All 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. Miriam

appears [briefly] courtesy of Rebecca Lloyd.

The story and events are mine.

If you have any comments, please send them to: Schweighsr @ aol.com

AUTHOR'S NOTE - PLEASE READ :

This story is in a time line with "The Hunt", "Stranger in Town" [by Rebecca Lloyd] and

"Kindred Spirits" . It occurs immediately after "Kindred Spirits". To summarize : Lillie has

seduced Frank Kohanek. Sasha is unable to Hunt on her own as she usually kills her human prey.

Camilla has left the Sabbat with the help of her former pack-mate, Miriam [also known as

N'kamah ]. Julian Embraced a young man named Eric Sheridan who was killed by Cameron's

Fledgling, Anthony Meeker, in an attempt on Julian's life. Anthony Meeker was then killed in a

brutal Gang-land style retaliation, which brings us to....

 

-----------------------------------------SINS OF THE FATHERS-----------------------------------

------------------------------------------By Kelly Schweighauser-------------------------------------

**********

For I am a Jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers on to the children to the third and fourth

generations. -Exodus 20:5

**********

"I'm sorry that I've been so busy," Julian said, handing the dozen red roses to Caitlin. Her lips

pursed as she accepted them. "I hope I haven't been ignoring you."

"Actually, you and Lillie have both been so busy lately that I thought you had run off and

eloped," she replied, her eyes brittle. She stood unmoving in her front doorway, obviously

reluctant to let him back into her house. Or perhaps into her heart.

"Lillie has kept me very busy these last few weeks," he admitted. He had to smile at the spark

of jealousy that flared in his lover's eyes. "She's fallen in love with a police officer."

"Lillie?" Caitlin exclaimed. "That's wonderful! I'm very happy for her."

"I wish I could share your enthusiasm," Julian replied dourly. "But Lillie in love is a

frightening thing. She's thrown her whole attention into this new amour, and is neglecting her

businesses shamefully."

"You are upset because Lillie has a personal life?" Caitlin smiled at him. It was good to see

her smile again. "Julian, you have a problem."

"Yes," Julian agreed, leaning close to Caitlin. "Her name is Lillie Langtry. She *forgot* to

deposit the weekend receipts," Julian made quotation marks with his fingers. "So she missed a

loan payment. As her principal creditor, I am not amused. I don't have time to run her businesses

in addition to my own."

"No," Caitlin wrapped her arm around him. "You don't."

"I told her that I thought she was just doing this to annoy me," Julian told her. "She called me

vain, self-centered, egotistical and conceited."

"Wow! She's good, isn't she?" Caitlin laughed. "Your entire personality in just four words."

"Are you going to forgive me for not calling on you for so long?" Julian asked. "I admit, it

won't be the last time it happens."

"I'll think about it," Caitlin smiled stepping back and holding the door open for him. "C'mon in

the house. Actually, I've been pretty busy, too. I probably couldn't have gone out with you if you

*had* called. I've got a great story going - a major week-long series, actually. We are talking

Pulitzer Prize material."

"Caitlin," Julian interrupted as they entered her living room. "When did you get a cat?"

"Oh, Julian, this is Lion. I got him at the shelter. Isn't he beautiful?" She noticed the

expression on his face. "You're not allergic, are you?"

The animal in question was a butter-colored long-haired breed, arching it's back and hissing at

him from the sofa. It recognized him as another predator and wanted him out of its territory.

"Not exactly," he told Caitlin stiffly. "I just don't like cats, and they seem to be able to sense

that." Anything to explain Lion's hostility.

"Gee, Lion is usually so friendly," Caitlin said, crossing to the animal. "I got him because he

was so affectionate."

"Caitlin, don't!" Julian cried in alarm when she moved to pick the hissing cat up in her arms.

He took an involuntary step forward, and the cat spat it's displeasure. Julian felt his eyes change,

an instinctive reaction, and forced them to change back. The brief flash was enough to convince

the cat, though. Lion turned and ran, his rear claws gouging Caitlin's bare arm in passing.

The cat lunged through the kitchen and out the open window over the sink. "No! Lion!"

Caitlin exclaimed, darting toward the front door. "Come back!"

Julian caught her on the lawn. "Caitlin, you're bleeding." And the scent was driving him wild

with Thirst and desire. Cash and Lorraina were standing by the car, and he didn't want to share.

What am I thinking, he shuddered. He couldn't drink Caitlin's blood!

"Julian," she almost sobbed. "He's a house cat, he's been de-clawed. And the Robinson's

Doberman gets loose...."

"We'll find your cat, ma'am," Cash volunteered. "You go inside and enjoy the evening with

Mr. Luna." From his expression, he had scented her wounds and guessed at what enjoyment

Julian would get out of the evening. Julian glowered and tugged Caitlin back towards the house.

"All right," Caitlin equivocated. "I'll get you the box of treats, or he'll never come to you."

"Oh, no need for that, Ms. Byrne," Lorraina gave her a predatory smile. "We're really very

good with animals. Pets love us."

"Caitlin, your hand," Julian insisted, holding the still bleeding limb as far away from himself as

possible. It would stop bleeding instantly if he would lick the wound. All he had to do was taste

a few drops of her blood one more time and.... No! He had to resist the temptation. If he

surrendered to his hunger for her now he might never be able to resist Feeding from her.

"Oh, all right, Julian," she said impatiently. "It's just a scratch. You are the last man I ever

thought would be frightened of a little blood."

He closed the door behind them and hustled her to the sink. "I try to hide it," he answered,

thrusting her hand under some cold running water. The smell of her blood began to dissipate.

"So tell me about this prize winning story you are going to publish," he told her. Please, get my

mind off of my appetite, he thought. Sweet Caine, he'd fed less than an hour ago! The last thing

he needed was more blood.

"You know this mob war that's been going on? Eddie Fiori and all those shady-types dying

and disappearing?" Caitlin was watching him carefully. "Apparently it's a take-over by a man

named Cameron. We're doing a week-long expose about him, the mob, the killings. Everything."

Julian stopped thinking about his Thirst.

**********

Sasha crept down the mansion's main staircase as quietly as she could and stole up behind the

young mortal man admiring his reflection in the gilt-framed mirror. She had to be careful, not

only to keep her image out of the mirror, but also because the floor of the entrance hall was

marble, and her high heels had a tendency to click. She concentrated on her hunting skills, gliding

up slowly and carefully on her prey. He didn't sense her at all, even when she was less than a foot

away.

"Hey, Doofus," Sasha breathed into Donald's ear. "How's it going, cousin?" Then she laughed

at the way he jumped. Well, she was getting better at keeping quiet when she walked, at least.

Donald obviously hadn't heard her behind him at all.

"Sasha!" Donald gasped, twirling to face her. "What are you doing here?"

"You'd know if you'd bothered to go to Grandpa's funeral," Sasha replied, leaning back against

the hall table.

"I heard you put on quiet a show," Donald frowned. "But that doesn't explain why you're in

San Francisco."

"Well, after I got thrown out of the wake for being drunk and disorderly, Uncle Julian decided

to take me in," Sasha smiled. "I live here."

"You live here?" Donald repeated. He looked around the mansion's lavish entry hall in

disbelief. "Here?"

"Yes, here," Sasha retorted. "What's so unbelievable about that?"

Donald had the grace to look embarrassed. "I just didn't think that this was your style," he

explained. "I mean, lately you've been into leather and motorcycles. Rebel without a pause, and

all that."

Sasha grinned. "Well, Uncle Julian is definitely 'my style', if you know what I mean. He

certainly knows how to keep a girl happy."

Donald's jaw dropped as he took in her implication. Sasha suppressed a laugh - he was so

gullible, it almost wasn't fun messing with his mind. Almost. "You and Uncle Julian? Are... are?"

"Sometimes," she lowered her eyes in false modesty. It helped to keep her laughter in check.

"It's very convenient for him. He doesn't have to lie about me being his 'niece', after all. And I'm

getting a real education out of it, too."

"Holy shit," Donald breathed. "Sasha, why does everything just drop in your lap? I'd give my

right nut to live in a place like this."

"I don't think he goes for boys, Don," Sasha informed him. "But if you want to ask him...."

She had to bite her lip when he blushed. Let old Doofus think of a reply to that one, she thought.

What a moron.

The door to the library opened and Julian and Cassandra stepped out. Cassandra managed to

juggle her laptop, several manila files and the newspaper and still hold the door for the Prince.

She took a long look at Donald and turned abruptly in the other direction. Ventrue, Sasha

frowned.

"Donald, how good to see you again," Julian extended his hand and Donald shook it. "Sorry

to leave you standing. I hope Sasha kept you entertained."

"I did my best," Sasha smiled and gave her uncle a kiss on the cheek. She wanted to see how

far she could push her prank on Donald. Julian wasn't the least bit embarrassed. He smiled

appreciatively and gave her a squeeze in return.

"It's good to see you too, Uncle Julian," Donald said. "About why I called...."

"Jeffrey tells me dinner is laid," Julian gestured towards the seldom used dining room. "Won't

you join us?"

Sasha stifled a sigh. Julian would want to keep the Masquerade. She hated eating. Maybe

they wouldn't notice if she just picked at her food. Or she could claim she was on a diet....

Dinner was a roast tenderloin of beef, easily enough to feed a dozen people. It was rare and

swimming in a sea of it's own juice. Predictably, the smell of cooked meat turned Sasha's

stomach. She let Jeffrey hold her chair for her, and took the plate he'd filled with a forced smile.

Ignoring the meat, she speared a single green bean on her fork. She examined it carefully to be

certain that it was untainted by butter or the meat juice before she popped it in her mouth. Uncle

Julian smiled approvingly. "Yum," she said.

Don was wolfing down the slab of meat on his plate as if he hadn't eaten in a month. "This is

great, Uncle Julian," he nodded in response to Sasha's comment.

"I'll convey your compliments to the cook," Julian responded, even though Jeffrey was

standing right there. Sasha had to give the silent Ventrue credit for one thing, he had more

intestinal fortitude than she would ever have if he was able to actually prepare a meal. She cut up

her meat and hid some of the pieces under the potatoes.

"So, how is school, Donald?" Julian asked. Sasha frowned at his plate, he really looked as if

he were eating the food on it. She forced herself to swallow another green bean and played with

her roll.

"I think I'm going to drop out," Donald replied. "School is bogus. I'm not learning anything

there. And it's, like, full of kids trying to hide from Real Life."

"Real Life?" Julian prompted. Sasha rolled her eyes and ate a crumb from the roll. Who cared

what cousin Doofus thought about Real Life anyway? Donald was the bogus one, not the

university he was attending. A charter member in the philosophy of the week club, and not a very

smart one at that.

"Y'know," Donald answered around a mouthful of food. Sasha had to return her eyes to her

plate. What a sight - she felt even queasier than before. If she ate one more bite she was going to

be sick. She sipped her wine instead, then held her glass for Jeffrey to refill. "Life outside of

college."

"But without an education how will you find a decent job?" Julian enquired, polite as always.

"Well, that's why I called," Donald admitted. "I thought I could work for you."

Julian raised his eyebrows and looked uncomfortable. "I'm afraid that without a college degree

you'd be just as limited in any of my companies as you would anywhere else. Nepotism aside, you

need a solid education to advance."

"I wasn't talking office work," Donald replied. "I'm not exactly the corporate-type, if you

know what I mean. That nine-to-five shtick ain't exactly my bag."

"What else is there?" Julian enquired.

"Drugs," Donald told him. "I've been dealing on campus - and making good money, too - and

I thought: why not cut out the middle man?"

"Middle man?" Julian repeated, looking as if he couldn't believe what he'd heard. Sasha was so

absorbed in watching that she put a piece of potato in her mouth before she'd realized it. Julian

would never forgive her if she spit it out, so she grimaced and swallowed, then drained her wine

glass a second time.

"Yeah," Donald continued, ignoring or oblivious to his uncle's expression. "If I got'em straight

from you, then the profits would be way up and I could even cut prices to undercut the

competition."

"Donald," Julian sounded bewildered. "I don't deal drugs."

"Well, not you personally," Donald shrugged. "But everybody knows you're in charge of

importing them."

Sasha toyed with the idea of setting her cousin straight on exactly how drugs were imported

and distributed in the San Francisco area, and by whom, then discarded it. It was going to be too

much fun watching Uncle Julian get out of this one.

"'Everyone' is wrong," Julian replied stiffly. "I have nothing to do with drug trafficking,

Donald." Sasha nodded, technically Julian wasn't even lying. Cameron handled the actual

business through half-a-dozen intermediaries. Julian just kept the cops off of the Brujah's backs

and collected his tithe of the profits as Prince of the city. What Donald obviously hadn't figured

out was that the layers of middle-men were required to keep the guys at the top, like Cameron,

safe whenever one of the underlings or actual dealers got arrested. But then Donald always was

little slow.

"Oh, C'mon, Uncle Julian," Donald protested. "That's what you say to the cops, but I'm your

nephew...."

"Donald," Julian said firmly. "Stay in college and stop dealing drugs. There is no future in

drug dealing. Especially for you."

"But...."

"I have nothing more to say on the subject," Julian said firmly. He returned his attention to his

dinner and no matter how Donald hinted and cajoled he wouldn't discuss it further.

**********

"My lord, how appalling," Julian said after Donald had finally left. "What is this family coming

to?"

"And you thought I was the Bad Seed," Sasha laughed. "I think we should have cousin

Donald over more often - I look good by comparison."

"I hardly consider armed robbery to be a better occupation than drug dealing, Sasha," Julian

frowned.

"But armed robbery isn't my occupation, Uncle Julian," Sasha retorted sweetly. "It's my

hobby."

"Oh, that makes a big difference," Julian nodded.

"Totally different deal," Sasha assured him. "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to get this

disgusting food out of my stomach and then gargle with bleach for, like, an hour. You are a real

sadist, you know that? All that burned meat has put me off my appetite."

"It's a good thing that Donald was so self-absorbed," Julian replied. "You hardly ate a thing."

"I did too eat!" Sasha declared. "A lot more than I wanted to."

"Two green beans, a piece of potato and a taste of your roll," Julian said. "Isn't enough to

maintain the Masquerade. Look at your plate. I think there is more food there than when we

started the meal."

Sasha started to protest but Jeffrey interrupted her. "There are tricks that make it appear that

Kindred are eating, when they are not. With your permission, Julian, I could teach some of them

to Sasha." Sasha twisted her head around to stare at the tall Ventrue. That was more than she'd

ever heard him say before.

"Very well," Julian agreed rising. "You can start tonight, if there is time in your schedule."

"I'll make time," Jeffrey bowed.

"Don't I get a say?" Sasha asked. "I wanted to go out tonight."

"No," Julian smiled. "You do not get a say."

"Sadist," Sasha grimaced.

"That's *my* hobby," Julian replied, kissing her on her forehead. "I have a meeting with

Caitlin at the paper, and afterwards I'll be at the club. Once you are finished your lesson, you may

join me. I'll even help you Hunt."

Sasha made a face. "I'd rather drink bleach. I wasn't kidding about my appetite. I think if I

Fed tonight, I'd be sick for a week."

"Goodnight, then," Julian chuckled, heading for the door. "I'll see you before dawn."

Donald thumped his head on the steering wheel a few times before trying to start his car. Why

didn't anything ever go right? Uncle Julian had this great place, about a billion dollars, and even

Sasha, and he wouldn't even share. Son-of-a-bitch. It wasn't fair.

He had to really crank it before the Cobra's engine would turn over. It needed a new

alternator, a ring-job, new brakes.... He just didn't have the money. The best he could do was

wash and polish it every week, but it ran like shit. He hadn't told Uncle Julian just how desperate

things were getting.

He had already dropped out of school - he'd used the last check his mother had sent him for his

tuition to buy drugs for re-sale. And while he did have a big market, the profit margin barely

covered his own habit. Things had gotten so bad that Becky had to get her old job back, waiting

tables at T.G.I.Friday's, just so they could pay the rent. God, Donald hated that.

Girls had it easy, Donald decided. Look at Sasha. All she had to do was lie on her back a

couple of times a week and she got it all. This great house, all Uncle Julian's money. She didn't

have anything to worry about. Why couldn't his life be like hers?

It would be, he vowed. One day. One day, soon. He'd have everything Sasha had and more.

Even better, he'd be just like Uncle Julian. That thought made him smile. Yeah, then everything

would be easy - he'd have money, women, great drugs, life would be just perfect. When he was

just like Uncle Julian.

**********

Julian examined the photographs in the research file he'd taken from Caitlin's desk. Police

photos of Eddie Fiori's office taken after Eric's destruction were mixed with detective reports,

autopsy photos and the results of her reporters' interviews. Cameron's Brujah had been too

enthusiastic, he thought with a sigh. Probably to redeem themselves from the taint of association

with Eric's murderer. It had been one of their own who had extinguished Julian's Childe.

"You aren't thinking of publishing these, are you?" He asked when he heard Caitlin enter the

room. One particularly gory photograph showed how the Brujah had piled the heads of their

victims on Eddie's desk when they were done. Julian wished he had been well enough after Eric's

destruction to order the Nosferatu to take care of things. They wouldn't have left so much

evidence behind. Of course everything about that night was far off and fuzzy. For all he

remembered, he could have directed Cameron to leave the heads.

"Not on page one," Caitlin smiled. She peeked over his shoulder at the picture and winced.

"And not that one, anywhere. I can't imagine anyone waking up to that over breakfast. Ugh!"

"You have to wonder about the kind of monster that could do that sort of thing," she

continued, circling her desk to take her chair. "You should see the autopsy reports. They read

like a Stephen King novel. I know these guys were criminals, but the way they were literally

tortured to death...."

"I don't think that the newspaper has to expose that sort of detail, Caitlin," Julian argued,

dropping the folder back onto her desk. "I've warned you about sensationalism before."

"Aye, aye, Captain," she mock saluted. "I understand. I'll tell Silberman and Reese to be very

discrete. Of course, some of the detail has to come out. Anthony Meeker was found with a

sword driven through his heart, so the police think it's related to the union official who was

impaled a couple of months ago...."

"That is exactly the sort of thing I *don't* want," Julian maintained. Linking the two stakings

so prominently would be like a beacon to Vampire Hunters. And there were dozens of other

clues that had been left behind. If he didn't keep them out of the news, San Francisco would be

crawling with deluded mortals seeking to end the 'Kindred threat' before he could blink.

"Why not?" Caitlin demanded, throwing up her hands. "Julian, it's an important aspect of this

case. This Mob War has been brewing for months. Now that it's exploded people are going to

want to know about it."

"No one outside of Organized Crime has been hurt, correct?" Julian reminded her. "I see no

need to terrorize the general public when they are in absolutely no danger."

"We are not 'terrorizing' anyone," Caitlin protested.

"Articles like this keep people from the suburbs out of the city," Julian reminded her. "I can't

afford to lose business in the entertainment industry. Not to mention that tourist season is coming

up, and people reading this story might not want to visit a city in the middle of a 'Mob War'."

"Are you asking me to kill this story?" Caitlin demanded.

"No. Of course not," Julian assured her. "I just want you to present it in a way that's not

objectionable. Something that portrays the city in a reassuring light. So that your readers are

assured that the police are doing a good job and the city is as safe as it ever was."

"Julian!" Caitlin exclaimed in exasperation. "The police don't have a clue! There aren't going

to be any arrests for these murders. It's almost as if there is a deliberate cover-up."

"Caitlin," Julian shook his head. "Why are you fighting me on this?"

"Why are you so intent on altering the angle of this story?" She retorted.

"Because if you present this as a big scandal it will cost me millions of dollars," Julian replied.

"Ninety percent of my investments are right here, in San Francisco. The city's fortunes are my

fortunes. I simply can't afford to have *my* newspaper spoil the rest of my business. I want you

to win your Pulitzer, Caitlin, but not if it's going to cost me that much."

"Are you implying that you can buy me a Pulitzer Prize?"

"If you write this article the way you want to," Julian nodded. "That is exactly what I'll be

doing."

"That's... that's..." Caitlin shook her head, looking more mystified than angry. "I can't believe

you'd say that. I can't believe you'd say that to *me*."

"I love you, Caitlin," Julian admitted. "But I need to see the whole article before it goes to

print. I can not compromise on this."

"You don't trust my judgement?" Caitlin demanded. "Why did you give me the editor's job,

then?"

"I trust your judgement," Julian replied. "But I have too much riding on this not to want to

take a personal interest. I hope you can understand that."

Caitlin looked at him. "I thought I could, Julian. I thought I understood you - but obviously, I

don't."

**********

"Did he give you the money?" Becky asked the minute that Donald walked in the door. Why

couldn't she ever control herself, he wondered. Show him a little consideration? Even worse, she

was still wearing her uniform from work, only now it was decorated with spit-up from her damn

brat.

"No," he snarled. "He wouldn't give me the money. Cheap bastard barely gave me the time of

day. And my Mom said I could always go to him for help. Some help he was!"

Becky cringed back. "I made dinner," she barely whispered.

"I'm not hungry," Donald growled, throwing himself into his chair in front of the TV. He

rooted around beneath the coffee table until he found his stash box. He pulled out his baggie and

the mirror and cut himself a few lines.

Becky crept around behind him, tidying the place, although it was already spotless. He would

never have thought before she'd moved in what a neat freak she would turn into. But her

meekness was beginning to get on his nerves. Christ, he'd apologized a thousand times for last

weekend, and besides, none of the bruises showed. Why couldn't she realize that he really

regretted losing his temper? But she continued to act as if he was some kind of an ogre.

"You want some of this?" Donald offered, holding out the mirror. It would mean less for him,

'cause they were almost out, but it would be worth it if she'd just relax.

"Not tonight," she replied. "It'd just put me right to sleep."

"Fine," he snapped, twisting away from her. "No skin off of my back." He turned on the TV,

then did both lines as fast as he could. That way he had a reason not to share if she changed her

mind.

Donald channel surfed until the coke hit his system. Metallica was on MTV, and "Until It

Sleeps" seemed so portentous and filled with meaning that he turned the volume up to maximum

and just let it wash over him.

Becky ruined that, of course, or her brat did. The kid woke up screaming and Becky had to

pick him up. Donald turned the volume down resentfully, but the baby wouldn't stop crying. "I

told you to get an abortion," Donald reminded her. "But *Nooo*. You wanted to be a Mommy."

"He'll go back to sleep in a minute," Becky whined. She slipped into the kitchen and brought

him a beer. He clicked MTV off and switched to ESPN and a soccer game. When the

commercial came on he channel surfed some more.

Becky brought him another beer and a bag of nachos. "Why don't you have another hit," she

invited. "I got some good tips today."

"How much?" he demanded. She produced a wad of bills from her pocket. It was mostly

fives and tens with only a few one dollar bills mixed in. "Hey, great," he grinned. "With what we

got left I can buy up a bunch of crank and sell it on campus. Finals are coming up and people will

want help studying." He expected her to protest about the rent, since they were still behind, but

she didn't.

"I'm going to clean up the bathroom and go to bed," she said, standing. "I'm exhausted and I

volunteered for a double shift tomorrow."

"What about the brat?" Donald demanded. "Don't expect me...."

"I'll drop him off at my Mom's," Becky interjected. "I figured you'd be busy."

"Damn straight," Donald muttered, sitting back. Maybe he'd sell the last of his text books -

they might net him almost a hundred bucks. And Becky might make over a hundred more

working that double shift tomorrow. All together he might get up enough for some grass in

addition to the crank. And some more coke for himself.

He roused himself enough to cut another line, then wandered into the kitchen for second beer.

Becky was still working on the bathroom, he noticed. She liked it sterile in there. He channel

surfed some more, then fell asleep on the couch oblivious to the infomercials that had started.

Becky slid out of the bathroom, retrieved her suitcase and the baby's diaper bag from the closet,

slid the money back into her coat pocket, took the baby and snuck out into the night. It would be

over 20 hours before Donald would realize that she'd left him.

**********

Having successfully slipped away from Cameron and the Brujah, Sasha was forced to walk

home again. She'd only gone out with them in the first place to Feed, and hadn't even managed to

get that done. She hated Hunting on her own. Most of the time she could get Cash or Julian, or

occasionally even Lillie, to share their prey. Cameron had promised to get her something tonight

- but then, after she'd agreed and left the Mansion, he'd put so many strings and conditions on her

meal that she'd left him in disgust.

Well, the Thirst wasn't that bad. Cash had shared a cute teenaged boy with her just two nights

ago. And she'd had two rats last night. Killing rats didn't bother her, but they didn't fill her up

either. Still, she wasn't going to go back to killing people's pets. Or back to killing people, either.

She sighed as she turned the corner onto Fillmore and started up the hill. The Brujah were

beginning to tease her about not Hunting anything but animals, and no matter how hard she tried

to hold on to her temper, she always ended up fighting mad. They didn't understand that she

couldn't control herself, that she needed someone there to make her stop before she killed her

prey.

Uncle Julian understood. When he took her to The Haven, he made her Hunt, then shadowed

her to the backstage area to interrupt her Feeding. It made her nervous, taking a guy upstairs

when she could see Julian sitting at his table, obviously not watching her, but he'd never let her

down. Not yet, anyway. Of course, she always made sure that she picked great big men who

wouldn't miss the blood she took, even if big men turned her off.

She finally reached the Mansion and headed for the back gate. She'd rather not answer a

bunch of questions from the Gangrel guards. She had a better chance of avoiding Lorraina in the

back, too. That Gangrel bitch took every chance she could to bully and torment her. A lot of the

time she was worse than the Brujah.

