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(Contains: strong language)
Chapter 8

The aura from earlier swept over her. Evey stiffened. A moment later she was walking away from the nurse, her mind distracted as she followed the aura. Her eyes darted around, searching for the child.

"Yes I can. What are you?"

The giggle came from right behind her.

"Mama says I'm an angel. I help old souls become new again. What are you?"

Evey whirled around, searching for the giggle and the child it belonged to.

"I'm... I don't know."

Somehow the truth just spat out.

"You kinda smell like an angel," the child said, now standing before her. "Like cookie dough."

She was absolutely adorable, the little girl, with curly blonde locks rolling down her shoulders. She smiled up at Evey.

"Mama calls me Sarah. What's your name?"

Smell like an angel. Heh. Evey didn't know if that was a good think or a bad thing.

"I'm Evey."

She crouched down so she was at eye level with Sarah.

"Sarah, why are you here?"

The child rocked on her heels.

"Doing my job. I told you, I help old souls become new ones by being born into life again. All angels have jobs."

Evey opened her mouth, then closed it. She blinked.

"Well, yes, but I didn't know angels could have mommies. Is your Mama an angel too?"

Which would be weird because angels were androgynous and had no sex organs.

"No," she said. "Mama's something else."

Sarah looked down the hall at the happy family.

"Well, now that I'm done with that job, I can take a break for a while. I'm still in training, after all, and the other life angels have to check my work."

She turned back to Evey.

"Since you can see me, is it alright if I stay with you?"

Evey blinked.

"Uh. Okay, I guess."

Her mother was something else? What could give birth to an angel? They were created, not born, last time she checked.

"But won't your mama be worried?"

"Nope, I'm supposed to be in training, so she doesn't need to watch me any more. I say hi every now and then though, just to keep in touch."

Evey stared in surprise. But... she was so little...

"How old are you?"

Sarah looked up, as if trying to see into her skull to find the answer.

"Um... in human years, I think I'm about seven or eight, but there's no time where I come from, so I guess I don't have an age."

"So..." Evey looked back at the family, the mother and the new babe, and then returned her attention to Sarah. "Were you born like that too? Since, you have a mommy?"

"I don't think so," she said with a shrug. "I don't remember being any different."

Sarah looked up at Evey again and smiled.

"So, can we go somewhere fun now? I have to wait for a while before I get the review for my work."

Evey blinked

She had no idea where she was going to take the... little angel? She straightened and offered her hand to Sarah. She didn't know if the little girl had ever been treated like a person before or not. But this entire situation was confusing. How could she have a mother and not been born? How could she be an angel and be female? Or was she just assuming she was? Maybe Sarah was androgynous too? But...  angels didn't look like children...

She gave Sarah a smile. Another mystery to solve. With another little laugh, she took Evey's hand. They walked back down into the lobby, where Jared had finally caught up with Will and gotten him to calm down a little. The hunter looked up when they approached, but strangely had nothing to say about Sarah. The demon, however, raised an eyebrow.

"It came with you?"

Evey shrugged.

"Yup."

She looked down at Sarah to make introductions.

"Sarah, Jared and Will. Jared, Will, this is Sarah."

"Hello!" she exclaimed cheerfully. Will lifted his hand and waved a bit; Jared smiled.

"Well, don't you sound happy," he said. "Having a good time?"

"Uh huh! Evey said I can hang out with her!"

Evey shrugged and smiled.

"Come on."

She looked carefully at Will, wondering if doing something now with Sarah would make him feel better. Lunch, dinner or something. Hmm. Did Sarah eat?

She put her free hand gently on his arm.

"Hey. You okay...?"

She'd never seen Will upset, so she wasn't sure what to make of it. He nodded a bit unconvincingly and stood up.

"Yeah, I'm good. I just needed to let off some steam."

Evey smiled and nodded. She had no idea how he was going to do that, but it would be best if he did. Like Jared said, this must be driving him nuts, being told to do something he was already trying to do.

She did feel bad about it. It was her fault really, but she didn't want to impose on him. Shit. They'd only started going out what? Not even a week ago?

They headed outside, Evey lingering behind with Sarah and Jared, chatting trying to ease her worry about Will. Luckily, Sarah was just as much as a chatterbox, while Will walked ahead.

Brendan waited outside the hospital, his expression gathered like a storm barely restrained before being unleashed. He saw Will first and felt the rage gather. He walked up to him and let the rage explode. His fist flew into Will's jaw without restraint.

Evey let out a cry, but Brendan didn't see her or pay attention to her. He was too fucking pissed.

"You stupid fuck. I thought we had an understanding, Keatting? You're supposed to protect her dammit! How the hell could you just let her go see Jesse Fucking Taylor by herself? Are you out of your mind? I don't give a damn what kind of history you have with the vamp — you don't let a fucking target like Evey out of your goddamn sight and into his clutches. She could've been FUCKING KILLED."

Evey was beside Will and gave Graham a stabbing glare.

