Diaries of a Firebird: The Embrace


By ROGsvgirl

X-Over:Kindred the Embraced & Firestarter 

Disclaimers: I do not own anything. All Firestarter characters and themes 
belong to Stephen King (i.e. Charlene "Charlie" McGee, Andy McGee, John 
Rainbird, pyrokinesis.) I'm not sure who owns the rights to the film 
version of Firestarter. Firestarter Rekindled belongs to the SciFi Channel. 
All references to the RPG Vampire: the Masquerade belong to White Wolf. 
I don't know who owns Kindred the Embraced. As I said I own nothing 
and I ain't gettin any money for this. So enjoy my ramblings. 

Author's Note: Okay this is the first fanfic I've written for this site. It's also 
my first Kindred or Firestarter fic. I can be a bit long winded. I'm just 
warning you in advance. Just so you know, I absolutely love crossovers. 
They are my raison d'etre. Needless to say,I'm a big fan of Kindred the 
Embraced and Vampire the Masquerade. I love all things Firestarter. I will 
do my best to do justice to all concerned (for, as I said before, I own 
nothing.) R/R please. And enjoy. 

Prologue 


The Prince of the City sat back and surveyed the four Primogen before 
him. Two of them, he considered his closest friends. One was his most 
bitter enemy. The fourth was his ex, which made her loyalties to him 
ambiguous. All he considered with a weary look. 

"Okay, now that we've concluded with the issue of Nosferatu sittings in 
Chinatown," he gave the Nosferatu Primogen, Daedalus an annoyed look, 
"and with the Brujah concerns over Ventrue business conflicts, is there 
any new business?"  Julian looked at the Primogen of the Gangrel as he 
posed the question. Cash had been looking antsy for the last part of the 
meeting. The Prince had spoken to his bodyguard and friend about the 
issue before the clan meeting and had asked that the Gangrel pose his 
request publicly before he made a decision. Julian gave Cash a pointed 
look that told him to speak now or forever hold his piece. Cash shifted 
uncomfortably before clearing his throat. " I have some new business, my 
Prince." he answered. 

"Speak your mind, Cash." said Julian Luna, giving his friend a 
compassionate look. 

Cash cleared his throat again. He rose to his feet to stand before the 
Conclave. * Why did he have to make me air this before the Conclave?* 
he thought. However,Cash knew full well that the Prince had to give 
consent to his request publicly. The problem was that Cash considered 
the issue to be private clan business. "As the Conclave is aware, Gangrel 
Clan has suffered great losses of late in the service of our Prince. We are 
aware of the laws concerning the permission to Embrace." Cash took a 
deep breath. "On behalf of my Clan, I request permission for Free 
Embrace. If my Prince sees fit to grant this request it would hold until 
such time as Gangrel Clan is repopulated by my own estimation or until 
my Prince sees fit to rescind his consent. I ask this, as the law requires, 
before the Conclave so that all may know that the intentions of Gangrel 
Clan are honorable and just." 

Cash let out the last of the breath he'd been holding. He looked around 
the table to gauge the reactions of the other Conclave members. Julian 
gave him a proud look. *Stevie Ray taught him well.* the Ventrue 
thought. Cameron, the Brujah Primogen, looked absolutely outraged. 
Daedalus looked utterly stoic as usual. The Toreador boss, Lillie Langtry, 
seemed slightly amused. 

Julian rose to his feet as Cash took his seat once more. "As is the law, 
such a request requires that I consider the recommendations of the 
Conclave before making my final decision. Does Nosferatu Clan have 
anything to say on the matter?" 

Daedalus regarded Cash for a moment before speaking. " Gangrel Clan 
makes a valid request. Their numbers are down considerably and their 
hardships have been brought on by protecting our Prince and keeping the 
peace within the city. Therefore, the Nosferatu recommend for granting of 
Free Embrace to Clan Gangrel." 

Julian caught the grateful look Cash was giving the Nosferatu. Cameron 
looked ready to explode. " I think we can assume Brujah Clan 
recommends against granting Free Embrace. So why don't we move on to 
Toreador Clan? Lillie, have you anything to say on the matter?" 

Lillie still had the amused look on her face. She knew full well that Julian 
was going to grant Cash's request. The Gangrel were an honorable clan 
and there was no reason to deny them Free Embrace. But Lillie wasn't 
going to be won over too easily. She might as well try to get something 
out of the deal for her clan if she was going to recommend for the 
Gangrel's request. "Toreador Clan has no objection to our Prince granting 
Free Embrace to Gangrel Clan. However, if you would grant their request, 
the Toreador too would request the right to Embrace freely without 
individual approval as well." 

The Prince as well as the other Primogen looked at Lillie incredulously. 
Cameron was seething by now. Daedalus was still remaining somewhat 
stoic. Both Julian and Cash were giving her extremely annoyed looks. 
After a few moments, Julian spoke. " Well it seems that the majority of 
the recommendations are in the affirmative. I therefore publicly grant the 
Gangrels' request. Let it be known that any Gangrel, with the consent of 
their Primogen, may Embrace freely without first coming to me for 
permission. I trust Cash will make the appropriate decisions regarding 
the repopulation of Gangrel Clan. I have every faith that all Embraces 
under this decree will be made with due consideration for the rules of the 
Masquerade." 

Cash nodded. "Gangrel Clan thankfully excepts our Prince's decision." 

Julian turned to Lillie once more. "As for Toreador Clan's request. I will 
give it some thought. However, I must remind you Lillie that your clan 
does not have a pressing reason to request Free Embrace. But as I said I 
will consider it. Now, if no one has any other new business, i'll conclude 
this meeting of the Conclave." Before either Lillie or Cameron could 
comment the Prince of San Francisco headed for the door with his 
bodyguard in tow. 

As they headed for the main level of the Haven, Cash spoke to his Prince. 
"Thanks Julian." 

"For what? It was a valid request. Any wise Prince would do the same. I 
myself have been getting a little worried about Gangrel Clan. You've 
taken so many hard hits lately. I think Stevie would have been quite 
proud that you tonight, Cash." 

The Gangrel smiled as he escorted Julian to is limousine. That was the 
greatest compliment anyone could pay him. "Shall I tell Cory to take you 
home my Prince?" 

"Yes, I think I'll call it a night. We've both been working too hard 
lately. Why don't you take the next few hours off? Tell your clan the good 
news." 

Cash gave Julian one last thankful smile before the car sped off and the 
Gangrel returned to the music filled halls of the Haven. 



Chapter 1

Frank had been waiting for half an hour when the mysterious meeting 
upstairs ended. *Strange* he thought *that's the second meeting this 
week. I wonder what they're talking about up there.* His thoughts were 
interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. The detective turned only to see that 
it was not his expected companion but Julian Luna's bodyguard. 

"Do you mind?" the bodyguard asked, indicating the barstool next to 
Frank's. 

Frank decided to strike up a conversation with the man. "Be my guest. 
You're Cash... right?" 

"Yeah." Cash responded in a guarded manner. "Julian told me about you, 
Kohanek. You're the human cop that knows about us." 

"That's me." Frank replied, annoyed. He glanced at his watch once more 
before deciding to change the subject. He knew that it was a 
controversial issue among Cash's kind. Usually, humans who found out 
about the Kindred were Embraced, made to forget, or put to death. The 
only reason Frank was still hanging around was that he was under the 
Prince's protection. Frank cleared his throat. "So uh, what clan are you?" 

Cash sat up proudly. "I'm the Primogen of Gangrel Clan." 

"Gangrel,hmm.... I've heard a little about you guys. I thought you were an 
independent clan. What are you doing hanging around the city?" 

Cash eyed him suspiciously before deciding to answer. *Well, if he knows 
that much already, it wouldn't hurt to answer, I guess.* "My sire helped 
the former Prince found the Camarilla in San Francisco. Gangrel Clan is 
accepted as part of the Conclave." 

"Oh yeah, the Conclave. That's the ruling committee under the Prince of 
the City, right?" 

The Gangrel's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "Where exactly are 
you getting all this stuff?" 

"I have my sources." Frank said noncommittally. "So is it true that Gangrel 
Clan is still at war with the Brujah?" The detective had been wondering 
for a long time about the issue. He knew from his research that the 
Gangrels and Brujah had some kind of legendary rivalry between them. He 
figured that, since the Brujah had all but put a price out on his head, the 
enemy of his enemy was his friend. 

Cash shot him a dangerous look. Frank had no way of knowing how 
touchy a subject he'd just hit upon. The Gangrel Primogen was fighting 
his own personal battle with the Brujah at present. His would-be 
girlfriend, Sasha, had been involuntarily initiated into the Brujah Clan. 
Because of this, Cash now had an internal Jyhad going on between his 
loyalty to his clan and his loyalty to Sasha. Brujah Clan and Gangrel Clan 
had always been enemies. Cash's sire Stevie-Ray had been slaughtered 
by the last Brujah Primogen. However, Cash loved Sasha and could not 
stand that she was Brujah now. The fact that she had just minutes ago 
broken up with him for the umpteenth time was not improving his 
disposition. 

When Frank saw that look in Cash eyes, he knew he had just said 
something very, very wrong. Fear welled up in the detective at the 
thought of what the Gangrel Primogen might do to him if provoked. 
Although Frank was under Julian Luna's protection, that wouldn't stop an 
angry Gangrel from 'popping him one'. 

Luckily for Frank, Cash was distracted by the arrival of a striking 
newcomer. With his heightened senses, Cash had heard an unfamiliar 
motorcycle roll up to the entrance of the Haven. He hadn't paid much 
attention to it at the time but now his interest peaked by the striking 
rider who walked in to the club. 

She was tall and rather willowy. The grace with which she moved seemed 
to be in stark contrast to the leather riding suit she wore and the long 
flame hued locks that fell to her shoulders. Cash knew he wasn't the only 
one to notice her either. All around the club, humans and Kindred alike 
had turned to see the young woman. Cash noticed that Lillie, the 
proprietor of The Haven had taken special interest in the newcomer. The 
Prince of the City himself had even turned to observe her. 

Cash's heartbeat sounded loudly in the silence, a rare noise in The 
Haven. *God.* he thought *Calm down man, your so worked up you've 
got a heartbeat and you haven't even met her yet.* 

Then, the woman turned to approach Cash and Frank. She sat down on 
the barstool on the other side of Frank. 

"Charlie, you're late!" Frank scolded the newcomer. 

"Sorry! I had a new shipment come in and the electrician was late." 

"Excuses, excuses, " he said. A small smile curled the edges of his lips. 
Charlie stuck her tongue out at him in response, eliciting a laugh from her 
companion. 

Cash cleared his throat loudly both to catch her attention and to disperse 
the stares that still lingered on her. 

"Oh, sorry." Frank said,"Cash, this is my cousin Charlene McCall. Charlie, 
this is Cash...he's a... friend."*Yeesh pal. Put your tongue back in your 
mouth,* he thought as he scooted his seat back so Charlie and Cash 
could see each other better. 

"Nice to meet you." Charlie leaned over Frank to extend her hand to 
Cash. As she did so, Cash took notice of the tattoo over Charlie's heart 
that was exposed by the plunging neckline of her riding suit. It was a 
simple design of a ball of fire. He heard Charlie clear her throat and 
looked up to see her looking expectant if not slightly amused. 

"That's an interesting tattoo you've got there." he said. Cash gave her a 
sheepish look, both for the ogling and for the lame excuse. 

Charlie glanced down at it. "This? It's birthmark actually." She brushed 
the mark lightly with her fingertips. The mark was so indicative of who she 
was. Though meant to be reminiscent, Cash found the gesture almost 
erotic. 

Seeing the pained look on Charlie's face, he gathered that this line of 
conversation wasn't going to get him anywhere. "You ride, right? What 
kind of bike have you got?" 

"Don't get her started!" Frank pleaded. He knew what would happen if 
this conversation got started. There were three things you just did not 
mention to Charlie unless you either wanted your ear talked off or your 
head ripped off: the government, art, and motorcycles. 

"What's the matter Frank? Afraid I get into one of my 'rambling 
sessions'?" Charlie laughed musically. "Frank's not really into the whole 
biker scene." she retorted to Cash. 

Cash smiled at her. " I can see that. But I don't mind, motorcycles are 
kind of my thing." 

"Well..." Charlie began. 

"Hold it! If you two are gonna talk bikes, I'm gonna go back to my 
apartment." Frank said, paying his check and getting up from the bar. 

"Fine with me. I'm gonna stick around for a while. I like the..." she trailed 
off as she glanced at Cash, "...atmosphere." She turned to catch Frank's 
arm. "Cuz, here's my new address and number." she handed him a small 
business card. 

Frank stuck the card in his jacket pocket. "Okay. You know my number. 
Call me tonight when you get home." 

"See ya, Frank." Charlie waved goodbye to her cousin, who was in truth 
not her cousin but her adoptive brother. 

"So, where were we?" Charlie turned back to Cash and moved to where 
Frank had been sitting. 



Chapter 2

Charlie and Cash sat at the bar talking for hours. They talked mostly 
about motorcycles at first. Then, they really started to tell each other 
about  themselves. 

Cash was surprised to find out that Charlie was about as much of a gypsy 
as he was. She had spent most of her life, from age eight, moving around 
the country, and later, the world. Charlie told him how she had lost her 
parents at an early age and had been taken in by the Kohaneks. From 
the way she described it, Cash gathered that she had been almost as 
closely knit with Frank and his family as the Gangrel was with his brood-
siblings. Charlie described Frank and his friends as "surrogate big 
brothers."  To Cash, this was very reminiscent of his own childhood and, 
later, his relationship with his clan. 

The great thing about Charlie was that she'd had many of the same 
experiences as Cash. The two had a chemistry that the Gangrel Primogen 
hadn't ever had with any other person, not even Sasha or Stevie-Ray. It 
seemed to both that they had known each other all their lives, not just 
the past few hours. Not only was there an emotional and intellectual 
familiarity between them, not to mention physical attraction, but also the 
two seemed to be "kindred spirits." No pun intended. They understood all 
parts of each other's personalities and humors. 

Neither Charlie nor Cash noticed the amount of attention that was being 
paid them by various patrons of The Haven. The members of Gangrel 
Clan had taken huge interest in their Primogen's conversation with the 
woman. The Kindred preternatural hearing ability allowed any of them 
with the inclination to eavesdrop on the proceedings. In fact, most of the 
Gangrel were quite pleased with what they heard. 

It was widely known and lamented among Gangrel Clan that Cash had 
been fawning over Sasha Luna almost from the moment he'd become 
Primogen. The tightly knit Gangrels worried that Cash's relationship with 
the "Brujah Bitch"  would compromise their leader's loyalties. Those who 
knew Cash the best, like his brood-sister Lorraina, worried that he was 
losing his identity by being in the relationship. 

Lorraina, also Cash's second in command, had been listening avidly to the 
conversation between Cash and Charlie. She very excited by what she 
heard. If, she hadn't known better, Lorraina could have sworn that 
Charlie was Gangrel. The redhead just looked the part. Her untamed hair 
and tough look just cried out "wild child." And from what Lorraina had 
heard, Charlie had the loyal nature and penitent for wanderlust that 
characterized the clan. Above all, Charlie had one optimum quality going 
for her in Lorraina's estimation: SHE WAS NOT SASHA! 

Charlie seemed the perfect remedy for the situation with the "Brujah 
Bitch", as Sasha Luna was known among Gangrel Clan. Cash was 
definitely attracted to her and it didn't seem to matter to him that Charlie 
was human. Later, Lorraina decided, she'd speak to Cash about possibly 
Embracing Charlie into Gangrel Clan. 

The conversation hadn't totally lost on The Haven's owner either. Lillie 
had been listening in on Cash and Charlie since the girl had arrived. You 
see, Lillie also had designs on the lovely Miss McCall for the Toreador 
Clan. Charlie was quite beautiful as well as eloquent and graceful. 
However, it wasn't until she mentioned to Cash that she was a singer as 
well as a painter and that she had studied various forms of dance, that 
Lillie really took an interest. 

As far as the Toreador was concerned, Charlie had the air of her clan and 
that needed looking into. Since the Conclave meeting when Free Embrace 
had been granted to Gangrel Clan, the Prince had called a meeting for 
recommendation on Free Embrace for the Toreador. As Lillie had 
expected, she'd been turned down flat. This meant that if she wanted to 
Embrace Charlie, she'd have to ask Julian's permission. That would be 
tricky but the Toreador Primogen had every confidence she could cajole 
permission from the Prince. This was assuming that Charlie had what it 
took to be Toreador. Lillie decided to approach the pair to find out more. 