The view from the rear of the Mansion was magnificent, and Sasha paused for a moment to

gaze out at the Golden Gate and the mighty bridge that spanned it. What must it look like to a

Toreador, she wondered. That Clan always claimed that the Embrace heightened their senses and

gave them a greater appreciation of beauty than anyone else, living or Kindred. Sasha wished that

she was Toreador.

Hell, she wished that she were anything but Brujah. Of course no other Clan would have

defied Julian to take her the way Martin had. The other Brujah Childer laughed about how great

it was to be dead, but that wasn't how Sasha felt.

Sasha felt... empty. Hollow. Numb.

Everybody seemed to have a purpose, a mission, a goal of some sort. Everyone except her.

Eddie had ordered Martin to Embrace her to hurt Julian, in the hope that it would provoke a Clan

War. Now both Martin and Eddie were so much dust and Sasha was nothing more than a

forgotten pawn, abandoned on the battlefield.

Sasha sighed and turned away from the gorgeous panorama. She wasn't going to be a pawn

any more. She would just have to find something to fill in the void where her life used to be. If

only she could figure out what that something should be....

A cold autumn wind blew up the hill, and Sasha pulled her leather jacket closer around her. It

was a mortal reflex left over from her warm days - she had no body heat to conserve and although

the wind was chill, it couldn't hurt her. Nonetheless, she hustled towards the back gate eager to

get out of the frosty air. It was trash night, and the plastic trash cans were lined up like little

soldiers next to the entrance to the compound's wall. As Sasha passed them she heard a small

sound from the one on the end.

Her Thirst still bothered her. I hope it's a racoon, she thought, and not a rat. A great big,

healthy, juicy racoon. She'd fed from racoons before. They weren't as good as humans, but they

were okay as far as animals went. More filling than a rat, certainly, but she wasn't picky. Sasha

wrenched the lid off of the can, her other hand poised to capture the escaping animal....

....and stopped dead.

It wasn't a rat or a racoon.

It was a baby.

She stood there dumbfounded and stared. The infant waved it's fists at her and blew a spit

bubble, then yawned and closed it's eyes. Sasha put down the lid and scooped the baby out of the

trash. It was laying on a quilted carry-sack with the words 'Diaper Bag' printed on it in swirly

blue letters. Sasha picked that out too.

"Where did you come from?" Sasha asked the baby. It just cooed and wrapped one hand in

her hair. He wouldn't let go when she rested him on the lid of another one of the trash containers,

so she gently pried his fingers apart. "Strong grip, kid."

She undid the snaps on the romper and peeked into the diaper. It was a boy. He was also

wet, but she found some disposable diapers in the bag and changed him. There was a bottle and

some formula in the bag, a half-empty pack of baby wipes, a teething ring, a second romper, a

dirty baby bib, a frayed blanket and a tiny teddy bear that had seen better days. No clue as to who

the baby was, or how it had ended up in Uncle Julian's trash.

"You are a mystery, Dude," Sasha informed the baby. He just sucked on his fingers and

gurgled.

She repacked the diaper bag and slung it over her shoulder. "What kind of monster throws a

baby in the trash?" Sasha asked, lifting the baby in her arms. Anyone who would do such a thing

had to be worse even than the Kindred.

The baby looked around, fully awake now and discovered the full moon hanging over the

Golden Gate Bridge. He was so cute, with big brown eyes and a head full of dark hair. It was

adorable the way he reached out as if to grab the moon from the night sky. How could anyone

give him up for a second, let alone just toss him away?

"No answer, huh? Well, guess what? You've got a new Mommy now." The infant regarded

her with grave surprise, then turned to stare at the moon again.

The Nosferatu were always going on about Fate and Destiny, and while she normally avoided

that gruesome bunch as if her existence depended on it, she had to admit that they might have

something there. Maybe there was a reason she found the abandoned baby, instead of anyone

else.

Sasha kicked the gate until the Ventrue guard opened it. She gave him a bright smile, settled

the baby's weight on her hip and went to find Uncle Julian.

**********

"Well, of course you can reintroduce Camilla to the Clans as Hestia," Julian told Daedalus. "I

simply don't understand why she wants to change her name. It's not as if she has ever taken part

in the Masquerade." He turned to Camilla with a touch of alarm. "You don't intend to start

walking among mortals, do you?" Her new appearance was certainly different from the one she

wore when she returned to the city, but she still looked far from human. Julian wasn't certain that

he believed Daedalus' explanation that Camilla's new face was a side effect of the alchemy that

changed her eyes back from lizard green to human brown.

"No," Camilla answered stiffly. "I have no intention of walking openly among the Kine. And

it is my right to chose a name that suits my nature."

"Hestia suits you better than Camilla now?" Julian's eyebrows rose.

"Too many remember that Camilla was Goth's lover," Camilla (or Hestia, if she insisted) kept

her eyes on the oriental carpet at her feet. "They remember that Goth sought to depose Daedalus,

and murder you. I wish to put that behind me, but Kindred memories are long."

"And Nosferatu memories are longer than most," Julian agreed. "But everyone will know it's

still you, Camilla. You can change your name, but not your past."

Camilla looked up, her brown eyes flashing with anger, but Daedalus rested his hand on her

arm. "If you were to announce that she would henceforth be known as Hestia, and that no

mention of Camilla was ever to be made, the Kindred of the city would see that you have forgiven

her for her part in the taking of the human child and the events that followed."

"Very well, Daedalus," he sighed. "Since you ask it. At the next Conclave I will...."

Sasha kicked the door of his office open so hard that it banged against the bookcases. "Uncle

Julian," she gushed. "You will never guess what I found!" She dropped the bundle she was

carrying on his desk. Julian looked down into the face of a brown-eyed infant. It babbled at him.

"Sasha!" Julian cried in alarm. "What have you done? Where are this child's parents?"

"I have no clue," Sasha shrugged. "I found him in *our* trash cans. Can you believe that?

Somebody threw their baby in the trash? And it's cold out tonight, Uncle Julian. It's a wonder he

didn't freeze." She dropped her face down closer to the child's and played with it's fingers. "Isn't

that right? Weren't you cold? Momma-Sasha's going to keep you snug and warm. Yes, she is."

"We'll have to turn it over to the authorities immediately, Sasha," Julian said, reaching for the

phone.

Sasha slammed her hand over his. "We do not! I'm keeping him! He's my baby now." The

infant started to wail, startled by her shout. "Now look what you've done," she glared at him,

picking up the child and cradling it against her shoulder.

"Sasha, be reasonable," Julian pleaded. "This is no place to raise a mortal child."

"You are holding him wrong," Camilla told Sasha, reaching for the baby.

Sasha held him away from the Nosferatu. "You stay away from him!" The baby cried louder.

"Sasha," Julian said, gently extracting the child from her grip. "You and I are going to have to

talk." He handed the squalling foundling to Camilla and grabbed Sasha by the arm.

"No, wait..." Sasha protested as he dragged her into the library. "Uncle Julian! What if she

eats him or sacrifices him or something?"

"She won't hurt the child, Sasha," Julian assured her. "But you can not keep it." He closed

the door on Camilla/Hestia soothing the whimpering infant and turned back to his niece. "It

belongs with it's parents."

"*It* is a he," Sasha corrected. "And his parents threw him in the garbage. He could have

died, Uncle Julian. If I hadn't found him, he would have died. You have to let me keep him."

"There are government agencies to deal with this sort of situation," Julian reminded her. "We

will hand him over to one of them."

"If you try to send him away I... I'll... I'll run away myself. And take him with me," Sasha

swore.

"Don't be a fool," Julian snapped. "You can't even feed yourself. How are you going to care

for a human child?"

"I hate you!" Sasha cried, bursting into tears. "I hate you, I hate you!"

Julian's shoulders slumped and he pulled Sasha to his chest. Sasha was even more mercurial

than most Brujah Childer. She tried to push him away even as she clung to him for comfort.

"Sasha...." he sighed. "A baby needs a mother twenty-four hours a day. What are you going to

do during the daylight hours when you are at your rest? He'll need food, milk, to have his diaper

changed...."

"I'll never have a baby," Sasha sobbed. "And it's all your fault!"

That hurt, Julian reflected. The truth often did. "I'll have the Gangrel and the Nosferatu

search the city for his parents," he offered. "They will discover why he was abandoned. Until

then he may stay here with you." It was the wrong decision, and he knew it, but he'd do almost

anything for his young descendant.

"I can keep him?" Sasha raised her tear-stained face to his.

"For the time being," Julian answered. "But there are conditions, Sasha. I want you to do

something in return."

"Oh, thank you, Uncle Julian!" Sasha threw her arms around his neck. "I promise you won't

regret this."

"I regret it already," he informed her. "First, I want you to promise to let him go if we find

that his parents want him."

"They threw him away," Sasha repeated.

"Sasha," he threatened. "Promise, or I'll call the authorities right now."

"I promise," she frowned. "But you can't possibly be serious about giving him back to abusive

parents."

"I won't return him to parents who will not care for him properly," Julian assured her. "Now I

want you to do something for me. As long as you do what I tell you the child can stay. But if

you start being disobedient, he goes. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Uncle Julian," Sasha grinned. "I'll be good."

"It's not your Uncle Julian who is asking, Sasha," Julian corrected. "It's your Prince. And I

will hold you to this."

Her smile faltered a little. "I'll do what you tell me," she promised. "For as long as you let me

keep my baby."

"Then here is what I want you to do," Julian guided her to the couch and sat down next to her.

"Listen carefully."

**********

Caitlin dismissed the rest of her reporters from the staff meeting and turned to Phil Silberman

and Richard Reese. "You two don't look too happy," she observed. "Have you hit a dead end?"

"Not exactly," Phil replied. "But I almost wish we had."

Caitlin looked from Phil to Richard and then back. She spread her hands helplessly. "Are you

going to tell me what's wrong, or do I have to play Twenty Questions?"

Phil scratched his neck, looking helpless. "We hired a private investigator to follow this

Cameron. We tried doing it ourselves, but the guy is paranoid as hell. We kept losing him. The

PI loses him regularly too, but at least he stayed close enough to get some pictures...."

"And?" Caitlin prompted.

"And you're not going to like them," Richard said. He handed her a manila envelope. Caitlin

extracted the 8-by-10's inside.

"So this is Mr. Cameron," Caitlin said, looking at the first picture. "Good-looking, I guess, if

you like the mafia-type. Who is this other man?"

"Bodyguard, we think," Phil answered. "We've never seen Cameron without him. His name is

Nicky."

Caitlin turned to the second picture, then the third. They were just different shots of the same

two men, sometimes with others, sometimes alone. "I don't see what...." Caitlin's voice trailed to

nothing when she came to a picture of Cameron and Lillie. The club owner didn't look frightened

or intimidated, merely annoyed. They were standing in the alley behind her club, the dark bulk of

a car obscuring part of the picture. A second picture showed Lillie pointing a finger at Cameron.

The photography wasn't very good - Lillie's eyes had caught the light and seemed to glow.

In the third photograph, Julian was standing by Lillie's side. Cameron had his hands spread

helplessly, as if trying to explain. Julian was holding on to Lillie's shoulder as if preventing her

from attacking Cameron. In the fourth picture Julian was standing between Lillie and Cameron,

looking as if he were trying to stop a fight. And in the fifth photograph....

"Oh my God," Caitlin breathed.

"Yeah," Phil agreed, pursing his lips. "That's what I said."

"Caitlin," Richard said. "If you want to kill the story now.... I mean, it may be a good idea."

"Before the owner of the paper finds out we have positive proof linking him to organized

crime," Phil clarified.

Caitlin shuffled through the rest of the photographs, extracting the ones with Julian in them.

There were only three more. She stared at the really incriminating one, the one where Cameron,

looking furious and humiliated, was kissing Julian's hand. Once again the quality of the

photograph wasn't good. Lillie looked as if she were smirking, and the light had caught Julian's

eyes making them appear almost white. The car in the foreground, though, that was almost

definitely Julian's limousine.

"Can I get copies of these?" Caitlin held the pictures of Julian out to Richard. Her hand was

barely shaking. That was good.

"You can keep those," Richard replied. "We've got others." He sighed. "Look, Caitlin, I'm

sorry...."

"Don't be," she snapped. "It's okay." She tried to soften the expression on her face a little.

"Really." She sighed and dropped the photos on her desk, then looked out at the golden

afternoon. "Is there anything else?"

"Isn't that enough?" Phil demanded. She had to smile. One day she'd look back at this

moment and think - what? That she should have seen it coming? That the whole situation was

ludicrous? Would she want to laugh or cry? Right now she desperately wanted to do both.

"You want us to kill the story?" Richard asked gently. He had asked that before. She rubbed

her temples in frustration.

"No," she said. "Let's run with it."

"You sure?" Phil asked.

"Positive," she assured him, turning from her window and putting on her bravest smile. "Let's

win us a Pulitzer." She could only meet their eyes for a moment before looking away. "Now if

you guys don't mind, I've got work to do."

They closed the door behind them as they left. Caitlin took her phone off of the hook and

opened her bottom desk drawer. All the way in the back was file marked simply 'Julian'. All her

research notes on the article she'd never written about him. And a brown paper bag with another

collection of photographs. The photographs Frank Kohanek had given her. She pulled them out

and compared them to the new ones on her desk.

Julian and Cameron, Julian and the woman with the knife. Julian and Lillie, Julian crouching

over the headless body. Someone had tried to kill him on her birthday. At least now she knew

why. Julian and Cameron. Jesus, she thought. She'd been so stupid.

She looked closer at the photo of Cameron kissing Julian's hand. There was something wrong

with Julian's eyes. Usually that kind of defect only showed up on color film, and then only when

the person was looking directly at the flash. Obviously whoever took these didn't use a flash, and

the film was black-and-white. She found the one that showed Julian wrestling with the woman

with the knife. His eyes were too pale in that one as well. It was almost as if his eyes had

changed color, become a pale green, tinged with gold.... she vaguely remembered seeing Julian's

eyes like that. Seeing them and being frightened....

She shook her head. Julian's eye color wasn't the important thing, she reprimanded herself.

He'd acted so self-righteous when she showed him these pictures before. She'd actually fallen for

it, believed him innocent of whatever vague suspicions she'd had. 'I'm not what you think I am,'

he'd told her. Well, now she knew exactly what he was.

She'd have to give her file to Phil and Richard, she realized. God, she'd gathered enough

information to devote a whole article just to him. She could picture the headline: 'The Man Who

Runs the City'. Between what she had in her file and the picture of him with Cameron there was

enough to keep the FBI busy for years. He owned a bank, for crying out loud, and probably

laundered his money through it regularly.

She fumbled in her drawer for a tissue and wiped her eyes with it. When had she started

crying? God damn Julian Luna. As usual she had fallen for a real winner. Not just a crook and a

liar, but the chief crook and liar in the whole city. Maybe in the state. She pulled another tissue

out of the box and held it over her eyes. She could practically hear her father's voice saying 'Gave

in too easy, didn't you? No man respects a slut, Caitlin'. Of course not, right now she couldn't

even respect herself. How could anyone else respect her?

How she hated being weak, being stupid, being wrong. It felt as if a terrible force were

crushing her. The burden of her shame. The weight of her reckless naivete. She laid her head

down on top of the photographs and sobbed.

**********

Cameron and Nicholas picked Sasha up at nine to take her to the Brujah Clan gathering. She

had called Cameron and asked him for the ride. After the fight they'd had the last time she'd

walked out on him she'd had to swallow a lot of her pride and practically beg to get him over. As

Cash had gone out with Julian hours before, they came into the house. Nicky had never been

inside the mansion and was enraptured by the opulence.

"Nice place," Nicky said approvingly. "I bet you got a real coffin and everything."

"She should move out," Cameron frowned. "You don't belong here, Sasha. All this crap is a

trap - a gilded cage."

Sasha looked at him carefully. No matter what he said to her, she had to hold her temper

tonight. Too much was riding on her convincing him; she couldn't afford to blow it. "I would

have thought you'd be the one insisting I stay here, Cameron," she started slowly.

"Stay?" Her Primogen exclaimed. "Don't be a fool. You belong among your own kind, Sasha.

Not mixed in with a bunch of Toreador and Nosferatu."

"And Gangrel and Ventrue," Sasha continued. "This place can be like Grand Central Station

some nights. Every Clan coming and going... except Brujah, of course."

"What's your point?" Cameron demanded.

"That every other Clan can enter the Prince's house any time they please," Sasha explained

patiently. "Every other Primogen has haven right here, close to the Prince."

"Right under his thumb," Cameron sneered.

"The other Primogens don't have to wait until a Conclave to ask the Prince for something,"

Sasha retorted tartly. "And they are always close at hand so when Julian needs something they

can volunteer. And you know how good Ventrue are at paying back favors. Or maybe you

don't.... when was the last time that Julian felt he was in debt to the Brujah, Cameron?"

Cameron scowled at her.

"I figured you'd want me to stay here," Sasha smiled. "So that Brujah Clan had the same

access to the Prince that every other Clan in the city has. I mean, Eddie Fiori never came here,

did he? But as long as I live here, Julian can't keep you out."

"You figured this out on your own," Cameron said disbelieving. "You - a little baby Fledgling

who can't even Hunt, are trying to teach me how to play Prestation games."

"Fine," Sasha snapped, letting her irritation show. "If you don't want my advice, don't take it.

But I'm more than a Brujah Childe, Cameron. I'm a Luna. I may share your blood now, but I've

been a part of Julian's family for eighteen years. I can't have helped but learned *some* things."

Cameron caught her arm and pulled her against him. "Don't flash your temper at me, Sasha,"

he warned her. "And don't think you can play Ventrue games with me, either. I may take your

advice, or I may not. I won't be a puppet-Primogen. Not for anyone."

Sasha pressed herself against Cameron's chest and forced herself to smile. 'Puppet-Primogen'

was too close for comfort. "I knew you were smarter than Eddie, Cameron," she practically

purred. "He had me Embraced for the wrong reasons. But now that I *am* Brujah, you have a

genuine Luna in your corner. And I think you'll know just how to gain maximum advantage of

that."

"What do you get out of this little girl?" Cameron asked.

"You keep the Brujah off of my back," Sasha replied frankly. "No more teasing about my

Hunting skills, or the prey I pick. No more jokes about my Embrace. And no more mention of

Cash, either. *And* you help me Hunt once in a while."

Cameron nodded slowly, obviously turning her offer over in his mind. "I told Julian once that

I'd treat you like my own Fledgling," he said. "I would have, too, but you ran away from me."

"I was scared," Sasha admitted. "I couldn't stop myself. But that has to be part of the deal

too, Cameron. I won't kill. So don't try to make me."

"Okay," Cameron replied. "I won't try to make you kill. I'll help you with your Hunting. I'll

protect you from your Clan-mates and give you some status in the Clan. But I want more than

just access to the Prince, Sasha. I want you to tell me what goes on around here, who talks to

whom, what deals are being cut behind my back, the whole deal."

"You want me to spy for you," Sasha laughed.

"That's right," Cameron said. "And don't give me any garbage about how you'd never betray

your Uncle Julian. You're Brujah and blood comes first."

"No garbage, Cameron," Sasha smiled. "I'll be your spy." She had to laugh at the look of

disbelief on his face. "Oh, I'm not going to do anything more than look around and maybe

eavesdrop. I'm no Jane Bond. But I see no reason not to tell you stuff like.... oh, how Lillie

sometimes slips into Daedalus' lair when she thinks no one is looking, for instance. Just don't

expect me to follow her and find out what they're talking about."

"Daedalus and Lillie?" Cameron's eyebrows rose. "I never would have thought of those two

being in cahoots."

"Maybe they just sit around and talk about art," Sasha commented caustically. "I don't care.

But if it means something to you, my Primogen...."

"Deal," Cameron said decisively. He held out his hand and Sasha took it. "I protect you. You

give me access to the Prince and information on the other Primogens."

"Excellent," Sasha grinned. "After the Clan Rant, you can take me Hunting to seal it

properly."

"Alright, little Fledgling," Cameron stroked her under the chin. "But no running away this

time."

"I don't think I'll need to," Sasha assured him. She smiled, nearly bursting with happiness. Let

Cameron think her smile was for him or for the prospect of Hunting. She was going to keep the

baby now, thanks to Cameron. He'd kill her if he ever found out the whole deal was Julian's idea,

but then who was going to tell him? "I don't think I'll ever need to run away again."

**********

For the first time in the eighteen months of his existence as a Kindred, Nicky was out on his

own. He'd been separated from Cameron before, of course, sometimes for a whole night, but this

was the first *job* his Sire had sent him to do alone. He was nearly bursting with pride and the

determination to handle things perfectly.

He'd even turned down the offer of an escort from Kenny. If he was going to do a job alone,

he'd do it alone, without another Brujah's help. He'd show them he wasn't a Fledgling anymore.

In time he'd be trusted to watch Cameron's back, to be one of his Sire's lieutenants. He couldn't

think of anything better.

It was an easy job, and Nicholas knew it. Nothing that any of the other Brujah couldn't have

handled easily. But it still was an important job. Someone was cutting into the Brujah profits on

the university campus. Bringing drugs into the city themselves instead of getting them through

the channels that Cameron controlled. The drug market at the university showed a clean profit of

nearly a million dollars every year, and Cameron didn't want to lose it. And he trusted Nicky with

job of intimidating the dealer into changing suppliers.

So Nicky pulled on to campus and parked his bike near the student union building. Two

fraternity types got up off the steps and walked over to him. "I'm Richard, and this is Conrad,"

the blonder of the two said.

"Nicholas," he answered. "So, where is he?"

"Inside," Conrad answered. They walked inside.

"His name is Don," Richard told him. "Donald Tate. He used to go to school here... "

The frat boys slowed halfway across the floor, but Nicky strode confidently forward and

straddled a chair next to Donald. His leather jeans creaked. "Hi, Don," Nicky grinned. "Can we

talk?"

"I'm talking, here," Donald nodded towards a skinny, pimply nerd and his skinny, pimply girl.

Their eyes shifted nervously between Nicky and Don.

"Um, I'll catch you later, Donald," the nerd said. The girl didn't say anything, just looked back

over her shoulder as they made their hasty exit. Nicky grinned at her and licked his lips invitingly.

He liked scaring the Warms.

"You are costing me money, asshole," Donald said. "Whatever you want, it had better be

good."

"I want to make you a deal, Don," Nicholas responded cordially. "I want to become your

wholesaler. And in return, I won't break your stupid neck."

Don's jaw dropped. He stared at Nicky for a full minute with an amazed, half-amused

expression on his face. It pissed Nicky off; Don was supposed to be scared.

"Do you have any idea who you are talking to?" Donald asked, his voice dripping scorn. "My

uncle is Julian Luna. You even think about touching me and they'll never find your corpse."

Julian Luna? Nicky swallowed hard. It made no sense... except that the Prince was Ventrue,

and Cameron said that Ventrue couldn't be trusted. According to his Sire, a Ventrue could shake

your hand, pat you on the back and stab you in the heart at the same time. "Julian Luna?" Nicky

repeated.

"That's what I said, dip-shit," Don said sarcastically. "And as for changing wholesalers, why

should I? I certainly don't need another layer of middle-men between me and my shipper."

Nicky looked Donald Tate up and down. He did have dark hair, like the Prince and Sasha.

His eyes were the same rich brown as Sasha's, his voice had the same intonations... "I work for

Luna," Nicholas shook his head. It wasn't exactly true, and Cameron would have his tongue for

putting it that way, but he was having a hard time with this. "I mean, I work for..."

"I know who you work for," Don retorted.

Nicholas swallowed the rest of what he was going to say. Donald Tate was still human,

Nicky could hear his heart. It was beating calmly in his chest, not hammering away they way it

should have been if he was afraid of Nicky. His smell carried none of the acid scent of prey;

Donald exuded confidence, carried himself with an arrogance that was very much like that of the

Prince. "This is Brujah territory," Nicky protested. "The Prince gave it to us. I will go to my

Primogen and..."

"Are you high?" Donald demanded.

Nicholas' heart started to beat in panic. He had just broken the Masquerade! Spoke openly of

things that only Kindred should know, in a crowded room where anyone could hear. If Donald

hadn't interrupted him...

Donald knew of the Masquerade, Nicholas realized. Luna must have told him. And if the

Prince had told him about Kindred, then Donald must be ready to be Embraced. As Prince, Julian

could make as many Progeny as he wanted. And if Julian was going to Embrace Donald and

Donald was a drug dealer who wasn't afraid of invading Brujah territory... Things began to make

sense in a very alarming way.

Without another word to Donald Tate, Nicholas got to his feet and practically ran to his bike.

He had to warn Cameron about what Julian was doing.

**********

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

**********

"We need to name him," Sasha said to Cash. She was feeding her foundling the last of his

formula. After he'd finished she'd put him in the dresser drawer that served as his temporary crib

and go to the store to get some more. She'd need diapers too. "What do you think of calling him

Julian?"

"I think it's already being used," Cash commented. He was laying on the floor with his feet up

on her bed playing idly with the Baby's teething ring.

"Maybe Augustus," she suggested. "After my Grandpa."

"And all the other little kids can call him 'Augie'," Cash grinned.

She threw the empty formula container at him. "You are no help." She chewed her lip for a

while, thinking. "I know," she grinned. "How about Stevie?"

"Stevie?" Cash's eyebrows rose. "Why?"

"After your Sire," Sasha smiled. "Stevie is a good name." The baby finished his bottle and

was just sucking air. She carefully placed him over her shoulder and rubbed his back, waiting for

him to burp. "But not Stevie Ray, okay? We'll name him Stephen Augustus, or Stephen Julian,

something like that."