"Graham, stop it! It wasn't his fault! It's mine! I didn't think there would be any danger. He's the oldest cruentus in the city, I thought he would have smidgen of sanity—"

"A vamp? You thought a damn bloodsucker was going to be sane? Just because you know one that isn't a raving psychopath, doesn’t mean that most of them aren't! This is partly your fault too, dammit, V! You should fucking KNOW better! You're a damn target and you're parading about the fucking city in plain view of anything and anyone who wants to kill you, meddling in shit they don't want you in, and you're not even taking fucking insurance—" he jerked his hand at Will—"when he should be fucking available."

He whirled on Will again, pleased at the sight of a blood on his lip.

"She's a sneaky, do-it-myself little witch, Keatting. If you don't fucking watch her like a hawk, she will go around behind your back and do it herself anyway. So much for keeping your fucking promise."

"Graham STOP!" Evey yelled. Her yell finally got him to focus past the rage and see who else was there. A blind man and oh, fuck, a kid. Great. A lot of his rage died, calming him, but the anger was still twisted on his face. Brendan"s voice was tight and quiet when he spoke again, pointing at Evey.

“I'm getting you a bodyguard. One of my own that I can trust to stay around you twenty four seven and will fucking stop you if you try to be slick. Since your boyfriend is too damn busy to do it himself, or too much of a damn woman to stop you from being stupid and putting his damn foot down, I'll get someone who can do it for him."

"I'm a big girl, Graham. I can take care of myself," Evey gritted out.

"Yeah, like you fucking did last night?" he hissed. "I'd take you home myself and lock you in until your bodyguard got here but my radio has been going off for the last ten minutes like a screaming bitch on speed. I'm going to be by there in an hour, if you're not, I'm going to put an APB out on you and throw you in prison until my back-up gets into town. Understood, V?"

Evey just glared at him. "I have a previous engagement."

"Too fucking bad, Grant."

Evey resisted the urge to punch him herself. Sarah — god she didn't even know if the little girl was still there. She turned away from him to check if the child was still there and then check on Will... and apologize. God, she was so used to doing everything by herself, she never thought to call anyone when she went to do something, let alone ask for help.

Will was still trying to recover from the sudden attack, slowly staggering to his feet. He didn't have to say a word for Evey to tell that the anger inside of him had reached its peak: even in the daylight, she could see the furious white glow filling his eyes.

Relieved that Sarah was still present, Evey turned to Will and paled. Oh, fuck. This was bad. The last thing she wanted was them to fight right here. This is not what she has wanted when she was hoping to get Will to vent his anger.

"Will..."

Brendan on the other and sneered. He cracked his knuckles.

"You want a piece of me in front of V and the kid? Fine, Hunter. Lord knows since I found about yesterday I wanted a piece of your ass. But I'll give you a chance to walk away and let someone else handle what you can't," he growled.

"Graham, stop it!" Evey shouted already moving to get between them. "It's not his fault! I told you that!"

He moved her out of the way.

"I trusted him to keep you safe. It's my fault. I should've known better than to trust anyone to do a job right."

He snarled at Will.

"So what's it going to be, pretty boy?"

Will was sick of this. He took a deep breath and calmly reached into his pocket, removing a small, green-capped vial. The glass was opaque, and Evey couldn't see what was inside as he took its contents in one swift gulp. Evey wasn't sure if she wanted know, but dread slivered up her spine.

"Stop it, please, stop it," she hissed at Graham. She looked at Will and then at Graham. "Please, no, I don't want this. This is my fault. Stop it both of you."

"Not until he backs down or fucking shows me that he fully intends to keep his promise. I'm not going to have some hunter in name only protecting you half-assed. If he fully intends to protect he better fucking prove. All he's done is prove that you can get around without fucking trying. Back off, Evey."

"No! Stop it. Please!"

Brendan pushed her behind him. He didn't know what the vamp sucker had downed, but every instinct and every muscle was primed for an attack. If the bastard even wanted to be fucking near Evey he better show him that he could protect her and wasn't planning on ditching her ever again.

"You going to say anything, Keatting? At least give me a damn reason why you didn't feel like protecting Evey last night?" Brendan growled.

Will answered by attacking, moving with the same disturbing speed and grace that Jesse had the night before. He grabbed onto the detective by his side, throwing Brendan across the parking lot and into the nearest car. His eyes were glowing so brightly with fury they were solid white.

Evey gasped, eyes wide and tears streaming. She couldn't stop this. She hurried to Jared and Sarah. She hugged the child to her, murmuring "I'm sorry," into her hair.

Brendan gave a half growl half groan as he peeled himself out of the metal. Still growling and eyes now glowing their bright wolfish yellow, the muscles in his legs tensed and sprang. He leaped from the car toward Will, landing a solid kick into his stomach.

"What the fuck is this going to solve, huh?" he growled, fangs hinted. He knew he couldn't transform in broad daylight, but he wasn't planning on letting the stupid hunter kill him.

