Author?s note: This story contains elements from the episode ?The Rise and Fall of Eddie Fiori? written by Scott Smith Miller. The events of this story take place before and during this episode?s timeline. Others own the rights to the Kindred: The Embraced and White Wolf characters. All other characters are my creations. Please do not use them without my permission. By Diane Maher As the prince of the city entered his office in a central Los Angeles office building, he heard the phone start ringing. This cool, crisp fall evening, Cyrus was aggravated by the annoying sound. Looking around his sparsely furnished office, he noticed that the picture of Alicia was crooked and this only served to annoy him further. Eddie Fiori?s constant nagging for help of late was the root of his aggravation tonight. Shaking his head, he sighed and put the whole matter out of his mind for the moment. He allowed his voice mail to take a message for him while his secretary brought him the mail and other things that needed his attention. Cyrus ran his city in the most practical way he knew by ignoring the laws of the humans when he needed to. It had saved his butt more times than he wanted to recall. Business was business in L.A. The room was dark as the sun went down, but the ring of lights around the edges of the room illuminated the off-white walls that were decorated with pictures of various types of weapons, ancient and modern. Cyrus wasn?t about to give his enemies the chance to assault him here in the center of his power by supplying them with weapons. He was armed at all times with at least a phosphorus gun. As his eyes took in Alicia?s curvaceous figure, she smiled and more pleasant thoughts came to mind. Today she wore a royal blue dress that made her look very sexy indeed. Her dark hair was tied back into a ponytail. ?I?ve finished going through your voicemail except for the last one,? Alicia began. Alicia was a Brujah he had embraced shortly after becoming a primogen some fifteen years ago. She had stood by him during the years he?d plotted and schemed to become prince of the city. ?Eddie Fiori just called and left you a message. I can go ahead and listen to it and summarize it with the rest if you like.? She placed a pile of papers on the corner of his desk. As she stood, she ran her hand up his arm to his shoulder. ?No, I?ll listen to Eddie?s call,? Cyrus began as he pressed the button and heard his other childe?s pleas for assistance. He ran his hand over her butt as she leaned over him. ?Eddie is power-hungry and desperate to force a confrontation with that blasted Ventrue Julian Luna. However, I anticipated this. Eddie?s numbers have been down for the last six months.? Eddie Fiori?s voice came out of the speaker. ?Cyrus, I really need to talk to you. Come on, stop messing around with your secretary and pick up the damn phone!? There was a pause and then a click. Cyrus chuckled. ?He?s really desperate if he expects me to give up my chance to spend a little bit of time with you, Alicia.? The phone rang a second time. Eddie?s voice came over the speaker again. ?Cyrus, I?ve done everything I know to prevent our clan from losing money here, but I can?t make things work due to Julian Luna?s constant interference in my businesses. I really need your help, if you know what I mean.? Eddie hung up. ?So, Eddie wants the prince dead,? Alicia commented. Cyrus replied, ?Yes. And since he?s called twice tonight asking me for help, he has finally decided that he wants to keep his standing as Brujah primogen intact. He?s never asked me for help before. I?ve known there?s something going on with the Brujah in San Francisco for a while, but I thought Eddie could handle it and I was wrong.? ?And Eddie doesn?t see these problems?? Alicia asked. Cyrus replied, ?Not until now. He?s too power hungry to see them.? ?Are you planning on helping Eddie?? Alicia asked. ?Yes,? Cyrus sighed as he picked up the phone. ?I?ll bring in some professional help on this one. I need you to stay here in L.A. while I go to San Francisco to visit a friend.? He made a brief phone call. As Alicia opened his shirt, Cyrus said to the person on the other end of the line in a threatening tone, ?Do it.? After Cyrus hung up, Alicia had buried her head into the nape of his neck. Cyrus said, ?Save those thoughts for later. I have to finish this paperwork before I leave for San Francisco. Will you make my travel arrangements?? Alicia stood up once more and straightened her dress. ?Of course. I?ll let you know when I?ve completed the arrangements.? An hour later, Alicia had finished making Cyrus? travel arrangements when there was a knock on the office door. One of Cyrus? bodyguards was there when she opened the door. This one had dark hair and wore sunglasses all the time. Alicia knew that he thought he looked so cool with his all black outfit and the sunglasses. Her pet name for him was Glasses. ?What is it?? Alicia asked. Her sharp tone indicated that she was aggravated at the interruption. ?Someone?s at the office door,? answered Glasses. Alicia crossed the room and answered the office door. She found a thin, athletic woman dressed in an expensive dress standing there. The woman said, ?I?m here to see the prince.? ?Just a moment,? Alicia replied. She turned towards Cyrus and said, ?My prince, there is a woman here who wishes to see you.? Cyrus inclined his head forward and said, ?Send her in.? Alicia opened the door further and stood to one side to allow the woman to enter