The characters in the following story are owned by Spelling Television Inc. [A subsidiary of Spelling Entertainment Group Inc.]. Vampire: The Masquerade is owned by Mark Rein*Hagan/White Wolf Publishing. My use is in no way a challenge to their copyrights. Jeffrey and Opal appear courtesy of Kelly Schweighauser as does the character concept of a Blood Doll, and mention of Emily. This piece is not for profit and is entirely fictional. The story and events are mine.
Note: This story will make *much* greater sense if Kelly Schweighauser’s story entitled "INNOCENT BLOOD" has already been read. Brief reference is also made to her story, "SINS OF THE FATHER," AND "SIXTH TRADITION." You can find this at her Kindred: the Embraced fan-fiction website at: http://hometown.aol.com/KindredToo/index.html
Please send any comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
-- PART ONE --
Julian was abruptly shaken awake by his trusted body servant and brood-brother, Jeffrey. Had it been anyone else he would have instinctively attacked, as it was he was hard pressed to restrain himself. Blinking his eyes and rubbing his forehead with one hand, he tried to quell the feelings of alarm that rose within. Jeffrey would only have awoken him during the middle of the afternoon if something were terribly amiss.
"I’m sorry, Julian, but there’s a phone call for you."
A phone call? Jeffrey had roused him for a phone call? It must be terribly urgent. Julian automatically began moving about his bedroom to dress himself.
"It’s one of your descendants," Jeffrey continued. "Miss Jocelyn Dey. She has phoned collect and insists upon speaking with you now.
Julian stopped mid-stride. "Jocelyn? Are you sure?" Then he shook his head and resumed buttoning his shirt. Of course Jeffrey was sure. That was why he had awakened him. "Did she say why she was calling?"
"No." Jeffrey presented him with a dark silk tie. "Only that she wouldn’t have called you - except as a last resort."
Julian winced at that. He reached for the tie and said, "Thank you, Jeffrey. Please transfer her call to the bedroom."
Jeffrey nodded in reply and left.
The Prince sighed. Since about the time his great-great-granddaughter had reached her mid-teens she had made her distaste for her 'Uncle' Julian painfully obvious. To this day Julian couldn’t quite figure out what he had said or done to offend his descendant so thoroughly. And that bothered him, because this particular grandchild of his favorite grandson, Augustus Octavio, had always occupied a special place in Julian’s heart.
It had been a source of minor pain for Julian these past few years that she had completely cut him out of her life - even going so far as to return his customary birthday presents she had enjoyed receiving as a child. When Jocelyn had learned that Julian would be conducting her grandfather Augustus’ funeral, she had stubbornly refused to fly in from Ohio with the rest of her family.
But in an odd sort of way, what hurt Julian most was when she had threatened not to attend her high school graduation four years ago, once she’d gotten wind that Julian might come just to hear her deliver the valedictorian speech. He’d been so proud when her parents had phoned with the news and he made arrangements with Archon so he could fly into Ohio and back on the same day. Jocelyn was something of a child prodigy, having graduated from an elite private school when she was twelve years old. Since her family was of humble means, Julian had sponsored her entire education. He would have also paid for her undergraduate years at the University of Chicago and her M.A. from Cornell but she had earned generous scholarships to both places on her own.
The bedroom phone rang, breaking Julian free of any more thought. He strode over to his ornate, multi-compartmentd desk and sat down with a sigh. Whatever predicament his descendant had gotten herself into that necessitated her call, he certainly hoped it wasn’t the same sort of trouble that had caused his other great-great-granddaughter to contact him upon her ignominious arrival to San Francisco. Sasha had been jailed for "clubbing" a policeman at a roadhouse just outside city limits. But then… while the two cousins were nearly the same age, that was about all they had in common: Jocelyn was as straight as Sasha was wild.
Taking a deep breath (and feeling rather foolish for being nervous) he picked up the phone on the third ring. Before he had time to say anything a grudging, young voice sounded. "That took long enough. Did I catch you napping?"
Julian smiled. "Just busy, that’s all. How can I help you, Jocelyn? I admit, your call comes rather unexpectedly." There was silence on the other end, so Julian hastened to add, "however I’m glad to hear from you. It’s been far too long. I’d like to remedy that if I can."
There came a reluctant sigh. "That may be sooner than you think. Are you doing anything right now?"
This caught Julian by surprise. Instead of replying with the truth - that he had originally planned on sleeping till sunset, then taking Sasha Hunting at The Haven - he stated neutrally, "I suppose that depends. Why do you ask?"
Another sigh. "I did something really dumb, so please no lectures about common sense."
Despite himself, for one brief instant, visions of jail cells danced through Julian’s head.
"I left my wallet on the plane and I don’t have any money on hand. No cash or checks or credit card or anything. I can’t call home because my parents are still celebrating their second honeymoon on that Caribbean cruise you sent them on, and my brother's away for the weekend. But the planner Mom gave me for grad school was in my backpack. I was looking through it and saw that she'd written your name and number in it for an emergency."
But Jocelyn's words barely registered with Julian beyond the first few. "Plane? I’m sorry, but did I hear you say plane?" That would account for the busy background noise.
"Yeah, I’m at San Francisco International right now. I was supposed to catch a bus to Berkley to check into the grad dorm but I don’t have anything to pay with. So I what I need is a ride to my dorm before four p.m. when check-in closes for the day." Her voice turned bitter. "Otherwise I never would have bothered you."
Julian blinked momentarily, trying to digest the news. "Berkley? But I thought… that is, your mother wrote that you’d decided to attend Harvard for your doctorate - that you had your heart set on their program and on living in Boston?"
His descendant hedged. "Well… something came up this summer during my internship there at the Museum of Fine Arts. I had to change my plans."
"I see." Julian again tried to adjust to this unexpected information. It was just a few months ago that Jocelyn’s mother had informed him that her daughter was so excited to be accepted at Harvard that she had slept with her acceptance letter under her pillow for nearly a week. Despite Jocelyn’s intellectual maturity, in some ways she was still just a youth. He glanced at his watch. "Jocelyn, I can send a car for you right away but I’m afraid with traffic that you’ll never make it to your dormitory by four. Do you have any alternate plans - a place to stay the night?" There was a pause. "Jocelyn?"
"No," came a weary voice. "And since it’s Friday, I’d have to wait all the way till Monday before I could get in. They aren’t doing any housing registration over the weekend." There was a sigh. Then, "Uncle Julian, I don’t know what to do. I’m kind of in a bind here. Do you think maybe I could borrow some money for a hotel?"
"Hotel?" Julian was shocked. "Of course not, you’re more than welcome here. I’ll have a guest room made up for you."
"No!" Her reply was immediate. "I mean, no thank you. That's all right, I'll just stick around the airport till Monday."
Julian reminded himself to have patience. He’d become hopeful when this serendipitous quirk of fate had placed Jocelyn in his life once more. He hoped take advantage of it to breech the emotional distance she held between them. The more Julian aged, and the more generations of his own family he saw both born and die before him, the greater desire he experienced to hold onto those special ones that were dear to his heart.
And Jocelyn was such an one. He had felt that way from the first moment he’d held her on his lap - she’d been four years old then. Her family had stopped by the mansion for a visit while on their first summer trip to California, which he later made sure became an annual affair for the Deys. While Alexandra had vanished with Jocelyn’s parents and baby brother to show them her newly planted white roses outside, Jocelyn had climbed onto Julian’s lap with a novel she’d taken from her mother’s handbag. She’d asked him if he wanted to hear a funny story. Curious, Julian encouraged her, wondering what childish fancy she would concoct for him. To his astonishment she had opened to an earmarked page and began reading from chapter thirteen of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."
"I’m sorry, Uncle Julian, I just think it would be too… weird for me to stay at your place."
Julian gave himself a mental shake. It was the middle of the day and he was having a little difficulty keeping his mind focused. This would never do. He cleared his throat. "Jocelyn, I’m not quite sure I understand this reasoning of yours to avoid me. What have I done to upset you so?"
There was a long silence. "I - it’s just… oh, nothing. I guess I could stay at your place since it’s only for the weekend. Um, how soon do you think can you have someone pick me up? I’m starving. The flight took forever and all they served were skimpy peanut bags. I don’t even have enough change in my pocket for a candy-bar."