"Saving a little bit of blood for a rainy day?"

Evey stood up, holding onto Sarah's hand.

"Stop it!" she yelled again, hoping to finally get through to someone. "You're on the same side dammit!"

She looked to Jared desperately.

"Can you knock them out or something? Just make them fall asleep? Anything?"

She turned back to them, tears streaming down her cheeks. Dammit, dammit, dammit!

Jared stepped calmly forward, but his demonic aura was flaring.

"Stop!" he commanded, the force in his voice unlike anything human. He walked between the two brawlers, pulling them apart like two pieces of Velcro.

"Don't force me to drain your life forces. I will if that's the only way to calm both of you."

Evey stared, jaw agape....Wow.

Graham snarled, but he wasn't going to challenge that threat. Fucking HELL, with all the people she had around her not ONE could fucking protect her? Brendan jerked away, heading toward his car and stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"One hour, Evey! You better be home in one hour when I get there or I'm arresting your ass!"

Will said nothing when Jared released him. He just growled and stormed off to his motorcycle, not even bothering with his helmet as he got on and tore out of the parking lot. He didn't even say goodbye to Evey.

Sarah looked up at her, eyes wide and sad. Evey crumpled inside. She looked to Sarah, tried to give her smile, but figured she'd failed at it.

"You're better off."

Evey whirled on Graham and gave him a fierce shove with her telekinesis.

"Go away, Graham," she said, her voice cracking. He shook his head, shrugged, and got into his car, leaving the hospital in a different direction. She looked to Jared.

"Thank you," she said, her voice trembling a little. "I appreciate it more than you know."

Evey then crouched down to Sarah.

"What do you want to do, little one? I'm so sorry about all this."

Evey wanted to just go home and cry, but she wouldn't mind the company on the walk. It would take her about forty five minutes to walk home anyway. Sarah reached up and touched Evey's forehead gently with her small hand.

"Let's go somewhere less stressful," she said. "Somewhere relaxing, like a nice spa. He has no grounds to put you under arrest; you don't need to have a curfew."

Where Jared's aura had once filled the air, now Sarah's did. Her change in diction was alarmingly mature for her apparent age, and even Jared seemed a little surprised. Evey sighed.

"It's not the going to jail I really mind," she said. "I know he won't arrest me. He'll just lock me up until he gets off work or something."

She gave the little girl a hug. She was a little surprised about the girl's diction, but she knew it probably had to do with what she was.

"Thank you, Sarah. Let's take Jared home first." She straightened and offered him her best smile. It wasn't much, but there it was.

"Thank you, Jared. I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you did."

He smiled, shaking his head.

"Go with Sarah, Evey. I can manage. Now that I've been able to feel her aura this close, I can say for certain that she is an angel."

Evey blinked. Well, she really hadn't doubted it, but Jared's statement certainly held a lot of weight. She released Sarah for a moment and gave Jared a hug.

"Okay, but be careful. I don't want you-know-who to find you."

She released him and then turned back to Sarah offering her hand.

"Where is there a spa, Sarah? I don't think I've ever been to one."

She hoped there was a nice private area to cry out her eyes. The child's eyes brightened and she took Evey's hand happily.

"It's not far from here. I'll lead the way!"

Sarah tugged Evey along, skipping as they left the hospital parking lot and headed down the street. It was only just around the corner from the hospital, and the little girl merrily pushed open the door for her new friend.

"Hello?" she called, attracting the attention of the receptionist. "Sis needs to relax. Can you help?"

Sis? Evey thought, somewhat amused as the receptionist appeared and smiled.

"Of course, I can," the receptionist said. "What would you like?"

Evey shrugged, helpless.

"Uh, I've never been to a spa before..."

"Well, here's our menu, just take a look. We have a sauna, different massages. We can do facials, hair, manicures, pedicures, waxing, mineral bath soaks, the works."

Evey glanced down at the pamphlet handed to her and paled. Oh, Christ. The prices...

"Uh..."

"Sis has a gift card," Sarah quickly explained, pulling something out of Evey's pocket. "See?"

She looked up at her with a smile and a wink. Evey blinked in surprise. The receptionist chuckled, took the gift card and swiped it. Then she started.

"Wow. You are very lucky, ma'am. Whoever gave this card covers pretty much..."

She took up a pamphlet herself.

"Well, the works."

She grinned. Evey stared.

"R-really?"

"Oh, yes. Even tax is covered. I guess whoever gave you the card wanted you to have the works so they put in the exact amount."

She smiled.

"Would you like that?"

"Uh, sure, I guess..."

"All right. We'll start with the mineral bath. Please follow me."

Evey looked at Sarah and mouthed, how did you do that?, as they followed the receptionist into the spa.


Several hours later...


Brendan was cursing Evey and her pigheadedness as he pulled into Cei Ellem's house. Huh. The beautiful vampire.