Cash climbed slowly to his feet. "You'd do that? You'd name the kid after my Sire? You

didn't even know him, Sasha."

"Sure," she grinned. "The way you talk about him, I'm sure I'd like him. And it's not like

you're going to tell me about your mortal family. Besides, I like the name."

"I doubt if you would have liked Stevie," Cash grimaced. "And I'm sure he wouldn't have

liked you. He hated Brujah. Lorraina's always throwing that in my face."

"No wonder you two fight so much," Sasha grinned. "But I don't care. Stevie it is." The baby

belched loudly. "Did he just throw up on me?" She turned to show Cash her back.

"No," Cash laughed. "Are you really enjoying this? I would have thought that the

diaper-changing and burping would have thrown you off by now."

"Of course I'm enjoying this," Sasha retorted. "I'm bonding with my baby. And he's bonding

with me, aren't you little Stephen?" The baby fussed and tugged at her hair. "Ugh! I just had a

terrible thought. If you're Stevie's Daddy, that makes Lorraina his aunt. Talk about your wicked

witches."

"*I'm* his Daddy?" Cash protested. "Uhn-uhn, Sasha, leave me out. He's your kid."

"Don't be a jerk," Sasha retorted. "He's a boy, he needs a father figure. You're it, Gangrel."

"I'm outta here," Cash insisted, retreating towards the door. "If I wanted a kid, I'd Embrace

someone."

"Come back here," Sasha insisted.

"Make me," Cash laughed. Sasha followed him out into the hall and threw the empty baby

bottle at him. It caught him between the shoulder blades as he headed down the stairs. "One

thing about you having a kid, Sasha," he called back at her. "It sure slows you down."

"Bastard," she called at his retreating back. "I'm not going to name him Stevie, either!"

She headed back to her room as the baby started crying. "Isn't that just like a man," Sasha

said. "Thinking that a baby is a woman's responsibility." She bounced him a little in her arms, he

usually giggled and squealed when she did that. Now he only cried harder. "Oh come on, don't

start Sweetheart," she begged. "You gotta go to sleep so I can go get you formula and diapers."

The baby screamed in protest.

"Where is your damn pacifier?" Sasha looked around her room in dismay. It was nowhere to

be seen in the wreckage of her bedroom. "I really should clean up this place," she frowned. She

couldn't even locate the teething ring Cash had been playing with. Out of options she pushed her

forefinger into the baby's mouth and let him suck on it.

"Sasha," Uncle Julian stood in her doorway. "If you need help with the child, Camilla -er-

Hestia, whatever her name is now, can help you."

"A Nosferatu?" Sasha choked. "Uncle Julian, they're monsters!"

"They are no more monstrous than you or I," Julian corrected. "Hestia had numerous children

when she was a mortal. She even took in a few orphans and foundlings of her own. I can't think

of another Kindred whom I would trust more with a human infant."

Sasha made a face to let him know exactly what she thought of Nosferatu. The baby,

discovering that her finger was not a food source, began to wail again. "Oh, jeez," Sasha

muttered. "Wait, here, here, here." She bit down on the end of her finger and slid it back into the

baby's mouth.

Julian crossed the room and seized her arm before she even saw him move. "What do you

think you are doing?" He demanded furiously.

"It puts him right to sleep," Sasha protested.

"You can't feed a human child Kindred blood, Sasha!"

"He likes it!"

Julian twisted her arm until she was standing. "That's it," he fumed. "Downstairs. Now!"

"I don't see why you're being so mean," Sasha muttered, half hoping that Uncle Julian couldn't

hear her over the baby's crying. It was hard going down the stairs holding the screaming child

with one arm, and Julian practically dislocating her shoulder.

"You are going to have some lessons in how to care for that child," Julian swore. "And Hestia

is going to teach you."

"No!" Sasha protested. "You can't make me!"

"Then the baby leaves tonight, Sasha," Julian threatened.

"Please, Uncle Julian," Sasha cried. "Not her. I don't like Nosferatu. They're sewer rats.

She'll give him a disease or eat him or something."

"Don't be obstinate," Julian retorted, pushing her into the library sofa. "She won't *eat* him."

"They ate my Sire," Sasha pointed out. "They ate Martin."

"Sasha," Julian sighed. "That was a unique case. I swear, she won't hurt the child. But you

will harm him, maybe permanently, if you continue to feed him your blood."

"He's out of formula," Sasha pouted. "He's probably still hungry."

"I'll send Jeffrey out immediately," Julian promised. "Now stay here until I return with

Hestia." He started to close the library door on her, then paused. "Sasha, I'm not going to lock

you in. But if I regret that decision, *you* will regret it, too. Have I made myself clear?"

"I'll stay here," Sasha sighed. "I promise."

The door shut and she waited until he had definitely gone away before she threw a book at it.

Then she rocked her crying baby, not noticing that she was crying too until the tears began to fall

on his up-turned face.

**********

Julian walked into Caitlin's office. It was long after full dark and only a handful of her staff

remained at their desks. "What is so urgent?" He asked her. "You sounded upset on the phone."

"Close the door," Caitlin snapped. She was evidently trying to appear calm, but she was

betraying her anger in a thousand little ways.

When Julian had closed the office door behind him, Caitlin threw a manila folder at him.

Photographs fluttered out, littering the floor around his feet. "Explain this."

Julian looked down at the photos. There was one of Cameron and Lillie laying against his left

foot. He stooped to pick it up and saw a second photograph beneath it. Cameron kissing his ring

outside The Haven. It must have been taken last night. Why had he insisted on that particular

show of loyalty?

"You had someone follow me?" Julian asked, straightening. He left the rest of the photos on

the floor. He should be concerned about the Masquerade, but all he could think of was her.

"I had someone follow Cameron," Caitlin corrected. "Surprise, surprise, he works for you.

So much for your claims of being a 'legitimate' business man, Julian." She looked furious and

hurt. "I can't believe I trusted you."

Julian said nothing. There was nothing to say. He laid the pictures on her desk, put the manila

folder on top of them. He didn't want to look at them any longer.

"This is why you wanted me to kill this feature, isn't it?" Caitlin demanded. "Because you

knew that if we dug deep enough, it would lead us back to you."

He couldn't let her publish these articles. She might not realize what she had uncovered, but

an enterprising vampire hunter would be able to draw the obvious conclusions simply from the

fact that two men died with stakes through their hearts. He had to protect his people and the

Masquerade. Somehow.

"Aren't you going to say anything?" Caitlin's voice cracked.

"What do you want me to say?" Julian asked gently.

"Oh, God," Caitlin moaned. She stood and turned her back to him. He could see her

reflection in the window; she looked ready to cry. "I'm going ahead with the story, Julian. Page

One, Sunday Edition."

"I can't let you do that, Caitlin," he told her softly. If he told the Conclave that she was too

much in the public eye to be silenced, they wouldn't support him. He couldn't think of a single

Primogen who would vote to let her live.

"You can't stop me," Caitlin retorted. "Fire me, and I'll go to the nationals."

"Is that a threat?" It was unreasonable to get angry at her, Julian told himself. But why did

she have to be so stubborn when he was trying to protect her?

"No, it's a promise," Caitlin replied bitterly. "You lied to me, Julian."

"I was afraid of what would happen if you learned the truth," Julian replied.

"You used me!" Caitlin spun around towards him in fury. "You bought the paper to control

the media, and you promoted me because you knew you could control *me*." She rolled her

tear-filled eyes to the ceiling and clenched her fists. "I can't believe I trusted you! I let you in, I

fell in love with you, and you were just manipulating me to get what you wanted."

"That is not true," Julian snapped.

Caitlin gave a shaky laugh. "And it wasn't even sex that you wanted. It was good press. I

don't know if I'm flattered or insulted."

"Caitlin, I do love you," he insisted.

"Then tell me: did you kill Eddie Fiori?"

"You know I can't answer that."

"Did you order him killed, or did you do it yourself?"

"Who is asking?" Julian demanded, his own temper rising. "The editor of the San Francisco

Times, or the woman I love?"

Caitlin put a shaking hand over her mouth. "Oh, God. You did, didn't you? You killed him."

A single tear rolled down her porcelain cheek.

Julian repressed the urge to take her in his arms and comfort her. She would find his arms

anything but comforting now. Instead he pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and

forefinger until he had himself under better control.

"I'm sorry, Caitlin, I shouldn't have shouted at you," Julian chose his words carefully. "Surely

you understand that I don't want to incriminate myself."

"Incriminate yourself," Caitlin repeated.

"Would you believe me if I told you that I didn't kill Eddie Fiori?" Julian asked. "Or even had

him killed?"

"No," Caitlin whispered.

"Then why should I protest my innocence?" Julian shook his head. "Whether you believe it or

not, it is the truth."

"The truth," Caitlin scoffed. "Do you even know what that word means? If you didn't kill

Fiori, then who did?"

"A lady of my acquaintance," Julian admitted reluctantly. "He had been pursuing her. I

believe he may have been attempting to blackmail her into doing what he wanted."

"How awfully convenient for you," she sneered, crossing her arms in front of her. Julian

reflected that it was an extremely defensive gesture. "So, why didn't the police ever find Fiori's

body?"

"Because I didn't want her to go to jail. It wasn't self-defense, Caitlin. She stabbed him in the

back." In fact, Lillie had decapitated Eddie, but he wasn't going to tell Caitlin that. "I disposed of

his body so that no one would ever find it. And I had the scene cleaned so that the police

wouldn't find anything."

"And, since you are so interested," he continued. "Eddie's death has been anything but

convenient for me."

Caitlin made a derisive noise.

"Are you taping this conversation?" Julian asked her. "Because I have just confessed to being

an accessory to murder."

"No!" Caitlin looked offended.

"You assure me that this conversation goes no further than the walls of this room?" Julian

insisted. "I don't mean to mistrust you, Caitlin. But I wouldn't like to send myself to jail."

"I suppose that it's only fair that you don't trust me," she said, coldly. "I certainly don't trust

you any more."

Julian licked his lips, determined to convince her of the truth. Or at least the small part of the

truth that he could reveal to her. He would only use his vampiric powers to persuade her as a last

resort, to save her life.

"I inherited a business, Caitlin," he began slowly. "A business that has been in my family since

the mid-nineteenth century. There are some aspects that I find distasteful, and which I have

chosen to not be involved in. My," Sire, he almost said. My Sire, Archon. "Father... had also

tried to absent himself the less savory portions of the family business. He was not successful."

That was an understatement. Archon's actions had helped precipitate the bloody Clan war that

had decimated the Kindred in San Francisco. Julian had destroyed a great many of his own kind

during those long bad years. He didn't want to bring them back.

"I do not think I will ever be able to completely wash myself clean of my associations," he

continued. "Not in this lifetime. But if I can grant future generations of Lunas a less disreputable

history, I will." That was a neat way of saying that his next journey through the Masquerade

would not be plagued with questions about his underworld contacts. And it wasn't exactly a lie.

"Eddie had assumed the management of the segments of the business I wished to be free of. I

won't say that I liked him, because I didn't. I won't claim to have trusted him, either. But his

death has left a vacuum in the power structure. And there are people who are willing to kill a

great number of other people to take his position."

"And have you had anyone killed?" Caitlin asked.

"I've...." Julian considered the best way to explain. "Withdrawn my protection from some of

the men who have been killed. I allowed it to be known that they betrayed me, attacked me.

They hoped to eliminate me as a potential rival, and they feared I would become involved if

their... unsavory actions were discovered. I did so knowing that it was a virtual death warrant.

The men who were found in Fiori's office were killed because it was assumed I would be pleased

by the slaughter, and that I would reward the murderers accordingly."

"Have you rewarded them?" Caitlin asked. "You are obviously protecting them. You aren't

going to turn them over to the police."

"No," Julian replied. "I haven't rewarded them. And I can't turn them over to the police

without endangering myself. But I've taken steps to see that it never happens again."

"And your relationship to this Cameron person?" Caitlin prompted.

"He is the most likely contender for Eddie's position," Julian told her. "He's asked for my

support, and I've given it to him. That will influence others to support him, as well. Once it

becomes obvious that Eddie Fiori has been replaced, things will return to normal, and all this

fighting will stop."

"So you are trying to stop all the mob violence in the city?" Caitlin raised one perfect

eyebrow.

"Of course," Julian replied. "I'm not being philanthropic, Caitlin. If I don't, it's only a matter

of time before someone else targets me. I don't want my loved ones getting hurt." And that

included her. "Now please tell me that you are not going to complete this series of articles."

"I think about it," she replied.

"Caitlin...."

"I think you should leave now, Julian." She wouldn't even look at his face. Finally he turned

and walked out of the building, feeling as if he had left some part of himself, the better part,

behind.

**********

"Red wine, please, Mario," Julian said to Lillie's bartender. The Haven was in full swing

tonight, and he was tempted to leave, but he knew he'd feel even more miserable if he was alone.

If only Archon hadn't been extinguished, Julian thought. His Sire knew him better than anyone

ever had. Archon could have eased the despair Julian felt.

Archon had certainly seen this problem coming and had tried to dissuade Julian from pursuing

Caitlin from the beginning. But there had been an air of resignation about his arguments, as if he

knew that he couldn't control Julian any longer. Archon had never been able to control him when

it came to women, Julian remembered with a frown. He had joked about it, long before he

stepped aside as Prince.

Julian was going to have to kill Caitlin. He couldn't see any way around it. He sipped the

wine and looked around at the happy mortal crowd. They laughed and danced with each other,

exuding enjoyment like sweat. Did they have any idea of the predators that moved among them?

He should Hunt, he thought, even if he had no appetite. Distract himself for a while. Perhaps

he'd find some women, get them drunk. It had been a long time since he'd gotten intoxicated....

Cameron sat down next to him. "Nicky had an odd little encounter with a relative of yours,"

he said without preamble.

"What has Sasha done now, Cameron?" Julian sighed. He couldn't even have an hour where

his duties did not intrude on him.

"Not her, a nephew of yours," Cameron grinned. "Or at least he claimed to be your nephew.

His name is Donald Tate, and he deals drugs."

"I know," Julian said. Damn the foolish boy.

"He says you are the supplier," Cameron's smile was like ice. "Are you cutting me out,

Julian?"

"No, I am not cutting you out, Cameron," Julian snapped. "And I am not supplying drugs to

Donald, either. Which you would know if you have half of Eddie's network of informants

working for you."

"He told me that you specifically gave him the Berkeley territory," Cameron was trying not to

be defensive. And failing, Julian noticed. Well, at least I annoy him as much as he annoys me.

"And you believed him?" Julian asked.

"No," Cameron snarled. "Of course not."

Cameron was lying, and Julian was tempted to call him on it. But it wouldn't do his reputation

any good to get into a duel with Cameron in public. Especially in The Haven, where he had

forbidden Kindred to fight. "I am aware of what he's doing," Julian said as diplomatically as he

could. "And I have told him to stop. Since he hasn't listened, you'll have to... encourage... him to

find a new way of supporting himself. Be gentle, Cameron. He is still my blood, and I don't want

him harmed."

"You could stop him," Cameron pointed out. "You could have him arrested."

Julian smiled acidly. "And have him tell that fairy tale about me to the police? I don't think so.

Donald never was a brave boy, he'd do anything, sell out anyone, to save his own skin."

"No doubt his Luna blood has been too diluted over the generations," Cameron sympathized.

"Cameron," Julian warned. "What you know about my family could be written on the head of

a pin with room left over. Please don't display your ignorance so boldly."

"Fine. I'll take his territory," Cameron almost snarled. "Steal his stock. Discourage his steady

customers from buying."

"Fine, excellent, whatever," Julian answered. "I leave it in your hands."

"Julian," Cameron inclined his head as he rose.

"Cameron," Julian said before the Brujah could leave. "Be gentle. If I find his blood on your

hands...."

"I understand," Cameron grimaced. He turned on his heel and strode away.

Lorraina arrived two minutes later and plopped down next to him in the booth. "We should

have brought the Mercedes, that Limo is a bastard to park around here."

"Go get it," Julian ordered, pushing his wine glass away. "I'm leaving."

"But you just got here!" The Gangrel protested.

"Why, thank you, Lorraina, for pointing that out to me." He instantly regretted his sarcastic

tone. It wasn't her fault his evening was a disaster. But Lorraina was already on her feet, trying

to act as polite and formal as a Ventrue.

"I'll bring the car around immediately, sir," she half-bowed before stalking out of the club. He

had a headache, Julian realized as he watched her take the stairs two at a time. And where else

was he going to go? Home to Sasha and her infant? Daedalus would be with Hestia, so he

couldn't go there. Lillie would be preparing for Frank Kohanek's arrival, and he didn't want to

deal with the mortal cop. At least not tonight. Julian wasn't even sure he wanted to deal with

Lillie, if she had been free.

He got up and walked towards the stairs, so wrapped up in gloom that he didn't notice the

little man in the Hawaiian shirt that followed him out the door.

**********

After consulting with Hestia, Sasha decided to call the baby 'Junior' until she could decide

between her three current favorite names. Hestia also decided that a dresser drawer lined with

towels was inadequate as a crib, and took Sasha up into the mansion's attic in search of a

replacement. Jeffrey agreed to look after Junior while the women were occupied, and Cash

decided to accompany them to 'help'.

"Why would Uncle Julian have a crib in his attic?" Sasha demanded as they climbed the

narrow flight of stairs to the fourth floor. "I mean, that makes no sense."

"During the Clan War, Archon had many of the Ventrue move into this house, abandoning

their former homes," the Nosferatu explained. "Julian sold the Old House, and moved everything

here, including the contents of his attic. I doubt if he has sorted through it since."

"That still doesn't explain why he had a crib," Cash pointed out.

"Until he repudiated his son, Julian shared his home with his mortal descendants," Hestia

replied. "His grandchildren were married and some had children when he sent them all away. He

permitted them to take nothing with them when they left. Even the toys were left behind."

"I didn't know that," Cash commented. The door at the top of the stairs was locked, and the

mechanism was stiff from disuse. It took him some time to force the key to work. The hinges

squealed in protest. He flipped on the electric light and stepped into the crowded space.

As Hestia had promised, the attic was packed. Discolored sheets draped over mounds of

boxes and pieces of long-forgotten furniture. In some places the piles reached the low roof.

Dozens of frames were hung from the walls, each covered by it's own protective shroud. The

smell of dust and long abandonment hung in the still, cool air.

"Why would Uncle Julian do that?" Sasha asked. "Why would he throw his family out on the

street? I mean, he's always been so nice to us."

Hestia regarded her with a flat stare. "He hated his son. I do not know exactly why. But

there was a great deal of bad blood between them. And the dislike he had for his own child has

grown until he now despises all children."

"Oh, come on," Cash protested. "He saved that baby from Goth, and let Eric's kids stay here."

"And he sent them away the moment their father was destroyed," Hestia reminded him. "As

for the infant, his rescue was secondary to his desire to destroy Goth."

Sasha made a face. Her own interpretation of those events cast Julian in a more favorable

light. Hestia nodded at her expression. "He wants you to send Junior away. I have known Julian

for over a century, Childe. Believe me when I say that he despises mortal children."

"If you say so," Sasha frowned. She didn't want to get into a fight with the Nosferatu,

especially since Julian was intent on enforcing Hestia as Junior's nursemaid.

"Ventrue are even more deceptive than Toreador," Hestia commented, winding her way

through the clutter. "They certainly can disguise their feelings more easily. Julian appears to

tolerate what he must, but when the opportunity presents itself, he strikes quickly and viciously."

"Is that what happened back in.... whenever?" Sasha asked.

"In 1934," Hestia said. She had found a group of oval picture frames leaning against a crate

and was sorting through them. "His son had given Julian two grandsons. When the younger boy

married, Julian coveted the bride. Ah, here." She lifted a family portrait, it showed a seated man

surround by eleven children. "This is Augustus Octavio," she pointed to one youth with the tip of

her claw. "And this child is Philip Marius, whom Julian murdered so that he may have his way

with Philip's wife." It was stiffly posed, in the style of the turn of the century, and no one in the

photograph was smiling.

"I thought we were up here to find a crib," Cash interrupted. "Not to insult the Prince."

"I'm interested," Sasha insisted, taking the antique photograph from Hestia. "Are there any

other photos of my Grandpa around?"

The Nosferatu smiled, revealing her fangs. "Perhaps," she said enigmatically. "I'm sure we

will find a great many unexpected things as we search."

"Search is over," Cash said flatly. "Here is a crib." He had uncovered a pile of furniture and

found a disassembled cradle of dark walnut.

"Not that one," Hestia barely glanced at it.

"Why not?" Cash demanded, obviously annoyed.

"He'll outgrow it in a few months," Hestia explained. "I know there is another one up here.

Of blonde oak, with a canopy...."

"Oh, cool," Sasha breathed. "When I was little I begged and begged for a canopy bed."

"I have found it," Hestia announced, folding her long hands together possessively. The crib

was stacked with other matching furniture. There were two dressers, a youth bed and a

scaled-down armoire.

"What a pretty rocking chair!" Sasha exclaimed, pulling it from the pile. "I love all this stuff."

"It's not going to fit into your room, Sasha," Cash explained.

"Then we shall make the room across the hall into a nursery," Hestia replied. "The Prince will

not mind one less guest room, especially since he so rarely entertains. And Junior would be much

less of a burden to Sasha there. Not to mention that it would be a more... healthful... environment

for him."

"Yeah," Sasha sighed, looking faintly embarrassed. "Well, I've been meaning to clean up my

room. I just never get to it."

"Then it is decided," Hestia smiled. "Let us move quickly, before the child awakens."

**********

Cassandra had risen early so that she could make a series of telephone calls before business

closed for the evening. Then she had gone over Julian's books carefully, making certain that all

was in order. She took her duties as his secretary very seriously. It was nearly midnight before

she remembered that she hadn't fed.

She twisted her long blonde hair up into a loose bun and secured it with a few pins from her

dressing table before leaving her room to search for Jeffrey. Julian's butler often delayed Hunting

until just before dawn, and would probably be willing to accompany her on her search for prey. If

he wouldn't, she'd have to catch a taxi and join Julian at The Haven. Although Cassandra

normally loved to visit with Lillie, she had been avoiding the Toreador Primogen since Julian had

begun his relationship with Caitlin. She hated being caught between conflicting loyalties. Lillie

was her best friend, but Julian was her Sire. Cassandra's life had been so much easier when the

two had been lovers.

Well, they would be lovers again, Cassandra consoled herself. They never stayed apart for

very long; so far their longest break had barely lasted eight years. Decades ago Julian had told her

that after a while Lillie left him feeling jaded, and he needed the time away from her to refresh his

interest. Cassandra hadn't told him that Lillie was of the opinion that Julian wasn't quite man

enough to be able to handle her for extended periods of time.

There was a thump from one of the guest rooms at the end of the hall, and Cassandra assumed

that it was Jeffrey or one of his staff. She walked into the room and froze in stunned disbelief.

"What do you think you are doing?" She demanded. Cash, Sasha and Camilla looked up at her in

surprise.

"We're going to make this Junior's nursery," Sasha sounded annoyed. "You have a problem

with that?"

Cassandra looked at the guest room furniture disassembled and piled against the wall, then

looked at the blonde oak nursery set that was being set up. "Where did you find this furniture?"

She challenged. "And who gave you permission to use it?" The pictures she'd painted so many

decades ago were piled against the dresser. She knelt down next to the cheerful watercolors and

felt like sobbing.

"It was up in the attic," Cash told her diplomatically. "We didn't know it belonged to you, or

we would have asked. If you want...."

"Yes, you did," Cassandra snapped. "*She* did. This is your doing, isn't it, Camilla?"

"My name is Hestia now," the Nosferatu corrected.

"Still the same old Camilla," Cassandra sneered. "Hiding in corners and making trouble.

Digging up the past in hopes of tripping her betters with the bones of old heartaches."

"How dare you call yourself my 'better', you round-heeled little tramp," Hestia hissed, her eyes

narrowing to slits.

Cash stepped between them. "No fighting in the house," he said firmly. "You two want to

have a duel, you do it outside. I'll get some Gangrel as witnesses to the outcome."

"You should have died with your demented lover," Cassandra glared, trying to step around

Cash and get at her tormentor.

"And you should have died with Philip," Hestia retorted.

"You keep his name out of your filthy mouth, Nosferatu!" Cassandra cried passionately.

"You aren't good enough to wipe my husband's boots!"

"Enough!" Julian barked from the doorway, and everyone in the small room swivelled to stare

at him. "I will thank you, Hestia, not to torment my Childe while you are a guest under my roof.

Or you will not remain under my roof, or in my city. Do I make myself clear?"

"She started it," Hestia muttered. "She is angry because the infant needs furniture, and we...."

"Why *did* you chose this particular nursery set?" Julian asked.

Hestia swallowed before answering. "I knew it had never been used...."

"And you know why!" Cassandra practically screamed. "How could you just drag it all out...."

"Cassandra!" Julian's shout cut her tirade off like a knife. She clapped her hands over her

mouth and looked at him. She knew she had to apologize, but was terrified she'd start crying.

She's rather die than let Camilla see her cry. Jeffrey was standing behind Julian. He gestured at

her and Cassandra walked into his comforting arms. The hallway was crowded with curious

Kindred summoned by the raised voices. Cassandra wanted to sink into the earth.

Julian extracted his wallet and removed the sheaf of bills inside. "Cash," he instructed. "Take

Sasha somewhere and let her buy new furniture for the baby. I'll have Jeffrey replace these things

in the attic."