Julian smiled. "I’ll have something hot waiting for you when you get here. How does that sound?"
Julian was rewarded with a sigh of relief. "That sounds great. Thanks, Uncle Julian."
At nine that night Julian entered the Haven feeling somewhat let down. He paused, glancing at the stage where a live band was playing. Ah, yes, Lillie had booked some new local sensation. Well, Sasha seemed to have taken to them readily enough. Since Cash was on duty, silently shadowing Julian, she’d grabbed a nearby Warm and hit the dance floor almost as soon as she’d entered with Julian - much to the Cash’s consternation. Her fast flight recalled Julian of another great-great-granddaughter who’d hastily rushed by him earlier that day.
Jocelyn had arrived at the mansion, claiming jet lag and travel fatigue. She had taken the plate Jeffrey had offered her, mumbling her thanks, and had headed straight for the guest room. She’d not reappeared all evening, although Julian had knocked on her door at six-thirty to ask if she’d like to come out for supper, but she had staunchly refused. Although he’d been more than a little disappointed, Julian had respected her privacy and instructed the staff to furnish his niece with whatever she might request.
Upon waking, Sasha had been understandably curious about her cousin’s sudden appearance. The two only knew each other from brief, annual intervals during the summer when Jocelyn’s family made the trip out from Ohio to Manzanita for the traditional family reunion. Twice, Julian had caught Sasha trying to sneak into the guest room and had chided her thoroughly for it. The third time he’d given up and instead pointed out that if Jocelyn chose not to make an appearance, then there would be no need for Sasha to join them in the dining hall for supper. Sasha had made a face and promptly disappeared, but Julian noticed that she had spent the next hour glaring daggers at any household member who happened to make noise in vicinity of the guest room.
"Good evening, Julian," a familiar voice spoke into his ear as an elegant, yet cool hand engaged his arm. "I hear you’re entertaining family now."
Julian gave a slight grimace as Lillie guided him effortlessly to his customary booth at the rear of The Haven. "News travels fast," he responded ruefully as he slid into the booth after her.
Lillie gave a light laugh. "And never faster than among Kindred." She laughed again. "I suppose that means I’ll continue to stay here for the next few days. It’s less complicated that way."
For whom? Julian thought wryly. He knew that Lillie now preferred to stay at her apartment in The Haven, since Frank adamantly refused to call upon her at the Mansion. Despite everything, the human detective had never completely shaken all his moral misgivings of Julian. The Ventrue Prince sighed. Frank obviously wasn’t the only human who had held misgivings for him.
Lillie looked at him with sympathetic perception. "She still doesn’t like you, does she? Ever find out why?"
Julian closed his eyes briefly and shook his head.
"Well, perhaps she resents your wealth - all the money that you sent for her private schooling, or the airline tickets so her family could visit California each year… and speaking of which, haven’t you just sent her parents on a tropical cruise?"
Julian’s eyes narrowed. "How did you know about the cruise?"
"Oh, ah, I’m sure you mentioned it some time or another. But that’s not important," Lillie quickly recovered. "Did it ever occur to you that your niece might feel like a charity recipient? No offense, Julian, but I’ve experienced a touch of that Blue Blood high-handedness myself when asking you to sponsor a gallery opening - particularly when you don’t seem overly fond of the artist’s work," she added with a grin.
Julian immediately started to object, especially over that Blue Blood remark, but then paused. To be honest, it was the same explanation he had come up with himself. Jocelyn’s hostility toward him had manifested shortly after she’d entered her teenage years - a particularly rebellious age, and more so than ever in the present era. And she had been so determined to earn those scholarships in order to finance college by herself.
"Of course there’s always another possibility," said Lillie seriously.
Julian looked at her expectantly.
"She’s certainly intelligent enough… Perhaps she’s discovered the connections surrounding you and organized crime in San Francisco."
Julian groaned inwardly. Hadn’t he just gone through this with another descendant of his? His great-great-grandson, Donald Tate had also made that connection, and had come to him with designs of becoming Julian’s "main suppler" of drugs to the college scene.
Lillie eyed him critically. "Look on the bright side, Julian. It’s much better that she disdains you for your wealth or even for being a ‘mob boss.’"
"And how’s that?"
"It discourages her from becoming to close to you. And you like to keep your human family as far from Kindred society as possible, n’est-ce pas?"
Julian looked away.
Some hours later Sasha slammed down the receiver with glee, then slide the phone back across the bar to the waiting Toreador bartender. She’d been calling Jeffrey every hour on the hour since they’d arrived at the Haven. If he'd grown weary of her continual inquiry, the polite Ventrue valet had yet to show forth any annoyance. But this time she’d got the answer she’d been waiting for. As she turned about to head away from the bar someone caught at her arm. "Sa-sha Baby - just the Brujah I’ve been looking for. I’ve got a job for you--"
"Sorry, Cameron," Sasha casually brushed off her olive-suited Primogen. "Can’t. I’ve got better things to do than to knock off some gas station or burn down some stupid warehouse tonight."
"And that would be?" Cameron blocked her path toward Julian’s booth.
Sasha let out an exasperated sigh. "Look, my cousin from Ohio's here, so don’t be expecting a whole lot of Brujah action from me. I’m booked for the weekend."
Cameron shook his head in exaggerated dismay. "Sasha, still playing with your little mortal friends after all this time. Don’t you know –-"
"Oh, gimme a break!" Sasha had had enough. She knew Cameron would chew her out royally for brushing him off like this in public but she was too excited to care. She flounced over to Julian’s booth and slid in next to him. She immediately began tugging on his arm. "C’mon, Uncle Julian, let’s go!"
"Go where, Sasha?" Julian stalwartly refused to budge.
"Home! I just got off the phone with Jeffrey - Jocelyn’s up! He said she’s eating breakfast in the dinning hall. So let’s go already."
"Breakfast?" Julian looked startled. "It’s 3:45 in the morning!"
"Not back East it isn’t. She’s still on East Coast time, remember? That's, what, three hours ahead?"
Julian nodded. "Indeed. All right, my business here is concluded anyway." He paused and favored Sasha with a smile. "Why are you so eager to greet your cousin? Didn’t you just see her at the picnic reunion last summer, before your grandfather’s death?"
Sasha shook her head impatiently. "Hardly. I’ve sorta been skipping that whole family thing for the past few years."
Julian smiled again. That certainly sounded like Sasha. "Then why the rush to see her now?"
Sasha bit her bottom lip. "I dunno. Things have been happening so fast since I became Kindred. It’s like I’m starting to crave the normal stuff - you know, family and all." Her voice became very quiet. "It’s like sometimes I’m afraid I’ll lose what it’s like to be human forever."
Julian tenderly put his arm around her and held her close. Sasha knew that guilt ever scorched him for having introduced her in his household, and thus into the Kindred world. Even though he had had no control over her forcible Embrace into the Brujah clan, Sasha knew her uncle still felt responsible nonetheless.
What's more, sometimes she still felt that way too...
At the Luna mansion, Jocelyn was beginning her second bowl of raisin bran cereal. Jeffrey was already setting a place for her in the dinning hall, when she had descended the ornate marble staircase down to the main floor. She had had a queasy moment about the thought of him actually *handling* her food. In fact, she’d had to clamp down tight on her imagination just to eat the snack he’d given her when she’d first arrive. So this time she had made sure to insist upon plain cereal, brought to her in the box, so she could pour it herself. Jeffrey had seemed a little disappointed that she hadn't wanted him to make anything for her, but had complied graciously. Still, it wasn’t until he had left and the room was no longer infested by the smell of putrefying corpse that she could begin to eat.
Although in her late teens, Jocelyn still appeared very much the schoolgirl with her straight brown hair cut in a short, bouncy bob, tucked carefully behind each ear. Her brown eyes peered out from under long bangs as she read the nutrition label on the back of the cereal box. Although she never suspected it, her studious young face had a way of capturing both the solemnity and sweet appeal that one would expect of a child prodigy.