He got out of the car and slammed the door. He'd found out she had been with Evey at the Ally Kat – and that she was the one Evey had wanted him to look into the man called "Crudelis" for. He had a bone to pick with this vampire just as much with the Keatting SOB.

He headed to the door and knocked. Well, more like pounded.

"Just a minute!" Cei shouted, and a few moments later she was at the door. She cracked it open to look out. When she saw who it was, she opened it further.

"Yes? Oh, hello detective. What brings you here?"

"Questions. And ideally, some answers," he growled, pushing past her and into the house. He closed the door for her and locked it, before turning back to her, his expression stormy with restrained anger.

"So – answer me this, Miss Ellem, what the HELL possessed you to let Evey go to Jesse Taylor's alone?"

Cei rolled her eyes, arms akimbo.

"Oh, that. Well you obviously have never met the man, otherwise you wouldn't be asking. Have a seat; I'll get us something to drink."

He took her arm and shook his head.

"I want an answer first. Drinks can wait and I sure as hell ain't sitting."

Brendan's gaze was firm, angry and unmoving.

"If he compelled you, then god dammit, did he compel you not to call for help? Or did it slip your mind that someone might actually want to keep Evey alive?"

Cei frowned, returning his glare with an icy stare of her own.

"If she had been in any real danger, I would have known. A close friend of mine has the ability to see such things, and I have my own premonitions. I gave her a formula of mine to protect her from Jesse's worst weapons: his fangs. Had he tried to feed from her, he would have burned himself from the inside out."

Her eyes narrowed.

"Now, let go of my arm."

Brendan gave her a feral grin.

"You don't have to try your mind trick with me, vampire. All you have to do is say please."

He let go.

"So here's the next question. What if Jesse had ripped her limb from limb and your little formula to protect her meant squat?"

Anger rippled through him.

"It would've been too late for you or your friend to call for back up. Evey would've been dead by the time you got there. And if you had a friend who could see the kind of danger she was in – why the hell didn't HE call for back up?"

He began to pace.

"What the hell is WRONG with you? Evey isn't a fucking vampire, she's a human being. A person with abilities, but still fucking human."

He stopped and glared at her.

"You don't send a fucking human into the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the fucking the city minus two!"

"As curious as I am about these two you mention," Cei said coolly. "I don't think you fully understand the events that occurred last night. Jesse is ancient; from what I have managed to learn about him, he's at least as old as Julius Caesar, if not older. Even if I, the Keattings, you, or even all of us combined had gone with her, it wouldn't have saved her if Jesse had really wanted to kill her."

She walked towards the kitchen.

"You can never change the past, so you may as well live with it."

"Bull shit."

He followed her into the kitchen. Brendan glared at her.

"I don't give a damn who you think you are, beautiful or not, but I do give a damn about my best friend and partner. What the fuck kind of friends has she run into that they just don't give a shit about her?"

He sneered and walked around so he faced her across the counter.

"She even asked me to help you – Celestine – but right now I've heard no fucking real reason why you felt you could abandon Evey to her fate without even thinking of calling for help. Or at least why you couldn't call and let someone know where the fuck she was. Were you planning on rescuing her? Or letting her crawl her exhausted self back to her house?"

Cei was quiet for a moment, trying to keep herself calm before she answered, but her voice still quivered.

"I had no choice. Jesse fucking slipped me some of his blood and left a note on my napkin telling me to stay out of it all and wait for her to leave on her own. You try fighting that when the bonds of blood tell you otherwise!"

She pushed past him and to her fridge, yanking it open to look inside for a wine cooler. Cei grabbed the bottle, but in her distress she held it too hard, shattering the neck in her hand and sending the rest crashing to the floor.

"Shit!" she growled as she picked the shards out of her fingers, her blood mingling with the spilled alcohol. Graham moved around, grabbed some paper towels and helped clean up. His voice was quiet when he asked, "What about your friend? Why didn't he call for help?"

He finished cleaning up and looked at her.

"All I see is V helping people and being left alone in a dangerous situation when she could've used some help."

Cei licked her injured fingers as the wounds slowly knitted closed. She shook her head.

"Ju has already promised to guard her friend Jezz for her, not to mention he's very uncomfortable leaving the safety of his home (he's a bit agoraphobic)."

"Yeah, but can't pick up a phone and call Keatting? Christ, Keatting promised me he'd protect her, but he can't if he's not with her all the time and if no one bothers to fucking tell him she's in danger. I would've gone myself if I had known, dammit."

Brendan shook his head.

"Sometimes it's hard for Ju to tell what is truly dangerous and what is not; when I said he sees things as they happen I mean he sees everything. It's a miracle he's able to filter through what he does."

A bit calmer, Cei retrieved another wine cooler, keeping it intact this time.

"I'm just relieved Evey's safe for the moment."

No thanks to any of you, he thought. Brendan returned to the other side of the counter and watched her for a long moment. God, she was gorgeous. He waited until the wine was served, and she wasn't holding anything before he spoke again.