"...if you'll give me my dog back,'he says." Charlie retorted, finishing off 
the joke she'd been telling. Cash snickered before suddenly staring past 
Charlie. She turned in the direction Cash was staring only to be 
confronted with the most striking woman she'd ever seen. 

"Hello." Lillie greeted her warmly. "My name is Lillie Langtry. I own The 
Haven." 

Charlie extended her hand to shake Lillie's outstretched one. "Charlie 
McCall. It's a nice place you've got here." 

"Why, thank you." Lillie smiled. She glanced at Cash and noted the 
annoyed look on his face. He was seething. *Okay, what the hell is she 
up to now* he thought. Lillie just gave him a sugar-coated grin. "You 
know, I couldn't help but overhear that you're a singer. The Haven 
showcases up-and-coming artists all the time. I like to think I have an eye 
for raw talent. We'd could to audition you and see how you sound." Lillie 
suggested. 

Charlie shot a nervous glance over to Cash. "Actually, I don't really sing in 
public. It's just kind of a hobby of mine. My real business is a gallery I've 
opened not far from here. I work out of my studio and I've requisitioned 
some pieces from other artists I know." Charlie handed Lillie a business 
card. It read: Firebird Gallery of Fine Art, Proprietor- Charlene McCall, 
Phone# 555-6234, Buisness Hours- 11:00am-7:30pm 

"You're welcome to stop by anytime." Charlie suggested. 

"I'll do that." Lillie watched Charlie's eyebrow arch as she slipped the card 
into the bodice of her dress. *Is this chick for real?* Charlie wondered.*I 
didn't think anyone actually did that.* 

Before Lillie could say another word, Charlie got up. The girl had just 
noticed the sets of eyes that had returned her when Lillie had 
approached. *I'm so outta here. This place just got way creepy.* she 
thought. 

"I'm sorry," she said. "It's getting awfully late. I have to do inventory all 
tomorrow." Charlie rose from her seat and motioned to the bartender to 
get her check. When he came over, Cash shook his head and snatched 
the piece of paper from Charlie's hand. "It's my treat." he said with a 
smile. 

"Don't worry about it, Cash." Lillie gave him another cake-eating grin. She 
turned to the bartender. "Both Cash's and Miss McCall's drinks are on the 
house for the night, Nicoli." 

"Okay." Cash shrugged, wondering once again what the Toreador was up 
to. 

"Well, thank you both. It was nice meeting you Lillie." Charlie waved 
goodbye and took the arm Cash offered as they walked out into the night 
air. 



Chapter 3

When the two got outside, they settled where Charlie's bike was parked. 
Even with Cash's heightened senses, he didn't seem to notice most of his 
clan follow them outside to watch. He was too engrossed both with 
Charlie and her motorcycle. It was a vintage Harley-Davidson with a black 
paint job and red leather seat and "saddle bags." He couldn't stop 
himself from striking up yet another conversation about the bike. 

"You sure do know a lot about cycles." Charlie commented, "Do you ever 
race?" 

Cash froze. He hadn't really thought about it in a while. As Gangrel 
Primogen, he rarely had time to himself, especially now that he was 
Julian's bodyguard. Most of his free time was either spent with his clan or 
with Sasha. 

"I used to... a long time ago. I haven't really had time lately." Cash 
answered. That was an understatement. To the Gangrel it felt like an 
eternity since he'd felt the adrenaline rush that came from beating out 
another rider. 

"Life's short. I say, have fun while you still can." Charlie said. She 
mounted her bike, giving Cash a challenging, almost impish look. 

Cash looked to the sky. It would be dawn soon. Julian had given him the 
next few hours off and he really didn't have much of anything better to 
do. Since he had Hunted earlier, the sun wouldn't be a real problem for a 
while. *Why not?* he thought to himself. Cash mounted his own bike and 
pulled up alongside Charlie. 

"What are you doing Cash?" Lorraina asked, approaching her Primogen. 

"Girlfriend?" Charlie mouthed, giving Cash a suspicious look. He shook his 
head in the negative. 

"Charlie, this is Lorraina. Lorraina, Charlie." Cash introduced. "Charlie 
here has challenged me to a race. And I have accepted." 

Lorraina looked both perplexed and amused at the thought. Cash hadn't 
raced in a while. But still, he was the fastest rider, Lorraina had ever 
seen. He'd been unbeatable when he was Warm. And Cash was Gangrel 
now. However, the last time the man had raced was before Stevie-Ray's 
Final Death. Lorraina herself had challenged him to race time and time 
again, but he had always refused. It made Cash's brood sister happy, if 
not a bit jealous that this human had successfully challenged her 
Primogen. *Got to hand it to the girl.* she thought, *But she doesn't 
know what she's gotten herself into.* 

"If Julian asks where I am, tell him I'm racing. If it's an emergency, tell him 
to beep me." Cash informed his subordinate. The inflection he placed on 
the word emergency told Lorraina this meant solely life or death Kindred 
business. 

He turned to Charlie. "So, where are we going?" 

Charlie grinned happily. *Hook, line, and sinker* she thought 
mischievously. "Here to the Bay. Under the Bridge. First one there wins. 
Any way you can." 

He knew instantly what this meant. They'd race to where San Francisco 
Bay met Golden Gate Bridge. Each rider could take any route there and 
the first one to get there would wait for the loser. 

Cash nodded in acknowledgment and they pulled up to the same point 
in the street. Both riders donned their helmets and revved their engines. 
The traffic light above them turned green and they were off. 

Cash took the lead early on. Although, she had the option of taking a 
different route, Charlie let her companion lead her down the alleys and 
back roads of the city so as to avoid cops and traffic. Their speeds were 
fast to begin with. But as Cash realized that Charlie was gaining on him, 
he accelerated even more. 

Suddenly, Charlie pulled ahead. They were on the road that led to the 
docks at the shoreline of the Bay. At this point, both rode at nearly 
inhuman speeds. They quickly approached the docks and Charlie glanced 
back at Cash to see if he was still with her. She didn't see the end of the 
docks coming up until seconds before she plummeted off it. 

Luckily, she turned back just in time. There wasn't time to think. Charlie 
pulled hard on the handle bars, dragging both herself and her bike high 
into the air. 

Cash saw where the street would end and quickly pulled his bike around 
before he ran off it. He stopped just in time to see Charlie make the jump 
over the railing that sectioned the road off from the rocky shore of the 
Bay. Cash stared at her a few beats as she landed. He couldn't believe 
his eyes. She had actually made the jump over the railing. 

As soon as she was safely on the ground, Charlie stared up at Cash. A 
few seconds passed between them and they just stared at each other in 
shock. Charlie recovered before her opponent and turned a right angle to 
speed toward the Bridge. 

After deciding once and for all that his companion was completely and 
utterly insane, Cash raced after her. Though Charlie was riding on much 
rockier terrain than Cash, her momentary head-start allowed her to reach 
the "finish-line" before him. He pulled up under the bridge moments after she'd already parked her bike. 

"I win!" Charlie chirped happily. She didn't want to be pushy but she just 
had to assert herself. 

Cash removed his helmet and stared at her. Charlie could have easily 
died doing that jump but she barely seemed phased. It was like it hadn't 
happened. What was almost more amazing to Cash was that she'd 
beaten him. Him! The Gangrel Primogen, racer extrordinaire and she'd 
beaten him. 

Charlie sat down at the water's edge and removed her army boots to let 
the cool water wash over her feet. 

"Where the hell did you learn to ride like that?!" Cash asked 
incredulously. 

"Oh, here and there." she shrugged as he sat down beside her. 

Seeing his obvious shock, Charlie smiled at Cash. "Oh, don't look so 
disappointed. I beat you, fair and square. Besides, pouting only works if 
you use puppy dog eyes. See?" She demonstrated the expression by 
sticking out her bottom lip like a child. 

Cash sat up straighter and crossed his arms over his chest. "I do not 
pout." he laughed. 

Charlie feigned surprise. "Oh, you don't do you? So, what was that look a 
minute ago?" 

Cash shrugged. " I have no idea what you're talking about. But you've 
obviously got your pouting technique down." Suddenly, he grabbed 
Charlie and began to tickle her mercilessly. She cackled in surprise and 
mirth. 

"So now we se your weakness! You're ticklish!" he proclaimed with 
delight as Charlie backed away. He began circling her like a school boy 
with the intent to get her. He almost reminded the redhead of a predator 
stalking his prey. 

"Cash! Don't!" she shrieked laughingly. It was no use. Cash pounced on 
her and began to tickle her again. As Charlie laughed, she struggled 
against him. Cash lost his balance and tumbled into the surf taking 
Charlie with him. 

Charlie pulled herself out of the water. Looking down she said, "I'm all 
wet." Her face locked in mock anger while her eyes laughed. "Now 
you're gonna get it." 

Cash didn't even try to dodge her when she jumped on him. Again they 
tumbled into the water. They rolled over one another in the surf. When 
the two stopped wrestling, Charlie was lying on top of Cash, pinning his 
arms above his head. 

Almost immediately, Cash realized the position they were in and what 
they had been doing. It occurred to him that he should be upset or at 
least embarrassed about his position. Strangely, he wasn't. In fact, Cash 
realized he quite enjoyed it. 

"You give up?" Charlie asked humorously. 

"I surrender!" Cash smiled back at her. He wasn't aware that his grin was 
so mischievous that it gave away much of his desire for her. 

Something above Cash's head caught Charlie's attention. The sand 
surrounding the area where their hands met was beginning to bubble 
and steam as it melted into hard glass. *Shit* she thought. 

Cash watched Charlie suddenly get up and pull herself off of him. His 
body instinctively cringed at the loss of contact with hers. Her smile 
turned to a frown. Then, she turned her back to him. 

To say the Gangrel was confused would be an understatement. "What? 
Did I say something wrong?" He lightly touched her shoulder. 

"No. It's just getting late. I really do have to get back to the gallery." 
Charlie said, going over to her bike. *Back off, Charlie! Just back off!* she 
thought, trying to calm herself. Being in that position with Cash had really 
worked her up. And a worked up Charlie could be very hazardous to 
everyone's health. 

"Perfect!" Charlie shouted. She threw her hands up in frustration. "I've 
got a flat." 

"You make jumps like that a lot, do you?" Cash asked, trying desperately 
to return some levity to the conversation. 

Charlie smiled again. "Only when I'm in danger of losing." 

Cash smiled back at her. *God how I love her smile* he thought. "You 
don't seem the type to avoid danger." 

She shook her head. " Danger I'm okay with. Losing! It's losing, I hate." 
Charlie's face fell into a serious expression as she stared into Cash's 
eyes. He leaned in to kiss her. They embraced a few moments. The kiss 
became deeper and deeper until Charlie pulled back again. 

"You know what? I really do have to get back. Would you mind giving me 
a ride to the nearest garage so I can have them pick up my bike?" she 
asked tensely. 

Disappointed, Cash shook off the impulse to kiss her again. "Don't worry 
about it. I got a mechanic friend that owes me a few favors. He can have 
it back to you tomorrow, good as new. I'll take you home." 

Charlie considered the offer a few minutes before pulling her boots back 
on and replacing her helmet. "Sounds good to me." She climbed on 
Cash's bike behind him and wrapped her arms around his midsection. 

"All right." Cash exclaimed as he sped off in the direction Charlie had 
indicated. Neither one of them saw the trail of bubbling asphalt the bike 
left in it's wake. 

On the way to Charlie's house, all Cash could think about was their kiss 
on the shore. Briefly he wondered if he was betraying Sasha. However, 
he had not felt guilty about the kiss at the time. Cash had felt so right 
with Charlie in his arms, like that was how he belonged. He had loved 
Sasha for a long time and had committed himself to her even during their 
"off" periods when Sasha had found other "diversions." But Cash had 
never felt for Sasha the intense fire and passion he had felt from just one 
kiss with Charlie. After a few minutes of intense internal debate, Cash 
decided to let himself go with Charlie. After all, it had been Sasha to end 
their relationship this time, just like always. 



Chapter 4

Before long they arrived at the alley next to Charlie's studio. She got off 
the bike and pulled out her keys. She paused and turned back to Cash. 
"Would you like to come in? I don't have much in the way of food or drink 
but I could offer you coffee." 

"I'd like that." Cash replied with a charming smile. After squaring away 
his bike, he followed his companion into her home. The lower level of the 
building had at one point been a warehouse but had been sectioned off 
and renovated to accommodate the art gallery. Cash followed Charlie to 
the upper level which held the loft where she lived. It was furnished in a 
kind of pop art shabby chic style. It struck Cash that Charlie must have a 
thing about fire because she had painted the walls with the same kind of 
flames that decorated her Harley. And to top it off there were an 
abundance of fire extinguishers of every size positioned strategically 
around every room in the loft. 

"Mi casa est su casa. Make yourself at home." Charlie proclaimed entering 
the area that had been sectioned off to serve as the kitchen. 

"If I could use your phone, I could call my friend about your bike." he told 
her. 

"It's on the table next to you." She said handing him the coffee. " I'm 
going to change really quick. I'll be right back." she muttered before 
disappearing into the bedroom. 

Cash picked up the phone that was shaped like a huge pair of lips and 
dialed his friend's number. 

"Hello?" came the voice from the other end. 

"Abe? It's Cash. I need to call in one of the favors you owe me." 

"Cash! Where the hell are you? Lorraina said you went off racing with 
some chic, man. The whole clan is buzzing about you and some hot little 
redhead." 

"Yeah, man, I'm kinda at her place right now. Listen, you know that place 
down by the Bay, under the bridge, by the docks?" 

"Sure." 

"There's a bike down there that's got a flat. I need you to repair it." 

"When do you need it by?" Abe asked. 

"At the latest tomorrow night." Cash answered expectantly. 

"Oh, Man! How the hell am I supposed to get it back to ya by then when 
I'm swamped?" Abe whined. 

"I have faith in you, man. you'll think of something." Cash replied 

"Wait a minute. Is This for that chic?" Abe's tone went quickly from 
outrage to teasing suspicion. 

Cash groaned. He'd have to tell Abe if he was going to make good on his 
promise to Charlie. He knew that if his clan mate found out that he'd been 
invited up to Charlie's loft, the whole of Gangrel Clan would know by 
morning. The Gangrel Primogen had no other option than to surrender 
quickly. " Yeah. We were racing and her bike got trashed. I'm at her place 
now." 

"Wow, man. Didn't Sasha just break up with you again? Lor is gonna freak 
when she hears this." 

"Yeah, yeah, but can you fix the bike?" Cash repeated, annoyed. 

"Sure,man. But you've gotta give me all the dirty details when you come 
to pick up the bike." 

"Sure thing. But there's nothing to tell, I assure you. I just came to drop 
her off." 

"Uh huh. Sure bud. Whatever you say. Catch you later." 

"Bye, Abe. Thanks again," Cash said. He hung up just as Charlie emerged 
from her Bedroom wearing a t-shirt and sweat-pants in place of their 
leather ensemble. 

"Was that your friend?" she asked, plopping down on the overstuffed 
couch with her own cup of coffee. 

"Yep. He said he'd do it. I can pick up the bike tomorrow. Cash answered 
with a smile. Again he noticed her flame tattoo peaking out over the 
scoop neck collar of her t-shirt. "So what is this affinity you have for fire?" 

Charlie looked down to the spot on her chest he pointed to. Then, her 
eyes followed his finger as he pointed to various flame oriented objects 
around the room. She shrugged. "Call them my security blankies." 

"Seems like an odd concept for a security blankie." Cash commented. 

"Hey, everybody's got their own thing. Mine just happens to be fire." 

"Well, I don't have a thing." Cash stated matter-of-factly. 

"Oh, come on! You've got a thing." Charlie laughed. 

"No. No. I don't have a thing." he laughed back. 

She punched him playfully. "I know you've got a thing. Everybody does. 
Come on, tell me!" 

Cash grabbed her arms and they fell to the floor. The two wrestled 
around and failed to notice the coffee they had spilled all over the hard 
wood floor. They rolled around on the for for a long while before stopping. 
They ended up with Cash pinning Charlie down. "Do YOU give up?" He 
asked smiling. 