the prince?s office. She shivered inwardly as the woman passed by her. Although the woman made no threatening moves towards her or anyone else, she had a menacing presence that unnerved Alicia. Closing the door, Alicia sat to her desk to check her makeup. All she wanted was for that woman to be gone. ******** As Shahin Amneris entered the prince?s office, she noticed the lack of any obvious weapons. This man wasn?t going to be killed in his own office unless his attacker brought weapons. Then she noticed several men hidden in the shadows. Ah, the prince?s bodyguards. I could easily take them out in a few minutes. Instead, she focused her attention on the business at hand. She had received a call asking for someone who could do a hit in San Francisco. Cyrus began, ?So you?re an Assamite?? Shahin nodded and he continued, ?I need you to do a job for me. You will be paid well.? Shahin looked at Cyrus expectantly. He took several photos from a manila folder and slid one across the desk towards her. ?You will go to San Francisco, find this man and kill him. His name is Julian Luna and he is the prince of the city,? Cyrus continued. This didn?t concern her as she had successfully gone after a Camarilla prince before. Shahin calmly folded her arms across her chest. Cyrus then placed another photo on the desk and slid it towards her. ?This is the primogen who wishes to succeed Julian Luna as prince of the city. You will find him and get close to him.? ?What is the reason for the second assignment?? Shahin asked as she held out her hand for the folder. ?To prove to him how easy it is for an Assamite to get close to an unsuspecting victim,? Cyrus replied as he handed it to her. Shahin smiled wickedly. ?It should prove to be fun. Who is he?? ?His name is Eddie Fiori,? Cyrus replied. ?Very well,? Shahin said before turning and leaving the prince?s office. Once she was outside the building, she hailed a cab. ?Where to, lady?? the driver asked. ?The airport,? Shahin replied as she closed the door. It started to rain a moment later. As the plane headed for San Francisco, Shahin looked at the folder containing the information about her two targets and considered what she needed to do. Eddie Fiori was a fairly intelligent man who had become primogen of the Brujah some ten years ago. He was the strongest and most ruthless member of the Brujah clan in the city. The man was devious and had enough political connections to get what he wanted from the human government system. However, the specter of Julian Luna hovered over him in the Kindred world. She decided that she couldn?t afford to underestimate Fiori, no matter what Cyrus had told her. Cyrus had commented on Eddie?s amorous appetites when it came to women, whether Kindred or human. Fiori was a loner. There was no one close to him and his clan?s presence in the San Francisco metro area was still recovering from the Ventrue attack upon them at some place called the Old Mission Winery in nearby Manzanita Springs. First, she would get close to Eddie Fiori by using her body. It seemed to be the easiest way to get to him. The folder Cyrus had given her contained the locations of Eddie?s various hangouts and the office of the Dock Workers? Union. Cyrus would be coming up from Los Angeles tomorrow evening and expected her to get close to Fiori by then. Julian Luna was another story altogether. This man was a more public figure. According to her information, besides having tremendous holdings throughout various types of businesses, he was now the publisher of the San Francisco Times. She would have to watch him for several days or so to determine whom she might be able to use to get close enough to kill him. Just getting inside his mansion wouldn?t be enough if she had no way out. The plane landed then. Having checked no luggage, Shahin left the terminal, hailed a cab and headed for an apartment that was owned by a private investigator named Alan Ash. The man also happened to be an Assamite like herself. Despite her dislike of him because he had made several passes at her, his apartment was the only place she knew of where she could prepare herself properly for the execution of her contract in San Francisco. It would serve as a temporary haven for her while she completed this contract. During the cab ride, she considered her plans and for the moment, was satisfied with them. The driver tried to make casual chatter, but she politely declined and continued reading the information she had about Luna. When the cab arrived at its destination twenty minutes later, Shahin paid the fare and went into the building. When she checked the mailbox with Alan Ash?s name on it, she opened it, found a key taped inside to the top of the box and went up to the apartment. Upon entering, Shahin found the apartment empty and made herself at home. She found a light switch next to the door, flipped it up and the lights came on in the room. The apartment was a spacious place with very little furniture. One of the small wooden tables had a candle on it and the other had a lamp. There was a couch with a coffee table in front of it. She put her briefcase on the coffee table and went to the bedroom to check the closets. There was a wide range of clothes for men and women as well as an assortment of weapons hidden in secret compartments behind the wall. She remembered the compartments from her last visit to San Francisco several years ago when she came to learn more about the Kindred in the Camarilla. She chose