"Evey told me to look into a man called Crudelis. She was hoping to protect you. I know where Lios Druclerd is and what he's doing. Though I still don't know why."

He watched her reaction. Cei brought the glasses over and set them carefully on the counter. For a moment, she just stared into space, but then she looked at her glass and sighed.

"He called me Tina."

The cruenta took a sip and lifted her eyes to look at Brendan.

"How much do you know about what used to be?"

"Most of it. When you kill vampires for a living and protect people for the rest of the time, you get connections. Once I had his name, it didn't take long before I got most of the story. I still don't know how you escaped – no one seems particularly clear on that part – but most think you're dead, and I wasn't about to enlighten them."

He lifted his glass and then put it down again, not taking a drink. He really couldn't afford to be drinking wine. Let alone wine poured by a vampire – though he doubted Cei would try to captivate him with her blood.

She did just fine without it, dammit.

"But he IS in town, running a drug ring according to the rumors – though why he's doing it and what it is he's selling I don't know yet. He also has a partner. Hence the two that probably make Taylor look like a piss ant."

Brendan met her gaze.

"Why the hell was Evey there anyway? One thing is to let her go alone – I understand you couldn't help. But dammit where the fuck where all her other new friends and her bloody boyfriend – if I can even call the pussy that –huh? Why would she even think she could go up against Jesse Taylor alone? Dammit, Cei, she could've been fucking killed."

The vampire sighed, sipping her wine.

"She thinks she might be his sister."

Brendan stared. Fuck that. He downed his wine in a gulp, gave her back the glass and stared again.

"What?" he croaked. He shook his head.

"How... How could she even think that's possible? She's human for chrissakes. He's a vampire. Like you said, he's been around at least since Caesar. She's barely twenty five. A normal twenty five."

"Yes, but her theory is based on some rather disturbing grounds. Have you seen the portrait she found? It was in the cover of the book I gave her."

Cei finished her glass and began pouring herself another.

"Evey stayed here last night after the incident, and I called Jesse after she was asleep to give him what for. He faxed me a copy of the picture, and I went into her purse to get the photo she'd compared it to. I have a copy of that as well, but if you've already seen them..."

Brendan shook his head, his brow furrowed.

"I haven't talked to her since the fire. She said she knew who had caused the fire and had a name for me, but she hasn't gotten around to giving it to me yet. I don't know anything about this. I was so pissed yesterday when I found out she'd almost been killed by Taylor that I've been focused on that."

He stood up.

"Show me."

Cei nodded and opened a drawer in the counter to pull out the copies. First, she set out the scan of the photograph.

"Has she ever shown you this picture?"

Brendan nodded.

"Yeah. Her – her parents. She showed it to me because she's been looking for her mother. Disappeared when she was a kid."

He shrugged.

"I never put her down about it. Abandonment can hurt when you don't know why, and there was always the chance that her mother had been killed."

He looked up at Cei, brow furrowed.

"So?"

Cei pulled out the portrait.

"This is a drawing Jesse's brother did of their mater not long after they'd been changed. It was made in Athens, back when Jesse was actually the age he appears to be."

She paused, looking at the portrait for a long time.

"Her name is Carmilla."

Brendan froze as he stared at the two. The resemblance... well, fuck, they were identical. It was as if the portrait had been done of Evey's mother. There was... but it was impossible. He put down the images, staring at them for a long moment before finally tearing his gaze away. He had searched for any inconsistency between the two.

But there were none.

"Identical strangers?" he rasped. He coughed, clearing his throat.

"Anyone thought that after oh, hundreds and hundreds of years there might be one? Supposedly there's one of everybody."

But his words were weak. He didn't really believe that. Even identical strangers had things that weren't the same. Shape of a nose, type of hair, arch of the eyebrows. When you stare at them long enough you can see the subtle differences. Even in identical twins.

But this... this wasn't identical twins which would be the closest comparison. This was... fuck, this was the same woman.

"Fuck."

"That's what Jesse said," Cei remarked with a rueful smile. "It means that there is another stage of vampirism, one that was long thought to be simply a myth, even by the cruenti."

She looked up at Brendan.

"The caelestis: the true immortals."

Brendan shook his head.

"I've heard of the myth that there was another stage of vampirism. But what the hell does it imply? What can a 'true immortal' do different than any other vampire?"

"Bare children."

Her answer was very simple, and Cei drank more of her wine before she continued.

"Once one has been changed, it becomes impossible to produce offspring through any means other than changing another. That is why family terms are used to describe the relationship between creator and the changed: it's the closest thing we can get. But the caelestis... it is said that they regain the ability to bare children. If this is true, and Carmilla is both Evey's and Jesse's mother..."

Brendan cursed.

"Then this is a fucking mess. It would explain Evey's abilities. Shit, Evey suspects that Druclerd and her mother might be working together – she was worried that her mother may be involved with him. If she is this caelestis, then you're going to need a bodyguard around the fucking clock too."