Midway between spoonfuls Jocelyn heard the front door open and felt a tingly sensation deep inside of her. She noticed the air become increasingly rank as multiple footsteps approached. But then, given the occupants of the Luna household, what else could one expect?
Jocelyn looked up, startled to see her cousin Sasha standing at the opposite end of the long dinning table with a huge grin plastered on her face. "Jocelyn!" Sasha exclaimed. "Jeffrey told me you were up! I’ve been waiting, like, forever."
Jocelyn’s eyes widened in shock and she dropped her spoon. Sasha looked ghastly - a mere moribund shell that only dimly resembled the vibrant, bundle of energy Jocelyn had remembered. It couldn’t be - not Sasha too!
Julian and a lean man with spiky hair entered the dinning hall - some bodyguard of his no doubt. Her uncle smiled at her. "You’re up early for Pacific Time. How’s breakfast? If there’s anything you’d like, anything at all, just let Jeffrey know. He's an excellent chef."
But Jocelyn was still stunned, all her attention focused on Sasha. "You… you’ve completely changed," she finally stuttered.
Sasha laughed brightly and twirled on her high heel boots, clearing showing off her skin-tight black leather pantsuit. "Yeah, it’s been a while, huh, Cuz’? Like the Harley look?"
Jocelyn swallowed several times, but her throat still felt dry. This can’t be happening, she thought. Then she turned to stare at her dead uncle. Him! This was all his influence! How *could* he? Had he no respect for Life? For how Nature had intended this world to be? But all Julian could give her was a confused look. So Jocelyn transferred her glare to Sasha. And her! How could her cousin flaunt herself like that? Didn’t she realize what she had chosen to become? An abomination - a cancer that Fed off the Living!
Jocelyn suddenly realized that Sasha had grown acutely comfortable under the impact of her stare. Jocelyn abruptly lowered her gaze, reminding herself that it would never do to give herself away. Benevolent uncle or not, Julian and the others would be sure to kill her if they ever found out what she really was...
Jocelyn grimaced inwardly. She knew she had to set her inherent indignation aside and resist the summoning or she’d never make it till Monday. But easier said than done, when you were living in a mausoleum chock full of nauseatingly animated corpses. She wanted nothing better than to purge the entire compound free of its unnatural contamination. Instead she forced herself to smile and to project an aura of well-being.
Disturbed, her uncle’s wiry guard had gone over to Sasha’s side, to put his arms around her waist reassuringly. "I like your look, Sasha," he said and then turned toward Jocelyn. "Nice to meet you. I’m Cash. Sasha was really excited about seeing you again." A hint of accusation tainted his words.
Jocelyn forced a wider smile. She broadcast, as well as spoke, her apologies. "Sorry, Sasha. It’s just… I guess you look so different without all your frilly pink ribbons and lace."
"Pink ribbons and lace?" Cash turned to stare incredulously at Sasha, who twisted away from him in obvious embarrassment.
Julian cleared his throat. "I think it’s been a long night for you, Sasha. Why don’t you turn in now, unless you’d like to stay and join your cousin and me for some breakfast?"
Sasha straightened up in a hurry and faked a huge yawn. "Uh, yeah, that was, like, some party scene tonight. I’ll, uh, I'll probably sleep in all day."
Jocelyn smiled wryly. "I bet you will. Anyway, we'll have lots of time this weekend." Hardly, she added to herself. She planned on using last minute school shopping as an excuse to keep as far away from this luxurious morgue as possible.
Sasha nodded and grinned. "Yeah, it’ll be great. I’ll take you to The Haven. It’s this great club that Lillie runs. Uh, Lillie is… uh, never mind about Lillie. Anyway, you’ll love The Haven. They’ve got this excellent band now and there’s some great dancing.
Jocelyn made a face. "I don’t know Sasha. I’m not much into the whole club thing." She wondered why her uncle seemed relieved to hear that.
"Aw, c'mon, Joss-- you’ll love it. I know you will. From what I hear, you study way too much anyway. You’re like, what, going to college for the third time now? Huh, you’d think once was enough!"
"It’s called *graduate* school, Sasha. It’s what people do to get a Ph.D."
"Well, la de da, Miss Smarty. See, The Haven is exactly what you need. Too many degrees makes your brain pop out."
"As if you would really know…"
"So just because I dropped out of high school, hold that against me, will you! *Cash* here never even made it to the ninth grade."
Cash backed away. "Oh no you don't, Sasha. Leave me outta this one."
Sasha made a face at him, then turned back to Jocelyn. "Well, of course, if you’re too *geek* to go…" she drawled.
"You're lucky I didn't just hear that!" shot back Jocelyn, rising to the bait. "Just name the time - I'll be all over The Haven."
Sasha grinned. "So, great! We’ll go tonight - it’ll be a blast, you’ll see."
Julian immediately interjected, "Sasha, if your cousin doesn’t feel comfortable going, there’s no need to push."
Sasha merely tossed her head. "So what are you? Her father? And what do you care anyway? You probably have a date with Caitlin or something." In response to Julian's cross look, Sasha became even more stubborn. "Look, I can take care of Jocelyn just fine. I wouldn't let any Kin-- I mean, I wouldn't let any kind of trouble near her."
Now that was the last straw for Jocelyn. "Pardon me, Sasha," she proclaimed testily, "but I believe we’ve both reached the age of minimal age of legal adulthood. I most certainly do *not* need you to take care of me... So, how about this Haven club?"
Sasha beamed triumphantly. "See, Uncle Julian? She wants to go! And since Jocelyn's the guest, she should have her way." Before Julian could reply, Sasha turned back to her cousin and gushed, "Oh, and don’t worry about your clothes, Joss-- if you don’t have anything to wear, you can borrow something of mine."
"Something tells me it wouldn't fit very well," Jocelyn replied, eyeing Sasha’s rather ample bosom. She then crossed her arms defensively over her own considerably less endowed chest.
"Never mind, I’ve got a skirt that'll look super on you," Sasha reassured hastily, as she side-kicked Cash sharply for smirking. "So later, Jocelyn," she called as she began her exit, avoiding Cash. Throwing him a last look of contempt, she then smiled sweetly at Julian and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Good Rest, uh, have a good rest of the day, Uncle Julian," she amended lamely and hurried out.
Julian turned to his body guard. "Thank you, Cash. I won’t be requiring your services anymore. I’ll be staying inside for the day."
Cash nodded and silently stalked out of the dinning hall. Jocelyn suddenly realized she was alone with Julian. At that point her raisin bran cereal reached new realms of fascination.
Julian sighed mentally. As soon as Sasha and Cash had left the dinning room, his niece had begun spooning cereal into her mouth almost non-stop. Julian wished he could gather her in his arms and tell her how proud he was of her, of how smart she was, of how she had blossomed into such a beautiful young woman… and of how precious she was to him.
Instead he put on a casual smile and walked over to the other end of the table where Jeffrey had seated her at the head. He pulled out a chair kitty-corner to her and asked, "Do you mind if I join you for breakfast?"
Jocelyn practically choked. She spit out a mouthful of raisin bran and eyed him incredulously. "You mean you actually *eat* breakfast?"
That gave him pause. "Well, why shouldn’t I? Although, I admit that at five a.m. it’s a bit earlier than usual…"
Jocelyn nodded quickly and wiped her mouth with a napkin. "Right. It's just… it's that I didn't think that, um… well, that multi-millionaire business men had the time to eat breakfast." She hurried on in a rush, "you know, what with all that time you must spend, uh, negotiating… well, business contracts, I guess." She looked away as if embarrassed by what she was saying.
So, perhaps Lillie had been correct. Jocelyn was made uncomfortable by his wealth. And staying his the Mansion, immersed in opulence, was no doubt unsettling for her.
"Well, this millionaire business man most assuredly *does* eat his breakfast every day. Did you save any of that cereal for me?" He reached over and shook the box. Jocelyn still looked somewhat surprised. He then checked the silver pitcher of milk. "Ah, wonderful. I think I’ll have a bowl as well. Jeffrey!" Julian called.
Jeffrey instantly appeared. "Yes, Julian?"
"I’ll be having breakfast early today. Nothing fancy this morning. I think I’ll join my niece in sharing her box of cereal. Oh, and a glass of tomato juice as always."