some casual clothes. Checking her watch, Shahin decided to clean up and go to the bars on Cyrus? list. There was no sign of Fiori at the first bar, but she was able to feed upon a drunken man who had collapsed in the alley behind the bar. When she finished, she located the other places on the list, returned to the apartment and slept for the day. The next night, Shahin put on a spaghetti strap dress and made herself look like a nice woman. She headed for the Haven. When she didn?t find Eddie there, she decided to leave and look for him at the bar just down the street from the Dock Workers? Union office. As she stood to leave, she noticed Julian Luna having dinner with a human. Must be his girlfriend, she thought. She turned her mind to her immediate task, getting close to Eddie Fiori. ******* Eddie Fiori sat in his office and was just finishing some paperwork. He had managed to get things under control again. Several cops were in the hospital after being beaten senseless by some of the younger Brujah when they had tried to knock off a bank. His people had to drag their asses out of the resulting mess. ?Damn punks! They don?t understand how things gotta work!? Mario exclaimed, frustrated. ?And you?ve seen to their punishment?? Fiori asked, looking up from the papers scattered across his desk. ?It?s been taken care of,? Mario replied, standing next to the primogen?s desk. The younger, dark haired Brujah hesitated for a moment, expecting a reply, but Eddie simply nodded as he continued to sort through his papers. ?Everything?s fine, Eddie. There?s nothing to worry about.? ?What about Cyrus?? Eddie asked distractedly. ?Has he called yet?? ?Not yet,? Mario replied. ?Look, boss, you need to get out of here for a while. You?re going crazy. Head down to the bar and get a drink. ?Cyrus might call,? Eddie pointed out. ?I?ll have Donny sit on the phone,? Mario said. ?Get out for a little bit. Get a drink, have some fun. Relax, boss. We?ll run things here for you.? ?Yeah,? Eddie said, smiling slightly as he finally looked up from his desk. ?Just a little time off to relax. A few hours, maybe a broad, and things?ll be better.? ?That?s it,? Mario agreed. ?Come on, I?ll have Angelo call ahead and reserve your table.? They left the offices and went to the bar down the street for a drink. As they entered, Eddie looked around and saw a woman sitting alone in the corner booth that was normally reserved for him. To his bodyguard Mario, Eddie asked, ?Isn?t she a looker?? ?Yeah,? Mario agreed after his eyes took in the woman?s body from the waist up. Eddie straightened his tie and smoothed his tousled blond hair before walking over to the booth. ?Hey, mind if I join you?? he asked. The woman looked up and nodded. ?Hey Charlie, get me my usual and another of whatever this lady is drinking,? Eddie called to the bartender. ?Sure thing Eddie,? Charlie replied as he headed for the back room. To the woman across from him, Eddie asked, ?You?re new in town, aren?t you?? ?No. It?s just been a while since I?ve been here,? the woman replied, her contralto voice was smooth in Eddie?s ears. ?I?d be happy to reacquaint you with the city,? Eddie said. ?You?re a nice looking woman.? ?Thank you,? she replied demurely. The waitress brought their drinks and placed them on the table. ?My name?s Eddie Fiori,? Fiori said to introduce himself. ?My name?s Shahin Amneris,? she replied. ?That?s an interesting name. Where are you from?? asked Eddie. ?I am from Egypt. In fact, I?m here supervising an Egyptian art exhibition that?s touring this country,? answered Shahin. ?That?s fascinating. I?m from Los Angeles originally,? Eddie commented. ?I work with the union for the dock workers here in San Francisco. But let?s not talk shop tonight, shall we?? ?And what shall we talk about?? Shahin asked. Eddie took her hand in his and kissed it. ?I?d rather tell you how beautiful you are.? Shahin smiled demurely and said, ?Thank you. It?s been a while since someone noticed.? She then took a drink from her glass. Eddie noticed that Mario had found another woman and sat with her at a nearby table in case he needed his help. After they had a few drinks together, Shahin seemed to be pretty mellow and Eddie had even gone around the table and sat next to her. He was quite comfortable next to her. His arm snaked around her waist and he envisioned her naked with him in bed. That image energized Eddie to make it happen and he asked, ?Why don?t we go to my office so I can properly welcome you back to the city?? Shahin smiled at him again and replied, ?That sounds like it would be nice.? They stood and left. Mario followed at a distance having already had his fun and his meal for the night. Eddie put his arm around Shahin?s waist and stroked her hip and butt. He was looking forward to a night in her company. On their arrival at his office, he found that his answering machine wasn?t even blinking. He hadn?t received so much as a telemarketer calling and trying to sell him something he didn?t need. ?Come here, baby,? Eddie began. When she did, he pulled her onto his lap and started petting her. He?d got as far as sliding one of her dress straps down over her shoulder and she slid her hand inside his shirt. He started to nibble at the nape of her neck and groped her more intensely. There was a sound and Eddie looked up and saw Cyrus enter the room with several of his bodyguards. ?Cyrus!? Eddie exclaimed. ?Eddie,? the older Brujah replied. Cyrus approached the desk flanked by his bodyguards. ?I