He rubbed his hand over his face.

"Ah, fuck. What's Jesse going to do about it? Is he denying it, is he going to hide out and hide this, or is he going to announce this at the council?"

"Even if he does tell the Council, no one would believe him. There has never been any solid evidence of the caelestis ever existing; this is the first time in all of vampiric history that there has been any, arguable stable proof."

She put the pictures back into the drawer.

"Besides, we don't know the extent of her powers. For all we know, she could have half the city in her thrall already. The best that can be done is to keep in touch with one another and keep each other informed."

Cei leaned against the counter, tapping her fingers idly. Something else was bothering her, but she wasn't sure if she should bring it up or not. Brendan nodded.

"Fine – I'm going to talk to the chief tomorrow. See if I can convince him to get me into an 'undercover' position to look into Druclerd. That'll free up time so I can protect you and Evey from whatever the hell it is out there. I know something's trying to kill her."

He looked up to Cei, walked around until he was facing her, his hands braced on the counter on either side of her.

"Evey told me about the restaurant. And now Druclerd. Is there someone trying to kill you too, Cei? I told Keatting that it seemed to me that you two were targets, but you need to tell me everything. If there's something I'm missing, it could prevent me from protecting you to my full capacity. I've already contacted a friend from out of town to be Evey's bodyguard. Keatting doesn't seem up to the task, and I can't count on him. I need information and I need people I can trust if I'm going to help you all figure this out."

Fuck she smelled good.

"Talk to me."

Cei sighed, rolling her shoulders back.

"It's hundreds of things all at once," she said. "Jon –Will's older brother – he's my boyfriend and... and he doesn't know what I am, and lately I've been getting all of these threats..."

She turned around so that she was facing him, eyes narrow as she kept back tears.

"I can't tell him why someone has been sending me black roses, because if he knew I was a cruenta, he would try to kill me..."

Brendan moved back, eyebrows arched in surprise.

"He – he doesn't know?"

Lord, what a pair of idiots these Keattings were. Their reputations were clearly exaggerations. They couldn't be that good if they were so damn stupid.

"Cei, if he loves you, then why would he try to kill you? Yeah, you're a vampire, but you're clearly not like anyone else if he's fallen in love with you. Won't his love supersede that?"

Cei shook her head, her hair falling into her face.

"He'll think I've been using my abilities on him to make him think he's in love. Because he's innatancilla, I have to slip him blood so that he doesn't get sick. I've made a formula to combine it with so that he doesn't become addicted, otherwise I don't know what I would do, but he won't understand that I'm doing it to help him."

"Well, fuck."

Brendan lifted a hand to her face, pushing her hair out of the way. He lifted her chin.

"Hey, don't worry about it. I hope his love is strong enough to realize the truth, but as for the threats... I'll protect you, Cei. I'll find out who's threatening you. I'll kill Druclerd with my own hands. I won't let anything happen, all right?"

Cei nodded slowly, a single tear rolling down her cheek. Her eyes slowly widened as she looked into Brendan's face.

"The ashen serpent is the one to be feared, both for his greed and his heritage."

He wiped away the tear. Keattings were idiots... wait.

"Uh... what?"

"The younger of two siblings may consume the other, but only if granted permission by the father," she continued, still looking at him, but staring past him. "He knows not what price he pays for power. The blood-tainted heart dies at the hands of his cure, and ancient rivals united in the lover's place..."

Brendan stared at her, trying to digest what he was saying. Then it clicked. Oh, oh fuck. Evey had mentioned Cei had visions, that was how she had deduced Druclerd and... Carmilla were working together. Clearly this was another one.

It took him two seconds to pull out his pen and notepad and scribble down everything she was saying. He was no good with riddles, but Evey would probably be able to make sense out of it.

He hoped.

When he shifted to take his notes, Cei sank to the floor, and oddly, sang.

"Am I a good man? Am I a madman? There's such a fine line between a good man and a..."

She trailed off, humming softly as she rocked. Brendan scribbled off her song, then dumped both pen and pad onto the counter before crouching down to her. He took her in his arms.

"Hey, hey, Cei," he said softly, gently shaking her. "Cei, Cei... you okay? Cei?"

"Who is Cei?" she asked in a sing-songy voice. "My name is Celestine..."

Cei barely reacted at all to Brendan shaking her, and she spoke as if she was talking to someone else. Dread slivered down his spine. Oh, fuck him. Like hell he was going to get his slimy hands on her. Brendan's voice was firm, dark.

"Celestine Santelli. I will not allow Lios Druclerd to hurt you, command you or possess you. You are you're own person, not his slave, not his wife, not his child. You are your own woman and you can fight him."

He took her chin and turned her so her eyes looked into his. His own glowed with their wolfish gold.

"I will fight beside you, as will all those who love you. You are not alone. You are not alone. Fight."

Cei was still ignoring him as she lifted her and reached out into the air.