"Very well, Julian." Jeffrey gave a short bow and left through the door adjoining the kitchen.
Julian looked Jocelyn to once more attempt conversation. Jocelyn once more looked to her raisin bran. Julian cleared his throat. "I spoke with the airline earlier. Apparently a flight attendant found your wallet. You'll have it back by noon."
Jocelyn mumbled a thank you, her eyes still on the contents in her china bowl.
"I understand you graduated your Masters at Cornell with honors. That’s a tremendous achievement for someone your age."
Jocelyn shrugged. "That's everyone always says." She continued to eat her cereal, steadily working her way to the bottom of the bowl.
Julian frowned. It was obvious that she wasn’t going to make this easy for him. "Your mother me wrote that you a golden opportunity to study at Harvard, with a graduate assistantship and all the trimmings. What changed your mind?"
For a moment Jocelyn looked haunted, then she shrugged again. "Well, California has much better weather."
"That seems a rather trivial factor to base your entire Doctorate education on."
"Okay, then I guess I decided I liked the Art History program at Berkley better."
Jocelyn squirmed uncomfortably. "Are we playing twenty questions, Uncle Julian?"
"No, of course not. I’m just interested in getting to know you better. That’s all." Julian reached out to pat his niece’s hand reassuringly.
She went rigid until Julian drew back; then she spoke stiffly, "If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to my room. I have a book on Monet I'd like to finish reading." Gathering up her bowl and spoon, she hurried into the kitchen.
A moment later Jeffrey appeared. "Shall I cancel that order for cereal and tomato juice?" he inquired sardonically.
"Please," Julian replied with a slight sigh.
-- PART TWO --
As Sasha lit happily from the limousine right on the heels of Cash, Jocelyn held back uncertainly. I don’t know why I decided to come, she thought, adjusting the tight brown leather mini-skirt that her cousin had lent her for the evening - try as she might, she couldn’t get it past her mid-thigh. And that had been Sasha’s longest skirt.
Yes, I do know why I’m here, Jocelyn amended. Better to spend one evening with a dead relative than in a mansion full of them. The car ride had been bad enough with just Sasha, Julian, Cash and some female driver named Lorraina, who was also (of course) among the repugnant, rotting ranks of the Dead. Jocelyn had had to keep the window wide open in order not to reflexively gag on the copious stench of decay. She wondered how on earth, as a child, she had ever stomached visiting Uncle Julian during all the summer trips her family took to California for their extended family reunions.
But then, that had been before her special summons. Once that had happened, instead of making the traditional excursion to San Francisco with her parents and brother, Jocelyn had made it a point to stay in the sleepy old town of Manzanita, where she let herself be fussed over by distant relatives. Invariably she'd end up at the small church cemetery, where she would stare at the empty grave of Julian Luna, her great-great-grandfather.
Jocelyn suddenly realized that the longer she stayed at his compound, the harder it was going to be to restrain the urgency to purge the whole lot of them on the spot. And with so many in such close quarters it would be such a simple thing…
"Hurry up!" Sasha commanded impatiently, interrupting her thoughts. The Brujah obviously couldn’t wait to get inside.
Julian spoke quickly, "Jocelyn, if you don’t want to go in, that’s fine. I’m sure Sasha will survive without us. We can go to a restaurant for a late supper instead, if you like."
Jocelyn shook her head. "No. Sasha has her heart set on this." She ducked her head and stepped out next to Sasha, who was practically bouncing next to Cash.
"It’ll be fun!" Sasha exclaimed. "You’ll see. I even told Cash he’d better take you on the dance floor a couple of times."
"Did he agree?" asked Jocelyn in alarm.
Before Sasha could reply, Julian stepped out. He then reluctantly ushered his two nieces through the outside double doors of The Haven, which Cash had opened for them, having already entered to scan ahead.
As Jocelyn descended the wide, darkened curving staircase, every nerve in her body began to fire at an frightening rate - more fiercely than she had ever experienced before. The effect was savage, dizzying, stupefying even. As they entered the nightclub, she was simultaneously pummeled with loud music, chatter, and that unmistakably familiar, sickening fetor. One swift look around the room revealed that sinuously intermingled among the Living, were scores of the depraved Dead everywhere, walking, talking, and dancing. Unprepared for the shock, Jocelyn was immediately overwhelmed; it was simply more than she could handle. Jocelyn could no longer refuse her fervid outrage. She wanted to destroy every ungodly beast that she saw. She *must* not fail to destroy them - to cleanse this unsuspecting city from its blood-sucking scourge, to preserve the innocent.
Jocelyn was scarcely aware of herself. Responding purely on instinct now, she leaned over and brushed against Sasha. It all came so easily to Jocelyn. She straightaway picked up on Sasha’s insecurities: her strong need to feel important, respected… to not always feel like the new Kindred on the block…
Taking in all the action, Sasha suddenly became aware of just how vulnerable and innocent her cousin seemed - of how much she needed to be looked after. After all, she was just a mortal kid among all these Kindred. "There," Sasha pointed. "Let’s get a table. I can get us some drinks if you want."
"Perhaps Jocelyn should stay by me," Julian objected, concern clearly evident. He moved closer to Jocelyn, putting a hand on her shoulder.
But Jocelyn just gave a light laugh, turned around, and stood on her toes to kiss her Uncle's cheek. Her short hair bounced merrily and shone even in the dim lighting of The Haven. "I’m fine, Uncle Julian, fine. Sasha will look after me. Besides, we need some girl-time." She flashed him a Charming smile. Naturally, it worked and Julian reluctantly relinquished her to Sasha's care.
Sasha wasn't going to waste any time. She grabbed her Jocelyn by the arm, "C’mon, there’s an empty table over there." She dragged Jocelyn across the large floor, suddenly pressed and anxious to keep her cousin’s attention all to herself.
"So who’s playing?" asked Jocelyn, stopping in the middle of the dance floor to stare at the stage. A saxophonist was blowing his heart out, beads of sweat glistening on his forehead.
Sasha pulled her onward, "A new local band - they’re really great. We can dance later if you like."
"Sounds like fun," Jocelyn smiled encouragingly as the two girls seated themselves. "You were so right about The Haven, Sasha, I’m glad you talked me into coming."
Sasha fairly blushed under her cousin's admiring gaze. "Aw, it’s nothing. Just a place where I hang." Remembering her manners, she added, "you thirsty or anything?"
"I think so. Uh, should we go over to the bar? It looks awfully packed." Jocelyn eyed the end of the room somewhat diffidently.
"Naw, I can take care of it. How ‘bout I get us both some cokes or lemonade?"
"Lemonade, please. And thanks, Sasha," Jocelyn said appreciatively. "That's really nice of you."
This time Sasha blushed. She knew she wasn't much older, but she couldn’t help feeling like the big sister. She liked that. She was glad Jocelyn had come to California, whatever the reason. Sasha hurried over to the crowded bar, not wanting to leave her cousin alone too long.
So this is the cousin, thought Cameron, eyeing Jocelyn like a shark. Just what I *don’t* need - another Luna.
He glanced surreptitiously about The Haven. Sasha was in line at the bar and Julian’s attention was occupied with some papers Lillie was showing him. Cameron grinned and approached Sasha's unattended cousin.
"Haven’t seen you here before," he remarked casually.
The mortal looked up at him from under long bangs, momentarily startled. Then she gave a slow smile. Cameron was surprised. From across the room Sasha's cousin had given him the impression of a misplaced kid, but he realized now just how adult she really was. The way she looked at him, she seemed to exude a sensual, almost sultry allure. In spite of himself, Cameron was intrigued.
"Hello," she said coyly. "I'm afraid I’ve been abandoned by my friend."
"Now there’s a pity," Cameron answered agreeably, seating himself next to her. "What kind of fool would do that?" he asked.
Jocelyn just shook her head and shrugged, smiling invitingly at him and gazing softly into his eyes. The effect was magical. Cameron felt as though he had all the time in the world to wade in those honey-brown eyes of hers. He finally thought to introduce himself, but found he had to clear his throat to get the words out. "I'm Cameron."
"Nice to meet you, Cameron. I’m Jocelyn Dey."