"Sure," Cash took the money from Julian and stuffed it into the pocket of his jeans. "Come

on, Sasha."

"Everything will be closed already," Sasha protested. "We'll just have to let Junior sleep in his

drawer for one more day." She smiled ingratiatingly at Julian. "I didn't mean to cause trouble.

I'll help put this stuff back."

Julian looked at his niece flatly for almost a full minute before sighing "Very well." He turned

to leave the room and all the Kindred standing in the hall suddenly seemed to recollect what they

had been doing and hustled off to return to it. "Hestia, I want all these things replaced exactly

where they were found. Cassandra, please come to the study."

Cassandra followed him reluctantly, grateful to Jeffrey for the comforting arm around her

shoulders.

**********

"She never liked me," Cassandra began the moment that the door to his study closed. "She's

always goaded me...."

"Cassandra," Julian interrupted. "I don't care. No more excuses. And no more arguments

with Hestia."

"But Sire!" Cassandra whined. "She started it."

"I don't care!" Julian repeated. "You aren't a Childe, Cassandra, stop acting like one. I

expect a little more dignity from my get."

Cassandra's head hung down with shame. "Yes, Sire," she almost whimpered.

"Julian," Jeffrey said gently. "Don't be so hard on her."

"Jeffrey, I thought I asked you to put that furniture away," Julian snapped.

"It can wait," Jeffrey insisted. "I know you don't like this kind of dissention under your roof,

but you can't blame this squabble entirely on Cassandra."

"You saw less of this argument than I did," Julian pointed out. "Neither of us can say for

certain who started it." He sat in his office chair and rubbed his temples.

"She did," Cassandra whispered.

"There has always been bad blood between Camilla..."

"Hestia," Julian corrected.

"Hestia and Cassandra," Jeffrey corrected himself. "Ever since you Embraced Cassandra."

"So you are saying this is my fault," Julian sighed. "For having Hestia stay here to care for

Sasha's infant."

"I would never say such a thing, my Prince," Jeffrey bowed but couldn't hide the small smile

that played on his lips.

"Cassandra, you are dismissed," Julian waved his Childe out of his office. "Just avoid her, if

she bothers you so much. I don't want any more fighting."

"Yes, Sire," Cassandra backed meekly out of the room and shut the door behind her.

"Now she'll run to her room and sob into her pillow for the rest of the night," Julian observed

crossly. He started to rise but Jeffrey moved behind him and pressed him back into the chair.

"What is really wrong, Julian?" Jeffrey demanded. "You've been like a lion with a thorn in his

paw for nights now. And you are wound up like a watch spring."

"I could never hide anything from you," Julian smiled. "You are worse than Archon,

sometimes."

"Our Sire made me for you, Julian," Jeffrey reminded him. He began to massage Julian's

shoulders. "The only reason I was Embraced was to help you. But I can't do that unless you let

me."

Julian sighed as his Brood-brother sank strong fingers into the tense muscles of his neck. "I

didn't need Cassandra to get hysterical tonight," he admitted. "I should have seen it coming

though - I knew it would happen when I invited Donald over."

"She saw him?' Jeffrey asked. Julian nodded and Jeffrey sighed. "Cassandra isn't like you,

Julian. She doesn't want to see her descendants."

"Donald is her grandson," Julian insisted. "I can understand why she abandoned her daughter;

I certainly never had a very good relationship with my son, John. But family..."

"That is the understatement of the century," Jeffrey muttered. "John hated you with a rare

passion." When he felt Julian's shoulders shake he continued. "Good, I've made you laugh." He

tilted Julian's head up so that the Prince was looking at him. "Let Cassandra be, Julian. Stop

trying to re-unite her with her family. It only gives her pain."

"They are my family, too," Julian retorted.

"You can see them," Jeffrey said. "But don't force them on her. They remind her of things she

would rather forget. Things I think you would also rather forget." He slapped Julian on the

shoulder and stepped back. "I'll move that furniture now."

"Jeffrey," Julian stopped his Brood-brother before he opened the door. "You and Cassandra

are...."

"Just friends, Julian," the tall Ventrue assured him. "A Coterie of two. We have a lot in

common. She was Embraced by you and raised by Archon, I was Embraced by Archon and

raised by you. We are the same age, know the same things, have the same loyalties.... That's all."

"Before you put that furniture away," Julian said. "Would you go to her? Tell her I'm not

angry. I didn't mean to yell."

"Yes, sir," Jeffrey smiled.

Julian buried his head in his hands after Jeffrey left the office. Perhaps he should tell his

Brood-brother about Caitlin and that damned article she was working on. It would be so nice to

have someone to talk to....

He sighed again and forced himself to go upstairs to talk to Hestia. He heard Sasha's voice

first. "Cassandra? She's the one that Uncle Julian killed his grandson for?" The young Brujah said

in disbelief. "Cassandra is Uncle Julian's Granddaughter-in-law?" Julian winced. Not that old

story again....

"Hestia," he said when he reached the doorway. "Perhaps I was mistaken to allow you to care

for Sasha's foundling. You seem to think that spreading slander and scandal are part of your

duties, and I find that unacceptable."

"The Childe just asked...." Hestia replied. She pulled herself erect and faced him with some

dignity. "I was only telling Sasha what I know and answering the questions she asked me. I

didn't realize that would offend you."

"I don't want any further discussion of the matter," Julian told her firmly. "Have I made myself

clear?"

"Of course, my Prince," she bowed, but that familiar smile was on her lips. The one that said

she had found a useful piece of information for trade, or possibly for blackmail.

"If I hear anything further, from anyone," Julian continued resolutely. "I'll have to ask you to

leave." He didn't say from where he would ask her to leave, his home or the city, but the

Nosferatu woman paled anyway. She was terrified of being cast out. What had happened to her

after she and Goth had been banished that would have frightened her so? He pushed the matter

out of his mind. She had always been fairly timid, and he had other things to worry about.

"Uncle Julian?" Sasha followed him when he left the room. "Did those things really happen? I

mean, you didn't really kill your own grandson, did you?"

Julian looked down at her sweet face. It would be so easy to lie to her. She didn't want to

believe Hestia's story, that much was obvious. He could bury the dead, forget it had ever

happened....

"Come into my room," he told her instead. She sat on his bed while he opened the wall safe

and extracted the faded scrapbook from the bottom. "Archon kept this," he told her. "I didn't

even know he had it until after Cameron... until after he was destroyed. It wasn't like him to keep

mementoes of the past, and this was the last thing that I would have thought any of us would

want to be reminded of."

Julian sat down next to his twice-great-granddaughter and placed the heavy book in her lap.

"But it makes sense to me in a way," he continued. "This is the worst mistake I ever made. And

it became very public. Archon could have kept this so that he could remind me just how

important the Masquerade is to us." He smiled grimly at the memory. "As if I could ever forget."

Sasha looked confused. "You endangered the Masquerade?"

Julian opened the scrapbook to the first newspaper clipping. "Back in 1933, right after

Prohibition was repealed," he began. "I still had daily contact with my son and his family.

Everyone thought I was a distant cousin, except for John, my son; he knew that I was his father.

He knew that I was Kindred, and that I never aged. I thought I could trust him to keep the secret.

And for many years, he did...."

**********

Sasha twisted herself into a more comfortable position on the living room couch and turned

back to the front of the scrap book. There was a picture of Philip Luna pasted there. Her

great-uncle, her Grandpa's brother.

What had Grandpa thought about his brother's murder, she wondered. Unlike his father, John,

Augustus had never turned his back on Julian. John, she marveled, Grandpa's father, Julian's son.

She never really felt it before, that the man she had known all her life as 'Uncle Julian' was really

her great-great-grandfather. She had known it in her head, but not in her heart. Now that the

truth had sunk in it made her feel weird.

Had Augustus felt as strongly about Julian as Sasha felt for her Grandpa? She had loved him

more than any person in the whole world. No, she *still* loved him more than any person in the

whole world. Poor Grandpa. What had it been like for him, the three years of hell that was laid

out in the newspaper clippings and faded letters of this scrap book? Sasha only dimly

remembered crying at the death of her parents. She'd always figured that she was lucky that it

happened when she was so young. But Grandpa had been in his mid-twenties when his younger

brother was killed. He had known Philip, played with him, worked with him all his life.

If Augustus had never turned his back on Julian, then neither did he turn his back on his own

father. When John had moved the family out of the city, Grandpa Augustus had gone with him

like a dutiful son. Hestia had that part of the story wrong at least - John had left Julian's house

and everything in it. Julian hadn't sent him away. Somehow that made Sasha feel a little better.

Julian had been quite open about the way his son hated him. John knew that Julian was

Kindred, and never forgave his father for being a 'vampire'. Julian had tried to explain that he

didn't kill his prey, but John hadn't believed him. Probably because he knew about some of the

people Julian did kill at Archon's orders. According to Julian, John had tolerated Julian's secret

for years, until he thought that his own son had fallen to Julian's terrible Thirst. And then he tried

to throw the Masquerade wide open.

Tiny fingers of fear played with Sasha's spine. She could imagine all too clearly what the result

would have been if Julian hadn't convinced John not to speak about vampires. Open war between

human and Kindred, with her family, her Grandpa Augustus, as the first victims of the inevitable

slaughter. What John *had* said about Julian and his friends was bad enough. Sasha didn't want

to read those editorials again. How could anyone be so filled with that kind of hate?

How could Julian have killed his own grandson? That was the one question she had asked that

Julian wouldn't answer. He had just looked at her sadly and said 'sometimes people do terrible

things, even to the ones they love', and wouldn't say any more.

Sasha turned to the end of the scrap book where Julian's 'obituary' was pasted. It had a picture

of him, taken at the trial for Philip's murder. Julian looked the way he always did: proud, aloof,

removed from the people that surrounded him. The headline read 'Julian Luna, notorious

criminal, dead at 57'. Archon had made him give up his life, Julian had told her, give up his

Masquerade and remain in seclusion from mortal society for over twenty years. Julian had said

that he was lucky that his 'correction' wasn't more severe. As it was, it had taken Archon over

two decades to decide on the appropriate punishment for Julian's crime, and during those long

years, Julian had lived as an outcast in the city, avoided by most Kindred. Archon had even

prevented him from seeing his own Childer.

Upstairs Junior started crying. Sasha didn't want to think about Uncle Julian or Philip Luna's

murder or anything else anymore. It was making her depressed. She shoved the scrap book off

of her lap and went upstairs to play with her baby.

**********

Every time that Caitlin thought she had finished with her crying, the tears came back. The

silliest things triggered them. A bottle of wine, a hair ribbon, some earrings. Things Julian had

given her, things Julian had touched.

She took off from work early and cleaned her house resolutely from top to bottom.

Everything that was his went into a cardboard box. Everything that reminded her of him went

into the trash. The telescope he gave her for her birthday? Into the box. The sheets on her bed?

Trash. The spare shirt he had tucked into her closet? Box. Her best wine glasses? Trash.

Caitlin knew she was being irrational, and didn't care. What did it matter if she was destroying

her things? Julian had destroyed her heart and nothing could compare to that pain. Pine-Sol and

disinfectant couldn't erase him from her memory, but she'd be damned if she let him stay anywhere

else in her life.

It was after eleven before she'd finished. She loaded the boxes into her car, took the trash out

to the curb and drove, for the last time, over the bridge and to the house on Fillmore Street. She

didn't give a damn how late it was. Julian rarely went to bed before dawn, and she hadn't been

getting any sleep herself recently. One way or another she was going to get this over with

tonight.

Jeffrey opened the door as she was climbing the stairs. "Miss Byrne," he exclaimed, rushing to

meet her. "We weren't expecting you tonight. May I carry that for you?"

"There is more in the trunk, Jeffrey," she replied, elbowing past him. Behind her the butler

signaled to some of the guards to carry the other box into the house.

"Mr. Luna isn't in at the moment," Jeffrey explained as she marched through the front hall.

"I've just come to return some of his things," Caitlin told him. She pushed the living room

door open with her foot and walked over to the couch were she simply dropped the heavy box.

She clapped imaginary dust off of her hands and squared her shoulders. That was done with....

"Is there something wrong, Ma'am?" Jeffrey inquired gently. "Something I can help you

with?"

Caitlin's foot brushed something as she turned to face him. She looked down to see what she

had caught her heel on and saw an open scrap book. It looked very old. The yellowed headline

was upside-down, but she could read it clearly. 'Julian Luna, notorious criminal, dead at 57'. It

was dated March 1958.

"Miss Byrne?" Jeffrey repeated.

Caitlin looked him straight in the eyes and licked her lips. "Julian probably already knows

this," she said to Jeffrey. "But would you mind telling him that I never want to see him again?"

Jeffrey looked surprised. She almost thought he was going to protest, to ask her why she was

breaking up with Julian. But he recovered himself and gave her a little bow. "I'll inform Mr. Luna

as soon as he returns."

**********

Becky wasn't at Smokey Joe's or Gilliftey's or The White Horse Cafe. She'd lied about her

double shift; she'd quit her job at T.G.I.Friday's almost a week before she left him. None of his

friends had seen her, and none of her friends would talk to him. He even called Becky's mom, but

she hung up the phone the minute she recognized Donald's voice.

He'd been angry the first two or three days, more pissed at her than he'd ever been. He'd

vowed to beat her black and blue this time, then to break her God-damned legs for walking out on

him. Then he'd gotten worried. Worried about her, and worried about himself. He needed her,

damn it.

He missed her, too. He even missed that little brat of hers - of theirs, he corrected himself. It

always upset her when he said that Donny was her kid and not his. That line about the abortion -

well, it was true, but that was what had probably made her pack her bags and go. When he found

her, he'd tell her how sorry he was. How he really loved her and the kid and wanted them back.

How he hadn't really meant it about the abortion. If only she'd come back he'd be so much better.

He'd take it easy on the drugs and the booze, take her out more, and never hit her again. She'd

forgive him. She'd come back to him. She always had before.

But he couldn't find her. She wasn't in any of the places that they used to go to together, back

when they were both in school. So he tried hitting the places where she might be working. He

looked in all the joints on Divisidero Street, without any luck, so far. Nobody had seen her.

He was in a little club called the Haven when he saw Sasha. His cousin was dancing with a

man he didn't recognize, and if she got any closer to her partner, she would be behind him.

Donald frowned and looked around the place, but Uncle Julian was nowhere to be seen. He

shook his head, Sasha had such a great situation and she had to risk it by being with other guys.

What a brat.

He walked over to the bar and signaled to the bartender. Like most of the other places, he

was reluctant to answer any questions until Donald had bought a drink, and Don was running low

on cash. Unexpectedly Sasha came up behind him, clapped him on the back and said "It's okay,

Mario. This is my cousin Donald." Suddenly the guy was willing to answer all of his questions.

Yeah, he recognized Becky's picture. She had come in a couple of weeks ago, looking for a

waitressing job. But they didn't have any full-time openings, so she'd gone elsewhere. At least,

Donald thought, Becky hadn't fallen off the face of the earth.

"So what drags you into the fleshpots, cuz?" Sasha demanded when the bartender had moved

away. She pulled him away from the bar, exchanging glares with a bleached blonde in a leather

jacket, and led him to a quiet corner.

"I was going to ask you the same question, Sasha," Donald answered as Sasha pushed him into

a seat at one of the tables. "Does Uncle Julian know about that guy you were dancing with?"

"Uncle Julian," Sasha grimaced with distaste. "Insisted that I go out with 'that guy' tonight."

"Why?" Donald frowned.

"Because if I'm really, really nice to him, Cameron - that's his name," Sasha scowled. "If I'm

really nice to him, Cameron might be a little bit more cooperative with Uncle Julian. And that's

what Uncle Julian wants."

She sighed and looked around the bar. "It could be worse," she muttered. "At least he hasn't

wanted to take me back to his place...."

"Uncle Julian wouldn't want you to go that far, would he?" Donald exclaimed. Sasha gave

him a withering look and didn't answer. "He actually tells you to sleep with other guys?"

"Still think I've got it so great, Donald?" Sasha sneered. "Believe me, I've paid for everything

I've gotten. Paid in blood. And I'll keep on paying.... Probably forever. I'd trade places with you

in a second. At least you've got a future."

"If it's so bad," Donald said. "Why don't you just get out? I know you've got a trust fund. It's

not like you'll be hurting."

"I'd be hurting alright," she laughed bitterly. "If I ever tried to leave Uncle Julian, I'll be

hurting for sure. I've tried, Donald. I didn't last a week. It's far, far too late for me to get out

now."

"And it's not like I have anywhere I can go," she continued, idly drawing her finger through the

condensation-rings on the table. "Who else would have me? At least Uncle Julian can protect

me...."

"From what?" Donald asked.

"Myself," she sighed. She looked away for a moment, her eyes sad.

"Hey, baby-girl," a voice said before Donald could think of anything to say to comfort his

cousin. "Who's your friend?" Donald looked up into the cold eyes of the man Sasha had been

dancing with. Cameron, he reminded himself. Something in Cameron's eyes made Donald want

to shiver. They were the emptiest eyes he had ever seen, the eyes of a man with no soul.

"I brought you a beer," Cameron continued, putting the mug in front of her. He snared a chair

from another table and sat down.

"Thanks, Cammie," Sasha's smile looked almost genuine. "You're a dream. This is my cousin,

Donald Tate. Don, this is Cameron."

Cameron's eyes and face got impossibly colder when Sasha said Don's name. The smile he

favored Donald with could have frozen water. "Pleased to meet you," Cameron purred. "It's

always a delight to encounter another member of the Luna clan."

Sasha took a long pull off of her beer, downing more than half of it before slapping the mug

back on the table. She turned her head and belched. "Now that hit the spot," she sighed.

"Dainty little bitch, ain't she?" Cameron observed. "So what brings you into The Haven,

Donald?"

"Just looking for someone," Donald shrugged. "But she's not here, so I think I'll be going...."

"But you just got here," Cameron protested.

"Oh, Cammie," Sasha sighed. "Let him go. I want to get out of here, too. Why don't you

take me somewhere we can get a bite? I've got a sudden appetite for something ethnic."

Cameron chuckled and stood, offering Sasha his arm. "Was she always this spoiled?"

"Yeah," Donald agreed, rising himself. "It was good running into you, Sasha. Take care of

yourself."

"Yeah, sure," she smiled, her eyes still sad. "You too."

**********

It was first full evening she'd spent with Cameron that she hadn't walked out on, Sasha realized

as he dropped her off at the mansion. The thought made her start laughing, and the quizzical look

on Cameron's face only made her laugh harder. After a minute, she could see that he was

beginning to get annoyed, but it was too late to stop.

"I was... just... wondering," she gasped between giggles. "If I was... supposed to... kiss...

you... goodbye...."

"Only if your boyfriend can see us," Cameron grimaced. Sasha screamed with laughter at the

picture it made in her mind. After a minute she saw Cameron's shoulders start to shake too, as he

tried to repress his mirth.

"Get out of my car, you silly witch," he said. "And stop laughing before Julian starts to ask

questions about what I've let you drink tonight."

"I'm sorry, Cammie," she chortled, fumbling with the car door.

"And don't call me that," he tried to sound severe and failed. "At least not where anyone can

hear you."

She got the door open and stepped out. She pressed a finger over her lips. "It'll be our secret."

"Good rest, Sasha," he wished her, smiling.

"Good day, my Primogen," she called back. She stood on the step and watched him pull out

of the drive, unable to wipe the grin off of her face. Lorraina glared at her, and Sasha gave her a

pleasant wave in response. It actually hadn't been a bad night, she reflected as she climbed the

steps back into the house. They'd gone dancing, met with some of the other Brujah, then broken

into the natural history museum and looked at the exhibits for a couple of hours. Cameron had

even supplied her dinner.

And now she was home a whole hour before dawn so she could play with Junior and put him

to bed before going to her own rest with a full stomach and an easy mind. This deal that Uncle

Julian had forced her to make wasn't going to be that bad at all.

"Hestia," she called, climbing the stairs to her room. "I'm home."

"She went out to Hunt," Cash called from the nursery. "We expected you home hours ago.

You always come home early when you go out with the Brujah."

Sasha stuck her head in the door of the nursery and looked curiously at Cash. He was laying

on his back with his legs in the air. Junior was balanced on his knee, giggling as Cash bounced

him up and down. "I actually had a good time tonight. What are you doing here?"

"I work here, remember?" Cash grinned.

"I meant in the nursery," Sasha corrected. She lifted Junior off of Cash's shin and gave him a

hug. "I thought you didn't want anything to do with my baby."

"He's kinda cute," Cash admitted with a grin. "I was giving him a horsey ride. Can I interest

you in one?"

Sasha laughed. "Maybe after I put him to bed. I missed him." Junior tangled his hand in her

hair and gave a tug. "Oww!" Sasha exclaimed. "Yes, I did miss you. I even missed you pulling

my hair, you rotten brat."

Cash held Junior while Sasha untangled his hand from her curls. "Does he need to be

changed?" She asked.

"Nah," Cash bounced Junior a little in his arms. "I just got done giving him his bath. He's all

clean and ready for bed. All he needs is a bottle."

Sasha lifted her eyebrows at him. "*You* gave him a bath?"

"Yeah," he admitted. "I'm not totally helpless. I know which end the diaper goes on."

"I'm stunned and amazed," Sasha admitted.

"Don't be," Cash told her. "When I was Warm I had to watch my baby brothers and sisters all

the time. I hated it. But I learned how to take care of human children."

"Now, I'd didn't even know you had brothers and sisters," Sasha said, taking Junior again. She

walked downstairs towards the kitchen, Cash trailing her. "Did you have a whole bunch? I

always wanted a big family."

"That's because you were an only child," Cash informed her. "Yeah, it was a pretty big family,

if you think six kids are a 'whole bunch'."

"Were you the oldest?" Sasha demanded. "How many brothers did you have? How many

sisters? Tell me everything."

"Second oldest," Cash said. "One older sister, three younger sisters and one younger brother.

Only me and my next youngest sister had the same dad."

"Oh," Sasha said, stopping in front of the refrigerator. "I hope I wasn't prying."

"You were," Cash nodded. "It's okay. I don't think about them much. I left home when I

was thirteen and never wanted to go back. I thought I'd bum around for a couple of years, then

try to enlist. Instead I met Stevie Ray and the rest is history."

"I had a sister too," Sasha confessed. "Well, almost. My mom was pregnant before the car

accident. They delivered her right there at the wreck while they were still cutting me out of the

car. She rode in the ambulance with me to the hospital, but she died a couple of days later. I

don't think that Uncle Julian knows that I remember."

Cash put his arms around her and Junior. "Then you aren't an only child," he said. Sasha

closed her eyes and let him rock her gently for a few moments. "C'mon," he said finally. "Let's

get Junior his bottle before he starts to cry, then get him into bed. I want to give you that horsey

ride." He pinched her bottom sharply.

"Pervert," Sasha laughed. "Not in front of the baby. He's at an important developmental stage

and you may scar him for life."

"Sasha," Cash said seriously. "He's being raised by Kindred. He's going to grow up twisted,

accept it."

"Well, maybe with you for a father-figure...." Sasha teased.

"That'll be the only thread that holds him to reality," Cash insisted. "I can see it now, you'll

take the poor kid to kindergarten on your motorcycle, and he'll be dressed in black leather. All

the other little kids will be afraid to play with him...."

"I will not," Sasha laughed. "I'll get a Volvo, like all the other mothers and wear little flower

prints and keep my hair in a pony-tail."

"Oh, good," Cash said. "That alone should make the other Brujah in the city want to jump off

of the Golden Gate Bridge."

The microwave beeped and Sasha took Junior's bottle from it. "Don't be an idiot," she

retorted. "You'll have to wear a suit jacket on parent-teacher nights and promise not to teach him

to howl at the moon."

"Only if you don't teach him how to rob convenience stores," Cash challenged.

"Well, he has to have a career," Sasha laughed. She ducked under the mock punch that Cash

threw at her and scrambled up the back stairs. "Can't catch me, Gangrel!"

Cash followed her, laughing.

**********

"Oh, damn," Lillie slammed down the phone and leapt out of bed. She slipped into a silk

kimono and a darted into her bathroom. "Oh damn, oh damn."

"What the hell...?" Frank called after her, starting to rise himself. "Honey, what's the matter?"

"Stay here," Lillie begged him, emerging from the bathroom with a towel in her hands. "And

be quiet, Frank, please?"

"Why?"

"For me, Honey, please?" Lillie smiled ingratiatingly. "Pretend you're not even here." She ran

into her office without waiting for his answer.

"Lillie?" Caitlin's voice echo up the stairs. Frank slumped back into bed. Well, it was a better

reason than some to interrupt his time with Lillie, he guessed. Although, considering the

Toreador's aborted attempt to blackmail Caitlin, he supposed he should get out of bed and do

something to protect the human woman.

"In here, Caitlin," Lillie's voice rang out cheerily. "Come on up."

"Oh," Caitlin sounded like she was in the office, now. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt

you...."

"You didn't interrupt me," Lillie laughed. "I was talking to some customers downstairs and

backed right into one of the waitresses. I ended up with Bloody Mary all over my dress and Pina

Colada in my hair." Caitlin's strained laugh joined Lillie's breathless chuckle. "I was just

changing. You're never a bother. What can I do for you?"

"Well, I was doing some research in the newspaper library," Caitlin explained. "And I came

across some old clippings about Julian's family. I was wondering if you knew anything about

them, or even what relation these people were to Julian."