"Lios, my love, where are you? My husband... my father..."

"CEI."

Fuck this.

"Get out of her fucking head you blood sucking bastard," he growled. "Cei – you belong to only who you choose."

Brendan kissed her. He didn't know if it would work – god, he prayed it did. He didn't have the mental abilities that vampires had though he could withstand their affect on him pretty well. But he did have the physical, and if he could distract her mind away, then that was good enough.

But, fuck, he didn't expect her to taste so damn good. Brendan pulled her closer to him and deepened the kiss. It was long before Cei pulled herself away, and the confused stare she gave him (along with a nasty slap) was enough to show she was back to herself. Clearly bewildered by the kiss, she strangely said nothing, but only stared at Brendan, waiting for an explanation. A wide, wolfish grin crossed his face.

"It worked."

He didn't quite feel like moving just yet, so he stayed where he was, holding her close.

"Uh... you had a vision and Druclerd used your vulnerability to get into your head. You weren't responding when I yelled at you so..."

His grin was downright devilish.

"God, I hope I pissed him off."

Cei blinked. She knew that her pater could do that, but it hadn't happened in so long... that he had used his power of his blood in her only proved for certain that he was in the city. Just as she had feared. Cei's confused look softened, and she leaned into Brendan's chest.

"Please don't let him take me back..."

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. Brendan lay his cheek on her hair and inhaled her scent. God, the woman was intoxicating. If Keatting didn't realize what a lucky bastard he was and actually tried to turn on her, then he'd protect her from him too. From everyone that tried to hurt her.

Cei nuzzled in as close as she could. She'd never felt so comfortable, felt so protected, as she did in Brendan's arms. Even with Jon, there was always that nagging feeling that he might find out at any moment. For the first time, she felt truly at ease.

She looked up into Brendan's eyes and smiled softly. Cei lifted herself to kiss his ear, waited briefly, then kissed his cheek, wondering how he would respond before she went any further.

That... he wasn't expecting. But hell if he wasn't going to take what she offered. He brought his hand to her cheek, rubbed his thumb over her bottom lip, and lifted her face for his lips. Brendan lowered his mouth to hers, kissing just her lips, caressing her mouth with his, seducing and worshiping. Brendan murmured in the back of his throat and deepened the kiss, teasing her lips open, begging for entrance into her mouth.

Not only did she allow him, but she wrapped her arms around his neck, trusting Brendan to hold her up as she ran her fingers through his hair. Brendan moaned softly in the back of his throat, the feel of her fingers in his hair sending shivers down his spine. He held her close, deepening the kiss, his tongue coaxing hers into his mouth. He caressed and stroked, his hands flexing over her back and side.

Cei squeaked, arching her back in response to his touch, being a bit ticklish. She broke the kiss, only because she was giggling. Her laughter brought a smile to his face. He caressed her back, his touch not ticklish but intent on bringing her pleasure. Brendan dipped his head to her neck, giving her a soft kiss there before retreating to look down into her face. He lowered his lips to hers, but didn't kiss her, just hovered over her mouth. He smiled. She smiled at him, holding back sniggers.

"Maybe we should take this somewhere other than the kitchen floor..." she purred. Electrical excitement soared through him. Oh, hell yeah. He knew she was supposed to be dating the other Keatting, but clearly he was as dumb as his brother and really, Brendan felt no remorse. The fact that Cei wanted him as much as he wanted her already had him aching.

Well, this would be a first. He usually killed vampires, he didn't sleep with them. But then again, he had never wanted a woman the way he wanted her either. He knew she felt him shiver with her words.

Brendan kissed her again, still holding her tightly against him as he stood up. Once they were standing, he broke the kiss and hoisted her into his arms. He nibbled on her bottom lip.

"Which way?" he half growled, a grin spreading over his lips. Cei's arm pointed lazily towards the stairs that lead up to her bedroom, and she kissed his ear again, sucking on it playfully. Another growl escaped from the back of his throat as he headed up the stairs taking two at a time, until he got to her bedroom.

***

Evey listened to Errol Flynn woo his leading lady as she finished up dinner. Sarah was still with her after their afternoon at the spa. Despite a good half hour of crying her eyes out while there, she still felt good – if depressed.

Deciding that you're not going to see the man you're already half in love with anymore took its toll emotionally.

Sarah was watching Captain Blood – Evey's favorite Flynn film – while Evey cooked dinner for them both. She'd even made cookies. Her nails were immaculate, so were her toes, and her skin practically glistened from the treatment at the spa. It had been wonderful. She hoped she would be able to go again... when she had money for it. Today's freebie probably wasn't going to happen again.

She served the plates, and brought out the spaghetti, meatballs and garlic bread out for Sarah. She handed the little girl the plate and sat down beside her, her own plate on her lap.

"Thank you," the child said politely as she took the plate, eagerly starting to eat. She had just placed the fork in her mouth when there was a knock at the door.

"Evey?"