"So what brings you to The Haven tonight, Jocelyn Dey?"
"Well," Jocelyn began playfully, "maybe it’s the music." Then she laughed seductively. "Or maybe it's just that I didn’t want to be alone tonight."
Cameron found himself enchanted with her. As this delectable creature before him began to wind a short lock of hair around her finger, his eyes were inexorably drawn to the fine, smooth skin of her slender neck. The Thirst came so powerfully that he ached with sudden fervor.
Cameron knew he would be taking a terrible chance if he Drained her - this was Julian's mortal niece, and the Ventrue Prince already had it in for Clan Brujah as it was. But she was so perfect, so desirable, much too tempting to let simply slip away! His Thirst flamed like a wildfire and Cameron had to work from keep the glow out of his eyes. Just one little sip…
He cleared his throat and searched for a passable excuse to get the young human alone. "If you like, I can take you backstage to meet the band."
"Sounds fun. When can we?"
Talk about too good to be true. "Now." The Brujah stood and held his hand out to her. She smiled, accepted it, and stood. Cameron found even her touch was intoxicating, as the warmth of her blood sang out to him.
"I see you’ve already met my niece," a cold, flat, and very hard voice intruded.
Cameron groaned inwardly. It was Julian. Of course it would be Julian - of all the rotten timing… For an instant Cameron actually considered staring down the Prince, before realizing the folly of vying with Julian for Dominance. He relinquished the vessel’s hand reluctantly.
"I’m sorry, Jocelyn," the Prince continued, "but I don’t think coming here was a good idea. We should leave now."
"She just got here," Cameron protested and then wondered why he had bothered, as the full fury of Julian’s glare fell upon him. He quickly looked away. "I have some business to take care of--"
"Then do so. *Now*."
Cameron readily faded into the background.
Jocelyn appeared shaken by her encounter with the Brujah Primogen. She only stopped trembling when Julian placed a sheltering arm around her. "Thanks, Uncle Julian," she said gratefully. "That man was making me nervous, I didn’t know what to do. He gave me the creeps."
Julian was plainly cross. "I’ll see to it that he never bothers you again." Then he frowned. "Where’s Sasha? I thought she was with you."
Jocelyn’s eyes widened. "I don’t know. She just sort of took off on me."
Julian’s scowl deepened. "I’ll speak to her about that later." Julian made sure to soften his expression as he looked upon Jocelyn. He realized how precious and tender his mortal descendant was. He vowed he would do everything he could to protect her. No Kindred would ever dare touch her. She was so young, so guileless. Julian knew it had been a mistake to take her to The Haven. Jocelyn was a lost innocent among a room full of Predators. "Perhaps it would be better if we go out to a restaurant as I suggested earlier?" he said.
Jocelyn nodded. "I think I’d like that. Besides, I've been thinking that maybe it would be nice to spend some time alone with you." She smiled at him.
Julian enjoyed feeling his heart beat as he kept his arm about his niece, guiding her toward the exit. He’d waited so long to hear those words…
As Jocelyn and Julian emerged outside the club, a gust of wind swept through the street. Jocelyn breathed in deeply, glad her head was no longer so filled with the relentless stench of vampire, and relieved as the inner vibrations subsided. She’d never been trapped in the same room with that many of the Dead before. It had been horrendous overload for her, one continuous assault on her senses. She watched her Uncle signal for the limousine to pull up and knew, without having to look, that Cash was close behind them.
Once Julian had caught the driver’s attention, he turned to Jocelyn. "In the mood for anything special?"
Jocelyn bit her lip uncertainly. "I don’t know. You decide for us." She gave him a Charming smile.
"As I recall you’ve always been fond of Italian."
"Perfect." Jocelyn sidled up to her uncle and took his hand in her. Julian smiled reassuringly.
As the limousine approached, another gust of wind swept over them. Once more Jocelyn inhaled deeply, this time feeling her head clear entirely. She gave a sudden cry and dropped Julian’s hand in shock.
Julian furrowed his brow. "Is something the matter?" he asked.
Jocelyn took three rapid steps back from him. She shut her eyes tightly, then placed both hands on either side of her head, rubbing vigorously at her temples. She *had* to get control of herself. This was ridiculous! She groaned. Had she really just Charmed Sasha and Julian and that oddball Brujah mere moments ago - all without even thinking? Good grief. This was precisely how she'd ruined her perfect grade point average when tackling the insignificant vampire population at Ithica last fall. This simply wouldn't do. She needed to regain some composure - fast. Jocelyn continued to rub her temples, but a little more slowly now. She knew she could reassert her self-control if she could just manage to disregard the existence of the Dead… so with effort she quelled that zealous need to destroy those rotting parasites, which passed for human while contaminating true Life. Taking a deep breath, she then opened her eyes.
"Jocelyn?" Julian asked with concern. He touched her elbow.
After Jocelyn's experience in the Haven, his soft violation was almost more than she could bear. His fetid flesh against hers… She gave a little shriek and held up an arm as if to ward him off. "I’m okay," she said wearily. "I… I think I’m getting a migraine. I’d better go back and lie down."
"Of course," Julian agreed. "I didn't know you were prone to migraines. When did this start? I can arrange for you to see a specialist."
"No… no don’t," Jocelyn said quickly. "It doesn't happen all that often. I think I’m just under a little stress, what with jetlag and starting school again. That’s all." She climbed into the limousine as Cash held the door open for her.
Wondering, Julian entered in after her.
-- PART THREE --
ENTER MARCUS BENNETT
Julian returned to The Haven after having had accompanied his niece back home. He had looked for Sasha to have a stern talk with her about leaving Jocelyn unattended when Kindred were present, but apparently she had left. He had to satisfy himself with warning Cameron off. To his surprise, the Brujah Primogen had seemed more confused by his encounter with Jocelyn than anything else.
It was an hour after closing that a strange Kindred made his way into The Haven. When accosted by Summer, he shrugged and merely explained he was there to present himself to the Prince. Summer pointed Julian out in his customary booth seated next to Lillie. They were still going over some paperwork together. Lillie was trying her best to convince Julian to sponsor a financially floundering children's theatre company. (Lillie had always had a special fondness for the dramatic arts.) She waited for Julian’s answer as they shared a bottle of vintage wine. As always, Cash hovered close by and with him, Lorraina.
The stranger approached them cautiously. He was of medium build, with jet-black hair and sharp, dark eyes that seemed eerie next to his pale skin. He was handsome but had an intensity about him that was unnerving and seemed to project an aura of doom. Cash and Lorraina shifted to a higher alertness. Both Julian and Lillie looked up as the Kindred neared. For a fleeting instance Lillie thought she caught a touch of paranoia in his eyes, but perhaps she was mistaken for he smiled winningly under their mutual inspection. And as a Toreador, he clearly deserved the benefit of the doubt.
Then he spoke. "Prince Julian, allow me to introduce myself. I am Marcus Bennett, Toreador Clan."
Lillie arched a perfect eyebrow. She wouldn't mind an addition to her Clan. She and Julian waited for the new Kindred to say more. When he didn’t, Julian asked coolly, "And how long are you planning to stay in San Francisco, Marcus?"
Marcus hesitated. "Perhaps, ah, perhaps… That is, I’m looking for someone who may have moved here recently. A mortal - more than a mortal… an well of unceasing delight."
"Oh? And if that mortal is here? Do you seek to Embrace this person?" Julian's voice had acquired an ominous edge.
"Then here I shall remain. She means everything to me, everything. I left my whole world behind for her, all that was dear. Let her keep her humanity so long as I can drink of her beauty."
Lillie nodded sympathetically. She knew Toreador infatuation when she saw it. It was the curse of their Clan, the way they fell in love with mortals so easily. She only hoped that Julian wouldn’t judge Marcus too harshly for it.
Julian proceeded cautiously. "Who is this human? Perhaps I can help locate her. I have many contacts --"
"No!" Marcus barked his answer so loudly that Lillie jumped. Cash and Lorraina moved nearer. The cleaning crew, still at work, stopped for a moment, turning toward Julian’s booth in surprise. Marcus, clearly nervous and shaken, toned down his voice. "I beg your pardon," Marcus ingratiated. "Please, I meant no offense. It’s just - she’s so dear to me. How can I explain? You must understand that I cannot allow anyone else to have her."
