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more outtakes

with a few notes to myself added in for further research material.

“You’ve got a guest in the back booth,” Sam says after he’s topped off my glass. I tense, looking at the clock. Ten minutes early. Hopping off the stool, I pay him for the drink and make my way back there. There’s a pretty good crowd for a weeknight, some younger vampires mostly and a few wannabe Old Ones. You’d know the type. They dress up in their lace and leather boots and proclaim that they had seen Marie Antoinette when they hadn’t even been mortal when Kennedy was assassinated. Us true Old Ones either blend in with everyone seamlessly or unconsciously stand out for how old we are.

Carmen is one that stands out. She was a gypsy in her mortal life, somewhere in Italy I believe. Her skin is still dusky dark and her hazel eyes are bright. She’s one of the types that doesn’t go around hiding what she is, like I tend to do when I’m around a large number of mortals. Tonight she’s wearing an off the shoulder silk blouse and a folksy patterned skirt. Large hoop earrings dangle at her earlobes and her curly black hair is loose besides a dark red scarf she has tied around like a headband. On a mortal or any other person for that matter, the look would have been like a rip off of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s Esmeralda. On her, it fit.

Carmen stands up when she sees me coming. “It’s good to see you again, Alyssa,” she says, her voice barely holding a hint of an accent.

“I wish I could say the same thing about you. What type of business do you have with me?” I sit down and cradle the brandy snifter in my hands. At least the newly infused warmth to my skin will help keep my drink lukewarm for a while.

Carmen sits down and leans towards the table. “Damian needs you, Alyssa. He’s wanted for murder.” It takes me a moment to process what she just said. I think I lost it after the ‘Damian needs you’ part. Carmen seems to notice I’ve spaced out and she snaps her fingers in front of my face. Pretty bold move on her part, yet effective. I jerk back and my lips thin, slightly baring the sharp canine teeth I have.

“If you’re quite finished with the daydream, I said my master is wanted for murder. He has Gareth hounding him.” Gareth is one of the Vampire Council’s enforcers, one of the Undead police officers that keeps us all in line. He’s also a head Executioner and he enjoys his job greatly. He was a Crusading knight when he was enlisted, and has gained the supreme perk of his job: longevity without the price of losing his humanity. He isn’t indestructible, yet he comes off as being such. I haven’t had the pleasure of his company before, seeing that I like to walk the straight and narrow as often as I can, but what tales I have heard of him, I’m almost afraid for Damian.

“And why would he need my help?” I ask, gathering my wits again. Damn him, even with twenty years apart, Damian still holds my heart in his hands. I loved him completely and was betrayed by him, yet I still care for him.

Carmen swallows and looks around as if she was afraid to be overheard. “Ever since you left, the master has been…different. There are times where I don’t think he’s even in his body, if you know what I mean. The lights are on, yet he’s not home.”

I sniff. “Maybe he should have thought about the consequences of leaving a relationship that lasted six centuries before cheating on me with that bottle dyed bimbo.”

“No, you don’t understand. Gwen may have come off as one of these new Vampire sympathizers at the beginning, but…” Carmen’s voice drops so low I have to strain my ears to hear her and her eyes get wide with fear. “She’s been controlling him, I just know it. It’s as if she can take him and use him like a puppet on a string. There’s been times where she’s been angry with the lesser ones in our clan and they’ve suddenly done something so out of character for them that it’s raised questions amongst us.”

That gets my interest. “Oh? Like what?”

“Jeffery walked out into the sun after Gwen heard him calling her a whore.” Jeffery was the newest addition to the clan, coming into the fold right before I left. I had been the one to find him and offer him a place where he would fit in. Out of them all, he had stupidly been the loudest in his loyalty to me. At the time, Damian had punished him as an example. Now it looks as if Jeffery hadn’t learned his lesson.

“What happened to him?”

“He kicked and screamed and nearly tore the doorframe apart trying to stay inside. He burst into flames, fighting the entire way like someone was forcing him to go out against his will.”

“My God. There aren’t that many humans capable of…” My words are quiet, fear leaking into my system. If Gwen was capable of controlling Damian, one of the most powerful vampire leaders in the country, then who knows what she may be trying to do.

“My thoughts exactly. That is why he sent me to you in one of his lucid moments. It seems that Gwen can only control vampires she’s in close proximity to, and for a limited amount of time. I haven’t seen her try to control more than one of us at a time either. Damian needs you to look into this murder case and stop Gareth from killing him before this is all sorted out.” Carmen stops talking and bites her lip, small pearls of blood rising to the surface before her tongue laps them away.

“Damian is innocent then.”

Her eyes flash angrily. “Of course he’s innocent! Have you been listening to what I have to say?”