"Oh, Julian won't be happy to have you rattling the skeletons in the family closet," Lillie

warned. Frank slipped out of the bed and searched around in the dimness of the bedroom for his

clothes. Lillie wouldn't be too happy, either. Frank didn't want her to try anything rash.

"Well, Julian's happiness isn't my first priority right now," Caitlin responded cryptically. There

was the sound of papers shuffling. Frank located another of Lillie's kimonos and slipped it on. "I

saw this picture first, and knew he had to be related to Julian somehow. What is he - Julian's

grandfather? Great-Grandfather?"

"Grandfather," Lillie responded. "Julian was named after him. Caitlin, I'm serious about...."

"So am I," Caitlin sighed. "I know how private Julian is, Lillie. But I have to know more

about him, about his family. You don't know how important this is."

There was a long pause, and Frank was tempted to give up his search for his pants, and his

gun, to peek through the door at the two women. He didn't want Lillie to hurt Caitlin. He have

to try to stop her if she tried anything.

"I'll tell you whatever I can," Lillie finally agreed. "But it's not much."

"Well, I was able to find quite a bit in the paper's library and in the old public record," Caitlin

admitted. "I just couldn't tie this Julian to my Julian. Our Julian," she corrected herself. "This

guy sounds like a real bastard. He killed his cousin so that he could sleep with the cousin's wife,

and apparently ran every kind of vice racket in the city. He pleaded 'nolo contendere' to the

murder charge, was sentenced to life and sent to Alcatraz."

"But he got out after only two years," Lillie objected. "Or, at least, that's the way I heard it.

The real murderers confessed."

"Two men confessed to the murder," Caitlin agreed. "But years later, after Luna died, the

surviving man recanted and said that Luna's 'business associates' had paid their families half a

million dollars each for the two of them to take the fall."

"Oh," Lillie said.

"But that's not the juicy part," Caitlin continued. "This Julian lived with his uncle and a bunch

of his cousins. While this Julian was in jail for killing one of his cousins, Julian's wife *and* the

murdered man's wife moved out of the family home and in with his *mistress*. The three of them

lived together until he was released from prison."

"Sounds cozy," Lillie observed.

"His wife was named Alexandra, the girlfriend was Cassandra Luna, and the mistress," there

was the sound of more papers being shuffled. "Was named Emily Britain. There are literally

dozens of editorials written by a John Luna, apparently he was the uncle, about the 'life of sin,

vice and degradation that Julian Luna has brought to these three women.' But he also goes on to

call them 'seductresses of the highest order; succubuses who exist only to steal the life from their

male victims.'" Frank realized he was straining to hear every word.

"He sounds confused to me," Lillie replied.

"My question is: this Julian Luna has no recorded children. I could find his death certificate,

but no will was ever probated. I mean, this guy even looks like Julian, he's obviously related, but

how did *our* Julian ever get to inherit his stuff, when I can't find evidence that *this* Julian ever

had children?"

Here it comes, Frank winced.

"Well," Lillie lowered her voice so that Frank could barely hear her. "I don't know this for a

fact, but I'll tell you what I've heard. But you can't tell Julian you heard it from me."

"I promise," Caitlin replied.

"*This* Julian never did have any children with his wife," Lillie confirmed. "But he had a son,

James, with the girlfriend Cassandra, and a girl with his mistress, Emily. Supposedly he was very

proud of the two children."

"Well, the two children were raised together," Lillie continued. "They had private tutors, the

best nannies, and were hardly allowed out of their father's mansion. Naturally they became very,

very close. But by the time anyone realized just how close they were, it was too late. Well, when

Julian's grandfather found out his only daughter was pregnant, he threw his son out of the house

without a penny, and sent the girl to England, so she'd never see her brother again. And that's

where Julian was born."

"Are you telling me that Julian's parents were...." Caitlin gasped.

"Like I said," Lillie replied. "I don't know for sure. But my mother knew the old Mr. Luna

really well, and that's what she told me."

"Oh," Caitlin whispered. "Oh... my."

"So that is one reason I always respected Julian's privacy," Lillie said. "I know he'd just die if

anyone found out about his parents. And with his two children disgraced, Old Mr. Luna

showered everything on Julian. Julian adored him, and did just about anything for him."

"That certainly explains things, doesn't it?" Caitlin sounded dazed by her new 'knowledge'.

Frank didn't know whether to burst out laughing or strangle Lillie.

"Is there anything else I can help you with, Caitlin?" Lillie asked sweetly.

"Did Julian ever refer to his grandfather as his father?" Caitlin asked.

"Why, yes," Lillie actually managed to sound surprised. Frank clapped his hand over his

mouth and bit his tongue - hard. "But he's avoiding talking about both his father and his

grandfather since the old man died."

"What happened to Julian's real father?" Caitlin pressed. "What did you say his name was?

James?"

"I have no idea," Lillie replied. "But I'm sure he's dead now, or he would have tried to contact

Julian. Like I said, this is all hearsay and rumor."

"Thanks, Lillie," Caitlin said. "You're wonderful. Can I call you if I think of any more

questions?"

"Sure," Lillie answered. "But I think I've told you everything."

Frank heard the outer office door close and opened the bedroom door. Lillie was alone, and

leaning against the closed door as if it were the only thing keeping her on her feet. "*You*,"

Frank told her. "Are a piece of work, Lillie. Or do you prefer to be called Emily?"

"You shouldn't eavesdrop," Lillie replied, pushing herself upright.

"And you shouldn't tell lies," Frank countered. "I can't believe you convinced Caitlin Byrne

that Julian is the bastard child of incestuous parents!"

"Well," Lillie pulled the towel off of her hair. "I had to tell her something. She was getting far

too close to the truth. And since she thinks that she's found what Julian wants to hide, she won't

dig any further. Hopefully."

"And it was too good an opportunity to stick it to Julian, wasn't it?" Frank teased.

"Oh, Julian has a great sense of humor," Lillie smiled back. "I'm sure he'll get a chuckle out of

it."

"You're going to tell him?" Frank's mouth dropped open.

"Of course I'm going to tell him," Lillie retorted. "What if Caitlin asks him about it? Besides,

I have to warn him that she's found out about those years he spent in Alcatraz. Believe me Frank,

he'll appreciate all I've done for him."

"Well, at least I can comfort myself with the knowledge that Julian has spent some hard prison

time for murder," Frank mused. He let Lillie lead him back into the bedroom.

"Yeah," Lillie smiled as she climbed back onto the bed. "But that time he was innocent, Frank.

He went to prison for a murder he didn't commit."

**********

With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.

Job 12:12.

**********

The phone rang and Donald's first impulse was to ignore it. But by the time it had shrilled five

times he realized it might be a customer, and, damn, did he need the money. So he pushed himself

off of the couch and walked into the kitchen to answer it.

"Donald?"

"Becky?" Donald almost shouted. "Where are you, Honey? I was worried sick about you."

"Look, Don," Becky's voice had the tiniest quaver in it. That was good, she must have missed

him too. "I know you've been asking people about me. Looking for me."

"Of course I've been looking for you, Sweetie," Donald replied smoothly. "I miss you and

little Don. And I want to make sure you are alright."

"Don, you have to stop," her voice cracked on the last word. "I just want you to leave me

alone."

"Hey," Donald said sympathetically. "I understand. You need some time to get your head on

straight...."

"I don't need any time, Donald," he could swear she was crying now. Her voice had that

whispery quality it got when she started to cry, as if her throat had closed up. "I need you to

leave me alone."

"You're upset, I know. I've been a bastard these last few weeks," Donald assured her. "But

I've learned my lesson. I really, really miss you. Tell me where you are and I'll stop by. No

pressure. It'll just be a visit."

There was a knock at the door and he rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Can you repeat that,

Babe? There's somebody at the door."

"I don't want to see you," Becky said firmly.

"C'mon," he wheedled. "I got a new stuffed animal for the kid. At least let me give it to him."

That was a lie, but he could pick one up fast enough if she would just tell him where she'd gone.

There was another knock at the door. Donald covered the mouthpiece and shouted. "Wait a

goddamn minute! I'm on the phone here!"

"Don," Becky said. "I went to a judge. I got a protection order. If you don't stop looking for

me I'll use it."

"Becky, wait...."

"I mean it, Donald," she said then the phone went dead.

"Becky! Becky?" Donald jiggled the handle for a moment, but the connection was gone. The

bitch had hung up on him. He slammed the phone back into it's cradle with a curse.

There was yet another knock at the door. Whoever it was sounded impatient. "Hold your

water," Donald grumbled. "I'm coming, dammit." It had better be good news, or somebody was

really going to get it.

He opened the door and it was leather boy, the dope head that had tried to threaten him the

other day at the student union. He had brought half a dozen of his friends with him. A few were

carrying baseball bats.

"Hi, Donald," the asshole said cheerily and cold-cocked him, right in the stomach. Donald

pitched over gagging. They pushed him back into his apartment and shut the door.

"Need any help, Nicky?" Donald looked around but couldn't tell which one had asked the

question.

"Not this time," the asshole grabbed Donald by his shirt front and drew his arm back for

another punch.

"Don't!" Donald gasped, but the guy hit him anyway, his fist connecting with the right side of

Donald's face like a hammer.

"Shut up, Juicebag," his tormentor grinned.

"Not too many to the face, Nicky," someone warned. "Cameron said...."

"I know what Cameron said," the guy holding Donald grimaced. He threw Donald face first

against the living room wall and started punching him in the small of the back. The pain was

nauseatingly intense. Donald couldn't even catch his breath long enough to scream. Each time a

blow landed he gave a little grunt. They came too fast for him to do anything else. Stars started

to dance in Donald's vision.

There were smashing sounds coming from behind him. The sounds of breaking glass and

splintering wood. There was laughter too, as the goons cried "Hold this" and "Catch" at each

other.

Leather boy spun him around so that his back was to the wall and punched him again in the

stomach. Then, apparently almost satisfied, he brought his knee up sharply into Donald's groin.

Only then did he release his grip. Donald's knees were too weak to hold him. He sagged to the

floor.

"We finished?" Leather boy asked the others, and they nodded and agreed. A few where still

kicking around in the wreckage to see if anything was left unbroken. Obviously nothing was.

They'd smashed in his TV, pounded his stereo to pieces, even torn up the couch. Donald clutched

his midsection and tried to breathe.

"You guys... are in... deep shit," he gasped as they headed for the door. "My uncle...."

"His uncle," one of them, an Oriental, laughed.

"We know all about your uncle, Donald," leather boy smiled. "Who do you think *sent* us?"

Donald's jaw sagged open and he could feel the blood drain from his face.

"Oh, Mr. Luna gave me a message for you," the leader added as he stood in the door. "He

said if you needed help he'd be more than glad to pay your college tuition. But only if you give up

the drugs."

"I think that would be a good idea," the Oriental grinned. "Especially if you don't want us to

come back."

"See ya around, Don," they chorused as the door closed behind them. He could still hear them

laughing and joking as they walked down the hall. Donald held his bruised ribs and started to cry.

**********

"I got it, Jeffrey!" Bernice recognized Sasha's voice through the elegant frosted glass of

Julian's front door. She let her hand drop away from the bell and patted her hair self-consciously.

Perhaps she should have called first - or instead.

Sasha opened the door balancing a squirming infant on her hip. "I'm almost read--- Oh, hi,

Aunt Bernice," she blinked. "I didn't know Julian was expecting you."

"He isn't," Bernice stepped past her into the hall. "Is he in, Sasha? I have to talk to him. It's

urgent."

"He's just dressing to go out, Mrs. Tate," Jeffrey said from behind her. Bernice turned and

nodded politely to Julian's butler. "If you will wait here I will tell him of your arrival."

Bernice nodded stiffly and Jeffrey sketched a half-bow before leaving to fetch Julian. Sasha

was gazing at her with evident concern. Bernice got a glimpse of herself in the hall mirror, she

looked unusually pale and care-worn.

"Are you okay, Aunt Bernice?" Sasha asked. "You're not sick or anything are you?"

"Oh, no, Dear," Bernice assured her with a false smile. She liked Sasha. If fact she had been

one of the few women in the family that had defended Sasha's outlandish behavior at Augustus'

funeral. "I'm fine. What a cute little boy. Who does he belong to?" She brushed Junior's cheek

with the back of her fingers and he blew a spit bubble at her with a toothless grin.

"Me," Sasha shrugged. "One of the reasons I came to live with Uncle Julian is 'cause my

boyfriend knocked me up and then split. Uncle Julian has been really sweet about it. I don't

know what I would have done without him. Probably something really stupid."

"Oh," Bernice was nonplused. "I... I had no idea."

"Junior," Sasha introduced. "This is your Aunt Bernice. His name is Julian Augustus," she

smiled at her aunt. "But everyone just calls him Junior."

"Bernice," Julian's voice could be surprisingly warm when he wanted it to. "What a delight to

see you. What brings you to San Francisco?"

"I need," Bernice swallowed past the sudden lump in her throat. "That is, I came to ask a

favor of you, Julian."

"Of course," he smiled. If he was embarrassed in the least he gave no sign of it. "Come into

the library."

Bernice took his proffered arm with a strained smile and a nod to Sasha. "Julian junior is

certainly an adorable child," she said. "He really has the family looks, doesn't he?"

"Julian junior?" Julian looked blank for a moment. "You mean the child that Sasha is

babysitting?"

"Babysitting?" Bernice repeated. "She told me he was hers...."

"Well, that's Sasha," Julian chuckled. "Isn't it?"

Bernice glanced back into the hall involuntarily. Sasha was standing near the bottom of the

steps, the baby still in her arms. Her face was as pale and cold as arctic frost, and the look in her

eyes gave Bernice chills up and down her spine. Her normally sweet-faced niece looked quite

capable of murder.

"What can I do for you, Bernice," Julian asked, closing the door firmly.

"I got a phone call from Donald," Bernice said. "He was hysterical. I couldn't... I couldn't

make out exactly what he was saying. Except that he was in trouble, and thought some men were

going to kill him."

"Bernice," Julian took her hands gently in his own. "Donald is abusing drugs. And selling

them to support his habit."

"I know," she whispered trying, and failing, to hold back her tears. "I thought... I hoped...."

"No one is trying to hurt him," Julian continued. "I found out he has some pretty bad debts -

and I've paid them off directly. But I'm not certain how else I can help him."

"I was hoping you could.... You could help him," Bernice implored. "Somehow, Julian."

Julian put his arms around her and rubbed her back gently. Bernice sobbed against his

shoulder, simply unable to hold back the grief and terror that had been mounting inside of her

since the dreadful phone call that morning.

"Donald was an accident, Julian," Bernice couldn't believe that she was actually telling him

this, but found she couldn't stop. "I mean, when I got pregnant, I thought I had started

menopause. I didn't know... it didn't even occur to me... that I was pregnant. Not until I was

almost six months along."

"These things happen," Julian said sympathetically.

"I didn't take care of myself," she moaned. "I mean I'd have cocktails before dinner when we

went out. I never took a vitamin. God, I was even smoking!"

"Bernice...." Julian interrupted but she rushed on.

"Who thinks that they're going to have a baby at 44! I didn't. The other children were

teenagers or almost - Katie was twelve. I never planned on putting a child through college was I

was 66! Richard is going to be 70 in three months."

"Bernice," Julian repeated. "Why is any of this important?"

"Well, the smoking and the alcohol and the lack of prenatal care," she said helplessly. "Maybe

it damaged him in some way. Or maybe it was because we were so old. And I went back to

work, even before he was in Kindergarten. I never worked when the other children were

younger. I was always waiting for them when they came home from school. But I felt I had to,

we needed the money for college tuitions, and I thought that he wouldn't mind coming home to

his brothers and sisters."

"Bernice...."

"It wasn't like he ever came home to an empty house, I always made sure that someone was

there. But maybe I should have been there. Maybe if I'd stayed home he wouldn't gotten started

with the drugs...."

"Bernice," Julian said firmly. "Maybe he would have even if you had stayed home. Even if

you hadn't smoked or drank and had gotten better pre-natal care. Maybe it was just the phase of

the moon. Maybe he was only taking the drugs to be polite until he got addicted. Maybe it's

genetic. Your father, Philip, had a cocaine problem. None of that matters now. You can't help

Donald if you wallow in 'what ifs'."

She nodded stiffly and took the handkerchief he offered. "When he calls you again," Julian

said. "I want you to get him to come home. Get him away from the university and all the things

that remind him of drugs. When he comes home you can enroll him in a treatment center. I'll pay

for it. But we have to get him away from the bad influences first and back home where he can be

with people who love him."

"What about... the phone call... he said some men threatened him..."

"I have some... business associates... that understand the drug trade," Julian said. "I've spoken

to them, asked them to do me the favor of cutting Donald off at the source."

"I've made certain that they understand that they can *not* harm him," Julian assured her when

she caught her breath. "He's in no danger - except from himself."

"Can you trust these people?"

"I can trust them to do this for me," Julian smiled. "Everything is going to be all right. Just

convince Donald to leave Berkeley and come home."

Bernice smiled at him, feeling immensely relived. "Thank you, Julian."

Julian smiled back at her. "You know I'd do anything for family, Bernice. Anything."

**********

"Redecorating?" Cash asked. He was standing in the doorway of Sasha's room having been

attracted there by the sounds of destruction. Sasha was trying to throw her bed out the window,

something made considerably more difficult by the fact that she hadn't bothered to disassemble it

first.

"Yeah," Sasha panted, throwing her weight against the bed frame. Cash could hear wood

splinter, but wasn't certain if it came from the bed or the window it was wedged in. "You like it?"

"It's definitely you," Cash nodded. "You want to tell me about it?"

"Julian," she snarled. "What else?"

"What did he do..." this time, Cash was going to say, but Sasha didn't give him the chance.

"He's my baby!" Sasha screamed. "My baby!" She turned on the bed in a fury and attacked the

mattress. Shreds of cloth and pieces of foam flew through the air.

"Sasha?" Cash asked, careful to keep his voice low and soothing. "Sasha? What happened?"

"Why doesn't he admit that?" She growled. She turned from the bed and her pale eyes roved

restlessly, almost unseeing, across the room. "Why does he have to tell people he's not my baby?

He is! He IS!" She threw herself at her dresser, clawing at it until she had toppled it over. Still

in the clutches of Frenzy she began to kick it apart. "My baby," she panted. "Mine!"

Cash stepped into the room, his hands raised where she could see them. He knew he had to be

careful. She probably wouldn't be able to recognize him, all she'd see now was a Gangrel, an

enemy. But he couldn't let her continue to Frenzy like this. Caine alone knew when the anger

would burn out of her. He'd seen Brujah who could Frenzy for hours before collapsing.

She didn't even appear to notice him, she was so intent on destroying her furniture. She

wrenched one leg off the dresser and began using it like a club to smash the drawers into splinters.

Her eyes were like white-gold, and she grunted as she brought the club down again and again.

Cash slid behind Sasha and looked her over carefully to make sure she didn't have her gun.

He'd only get one chance....

He pounced, wrapping his left arm around her chest and catching her right wrist in his right

hand. He slammed Sasha against the wall and banged her arm down repeatedly until she dropped

the club. She snarled and screamed like a wildcat, but her fangs and claws were useless as long as

he stayed behind her. No matter how hard she fought, he wouldn't let her turn around.

She kicked at his shins, but he managed to tangle his leg in hers and drop her to the floor. He

lay on top of her, her arms pinned beneath her and let her exhaust herself with her struggles. "Of

course, he's your baby," he whispered soothingly. "Everybody knows Junior is Sasha's baby.

That's right, Sasha's baby. Nobody is going to take your baby, Sasha. Everything's going to be

okay. Everybody knows about Sasha and her baby...."

Where was Hestia when he needed her? He had seen Nosferatu sing to Kindred in Frenzy and

their strange, wordless crooning seemed to work magic. Stevie had said that he would be able to

do something similar when he was older, but all Cash could do right now was try to talk Sasha

down.

"My baby," Sasha muttered nearly twenty minutes later. "Mine." At least she'd recovered

enough of herself to be able to speak, Cash frowned. Her struggles had calmed to random

twitches. But from the color of her eyes, the least little thing would set her off again.

He didn't want to let her up. Not yet. This was the part of Frenzy when someone could be the

most dangerous - Sasha had just enough control of her mind to plan her attacks but was still

overpowered by the need to destroy.

"I want," she grunted beneath him. "I want Junior." She tried to heave him off, and nearly

succeeded. "I want my baby."

"It's okay," Cash repeated gently. "Junior's okay, Sasha. He's in the next room. He's sleeping

in the nursery...."

"No! Now!" Sasha bucked and heaved with renewed vigor. "Junior," she howled. "Junior!"

This wasn't going to work, Cash realized. "Okay," he panted. He used Sasha's efforts against

her, letting her get to her knees only to fold her hands in the small of her back and keep them

there.

"Junior!"

"We're going to see Junior, right now, Sasha," Cash grumbled. He pulled her to her feet and

guided her into the nursery. He was taking a hell of a risk, and he knew it. But maybe if she saw

the kid it would help her to calm down.

"Here's your baby," Cash pushed her until she was leaning over the crib. "Here's Junior."

"Junior," she breathed. "Baby." She struggled against Cash a little but he held her arms firmly

behind her.

"No," Cash said. "You don't want to wake him up. He needs his nap...."

"Sleeping," Sasha observed, and Cash relaxed a little more.

"That's right," Cash said. "We'll just let him sleep...." he tried to lead her away from the crib,

but she struggled to remain.

"No! Stay," she moaned. "Stay...."

"Okay," Cash agreed. "We'll stay. But why don't we sit on the floor? And we have to be

very, very quiet...."

She sat obediently and then started to shake as the last of the Frenzy drained out of her. "Oh,"

she moaned. "Oh, no."

Cash released her arms and pulled her to his chest. "It's okay, Sasha. It's all over now."

"What happened?" She cried. "Everything went red and I couldn't... I couldn't... "

"It's all right. You lost your temper, do you remember? You Frenzied, Sasha. It's okay, it's

over now."

"I didn't even know who you were, Cash," she sobbed. "I could have hurt you. I was *trying*

to hurt you."

"Hey," Cash rocked her gently. "No crying. You're going to have a terrible Thirst as it is.

Save that blood." He tried to get her to smile, but she couldn't stop sobbing for a long time.

**********

"It's all right, Cassandra," Julian called. "She's gone. You can come out now."

The door to the butler's pantry swung partially open and Cassandra stepped out into the hall.

Julian sighed in frustration at his Childe's meekly bowed head and sullen expression. It shouldn't

annoy him so when she started to cry, but it always did. Even worse he knew he couldn't hide is

annoyance from her.

"How much did you hear?" He asked, trying to keep his voice gentle. He parted his arms and

she stepped into his embrace gratefully. She was his Childe, and he would care for her....

"All of it, I think," Cassandra mumbled against his chest. "I didn't mean to, but I couldn't help

myself."

"Bernice looked well," Julian stroked her long blonde hair gently. "She's worried about

Donald, of course, but otherwise... I thought she looked remarkably fit for a woman her age."

"It's nice of you," Cassandra sniffed back her tears and started over. "It was nice of you to

offer to help her."

"Well, she is my great-granddaughter," Julian said. "And I know how much you care about

her, too."

"I really do," Cassandra nodded. "It just hurts so much to see her. I know I was never a very

good mother to her, and she probably wouldn't even recognize me after all these years...."

"Nonsense," Julian gave her a reassuring squeeze. "You were a very good mother, Cassandra.

It's not your fault that your children were taken from you." He felt something then, someone

watching him, like ice between his shoulder blades. He turned his head carefully, so as not to

alert Cassandra. As he had expected Hestia was standing at the top of the stairs, her blank gaze

somehow more accusing than any glare.

"Why don't we sit in my study for a few minutes," he turned Cassandra so her back was to the

Nosferatu and led her out of the hall. "I'll ring Jeffrey to bring us some mulled wine. You always

liked mulled wine on cold autumn nights. Then we'll talk about what I can do for your daughter

and grandson."

He didn't talk about Bernice or Donald, not at first. He asked about some of the papers on his

desk, as if they had reminded him of business. He sat next to her on the couch and patted her arm

while they discussed the trivial details of a proposed bank merger and the need to move more

money into the household accounts. She was much calmer by the time Jeffrey brought the mulled

wine. She even smiled when she saw that he had brought three glasses.

"I'm glad you're joining us," she murmured, accepted the mug he poured for her. She moved

the cinnamon stick out of the way and sipped it appreciatively. "Delicious, as always."

"That's my girl," Julian said, surrendering his seat next to Cassandra to his Brood-brother.

"You have such a pretty smile, Cassie. I always want to see more of it."

"Only because you are never on the receiving end of her practical jokes," Jeffrey teased.

Cassandra bit her fingers, looking self-conscious. Jeffrey leaned back and put his arm casually

around her shoulders. Looking at the pair Julian made a mental note to assure Jeffrey that he

wouldn't be jealous if the tall Ventrue wished to become Cassandra's lover. She had been too

long alone.

"I've already spoken to Cameron several times about Donald," he began. "I think that

Cameron's methods of persuasion, while brutal, may be our only effective course of action.

Donald seems to be attracted to drugs because he thinks they are easy money. If Cameron can

convince him that drug dealing is neither safe nor easy we may be able to dissuade him."

"I don't trust Cameron, Julian," Jeffrey shook his head. "Especially with members of your

family."

"I know," Julian nodded. "It goes against my instincts to trust a Brujah, as well. But Cameron

has different motivations than Eddie Fiori did. He wishes to improve the standing of his Clan. I

think he will cooperate with me on this."