hear you?re having some problems.? Eddie muttered, ?Get ready for tonight, baby.? Shahin stood and after he gave her ass one last squeeze, crossed the room, sat in a chair and straightened her appearance. Turning his attention to Cyrus, Eddie scowled, ?And it?s all because of Julian Luna.? ?I?m sure that you won?t have any more problems with him,? Cyrus said. Eddie looked over and saw Shahin sitting in the chair. ?I told you to get ready for tonight, baby.? Shahin said nothing and Cyrus interrupted, ?Have you ever worked with the Assamites, Eddie?? Eddie realized that Cyrus didn?t care whether the woman heard their discussion. Okay, he?ll probably make her forget she ever met me or heard any of our conversation, he thought. ?No. They only work for princes. That?s why I needed to talk to you, can you hire them?? Eddie asked in reply. ****** It was obvious to Shahin that all Fiori wanted was someone to share his bed with for a while. However, that wouldn?t be happening. She was here to do a job. She looked up then, as Cyrus had mentioned something about the Assamites and what they could do. To emphasize his comments, as he and Eddie looked her way, she shifted her shape from a woman to that of a man and back again. The look of fear on Fiori?s face was well worth it. Eddie swallowed nervously; his eyes bulged with shock at how easily she had gotten close to him. She could have killed him and now he knew how careless he?d been. ?Eddie, I didn?t take over L.A. overnight,? Cyrus? voice interrupted her musings. ?I laid the groundwork and planned my ascension to the princedom. When the time came, I was ready.? ?That?s what I want, the power to do anything I damn well please. It?s time this city had a Brujah prince.? Fiori looked warily her way and asked Cyrus, ?Can the Assamite get Luna?? ?Look how easy it was for her to get close to you. I have confidence that she will be able to get just as close to Julian.? ?I like the sound of that,? Eddie said, now he was apparently confident in her ability to kill Julian. ?Thanks Cyrus, you don?t know what this means to me.? Cyrus said, ?I think it?s time we allowed the lady to do her job. You?ll keep us informed of your progress?? She nodded once, stood and left the room. Over the next several days, Shahin watched and followed Julian Luna?s every movement. Like most people, the man had a pattern to his lifestyle. She was able to infiltrate his mansion, and had been inside his human girlfriend?s home without her knowledge. She didn?t kill Luna whilst inside his mansion as there always seemed to be someone with him. This prince was far more of a public figure than her previous targets. They had been as reclusive as the Nosferatu and yet she had succeeded in eliminating them. This public life that Luna led wouldn?t intimidate her. As Shahin watched Julian interact with Caitlin Byrne, it gave her some idea of Luna?s personality. Caitlin seemed headstrong and was deeply in love with Julian. The human fit the type of woman that she would expect a Ventrue to associate with in public. The best time to attempt to kill Julian would be when he was with Caitlin or when he was outside her house. Because she was human, while he was with her, he had a minimum of bodyguards around to protect him. After her reconnaissance of the area surrounding Caitlin?s house, Shahin began planning her attack. She would follow Julian to Caitlin?s house and then she would strike. ******* The next night, Shahin followed Julian to the Haven. She appeared to be dressed elegantly and wore an ankle length dress with a light jacket over the top. When she entered the smoke-filled club, she saw Fiori sitting at a table marked as reserved. Luna came down the steps, and met with his Ventrue sire, Archon Raine for a moment before heading for the table where Eddie sat. Cash followed, watching Julian?s back. She saw Cyrus casually cross the room with his bodyguards and stand next to Eddie. She didn?t worry about hearing the conversation. What Julian did afterwards was more important to her. When their discussion was through, Julian, Archon and Cash were standing in the middle of the room and talking. Shahin picked up her half empty champagne glass and moved to the table closest to them. She hoped to hear where Julian was going from here. ?I can?t believe that Eddie sat down to talk with you,? Cash said. ?Neither can I, especially after all his loud-mouthed bravado about how I shouldn?t be prince. Of course, when Cyrus showed up, I was twice as surprised,? Julian commented. ?That?s one Brujah I don?t need in my city.? ?What will you do now?? Archon asked. ?I think we should keep an eye on both Eddie and Cyrus,? replied Julian. He looked at his watch. ?Tonight, I have a dinner date with Caitlin. It?s her birthday. Cash, will you and Billy come with me? And, will you arrange to have some of your Gangrels watch Eddie and Cyrus when we get back from Caitlin?s house?? Cash nodded. ?When will we be leaving?? ?Shortly,? Julian replied. Shahin smiled and thought, Perfect. Julian will be on his way to Caitlin?s house soon. I must arrive there before he does! She left the glass on the table, went to the ladies? room, removed the encumbering dress to reveal the black pants and turtleneck shirt beneath and left the club. Outside, she hailed a cab and gave the driver an address that was about a block from Caitlin?s house. She had already stashed her weapon in the tree in Caitlin?s front yard during a previous visit. After the cab