Ahh. How interesting. Lillie guessed that he was indeed intent on Embracing this human love of his. She wondered what Julian was thinking and glanced his way.
Julian was frowning. "You’ve done well to present yourself to me, Marcus Bennett. But you would also do well to let me know *now* concerning any… designs… you may have toward this mortal woman."
Marcus scowled. "But there’s no reason for the Prince to get involved! She’s for me alone, I tell you."
Now it was Lillie who frowned as she exchanged looks with Julian. She gave an ever-so-slight shake of her head to indicate that, even for a love-struck Toreador, Marcus’ behavior was odd. She decided it was time for her to speak. "I’m Lillie Langtry, Primogen of the Toreador. As such let me advice you *not* to cross your Prince. I assure you, Julian Luna has the respect of the Clans."
Marcus immediately backed down. "No, please, you misunderstand me." He flashed a fawning smile. "I have no wish to brew contention here, which is why I came to you the moment I arrived. Please, forgive me." Before either could reply, Marcus was already digging around in his back pocket. "Here," he said eagerly. "Maybe once you see her likeness, you’ll understand why she’s so special." He extracted a photograph and held it delicately in one palm, stroking it with sensitive fingers. He spoke as though enchanted. "She’s the sun, the moon, the stars all rolled into one sweet melody of love. Her blood beckons to me more profoundly than ever any Siren to Jason's Argonauts. Ambrosia, nectar of the gods, was never so pure, so luscious, so innocent as her elixir of life." He tenderly kissed the photo.
Lorraina sniggered. Marcus looked instantly hurt. Giving the female Gangrel a hard look, Lillie extended her arm graciously. She, herself, had been moved by his eloquence. "Marcus, I would be honored to see what beauty has so… captivated you."
The Toreador seemed suddenly hesitant. He looked from the photograph to Lillie back and forth several times before relenting. "My Aphrodite," he declared solemnly upon presenting it to her, face down.
Lillie smiled reassuringly as she accepted the photo. She turned it over, holding it between her and Julian. The photograph was a creased and faded snapshot of a teenager with trim brown hair. She beamed her happiness from under a tree, dressed in khaki slacks and a navy sweatshirt that proclaimed "Cornell."
With a roar of outrage, Julian hurled himself from the booth and grabbed the newcomer by his shoulders. Shocked, Lillie watched as Julian's eyes turned silver-blue as he let his Beast surge to the surface. He spoke in low, menacing tones. "Why her? What is she to you?"
Suddenly on the defense, Marcus began to back-peddle. By so doing, he ran into Cash, who had immediately moved to back up his Prince. Lorraina was right beside him.
"Who is she to you?" Julian insisted. He gave Marcus a rough shake.
Of course. It took Lillie a moment to recognize that the photograph was identical to the framed one Julian had his bedroom dresser - not that she had much interest in Julian’s bedroom these days. Still… it never hurt to pry every now and then. How unfortunate that Marcus Bennett had fallen head-over-heels for Julian’s prized progeny!
"She’s mine, I tell you, she's mine!" Marcus yelled frantically, his expression that of a mad man. "You can’t have her! I’ve killed before so that we could be together and I’ll kill again if I have to! No one can keep us apart!" He reached up to throttle Julian.
Cash had the Toreador’s arms pinned behind his back so fast that the movements were only a blur. The desperate man now began to plead, whine almost at Julian. "No, you mustn't do this to me! Can I help it if I find her blood so terribly addicting? She means everything to me - I swear I’d never hurt her… Please, I have to be with her…"
Meanwhile Julian had taken a step backward. He looked stunned.
"What do you want with him?" Cash interrupted, fiercely holding onto his struggling prisoner.
"Take him back to the Mansion," Julian ordered, still appearing somewhat rattled. "Secure him in the Prison of Light."
Cash and Lorraina made off with the upset Toreador. Hoping to sooth Julian, Lillie stood up and walked beside him. She rested a delicate hand between his shoulder blades. "It’s all right, Julian. There’s no real damage done. You got to him before he was able to find Jocelyn. While it seems he’s Drained her before, admittedly more than once, she wouldn't remember any of it - or even him, for that matter."
When Julian didn’t say anything, Lillie persisted, "Even if she were to recognize him somehow, say, he introduced himself to her - she would never know that he was Kindred. How could she?"
Julian sighed, his shoulders slumped. "I’m afraid that’s the least of my worries now," he stated enigmatically. Although Lillie pressed, he refused to elaborate. His eyes had assumed a haunted look, as though recalling a tragedy from long ago.
-- PART FOUR --
EMILY ALL OVER AGAIN
Julian silently opened the bedroom door, and stepped into the dark room. He firmly shut it behind him, then and walked over to the bed where Jocelyn lay sleeping. He paused, the sharp ritual-knife carefully hidden behind his back. He wanted to savor a quiet moment alone with his descendant, who had come to mean so much to him through the course of her short life span. He tenderly brushed her long bangs.
Naturally, he hadn't wanted to believe this about her, to even think it. But there was the insane deportment of Marcus Bennett, and his own conversations exchanged over the years with Archon. Add to that Julian's own experience both decades ago and then with Jocelyn tonight at the Haven… Well, there was really no other conclusion. It was her dangerously deceptive and captivating appeal that all too easily played upon the emotions - encircling and enticing Kindred to her, just as Emily had once done to him and to Daniel and Alexandra, which had finally given her away. Jocelyn was a Blood Doll, one of those mysterious beings, fortunately few in number, engaged in a centuries-old crusade for the destruction of all Kindred.
Julian had to mentally steel himself for what very well might be the final outcome of this encounter. He could still recall Archon's chilling words in 1919, "if Emily is a Blood Doll then she has to die. Tonight. Before she can seduce another Kindred." However, Julian had refused his Prince, for he had already Fed, and Fed deeply, from the beguiling creature known as Emily Davenport. Archon had been correct when he had said, "once their blood touches your lips, they have a power over you that makes a blood bond seem gentle." Julian would have killed his beloved Childe Alexandra, all for the ardent persuasions of a fourteen-year-old, had not fate intervened resulting in Emily's accidental death by fire. For weeks afterward he would awaken during the day, clutching his sheets in a feverish state - still able to hear the screams of the dying girl who had captured his heart or perhaps more appropriately, his soul.
If in 1919 Archon could not afford the presence of a Blood Doll in his city, it was no different for Julian today… except. Except, that Jocelyn Dey was his own flesh and blood, someone more dear to him than Emily had ever been… and perhaps that made her all the more dangerous. Julian reluctantly acknowledged that if he could not find some way to neutralize Jocelyn - if that was even possible with her kind - then she presented far too great a threat for him to let her live. Who knew how long before she started working her insidious brand of magic again? Before she sowed the seeds of dissention, which would ultimately prove the ruin of San Francisco's Kindred? Unquestionably, she had already begun tonight with the Brujah Primogen. Julian was ever thankful that he had arrived in time to prevent Cameron from Draining her. The Rabble leader would never know just how narrowly he had escaped entanglement in a Blood Doll's web of lethal intrigue.
Julian tightened his grip on the ritual knife and sighed. During his long years as Archon's Enforcer, so many had suffered death at his hands with this very instrument. But it need be it would provide him with the immediate means for a quick and painless death for his niece; Julian had no desired to be cruel. At any rate, it was also the one sure way known to take a Blood Doll's life; they were remarkable resilient, that much was for certain. Still, something inside Julian balked at the idea of killing Jocelyn, no matter what crimes against Kindred his young niece may have committed. The Venture had long since had his fill of slaughter. Calling for the Blood Hunt on Alexandra Serris had nearly torn him apart with grief. And he wanted very much for Jocelyn to live.
It was then he heard Archon's voice, an invisible source, resounding from his within spirit yet seeming to speak from just behind, "Julian, sometimes the Prince has to give up his own desires in order to protect the Kindred. I know how this weighs upon you. But you must ask, is it better to spare the life of a murderer, because you yourself are afraid to murder? Remember what she is, my Childe, and remember what she can do." And then his Sire's presence was gone. In its place, Julian felt only a cold foreboding.