Suddenly she pushed him off. When he saw the troubled look on her face, 
Cash got frustrated. " You know, maybe its just me. But I'm getting mixed 
signals here and I have no idea why." 

Charlie regarded him apologetically. "I know. It's just that I...." 

"You what?" Cash asked when she failed to finish her sentence. 

"I like you." By the look on her face, he would've thought it was the end 
of the world. 

"Yeah, and I like you. So what's the problem?" 

"I can't let things go too far. Pretty soon we'd REALLY start to like each 
other. Then, I'd have to break it off and one or both of us would 
probably get hurt, and-" 

Cash cut her off. "Wait a minute! You're babbling." He tried to calm 
Charlie down. "You've thought this thing out way too much and you're 
getting yourself all worked up. Why don't you just take a deep breath 
and calm down?" 

Charlie smiled at his compassion. "Okay." 

"Okay." Cash nodded. "Now, why don't we talk about this? First of all, we 
just met. So there's no need to be thinking about anything but what's 
going on right now. Second, I don't see any reason to break anything off 
before we see what we have. And last, if we do find out there's 
something between us, why would you 'have' to break it off?" 

Charlie sighed, "I guess you're right... About us having just met and all. I 
would like to see where this goes." 

"Good. Then, that's settled." Cash concluded. 

Charlie shook her head. "But there are things you don't know about me." 

Cash smiled again. "So, Ill find out. That' what dating's all about, getting 
to know each other. I mean there are things you don't know about me 
either." 

"So that means you still want to see me again, even though I've been 
acting kinda strange?" Charlie smiled back. 

"Yeah, I guess it does." He wrapped his arms around her and leaned in to 
kiss her. 

She stopped him by holding her index finger up to his lips. "In that case, 
Romeo, when do you get off work next?" 

"I get off every day pretty much from dawn til dusk. Other than that, I 
don't really know. I'd have to ask Julian." Cash said. 

"Well how about you and I go to the Carnival at the end of this month. 
It'll be during the day. So, your boss won't mind." She wrapped her arms 
around his neck. 

Cash hesitated. "I don't know. A carnival?" 

"Oh, come on. It'll be fun. When was the last time you actually did 
something fun?" 

"A while ago when we were racing." He replied. 

"I mean before that. You know, like childish, immature, all around, scream 
your head off fun. " she said, squeezing him. 

Cash thought a moment before replying, "I give up! I can't remember the 
last time I had that kind of fun." 

"All the more reason for us to go to the Carnival. But first, I'd like you to 
come in tomorrow after closing." 

"And why is that?" 

Charlie gave him a proud look. "I'm gonna show you my passion." 

Cash laughed at the double entendre. "Oh, really?" 

She punched him in the arm again. " I meant my art, silly. I want to show 
you some of my work and my studio." 

"Fine. I'll come by sometime before dusk. I have to work after sun down." 

"Great! I'll see you then. For now I have to get my beauty rest." Charlie 
gently pushed him toward the door. "I'm sure you can find your way out." 

When Cash's back hit the door to the loft, he held out a hand to stop her 
advance. "Wait! Don't I even get a goodnight kiss?" 

She looked at her watch. "Technically, it's morning." 

He grinned. "Then, how about a morning goodbye kiss?" 

Her answer was a deep, passionate kiss that sent flames up cash's 
cheeks, shivers down his spine and left him weak in the knees. Then, she 
unceremoniously shoved him out the door. 



Chapter 5

For the next two weeks straight, everyone around Cash was left to 
wonder after the constantly smiling Gangrel. It was not completely 
against Gangrel nature to be cheery but the Primogen seemed to be 
taking it a bit far. Cash walked around with a slight bounce in his step 
and went out of his way to be cordial to everyone he met. He hadn't even 
given his customary growl to Cameron when the Brujah had visited the 
mansion. Not only was Gangrel Clan all abuzz about their Primogen's 
attitude, but Cash's new candor had taken its place in the gossip vines of 
the Luna Mansion's staff. At one point, The Prince of the City felt obliged to ask his bodyguard about it. 

"Cash!" Julian shouted as he entered his posh looking office. 

"What's the matter, my Prince?" Cash entered the space a few minutes 
later, having heard his employer's call. 

"Come in here. I'd like to speak to you privately." The Gangrel shrugged 
and sank into a large leather chair opposite Julian's desk. 

"Is there a problem, Julian?" The tone the Ventrue had used made Cash 
uneasy. 

"I wanted to talk to you about your attitude around the house lately." 
Julian tried to be delicate. He didn't want to offend Cash but he was 
concerned about the boy. At the rate he was going Cash would ruin his 
image. And for a Primogen who relied on the fear and respect of those 
around him to maintain order, image could do a lot. 

"My attitude?" 

"Yes, you seem to be really upbeat lately. I was just wondering what's 
prompted this sudden burst of joy." 

Cash looked offended, "You mean I'm not allowed to be happy? I'm sorry. 
I didn't see that in the job description." 

"No, that's not what I meant.." 

"Look, Julian," Cash cut off his employer, "if my 'so-called' attitude is 
affecting my duties as Primogen, I can see why you'd want to talk to me 
about it. If it's altering my ability to act as your bodyguard, that's fine too. 
But otherwise, with all do respect, I don't see how it's any of your 
business." Cash was really angry. Julian could see his body tense and his 
eyes take on a predatory tint. 

The Prince stared at him coolly for a moment, basking in a Ventrue's 
dignified aura, before having the grace to look embarrassed. "Cash, I'm 
not addressing you as your boss or as your Prince, but as your friend. 
And I'm not trying to meddle in your personal affairs. There's just been a 
lot of talk going around lately. Mostly good, but not all. I just thought that 
if there was some new development in your life to make you so happy, 
you might want to share it. That's all." 

Now it was Cash's turn to look embarrassed. He hadn't meant to lash out 
at Julian. He was pleased that Julian wanted to befriend him but he had a 
feeling the reason for his recent euphoria would not be met well, namely 
Charlie. He'd been going to her studio nearly every moment he could 
spare to watch her work. The Gangrel would be going to a carnival with 
his new girlfriend as soon as he got off work that day. 

It wasn't that Cash thought his involvement with Charlie would anger the 
Prince. As far as Julian knew it was just a passing fling. What he feared 
was that Julian still expected him to be committed to Sasha. Although the 
Brujah had broken up with him numerous times, Cash had clung to the 
hope that they might end up together. He hadn't been with any other 
woman since meeting Julian's niece. Except for Charlie. Surely Julian didn't 
expect him to fawn over Sasha for the rest of his existence. 

Seeing Cash's worried look, the Ventrue asked him about it. "I guess I 
just thought you wouldn't understand about me and Charlie." 

Julian paused to consider the explanation for a moment. "You're right, 
Cash. It is none of my business what you do with your free time. I realize 
that things between you and Sasha are all but over. She was never really 
your responsibility to begin with. The Brujah took her from you as well as 
me. So, I don't expect you to spend your life chasing after her. You have a 
right to happiness. But I do think I should warn you about this human 
you've been seeing." 

Cash shifted uneasily at the sound of Julian's tone. "Why? What's wrong 
with Charlie?" 

"This is the same girl who was at The Haven a few weeks ago, correct?" 

Cash nodded in the affirmative. Julian hesitated a moment. "I've been 
talking to Daedalus. He says that she is a being with incredible power. He 
can sense her passion and rage lying just below the surface. You see, 
you were not the only one to notice her that night. Lillie has also been 
observing her. She's expressed an interest in the girl as a candidate for a 
Toreador Childe." 

Cash's eyes blazed when he heard the last part. He'd already know that 
his girlfriend was powerful. Anyone who spent ten minutes in her 
presence could feel fire and power literally coming off of her in waves. It 
was the part about Lillie that got his attention. 

Julian stared at the ferocious creature before him. Once, long ago, he'd 
seen that look in Stevie-Ray's eyes. It was the look of a very pissed off 
Alpha male wolf concerned for his mate. With Stevie, it had been a look 
he'd given to Julian when they had fallen for the same girl. The Prince had 
not realized up until that moment just how emotionally invested Cash 
was in this woman. He tried to calm the hotheaded Gangrel down with 
little success. 

"Cash it would not be wise to go up against Lillie even with your clan's 
carte blanche to Embrace. She's a formidable opponent believe me. I 
wouldn't take her on unless you really want this woman for your own." 
Cash calmed a bit as the Prince guided him back into his chair. "Now, 
Cash I need you to tell me one thing, honestly. How far are you willing to 
go to have Charlie? Do you want to Embrace her?" 

Cash sat stock still for what seemed like eons, contemplating the 
question. He couldn't quell the rage he felt bubbling up inside at the 
thought of Lillie or anyone else Embracing Charlie. He hadn't really 
thought about it until now. He'd only just met the redheaded siren a few 
weeks ago. Did he want to Embrace her? Usually, Gangrel's would tail 
their prospective Childer and leave them to fend for a while by 
themselves after the Embrace. That was how it had been with him and 
Stevie-Ray. But could he really wish that on his girlfriend?  If Cash 
Embraced Charlie, they would be part of each other forever. But it would 
also mean that Charlie would be cut off from the light like all Kindred. 
Would she still be the same passionate being he'd come to love? *Love?* 
Cash thought. *Yes, love.* he decided. He'd fallen in love with Charlene 
McCall in the short time he'd known her. So, that begged the question, 
was he going to Embrace her or let her go knowing that Lillie might not 
do the same? 

"Yes." came the reply. The word was so soft Julian could barely pick it up 
with his preternatural hearing. "What, Cash? I didn't catch that." 

"I said, Yes." Cash stood up abruptly. "I will Embrace Charlie, if she'll have 
me for her Sire." 

"You are prepared to take on Lillie, then?" Julian said, rising from his own 
seat. Pride as well as concern welled up in him at the sight of Cash's 
resolve. *He does so remind me of Stevie.* 

"If it comes to that. Then, yes. I won't let Lillie take her away. Charlie was 
meant to be Gangrel. I lost Sasha, I will not lose her." Cash walked to the 
door before turning back once more. "If that's all my Prince, I'll be going. 
It's nearly 9 am and I have to meet Charlie at the gallery." 

"Of course, are you sure there's not anything you'd like for me to do, 
Cash? Perhaps I could speak to Lillie about the matter." 

"I'm sure. But thanks, Julian." With that Cash stormed out of the office, 
very little of his anger abated. As soon as he got out the door, he was 
intercepted by the last person he wanted to see at the moment. She also 
happened to be the only Brujah he would not kill on site right then. 

"What crawled up your ass and died?" Sasha asked, casually inspecting 
her nails while blocking his decent down the staircase. She had been 
quite upset about the rumors circulating about Cash and his new human 
paramour. Now, the "Brujah Bitch" was in full-on attack mode and was in 
the mood to irritate her sometime lover to the fullest extent of her 
abilities. 

"Just...don't, Sasha. Okay?" Cash tried to push past her. 

"Going to see your little Warm tart, are you?" Sasha sneered. 

Cash came right up into her face and snarled at her. For a moment, his 
eyes glowed. It was the first time Sasha could remember actually being 
afraid of the Gangrel. "Look, Brujah." he spat, emphasizing the title as he 
did with the same venom he did for all members of his rival clan. "I am 
really not in the mood for your childish little games right now. So, why 
don't you go get some of your clan mates and go rob a bank or 
something? Just STAY OUT OF MY WAY!" 

Sasha stared at him incredulously for a moment. Then, she flashed him a 
glare that could melt stone before finally turning up her nose and pushing 
past him into the hall. 

Cash gazed after her for a moment, realizing that he had very likely just 
finished it forever between them. He took a deep breath and turned back 
to the stairs. *Don't want to keep my lady waiting.* he thought. 



Chapter 6

Twenty minutes after leaving the Luna mansion, Cash pulled up to the 
entrance of the Firebird Gallery. Charlie was nowhere to be found and the 
new front desk clerk was hunched over so Cash couldn't see her face. 
She was evidently searching for something that had rolled under the 
desk. 

"Excuse me." 

When the clerk didn't rise, Cash repeated himself, only louder this time. 
He was still fairly pissed off from the conversation he'd had with Julian. 
"Excuse Me!" 

The woman jumped a little then rose to her full height. When he saw her 
face, Cash became even more enraged. It was Grace, Lillie Langtry's 
Childe, whom she'd adopted as her own after Zane had Embraced the girl 
against her will. Cash had nothing against Grace personally but he knew 
that she was a spy for her Sire. Charlie had mentioned hiring Grace but 
Cash had not made the connection until now. 

Grace just smiled at him knowingly. The Toreador recognized Cash as the 
man who had first brought her to the Prince after what Zane did to her. 
She didn't have anything against the guy personally but her Sire's orders 
were clear. Watch Charlie and give a full report on her movements 
through the day. Lillie was very serious about winning the redhead over 
before she Embraced her. "Can I help you?" 

Cash glared at the girl. "Yeah, you can go get your boss. Tell her that her 
BOYFRIEND is here to pick her up." He emphasized the word boyfriend 
almost as a mark of possession. As if the word itself would ward off Lillie's 
unwanted advances. 

"Charlie's expecting you. She told me to relay that you're to go back to 
the studio to get her." 

He glared at her once more before walking towards the back. To get to 
the studio, he had to go through the gallery. Charlie had shown him much 
of her artwork the day after they'd met, but he had never really looked at 
it. While he was passing through the gallery, he began to realize just how 
talented she really was. Her paintings were somewhat abstract but they 
projected an incredible amount of feeling. 

As he approached the studio, Cash could hear music blaring behind the 
huge steal door. He opened the door and was baffled by what he saw. 
His anger all but evaporated at the sight before him. Charlie was going 
through what had to be the most bizarre artistic process that Cash had 
ever witnessed. She was standing on what looked to be a huge canvas 
stretched over some gymnastics mats. Her feet and legs were covered in 
various colors of paint and her hands and arms were tie dyed to the 
elbows. 

Cash watched, mesmerized, as she danced and tumbled across the 
canvas. She did handstands and back flips while strategically placing hand 
and footprints to form a picture. 

"Cum on Feel the Noise" sounded out through the room, giving Charlie a 
rhythm for her movements. It occurred to Cash that the amount of grace 
with which she pulled of such acrobatics gave another level of meaning to 
her work. This was a woman who loved what she did. 

When Charlie finally noticed Cash's presence, she stopped dead in her 
tracks. After turning off the radio, she walked over to him with a large 
smile on her face. She was careful not to get any paint on Cash when she 
leaned in to kiss him. "I didn't hear you come in over all the noise." 

"I'm not surprised. You had that thing up full blast." His shoulders bobbed 
up and down as he laughed. 

The redhead began wiping her paint covered appendages with a huge 
beach towel. "I just haveta take a shower, then I'll be ready." 

"Didn't you remember I was coming to pick you up?" 

Charlie shrugged,"Occupational hazard. I lost track of the time. Thank 
God for Grace or I'd never get anything done." She headed toward the 
metal staircase that led to her loft. Cash followed her up. 

"Yeah, you know Grace is a friend of Lillie's, right?" Cash asked uneasily. 
He didn't want to offend his girlfriend but he needed to know how deep 
Lillie was wedging herself into Charlie's life. 

"Of course. Lillie referred her to me. Didn't I tell you?" 

"You probably did, I don't remember." 

"Well, since the gallery hasn't officially opened yet, I had to find someone 
to help me with the technical stuff. So, I was talking to Lillie a few nights 
ago at the club, and she took a real interest in my work. I brought her 
over here to see my work and BAM! She offered to sponsor and organize 
the whole opening for me. And she said she'd use her connections to 
bring in some real high rollers from the art world." Charlie sounded 
extremely happy as she told Cash about Lillie's proposal from the shower. 
*And why wouldn't she be? Lillie's making her dreams come true.* he 
thought bitterly. Cash stood with his back against the closed bathroom 
door. 

Thoughts raced through the Gangrel's mind as he did so. Lillie was closing 
in on Charlie fast. *Probably cause she knows I'll fight for her.* he 
thought. He'd really have to talk to the Toreador and make his position 
where the human was concerned very clear. 

"...get them for me, Cash?" Charlie's words brought him out of his deep 
thoughts. 

"What?" 

"I said, I left my jeans on the bed. Will you get them for me?" 