dropped her off, she set off at a brisk pace to cover the one block between her and her objective. ******* As Julian left the Haven, Cash noticed Sasha preparing to start her Harley and wondered where she was going. Julian tapped him on his shoulder and he opened the rear door of the car for his prince. After closing the door, Cash got into the front seat of the car next to Billy and started the motor. The Mercedes purred as Cash guided it into the street. ?Is there something on your mind, Cash?? asked Julian. ?I was just wondering about Sasha. Ever since her embrace by the Brujah, we?ve had a few problems,? replied Cash. ?I?m trying to work it out with her. I still love her, you know.? ?Yes. I know. So do I,? Julian replied quietly. The rest of their trip to Caitlin?s house was made in silence. Cash thought he caught a glimpse of Sasha?s Harley following the car several times, but thought nothing more of it. He was working and thinking about her wasn?t helping him keep his mind on the protection of his prince. * * * * * * * Shahin climbed the tree in Caitlin?s front yard, claimed her Kukri knife from one of the higher branches and patiently waited for Julian to arrive. Shortly, an expensive black car stopped in front of the house. Cash and then another bodyguard, whose name she assumed was Billy after hearing Julian giving orders at the Haven, got out of the car first. They stayed with the car as Julian took a long, wrapped, rectangular box to the front door of the house. A gift of some sort for his lover, Shahin assumed. Her attention returned to the Gangrels when they started talking at the car. A moment later, Cash passed beneath the tree she was hidden in, headed towards the corner of the yard and went around the house to the backyard. The other man stayed with the car. Cash never bothered to look up in the tree or else he might have seen her. However, she waited several minutes to see whether he would return immediately. When he didn?t, she decided to move down to a lower branch. As she moved, a small branch snapped and she froze. The remaining Gangrel thought that the snap of the branch meant his friend was returning. He walked over beneath the tree and stopped to listen. Damn! Shahin thought. I can?t allow him to interfere with my mission! Silently unsheathing her Kukri knife, she leaned back and, hanging by her legs, swiftly cut off the unsuspecting Gangrel?s head. His decapitated body fell silently to the ground. She pulled herself up and then jumped down away from the body in the shadows. She quickly moved the body into the deepest shadows beneath the tree. Just then, the front door of the house opened. There wasn?t time for her to get back into the tree. She knew the Gangrel would be missed. Her only option was to shift her appearance into the form of the bodyguard. This will be my best chance to kill Luna, Shahin thought as her form changed. She sheathed her knife and went to where the late Gangrel had stood. As Shahin leaned against the car, she watched as Julian came over towards her. He casually started making conversation with her and treating her like she really was his bodyguard. Luna said something about keeping an eye on the Brujah primogen. He turned away from her for a moment when he heard someone approaching from behind. Cash was returning from the rear of the house when his foot touched something in the shadow of the tree. He leaned down, and examined something in the grass. He found an arm with a brown leather jacket covering it. He thought, My God! That?s Billy! Looking towards the car, Cash saw Julian standing with Billy and wondered, How the hell?? He then whipped out his phosphorous gun and cried out, ?Julian! That?s not Billy!? In the split second when Julian turned towards Cash, Shahin thought, Damn! Cash blew my cover! She instantly changed back to her normal form, whipped out her knife and attacked Julian. Julian whirled around to face her as she attacked him. He grabbed her arms and tried to disarm her, but to no avail. She fought him and tried to kill him, but he managed to get the upper hand in the struggle and threw her away from himself. When she rolled away from him and stood, she turned and saw that Cash had returned to Julian?s side. Temporarily outnumbered, she backed away and thought, I?ll have to try a different plan to get you, Luna! ?Sasha!? Cash cried out. Julian looked back towards the street and froze. Shahin backed into someone who she grabbed and pulled in front of her to use as a shield. She looked towards Julian and Cash who were frozen in place and staring at her. When they started towards her anyway, she released her hostage, turned and ran. Damn! I?ve never failed before! Shahin thought. The taste of failure, however temporary that failure might be, was bitter in her mouth. She continued down the street and considered how to break the news to her Brujah employer. Shahin felt her exhaustion then and slowed to a walk. About a block later, she felt lightheaded and her hunger started to gnaw away at her. Shapeshifting took a lot of energy and she needed to replace that energy quickly if she expected to make a second attempt on Luna. Looking around, she spotted a solitary woman walking down the street. Although it was against her better judgment, she decided to feed. Most of the houses were either dark or their curtains were closed and she saw no one looking out at the street. No one would see her feed on this woman in the shadows beneath one of the trees. Shahin