Will.

"Evey? Are you there? I'd like to talk..."

Evey stiffened in her seat. Damn. She couldn't pretend she wasn't. The apartment smelled of food and there were cannons blasting out of ships on the TV. She sighed and put down her plate of food. She smiled at Sarah.

"I'll be right back. I'll just get rid of him, okay?"

God, it hurt to say that.

She headed to the door, unbolted and unlocked it, but didn't let him in. She stepped outside. She was wearing a tank top and a pair of pale yellow pajama pants. Her feet were bare. She'd gotten her hair trimmed and styled at the spa too. It hung loose and in layers around her shoulders, more wavy than curly, and infinitely soft.

Evey crossed her arms over her chest.

"What do you want?"

"Wow," Will started, surprised by how gorgeous she was. "You look amazing..."

Her cheeks flushed and her heart pounded. She didn't know what to say to that. She actually couldn't remember him saying that to her before. Well, they did barely know each other. One fantastic afternoon of sex did not mean a relationship or that he even wanted one.

"Thank you."

She didn't like the fact that she was breathless, but she couldn't really prevent it.

"Look, why are you here, Will? I've got dinner waiting for me."

He shifted his helmet under his arm.

"I want to apologize for this afternoon, for attacking your friend and riding off like that. I wasn't thinking clearly. I'm sorry."

Evey shook her head.

"Apology accepted. It wasn't your fault. No one has the right to pressure you into anything you don't want to do. Don't sweat it."

She moved to the door, hand on knob ready to go back inside.

"Have a nice night, Will."

"Evey wait," he called, grabbing onto her arm. "That's not it."

Will sighed, lowering his head.

"I do want to protect you, Evey, I'm just not always sure how..."

Evey shrugged.

"Last time I checked this wasn't complicated, Will. But if it is, then don't worry about it. I can't tell you how, I won't tell you how. I'm not going to be accused of being a domineering female. You do, whatever the hell it is you want to do. You won't feel bad and you won't be upset as long as you just don't worry about me. And since you don't know how anyway, don't sweat it."

If Will couldn't figure out what he wanted and just did it, something she never had trouble doing, then it wasn't worth it. She was crazy about him, but she knew what she was sure about. She knew she had to do things, she knew she wanted things, and she did them. If she plowed forward, someone wishy-washy like Will was just going to keep getting hurt. Better to cut him off now so he could go on with his life.

"Good night, Will. I refuse to make you feel powerless again. Just walk away and forget me."

She opened the door and walked inside.

"How am I supposed to protect you when I don't even know where you are?" he asked as she began to leave. "If I can't be glued to you all day, every day, how am I supposed to know when you need me there and when you don't? Talk to me, please."

Evey was torn between anger and hurt. She stepped back outside and closed the door so Sarah couldn't hear her yell. Well, she probably still could, but she wouldn't see her angry.

"Look, Will Keatting," she said poking him in the chest. "I'm going to have a fucking werewolf on my ass, glued to be every damn day in order to keep me safe. Not because I want him to be, but because my friend wants someone glued to me. You don't want to do that yourself – that's fine – but don't stand there and tell me that it's all my fault. I know it's all my fault. I'm used to being alone, and I continue to act like I'm alone. To be honest, all the evidence indicates that I AM alone. I'm not going to throw you a damn pity party because you can't decide if you want to be stuck with me all day all the time or don't. I didn't ask for your protection. I just want you. But I'm not going to get my heart broken by a man who doesn't even know what the hell he wants. I'm headstrong and determined and if you can't stand up to that then you can't protect me anyway."

She turned back to the door and tossed him a glare.

"Now go home."

She turned back to the door and lay her head on the wood.

"Leave me alone," she whispered, her voice breaking.

Will reached out to her, opening his mouth to speak, but slowly changed his mind. He stepped back, taking up his helmet in both hands, and turned around, heading down the steps and leaving the apartment without another word. Evey watched him leave, her heart aching. When he was gone, she entered her apartment and locked the door. She slumped down to the floor and wept.

Sarah approached her, walking up quietly and sitting down in front of her.

"Are you gonna be okay, Evey?" she asked sweetly. Evey shook her head, still crying, and tried to control herself. She forced her tears back, wiping her eyes.

"No."

Her voice was hoarse and raspy. She winced at the sound.

"But I will be okay. I just... It's not fair..."

Sarah slid next to Evey and wrapped her little arms around her.

"I'm sorry. I wish I could make it better for you, but love isn't my domain..."

Evey shook her head.

"It's okay. If he'd really wanted to be with me, he wouldn't have left. It's better this way."

She stood up and offered the girl a smile and her hand.

"Come on, let's finish watching the movie. I'm hungry."
One important thing about this chapter: ONE SCENE HAS BEEN CUT. I wanted to make it so more people could read it, so a particularly *ahem* passionate scene was cut before upload. My partner will likely upload this excerpt, and when she does I will link it here for those who want to read it.
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