"Sure." he shouted back. As he went to the bedroom, Cash realized how 
familiar he'd become with everything in Charlie's apartment. Usually it 
took him months to familiarize himself that much with a woman and he 
hadn't been that close to anyone in a long time. It occurred to Cash that 
he wouldn't be able to find a Harley in Sasha's room if she gave him a 
map. However, he'd gotten close enough to Charlie in two weeks that 
he'd be able to find an earring in her apartment if she'd lost it. 

Also, he felt completely at ease opening the door to hand a semi-nude 
Charlie her jeans. They weren't sleeping together yet, at least not in a 
sexual sense. But they had an intimacy between them that ran just as 
deep as if they had been, deeper even. And Cash felt completely 
comfortable around Charlie, as he knew she did around him. 

"Okay!" Charlie announced as she emerged from the bathroom in a new, 
paint-free ensemble. "I'm ready." 

Cash gazed at her for a moment. * God, she really is beautiful* he 
thought. Her hair was pulled back into a semi-ponytail. She wore tattered 
jeans with rips at the knees, a tight Mr. Bubble T-shirt, and a purple silk 
overshirt. Cash began to chuckle as his eyes were drawn down to her 
bright tie-dyed sneakers. 

"What?" Charlie looked down at her shoes. "Hey, these are my lucky 
shoes, pal. I plan on kicking some ass at the carnival games." 

Cash smiled and shrugged. He had a feeling that no matter how long he 
was with Charlie, she'd always keep surprising him. "Whatever works. 
Let's go." 



Chapter 7

In a few minutes they were on their way to the carnival grounds on 
Cash's bike. As soon as they got there and bought their tickets, Charlie 
made a b-line for the roller coaster. After their sixth time on that , Cash 
finally convinced Charlie to try the other rides. Her lucky shoes must've 
worked because she won a huge Snoopy Dog playing Wack-a-mole and 
three goldfish by throwing ping-pong balls into water-filled fish bowls. 
Cash won a handful of small stuffed animals on various games. They both 
pigged out on cotton candy and chilly dogs. It was the most innocent fun 
Cash'd had for as long as he could remember. 

**********************************************************

"Come on!" Caitlyn cried as she pulled at Julian's arm. 

Julian groaned. Why had he let his girlfriend talk him into this? He'd never 
really liked these sorts of things. "You know, we don't HAVE to go to the 
carnival. I could take you to a nice restaurant and we could take in a 
show." he suggested hopefully. 

"Oh, no you don't, Mr. Luna! It's my turn to pick what we're doing and I 
say we're going to the carnival." 

**********************************************************

"I don't get it." Cash commented, shaking his head. 

"What?" The redhead smiled at him through her second ice cream cone of 
the day. 

"I've never met anyone like you before. You switch from leather to Mr. 
Bubble, from combat boots to lucky sneakers, and you can down chilly 
dogs, slurpees, cotton candy, and ice cream and not say one word about 
dieting." Cash chuckled as she tried to lick a dollop of chocolate ice cream 
off the tip of her nose. 

Charlie looked at him in all seriousness. "What would be the point? You 
only live once, right? So, what's a slurpee or two in the grand scheme of 
things? And I happen to like Mr. Bubble, thank you very much." 

Cash grabbed the Snoopy Dog out of his girlfriend's failing grasp. "That's 
exactly my point. You have the whole Carpe Diem outlook on life. You are 
such a passionate person and yet you keep holding back when we're 
together. Why?" 

At the moment, Charlie's mouth was too full of chocolate ice cream to 
answer. Instead, she nodded, indicating a picnic table nearby. They sat 
down as Cash waited for Charlie to compose herself. After a while, 
Charlie looked up at him, seriously. Her gaze reflected so many emotions: 
pain, longing, desperation, fear and desire. Cash could have sworn he 
actually saw flames dance across her eyes. "Cash, you know how I feel 
about you." 

"I.." Cash tried to answer but was cut off by a finger brought to his lips. 

"I've loved people before; been close to them. They're all dead now." Her 
voice choked up and Cash could see the tears threatening to spill from 
her eyes. "My parents... they died protecting me." 

"I'm sorry." Cash said in a soft voice. Charlie held her hand up indicating 
that he should let her finish. 

"My last lover, Vincent, pursued me relentlessly. I couldn't get rid of the 
guy.  I let myself fall for him and he was killed because of it. Since then, I 
never let myself get too close to anyone. I move around from place to 
place, never getting too attached to anyone or anything. Because the 
closer I get to a person, the deeper I love him, the more heinous his 
death is." She met Cash's gaze full-on. "And I have fallen absolutely 
head-over-heels for you." 

Cash stared at her for a while , trying to determine whether or not she 
was telling the whole truth. The pain in her eyes spoke of incredible loss. 
He had no doubt that what Charlie said was true... to a point. The 
Gangrel highly doubted that the deaths Charlie spoke of were as much 
her fault as she made them out to be. But he wondered what it was she 
wasn't telling him. 

He took Charlie's trembling hands in his own. Cash tilted her head up so 
that she again met his gaze. "I feel the same way." The tears began 
again and Charlie tried to turn away. But Cash's grip on her jaw forced 
her to keep her gaze level with his. "I've had my share of danger in life 
Charlie, more than you can probably imagine. I'm not afraid to take on 
whatever I have to in order to see this through between us. Now, the 
way I see it, we have two options here. We take what we have all the 
way, or nowhere at all." 

Charlie calmed down a bit and really studied Cash for a moment. He had 
the air of someone who faced extreme circumstances on a day-to-day 
basis. Could she do it? Could she just let herself go with him and trust 
that he could take care of himself? "What are the terms?... If we take it all 
the way, I mean." 

Cash let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding. "No more 
secrets. No more holding back from each other. We let ourselves go, and 
deal with the consequences." 

For Cash, it was a lot to put on the line. It was insane really, because he 
meant what he said. No more secrets. He'd tell her about the Kindred and 
his clan and hope that she would allow him to Embrace her; to show her 
his world. If things went right he'd end up with a loving Childe and 
possibly a Mate. Worst case scenario, it could mean betraying his clan, 
enraging his Prince, and possibly resulting in his Final Death. 

For Charlie, the stakes were just as high, but they were more simple. If 
things went well, she'd have someone to love her that could deal with 
what she was and with the power she possessed. If it didn't work, she'd 
most likely have to watch another of her lovers die in agony. Either by the 
hands of those that sought to harness her power, or by her own lack of 
control. 

In the end, it was Charlie's choice to make. She looked deep into Cash's 
eyes and said simply,"Okay, let's give it a shot." 

Cash felt like he couldn't breathe for a moment. The world was spinning. 
When it stopped, the Gangrel had a Snoopy doll shoved in his face. For a 
moment he looked around, confused. Charlie was headed in the direction 
of the parking lot. He quickly got up to walk after her. But he 
miscalculated the nearness of a carnival-goer going the opposite way. 
Before he knew what hit him, Cash found himself flat on his ass on the 
pavement. Glancing around the huge plush animal, the Gangrel was 
shocked to see none other than the Prince of the City in the very same 
situation. Only, Julian was holding an oversized Tweety doll. 

"Whoa, Clash of the Cartoons!" Cash heard from behind him. He looked 
back to see his girlfriend descending into fits of giggles at his expense. 
She reached out a hand to help him up, which he gratefully accepted. The 
Gangrel then turned to help his employer up. 

"Sorry, Julian. Couldn't see where I was going." He gave julian a sheepish 
look and shot an annoyed one back to Charlie. After all, it was her stuffed 
animal. 

"No, no, don't apologize!" cried the blond woman who appeared at 
Julian's side. "That was priceless! Julian Luna laid out on his ass, thanks 
to a pair of oversized cartoon characters! Now, were is my camera when I 
need it?" 

"Thank you, very much Caitlyn." Julian said dryly as both women 
continued to giggle. The Ventrue tried to recover some dignity as he 
brushed off the dirt from his very expensive, very lush azure blue suit. He 
noticed the redhead by Cash's side. " And you must be the lovely Miss 
McCall I've been hearing so much about." 

Caitlyn's head shot up. She was immediately brought to full reporter alert 
at the mention of the young up-and-coming artist's name. "You're 
Charlene McCall? The one who just opened that new gallery downtown?" 

"It's Charlie, actually. Nobody ever calls me Charlene." she replied, 
extending her hand in greeting. *Except my Mom.* she thought sadly. 
"And you must be the infamous Mr. Luna." 

Julian smiled. The girl had style and beauty. He could easily see why Cash 
was so taken with her. But he could also sense why Daedalus had been 
so wary of her. The redhead really did have power radiating off her in 
waves. 

"I don't know if I'd say infamous, but I have my mysterious side. It's 
true." He replied with a smile. 

Charlie gave Cash a mischievous grin. "Yes that does seem to be going 
around." 

Cash was about to comment when he suddenly felt Charlie tense up 
beside him. She took hold of his arm in a death grip as if she were about 
to collapse if she didn't hold on to something. He followed her line of 
vision past Julians' shoulder. Standing at the other side of the circle, past 
the games, he saw a man. The stranger was average height and build, 
with white hair. What was remarkable about him was the cold look in his 
eye. The man's gaze was shooting proverbial daggers at Charlie. 

"Are you all right, Ms. McCall? You look as though you'd seen a ghost." 
Julian said. He and Caitlyn both turned to see what she and Cash were 
staring at. 

Charlie's mind went blank. Fear welled up inside of her.* It can't be. It's 
impossible. He's dead. I killed him myself.* Her mind was only coherent 
enough to bring one word to her lips,"Rainbird." 

As soon as he heard the word, a flood of mental images washed over 
Cash. Memories that were not his own shot through the Gangrel's mind. A 
young girl with her parents. That same girl lost and alone. A friendly 
custodian that talks to the girl. The custodian killing a man who is 
obviously the girl's father. The little girl's rage culminating in a sea of 
flames, with hundreds crying out in pain. Then another set of images 
came. The same little girl, all grown up and running for her life. A dark 
haired man whom she loved. An old foe, returning with back-up. Five 
young boys running rampant over a small town: a screamer, a blind seer, 
a telekinetic, a mind-controller, and the last (and most powerful)-an 
energy sink. The dark man is murdered by the friendly custodian, just as 
the girl's father had been. A kiss. The custodian is no more. The town is 
going up in flames. The girl, the Firestarter, embraces the energy sink; 
holding the boy in her arms until they both collapse. Then, all is dark and 
peaceful. 

Cash blinked a few times before looking at Charlie. Her gaze was still 
fixed at the spot by the games, which was now vacant. The look in her 
eyes left no doubt in Cash's mind that the mental images had come from 
her. It was all becoming clear to him. The fear and the pain in her eyes 
reflected the horrors she had undergone and the terrors she'd 
committed. A great wave of emotion swept over the Gangrel Primogen. 
Pity, outrage, understanding, empathy, and most of all love prompted 
Cash to take Charlie's hand and turn her face toward him. 

Slowly, recognition of her surroundings shown through Charlie's gaze. 
Coming out of her mind fog, the redhead looked into Cash's eyes and 
saw the understanding there. He knew. He had seen her and seen what 
she'd done; what was done to her. Cash didn't have all the details but 
she could tell he had seen her memories. And now, all she saw in his 
eyes was love and compassion. 

"Cash, I wanna go home." she said in a small, vulnerable voice. Instantly, 
the image of the lost little girl was recalled in his mind. 

"Okay, baby. I'll take you home." Cash sent looks of apology to Julian and 
Caitlyn, who still looked utterly confused. Forgotten were the goldfish and 
stuffed animals from their day of fun. Even the Snoopy Doll was left 
behind with the Prince. The only thing Cash thought of as he led Charlie 
back to the bike and sped off into the distance was home. He was going 
back home to the darkness with his love: his Firestarter. 



Chapter 8

After Cash took Charlie home the night of the carnival, she told him 
everything. She told him about how her parents had been subjects of a 
government experiment during the seventies that left her mother 
telepathic and her father able to control the minds of others. Cash 
learned how the government agency responsible for the experiment had 
come after her at the age of eight when they'd learned how powerful her 
pyrokinesis had become. They murdered her mother and, in turn, little 
Charlene McGee had burned several of their agents to cinders. 

Charlie gave him the details of how they'd sent a child psychologist 
named John Rainbird undercover as a janitor to get close to her. They'd 
kept her away from her father Andy and made made her go threw 
endless tests of her abilities. In the end, Rainbird had killed her father. 
Eight year old Charlie took her vengeance by burning the agency's military 
compound to the ground with everyone in it. 

Cash listened supportively as Charlie told him of the years she'd spent 
running from phantoms and of how she came to live with the Kohaneks. 
She told him of her final showdown with Rainbird. How he had killed her 
lover, Vincent. How he had created a small army of young boys with 
powers very like her own. In the end, she'd defeated them all and 
eventually she had found a semblance of peace. That was until the day of 
the carnival. That night, they had made love all night and into the 
morning, until Cash had to leave for work. 

For the next three months, Charlie and Cash became even more closely 
knit than before, if possible. Charlie felt free to be herself around Cash. 
She'd even taken to hanging out with his friends when she wasn't at the 
gallery or with Cash himself. The human had become quite a fixture with 
Gangrel Clan, and Cash's subordinates couldn't have been more pleased. 
This usually meant hanging around The Haven, which was fine with Charlie. 
She liked the club's atmosphere and had become fast friends with its 
owner. 

The only thing that made Charlie uneasy about being with Cash was that 
she could tell he was holding back some big secret from her. But she was 
sure he would tell her in time. He had promised that there would be no 
long-standing secrets on either side, and Charlie had faith in Cash's 
word. It was during one such night at The Haven that Cash's secret 
would be revealed to Charlie by the last person she could have expected. 

**********************************************************

Sasha Luna sat at a table with her Primogen and glared at the redhead in 
the corner. The Brujah would never admit to her clan mates or to any other 
person that asked that she still loved Cash. But anyone who looked at 
Sasha could tell she was seething with jealousy toward Charlie. Cameron 
saw the look Sasha was giving the Gangrel Primogen's girlfriend, and 
decided to use it to his advantage. 

"It's disgusting isn't it?" Cameron whispered into Sasha's ear. 

Sasha barely looked up at her Primogen. She didn't particularly like 
Cameron but she didn't hate him either, not like Eddie Fiori. "It really 
is,"she snorted. "What the hell does he see in her?" 

"Human? I hear the Gangrel boss has a thing for Warm girls." Cameron 
sneered. 

"She's not even that pretty; and look at her! The whole Gangrel Clan is 
flocked around her like fucking Ezmeralda or something!" 

"Well, I guess there's no accounting for taste where those gypsies are 
concerned." Cameron concluded. Then, the Brujah's smile turned evil, as 
he prepared to reel Sasha in, "You know, that little spitfire ought to be 
taught a lesson." 

The Prince's niece turned toward Cameron, intrigued, "Whaddaya mean? 
We can't just kill her." 

"No, but we could scare her. Make sure she doesn't want anything to do 
with that Gangrel ever again. He shouldn't be openly consorting with 
humans anyway. It endangers the Masquerade. Who does he think he 
is?" *The Prince?* Cameron finished mentally. He gauged Sasha's 
reaction. Oh, yeah. He had her: hook, line, and sinker. 

Sasha gave him an evil grin. "What did you have in mind exactly?" 

**********************************************************

"Tell us another one, Charlie!" a guy in the back of the group pleaded. 
Charlie was perched on a high barstool, regaling her new friends with 
tales of her travels (carefully edited, of course). Lorraina sat by her side 
while Cash was off somewhere playing bodyguard to his boss. The 
blonde Gangrel and the redheaded human had become fairly close friends 
over the past few months. Lorraina and Charlie both had a lot of respect 
for each other and the affinity they both had for Cash. 

"Actually, guys, I gotta get home. Now that the gallery's open I hardly 
ever get any sleep." Charlie sent Lorraina a warm smile, which the 
Gangrel quickly returned. 

"Yeah, and how much of that is Cash's fault?" the Firestarter heard from 
behind her as she climbed down from her stool. 

"Hey, I heard that!" she laughed. Charlie hunted down Cash for a quick 
kiss and bid Lillie a warm goodbye before leaving out the side door of the 
club near where her bike was parked. 

Charlie was about to mount her motorcycle and drive home when she felt 
a hand come down rather hard on her shoulder. She turned around to 
see three or four of the gangsters Cash had pointed out to her their first 
night together in The Haven. Cash had said to stay away from the 
"Brujah scum" as he called them. Apparently, like most gangs, these guys 
were bad news. 