ran towards the woman and grabbed her. The woman struggled ferociously against her and the next thing Shahin felt was a blade of some sort slicing through her wrist and stabbing her in the side. The pain she felt was doubled when the woman viciously turned the blade inside the wound. Shahin hesitated momentarily and the woman took advantage of this and bit the freshly opened wound on her assailant?s wrist. As the woman?s teeth tore open her wrist, Shahin screamed. Her blood sprayed all over the human?s face. Consumed with pain, Shahin released the woman who turned and ran down the street. Shahin rallied what strength she had and ran after the woman. When she tackled the human, she punched her victim in the head to prevent any further retaliation and the woman?s body sagged in her arms. Shahin?s fangs then punctured the unconscious woman?s neck and she fed hungrily. Neatness wasn?t important right now; she?d feed and get the hell away from here. Just then, a car came around the corner and they were caught in the glare of its headlights. Damn! Shahin thought as she dropped the woman, licked the wound on her own wrist closed and ran. ******* After the attempt on Julian?s life, Cash thought it best for them to return to Julian?s mansion as soon as possible. As the car?s motor roared to life, Julian relaxed in the rear seat of the car and Cash was driving. Sasha had ridden her motorcycle and was going to meet them back at the mansion. ?I?m sorry I wasn?t there, Julian,? Cash began. ?Where were you?? Julian demanded angrily. ?I was in the back of the house, checking to see whether there was anything coming from that direction,? Cash replied. Julian was just about to ask why Sasha was there, when suddenly, the car came to a screeching halt and he threw his arms forward to brace himself. ?What the hell is going on Cash?? Julian demanded. ?Someone?s hurt and bleeding on the sidewalk!? the Gangrel shouted. Julian jumped out of the car. He got a glimpse of someone leaving the scene, but not enough to identify them. Looking around, he saw no one at the windows of any of the houses. Good, Julian thought. No one?s around to see this. Squatting down, he examined the woman?s neck, saw the open wound, leaned down and licked it closed before the woman bled to death. He then checked for a pulse and found a weak one. The woman?s eyes fluttered open, and she mumbled something unintelligible. In a soothing tone, Julian said, ?You?re all right.? She looked at him for a moment. Julian looked to his right and her gaze followed his. He passed his hand over her face and exerted his will to make her forget that she had been attacked. Once she was unconscious, he looked around and saw her purse. He gently picked her up and took her to the car. As Julian got her settled in the rear of his car, Cash went and got her purse and handed it to Julian. When Julian was settled again, he opened her purse to find her identification. Her driver?s license said her name was Sharon St. James, and Julian gave Cash the address on the license. As the car started to move again, Julian cleaned the woman?s neck and face with a cloth. He looked at her and she had dark shoulder length hair, which cascaded over her shoulders. She wore jeans, a purple t-shirt and a light jacket. There was blood spattered on her face, in her mouth and all over her shirt. ?Whoever attacked her was Kindred,? Julian began. ?Oh? And she fought them off?? Cash asked, amazed. ?It seems so. She?s got blood all over herself,? Julian replied. ?She should be okay, then?? asked Cash. ?I think so, though she got some blood in her mouth. I can?t tell whether it?s hers or her attacker?s without tasting it and even then there?s no guarantee that I can tell the difference,? Julian replied with a sigh. ?She needs to sleep.? They passed The Haven and five minutes later, came to the address. It was the dead of night when they arrived. Julian got out of the car, and with Cash?s help, took Sharon inside to her apartment. ******* Julian left Sharon?s apartment and was relieved that the woman hadn?t regained consciousness before he was able to leave her at her apartment. Soon, they were back at the mansion and he was talking with Cash about the incident outside of Caitlin?s house. ?We?ll have to beef up security around here. Now that I know someone?s trying to kill me, I must be prepared,? Julian said. ?Yes. I?ve sent Tara to recover Billy?s corpse,? Cash commented. ?She?ll bury him in a cemetery in the woods. Mostly old miners are buried there. No one goes there anymore.? ?Good. What I want to know is who hired that Assamite,? Julian said. ?Isn?t it obvious? You know that Eddie Fiori wants to oust you and take your place as prince of the city,? Cash replied, exasperated. ?Yes. I?m well aware of it. However, from what little we know about them, the Assamites don?t work for someone like Eddie Fiori.? A wry smile crossed Julian?s face as he suddenly realized the true reason behind Cyrus? visit to San Francisco. ?What is it?? Cash saw the expression on Julian?s face and was curious. ?I was curious when Cyrus showed up at The Haven with Eddie earlier tonight. Eddie?s ambition to be prince of this city is nothing compared to Cyrus? desire to rule the state of California.? Cash nodded. ?And he?s got the clout to hire an Assamite.? ?Yes, Cyrus is ruthless enough to hire the Assamite on Eddie?s behalf and once I?m out of the way, he would use Eddie as a puppet,? Julian replied. ?But we have no proof that Cyrus hired