"He is Brujah, " Jeffrey reminded him. "All the way to the bone. And hates you more than

Eddie ever did, Julian. Eddie was jealous of you: you had looks, brains, money and Lillie. And

he wanted all those things. But Cameron's hatred is on a much more personal level. He wants to

kill you just as he killed our Sire."

"I don't trust him either," Julian reassured them. "But I do trust his intelligence and his

ambitions. With the Brujah held in such contempt by every other Clan in the city he knows that

he can not become Prince. And should anything happen to me, both Lillie and Daedalus will hold

him personally responsible, even if none of the Brujah had anything to do with it."

"No," Julian shook his head. "Cameron is doing just what I would do if our situations were

reversed. He tries to make peace with the other Clans and earn the tolerance of the Prince. I

never would have risked Donald's life in Eddie's hands, but Cameron knows just how much he has

to lose should anything happen to any of my blood. And unlike Eddie, Cameron has good control

over his Clan. They respect him, and won't act without his orders."

"If you say so, Julian," Jeffrey said reluctantly.

"I'm not so sure," Cassandra said unexpectedly. "I've only seen Donald the one time, I know,

but he sounds an awful lot like Philip, Julian. Impetuous, stubborn, even the drugs...."

"I know this has been hard on you, Cassandra," Julian leaned forward to take her hand in his.

"With Sasha bringing the infant into the house, and me allowing Camilla to care for it. And all

this interaction with your daughter and her family has only made things worse. But Donald is not

Phillip."

"He may come to the same end, Julian," Cassandra replied. "That's what I am afraid of. He

may come to the same end."

**********

"Take off your jacket," Jeffrey ordered after Cassandra had left.

"Why?" Julian asked even as he obeyed.

"I'm going to rub your back," Jeffrey explained. "You look like you need it. You can sit in the

chair for now."

"Yes, sir," Julian replied sarcastically.

"What's the matter?" Jeffrey teased, digging his strong fingers into the muscles of Julian's

shoulders. "Can't imagine where I learned to give orders like that?"

"It's in the Blood," Julian replied. "Ahh, that feels good."

"I've never felt you so tense," Jeffrey responded. "This isn't just about Donald, is it? This is

about Caitlin. You going to tell me why she broke with you?"

"I'd rather not," Julian admitted.

"Tilt your head back," Jeffrey ordered. "Don't you trust me anymore?"

"I trust you," Julian sighed as Jeffrey pressed against his cheekbones. "I just have been trying

not to think about her too much."

"That's not like you," Jeffrey observed. "You want a woman, you get her, and you keep her

until your interest wanes. I've never known a woman to leave you before you where bored by

her, Julian."

"She's doing a feature article on the 'Mob War'," Julian confessed.

"And you haven't stopped her?"

"I've tried, but she had a private investigator follow Cameron, and, well...."

"Cameron led him to you," Jeffrey finished.

"The private investigator took photographs of that little confrontation between Lillie and

Cameron at The Haven," Julian continued. "She has the most interesting photographs of me and

Cameron together. Including one where Cameron is kissing my hand."

"Julian, you can't allow that photograph to be published," Jeffrey turned the chair around and

crouched down so that he was eye-to-eye with his Brood-brother. "You can't let *any*

photograph of you be published!"

"I know, Jeffrey," Julian replied softly.

"What are you going to do?"

"I have a meeting with Caitlin tomorrow night," Julian replied. "I am going to convince her to

delay the article's publication for a week while my lawyers check it. And I am going to learn the

names of the reporters assigned to this project. Then I'll convince her to find employment at

another paper, in another city."

"Why not just kill her?" Jeffrey demanded. "I know you care for her, Julian, but the

Masquerade must come first."

"No," Julian shook his head. "I've thought it over carefully, Jeffrey, and the Masquerade is

*not* endangered, only my reputation. And killing Caitlin now would only draw attention to the

article. Besides, I love her and don't want to see her harmed."

"Are you actually willing to see this article published?" Jeffrey frowned. He had the nagging

feeling that Julian was lying to him, or withholding the truth. But Julian had never done that, not

once in sixty years.

"No," Julian assured his butler. "Of course I don't want it published. But killing Caitlin or the

reporters working on it is not the best way to keep attention away from it. I'll find the reporters

and make them tell me their sources. Then I'll Mesmerize them into forgetting the article and the

evidence they've gathered."

"And the sources?" Jeffrey looked suspicious.

"That depends on who they are," Julian frowned. "If any were ever actually in my employ,

they will have to die. Others can be intimidated into silence or have their memories suppressed,

whatever it takes to neutralize them."

"Well, it sounds like a good plan, Julian," Jeffrey said reluctantly. "But what if it doesn't

work? What if we don't have enough time to affect everyone, or one of them can resist our

mental powers?"

"Then I die," Julian explained patiently. "A very public assassination, an apparent victim of

this 'Mob War'."

"Julian, you're the Prince!"

"Ending my Masquerade won't affect my ability to rule the city," Julian insisted. "I'll leave a

will surrendering everything in a trust for Sasha and return in twenty-five years as her son."

"You really love Caitlin that much, Julian?" Jeffrey blurted. "You love a mere mortal enough

to go to all the inconvenience of dying for her?"

"Yes, Jeffrey," Julian smiled sadly. "Yes, I do."

**********

"Cameron!" Nicky laughed in the back seat of his Sire's BMW. "Look who it is!"

Sasha swiveled to look where Nicholas was pointing, and felt her shoulders sag when she

recognized her cousin Donald. Even worse, she realized, he wasn't just strolling along, but

actively engaged in a conversation with three other young men. As she expected, money changed

hands.

"That cousin of yours just isn't smart," Cameron grinned. "Are you sure he wasn't adopted?"

He pulled the car over to the curb and stepped out.

Sasha scrambled out with Nicholas, and tried to grab hold of Cameron's arm. "Do you have to

do this *now*?"

Cameron jerked his head at Nicky to indicate that he wanted his Childe to continue on towards

their prey. He stopped and smiled at Sasha. "Don't you think that is what Julian would want,

little advisor of mine?" Cameron's voice was pitched very low so that Nicky wouldn't hear. Sasha

grimaced in distaste. "He did say I was to encourage Donald to find a new career. And you have

been pushing me to do whatever Julian wants, to win him over to the Brujah."

"Yeah," Sasha agreed. "But I don't have to like watching it happen."

"And you think I like having to take Julian's orders? --Caine! Nicky, get him!" Cameron ran

off. Donald had evidently seen Nicky and gotten scared. Now both of the Brujah men were after

him.

Sasha turned and ran down the alley. With the head-start that Donald had gotten, she never

would have caught him if she followed him. But if he still used his old hide-and-seek trick, he'd

attempt to lose the men chasing him by doubling back. Sasha knew she had to get to him first,

before Donald roused Brujah tempers any further.

The alley ended with a fence but Sasha scaled it easily. She jogged across a small parking area

and then down the side street back towards where they had first seen Donald. When Donald

turned the corner at a full run she smiled with relief.

But Nicky was just behind him, and when Donald tried to dodge around a dumpster, Nicky

threw himself over it and tackled him. The pair fell to the ground in a messy heap, Nicholas on

top. Sasha cried out and ran to separate them before Nicky could hurt her cousin.

"Where do you think you were going, Juicebag?" Nicky snarled, slamming Donald's head

against the asphalt. "It's not very polite, running away when somebody wants to talk to you."

Cameron jogged around the corner, trailed by Marta and Kenny. They must have seen the

altercation and decided to help. He slowed to a walk and straightened his jacket and tie once he

saw that Donald had been caught. "Get him up on his feet, Nicky," the Brujah Primogen

instructed.

"Cameron," Sasha pleaded. "Don't."

Cameron searched Donald efficiently and showed him the baggies he found. "I think we need

to talk," he said to Donald with a sinister smile. "I thought you understood that you weren't

supposed to be around this shit anymore."

Sasha could see the white all the way around Donald's eyes, and smell the stink of his fear.

"Can't we go now? You've got his drugs. Dump them the sewer and let's get out of here," she

pleaded.

"I think we need to teach him another lesson," Cameron said slowly. "Since he obviously

didn't learn from the first one. A little private tutoring, so to speak."

"Sasha," Donald begged desperately. "Don't let him. Please.... They're going to kill me."

"Don't hurt him, Cameron," Sasha implored. She placed one hand against the Brujah

Primogen's chest and gazed despairingly into his eyes. Nicholas didn't loosen his grip from Don's

shirt. Sasha though it might be the only thing keeping Donald on his feet.

"Your cousin wants to sell drugs so bad," Cameron smiled. "Maybe we should let him. He

could join our little Clan." Cameron's teeth were white and even, but Sasha had the impression

that there were too many of them in that smile. Cameron looked like a shark.

Sasha's eyes widened in alarm. "No! You can't, Julian said...."

"You may not have noticed," Cameron threatened. "That we don't always do what Julian

Luna says, Baby-girl. But if you don't like the idea, I'm sure we can come to an...

accommodation. What if you give up Cash and I let your cousin keep on breathing? Deal?"

Sasha examined Cameron, her expression changing from amazement to fury. "How I hate

you," she whispered. She took a step closer to her Primogen. "Julian couldn't get me to give up

Cash," she informed him through clenched teeth. "What makes you think I'd give him up for

*you*?" Her voice rose, and she didn't care. She shoved Cameron backwards, now it was his

turn to look amazed.

"No deal, Cameron," Sasha practically shouted. She swivelled to look at Don. "You're on

your own, cousin," she snapped. Donald gasped like a fish out of water, and went several shades

paler. He would probably faint before anyone hit him.

Her eyes moved to Nicky, staring at her open-mouthed, still holding on to Don's shirt front.

"Before Cameron asks you to do something stupid, Nick, you might want to consider what

happened to Martin. But I'm sure if you moved real fast you might be able to make it out of the

city before Julian got a hold of you. I hear L.A. can be real hospitable."

"Sasha," Cameron soothed, but Sasha stalked away from him. "It was just a joke."

"No it wasn't, Cameron," Sasha retorted. "You were stupid enough to mean it. That's why

Julian pulls your strings, instead of the other way around."

Cameron grabbed her by the arm. Sasha made an attempt to pull away, and couldn't. "If you

had half a brain you'd watch how he operates," she hissed at him. "He never asks for what he

wants the first time. Watch him. You'll see he only asks for little things, things you want to do

anyway, until you're so used to being obedient and following his orders that you don't even blink

when he asks for your soul."

"That's why he's Prince of the city, and you'll kiss his ring until he takes your head just like he

took Eddie's." She jerked her arm free. Cameron's fingers had gone as slack as his face. "I'm

going home now. You do what you want with cousin Donny. But don't expect me to cover for

you with Julian."

As she strode back towards the main street determined to walk home once again, she heard

Cameron start curse softly. Before she turned the corner he ordered Nicky to let Donald go.

Sasha smiled grimly to herself and continued walking.

**********

 

A shiny black Mercedes pulled through the gate and parked in the Luna Mansion's spacious

courtyard. Cash watched from the door of the garage - it wasn't a vehicle he was familiar with.

Then the driver's door opened and a familiar dusky-skinned woman in black clothing unfolded her

tall frame and looked around.

"Miriam!" Cash called. "When did you get back in town?" He crossed to the Gangrel female

and clapped her on the back. "Good to see you again."

Miriam took off her reflective glasses and looked down at him. She looked strangely

uncomfortable, Cash realized. That wasn't her usual style. "I never left," she replied quietly.

"Cash, I know this is a strange question, but... how long has it been since you've seen me?"

"Couple of months," he replied, confused and beginning to feel worried.

Miriam closed her strange blue eyes, almost in relief. "I think I fell into to Torpor," she

explained. "It's odd because I didn't think I was that badly hurt...."

"Torpor!" Cash exclaimed. "Miriam, I'm so sorry! We just assumed you'd left town. If I had

known that you were just lying helpless somewhere, I would have come looking for you."

"No!" Miriam exclaimed. "Torpor is natural, Cash. I wouldn't have wanted to have been

awoken prematurely. I'm okay, even if I don't know what month it is."

"Late September," he informed her. "I really am glad to have you back. Are you going to stay

a while?"

"Yes," she smiled back. "If I'm still welcome in the city."

"Miriam!" Cash looked up and saw Sasha leaning out of her bedroom window. "You're back!

Come in the house. I've got a surprise for you!"

"Well, some things haven't changed," Miriam observed, heading for the stairs that led into the

house. "Has Julian or Daedalus made any... comments... about my absence?"

"No," Cash told her. "They're both like 'well you know Gangrel'. They figured you'd gone to

hunt down some more Garou."

"Not too likely," she grinned. "So are you going to give me a hint about Sasha's surprise?"

"You aren't going to like it," Cash told her, keeping his voice low and turning his head. "But

try and act happy." She looked at him speculatively but it was too late. Sasha met them at the

door, her bundle of joy held proudly in her arms.

"Ta-Da!" Sasha grinned. "Miriam, meet Junior. Junior, this is your Auntie Miriam." She slid

Junior into Miriam's arms, and the Gangrel woman looked as if she had just been handed a

poisonous snake. No, Cash reconsidered, she'd have been much more comfortable with a serpent

than she was around the baby.

"His full name is Julian Stephen Augustus Luna, or something like that," Sasha prattled on,

completely oblivious to the pained expression on Miriam's face. "I haven't quite decided which

name should go first. So everybody just calls him Junior."

Miriam held the baby far better than Sasha did, Cash noted. She obviously had some

experience with infants before. But there was a look of horror around her eyes, and almost

revulsion.... of course, he kicked himself mentally, if she'd just waken from Torpor she might still

feel the Thirst! He gently extracted Junior from Miriam's arms. She hesitated for a moment,

grasping the sleeping child almost desperately before allowing him to relieve her of Junior's

weight.

Miriam stared almost longingly at the baby in his arms before she pulled her eyes away and

looked around the hall. It was almost as if she suspected a trap. Cash didn't see anyone but

Hestia, who was standing at the top of the stairs. Miriam's eyes locked on to the Nosferatu's.

"Did you have something to do with this?"

"Hestia's been helping," Sasha explained. "I don't know that much about babies - not yet. But

I am learning, aren't I precious?" She thrust her face towards the sleeping infant's and shook her

head until her curls bounced. Cash handed the child back to her.

"*Hestia* has been helping," Miriam repeated, her voice dropping to an angry growl. The

Nosferatu backed carefully up the stairs and slid back into the nursery.

"It's a long story," Cash grimaced.

"Isn't he the cutest thing?" Sasha giggled. "I know what everybody says about being a teenage

mother, but it really isn't so bad. Of course, Cash and Hestia are doing a lot...."

"Mother?" Miriam exclaimed. "Sasha you don't intend to keep this baby, do you?"

"Oh, don't you start too, Miriam," Sasha pouted. "Everybody thinks it's such a bad idea, but I

was sure you'd be on my side."

"It *is* a bad idea, Sasha," Miriam started.

"I don't care!" Sasha jutted her chin forward combatively and Cash winced. Not another

argument, please, he prayed.

"Julian is allowing her to keep it," Cash told Miriam. "At least until we can find his birth

parents."

"Ha!" Sasha retorted. "Uncle Julian knows that I won't give him back to those monsters.

They dumped him in the trash...."

"The Prince is actually permitting this?" Miriam looked confounded. "Is there something in

the air that has made you all lose your sanity in the last two months?"

Sasha's eyes paled. Cash recognized the first signs of Frenzy and stepped between the two

women. From the way Sasha was clutching at Junior, she wouldn't put the baby down when the

fight started, and there would be hell to pay if Miriam accidentally hurt the kid taking Sasha

down. "Hey," he soothed. "The situation is under control. Sasha makes a great mother." He

turned to Miriam and mouthed 'Chill out'.

He was surprised by the other Gangrel's reaction, her eyes were losing their color too, a sure

sign of Frenzy. She sneered at him, revealing one ivory fang. He stepped back involuntarily,

surprised that any Gangrel would succumb to the Beast with so little provocation. Handling the

infant must have upset her more than he realized. The last place he wanted to be was between the

two enraged women if they started to fight. "It's not her mothering skills I question," Miriam

retorted. "That's a mortal child - a *mortal*. And he doesn't belong here unless you plan to

Embrace him."

"Embrace him? Never!" Sasha swore passionately. "He's going to grow up and be alive and

go to college and have a family and do all the things that I'll never have a chance to do! I'll kill

any Kindred that tries to touch him."

Miriam's head snapped back as if Sasha had slapped her. "What about yourself, Sasha?" she

challenged. "What are you going to do when the Thirst takes hold of you?"

"We don't feed from children," Sasha retorted.

"That's not going to stop you when you rise one night with the Thirst on you and Junior

squalling in his crib. Your instincts will take over and," Miriam snapped her fingers under Sasha's

nose. "*That* will be the end of that."

Sasha reeled back as if she had been shot. Her face lost all color and her eyes were as wide as

they would go. "I wouldn't," she whispered. "I wouldn't."

"You might manage to resist," Miriam allowed, her face a mask of fury, her blue eyes filled

with pain. "Once or twice. But it's inevitable. If you don't make him a snack before he can walk,

you'll Frenzy when he's in the Terrible Twos and beat him to death...."

"I wouldn't," Sasha repeated wretchedly. She clutched the sleeping baby protectively to her

breast. "Miriam, I *wouldn't*!"

"You're Kindred, Sasha," Miriam retorted viciously. "A monster, a vampire, a Beast. You

would, and you know it!"

"Miriam! Leave her alone!" Hestia stood at the top of the stairs, conspicuous in her defiance,

looking like she might turn tail and run at any moment. Miriam turned towards the cringing

Nosferatu with a snarl and took one step towards her. Cash grabbed the Gangrel's arm and

dragged her towards the door.

"I expected better from you," Miriam growled at Hestia. At least she was letting him lead her

away from Sasha without too much of a fight. Her scent was boiling with anger and longing and

pain.

"Hestia!" Sasha cried. "Tell her! Tell her I wouldn't hurt my baby!"

He pulled Miriam down the stairs towards her car. "Maybe you should go Hunting or

something," he suggested. "And not come back here tonight. Caine's Blood, Miriam, did you

have to be so hard on her? She's just a Fledgling."

"She should be spanked," Miriam replied flatly. "Cash, I know she has problems, but letting

her keep that child is only going to make things worse. What ever possessed Julian to permit it?"

"He can control her through the kid," Cash confessed. "Look, we all agree that this is no place

for him, but Sasha won't give him up and as long as Julian lets her keep him, she'll do anything he

says. You know how Ventrue are...."

"Cash," Miriam said intently, her deep blue eyes boring into his. "If you really love Sasha,

you'll take that baby away from her. It'll hurt her feelings in the short term, yes. But do you think

she'll be able to live with herself once she kills him? She couldn't bear that kind of grief and you

know it."

Sasha staggered out the door still clutching Junior in her arms, Hestia hovering protectively at

her side. "I wouldn't!" She sobbed. "Miriam, I *wouldn't*!"

Miriam glanced up at her, blank-faced and pale, then climbed back into her Mercedes. "The

kindest thing would be to end this farce now," she informed Cash. She fumbled her sunglasses

back on, but not before Cash saw the tears in her eyes. She started the engine with a roar before

he could say anything.

"I'd never hurt my baby," Sasha wailed above them. "Never! Never, Miriam! *NEVER*!"

She was still screaming as Miriam popped the car into gear and peeled out into the night.

**********

"You told her what?" Julian's head whipped around. Lillie smiled, she had his full attention

now.

"I told her that your mother and father where half-siblings," she explained sweetly. "I thought

she would see it as a logical explanation. Of why you never talk about your family, for instance,

or why you look so much like that old newspaper picture she found...."

"Lillie," Julian grimaced. "Just because you fell in love with your half-brother doesn't mean

that it's a common occurrence."

"Oh, that is just like you," Lillie responded pettishly. "See if I ever do you a favor again!"

"You're right," Julian conceded. "You are right. I am sorry, it was rude of me to talk about

what you did before your Embrace." He looked at her and sighed. "And I suppose you are right

about that little tale you told Caitlin also."

Lillie's expression softened and she laid one coquettish hand on his arm. "I suppose it's too

much to hope that you will be appropriately grateful?"

"Don't push your luck, Lillie."

Jeffrey was standing at the bottom of the stair. "Cameron his here, sir," he informed Julian

neutrally.

"Please have him wait in the library, Jeffrey," Julian replied. Jeffrey had an unfortunate

tendency to leave Brujah waiting in the foyer. He didn't need to aggravate Cameron now.

"He says he is on his way to a Clan gathering," Jeffrey's tone was tinged with just the slightest

sarcasm. "And can not wait long."

"And how long have you made him wait so far, Jeffrey?" Lillie quipped.

"Don't you have somewhere else to be?" Julian frowned at her.

"I am not leaving if Cameron is hanging around the door," Lillie pouted. "I don't like the way

he undresses me with his eyes."

Julian had to grit his teeth to keep from replying. He just walked away from her and started

down the steps as if he hadn't heard her at all. If he said anything, he'd certainly regret it later.

As Jeffrey had said, Cameron was waiting in the entry, alone for once. The Brujah stopped his

pacing when Julian greeted him. "Where is Nicholas, Cameron?"

"Waiting with the car," Cameron snapped. "Julian, I'm in a bit of a hurry here...."

"Then let's talk while I walk you to your car," Julian gestured for Cameron to proceed him. "I

assume that this is about Donald?"

Cameron grimaced as he stepped out into the night. "Have you spoken to Sasha?"

"I know she walked home last night," Julian replied. "I assume you two had another

argument."

"We ran into Donald," Cameron explained. "He was still dealing. I was going to have Nicky

rough him up a little, teach him a lesson, and Sasha protested. So I suggested that I... uh, well."

Julian stared at the Brujah, he had never seen Cameron embarrassed before. If he had been

human he would have been blushing scarlet, as it was, Julian could practically see the Brujah

strain to keep his heart from pounding. "I threatened to do to Donald what Eddie had done to

her," Cameron finally blurted.

"I would have been very angry if that had happened," Julian informed him stiffly. "I thought I

was quite specific in my instructions: Donald was to be encouraged to stop selling drugs without

being harmed."

"It was an idle threat, Julian," Cameron said resolutely. "I don't want Donald. But Sasha

became very upset."

"I'm not surprised that she would," Julian nodded.

"I meant to shake her up," Cameron nodded. "I certainly did that. But I didn't expect her to

go ballistic the way she did. I figured she came straight home and told you."

Julian shook his head. "No, she hadn't told me. When she is upset, she usually avoids me,

destroys something, and drags Cash into her bed."

Cameron frowned. "I just wanted you to know that I didn't mean it. Not just because Donald

is not the right type, either. I don't think it's any secret how much I hate you. But I'm not like

Fiori, Julian. I won't strike at your family. That was a cowardly thing he did, and I am not a

coward."

"No," Julian nodded. "You certainly aren't." He hadn't expected so much honesty from any

Brujah, let alone Cameron. And Cameron hadn't mentioned that the reason he hated Julian was

that Julian had slaughtered his Sire and Brood. The Brujah Primogen was learning restraint.

"Are you offering a truce?"

Cameron hesitated before nodding. "For now," he admitted. He held out his hand and Julian

took it. "I've gotta go," Cameron said, looking at his palm as if he wanted to wipe it clean.

"One more thing," Julian said. "I've heard that Joe Brozka is in a mental hospital upstate."

"Shit," Cameron swore. "How did you find that out? Is one of my people working for you?"

"Do you think I would admit it, if that were the case?" Julian chuckled. "But I didn't find out

from any mole. It was pretty obvious what had happened when he was the only corpse missing

from that tableaux in Eddie's office. I just had some of my people look to see where you hid

him."

"Great," Cameron shuffled his feet.

"I have one question," Julian said. "Did he have anything to do with that assassination

attempt?"

Cameron looked at him and then let his shoulders slump. "He supplied the weapons."

"Did he know what they were for?"

"I'm not sure," Cameron sighed. "You want him dead, don't you?"

Julian hesitated, then decided to gamble. Cameron had agreed to a tentative truce after all. If

he could subvert the Brujah by buying his cooperation.... "It was my understanding that you

wanted him 'dead'," Julian said. "Bring him back to the city. You can have him. I'm not going to

attempt any retaliation."

Cameron's face went slack and he blinked in surprise. "Are you... are you serious?"

"Sometimes you have to forgive your enemies," Julian said. "I'm willing to do that, for peace

in the city. Even for a temporary end to the hostilities. Truce, Cameron."

"I never thought I'd say this," Cameron smiled. "Thank you, Julian."

"If Brozka does anything wrong," Julian warned. "I'll hold you responsible."

"No problem," Cameron laughed. "You won't regret this, Julian."

"See that I don't," Julian said. "You'd better get out of here. I'm sure your people are waiting

for you."

He watched Cameron climb back into his car and punch Nicholas on the shoulder. As they

drove out the gate Julian considered what he had done. One more enemy wouldn't matter, but if

Cameron would keep the peace....

He walked back into the house. He would need unity among the Clans if Caitlin's story was

published. They'd have to be well organized to fight the Hunters that would inevitably follow.

**********

Junior wailed unhappily and Cassandra hesitated for long minutes outside the nursery door

before going in and picking him up. She knew that Sasha was out with the rest of the Brujah

again, but where was Camilla? Hestia, she frowned, correcting herself. She had to remember to

call the Nosferatu by her new name. Cassandra didn't want to upset Daedalus. She admired the

Nosferatu Primogen too much.

The infant quieted when she lifted him, but looked as if he wanted to continue to fuss.

