most vampires into crispy critters. "

“Actually I think I’m more impressed you can create sunlight on demand," Chase mused.

"Wanna work on a full body, line free tan or something," she teased.

“Naw, that would wreck my cool biker’s tan I’ve got going on,” he returned.

"Can't have that." She trailed her fingers over his pectorals, enjoying the feel of him under her hand "I can do quite a bit more than sunlight, though. The most valuable by far is the ability to heal."

Normally, lying in bed like this, naked in Chase's arms, her thoughts usually turned amorous. That they were staying at the contented and comfortable level was a great indication of exactly how physically drained she must be. The added benefit, she supposed, was the fact she wouldn't have to worry about whether or not Andy - or more importantly Chase - would mind she and Chase starting to make out with Andy in the bed beside them. She wanted a kiss, though, and soon.

“Heal? That’s useful. Like in E.T.?” He wondered if her finger glowed when she did that.

Rey looked at him. “No, not like in ET. I can heal stuff like broken bones, really bad cuts and puncture wounds, and first degree burns. Anything more serious, like things really ought to be treated in the hospital, I can do stuff like stop the bleeding and jumpstart the healing process, maybe even reduce the severity if I do really well.”

“I don’t know. It sounds a bit like E.T. to me,” he said with a teasing grin. “Do your fingers glow?”

“Only if you ask me very nicely,” Rey replied. “Now, am I going to get a good morning kiss?” She smiled.

He indulged her with a warm kiss that showed her how pleased he was she was back among the living. After that, he asked, “Do we need to take precautions with these bites? Lyla had to leave and none of us really know anything about how to care for them. Are you in danger of getting sick or … turning?”

“The bites are all healed,” Rey said. “I don’t think they can transmit diseases, and I’m pretty sure I have to die before I become a vampire, so I’d have to say no to that.”

“No three bites and you’re out kind of thing?” He made it sound like fanged baseball.

Rey shook her head. “It doesn’t work like that. At least, not with the Nosferatu. If I was going to turn from three bites, I probably would have already done so. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be awake right now, and at the very least I’d be craving blood. Which I’m not. But I do have to go to the bathroom.”

Rey kind of rolled out of Chase’s arms, and in one movement, sat up and then stood. Her head immediately began to spin and her legs collapsed beneath her, causing her to land on the bed, her hands back behind her to keep from falling.

Warm hands steadied her from behind. “Maybe you should take it a little slower,” Chase suggested.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Rey said, her voice weak. “Would you help me, please? I really have to go.” She hated being weak, unable to take care of herself, but it wasn’t quite as bad when she was amongst those who cared about her. He helped her to the bathroom.

Even the extremely short walk from the bathroom door to the toilet and back left her shaking with fatigue. “Chase,” she said softly, supporting herself on the vanity. “If I walk back to bed, I won’t be in any condition to eat. Will you carry me?”

He scooped her up and in a few strong strides, she found herself being settled into the bed again. Soup arrived very shortly thereafter and Chase had her propped up against the head of the bed atop a small pile of pillows.

“I think you should very seriously reconsider next time you are asked to do anything or help anyone with regard to vampires,” Chase said after Rey took a bite. He was taking advantage of the fact, she’d have to sit and listen to his lecture since her mouth was full. “I realize I was away, but you have other friends that could have backed you up on this. You must have been in the middle of a swarm of the bloodsuckers. Alone. Next time, you might not have the privilege getting to wake up on your own front lawn.”

The whole thing had worried him and the worry upset him. Now, while he wasn’t yelling at her, he wanted her to know how it made him feel that she did something so incredibly dangerous on her own and with no backup at all.

“If I’d known there were vampires involved,” Rey said, “I would have called Mira, asking for her help. All I can say is I must not have known until I got to the club.” She looked up from the bowl and met his gaze. “I can’t say for certain, because a vampire, the same one who’d messed with Mira’s mind, erased all memories of what happened. The last thing I remember before waking up on my front lawn was being in my office, working on my novel.”

“Okay.” Chase turned to Andy and Jason. “But since it ‘’did’’ turn out to be a den of killer vampires that Rey just saved the young bitch’s pet from, your alpha owes Rey. Make sure he knows that.”