-- PART V --
Perhaps intuitively able to sense Julian's presence, his niece awoke with a swift intake of breath. Her eyes were still glazed with sleep until she caught hold of his, then they widened in surprise… and fear. For an instant neither spoke. Attempting Dominance, Julian said gently, "I’m sorry to have disturbed your rest, Jocelyn. Sleep deeply and never remember I was here." He reached out and passed his hand in a downward motion over her face as a test.
But Jocelyn just shook her head, bangs tumbling into her eyes. "You must know that's not going to work on me, Uncle Julian."
Julian gave a brittle smile. "I wasn't sure, actually. But thank you for your honesty."
"You came her to kill me, didn't you?" Jocelyn unexpectedly accused him, struggling amidst the pillows and blankets to sit upright. "I can feel it. You have murder on your mind." She began inching toward the far side of the bed.
Julian hesitated, taken back by her frankness, then countered calmly, "Tell me, when did you first begin your game of manipulating loved ones?"
"I didn't - I don't!" she blurted out in wounded tones. "I *never* meant to Charm anyone! What happened tonight was a mistake. How was I supposed to know Sasha wanted to take me to some kind of vampire nightclub? There were too many of you that I just lost control." Having reached end of the bed, she could now go no further, since it was situated against the wall.
Jocelyn shifted fitfully. She looked so young and so vulnerable that Julian wanted to gather her gently into his arms, yet he forced himself to show no emotion. Just as was Emily of decades ago, this Blood Doll's sweet and innocent allure was powerful to resist. But at least she hadn’t known beforehand that The Haven was an Elysium, a neutral gathering place for Kindred. He had been worried that she might have targeted it deliberately.
"Uncle Julian, you have to believe me," Jocelyn pleaded earnestly, her expression sincere. "The past couple of years I've tried so *hard* to push you away so I wouldn't be tempted to destroy you, too. I didn't even go to Grandpa's funeral and you have no idea how much that hurt."
Julian considered… was Jocelyn really just doing her best to stay out of his Kindred world? Then his thoughts took a darker turn. Or was this all part of a elaborate ruse she had long since been laying? Could she now be trying to gain his trust with this supposed 'confession?'
Jocelyn flushed and continued softly. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry about tonight. And about Sasha. I sort of… lied. She didn’t really leave me like I told you. She only went to get some drinks for us - that’s all."
"I know," Julian acknowledged.
"You know?" Jocelyn looked surprised.
"I’ve spoken with her. Sasha returned here when she couldn’t find you."
Jocelyn winced. "I'll apologize to her later."
Julian looked grim. He had no intention of letting Jocelyn anywhere near Sasha. "Why don't you tell me why you've really come here, Jocelyn… to San Francisco?"
"I already have. I’m studying at Berkley, you know that."
"I see. Is that what you told Marcus Bennett?"
Jocelyn’s reaction was so immediate as to unnerve him. She practically leapt out of bed in alarm, searching his eyes wildly. "Marcus Bennett? Do you mean he's *here*?"
Taking a quick step away from her, Julian replied, "And as addicted as ever to you."
"No, NO! He can't be here… that's a lie. You're lying!" Jocelyn ran her hands through her hair rapidly and cried, "I know I left him for dead just two weeks ago - he's supposed to be dead, Uncle Julian! Dead! Don't you see, he just has to be! He just HAS to! You have no idea what horrible things that blood-sucking Sabbat monster can do! The murders he's committed! I thought I'd *stopped* him! " Jocelyn was becoming increasingly frantic and Julian began to suspect that her distress was genuine.
"Calm down, Jocelyn, calm down," he tried to speak reassuringly. "It's all right. Marcus can't hurt you - I promise you that. I’ve taken care of him." He reflexively reached out to grab hold her by the arms, but as he did the ritual knife he held came into plain view. Fool! He had forgotten that.
Petrified, his niece surprised him with an inhumanly fast response, pushing him so that he actually stumbled backward a few feet. Then she capered back onto the bed beyond his reach. Yes, Emily had possessed exceptional strength as well. Julian was acutely reminded of the danger in letting the Blood Doll live, even if she was his descendant.
There was a tense moment between the two as Jocelyn stared at the knife he still wielded. He realized her trepidation and her struggle not to cry, but tears escaped anyway. She wiped at her cheeks, seeming both embarrassed and angry to cry in front of him. He wished he could tell her that it was all right, that he understood the reason for her fear. Instead he waited and watched.
Finally Jocelyn spoke quietly, "If you want to kill me, just please, whatever else you do, don't let Marcus Bennett trick you. He's a Sabbat serial killer, Uncle Julian. He would have murdered that lady I found him with, if I hadn't Charmed him then. I could feel it - all he wants is death. It's all he cares about. He thinks it's an art to destroy with pain. The only reason he wouldn't hurt was because I fed him my blood."
Julian was once more surprised by his niece's forthright speech. And if what she said was true, he now had a new concern. Kindred laws strictly forbade the killing of humans. But the Sabbat held sway in Boston and they had their own ideas about how to treat Kine. Just who was it that he had imprisoned in his cellar? Julian eyed Jocelyn warily. And just what was it he had welcomed into his home?
Jocelyn stood guardedly on top of the bed staring down at her murderous Uncle. The thing her kind feared most, had actually come true for her. All it took was one 'clued-in' vampire to realize what they were and suddenly they who hounded the Predators, became the Predators' Prey. And in her case, that one clued-in vampire was own uncle. Jocelyn had no illusions as to the seriousness of this situation. Charming a vampire who knew her true nature was a difficult proposition at best, and her uncle's will was strong and determined. On the other hand, she knew if she ran out the door, the place was practically swarming with the Dead and Julian would alert them in seconds. But she certainly didn't want to die.
Jocelyn decided to try conversation. "How did you find out what I was? Did your Prince send you here to kill me?"
Julian gave her a slightly curious look. "*I* am the Prince of San Francisco."
"What!" Jocelyn's jaw dropped open in surprise as she simultaneously lost her footing, sending her sliding off the rumpled bed to land on the floor with a thud. Realizing her vulnerability, she closed her tightly eyes and held her breath, awaiting her Uncle's fatal blow.
It never came. Instead, the cold, sharp tip of the ritual-knife gently pressed under her chin, forcing her head upward. After a moment she decided to risk a peek, and opened one eye first and then the other. Her Uncle's handsome yet decadent features looked down on her impassively, yet she sensed his inner confusion.
"You didn't know I was Prince," he stated.
Jocelyn was about to shake her head, but the blade against her neck made her change her mind. Realizing that she was still holding her breath, she emptied her lungs in a rush. "How could I?" she demanded plaintively. "You all look the same to me. You're corrupt cadavers, unnatural things. The only way I can even tell the difference between your Clans is the weird way they make me feel. But titles are meaningless to me."
"That I can believe."
"You do?" But even as she asked, Jocelyn could feel his certitude.
Julian gave a slight smile, seeing the look of puzzlement cross her face. "Your reaction," he told her. "Even if you were feigning surprise because of what I'd said, it would hardly be to the extent of falling and giving me the advantage over you."
Jocelyn flushed. "Are you calling me clumsy?" She discerned the barest flash of amusement from her uncle, then his mood quickly sobered.
"So if you didn't come here to target me as Prince of San Francisco, then why are you here?" he asked once more.
She sighed dispiritedly. "It's like I told you. I really have come here for school, Uncle Julian - but it was sort of a last minute thing."
"It's all because of *Marcus Bennett.* " She spat out the name as though it was poison. "You know about my internship with the Museum of Fine Arts this summer?"
"Our director threw a party at the end of the summer. That's how I discovered Marcus. He was there, at the party, talking with some woman. At first, all I knew was that he was Toreador. As I got closer could feel his desire to kill her. So I had to do something."
Julian frowned. "How did you know he was Kindred?"
"Oh, that's easy. I can always tell when there are Kindred around. There's a certain feeling and I'm just sort of drawn in the right direction. And then with Sabbat, there's an especially dark pull about them that's hard to resist. Marcus was that way." Jocelyn paused for a moment. The back of her neck was beginning to ache, craned upward in its current position. But she didn't dare move, the edge of her uncle's vampire blade was still firm against her.