"Hey, pretty lady." one of the goons said. His fairly expensive suit rubbed 
against her skin as he brushed past her arm. 

"What do you guys want? Look, I don't want any trouble." Charlie tried to 
remain calm as the goons began to crowd into her personal space. 
Nevertheless, she couldn't seem to keep the air temperature  down 
around her as the group backed her up against the brick wall behind her. 

The goon holding her arm raked his gaze over her body. "No trouble, 
sweetness. We just thought, your such a pretty lady, we thought we'd do 
you a favor." 

"And what pre-tell is that?" she asked incredulously while mentally trying 
to calm herself. 

The answer came from behind the group of goons. "Just a little 
relationship advice." 

Charlie recognized the woman that Lorraina had pointed out to her as 
Cash's ex. The "Brujah Bitch" as she'd called the curly haired woman had 
evidently had a falling out with Cash when she had joined another gang. 
Also, Lorraina had noted, Sasha was the niece of Cash's boss Julian Luna. 

"I think, aside from being none of your business, my relationship is going 
quite well. Thank you." Charlie was not in the mood for a confrontation. 
She was tired and her self-control was slipping slowly but surely. 

"Relax," came another voice from next to Sasha, "What my dear Sasha 
here means is that running around with a gypsy gangbanger like Cash 
can be hazardous to a lady's health." The man who emerged to her line 
of sight might have been handsome she thought. *Yeah, if he didn't look 
so much like a godfather.* 

"Get away from me." Charlie said. She was going to put a stop to this 
right now. *Cause nobody but nobody threatens Charlie McGee, or 
Charlie McCall for that matter.* 

"Now, now," Sasha said, pulling a large switchblade from her overly tight 
bodice, "Don't be like that. The party's just getting started." 

"I'm warning you, stay the hell away from me." A hot wind came out of 
nowhere and began to whip Charlie's crimson hair away from her face. 

Sasha laughed cruelly, "Or what? Whatcha gonna do, princess? You're 
surrounded!" 

Behind Cameron, a row of trash barrel erupted into flame. At the same 
time the sleeve of Sasha's hand that held the switchblade caught fire, 
seemingly of it's own volition. Sasha screamed and began to frantically try 
to douse the flames with street dirt. Charlie tried to run for it but 
Cameron was to fast for her. He caught her up around the waist and 
pulled her back into the alley. He threw her to the ground and pointed his 
handy automatic at her. 

"Don't move, bitch. I'm not finished with you yet." Cameron's eyes blazed 
with the predatory nature of his kind. For the first time, it occurred to 
Charlie that he wasn't human, but there was no time to contemplate it. 

The gun's metal frame began to glow red in the Brujah Primogen's hand. 
He yelped and quickly dropped it, holding his burnt hand. Just then, 
several Gangrel burst out the club's side entrance with Cash among 
them. A young Gangrel had seen the going's on in the alley and had gone 
unnoticed to inform his Primogen. 

Cash came out to see several Brujah running the other way down the 
alley, while Cameron stood yelping and holding his hand. Charlie was 
lying on her side in the dirt but he could see her hair whipping around her 
head and the flames still emanating from the trash barrels. *Oh, shit.* 
was all that came to mind. 

Charlie looked up as she felt a cool hand on her arm. Cash was standing 
above her with a worried look on his face. Charlie, still a little frightened 
at what she'd seen in Cameron's eyes, took her boyfriend's outstretched 
hand. As soon as she did, a wave of images swept over Charlie: A young 
man drafted in the height of his youth. That same man caught in the 
horrors of the war in Vietnam. A tall blonde man rescuing a disillusioned 
soldier from life on the streets. Teeth, no fangs. Blood running. A family 
built of blood ties. The blonde man is killed, staked out on a rooftop; a 
father lost. Now the soldier leads his family. A tall, dark haired man and a 
beautiful woman offering the soldier a job.  The soldier and a curly haired 
biker girl fall in love. The girl is ripped away by a bunch of mobsters. A bald, 
serpent-eyed creature that the soldier is sent to hunt. An assassin that 
comes after the dark haired man. The soldier fails and yet does not. A 
musician friend betrays the soldier and his people, and is put to death. 
Many of the soldier's family die. The dark haired man makes a decree to a 
table surrounded by people. Then darkness and peace. 

Cash looked around, seeing Sasha still writhing around in the dirt but not 
being able to bring himself to care. She'd tell Julian, but Cash would cross 
that bridge when he came to it. Right now, he wanted to find out what 
happened from Charlie. "Are you okay?" 

The look in Charlie's eyes froze Cash to the bone. It was a look of shock, 
then confusion, realization, then acceptance. Cash recognized the look 
immediately. It was the same look he'd given Charlie a few months ago 
when he'd found out she was a firestarter. It meant that she knew. She'd 
seen his life, both as a man and as Kindred. He hadn't planned to tell her 
until their four month anniversary, in two weeks. Then, he'd planned to 
ask to Embrace her. It was all going to be perfect. But now she knew. 
And again, the only thing Cash could think was *Oh, Shit.* 

"Cash," Charlie said uneasily, "I think we need to talk." 

"Yeah, go on home. I'll meet you there. Have to tell Julian why I'm leaving. 
I'll be there in an hour." he said, shooting looks to all of the Gangrels still 
gathered in the alley. They immediately began to herd back into the club. 

Charlie nodded and Cash placed a light kiss on her forehead before 
following his clan mates into The Haven. On the way back to her bike, 
Charlie crouched for a moment next to the alley corner where Sasha still 
sat cowering. She looked the Brujah strait in the eye. Fear shown 
through Sasha's gaze as flames danced across the eyes of the 
Firestarter. 

"Listen to me, because I'm only going to say this once." Charlie checked 
to make sure Sasha was still listening. "Stay away from me and Cash. I 
know he can take care of himself, but I don't like people who threaten me 
and mine. So just leave us be." With that, Charlie mounted her bike and 
rode off into the rising dawn, leaving a confused and angry Sasha Luna in 
her wake. 



Chapter 8

Cash woke with a start. He looked around the small room with his 
preternatural eyesight. The body next to him stirred a bit and Cash 
smiled. He still couldn't believe he was still here with her after last night. 

The Gangrel pulled himself out of his spooned position behind his 
girlfriend. Almost as soon as he set foot on the ground, he stubbed his 
toe. After a few curses under his breath, Cash couldn't help but laugh. 
*When you say the word "protection" in a sexual context to most people, 
it usually involves condoms or other birth control devices* he thought. But 
not for Cash and Charlie. No, no. Safe sex where Charlie was concerned 
involved a bedroom made of wall to wall bricks, with a metal ceiling and a 
stripped down bed, as well as strategically placed fire extinguishers 
littering the floor. *Not too friendly on the feet* Cash concluded. 

As he went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, the Gangrel Primogen 
reflected on the events of the previous night. 

FLASHBACK*************************************************

"Vampires!?" Charlie said incredulously. 

Cash shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "We actually prefer the term 
Kindred...But the concept is still the same." 

As he watched his girlfriend pace around the loft, trying to figure things 
out, Cash got more and more nervous. It was quite possible that he 
would lose her now. Charlie could reject him for what he was. Julian could 
call out a hunt for her once he found out about the power she possessed. 
Either way, the situation was not good. 

Abruptly, Charlie pivoted around to face him. Seeing the worried look on 
his face, she walked over to Cash and knelt down in front of him. The 
Firestarter touched her boyfriend's face lightly and smiled. "Okay. So, 
what now?" 

Cash let out the breath he'd been holding. *Okay. She's not going to 
reject me.* He rose to his feet, pulling Charlie with him as he went to sit 
on the couch.  "The rules of The Masquerade say that we have three 
choices. One: I have to kill you. And we both know that ain't gonna 
happen." 

Charlie nodded her understanding. She knew Cash would never hurt her. 
"Two?" she asked. 

"I use hypnosis to make you forget what you know about me and the 
rest of the Kindred." Cash watched his girlfriend shake her head. He 
knew what she meant. No one had ever been able to hypnotize Charlie. 
*And even if I could,* Cash thought, *neither of us want that.* 

"And the third option?" Charlie asked, using measured tones to hide her 
trepidation. 

Cash swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. This was the acid 
test. This was what it all came down to. *The moment of truth* he 
thought wryly. "I could Embrace you. Make you Kindred; Gangrel, like me." 

Charlie stared down at her hands, contemplating, for what felt to Cash 
like an eternity. "And if I choose none of the above?... What will happen?" 

The Gangrel Primogen felt as if she'd hit him in the stomach with a 
sledgehammer. He tried to turn his head away to hide his distress but 
Charlie caught his face in her hands. 

"No. Cash, listen to me! If I were a normal girl, I'd love nothing more than 
to spend eternity with you. I'd love to be part of the family you're part of. 
I've dreamt my whole life of belonging to something like that. But I am not 
a normal girl. I'm a Firestarter. I mean, say I let you Embrace me. What 
then? Do I become Kindred and lose my powers? Would it work at all? 
Would I turn into an even bigger freak than I am now?... Understand, 
Cash, this is a big decision. I am not saying no. I just want to cover all my 
bases." 

Cash thought about her words a moment. Every word she said was true. 
Knowing Charlie, it probably wouldn't end up being a normal Embrace. 
And could he ask her to spend an eternity in pain if something went 
wrong? "If you continue to live as a human with the knowledge I've given 
you, The Prince of the City will most likely be forced to call out a Blood 
Hunt for us both." 

"Meaning?" Charlie did not like the sound of the phrase "Blood Hunt." Any 
phrase with the word hunt in it often had dire connotations. 

"Meaning Julian Luna will have to send his Enforcer, a very powerful 
Nosferatu, and every other Gangrel in the city to kill us. They'll probably 
snap your neck and they'll frenzy to drain my blood and take my power." 
Cash finished darkly. 

Flames flashed across Charlie's eyes for a moment. Oh, she was pissed 
off, now. She quickly calmed herself down. She had to think logically here. 
Anger and a few burnt pieces of furniture would accomplish nothing...yet. 

"I don't think Luna would be to keen on killing you. But if he finds out 
about my powers, that might change." She was back to pacing again. 
"How long do the rules allow for such a decision? I mean, there have to 
be cases when people take longer than a few minutes to consent to or 
refuse an Embrace?" 

Cash gave her a quizzical look, the nodded. "The laws says: three days. 
But I don't see...." 

Charlie cut him off by putting a finger to his lips. "Shh. I'll give you my 
answer in three days, then. Right now, I think we should get to bed. It's 
been a long night." 

Cash retained his quizzical look while she led him by a hand to the 
bedroom. Then, he thought of something. "Charlie..." 

"Yeah?" 

"Lillie." 

"What about her?" 

"She wants you too." Charlie's eyebrows nearly jumped into her hairline 
and Cash realized the context he had put his remark into. "No. I mean, 
Lillie wants to Embrace you as well. She wants you to be a Toreador." 

"Lillie is Kindred too?" Cash nodded and Charlie looked pensive for a 
moment. "Well, then she'll get her answer in three days as well." 

PRESENT*************************************************** 

As Cash finished his glass of water, he felt a set of arms encircle him from 
behind. Charlie pressed herself into his back. "Hey." he said 

"Hey. Good morning." 

"Morning. I gotta get to work." he smiled as he turned around to hug a 
fully dressed Charlie to his chest. 

"Hey Cash, can you do me a favor?" Charlie asked burying her face into 
his bare chest. 

"Sure, what?" he said after kissing her hair. 

She looked him straight in the eye. "Don't go to work today." 

Cash looked at her, confused. "Baby, I gotta go to work. I have to talk to 
Julian and clean all this mess up." 

"I don't care. Call in sick or something." 

"Kindred don't get sick." he retorted. 

Charlie shook her head. "Please, just do me this one favor. I have to run 
some errands today and I need you to stay away from work ...and from 
The Haven." 

The Gangrel's suspicions were peaked now. "Why do you need me to 
stay away?" 

Charlie kissed him deeply to shut him up. "I just do, okay? Please, it's 
very important." 

The desperation in her eyes spurred Cash to agree to her little request. 
"Great!" she cooed, scurrying out of his grasp. "I'll be back later tonight." 

She ran out the door so quickly that Cash was left holding his empty 
water glass and wondering just what hit him. 

********************************************************** 

Lillie Langtry was quite perturbed that morning. She'd had very little sleep 
the night before owing to the damage control she had to do with Julian 
when Sasha had related her outlandish story. Lillie had heard of the Old 
Ones, Antediluvian Kindred with the power to control fire. However, the 
Toreador could not imagine a human being with such a skill. 

Just as she was arguing over the phone with the agent of a band that 
she had booked for the next few nights at The Haven, said human being 
walked into the club. 

"Charlie! It's good to see you. I heard you had an eventful night last 
night." The Toreador smiled amiably at her. 

"Hey, Lillie. Do you think we could speak in private somewhere?" Charlie 
asked. 

The Toreador Primogen nodded before escorting Charlie to the private 
suite on the building's second level. As they sat down on the chaise 
lounges in the sitting room of the suite, Lillie asked, "What's so important 
that you wanted to speak alone Charlie?" 

The Firestarter gave the Kindred a measured look before beginning. "I 
know what you are Lillie." 

A look of shock passed Lillie's eyes before she settled into a look of dark 
amusement. "So Cash has asked to Embrace you, I take it?" 

Charlie nodded. "He also tells me that you want the same thing. He says 
you want me to be Toreador, like you. Is this correct?" 

Lillie shifted on the chaise. She'd planned to win Charlie over slowly. Now, 
she was being broadsided by Charlie's blunt question. "Yes, Charlie. 
That's right. I guess Cash explained the process to you. How much did he 
tell you about us?" 

"Enough." she replied. "He's also told me that I'm allowed three days, by 
your law, to make my decision." 

"That is also true. So, what did you need to know from me?" Lillie wanted 
to cut to the chase. Charlie was pretty much guaranteed to choose 
Cash's offer over her own. This made her wonder what the girl was up to. 

"I want to know where I can get some unbiased information about your 
kind. I want to make an educated decision as to whether or not I want to 
be Embraced, and as to which clan I would want to be a part of if I do 
become Kindred." 

Lillie smiled. *Smart girl.* she thought. *Even if she doesn't intend to let 
me Sire her, she still gives me the impression of having an edge.* Charlie 
would make an excellent addition to Toreador Clan with a head like that 
on her shoulders. So, Lillie decided to play along. "I may know someone." 



Chapter 9

Julian Luna sat in his lushly decorated office scowling. To say that the 
Prince of San Francisco was not happy that afternoon would be an 
understatement. The new development with Cash's girlfriend was tying 
the Ventrue in knots. 

Early that morning, Cameron had stormed into his office with an 
outlandish story that  Charlie had set him and several of his subordinates 
on fire. Julian had been quite skeptical of the Brujah until Sasha had 
shown up to display burn marks up and down her arm. When asked how 
it happened, his niece told him that Charlie had set her on fire simply by 
looking at her. Now, the Prince loved Sasha with all his being, but he had 
a hard time believing her even with the burn marks. First, because 
humans simply did not have the power to control fire with their minds. 
And second, because both Cameron and Sasha had told the story as if 
they had just been minding their own business when Charlie attacked 
them. This, Julian highly doubted. For all his love for his niece, Sasha was 
still Brujah and, therefore, prone to aggression. It didn't help that Sasha 
had a jealous streak and that Charlie was her ex's new girlfriend. 

And on top of it all, Julian had been waiting over an hour for Daedalus to 
get back from wherever the hell a busy Nosferatu goes, without telling his 
Prince. Said Prince wanted to get his trusted friend's opinion on the 
human that had the Kindred population of San Francisco in an uproar. Not 
to mention the fact that Cash had not shown up for work that day, which 
meant that Julian could not question him about Charlie. For that alone the 
Ventrue could tar and feather his bodyguard. After what seemed like an 
eternity of waiting, there was a light knock on the office door. 

"Come in." Julian called. Daedalus entered slowly. "Ah good, I was 
beginning to get worried. It's not like you to keep me waiting, old friend." 

"Many apologies, my Prince. I was detained. It would seem you have a 
visitor." 

"A visitor, Daedalus?" 

The Nosferatu Primogen smiled enigmatically, an expression rarely seen 
on his eternally somber face. "Yes, sire, the young lady has requested a 
private audience with you." 

"A human?" Julian asked, hearing the intonation in his friends voice. "Did 
you tell her she has to have an appointment to see me? I have vital 
matters to discuss with you tonight." 