Andy and Jason didn’t like his tone. It wasn’t his crude reference to Kim; it is what it is and that wasn’t technically an incorrect term. Just an insensitive one. What bothered them was his lack of deference to their leader. Chase’s lone wolf was rearing his head.

Rey knew where this was likely headed, and as much as she wanted to prevent a fight breaking out, stopping it would rob Chase of doing what he must to satisfy his needs.

Jason replied, “Not our job. ‘’You’’ make sure he knows it.”

The rumble in his chest showed Chase’s irritation, but the other two were smart enough not to challenge him further. They retrieved their clothes and seeing they were no longer needed, left the room.

Rey set her bowl and spoon down on the nightstand and held out her arms. "Come here," she said with a smile. He had to sit on the bed to give her the hug she waited for, and he did so.

“Love you,” she said softly, as she nuzzled his cheek then pressed a soft kiss against his warm skin. “So, how did your job turn out?” She wanted to know what was going on in his life, just as she shared the “work” she did - how the novel was going, and other things, when he asked.

“Caught a bail jumping wife beater,” he said. “Nothing very interesting. I found him hiding out at his cousin’s place out in the desert.”

“Not very smart of him,” Rey replied. “I’d think that friends and family are the first places people looking for him would go.” She’d eaten about half of what was in the bowl, but she didn’t think she could eat any more. She was starting to feel sleepy again, but she didn’t want to spend the entire time recovering in bed completely idle.

“I need to ask a favor of you,” she said, her head resting on his shoulder.

“Sure, babe.”

“Would you mind running over to my house to grab my laptop, some clothes, and check in with my security system?”

“Security? I didn’t know you had installed one,” he said. “Is this new?”

“It’s not so much installed as they live in the house,” she said. “You know that sinkhole in the backyard? They came through it, and decided to stay.” Rey briefly explained the Queen Mac incident, as she’d come to think of it. “They like you, by the way.” Because you make me so very happy, she added silently to herself. She wasn’t about to tell him what they called him, though, because he probably wouldn’t like it at all.

“They? Wait, are you talking about more cats like Hamilton?”

“No,” Rey said with a little shake of her head. “Pixies. I’ve lost count of how many of them there are now, but there’s enough to be very effective at dealing with anyone who comes into my house who’s not supposed to be there.”

“Pixies.” He stared at Rey. Well, she was fae, too. Was it really any wonder? “Okay. Well am I going to have a problem retrieving your things? Do they have to be… fed and watered or something?”

“No, you won’t have a problem,” Rey said. “You’re number one on a very short list of people allowed in the house, especially when I’m not there, so they won’t attack you on sight. Or at least they shouldn’t. As for food and water, you might want to pick up some mac and cheese, milk and margarine for them. They cook their own food, and they have a marked preference for Kraft Dinner.” She pauses for a moment, then continue. “I know you don’t want to see a lot of fae stuff, but if you’re going to talk to Thorn, the leader of the pixies, I’ll need to give you the ability to see them. If you’re okay with that. It’ll be only to see and hear them, and it’ll only last for a short time. A couple of hours at most.”

She’d understand if he said no, but doing it this way would be so much easier. She doubted the pixies would have the patience to write anything down so Chase could bring the info back to her. The only other option was for one of the pixies to hitch a ride with him and bring them here, and she wasn’t about to subject the pack to a pixie.

He shrugged. “Nah. I haven’t seen them before and it hasn’t been a problem. If they will let me in, then I don’t see we need to make a fuss.”

“Okay,” Rey said, and thought for a moment. “I thought asking them if they’d seen anyone snooping around the house, or if anyone tried to get in, would be easier if you could hear Thorne’s answer.” She shrugged. “Okay. When you get there, please tell Thorn where I am, and that when I get back I will expect a full report. Just stand in the kitchen and say it. He’ll hear you. And be sure to call him the Commander in Cheese, as that’s his most current title.”

He laughed at that. “Seriously? Oh man, I don’t know if I can say that with a straight face.”

“You’d better,” Rey said, her demeanor very serious. “They are not Disney fairies. They can be dangerous, especially in numbers, and their prides are as big as many man’s. And if they get offended, you’ll have no way to defend yourself because you can’t see the attacks coming.”

He waved it off. “It’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Eat your soup close your eyes. By the time you wake up, I’ll have returned with your things.”