Cassandra changed his dirty diaper, smiling at the cleverness of the disposable ones Sasha had

purchased. "No pins to stick you with," she smiled at Junior. "Do you know how lucky you

are?"

She changed his pajamas for something a little warmer, and found his pacifier. Junior looked

considerably more content, and Cassandra lifted him in her arms. It was wonderful having the

weight of an infant in her arms again. Especially a little boy....

Junior laid his head against her collarbone and started to fall asleep. Cassandra walked over to

the window and whispered a lullaby. "We went to the animal fair/ The birds and the beasts were

there/ The big baboon/ By the light of the moon/ Was combing Junior's hair...." The last time she

had sung that song was over sixty years ago, to Bernice. It was a wonder she could remember the

words.

"The monkey he got drunk/ He slid down the elephant's trunk/ The elephant sneezed/ And fell

to his knees/ And that was the end of the monk...."

"What are you doing?" Hestia's voice was so filled with fury and disgust that Cassandra spun

around, startled nearly out of her skin.

"He was... he was c-crying," Cassandra stuttered. "I j-just changed his d-diaper."

"How dare you touch him," the Nosferatu snarled. She held out her arms preemptorly. "Give

him to me. Now."

"I wasn't doing anything," Cassandra found herself clutching the dozing infant tighter.

"Get away from him," Hestia insisted. She snatched Junior out of Cassandra's arms and when

the Ventrue woman resisted, shoved her so hard that Cassandra stumbled and fell against the wall.

"You stay away from him, Cassandra. I don't trust you around mortal children."

"I was just singing him back to sleep," Cassandra protested. "Any mother can do that."

"Not you," Hestia bared her teeth. "Not a mother who lets her lover murder her children."

"Stop it," Cassandra cried. "That's not...."

"You think that I'd trust you around any child?" Hestia continued. "Do you think anyone

would? No one would trust a woman who lets her lust for a man...."

"Stop it!" Cassandra closed her eyes and pressed her fists against her temples. "That's not

what...."

"Was it worth it, Cassandra?" Hestia continued ruthlessly. "Was it worth sacrificing your

husband and child so that Julian could Embrace you? I mean, since he's so obviously not

interested in you anymore. Did you know he'd eventually get bored with you, or did you think

he'd love you forever?"

"Julian didn't...." Cassandra whimpered.

"I've always wondered, did he make you watch while he killed your husband? Or were you in

another room, waiting for him?"

"Julian didn't...."

"Does your conscience ever bother you at all? Or do you even have a conscience? I have to

wonder. I can almost understand him killing Philip, but why you were in such a hurry that you let

him slaughter your unborn child as well...."

"Julian didn't kill Philip!" Cassandra shrieked.

"Oh, don't tell me that fairy tale that Archon concocted about those two men," Hestia sneered.

"Julian killed your husband and he slaughtered the baby in your womb...."

"Julian didn't kill Philip," the blonde Ventrue sobbed. "Julian didn't kill him! *I* killed him! I

did." Her legs couldn't support her anymore and she slid helplessly down the wall to the floor. "I

killed my husband."

Hestia didn't have an answer to that. Cassandra forced herself to look up at the Nosferatu

woman and saw that Jeffrey had entered the nursery. "He was beating me," she explained,

holding out her arms to Jeffrey. "He was... it was worse than anything he had ever done before.

He kept hitting me with his fists. I was so scared...."

Jeffrey knelt down beside her and pulled her into his arms. "You don't have to explain yourself

to anyone, Cassie," he soothed.

"I tried to make him stop," Cassandra couldn't stop the flow of words. The memories, so long

repressed, wouldn't stay hidden any more. "I was afraid for the baby. But when I asked him to be

careful because I was pregnant, he just started to hit me in the stomach."

"I got away. I got away from him, and hid in the study. But he broke down the door. He had

an axe. I knew he was going to kill me. So I took the pistol from the desk and I closed my eyes

and I pulled the trigger. And I pulled the trigger again and again for a long time. When I opened

my eyes again, he was...." an hysterical giggle slipped out of her throat. "He was dead."

"Hush, Honey," Jeffrey patted her. "It's all over now. No one is ever going to hurt you

again."

"And you want to know the *really* funny part?" Cassandra's laughter was strained and

distraught. "It was too late. He'd already killed me when I shot him. I miscarried, right there in

the study. Right next to my husband's corpse. I miscarried and I bled to death! Isn't that

*funny*?" Cassandra started to sob. "We killed each other. And I loved him so much...."

Jeffrey pulled her head to his chest and rocked her while she cried. She clung to him

desperately, needing his calm strength. Needing him the way she had once needed Julian.

"I... I didn't know," Hestia said finally. "I thought...."

"You though Julian had Embraced a pregnant woman," Jeffrey finished for her. "And got

away with it because he was the favorite Childe of the Prince. I know."

"Why?" Hestia demanded. "Why keep it a secret for all these years?"

"The Brujah were the ones who had gotten Philip hooked on cocaine in the first place. They

needed a replacement 'import' since Prohibition had been repealed. Eddie was trying to blackmail

Julian... well, that's not important," Jeffrey continued to rock Cassandra gently.

"When Philip was found dead, Eddie immediately began to spread rumors about Julian. He

told everyone that Julian had killed Philip because of the cocaine. The police heard and arrested

him. But Julian knew that if he told the truth Eddie would see that Cassandra was arrested, too.

Julian couldn't let Cassandra go to jail. She was just a Neonate. And her Embrace was so

traumatic that she... well, she wasn't strong."

"Julian had wanted to Embrace Cassandra," Jeffrey continued after a pause. "Not like that, of

course, but eventually. But he hadn't told Archon yet. The Prince was furious. He was more

angry that his Childe had Embraced someone without his permission than the circumstances

surrounding Philip's murder."

He leaned over and kissed Cassandra on the crown of her head. "That was until Julian's son

heard the rumor about Julian being the one who killed Philip. That's when he threatened to

expose the Masquerade."

Hestia blinked and put Junior back into his crib. The baby fussed for a moment, then started

to fall back asleep. "Let's go into Cassandra's room," she said. "Junior shouldn't be disturbed,

and I want to hear the rest of this."

"You can't tell anyone, Hestia," Jeffrey insisted, rising. He picked Cassandra up and carried

her to the door.

"It was sixty years ago," Hestia protested. "Eddie Fiori is dust. What possible harm could the

truth bring now?"

"It could still hurt Cassandra," Jeffrey answered.

"You are very kind to want to protect her," Hestia smiled gently. "But you can not. Not

anymore. She needs to let it out, Jeffrey."

"I'm okay," Cassandra murmured against Jeffrey's chest. "It's all right."

Jeffrey carried her into her bedroom and put her on the bed. She pushed him away and leaned

back against the headboard with a sad sigh. Hestia took Cassandra's face in her twisted hands. "I

have wronged you," she apologized. "But you have wronged yourself even more. You have

carried this burden too long. It is time to put it aside."

"How can I?" Cassandra replied, starting to weep again. "If you knew all the trouble I

caused...."

"Leave the past in the past," the Nosferatu crooned. "I want you to forgive me the wrongs I

have done you, but first you must forgive yourself."

Hestia's voice was hypnotic. Cassandra was vaguely aware that the Nosferatu's strange

sing-song was affecting her mind, but was too weary to even want to resist. She closed her eyes

and slipped into the warm dark with only Hestia's weird melody to keep her company.

**********

Caitlin pushed the pile of faded press clippings, faxed documents and bad Xerox copies to one

side of her desk and picked up the birth certificate again. She had known it was a fake the first

time she had seen it, and hadn't been put off by Julian's facile explanation that it was just a copy.

She had always wondered why he would produce a phoney birth record, but if Lillie's story was

true, it would certainly start to explain things.

The real problem was that the Julian Luna of the 1930's was just as reclusive as the Julian

Luna of the 1990's. Especially after his little stay in Alcatraz. Except for the notice of his death

there was no evidence of him at all from 1945 on. It was very frustrating.

She put the birth certificate aside. Julian, her Julian, looked to be maybe thirty-five, but she'd

found evidence of his existence in the city all the way back to 1970. He was listed as a board

member of holding company from 1970 until the company was dissolved in 1980. Ten-year-olds

do not become board members, so Julian had to be at least ten years older than she thought.

Somehow that made sense. His speech, his mannerisms didn't belong to a young man.

So if you were going to get a new birth certificate to hide the fact that your mom and dad were

related, why not shave a decade off your age while you were at it? That certificate had been

made for her - maybe he didn't think she'd date an older man.

She leaned back in her chair and rubbed her temples. She really ought to move on, but she just

couldn't put it down. It was a mystery, and she never had been able walk away from a mystery.

Caitlin separated out the information about the old Julian Luna. God, what a bastard he had

been. She hadn't really believed all the editorials written by John Luna - the man was obviously

deranged by the murder of his son, but the city records had borne out most of the accusations.

Real estate records showing Julian Luna as the owner of speakeasies and brothels. A criminal

trial from the 1950's in which a police captain was convicted of taking graft to obstruct certain

investigations. In sworn testimony he had admitted to accepting bribes from Julian Luna.

Another government investigation had concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to convict

Luna of murder although he was connected to at least fourteen deaths and disappearances. Each

of the victims had had some sort of conflict with him in the two weeks before they were killed.

Testimony from anonymous informants that Luna was just one cog in a larger organization. That

he had a superior even worse than he was.

Caitlin shook her head. Her Julian wasn't like that, was he? She didn't want him to be, but

more importantly, there was no evidence that he was. She looked at the trial transcript again, and

sighed. One Julian Luna had pled 'no contest' to murder. Her Julian Luna hadn't denied being

connected to the mob. He'd used word tricks in the beginning, but once she'd presented him with

evidence that she knew what he was he hadn't tried to deny the things he had done.

Did she really know what he was, even now? Somehow Caitlin doubted it. Julian refused to

be categorized. Not a sinner, not a saint. Not a hero or a villain or an ordinary man. Perhaps

she'd never understand him.

She picked up another folder. This one held new clippings as well as reporter's notes from the

murder of the doctor at Children's Charity Hospital. She'd mentioned to him that a doctor was

hurting the kids and the next day the doctor was dead. Had Julian ordered his death or just

mentioned that he'd like to see something done to his 'friends'. Was there any real difference

between the two?

Another thing bothered her. Julian had said that some men had tried to kill him, but there

wasn't a single report of an assassination attempt against Julian anywhere in the city records.

Ever. That was one thing that had the police confused about the Mob War. If Julian ran the city

the way everyone thought he did, why was there a war? There was no evidence that anyone was

trying to move in and take over his territory, and no respected leader would let his lieutenants kill

each other.

And yet she believed him when he had said that someone had tried to kill him. She could

picture three scruffy men with knives and Julian all alone.... God, she had a headache. She had to

stop thinking about this. It was driving her crazy.

She wasn't even looking for the truth any more. Caitlin knew she was searching for a reason,

any reason, to forgive him. To be able to justify what he was, if only to herself.

There was a knock on her open office door and she turned to see Phil Silberman and a man she

didn't recognize standing there. "Caitlin, this is the detective we hired, Mike Russell. Mike, this

is our city editor, Caitlin Byrne.

Caitlin knew she was staring, and couldn't stop. The thought that she might be embarrassing

the man made her blush. It was just that he was the last person she could ever imagine as a

private investigator. He was a full head shorter than she, pudgy to the point of roundness, and

dressed in one of the brightest Hawaiian shirts she had ever seen.

"Not quite what you expected, am I?" Russell said cheerily. "Pleased to meet you Ms. Byrne.

Phil, here, says I have something you ought to listen to."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Russell," Caitlin replied. "I haven't been myself for the past few days. Won't

you have a seat?"

"Mike's been following Cameron around, Caitlin," Phil explained. "Yesterday he followed him

to Luna's mansion. They talked outside and Mike was able to record some of it using a parabolic

mike."

"Oh," Caitlin grimaced. "I'm not sure I want to hear this...."

"I am," Phil insisted. "Turn it on, Mike."

'I assume this is about Donald,' Julian's voice was as clear as if he had been in the room.

'Have you spoken to Sasha?'

"That's Cameron," the detective explained.

'I know she walked home last night. I assume you two had another argument.'

'We ran into Donald. He was still dealing.'

"Donald is Julian's nephew," Phil interrupted. "Run that back, Mike, I don't want her to miss

anything."

'He was still dealing," Cameron's voice repeated from the tape recorder. "I was going to have

Nicky rough him up a little, teach him a lesson, and Sasha protested. So I suggested that I... '

Caitlin began to listen very closely.

"Do you want to hear it again?" Phil asked her when the tape was done. She shook her head.

"I thought you might like to hear that. It kind of puts a different light on things."

"I'm not really sure what Luna means when he talks about an 'assassination'," Russell

explained. "But it seemed to get Phil all excited."

"Julian," Caitlin stumbled. "That is, Mr. Luna told me that some men recently tried to kill

him."

"You know him?" Russell's bushy eyebrows rose.

"He owns the paper," Caitlin confessed. "And -uh- we've been involved." She was blushing

again, dammit.

"Does he have any idea that you're going to publish this article?"

"Yes," Caitlin nodded. "I've told him. I showed him the photographs you took of him and

Cameron."

"And you're still breathing?" The little detective looked shocked. "No threatening phone calls,

odd noises in the middle of the night, no strangers in cheap suits following you around?" Caitlin

shook her head. "Well, if that don't beat all."

"Why? You act as if you would expect there to be," Caitlin stood up and walked around to

her window.

"I would expect your car to have exploded when you turned your key in the ignition," Russell

explained. "These people have a very bad reputation. Did you see any of the autopsy photos

from that massacre in Fiori's office?"

"Yeah," Caitlin nodded. "I have copies of the pictures from the crime scene."

"And you just thought you could tell the guy who ordered that kind of a carnage that you were

going to write about him in his own newspaper?"

"Julian didn't order that," Caitlin said automatically. Russell tilted his head as if he couldn't

understand what she had just said. "He didn't tell anyone to kill those men," she repeated. "Some

of his... associates... partners... whatever they're called, did it without consulting him. Those men

tried to kill Julian."

"Caitlin?" Phil was staring at her. "Where did you find that out?"

"Julian told me." Until she said it, she didn't realize how lame it sounded. "That must be the

assassination he mentioned on your tape. He tells Cameron that he's forgiven that Joe-whoever

who was involved."

"Joe Brozka," Phil informed her. "He ran the largest loan sharking organization in the city.

But you don't really believe Julian, do you?"

"I heard a rumor," Russell said speculatively. "About how some of Eddie Fiori's lieutenants

had decided to form their own syndicate. But that was a couple of weeks ago.... And now all

those guys are dead."

"You think he actually told Caitlin the truth?" Phil asked.

"Could be," Phil shrugged.

"He's never lied to me, "Caitlin said slowly. "He sometimes won't answer questions, but he

won't lie...."

"Is there anything else he told you?" Phil asked.

"Well, I told you that he said he was trying to get out of the Mob," Caitlin said.

"Nobody gets out," Russell interrupted. "You retire in a coffin."

"I think he knows that," Caitlin bit her lip. "He said that he was turning everything illegal over

to Eddie Fiori...."

"And Eddie tried to kill him because he wanted more?" Phil asked. "Or was he just

consolidating his power base? Is that why Julian had him killed?"

"Oh, Julian didn't...." Caitlin let her voice trail off. She had promised Julian she wouldn't tell

anyone. No, she'd promised Julian that she wouldn't let the story leave her *office*. If he could

play word games, so could she. "Close the door Phil," she ordered. "I'm going to tell you a

secret."

**********

Donald was desultorily cleaning up the shattered glass in the kitchen when the doorbell rang.

He froze, his heart pounding, literally shaking with terror. They were back. He fumbled for the

gun.

After another minute the bell rang a second time, followed by a knock. "Donald?" It was

Becky's voice. "Are you home? I heard you had an accident...."

"Becky!" He cried. "Becky, you came back!" He rushed towards the door, tripping over

some of the bags of trash and the remains to the shattered TV. "Wait, wait," he urged. "The

door is locked."

It took him another couple of minutes to take the safety chain off and remove the crude bar

he'd manufactured. Then he couldn't unlock the door because his hands were shaking so badly.

"Donald?" Becky called through the door. "What are you doing in there?"

He swung the door open finally and pulled her inside. "Oh, Baby," he sighed. "I missed you."

She looked even more beautiful than he remembered.

"Don," Becky surveyed the room with evident dismay. "What happened? What did you do to

your face?" Her eyes widened when she saw the gun in his hand. "Donny, put that down."

"Somebody is trying to kill me," Donald took Becky by the shoulders and pulled her to the

remains of the couch. "Drive me out of the business. They came here and messed me up, trashed

the place and stole all my drugs. Four thousand dollars worth of Coke!"

"Donny," Becky said softly. "Are you okay?"

"No, I'm not okay! Aren't you listening? They're going to kill me, Becky!"

"Couldn't you go to your uncle?" Becky floundered. "Or the police?"

"Uncle Julian's behind it!" Donald sobbed, shaking her. "He's the one who sent them. They

caught me on the street the other night, and Sasha was with them...."

"Your cousin Sasha?" Becky looked puzzled. "What was she doing....."

"Uncle Julian makes her sleep with one of the guys who works for him," Donald explained

impatiently. "The guy who's trying to kill me! He caught me on the street the other night, and

even Sasha wouldn't help me! She walked away! She said that Cameron could do whatever he

wanted to me. That's how I know Uncle Julian is the one behind it."

"Well, how about your mom?" Becky offered. "Couldn't you go home for a while, get away

from them?"

"She's in on it too," Donald protested. "I called her for help and she went right to Uncle

Julian! He wants me to go home - then there will be nowhere to run. It's out in the country, it's

pretty quiet...."

"Donald, I can't believe your mother wants to kill you!"

"They're all in it together," Donald insisted. "They all hate me. All of them!"

"Donald," Becky soothed. "It's the drugs. The coke's making you paranoid. Sure, some

people are after you, but nobody is trying to kill...."

"They are!" Donald shouted, standing. "You think this is all my imagination? You think that

I've been pissing blood for the last four days 'cause I hallucinated getting beat up?"

"Donny," Becky objected, grabbing him by the belt. "I'm just saying that your mother

wouldn't...."

"Don't call me a liar!" Donny swung his hand across her face meaning to slap her into

believing him. He forgot he was still holding the gun.

Becky crumpled back on the couch, her cheek laid open to the bone. Blood poured from the

wound and dripped onto her white blouse. She was as pale as ivory. She touched her face

tentatively with one hand and then looked at the blood covering her fingers. She didn't say

anything, but her eyes were as wide as they could go.

"Becky?" Donald reached for her and she shrank away. "I'm sorry.... I didn't mean to....

Becky, it was an accident.... Becky, Honey.... "

"Don't touch me," she whispered.

"It's okay," Donald put the gun down on the floor and showed her his empty hands. "It's okay.

I'm sorry, Becky. I didn't mean it. I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"I've got to go," Becky mumbled. "I've got to get out of here. Go to a hospital...."

"No!" Donald cried, pushing her back down. "You can't go. I'll... I'll get you a towel and

some ice. Wait here, okay? Just wait... wait right there." He backed towards the kitchen

carefully, watching her to make sure she didn't try to get up.

"It'll be okay," he assured her. "You'll see. Everything is going to be fine." He grabbed a dish

towel off of the counter and turned to the refrigerator. Thank God he had ice. He poured half

the tray into the towel, spilling the rest of the cubes onto the floor. "I'll get you some ice, and

we'll fix you right up."

He rushed back into the living room, wrapping the towel into a compress for her. Becky was

standing unsteadily by the ruined sofa, her face looking like a grotesque Halloween mask. She

looked dazed; her eyes were as blank and empty as a doll's. Blood dripping off her chin and jaw

had stained half of her shirt front a deep crimson.

"You should sit down," Donald started. Then he saw the gun in her hand. "Hey," he said.

"Put that down."

Becky raised the pistol and pulled the trigger.

**********

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalms 30:5.

**********

Cassandra dreamed while she slept. She knew that she was dreaming, because although she

was at her wedding her new sisters-in-law were not wearing gowns, but working clothes. Maude

was wearing her judge's robe, although she wouldn't be elected to the bench for five more years,

and Helen was dressed head to toe in white surgical garb, including the face mask. Even Bernice

was there, a pretty five-year-old girl when it would be three years before she was even born.

John, her father-in-law, was lecturing his daughters on how they had de-sexed themselves by

over-educating their minds. It was a lecture she had heard often after she married Philip, but

couldn't have imagined before her wedding day. She had simply assumed that Father Luna had

approved of his daughter's activities. But it had been 'cousin' Julian who had paid the girl's college

tuitions.

No, nothing fit. Everything was jumbled and confused. She turned and walked away from the

bizarre reception and stepped into the relative quiet of the Old House.

And in the way of dreams, she found herself standing in Archon's study instead. Her white

satin wedding dress had been replaced by the blood-stained clothes she had died in. She covered

her face in her hands, expecting to be assailed by all the doubt and terror she had felt that horrible

night. This was a uncomfortably familiar nightmare.

"She was nearly dead," Julian argued. "I did not have time to come to you and ask!"

"That is no excuse!" Archon screamed back. "You should not have Embraced her. To think

that any Childe of mine would flout the Traditions...."

"I am asking now, aren't I?"

"Too late. Too late for that now, Julian," The Prince swore. "I will never accept her in my

city. Take her to the limits of the Domain and send her on her way. She is not welcome here."

"If she leaves the city," Julian replied quietly. "I go with her." Archon's arm lashed out in a

brutal slap. Cassandra should have cried out at the sound, cringed at the livid red hand-print on

Julian's pale cheek, but she didn't. It was if she were watching a play. A psychodrama that didn't

involve her.

It didn't involve her, she realized. Not really, not anymore. Archon had changed his mind and

raised her as if she were his own Childe while Julian was in prison. In many ways she thought of

the late Prince as her Sire and Julian as her Brood-mate.

"He's my son," Julian begged, kneeling and clutching at Archon's hand. Cassandra realized

that her memories had skipped forward several weeks. They were still in Archon's study, but she

was wearing a prim dark suit now. John had heard the rumors about Julian and threatened to

expose the Kindred in the city. Cassandra had re-lived Julian begging for the lives of his family a

thousand times. Her proud Julian on his knees to the Prince, offering to end to his own existence

if Archon would spare his mortal son. Archon, adamantly insisting that Julian discharge his duties

as Enforcer and destroy this mortal threat. She should be in tears, but instead she was indifferent.

Cassandra turned and walked out of the room. There was nothing she could do - there was

nothing she *needed* to do. Julian had gotten his way; John left the city with the all of Julian's

grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He spent the rest of his life writing vitriolic attacks

against Julian and everyone associated with him, and while he flirted with danger, he never

actually broke the Masquerade. Eventually everyone got bored by his rants and he was no longer

published by any of the important newspapers. Archon forgave Julian and Julian forgave Archon

and the Kindred existed as they always did.

Archon never did acknowledge her, and Julian never formally presented her to him, but every

one knew who she was. No one excluded her or questioned her position in the city. She was the

assistant to the Prince. First Archon's aide and now Julian's. When Eddie had believed he had

assassinated Julian, she was the first one he had informed, simply assuming that her services came

with the title. She woke herself by laughing.

"Don't cry, Honey," Jeffrey reached to pat her head and Cassandra chuckled again.

"I'm not sad," she explained. "I was just remembering what a fool Eddie Fiori was. I feel -

much better. Really good, actually. How long did I rest? It feels like days."

"Less than an hour," Jeffrey informed her.

"You're kidding," Cassandra retorted. Jeffrey shook his head. "I feel so... rested."

"Maybe Hestia was right," Jeffrey shrugged. "Maybe all you needed was a good cry."

"Maybe," Cassandra agreed. "I certainly don't feel like crying any more. I'm still sorry about

what happened - Philip dying, and Julian going to prison and being ostracized, but I think I

realized that I didn't want any of that to happen. I just wanted Philip to stop hitting me, that's all.

I never would have pulled the trigger if I had known how many people would have been hurt."

"You were the one that was hurt, Cassie," Jeffrey insisted.

"But so were a lot of other people, and that's what always bothered me," she replied. She sat

up and swung her feet off of the bed. "But everyone just did what they felt they had to do.

Julian, Archon, even John.... And there was no way I could have foreseen all that turmoil."

"I mean, everything worked out, in the end," she continued. "I'm just sorry that John died

thinking his father had killed Philip. That must of hurt Julian very much. And being shunned for

twenty years. I'm sorry that Julian had to got through that, too. But I don't feel guilty or

responsible for it anymore."

"Can I tell you a secret?" Jeffrey asked. "Julian wasn't always lonely during those twenty

years."

"Well, he had you, of course," Cassandra frowned. "Even if Archon only made you to spy on

Julian."

"He had two Kindred visitors while he was shunned," Jeffrey smiled.

"Well, I know about Sonny and Lillie...."

"Not them," Jeffrey responded. "Two visitors who called on him almost every week. One

even visited him in Alcatraz. Sonny only came the one time before Archon found out, and Lillie

barely saw him twice a year."

Cassandra shook her head, baffled. "Who then?"

"Daedalus," Jeffrey grinned. "He snuck in to see Julian thirty times in the twenty-six months

that Julian was in prison. And he visited once a week when Julian was out. I knew all about it,

and never told Archon." He laughed. "So I wasn't a very good spy, was I?"

"No, you weren't," Cassandra agreed with a smile. "Who was the other one?"

"Archon."