Daedalus once again went to the office door and opened it slightly. "You 
misunderstand, sire. The lady didn't ask for an appointment with Julian 
Luna. She requested an audience with the Prince of the City. Rest 
assured this is one audience you will surely want to grant." 

As the Nosferatu escorted the lovely redhead into the office, Julian 
couldn't help but look shocked. Then, a feeling of dread swept over the 
Prince. If Charlie had asked, of all people, Daedalus for an audience with 
him, it could mean trouble for the Masquerade. The human seemed to 
know way too much for just a potential Childe. *Oh yeah,* he thought 
dangerously, *I am really going to haveta have a nice chat with Cash 
when this is all over.* 

"Hello Miss McCall. Won't you come in and make yourself comfortable?" 

Charlie sat down in the leather chair Julian indicated. She nodded her 
head in thanks before pausing to size up the Prince. Daedalus took up a 
place against the wall to watch the proceedings. "Thank you Mr. Luna." 
Charlie took a deep breath to calm herself, and began in measured tones, 
"You can probably guess why I'm here, and why I asked for you by the 
name that I did from the Kindred that I did. Cash told me he has spoken 
to you about Embracing me. I'm also told you gave permission to Lillie 
Langtry for the same purpose. That tells me that you are leaving the 
choice up to me. But before I make my decision, I believe we have a few 
matters to discuss between the two of us." 

Having regained his composure, the Ventrue regarded Charlie carefully. 
"And what matters would those be?" 

The Firestarter leveled a hard gaze at him. "I came to visit your friend 
here earlier this morning," she swept an elegant hand in Daedalus' 
direction, " in order to learn as much unbiased information as I could 
about your kind. I did this so I could make an informed decision regarding 
my Embrace. In talking to Daedalus as well as Lillie and Cash, I learned 
that the penalty for my remaining human with knowledge of the Kindred 
is death, by your law, to both myself and the Kindred who revealed 
himself to me. As Cash was that Kindred, you can surely understand that 
I cannot allow such a thing to happen." 

"And surely you can understand that as the Prince of the City, I must 
uphold the laws of the Camarilla." Outrage at the girl's impertinence 
swept through Julian. 

"My cousin, Frank Kohanek, knows about you and yet he lives." She said, 
setting him up for her argument. 

"That is an unusual situation requiring unusual methods." he said simply. 

"As is this situation.... Look I know that as the Prince, you have a duty to 
uphold the law. I also understand that those laws were created to 
prevent your people from being hunted-" 

"And what would you know about it?" Julian cut her off. His temper flared 
as he began to see that Charlie was nowhere near as innocent as she 
appeared. 

Flames flashed visibly across the Firestarter's eyes. "I know a hell of a lot 
more about it than you would, Mr. Luna!" she hissed the last two words. 
"You and the other Kindred live in fear of those that might hunt you for 
what you are. You've never been actually hunted yourselves. I, on the 
other hand, have been hunted all my life! While you sit in shadows with 
your precious rules, praying to whatever god you have that the beast 
that is Humanity doesn't get you; I have lived that nightmare. In my few 
years, I've been chased more, and had more loved one's killed because of 
what I am than you've probably lost in your... what? century of life?  I will 
not lose any more loved one's to the fear of those around me, Mr. Luna. 
And I will not be bullied into such a life changing decision with the threat 
of death hanging over my head! Be it Cash's or my own." 

Julian was taken aback temporarily by both the sight of flames in Charlie's 
eyes and by the intensity of her words. He had no doubt that what she 
said was true, both about being hunted and about making her decision. 
He glanced at Daedalus, whose face was totally bereft of expression, 
before regaining his composure. 

"So what would you suggest I do Miss McCall? Hmm? If you do choose to 
remain human and cannot be made to forget, the law says I have to kill 
both you and Cash. I don't want to do that, but I've already lost support 
among my people by protecting your cousin.  Unless you can give me a 
valid reason to pose to the Conclave, I won't be able to protect you or 
Cash, in the event that you decide not to be Embraced and cannot be 
made to forget." Julian settled into the back of his chair as he made this 
declaration. 

Charlie thought a moment. *It's now or never.* "You can tell them that 
you made a choice between ignoring the rules and retaining a powerful 
ally, and making a powerful enemy by enforcing the rules." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Your niece has undoubtedly told you what happened in the alley next to 
The Haven, last night." 

It wasn't even posed as a question but Julian answered anyways. "Sasha 
said that you set her and several of her clan mates on fire using some sort 
of mental power. Outlandish, I know, but-" 

"But," she cut him off, "entirely true. Although she probably told you the 
attack was unprovoked, those Brujah attacked me first. And I felt 
obligated to defend myself by the only means available to me at the time, 
namely, pyrokinesis." Seeing Julian's eyebrows rise, Charlie had to 
suppress a giggle. "You see, I was born with the ability to set fires using 
only the power of my mind. Now, that ability could make me a great asset 
or a great liability to you depending on how you react to my offer. If I do 
decide to remain human... and I'm not saying I will... you won't be able to 
hypnotize me. Believe me the best have tried and failed. That will leave 
you with two choices. A) You use what sway you have with your Conclave 
to protect Cash from those who would harm him. I can take care of my 
self." 

"And B?" Julian looked at her skeptically. He still did not believe this little 
girl had the power she claimed to. 

Charlie leaned forward and placed her palms flat on Julian's desk. She 
leaned forward far enough so that her face was barely a foot from his. To 
prove her resolve, the Firestarter mentally caused each one of the 
candelabras hanging from the four walls of the room to burst into flame 
one after the other. The last one to light itself was the one behind Julian's 
head. Both the Prince and his Nosferatu friend looked startled and shot 
Charlie looks of disbelief. "B)" she said in a low voice, "You could issue an 
order for a Blood Hunt for me and Cash. But I warn you, if Cash dies, I will 
come after his killer personally. And if I find out that you issued the order 
for his death because of me, I will see you and this lovely mansion of 
yours burned to a cinder before that day is done. Because, like I said Mr. 
Luna, I've lost way too many people I love. And I will NOT lose Cash as 
well." 

Julian was silent for a few moments as he thought. He could have 
surrendered to the anger Charlie's threat imbued in him, but that would 
accomplish nothing. So, he thought about what she was really saying to 
him. All the girl really wanted was to know that her lover was safe so she 
could make a level headed decision about her Embrace. In truth, he 
wanted nothing more than to protect Cash. But the Gangrels revelation of 
their deepest secrets to such a dangerous human being would not be 
met lightly by the Kindred community. The possible harm that could come 
from Charlie being Embraced at all was not lost on Julian. But he had 
already issued a Free Embrace decree to Gangrel Clan and permission to 
Lillie to Embrace Charlie. There would probably be hell to pay from both 
sides if the Prince recanted now. So, in the end, what could the Ventrue 
do? 

"All right, Miss McCall. You have my word that no harm will come to Cash as 
a result of your decision no matter what that decision may be." 

Charlie stood up straight, visibly relaxing. "Thank you Mr. Luna. And 
believe me when I say I keep my promises. I will be a valuable ally for 
you, either way." 

Julian rose to his feet, an old fashioned habit he had whenever a lady 
stood. "May I remind you that you have two days after today to make 
your decision." 

Charlie turned and smiled briefly at Daedalus before answering. "I'm well 
aware of that Mr. Luna, thank you." 

"Miss McCall. Out of curiosity, where is my bodyguard today? He never 
stopped in like I asked him to, and my people haven't been able to locate 
him." The Prince said before the human could walk out the door. 

"He's probably still at my apartment. I convinced him not to come in to 
work before I could talk to you. I'll tell him the coast is clear when I get 
home. Don't be too hard on him, though. As you know I can be quite 
persuasive." 

"Indeed. Miss McCall. Indeed." 

"Oh and Mr. Luna?" 

"Yes?" 

"My name isn't really McCall. It's McGee. But you can call me Charlie." With 
that, Charlie walked out of the office with a wolfish grin on her face. She'd 
done what she had set out to do. 

As he watched Charlie leave, a thought made Julian smile to himself. *If 
she does choose Cash's offer, he'll have his work cut out for him. She's 
got the beautiful face of a Toreador and the heart of a Nosferatu. Just like 
Lillie.* 

**********************************************************

As Charlie's motorcycle sped past the huge wrought iron gates of the 
Luna complex, the Firestarter failed to notice the dark colored van parked 
across the street. Also left unnoticed was the van's white haired driver 
who watched the redhead pass. "Soon." came his silent promise. "Soon." 



Chapter 10

Charlie felt had felt anxious since entering The Haven earlier in the 
afternoon. So far, she'd just chalked it up to nerves about confronting 
Julian Luna. However, as she entered the gallery and approached the 
door to her loft, the Firestarter's anxiousness condensed into a softball 
sized pit at the bottom of her stomach. The door was open and there 
were huge claw marks on the door jam, as if some wild animal had been 
ripped away from it after hanging on for dear life. Charlie entered her 
apartment to find that the place had been totally demolished. Furniture 
and her various possessions littered the floor. It was quite obvious there 
had been one hell of a struggle. 

She didn't even bother to call out to Cash. Charlie knew full well her 
boyfriend was already gone. This knowledge was only substantiated 
when a wave of images flooded her mind and nearly brought the 
Firestarter to her knees with the force of their intensity. She saw Cash 
standing in the middle of the living room. Then, a group of four or five 
figures in black burst through the loft door and attacked her lover. Cash 
struggled against the figures and was rewarded with a tranquilizer dart 
to the neck. Even drugged, Cash fought fist and fangs as they wrapped 
him in a net and a sheet before hauling him out the door into the harsh 
light of day. 

Charlie cried out and collapsed as the vision came to an end. She pulled 
herself onto the torn up sofa and tried to think. Her first reaction was to 
think that this was the work of the Prince. But Cash wouldn't have 
struggled so much if he was to be taken to Luna. Then, she thought it 
could have been the Brujah. However, she knew those goons would have 
at least tried to rough Cash up. Brujah couldn't resist unneeded violence 
against a Gangrel and they?d probably be more likely to use a well placed 
punch than a tranquilizer dart. And both Cameron and Sasha knew what 
would happen to them if they threatened the Firestarter or her lover. 

So, Charlie was left with the knowledge that someone had taken Cash 
against his will. And she had no idea who that someone was. She went 
over the past few months in her mind over and over to try to think of who 
might have done this. An image of a white haired man flitted across her 
mind's eye. Also, she remembered something Daedalus mentioned that 
afternoon about Kindred Hunters. 

The Firestarter went into her room and emerged a moment later in head 
to toe red leather with the exception of a black tank top and boots. 
Behind her she dragged a weighty duffle bag. Charlie exited the loft with 
one thought on her mind: she had to get to Luna. 

**********************************************************

?What do you mean you can?t find him?? Julian was seething. ?And just 
how did you people manage to lose your own Primogen?? he asked the 
two Brujah neonates standing before him. The pair sputtered a bit and 
the Prince waved his hand indicating that they should leave. The Ventrue 
had called a Conclave meeting and only himself, Daedalus and Lillie had 
shown up. Cash had a reason to be late, as Julian hadn?t wanted to call 
him at Charlie?s until she?d had time to get there and talk to him. 
Cameron, on the other hand, seemed to have fallen off the face of the 
Earth without any sort of warning, even to his clan mates. Dealing with 
the Brujah boss always gave Julian a headache. And his day was only 
going to get worse. 

Moments later, there was an audible scuffle outside the door of the 
Conclave room and a very pissed of Charlie McGee stormed into the room 
trailing Gangrel guards behind her. Julian rose to his feet as did Lillie and 
Daedalus who had been sitting in the chairs on either side of him. 

?Miss McGee, what can I?? Julian started. He was quickly cut off. 

?Cash is gone.? Charlie said simply. The pain, worry, and rage in her eyes 
told him that whatever had befallen the Gangrel was not as simple as her 
words implied. She confirmed this by elaborating, ?He was taken from my 
apartment.? 

Julian considered the girl for a moment. ?I take it you realize I had 
nothing to do with it?? 

?If I thought you had anything to do with it you?d already be dead.? The 
Firestarter retorted. She said this with a complete lack of malice and the 
barest hint of amusement, almost as if it was the dumbest question she?d 
ever heard. Then, tears began to flood her eyes and she collapsed into 
the nearest Conclave chair, ironically Cash?s. ?I have no idea who took 
him.? 

Julian frowned and waved the panicked looking guards out of the room. 
?How do you know he was taken? Perhaps he just stepped out for a 
while.? 

?I doubt he?d have wrecked the place before stepping out.? The 
Firestarter laughed bitterly. ?And? I had a vision. Cash was being 
kidnapped by some masked guys in black. They shot him with a 
tranquilizer dart and dragged him out of there kicking and screaming.? 

The elder Kindred looked at each other anxiously. ?You saw this?? Julian 
asked. 

?I felt it. I felt everything as if it was all happening to me.? Charlie choked 
out. Through her tears, she caught the looks the Primogen were giving 
each other and to her. ?What? Why are you looking at me like that?? 

"The visions you describe are characteristic of a special bond among our 
people.? Daedalus explained. 

Charlie looked confused. ?Bond? What kind of a bond?? 

?The bond between a Mated pair. It results from a mutual Blood Bond 
between two Kindred.? The Nosferatu explained. 

Charlie?s brow furrowed. ?But I?m not Kindred. And whatever this Blood 
Bond is, Cash and I never did it? I think.? 

Daedalus nodded. ?I don?t know how it happened but it would explain the 
connection that you two have obviously had for quite some time." 

The Firestarter nodded her understanding. She looked lost in thought for 
a few moments before addressing him again. ?This bond you say we 
have? would it be stronger if I were Kindred? I mean, would it lead me to 
where Cash is?? 

Daedalus frowned. ?I can?t say for certain. This has never happened 
between a human and Kindred, to my knowledge.? 

?In theory, then.? 

?In theory, yes, I believe the bond would be stronger between two 
Kindred than between a Kindred and a human. And usually, Mates are 
able to track each other, even over great distances.? The Nosferatu 
replied, still frowning. 

Charlie nodded, then turned to the Toreador Primogen with a look of 
renewed determination on her face. ?In that case, Lillie, I?m prepared to 
accept your offer.? 

Lillie looked at her incredulously. ?Come again?? 

?I want you to Embrace me. That is, of course, if the offer is still open. If 
not, I?ll just find a Gangrel willing to do it. They have that thing? What did 
you call it Daedalus? Free Embrace?? She gave the Prince a challenging 
look then gave Lillie a pleading one. 

Julian considered her for a moment, frowning deeply, ?I thought you 
wanted Cash to Embrace you, if you were to be Embraced at all.? 

The Firestarter glared at the Ventrue. ?Well it?s pretty much a moot point 
now, don?t ya think? I mean, considering the fact that Cash may die 
before I can get to him, if I don?t move now.? 

Julian sat up a bit straighter and his frown deepened. Lillie spoke softly to 
Charlie. ?Do you really feel that Cash is in that much danger?? 

Charlie?s eyes filled with tears again and she became too choked up to 
speak. She simply nodded. Lillie could practically feel the worry and pain 
rolling off the girl. The Toreador thought over the situation briefly. Then, 
she arose from her seat and drew Charlie out of her's by the elbow. 
Without a word, she led Charlie toward the door leading to her private 
apartments above The Haven. The Toreador Primogen paused briefly at 
the exit to the Conclave room to turn toward her Prince and Daedalus. ?If 
you gentlemen will excuse us, it seems we girls have some business to 
attend to.... My Prince.? 

Julian nodded and Lillie led Charlie out of the room. He turned to 
Daedalus who gave him a worrying look. The Nosferatu simply shook his 
head. The Prince called to his Gangrel guards who came in directly. ?Both 
the Brujah and Gangrel Primogens are missing. This may be the work of 
Hunters. I want every Gangrel on the street to keep their eyes and ears 
open. Try to find out as much as you can about any suspicious humans 
lurking around The Haven or any other Kindred haunts. And I want this 
kept low profile. I don?t want any Gangrels taking matters into their own 
hands.? 

The guards nodded and headed toward the door. The Prince called out to 
one of them, who was also his limo driver. ?And Cory, watch your back. 
The Brujah are probably going to be difficult to deal with, with Cameron 
missing. I don?t want any big conflicts to draw attention to us.? 

As the guards left, Julian turned to Daedalus. ?Why do I have the feeling 
this is going to a lot worse before it gets better?? 