"So what exactly did you do, Jocelyn?" he asked neutrally, but she was relieved to sense his sternness toward her was beginning to relent.
Jocelyn swallowed. "Well, Sabbat are very tricky to deal with. Have you ever tried to break up a Pack?" When she receiving no response, she continued, "It’s a lot of work considering how bound they all are to each other. But it can be done. Once you've picked up on their weaknesses and desires, vampires are easy to Charm. And then once they’ve tasted my blood, I can persuade them to do whatever I want… which is normally to kill another vampire," she admitted.
"I thought that the Pack had finished itself off fighting over me. At least it sure looked that way. Marcus was the last one left. He was unconscious and bleeding, and I dragged him outside so the sunlight would catch him. Dawn was just minutes away."
Jocelyn gave a wry grin. "Obviously, I should've made sure to watch him ignite. Anyway, I was afraid that the Pack’s absence would attract the attention of other Sabbat. I'd also finished my summer internship by then, so I contacted the department head at Berkley two weeks ago and asked if it wasn’t too change my mind and reapply for their Art History program. It wasn’t. So here I am," she concluded. She wondered what her uncle the Prince would do with her now.
So here you are indeed, thought Julian. He rubbed his brow a moment, trying to let all this information soak in. In the course of two days his world had suddenly become much more difficult.
Jocelyn spoke anxiously from below. "Uncle Julian, please, you aren’t going to let Marcus go, are you? You can’t - he’s a killer! He *bragged* to me about what he's done. It's insane. Please at least promise me you'll stop him."
Julian held up his free hand. "If Marcus Bennett is Sabbat then I have no intention of letting him live. However, I'll need to make that determination myself. And if he is, I'll need to know if he’s here on his own or if the Sabbat in Boston know his whereabouts." Julian was grim. It seemed he had just had a messy tangle with the Sabbat trying to take over his city - they’d even gone so far as to impersonate Cash and Sasha to do so. Julian did not look forward to another such confrontation.
Then there was also the question of what to do with his niece. If her kind was so intrinsically motivated to extinguish Kindred, just how far could he trust her? If he let her live, how long before her compulsion to 'cleanse' his city surfaced? One thing for certain, Blood Dolls could exercise a frightening degree of influence over Kindred. And if their blood was strong enough to break the loyalty of a Sabbat pack, Julian had no question that Jocelyn could easily turn the mind of any Kindred in San Francisco against him.
Jocelyn broke into his thoughts. "I can feel your worry, Uncle Julian. About me." She sighed in a worn way beyond her youthful years. "I wish we didn't have to be… enemies. I didn't come here to cause trouble. Could we maybe… work out a truce of some sort?"
Julian eyed his niece appraisingly. "If you want to live, I think we have to." But how could he ever be assured of her undivided loyalty? As much as he wanted to trust and believe in his niece, she was still first and foremost a Blood Doll. The idea came to him of its own. Julian recalled Alexandra's tale, how Emily had unceremoniously rebelled against her the moment Alexandra attempted to give the girl her vitae, believing that Embracing her was the only way to save the child from whom she'd overfeed. But Emily had reacted violently, declaring that she had no desire to be remade into Kindred. So if Blood Dolls could be Embraced… then might not they be Blood Bound?
Julian knelt down beside his niece, much to Jocelyn's bewilderment. She was obviously still awaiting the coup de grace from him. Instead he barred his fangs and drew a gash above the inner wrist of his free hand. With his ritual knife still against Jocelyn's throat, Julian presented her with his flowing vitae. Her reaction was enough to confirm his postulation. Her eyes went wild and for the first time since he had captured her, she attempted to twist loose, sliding backwards against the bed.
"No," she whispered. "You can't mean it. Please don't make me."
But Julian grimly prevented her shrinking away any further from him. "I'm sorry, Jocelyn," he said, not unkindly. "But it's the only way."
She gave a choked sob, "No! This isn't fair! You can't do this to me - you can't make me!"
"You would prefer death?"
His niece cried and tried to protest some more, as Julian remained patient and calm. Finally she said in a small voice, "I'm afraid."
Julian wasn't sure what to say. He knew he could never make the formidable subjugation of a Blood Bond seem bearable. All he could promise her was, "Jocelyn… I would never hurt you, never abuse my Regency in any way."
Pale and trembling, she reached up keeping her movements deliberately slow. She lightly grasped his hand that held the knife, whispering, "You win."
Equally slowly, Julian withdrew his weapon and laid it behind him. Next, very tenderly he gathered his niece to him, and waited…
-- PART SIX --
AND ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
Jocelyn was back on the bed, her head and shoulders cradled in her uncle's lap as he stroked her hair. She opened her eyes, and grimaced miserably. "What happened?"
"You've been unconscious for several minutes," Julian answered from above. "I was worried. How are you feeling now?"
"So nauseous I could die." She made a face for emphasis.
Julian gave a gentle smile and brushed back her bangs. "I'm sorry for your discomfort," he said.
"Are you really going to make me do this two more times?"
Julian continued to smile at her.
"That's what I thought," Jocelyn grouched, struggling to move away from him, back toward the pillows. She winced and stopped.
Julian carefully helped her to sit up, and then find her way under the covers; once settled she turned away from him. Julian looked on her with compassion. "I *am* sorry, Jocelyn," he told her again. "I didn't know Kindred vitae would affect you so adversely."
"Well, what did you expect?" she complained. "It's not as if I'm an ordinary human." She groaned, pulling a pillow over her head.
Julian smiled slightly at the comical sight, but there was no mistaking his serious tone. "Yes, I do realize that you're something more than human… although I'd like to learn a little more about that 'something.'" Julian removed the pillow from her head and finished drawing up the covers around her shoulders. " However, it can wait until you've had a full night's rest. And right now I have an appointment to keep with one Marcus Bennett."
Jocelyn just shook her head. "I know Marcus. He won’t tell you anything."
Julian gave a heartless smile. "You aren't the only one in this family to be persuasive." He stood up, preparing to leave. He still had a long night in front of him.
"Um..." His niece made a hesitant sound.
"Uncle Julian," Jocelyn had turned her head to stare up at him. She wore a flushed, embarrassed expression. "I just wanted you to know something. I, um, I never really stopped loving you, I mean, even when I knew what you really were." Her face now completely red, she immediately turned back and slid down, burying herself under the plush covers until only the top of her head showed.
Julian leaned over, placing his cool hand on her head. She sighed, and let her breathing begin to deepen. "Thank you, Jocelyn," he spoke softly. "Try to get some sleep now. Everything will be all right. I'll see you in the morning." And then he was gone, shutting the door quietly behind him. Even muffled by the sheets, Jocelyn's sensitive hearing caught sound of a small click. Julian was locking her in for the night. But that didn't matter.
Jocelyn abruptly sat up, shrugging off the silken coverings. Any symptoms of sickness now vanished as swiftly and dramatically as they had been made to appear. She couldn't help but grin. How easy it had been to plant the suggestion in her uncle's mind that he Blood Bond her to him - as if that could really work on one of her kind! Everything had gone perfectly, and the curtain had at long last risen on the final act of a drama she'd begun soon after her special summons had come. It was a pity that her cousin Sasha was now one of the players, but the contagion had to be stopped no matter the personal cost.
Jocelyn systematically rearranged her pillows one by one. True, things had been a little tense when she had pretended to slip off the bed, but she'd played the odds carefully as always, wagering that her uncle wouldn't hurt her. Sometimes it was easiest to Charm those vampires who believed that knowing what she was, would keep them free of manipulation.
As for Marcus, he was no Antitribu, but just some hapless fool of a Toreador who conveniently suited Jocelyn's purposes. Jocelyn knew her uncle's mind almost better than he did; Marcus Bennett would be dead before sunrise. Jocelyn's triumphant smile turned into conceit - where young Emily Davenport had failed some seventy-odd years ago, Jocelyn Dey would succeed. With luck and continued artifice, Jocelyn would not only have cleansed the Kindred infestation in San Francisco… but have earned herself a Ph.D. in the process.