"You aren't serious," Cassandra's jaw fell open and wouldn't seem to shut. "Archon was the

one who instructed the Kindred of the city to shun Julian. He punished Sonny for deliberately

breaking his command, and would have punished Lillie, too, if she hadn't been Primogen."

"Archon visited Julian at least twice a month," Jeffrey confirmed. "He never said that order

applied to him, did he? On a couple of occasions we had to prevent Daedalus from coming

because the Prince was going to visit that night."

"What a farce," Cassandra chuckled. "How typically Archon." The phone rang. Jeffrey got up

to answer it, but Cassandra grabbed the phone by her bed first. "I got it," she grinned. "Good

evening, Luna Mansion."

She knew her face paled when she heard the voice on the other end of the line. Jeffrey took

her free hand with a concerned look. "No, Mrs. Tate," Cassandra struggled to keep her voice

level. "Mr. Luna hasn't returned from the theater this evening. May I take a message?"

"It's Bernice?" Jeffrey whispered, and Cassandra waved him to silence.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," she said into the phone. "Could you repeat that?"

She put her hand over her heart when she finally understood what her daughter had to say.

"I'll... I'll have someone inform Julian immediately. Stay there. No, please, you shouldn't drive in

your condition. I'll send a car. Yes. Yes, immediately." She paused, not willing to hang up.

"Try to be strong," she finished lamely.

She replaced the phone in the cradle. "Could you send a car to pick up Bernice at her home in

Stockton, Jeffrey? And send someone to find Julian? Donald...." She swallowed spastically.

"Donald has been shot. He's dead."

**********

"You don't have to see the body, Mrs. Tate," the doctor explained. "We've already made a

positive identification."

"I want to see it," Bernice insisted. She looked up at Julian helplessly. "I need to."

Julian nodded to the doctor, and then helped Bernice along the corridor after him. He had one

arm around her shoulders and held her elbow firmly with his other hand. She was barely shaking,

but he didn't want her to faint should the strain overcome her.

The doctor led them to the morgue and opened the drawer. "Are you sure you want to do

this?" Bernice nodded.

He peeled back the sheet, and Julian was grateful to see that Donald appeared to have died

swiftly and peacefully. There was a single bullet hole in the hollow of his throat. From the scent,

Julian guessed he'd been hit in the chest and abdomen as well. The throat wound would have

been the fatal shot. At least he didn't suffer.

Bernice pushed a lock of Donald's hair off his forehead with a trembling hand. "Thank you,"

she whispered, her fingers trailing across the dead boy's pale cheek. The doctor covered Donald

again and closed the drawer.

"I want you to stay at my house tonight," Julian said as he walked her back to the Emergency

Room. "I'll make the funereal arrangements, if you want."

"Thank you, Julian," Bernice smiled. "I don't know what I would do without you. You've

been a pillar of strength."

Sonny and Frank Kohanek were in the lobby questioning Donald's girlfriend. Gauze bandages

covered half of her face, but they hadn't covered her blackened eyes. The one over the wound

was almost swollen shut. Seeing the result of a pistol-whipping was never pretty, Julian reflected.

"Where did you get the protection order, Becky?" Sonny asked the girl gently.

"Sausalito," she answered dully. "I'm staying there with my Mom."

"Can you handle this?" Frank asked Sonny. "I'm going to talk to Luna." Sonny nodded and

Frank started over towards Julian. Julian repressed a sigh. This was not what he needed

tonight....

"Mr. Luna?" Julian looked up, startled. Becky met his gaze, her eyes numb with grief and

pain-killers. "Mr. Luna?" She repeated. "Are you takin' good care of my baby? I'm sorry I had

to leave little Donny with you like that, but my Mom wouldn't have anything more to do with

him...."

"He's fine," Julian assured her. "My niece, Sasha, has bought him so many stuffed animals that

you can't walk around in his room, but he's doing very well."

"She has a baby?" Bernice wondered. "Donald's baby? Was that the one Sasha was

babysitting? Julian, why didn't you tell me?"

"I wasn't sure it was hers, Bernice," Julian confessed. "Someone left him at the back gate and

ran away."

"I didn't know Donald had a baby," Bernice looked dazed. "I'm a grandmother again. A

grandmother. Isn't that wonderful?" She started to sob and Julian pulled her to his chest.

Frank looked at the sobbing matron and shifted uncomfortably. "Uh, Julian," he said finally.

"I'm going to need a statement. From both of you."

"Can it wait until tomorrow Frank?" Julian continued to pat Bernice reassuringly. "I don't

think Bernice wants to talk to the police right now."

Frank nodded and Julian walked the still sobbing Bernice slowly back to his limousine. Both

Cash and Lorraina were restrained and serious as they held the door and helped Bernice in the car.

Julian would have to remember to thank them when tonight was over.

Bernice had gotten better control of herself by the time they returned to the Mansion. Or

perhaps she had simply run out of tears. She was quiet and mournful as Julian helped her up the

steps. Sasha and Cameron were waiting in the foyer.

"Julian, I heard...." Cameron started.

"Sasha, take your Aunt Bernice into the living room and get her something to drink," Julian

interrupted smoothly. He held Bernice's arm out, and Sasha took it and walked the suddenly

frail-looking woman towards the back of the house. Bernice protesting weakly that she was fine

and Sasha contradicting her solicitously.

"Now isn't a good time, Cameron," Julian said, rubbing his temples.

"I heard that Donald had been shot," Cameron said. "I wanted to make sure you were

informed. And to reassure you that my Clan had nothing to do with it."

"Oh, you have nothing to worry on that matter," Julian assured him. "Donald was killed by his

girlfriend after he pistol-whipped her. He bought the damned thing to protect himself against

your people. But who could have foreseen that?"

Cameron licked his lips and looked at the floor. "I told all of my people," he insisted.

"Kindred *and* Kine, not to sell to Donald Tate. He didn't get the gun though one of my dealers,

Julian. I tried to do what you wanted...."

"I said I wasn't blaming you," Julian snapped. He forced himself to take a breath and release

it. "If I blame anyone, it is myself. I knew what a weakling Donald was. Always had been. I

shouldn't have put so much pressure on him."

Cameron laid a tentative hand on his sleeve, his fingers as light as a butterfly's wings. Julian

looked at the Brujah curiously. It was the first time that he could ever recall Cameron touching

him voluntarily. "Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, Julian." Cameron let his hand drop away.

This time he didn't look at his fingers as if he'd gotten them dirty. "I'm sorry the boy died."

"Thank you, Cameron," Julian replied.

"I gotta get outta here," Cameron said briskly. "Nicky wants to go Hunting. I'll see you,

Julian."

"Cameron," Julian nodded as the Brujah strode outside. He closed the door and walked

towards the living room and Bernice.

"She was a pretty little thing," Bernice greeted him as he entered. "Wasn't she? Reminded me

a lot of Katie, when she was that age. Coltish."

"Who?" Julian looked around the room. Sasha was gone; he should have expected that.

Brujah blood or not, she would have to learn how to treat guests.

"Donald's girlfriend," Bernice replied. "What was her name?"

"Becky," Julian answered.

"Pretty little thing," Bernice nodded. She looked out the windows into the night. "Do you

think she'll have a scar?"

"Probably," Julian said. He crossed to the fire and put another log on. "Bernice...." he started

to say when he was finished.

"What will happen to her, Julian?" He couldn't see the reflection of her face in the window,

but Bernice's back was stiff and tense. "Will she go to jail? For killing Donald?"

"What do you want to happen, Bernice?"

"I can't believe my Donald would hit a girl like that," she sighed. "I can't believe that anyone

would need a protection order against my little boy."

Julian walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. "I don't think a woman with a

baby should go to jail, Julian. Do you?" Bernice asked the night outside the window. "I mean a

little baby. That poor girl was only defending herself."

"What do you want me to do, Bernice?" He asked softly.

"I don't suppose you could get her a lawyer?" She turned around to face him. "A young girl

shouldn't be in jail. Probation, maybe. Or one of those new electronic house arrest things. A

good lawyer could fix that, couldn't he?"

"If that's what you want," Julian nodded.

"That's what I want," Bernice nodded.

"He was awake, Aunt Bernice," Sasha said entering with Junior on her hip and his stuffed

elephant dangling from her other hand. Jeffrey followed behind her with a tray and coffee service.

"I told you we can't get him to sleep through the night. He knows when it's the time to party."

"Donald's baby," Bernice sighed, sitting and letting Sasha plop Junior in her lap. "He never

even told me I was a grandmother again. Look how big you are!" Junior found Bernice's

necklace and seized it in one chubby fist.

"His nanny says he's about eight months old," Sasha sat at her Aunt's feet with the elephant in

her lap. "I guess his real mom's gonna want him back now, huh?"

"It sounded as if Becky couldn't support herself and Junior," Julian observed. "And she said

her mother didn't want him around."

"How could anyone not want...." Bernice and Sasha said almost together, then they started to

laugh. Bernice tousled her nieces' hair. "You don't think, I could.... But, no, that wouldn't

work. And Sasha seems so attached to him," Bernice smiled down at the Brujah Fledgling.

"Only 'cause he won't let go of my hair," Sasha looked at her knees and held the elephant

tightly. "Having a baby in the house was kinda fun, at first, but.... Well, he's getting to be a bit of

a bother. And I managed to get out of most of the hard stuff."

"It's really gross, y'know? All he does is poop and puke," Sasha seemed intent on making

herself into as small a ball as possible. "Uncle Julian hired a nanny, but she must be older than

you, Aunt Bernice, and she's started to make noises about how I should help out more. And,

well, I'd really.... I really rather just go out with my friends, y'know?"

"I mean, it's not as if he were *my* baby or anything," Julian detected the tiniest quaver in

Sasha's voice. If she held the stuffed toy any tighter it was going to burst. "I don't see why *I*

should have to take care of him."

"Well, I'd really love to care for Donald's baby," Bernice wavered. "But I'm sure that there are

rules...."

"If a relative won't care for him," Julian informed her. "And it sounds as if Becky might not be

able to for a while, and her mother won't, then he'll have to go into the foster care system."

"Foster care!" Bernice exclaimed. Junior stopped playing with her jewelry to look at her with

a startled expression. "I couldn't let that happen. Are you sure, Sasha? I've never seen you so

happy as you are with...."

"Yeah, sure, definitely," Sasha leapt to her feet. "I'm positive. Look, I gotta go. I forgot

something in my room...." She practically ran out into the hall.

"Julian?" Bernice asked.

"I think she's a little more affected by Donald's death then she wants to let on," Julian lied

smoothly. "You know how teenagers are, they think that they are going to live forever. Let me

go talk to her. I'll be right back."

He found Sasha huddled in the nursery, sobbing into Hestia's arms. "That was the bravest

thing I've ever seen you do, Sasha," he said from the doorway. "I'm very proud of you tonight."

"I had to," she moaned. "You were right, Uncle Julian. He can't stay here. He needs to be

around people. Real people, not Kindred."

"Childe," Hestia corrected soothingly. "Kindred are people."

"It's only a matter of time before I.... Before I.... Before I hurt him or something."

"Sasha," Julian crouched down next to his great-great-granddaughter and put a reassuring

hand on her back. "All parents hurt their children somehow. The amazing thing about children is

that most of the time they forgive you." He picked up the stuffed elephant she had discarded and

put it down next to her. "You did the right thing, Sasha. Junior does need a mortal to raise him.

But I'm sure Bernice would like it if you visited him. Do you remember the way I visited you

when you were a little girl?"

She nodded. "Will you come with me? To make sure he's safe? And I don't... I don't do

anything bad to him?"

"I'll go with you the first few times, if that's what you want. But I trust you, Sasha. You

won't do anything 'bad'." He patted her shoulder and stood. "I have to go back downstairs.

Should I make your excuses to Bernice?" Sasha nodded, still holding onto Hestia's shoulders.

"Would you like me to send Cash upstairs?"

"If you don't mind," Sasha said shyly. "If you don't need him any more tonight." She rubbed

her finger under her nose as humans did when they had been crying.

"I will," Julian promised. "I'll try to check in on you before dawn. If I don't, you have a good

rest. And good rest to you, Hestia."

"Thank you, my Prince," Hestia replied, without a trace of sarcasm. Julian was tempted to

stare at her, but he resisted. Perhaps she was being polite in respect for the loss of his descendant.

He tried to keep his mind on matters at hand, Bernice and the arrangements for Donald's funereal.

"My mother's name was Cassandra," he heard Bernice say before he entered the living room.

"I named my eldest girl after her. I've always thought it was a beautiful name."

Julian stopped in the doorway. Cassandra was sitting with Bernice, a coffee cup balanced on

her knee, as calm as if the woman across from her wasn't her only daughter. He blinked in

surprise. His Cassie, his timid little Childe, had overcome sixty years of reticence to speak with a

close family member? He couldn't guess where she had found the strength.

"She must have been very proud," Julian could hear the smile in Cassandra's voice.

"Oh, she never knew," Bernice replied frankly. "There was a terrible scandal when I was a

little girl. My father was murdered. Rumors flew that my mother had a boyfriend and that he

had... well." She shifted Junior to the other side of her lap so that she could reach her coffee.

"My mother left me with my aunt and uncle and left the city to escape the talk. Two years later,

when the killers were caught, she couldn't be found. Apparently she'd changed her name so that

she could disappear."

"I can't imagine anyone abandoning their daughter," Cassandra said sympathetically. "You

must have been very hurt." Julian shook his head to clear his hearing.

"Oh, no, not at all," Bernice answered. "You see, even after the two men confessed my

grandfather was never convinced that my mother was entirely innocent. So I knew why she had

to get away. Gossip is a terrible thing. I always hoped that she met another man and remarried,

actually. Settled down, had another family, was able to put the past behind her."

"Weren't you lonely?" Cassandra demanded. "Growing up without a mother?"

"Well, I had my aunt and uncle and all their children," Bernice replied. "They were my family.

I don't think I ever lacked for anything.... Except I always wanted a picture of my mother. My

grandfather destroyed them all, and I was so young, I can't remember what she looked like. Just

this blue dress she used to wear, and her perfume.... And the smell of the spiced wine she used to

make when it was cold out. And this lullaby she used to sing to me." She looked down at the

baby in her lap and started to sing. "We went to the animal fair/ The birds and the beasts were

there...."

"Oh, Julian," Cassandra interrupted, standing. "What are you doing standing in the doorway

like that?"

"I didn't want to intrude on your conversation," Julian stared at her, perplexed. It was hard to

believe that this was the same Cassandra he had reprimanded for fighting with Hestia just last

week. He hadn't seen this calm, confident side of her for sixty years.

"I'm glad to have met you, Cassandra," Bernice smiled. "It's good to have a face to put to a

voice on the phone. She's a very nice woman, Julian. I hope you pay her enough."

Julian's eyebrows rose of their own accord. Cassandra took him by the arm and started to lead

him out of the room. "I'll be right back, Mrs. Tate," she smiled. "I mean Bernice. Sorry."

"What was that?" Julian asked as Cassandra pushed him into the library. "For sixty years you

hide from her, and suddenly you decide not to?"

"Oh, honestly, Julian," Cassandra frowned at him. "Sometimes there is just no pleasing you.

For six decades you push me to see my daughter and her family, and when I do, you are upset."

"Oh, by the way," she said before he could formulate a reply. "Caitlin called at eleven. She

said to have you call her, no matter how late it was."

"Oh, damn," Julian closed his eyes. "I was supposed to see her tonight!" About that

thrice-cursed newspaper article she was working on. He had to find out the names of the

reporters and sources so that he could silence them.

"Why didn't you tell me that?" Cassandra demanded. "I would have put it on your schedule.

Honestly, Julian, how can you expect me to do my job...."

"Cassandra," Julian interrupted. "Find Cash and send him up to Sasha's room. Then tell

Jeffrey to make the funereal arrangements...."

"I'll make the arrangements," Cassandra insisted, pushing him towards his deck. "Donald was

*my* grandson, Julian. Now go call your mistress. I can take care of everything. That's what

you pay me for." She started to shut the door behind her as she left, then poked her head back in.

"Although Bernice's suggestion of a raise deserves some consideration...."

"Out," Julian snapped, and she closed the door with a giggle. The world was turning upside

down tonight. Well, he'd deal with it later. He picked up the phone and dialed Caitlin's number.

She answered it on the third ring; there was the sound of other people in the background. He

heard one voice call out "Tell them to send us a pizza!".

"Julian," Caitlin said. "I'd almost given up on you. Look, no need to apologize. We got a

major break on that story and are doing a complete re-write. We'll hash it out tonight, I'll get it to

layout in the morning, and you can have it tomorrow night." He heard her place her hand over

the receiver and shout to someone. "I said, no. You can't call him a homosexual unless you've

got pictures of him in bed with another man. I don't care if he hangs around gay bars.... I said no,

Phil, and I mean it! I gotta get this past Julian's blood-sucking lawyers!"

"What?" Julian said into the phone. "Caitlin, what did you say?" Blood-sucking? Please let

that just be a turn of phrase, he prayed.

"Sorry, Julian," Caitlin apologized. "We've been working without a break, and the guys are

starting to get punchy."

"Drunk, you mean," a voice called out behind her. "Bring back another bottle of that wine,

willya Boss?"

"Caitlin," Julian said. "I could still come over...."

"Don't you dare," Caitlin said. "I've got work to do! You can see it tomorrow. Stop by my

place around six-ish, and I'll give you the mock-ups. I want it to go out next Sunday though. Not

this Sunday, I mean next week. God, I am drunk. Anyway, that should give your leeches, I mean

lawyers, plenty of time to go over it," she giggled.

Leeches, Julian thought will alarm. Blood-suckers? What 'major break' did she have on this

story? "Caitlin," he floundered. "How many people are over there? It sounds like you're having

a party, not working."

"Oh, we're working alright, Mr. Luna, sir," Caitlin laughed. "And don't even think about

getting out of the overtime! I've got four reporters, three assistants and two secretaries here. Oh,

and one photographer. We're going to be up until dawn getting this thing re-written, and as for

the wine - well it lubricates the typewriters. I mean word processors." She laughed again. "Look,

I'll see you tomorrow. Be ready for a surprise!"

She hung up the phone before he could protest. There was no way he could manage eleven

mortals no matter how drunk they were, especially if they weren't going to go to sleep. Why was

she re-writing the article? She couldn't have remembered.... Could she?

He hated surprises.

She agreed to the extra week, but that wouldn't help him if everyone at the paper knew.... The

eleven people at her house knew, and the staff of the layout unit would know, and Caine knew

who else by the time he saw it tomorrow.

He should bring in Daedalus, Cash, perhaps Lillie. But that would mean that Caitlin would

die. He growled in frustration. He couldn't.... He wouldn't....

"Caine's blood," he swore quietly. "I don't even know what in Hell's name is going on!" He

would see her tomorrow evening, as she suggested. If the article would endanger the

Masquerade, he'd kill her himself. It would be the only way to protect her. At least she wouldn't

suffer....

*If* the article endangered the Masquerade, he thought. He'd bring in the others and erase all

trace of it's existence. A few dozen mortals slaughtered, an escalation in the 'Mob War', a trail of

false evidence, and the end of his own Masquerade. *If* the article was what he feared it was.

"Sweet Caine," he whispered. "Let me be wrong."

He was still pacing and trying to find a flaw in his plan when Bernice opened the door.

"Julian? Are you in here?"

"Come in, Bernice," he invited. She had the baby in her arms, he was contentedly sucking on

his bottle.

"I'm going to take Junior up and go to bed myself," she smiled. "It's been a long day."

"Yes, it has," he agreed. He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek.

"Could you find a way so that I could talk to that girl tomorrow?" Bernice asked. "I think I'm

going to ask her to come live with Richard and I when this is all over. If she wants. That way

she'll have a place to live, and we'll have our grandson. Maybe we could borrow some money

from you to pay for a plastic surgeon, if she needs it?"

She'll definitely need it, Julian thought. "I'll pay for it outright, if that's what you want to do,

Bernice. I think it's very kind of you to forgive her like this."

"We all make mistakes, Julian," Bernice smiled sadly at him. "And what good is hating her

going to do? It won't bring back my Donald." She looked him over with a small frown. "I don't

want you blaming yourself about Donald's death, either," she insisted. "I know you, Julian Luna.

And I know you did everything you could to help Donald. So give yourself a break. Remember -

you're only human."

Julian thought of Caitlin and sighed. If that were only true.

**********

"I don't understand," Julian said. He put the mock-up of the front page down and looked at

Caitlin. "You seemed so intent on doing this story your way." Had someone else gotten to her,

he wondered. But how could they have, when only Jeffrey knew about this article? Could his

Brood-brother betrayed him? He looked into her eyes, but they were free of the glaze of

Compulsion. Julian shook his head, completely baffled. "What made you change your mind?"

"Everyone deserves a second chance, Julian," Caitlin shrugged. "I don't know if I've done the

moral thing, or the ethical thing, or even the legal thing. But I've done the *right* thing, I know

that."

Julian looked at the paper again. "I'm in your debt."

"That's not why I did it," Caitlin ran a hand through her hair. "And I didn't do it to keep my

job, either."

"You let me keep my privacy," Julian marveled. His name wasn't mentioned once in the entire

article. "And Cameron looks like a hero," He smiled ruefully. "He won't recognize himself."

"It was pretty heroic what you did to try to keep Donald Tate out of the drug business, Julian.

You and Cameron both."

Julian looked at her for a moment. Just when he thought she had given him the biggest

surprise she could, she handed him another. "How did you find out about Donald?"

"Phil Silberman told me," Caitlin smiled. "But not how he found out. Reporters don't like to

share information like that."

"Donald is dead," Julian told her flatly.

"I know," she replied. "And I know how hard you tried to stop it. I'm sorry that you

couldn't."

"I'm sorry, too," Julian said softly. "It seems that lately I haven't been able to save anyone I

care about." Except her, he thought. But this time Caitlin had saved herself. And she didn't even

know it.

"You keep trying," Caitlin observed. "That's pretty noble."

"And so my 'nobility' has earned me a second chance?" Julian inquired. "Does that include a

second chance for us?" Was that why she had invited him to her home instead of insisting he meet

her at the office? She'd even locked her damned cat in it's carrying case so it wouldn't bother him.

He found hope dawning in a place he hadn't expected to be able to feel anything, ever again.

Caitlin looked away. "Julian," she whispered. "I... don't know."

Julian reached out and touched her hair, letting the silky strands run though his fingers.

"You're the only sun in my life, Caitlin. When you're not around me, my whole world is plunged

into darkness. I don't even feel alive when you're gone." She was blushing; he hadn't meant to

embarrass her. He had to force himself to drop the strand of her hair. "Tell me to leave and I

will."

"I don't want you to go," she whispered.

He took her, very gently, into his arms. "Then tell me to stay and I will."

"We can't keep doing this," she said, turning to face him. "I can't be torn between my job and

you and.... I can't.... I can't keep finding reasons to distrust you, Julian."

"I love you, Caitlin," Julian told her. "Do you trust that?"

"Yes," she replied. "I know that you love me. And I know that I love you. But I don't

*know* you."

"I've told you: I'm hard to know," Julian brushed his lips against her forehead. "I've spent

most of my life hiding myself, my true self, from everyone. It's a hard habit to break."

"Considering some of the people you hang with," Caitlin smiled, running her hand under his

jacket. "I don't blame you."

"Then trust that I love you," he whispered, kissing her. "That I'll do anything to protect you.

And let that be enough."

"It is enough," she whispered, kissing him back. Somehow her hand had gotten inside his shirt

and was combing through the hair on his chest. She wasn't wearing perfume and the pure healthy

smell of her was intoxicating him. Her lips parted and her warm tongue touched his mouth,

gently, tentatively, as if afraid to rouse his passion too far. Or afraid of rousing her own passions,

perhaps.

Julian ran his hands down her frame, caressing her back and hips. Savoring the way that the

heat of her body filtered though her clothing. Appreciating the slippery silk of her blouse, the soft

nap of her sensible wool skirt and the delicate human flesh beneath. He was careful to move

slowly, not to presume too much. He knew he could bruise her without thinking. Making love to

her was a thing to be savored and prolonged. She was like a unique flower; fresh, delicate,

fragrant, blooming with an inner radiance . She was the human angel that had answered his

prayers.

His tie was off, his shirt unbuttoned. Caitlin's lips were against his chest, tracing the line of his

collarbone. With one hand she stroked his back. The other still rested on his chest, right over his

heart. It beat just for her. He traced the shell of her ear with his tongue, then reached up to

remove her earring.

She stepped back, one hand raised almost defensively to stop him from following her. "Do

you want to come in to the bedroom?" Caitlin asked, then blushed to the roots of her hair.

He pulled her close again, chuckling. "I do. But let's not rush things. We have all night...."

He didn't get to finish. Caitlin kissed him again, laughing against his mouth, blocking all desire to

speak.

"Why do I lose all my inhibitions when I'm around you?" She asked. "I want you. So

much...."

He silenced her the way that she had silenced him, with a gentle kiss that soon progressed to

something more. He could feel the tension leave her, feel the distance between them dissolve. He

knew she was letting him into her heart again, and that meant so much more than getting into her

bed.

"Let's go into the bedroom," Caitlin breathed after another moment.

"Are you sure you're ready?" Julian asked, pulling her close. He never wanted to let her out of

his arms again.

"Yes," she whispered, pulling him after her. "Hurry."

They hurried, but they didn't make to her bedroom. They barely made it to the sofa. And

although they spent most of the night on her living room floor, neither one found reason to

complain.

**********

<the end>