********************************************************** 

Charlie gave the lush sitting room/bedroom with an impressed look. The 
room was done in deep reds and blues and rich creams and golds. A 
chaise lounge and a few overstuffed chairs as well as some antique wood 
furniture made up the décor of the sitting room. Meanwhile, on the other 
side of a richly carved Indian style doorway complete with rich, red 
brocade curtains lay the bedroom. Upon seeing such decadence, the 
Firestarter couldn?t help but let out a whistle. In spite of the several 
months of friendship she?d built up with Lillie, this was the first time she?d 
seen this room. 

?You like it? I had the furniture and wall dressings flown in from all over 
the world.? Lillie said proudly. 

?It?s? nice. I especially like the Florentine fresco replicas.? Charlie stated 
appreciatively. 

?Hmmm. But those aren?t replicas.? Lillie said smiling. Then, an awkward 
silence fell over the two. Lillie studied Charlie for a few minutes. The girl 
was obviously quite nervous, but at the same time, her determination to 
do what she needed to do to find her lover had not wavered. The 
Toreador had to admire the young woman?s dedication and passion for 
Cash. In fact, Charlie reminded Lillie much of herself at the start of her 
relationship will Julian. She?d been all fight and fire then, and that was all 
that Charlie was now. It was perhaps all that the girl had ever been. Ah, 
yes, she would make an excellent Toreador. 

?So, how do we do this? I mean, you?re the expert here, right? So, let?s 
get down to it.? Charlie said, breaking in to Lillie?s thoughts. *And she?s 
direct as well, maybe someday she?ll be able to lead as Primogen and put 
that talent to use.* Lillie mused. 

?You mean Cash hasn?t explained the process to you?? 

?He told me generally how an Embrace works. You drain my blood and 
replace it with yours. He kinda glossed over the specifics though.? Charlie 
watched Lillie approach her. She got the distinct feeling of being stalked 
as a panther would stalk its prey. By this time Lillie?s eye?s had changed 
color completely. The irises had gone from a clear azure blue to being a 
milky blue color with streaks of aqua around the edges. 

The Toreador?s fangs were slightly elongated, which gave her a bit of a 
lisp as she spoke. She edged her way closer to Charlie, circling the 
Firestarter as a cat would a mouse. Lillie got progressively closer to the 
girl until she was literally breathing down Charlie?s neck, albeit softly. 
?Well, first, I drain you through a bite on the neck. I?ll try to make it as 
painless as possible, so don?t worry.? 

Charlie?s eyes began to get heavy as she listened to the hypnotic quality 
of Lillie?s voice. The Kindred could hear her heartbeat wildly within her 
breast like that of a rabbit. ?Then, before the point of death, I?ll stop to 
open one of my own veins for you to drink from.? 

Lillie was so close by now, she was actually whispering into Charlie?s ear. 
The act sent shivers down the human?s spine, both from the fear it 
instinctively  provoked and from the somewhat erotic quality the words 
seemed to take on. ?After the actual Embrace, you?ll go through a period 
we call First Torment. This is when your body actually changes to 
accommodate Kindred powers and needs. It is quite painful, but that can?t 
be helped. Once it is over you?ll be Kindred, Clan Toreador. I?ll be your Sire 
and I?ll teach you what you need to know. And above all, you?ll be free.? 

The Toreador turned Charlie?s face up so that she could meet the girl?s 
somewhat glazed eyes. ?Are you sure this is what you want? You?ll be 
able to be with Cash but you will never be his blood.? 

Charlie nodded. ?I?m ready.? 

Without further ado, Lillie bit down on Charlie?s jugular, swiftly yet gently. 
As promised, she tried to spare Charlie as much pain as possible. As soon 
as the girl?s blood touched her throat, Lillie felt power rush through her. 
The taste was extremely heady and the Toreador felt like fire was 
washing through her veins. It was something she had not felt since her 
own First Torment. It was different this time, though, there was no pain in 
the burning sensation, only power. It was almost addictive. Almost before 
Lillie realized it, Charlie?s heart rate was slowing down at a dangerous 
rate. She had to literally drag herself away from the open wound in the 
girl?s neck. 

Hesitating momentarily because of the head rush Charlie?s blood had 
given her, Lillie caught the girl, who was now slumping back in her arms. 
She bit down hard on her own wrist, slashing open several of the veins in 
the process so the wound would bleed freely a while before healing itself. 
She brought the wrist to Charlie?s mouth and urged her to drink. Almost 
as soon as she did so, the power she?d gained from the Firestarter?s 
blood seemed to wane. But the warmth of it remained and Lillie was 
content to let the power return to its rightful owner. 

When Charlie, had taken enough, Lillie led her to the bedroom and laid 
her down upon the lush velvet comforter on the bed. Before she left in 
search of prey to replenish her strength and expedite the way through 
Charlie?s First Torment, she stroked the sleeping girl?s hair softly and 
whispered in her ear.  ?Sleep well my Childe. You have a long night ahead 
of you.? 

With that, Lillie walked out of the room. She pulled the curtains closed in 
the bedroom?s doorway, and locked the door to the sitting room so that 
no one would disturb her new Childe until she returned. The sound proof 
walls of the upper rooms would prevent the patrons of The Haven from 
being privy to the pain Charlie would soon be going through. 

It was for this reason that the Toreador Primogen did not hear it a few 
moments later when Charlie bolted upright in bed and screamed. Flames 
shot across her eyes and out of her hands to lick the wooden posts of 
the antique four-poster bed. The newest fledgling Toreador felt her body 
wracked with spasms as she screamed over and over the same word. 
The name of her lover: Cash. 



Chapter 11 

Cash was bruised, broken, and bleeding. The human goons who had 
taken him had really done a number on the Gangrel. He knew they were 
human because he could hear their hearts race whenever he lashed out 
at them. But to spite all Cash's strength and speed they'd managed to 
chain him to a wall. And on top of all they'd done to the Gangrel, the 
worst part was when they dragged a likewise black and blue Brujah 
Primogen in and chained him up right next to Cash. Cameron was just as 
pissed off as Cash was but the Brujah was much more vocal, since he had 
not lost as much blood as Cash had. Soon after they brought Cameron in, 
the humans left them both in the dark room they were chained in. After 
that, Cameron had taken every opportunity to bitch and moan about his 
situation to the only person present. Luckily, Cash had lost consciousness 
halfway through Cameron's rant. 

A few moments later, a pain shot through Cash the likes of which he 
hadn't felt since his First Torment. The Gangrel awoke screaming. It took 
him a while to realize that the pain he was feeling was not actually being 
rented upon him. Cash focused in on the sensations underlying the pain. 
He could feel confusion and apology as well as a surfacing of tremendous 
creative energy. It was like one powerful entity was being beaten down 
by another, mixing with it, and the two becoming one. It was then that he 
realized who was really physically in pain and why. He screamed Charlie's 
name over and over. 

The pain lasted for what seemed like an eternity. In the background of his 
screams he could hear Cameron yelling at him to shut up and, 
surprisingly, to try and find out what was wrong. Finally, the pain 
subsided and Cash was left with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and 
loss. Charlie was feeling these emotions because she had lost part of 
herself when she'd been Embraced. For his part, Cash felt loss because 
he knew that his love was now Toreador. He'd lost yet another lover to 
another clan. However, the Gangrel also knew why Charlie had done it. 
She'd agreed to allow Lillie to Embrace her in order to strengthen her 
bond with Cash so that she might find him in time to save him. And she 
had accomplished that goal. Their mental link was now such that if Cash 
concentrated he could feel what Charlie was feeling. He knew exactly 
where she was and wanted nothing more than to comfort her. But he 
couldn't do much about it since he was quickly re-approaching 
unconsciousness. Before he submitted to the exhaustion overtaking him, 
Cash felt determination flare in Charlie and he knew that, one way or 
another, he would not be spending much longer in that hellhole. 

**********************************************************

It wasn't until Lillie returned to the second level of The Haven that she 
smelled the smoke. The Toreador immediately called for Julian and any 
other Kindred around to aid her. Lillie ran directly into the bedroom 
dragging Charlie's duffel behind her. The Firestarter had told her the bag 
was full of fire extinguishers should something go wrong. 

And boy had it gone wrong. The bed was engulfed entirely in flames 
which, amazingly enough weren't affecting Charlie in the slightest. This 
did not stop the screams emitting from the fledgling, though. Charlie kept 
crying out for Cash as she writhed on top of the quickly burning satin 
sheets. Lillie handed the fire extinguisher she was toting to Julian who'd 
just rushed in behind her. She climbed on the bed, being careful not to 
singe herself, and proceeded to feed Charlie from yet another wound in 
her wrist until the girl's seizures subsided. 

By the time Charlie was calm again, the bed was just a mass of burnt 
wood, steal wires, and stuffing. In true Toreador form, it occurred to Lillie 
that she now had an excuse to redecorate the room as most of the walls 
and the ceiling were also singed. She cradled her new Childe as the girl 
cried softly, the blood tinged tears marring the white silk of Lillie's blouse. 
Soon, the men had the fire put out completely. 

Julian turned to his sometime paramour then and asked. "How is she?" 

Lillie who was currently smoothing Charlie's hair in a calming motion, 
shrugged. "I think the worst is over. I didn't expect this, though." 

"Clearly, she did." Julian said, indicating the fire extinguisher in his hand. 

"'She' is sitting right here ya know." Charlie said in an almost inaudible 
voice. In spite of the ragged appearance this still was the same old 
Charlie McGee, at heart. 

Lillie looked down at the girl who was curled up like a small child against 
her. "How are you feeling?" 

"Better. Different. I don't know... I know where Cash is now." she said, 
looking from her Sire to her Prince with an unreadable expression. 

Julian immediately slipped back into his role as concerned Prince. "Where 
is he?" 

"He's in a holding cell in some kind of an abandon warehouse. Cameron is 
with him. Cash is pretty sure that it was Hunters that took them." 

"You talked to Cash, communicated with him?" Julian asked, gazing at her 
intensely. 

Charlie shook her head. "No. It was more like I could feel what he was 
feeling. The bond is still there on the edge of my mind... but it isn't active 
right now." 

Lillie nodded then turned to Julian. "Maybe we should consult Daedalus?" 

At this, Julian shook his head. "I sent him to find out about the Hunters in 
the city and he has not returned yet." 

"He isn't going to return." Charlie replied solemnly, pulling out of her 
Sire's embrace. "The Hunters already have him." 

"Your link with Cash showed you this?" asked the Prince. 

"No, but I believe I know the man who is leading them. And if it is 
Rainbird, he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants. That includes killing 
Cash, Daedalus, and all of you. The problem is that I'm not so sure it's me 
he wants. Otherwise, why go after Cameron?" she concluded. 

"So it's safe to assume this Rainbird fellow's motives are ambiguous, at 
best. But if he's in league with the Hunters I have no alternative but to 
have him eliminated as well." Julian decided. 

Charlie nodded. "Then I guess that means you won't mind if I burn a few 
of them down when I go to retrieve Cash." 

"Now, Charlie..." Lillie started, before being cut off. 

"But you two said it yourselves. The Hunters have to be eliminated. So, I'll 
eliminate them. After what they've done to Cash, they deserve it." 
Something dark came over Charlie. Something neither of them had ever 
seen in one so young. A lust for vengeance surely, but also something 
even more frightening- the complete and irrefutable knowledge that one 
had the full capacity and will to carry out that vengeance. 

"It isn't as simple as that, Charlie. Killing endangers the Masquerade. We 
can't risk exposing ourselves to the humans." Julian supplied gently. This 
was a creature to be handled with great care, both because of her 
possible usefulness and because of her inherent danger. 

But Charlie was in no mood for a discussion. "Then, it's obvious that you 
have no idea what I can do." She gazed slowly back and forth from her 
Prince to her Sire, finally landing on Julian. "I gave you my word once that 
should you protect Cash, you would have my loyalty. I keep my word and 
you now have that loyalty. If you forbid me from killing or harming the 
Hunters, I can do nothing but obey. But I'm telling you now that I'm going 
to get my Mate back. And if he has been hurt as badly as I think, I don't 
believe in the slightest you'd begrudge me some small revenge." 

Julian thought for a moment and looked about to protest, but Charlie cut 
him off again. "If it's evidence you're afraid of, rest assured, there will be 
none. I don't know about these Hunters but Rainbird never was one for 
loose ends. And when I find the people who hurt Cash, all that will be left 
is an unidentifiable pile of ash blowing in the wind. On that you have my 
word.... But again, I leave it to you, my Prince. If you wish me to spare 
their lives I can bring them to you for judgment." 

The Prince contemplated this for a few moments. He could tell that Charlie 
was gunning for a blood bath. Evidently, what she had seen of Cash had 
incited incredible rage within her. For this reason alone, Julian wasn't 
certain he shouldn't let the fledgling loose on his enemies. Cash was his 
friend and loyal servant as well as the respected Primogen of the Clan 
Gangrel, who had served him so well and loyally. Surely such agony, as to 
cause so much rage in Cash's Mate, deserved all Charlie had in mind. But 
the newly fledged Toreador was a wild card. Charlie had been right. They 
had no idea what she could do, to what extent her powers went. Could 
he, in good conscience, let her loose on unsuspecting mortals, even if 
they did happen to be Hunters? Could he afford to curb what could be his 
greatest ace in the proverbial hole? He decided to let the whole thing 
play out as fate intended. After all, either way he was sure to loose 
something, though he had little idea what. The Prince gave his orders. 
"Go and find Cash. Bring back Cameron too, if you can. But take some 
Gangrels with you, just in case. Try not to kill anyone. However, you have 
my permission to defend yourself and all other Kindred with you with 
deadly force if need be. Understand, I want as little exposure as possible 
in this. Do you hear me, Charlie?" 

Charlie simply nodded. She turned to Lillie, at last, with the softest 
expression either Kindred had seen on her to date. It bordered between 
submission, despair, and hopefulness. "Sire?" 

Lillie smiled lovingly. She had been waiting for Charlie to acknowledge her 
sovereignty over her. She was quite pleased to find that out of necessity 
Charlie felt some love for her maker, and in turn a sense of responsibility. 
Lillie understood that Charlie was asking final permission from her to part 
her Sire's company. She craned her elegant neck to place a gentle kiss on 
her Childe's forehead. "Go. Get your Mate." 

Charlie's eyes lit up and she smiled as if she were a child whose mother 
had just given her the pony she'd always wanted. She rose from the bed 
and went to her Prince. The Firestarter knelt before Julian Luna and 
silently placed a kiss on his ring before exiting the small chamber and 
leaving the two Kindred Elders in her wake. 

Lillie looked at Julian with a mixture of foreboding and hope. He simply 
shook his head and whispered, "And so, it begins." 



Chapter 12 

As Charlie descended the stairs into the main floor of The Haven, a hush 
swept over the Kindred occupants of the club. Of course, the human 
patrons didn't notice this, they were too immersed in the playing of the 
band, or in their drinks, or in each other. But the various night-walkers in 
the crowd seemed to cease everything as The Firestarter took her place 
amongst her new people. The reactions of the Kindred to Charlie as she 
passed varied greatly. The sparse gatherings of Brujah seemed to regard 
her with a mix of awe, revulsion, and cowardice. Most Toreador seemed 
quite pleased to have such a one in their ranks. The Ventrue she could 
see all gave her looks of foreboding, as she could sense the few 
Nosferatu skulking in the rafters and shadows were also doing.  But the 
reaction that most surprised Charlie was the look of icy betrayal she got 
when she approached Lorraina, her supposed friend. 

"Lorraina, we have to talk." Charlie began, a hurt look gliding across her 
now even more elegant looking features. 

The Gangrel glared at her, turning briefly from the group of clan mates 
gathered around her. Lorraina's eyes raked over Charlie in utter malice as 
she spoke in cold, casual tones. "I don't see why, Toreador. You've 
obviously made your choice. Welcome to the club. Now get lost." 

Flames glanced across Charlie's eyes at the same time as they took on a 
predatory glow. She did not have time for this. She took hold of the 
Gangrel's arm and dragged her backstage, earning a few odd looks from 
Kindred and human alike. Lorraina found that, though she herself was a 
neonate, amazingly, she did not have the strength to wrench her arm out 
of the Toreador fledgling's grasp. Charlie only let go when they were 
safely out of earshot of the rest of the club. Lorraina looked about to 
launch into some diatribe about how Charlie dared to touch her, but the 
redhead would have none of it. "Now, you listen to me, Gangrel. I don't 
have time to stand here and have you chew me out or give me the cold 
shoulder about the choice I've made. Cash is in trouble. That is why I let 
Lillie Embrace me and that is why I need your help now." 