“How do I know that you weren’t sent here by Gwen instead, being controlled by her to lure me back?” I arch my eyebrow and down the remains of my drink. The contents have gotten cold and slightly congealed, and it slides down my throat unpleasantly thick, just like this conversation.

“If I’d been sent here by Gwen, I wouldn’t have stopped to talk. I would have attacked. She hates you, Alyssa. She hates you with a ferocity that I haven’t witnessed in a long time. Early on, your supporters either were banished from our clan or mysteriously disappeared and were never heard from again. I’ve stayed clear of her and have only appeared at my master’s side when he summons me, which he knows not to do often in her presence. I’m his only open line of communication.”

“Yet why now, why me? She’s had twenty years to take over, why is she doing this now?” The clock nearby lets out a hollow chime at it nears eleven. Both of us jump in our seats.

Carmen eyes me and reaches out for my hand. “You are still our Mistress, whether you want to or not. You and my Master are still bound to the other and you still hold rank over us, over Gwen. Twenty years is but a blink of the eye to us, yet she is mortal. Her life is shortening and she fears that her plans will not bear fruit in her lifetime. She wishes to rule over Damian because ruling over him means ruling over this country.”

“The next logical step would be to take a firm grasp of the Council via Damian’s seat there.”

Carmen smiles. “I’m glad you’re up to speed with me finally.” She pulls out something from her purse and slides it across the table. “Now if you’ll be so kind as to RSVP.” I open the heavy envelope and find an invitation written on thick vellum paper. My fingers run over the lettering and I can feel the scratches the quill pen made in the paper. Damian’s fluid, neat handwriting stares back up at me and as I read the words, I can almost hear his voice at my ear.

(Find proper invitation lingo and last names for Damian only. Research ancient Greece)

“So, he’s finally hosting our annual shindig, hmm? This is bad.”

“You’re telling me. The Council will be there, and it’s the perfect opportunity for Gwen to strike.”

I look over the invitation. “I guess it would be bad grace for me not to go then,” I finally say. Carmen smiles and nods, pulling out a few bills to leave on the table.

“I’ll inform Damian and make arrangements for you,” she says, pulling her purse strap on her shoulder. Looking back at me, she gives me a faint smile. “No matter what, it has been good seeing you again, Alyssa.” With that, she’s gone.

I stay for a while at the booth, running my fingers over the fancy paper and thinking about everything Carmen had said to me. Supposedly I’m still Damian’s mate, his co-leader. Funny, how he never explained that much to me. I figured that once we said we were through, that was all there was to it. I wonder how I would have done things differently if I had known. Probably not, seeing that I’m a solitary creature by nature, Anne and Dean notwithstanding. Putting the invitation back in its envelope, I leave more money for Sam and exit the pub. Looking at the sky, I figure it is around two in the morning. Plenty of time for me to pack and book a flight. I walk back to the antique shop to gather my car and then drive home. I’m thinking about calling Dean when I see the television flickering through several of the floor to ceiling glass windows in my house. The door is unlocked and the living room light comes on as soon as I enter the house.

“Are you okay?” Dean asks, ruffling his hair out of nervous habit.

“As well as could be expected. Carmen sent me an invitation to the Council Ball. Turns out it’s Damian’s turn to host it.” I walk through my house to my bedroom, pulling out the small overnight bag that’s in my closet. I figure I’ll be in town for a day, two tops, and I pack accordingly. Dean follows me, flopping on my unmade bed and staring at me with a worried look on his face. I want to smooth it away, to reassure him that I’m fine. Truth is that I’m worried. If it is true that Damian is being controlled by Gwen, then there is the chance that she may be able to control me. It isn’t hidden that she hates me, that she may try to have me killed, especially since Gareth is in town at the same time. She’s either trying to frame Damian for murder and have him executed so that she can take his place, or she’s resorting to the hold she had over him to gain power in the Council. I tell Dean as much and he listens with the same worried look on his face. Zipping up the bag, I start locking up the house.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Dean asks, grabbing the car keys from the entranceway table.

I shake my head and give him a smile. “I’m a big girl, Dean. I’ve handled older and more dangerous people than Gwen before and come out on top.” Big lie there, but what Dean doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Dean looks like he believes me and nods, holding the door open for me in an odd show of formality.

“Then the least I can do is drive you to the airport and housesit.” The drive is silent, which is something I usually relish but tonight hated. It gave me too many chances to think everything over, to turn each word in my conversation with Carmen and examine them for hidden meanings. By the time I’m on a plane, tickets to which were already taken care of by Carmen, I had thought that maybe Damian had indeed killed whoever he had killed in order to get Gareth there and stop Gwen if I was unable to do so and that there would be a heartfelt apology from Damian himself for dumping me all those years ago.


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