Rey smiled, and then the smile turned a bit embarrassed. “Do you know a good locksmith? One you trust? Because I want to change all the locks in the house, and maybe add a few.”

“Locksmith? I could that for you. Changing locks is pretty simple. Give me whatever new locks you want in there and I can do a door in about ten minutes,” he said.

“Maybe you ought to come with me when I get the locks,” Rey said. “I have no idea what makes a good lock, and I know you don’t always get what you pay for.”

“No problem. Happy to do that,” he said.

“You’re so good to me,” she murmured, and leaned in to give him a kiss. Yes, it might have be foolish to think that, but amongst her people especially now that she was the Lady Sage, she always wondered if someone did something to help her just because they were both in the same Court, or if they were looking for favors. Rey knew Chase wouldn’t do that.

After a reassuring kiss goodbye, Chase left her to her soup and her rest.

Rey was able to finish about half of what was left of her soup before she found herself almost falling asleep sitting up. She returned her bowl to the nightstand, and she fell asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow.

When she awoke it was night again. This time there was only one, familiar man in the bed with her reading a magazine under the yellow light of the lamp that sat upon a round, oak night stand to his right.

"Hey," she said softly.

He looked up and put the magazine down. “Welcome back to the land of the conscious,” he said with a smile.

"How long did I sleep this time?" Rey asked and extended her hand to him.

“Just the rest of the day. It’s only a little after sunset now,” he assured her.

"Good," Rey replied. "Anything unusual at the house?"

“Do you mean aside from an army of invisible pixies? Nope. All seems quiet,” Chase said.

Rey chuckled. "Was the place a mess? They enjoy their training maneuvers."

“Not that I noticed,” he said. Which meant that at least the took heed of her request not to start any more fires.

"That's good." She smiled. "Have you eaten?" she asked, hoping he hadn't so she wouldn't eat alone.

“Nope. I was hoping you might have regained some of your strength and we might go have something together. It isn’t far, just down the hall, and the wolves have already eaten. They saved us something Chaska cooked up. Stew, I think, made thick and with potatoes, beef, and a variety of vegetables. He calls it “recovery stew” but made enough for everyone. Feel like giving it a try?”

Rey nodded and sat up slowly, definitely feeling better than she had earlier. "Shall we dress for dinner, or will it be a casual affair?" She asked with a smile.

“I think casua -- er actually we better dress.” His smile grew rueful. “Probably the best idea.”

Rey could tell he knew something she didn’t right now, but probably didn’t want her to be bothered by it.

"Are there some other guests?" she asked as she slid toward the edge of the bed. She saw what looked like her small sports bag on top of the dresser, and wondered what he had packed for her.

He retrieved it and presented what he’d found. “No other guests,” he said as he unpacked the bag for her. “I think the alphas had it out. The female alpha left. People are walking on eggshells around Chaska, but I think he’s out for a run right now.”

The little smile that curved her lips was not aimed at the apparent argument between her mated friends, but at the unexpectedly domestic and loving scene playing out in front of her. The smile turned into a "I should have known" grin when she saw what he'd brought for her.

He was right when he said he shouldn't be the one to choose what she wears. He'd picked the skimpiest, scantiest bra and thong set that were little more than strings and a couple scraps of fabric, far more suitable for a club than the recovery room. The skirt and top were no surprise either, both of them his favorites.

Rey slowly got dressed, not making a show for Chase but not trying to hide or be coy either. It didn't take long until she had everything on. The only minor complaint was the vampire bite on her calf was visible. Perhaps that wasn't a bad thing. It might serve to remind the pack the extents to which she would go to help them.

Chase had watched her dress shamelessly. When she was ready, the smile on his face showed his appreciation for her assets. He lent her his arm, not because he was just such a gentlemen, but he was thoughtful enough to give her support while making it seem it a mere courtesy, not a necessity. It wouldn’t do to show weakness in front of the other wolves. Not with Chaska out on a run and no Lyla to protect the females from ambitious males.

Rey walked at Chase's side with her head held high, making a show of calm and confidence. It was just her imagination, she told herself, that her exotic scent seemed stronger than usual, and had nothing to do with her increased use of Summer magic.