her,? Cash began. ?What now?? ?The Assamite will undoubtedly try again. We must prevent her success at all costs.? ******* Across town, Shahin returned to the apartment that she was using as a temporary haven. She closed the door, crossed the room to the window and was about to pull the curtains closed when she said, ?I will get you Julian Luna.? ?I assume that you failed to kill your target tonight?? a masculine voice said from somewhere behind her in the darkness of the room. Shahin whirled around and asked, ?Who?s there?? When the person didn?t answer, she looked around the room nervously and backed away from the window to make less of a target. She heard the sound of a match being struck off to her left. When she looked towards the source of the sound, she saw a candle being lit. The light from the candle illuminated her visitor?s face. The man had shoulder- length black hair, and wore a casual outfit of jeans and a dark shirt beneath a black leather jacket. ?Alan! What the hell are you doing here, checking up on me?? Shahin asked as she recognized the tall American. He was one of the few Americans who had been embraced into the clan. ?I just felt like visiting. After all, Shahin, you?re the only woman from our clan in this area,? Alan replied with a grin as he took in her figure beneath the black outfit she wore. ?Hell, what am I saying? You?re the only other member of our clan out on this coast!? ?I?m not your plaything, Alan Ash!? Shahin exclaimed, noticing his appraisal of her body. ?I never said you were,? Alan replied, his tone playful as he approached her. When he continued, his eyes narrowed and his tone changed to one of malevolence. ?I was also curious whether you had successfully completed this contract.? ?I will succeed in fulfilling this contract,? Shahin snarled as she looked up into his dark gaze. ?Honor demands that you do so or die trying,? Alan replied, as calm as ever as he crossed his arms over his chest. ?How dare you lecture me on how to conduct myself when completing a contract! Besides, what would a filthy infidel such as you know about honor?? Shahin demanded. Alan moved so fast that she never knew what happened until it was too late. With one hand, he grabbed her by the throat, lifted her and despite her struggles, slammed her hard against the wall. Holding her there, he retorted through clenched teeth, ?How dare you, bitch! I know more about honor than you?ll ever know!? ?You were nothing before the Amr embraced you,? Shahin replied. ?Al-Ashrad disgraced himself by choosing you to become one of us.? Alan squeezed her throat tighter and continued, his tone sibilant, ?I was a highly decorated, well-respected and honorable U.S. army officer before I was embraced. I fought in many battles against the Germans in the North African theater during World War II.? ?I don?t know what the Amr saw in you, you cold-hearted bastard!!? Shahin spat. ?Perhaps he liked my potential. That?s not important now,? retorted Alan sharply. Shahin silently cursed herself for her lack of weapons and her weakness from a lack of blood. Instead, she started to kick and claw at Alan to get him to release her. ?Damn you! It is important!? Alan said quietly, ?It isn?t and you know it.? ?All Americans are good-for-nothing, greedy infidels,? Shahin said between gasps. She was having trouble breathing now and Alan either didn?t notice or care. ?Your narrow-mindedness will be the end of you. Never underestimate an American.? Alan scowled at her disdainfully as he released her and she slumped to the floor, gasping for breath. ?Leave here, infidel!? Shahin shouted. ?All you wanted here tonight was to sleep with me and I?ll have no part of you!? ?I?ll never consider that again! I wouldn?t want to dirty myself on one such as you! Go to hell, you fucking bitch!? Alan replied menacingly before he turned and stormed out of the apartment. He had another apartment which he would return to after he had a couple of drinks at the Haven. After her confrontation with Alan, Shahin called a cab and went to Eddie Fiori?s office. She was in a dangerous mood as she considered the reasons behind her embarrassing failure to kill Julian Luna and how to prevent it from happening again. Another failure would be intolerable. She would see to it that she succeeded in killing Luna the next time. When she looked up, the cab had just arrived at the Dock Workers? Union office. Before leaving the cab, Shahin said, ?I?ll be right back.? The cab driver nodded. Shahin entered the building and went up a flight of stairs to the left of the door. At the top, she walked down the hall to the second door on the left. Through the open door, she saw Eddie sitting smugly in a chair next to the wall and Cyrus stood there, waiting patiently for her return. Eddie stood as she entered the room and said, ?Tell me you killed Julian Luna.? Shahin said nothing, only stared impassively at first Eddie and then Cyrus. A momentary look of panic flashed across Eddie?s features before he said anxiously, ?You gotta go back and kill Luna!? Again, Shahin said nothing. She saw the look on Cyrus? face. He wasn?t happy with the situation at all. Now the two Brujahs also knew of her failure. She turned away and headed back to the door. Before she left the room, Cyrus said, ?Contact me tomorrow night.? He crossed the room and handed her a piece of paper with a number written on it. She left the room, and then the building. Upon climbing in the back seat of the cab, she told the driver