Perhaps the clothes he'd picked for her might not have been the wisest choice, but there was nothing to do about it now. Not without making a potentially bad situation worse. So she walked as if she hadn't a care in the world, hand curled around Chase's arm as he escorted her to a seat at the table. Rey sat, making herself comfortable before looking around the room, to see who was there and gauge the mood of the room.

She wasn't sure the cause of the fight involved her and the situation with Michael, but she wasn't about to ask. She did hope, however, that none of the pack decided to do anything stupid. If Kim was here, Rey knew she would get involved to protect the female Feral. She also hoped none of them would try something involving herself. Chase would almost certainly have something to say about it, and Rey would have no compunction to show them exactly why she was such a valuable ally to Chaska and Lyla, even if they didn't know the full extent of what she could do.

The wolves in relaxing in the dining room included one female and a young male. The female werewolf was a delicate-looking thing, but her eyes were cold, grey and always half-lidded. Her unsmiling face was half concealed by the cup of tea from which she was sipping. Something in her eyes changed slightly when she peered at Rey. The male had short, black hair and thick, broody eyebrows. Young but strong, he was only a little more open than the girl. His gaze had been on her, but shifted to Chase and Rey when they came in.

They said nothing as Chase left to ready the stew in the kitchen. Rey felt like they had interrupted something and awkward silence filled the air. “Hello,” she said to them with a slight nod of greeting. It didn’t (usually) hurt to be polite.

Frost nodded to her. The other fellow’s attention flicked from Frost to Rey. He remarked, “Your vampire bites are nearly healed.” He’d have to have seen more of her than what she showed now to really know that, and it wasn’t a very comfortable feeling. “You have Frost to thank for that.”

“I appreciate the help,” Rey said to Frost, then turned her attention back to the male. “And what do Chaska and Lyla call you?” she asked politely.

He answered as Rey heard the microwave run in the kitchen. “My name’s Derek,” he said.

Frost finished her tea and turned to go to the kitchen to clean out the cup.

“Hey Frost, you didn’t answer my question,” Derek said.

She paused only long enough to say, “I have no interest in ‘dating’ you, Derek. You want company, use your hand.”

Derek’s expression darkened, making the broody man look even broodier. He might not have liked her answer, even if he’d expected it but the way she delivered it was humiliating in front of a guest. He tried to recover his pride. “Geez. You’d think I propositioned her or something. Ask if she wants to see a movie or something and she becomes all bitchy,” he muttered.

He shrugged it off. “You’re Rey. So are you worried Chase is going to lose control one day when he’s with you?”

“Not really,” Rey replied. “I know it’s a possibility, but I also know what buttons not to push, and how far to push the ones I can. However, I’m not your typical woman, so it’s not a good idea to judge the rest of my gender by my opinions and abilities.” She was tempted to say that, perhaps, Chase should worry about her losing control, but decided against it.

He grunted a half-affirmation. “I don’t stereotype people. Just wondered if you knew the dangers of being with a guy like Chase. Alone, he’s got no one to hold him back if he loses it. That’s all.”

“Are you saying I’d be safer with a member of the pack?” she asked, curious as to what his answer would be.

“You’d be safer with the pack,” he amended. “We all have each other’s backs here.”

Rey heard the microwave ding and knew Chase would return in a few moments.

“Perhaps,” Rey said. “But my life and my mate are in Mythic, and I have my own pack, so to speak.”

He didn’t press for details and Chase reappeared with two bowls of stew. It smelled awesome. After Chase sat down, Derek bid them farewell and left.

“He wasn’t bothering you, was he?” Chase asked.

Rey shook her head. “Not at all. We were just chatting,” she replied. She was more bemused at Derek’s attempt to draw her into the pack, perhaps with the intent of increasing the opportunity of finding a mate for himself. Or trying to imply that Chase was a danger because he was a lone wolf. Either way, Rey wasn’t interested.

She leaned forward a bit to take a sniff of the stew. “Oh, this smells good.” Rey picked up a spoon and stirred it a bit to see what all Chaska had put in it this time. She also wondered, briefly, what Chase’s cooking skills were like, but it was not as if she was with him because of his culinary talents.