to return to where he?d picked her up. When the cab arrived outside the apartment building, she paid the driver and went upstairs once more. Shahin spent the next few hours deciding how best to kill Julian Luna before going out to feed. She called Cyrus at the appointed time the next night. He told her that Eddie would be making his move to take out Julian Luna at the Luna mansion in the hills. Cyrus told her that he was sending her in as Eddie?s backup. He suggested that she shapeshift into the form of the Toreador primogen, Lillie to gain close access to Julian. When Shahin hung up, she was furious! How dare this Brujah send her in as a second thought! He hired her to do a job and to treat her like this made her angry. ?I suppose I earned this treatment by failing the first time,? she muttered to herself. She took a few minutes to gather what she needed and calm down. It wouldn?t do her any good to be upset. It made shapeshifting more difficult if her mind wasn?t clear and focused. Shahin called a cab and had it take her to a spot just out of sight of the main gates of the Luna mansion. She was able to easily enter the mansion via a shadow-covered window beneath one of the nearby trees. Closing the window, she shifted into the form of Lillie and concealed herself in a room off to the side of the main entrance. From here, she could see Luna enter the mansion. Once she was situated, Shahin heard the sound of a car as it pulled up in the driveway. A moment later, a car door slammed and someone opened the main door of the mansion. Cash came down the hall to meet Julian. She slid her dagger out of its sheath on her arm and hid it in the right sleeve of her black, long sleeved shirt. She had decided to wear the same outfit as the previous night, because it was practical for the assignment. ?Cash,? Julian began. ?Is everything secure? I don?t want that Assamite to have a second chance.? Cash nodded. ?Yes. Oh, by the way, Fiori is in the library. He says he wants to talk to you.? ?Okay, I?ll see him after I make a quick sweep of the place,? Julian commented. ?Keep an eye on Fiori.? Cash went up the curved staircase which led to the library. As he entered, he saw Eddie Fiori sitting in the chair with a book in his lap. The library had books, a desk, some paintings on the walls and a small piece of sculpture on the desk along with a long, rectangular box. ******* Below, as Julian walked past her hiding place, Lillie silently left one of the rooms and followed him. This is going to be your best chance to kill him! Shahin thought. Don?t blow it again! It was do or die this time. A second failure was not an option. ?Julian?? Shahin asked in Lillie?s voice. Julian turned to face her and said, ?I have nothing left to say to you.? Shahin said, ?I don?t want to talk. I just want you to hold me.? Her voice caught on the last word. Julian took her into his arms as though all was forgiven. This was the moment of truth for her. Shahin slid her dagger out of her right sleeve and raised it to kill him. Somehow, Julian must have felt her movements and interpreted them as hostile. He put a phosphorus gun to her throat at the same time and cocked it. Before Julian could do anything else, she managed to bring the arm with the dagger down but missed stabbing him. Julian viciously shoved her away from him, turned and ran. As Shahin regained her balance to follow him, he was ahead of her by a bit. As she ran swiftly and silently through the mansion?s hallways after Luna, she approached an open area where some stairs spiraled up to the next level. She suddenly heard a voice call out Julian?s name. She stopped and carefully stared upward as she got to where she could see the landing above her. ?Julian?? the voice above asked before its source went back into the room above. Shahin recognized the voice as that of Cash. She killed one Gangrel the other night during her first attempt on Luna?s life, and she decided to make it two tonight. In order to have no obstacles standing between herself and Luna, she knew that she must get rid of Cash. She shapeshifted into the form of Julian so that she could get close to Cash in order to kill him. Shahin headed up the stairs and when she reached the top, found the door to the library open. As she entered the library, she saw Cash standing there. ?Give me your gun,? Shahin demanded in Julian?s voice. Cash had no idea that she wasn?t Julian and started to hand over his gun to her, butt first. All she needed to do was pull the trigger and Cash would die. Then, the chair behind the desk turned around bearing Eddie Fiori who had a phosphorus shotgun in his hands. Seeing Julian Luna in front of him, Eddie raised the gun. There was no way that Shahin could warn him that she wasn?t Luna unless she exposed herself. Before she could come up with another way out of the situation, Eddie Fiori made the decision for her. He fired and the shot hit her in her stomach. The phosphorus burned ferociously and she screamed as she fell to the floor and writhed in agony. Cash hadn?t foreseen the possibility that Eddie would kill Julian on sight and was horrified and grief-stricken as he fell to his knees and took her body in his arms as Eddie ran down the steps to leave the mansion. ?Oh God! I should have seen this coming!? Cash cried out as he held her. Shahin thought, You were right, Alan. I underestimated the Ventrue and I?ll pay the ultimate price for my failure. Her vision faded to blackness and final death claimed her.