The stew tasted as good as it smelled, if not better. Chaska seemed to know his way around a kitchen and wasn’t afraid to lend a hand feeding the dozen or so werewolves of his pack. As Rey scooped up another spoonful, she ran her toes along the back of Chase’s leg slowly and seductively. “By the way, is it your turn to cook the next time we have dinner at home?” she asked with a teasing smile.

“The next time we have dinner at home, I think I’ll pay to have dinner out,” he said with a smile. “I don’t have cooking skills.”

Rey chuckled. “We could change that, you know. It would be nice of you didn’t burn water.” She knew he was nowhere near that bad, but she was feeling playful, and the expression on her faced showed it.

“Ha, funny,” he said. “Naw, I just don’t have any particular desire to cook. With my lifestyle, I have few nights when I’m not working, and those I have I prefer to spend with you, not slaving in a kitchen.”

Rey had all kinds of ideas of things that they could “cook” in the kitchen that would never be considered slaving away, but that kind of discussion was best not held in front of Frost. She ate a few more spoonfuls of stew before asking “Do you know when Chaska or Lyla might get back?”

A shadow crossed his face. Worry. “I have no idea,” he said. “Nobody does.”

“Crap,” Rey murmured. “What the heck did they argue about?” She was used to hearing Lyla taking off once in a while, but she didn’t remember Chaska ever doing that, leaving without any word of when they’d be back, or where he’d be going.”

“Well, I don’t really understand what the trouble is. From what I gather, Lyla got a call from her brother about going to some place or another in New England. Chaska pitched a fit from the sounds of it, got really angry. Looked like jealousy to me, but that didn’t make any sense.” He shrugged. “Frost thinks he’ll be back in a few hours. But she said she doubted Lyla would.”

“What the hell does Ramiel want now,” Rey muttered. It was just like him to call Lyla, and there was little Lyla would refuse him if he asked for something. It also yanked Chaska’s chain, and she was in no way surprised that they ended up arguing. Ramiel had treated Lyla like shit, taken her for granted, and then didn’t understand why she left him for Chaska.

While Rey didn’t always get along with Chaska, she believed he was a much better choice as a mate for Lyla, and a much better man. “Has anyone tried to get a hold of Lyla since she left?”

“I doubt it,” Chase responded. “None of these turkeys have the balls to confront their alphas.” Which was why they were alphas, one supposed, but Chase never did think much of packs.

“And that is why I am not even considering joining the pack, or getting involved with it more than I already am,” Rey muttered. “Being the omega sucked, and there’s no way I’m going to step into a pack hierarchy, even if my friends are the alphas. Maybe even especially if they are the alphas.” She spoke at a slightly louder level than before. “Chase, would you mind grabbing my phone for me while I finish up my stew? I need to make a phone call or two.”

He did, giving her a little time to finish eating. When he returned, he sent her phone down in front of her and then sat down. “For the record, the Rey I know would never be an omega of this or any other pack.” His tone held not a shadow of doubt.

“You’re right,” she replied. “But the old Rey was a very different person. I was a wolfblood before I was Taken, and a hedge witch. Brought into the pack as Lyla’s friend, and because I had certain skills and abilities the pack found useful. I was so alone, willing to do almost anything, suffer through anything, to have a family that actually cared about me.” She shrugged. “That Rey is long gone. If I’d stayed weak, I’d have never been able to break free and escape.”

He watched her thoughtfully. Having been a wolfblood might give her extra measures of protection even beyond her fae nature. He returned his focus to the topic at hand, however. “You and Lyla go back a long ways.”

Rey nodded. “Almost a decade. And the early years weren’t easy,” she replied. “Spent travelling, seemingly always on the run. We got separated for a while, but then Fate brought us back together again in Eldon Well, and then again in Mythic.” Her memories of that small town were bittersweet; some she would gladly forget, and others she cherished.

“So her brother, Ramiel you said? Called her to come home. I can see why that might upset someone. The whole pack, actually.” Chase wondered though. Did the rest of the pack other than Frost really think Lyla might not come back? If they did, he’d have expected a lot more troubled and upset wolves.

“Maybe we should get out of here. Get you home,” Chase suggested.

Rey nodded, deciding to give Chase more information when they were in the car, and found a piece of paper and a pencil to leave Chaska a note, letting him know Chase was taking her home, and thanking him (obviously in not those exact words) for the pack’s hospitality.