Lorraina's stance immediately changed at the mention of her brood-
brother in danger. She eyed Charlie for a moment to determine if the girl 
was actually telling the truth. The Gangrel had been so hurt when she'd 
been told by one of her clan mates, who worked as Julian's guard, that 
Charlie had asked to be Embraced by the Toreador Primogen. *How could 
Charlie do that?* she'd thought, *Cash wanted so much for her to be 
Gangrel.* Lorraina didn't know if she could trust the girl before her, the 
one she'd once considered a friend. But the desperation in the 
Firestarter's manner told her she was in earnest. "All right, say I believe 
you. What kind of trouble is Cash in, exactly?" 

Charlie's eyes softened a bit as her ire toward Lorraina shifted again to 
desperation. The blood tears began to fill her eyes anew and she could 
barely stand still to look at Lorraina. "He's been kidnapped. That's why I 
had to get Embraced. I had to find him quickly. There wasn't time. There 
still isn't." 

Lorraina softened as well at the site of her friend going into such panic. It 
was the first time she'd seen Charlie really scared, and that gave the 
Gangrel pause. Her leadership instincts took over, for she was in charge 
when Cash wasn't around to lead. Lorraina took hold of the fledgling's 
shaking hands and pulled her to attention. "Okay, Charlie. I believe you. 
Come on now. Look at me. I need you to tell me what's happened. Why 
did you have to get Embraced to find Cash?" 

Charlie took a deep breath and let her heartbeat slow until it stopped. 
*God, I gotta get used to that.* she thought idly. "I have this bond with 
Cash. We've had it since we met. It allows me to feel what he's feeling or 
to see what he's seeing. I talked to Daedalus and he said it was like we 
are Mated. He said that if I were to be Embraced, the bond could become 
stronger and I could probably sense where they took Cash. So I asked 
Lillie to Embrace me and... I can. I can feel where he is now." 

Lorraina nodded her understanding. "Does the Prince know about all 
this?" 

"Yes. He told me I could go get Cash. He's been put in some kind of 
warehouse by the Hunters. But I need to take some Gangrels with me as 
back-up. Will you help me Lorraina? I'm so afraid that I won't get to him in 
time. He's so hurt and weak. I can feel it." Charlie seemed on the verge of 
another panic attack. 

Lorraina blanched when she heard the word Hunters. If the Hunters had 
taken Cash, it was no wonder Charlie was so worked up. Though, 
Lorraina had never known Charlie to be this emotional. *Must be the 
Toreador blood.* she thought. "Yeah. Come on. My bike's out back. I'll get 
some of my boys to follow." 

They both turned to go out the back door and ran face first into Sasha 
Luna. Evidently, Sasha had followed them back and had been 
eavesdropping the entire time. Before either Gangrel or Brujah knew 
what was happening, Sasha's feet were dangling like a rag doll's as 
Charlie pinned her to the wall a few inches off the ground.  The Toreador 
snarled as Lorraina attempted futilely to pull her off of Sasha. For her 
part, the Brujah was terrified. The enraged creature before her had all 
the fury of a caged Nosferatu in her eyes and, right now, that fury was 
directed squarely at Sasha Luna. 

"Charlie you have to let her go." Lorraina pleaded. She hated Sasha as 
much as the next Gangrel but that didn't mean she wanted her dead. The 
last thing anyone needed right now was to incur the Prince's wrath by 
killing one of his favorites. And, as Charlie had made her so painfully 
aware just moments before, they did not have time for this. 

The Firestarter didn't even respond to her friend's entreatings. She simply 
snarled again at Sasha and hissed, "What did I tell you, Brujah? Or didn't 
you get the message last time, to stay out of my way?" 

Sasha could do nothing but gurgle in response, as Charlie's fingers were 
locked in a death grip around her throat. Lorraina pulled at the redhead's 
arm again, trying desperately to get her to relent. "Charlie, we don't have 
time for this. Remember? Cash is in trouble." 

This seemed to break through the fury to reach Charlie. She immediately 
released her grip, letting Sasha fall helplessly to the floor. The Brujah 
coughed a bit as she watched Lorraina pull Charlie toward the exit. She 
was still staring into the Firestarter's eyes as Charlie backed away. They 
were like that of a wolf, yet they had flames dancing in them. Charlie 
turned to go. Sasha gathered up all the courage and strength she could 
to say, "To spite what you may think, I love him too, you know. I want to 
help." 

Charlie stopped dead in her tracks. Her body went ridged and Sasha 
feared another attack. After a few moments of silent inner debate, Charlie 
cocked her head slightly in Sasha's direction. Without turning around she 
said, "Well?... Are you coming?" 

Sasha didn't have to be asked twice. She rose to her feet and followed 
her two rivals out The Haven's back door. There, the three unlikely allies 
mounted their respective motorcycles. Lorraina barked out orders to 
some of her clan mates. They were to follow the three women at a safe 
distance. She added silently that they were to let Charlie lead in all 
things, she wasn't sure what the Firestarter would do if crossed. And, 
with that, they were off. 

********************************************************** 

Cameron thought that he'd never been so grateful for anything as when 
they'd taken him out of his cell and away from that stinking Gangrel. Of 
course, his human hosts hadn't passed up the opportunity to beat him to 
a bloody pulp before they'd taken him out. And something told him that 
they would soon bring Cash with him too be transported to where ever 
they were taking the Brujah Primogen. Nevertheless, Cameron couldn't 
help but thank Cain that he had a few moments of repose after spending 
hours in a cell with the screaming Gangrel Primogen. Presently, the Brujah 
was being dragged along by two bulky, nondescript guards, but he was 
to doped up and starved to care to fight. 

Suddenly, he heard a scuffle somewhere behind him. A booming female 
voice he could barely place called out to the guards on either side of him. 
"Let him go." 

The guards turned in unison, in the process, turning Cameron with them. 
He saw something he never thought possible: a Toreador, a Gangrel, and 
a Brujah standing menacingly against a backdrop of a cloud of smoke. A 
trinity of sirens had come to lay waste to his captors; two of them his 
mortal enemies and the third a clanmate with little but disdain for her 
Primogen. It occurred to Cameron that he should be laughing at the 
campiness of the whole thing, but he didn't have time. Within seconds of 
Charlie's command, the guards dropped Cameron's arms and pointed 
their guns at the three women. 

Charlie turned to Lorraina with a predatory gleam in her eye and a 
mischievous smile. "Now, is that the sort of thing you'd call 'imminent 
danger'?" 

The guards opened fire on the three, but none of the bullets ever 
reached their targets. A hot wind came out of nowhere, enveloping the 
three Kindred. Shots seemed to explode in midair as they hit an invisible 
force field of heat. When the smoke from the bullets cleared, all the 
guards could see was the deadly grin of the Firestarter and the aghast 
looks of the two that flanked her. 

With preternatural speed Charlie took hold of one of the guards while 
Sasha and Lorraina subdued the other. The redhead gave her prey a 
deadly smile before sinking her fangs into his neck and drinking deep. As 
the body fell to the floor, it seemed to burn from the inside out. Charlie 
looked down at the pile of ash at her feet and cocked her head saying, 
"Shoulda just let him go." 

In the interim, Lorraina and Sasha finished off the second guard. They'd 
been told by Charlie that Julian had given them special permission to kill, 
if it was self defense. As they let the guard's dead body fall to the floor, 
he too was consumed by fire. 

"Well, I guess that solves the problem of evidence, now doesn't it?" 
Sasha remarked companionably to Lorraina. Both were still a bit stunned 
at the extent of Charlie's powers. Lorraina had never seen such a thing 
and Sasha had only gotten a taste of it in that alley. 

"Pick him up." Charlie ordered, indicating Cameron, who was laying on his 
side on the ground with his mouth open. Her companions obeyed without 
question. Charlie pushed past the piles of ash and walked down the hall. 
When she found the door she wanted, the Toreador used her 
supernatural strength to kick it in. 

Lorraina saw Charlie gasp and rush into the room. She piled Cameron's 
limp body onto Sasha and rushed after her friend. What she saw when 
she entered broke the Gangrel's heart. Her beloved brood-brother lay 
limp in the arms of his Toreador lover, like something she'd seen in an art 
book somewhere. *The Pieta?* she thought. Blood tears were now 
streaming freely down Charlie's cheeks onto Cash's bruised and broken 
body. The look in the Firestarter's eyes as she looked up into her friend's 
could have broken Lorraina's heart a second time. "He won't wake up." 
Charlie whimpered. 

The Gangrel rushed to her Primogen's side, gently putting her hand to his 
forehead. "He's lost too much blood." 

From the doorway they heard a gasp. Both turned to see Sasha 
attempting to support her Primogen's weight against the battered door 
jam. "Oh my God." she croaked, "Cash." 

Lorraina turned back to Charlie. "He's nearing Torpor, the waking death. 
He needs blood now, and lots of it." 

Charlie nodded. She knew what had to be done. The Firestarter placed a 
light kiss on her lover's lips and then used a sharpened fingernail to slice 
open her throat. Cradling Cash's head, Charlie placed his mouth over the 
wound. 

For a few minutes, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, Cash seemed to 
sit up and latch onto the wound, although he was still weak. A million 
images flew threw Charlie's brain of Cash's abduction, the time he'd 
spent here, and the things that had been done to him.  But most 
importantly, Charlie got the sense that he'd overheard some of the plans 
the Hunter's were making. They were plotting to go after the Prince, and 
Cash had been helpless to warn anyone. 

At the same time all this was happening, the joined pair began to feel the 
connection between them deepen. They saw flashes of two beings made 
completely of fire. They saw the beginning of each other's lives and got 
the distinct impression that they'd both been waiting for this moment all 
their lives. 

When Cash was strengthened enough from Charlie's powerful blood, he 
used one of his own claws to cut his wrist. He did this without 
relinquishing Charlie's throat, and he brought his wrist to her lips. As he 
drank from her, so she drank from him, and the spiritual bond they had 
grew into something else. They could now see that their bond had 
existed since birth, and now that they were both Kindred feeding from 
each other, the connection was fleshed out into a true Blood Bond. It was 
a bond of flesh and blood and will, and now they were Mated for life. 

As she felt Cash weakening, Charlie also got a clear mental message from 
her Mate. They let each other go and Cash slumped back into 
unconsciousness. Charlie took a moment to catch her breath before 
looking into the confused faces of Lorraina, Sasha and Cameron. Charlie 
gently took Cash's body and placed him into his brood-sister's arms. 
Then, the Toreador rose to her feet, still a little shaky. At Lorraina's 
questioning look, she simply said, "He's still a little weak, but he'll heal. 
Take care of him, will you? There's something I have to do." 

Lorraina was dumb struck. Charlie had been so obsessed with finding 
Cash and now she was just going to leave him? As Charlie passed the 
Brujah at the door, Sasha said, "Hey, where are you going?" 

Charlie turned to face both Lorraina and Sasha. "The Prince is in danger. I 
have to help him." 

"I'll go with you." Lorraina replied, her Gangrel's loyalty flaring. 

Charlie shook her head. "I need you to stay here and help Cash. He's still 
weak and he won't be able to handle the Hunters." She cut off Sasha's 
impending remarks, saying, "You need to stay and help your Primogen. 
And I need you to help Lorraina. I'm trusting you both with the life of my 
Mate, so don't let me down." 

Sasha nodded as did Lorraina. Then the Gangrel called back to her friend, 
"At least take some of my boys outside with you for back-up." 

Charlie simply smiled at this and pushed past Sasha and Cameron. "Don't 
worry Lor," she said, "where I'm going, I won't need them." 


Chapter 13 

Having not heard back from Charlie and only from a few of his Kindred 
messengers, the Prince of San Francisco deemed it best to return to his 
mansion to wait for Daedalus. Evidently, Kindred were disappearing all 
over the city without a trace. Julian feared that Charlie might be right 
about this Rainbird fellow. He did not like loose ends. And it seemed as 
though the Kindred race as a whole was one big loose end to him. Julian 
had talked Lillie into retiring with him to the home they both shared. 
However, the pair of Kindred Elders never reached the front gates. 

The rear tires of their black limousine suddenly exploded, causing the car 
to fishtail dangerously. Cory, the Gangrel driver, pulled to the side of the 
winding road leading up the hill to the Luna mansion. "Hold tight, sire." he 
said through the lowered partition, into the back seat, "I'm gonna go see 
what the problem is." 

Julian nodded as he clutched Lillie to him, in order to protect the 
Toreador. "Be careful, Cory. We don't know what's out there. It's a 
dangerous time for all our kind." 

The Gangrel nodded and got out. Lillie locked the doors behind him. 
Almost immediately, they heard shots outside the limo. Lights flashed 
through the back window of the car and they could hear people 
attempting to get in. Both Julian and Lillie readied themselves for a fight 
as the locks were shot from the doors. The Kindred never got the chance 
to defend themselves as the doors were wrenched open and they were 
simultaneously shot with tranquilizer darts. Lillie only got a couple of good 
scratches into her opponent's face before darkness overtook her and she 
collapsed into Julian's lap. He was likewise unconscious. 

********************************************************** 

Charlie entered The Haven and scanned the crowd. It took her only a few 
moments to locate the person she sought. Frank Kohanek sat at the bar, 
having a drink with his partner Sonny. He'd lately figured out that Sonny 
was Kindred and was currently grilling the Ventrue on various subjects 
pertaining to his race. He nearly spit his drink out all over his partner 
when his cousin came up behind him, without warning, and clapped him 
on the back. "Frank," she said, "you're just the man I've been looking 
for." 

?Charlie, what the hell happened to you?" Frank asked, turning to take 
stock of his cousin's appearance. She was dressed in red leather pants, 
black combat boots and a red leather duster jacket that fell to her ankles. 
Her black cotton tank top was caked in blood which was also smeared 
across her chest and in her tangled hair. But the features that caught 
Frank's attention most were Charlie's eyes. They had turned from their 
usual chocolate brown to bright milky green. He recognized this as an 
exclusively Kindred trait and blanched. 

The Firestarter simply nodded. "Frank, I'll explain all that later. Right now, 
I need your help. Julian is in danger." 

At the mention of his Sire's name, Sonny stood at attention. "Why? 
What's happened to the Prince?" 

Charlie gave Sonny a look to quiet him. She'd been introduced to the 
Ventrue by Frank. However, she hadn't recognized him as a Kindred of 
the Clan Ventrue until now. Also, the Firestarter sensed that it was 
Julian's own Childe she spoke to. "The Hunters have gone after him. I 
don't know if they have him yet, but they will soon. Where's Lillie?" 

"She left earlier with Julian. They were going back to the mansion to wait 
for Daedalus." Sonny replied. He was slightly panicked at this point. Julian 
had told him a little about Lillie?s newest Childe, and something told him 
the situation with the Hunters needed a lot more explaining. 

"Then, they've probably got her too. Damn." Charlie stated somberly. She 
turned around and glared at some Kindred who were staring at them. If 
the word got out, in the city, that all the Elders were MIA, it could create 
chaos within the Kindred community. Oh, this definitely had to be 
stopped. 

"Hold on," Frank interrupted, "Could somebody please tell me what's 
going on? Who's after Julian? Who are the Hunters? And what do they 
want with Lillie?" 

Sonny started to explain about the Kindred Hunters that were a hold over 
from what his people called the Dark Ages, when the Inquisition 
slaughtered thousands of innocent Kindred. However, Charlie cut him off, 
saying, "There isn't time for this guys. If we're gonna help the Prince, we 
have to get going ." 

Frank nodded. He still had his issues with Luna, but he wasn't about to 
let the Prince of the City die, and become the next item on everyone's 
menu. "What do you need?" 

"Do you two know of any abandoned warehouses that have been rented 
out to a bunch of psychotic looking freaks, lately?" 

**********************************************************

When Cash finally came to, Lorraina felt her heart leap. Since Charlie had 
left, the Primogen had tossed and turned for what seemed like hours 
without actually regaining consciousness. At one point, Cash had gone 
into violent convulsions, and, when it was done, he had what looked to 
be an image of a ball of fire emblazoned on his bare chest just above his 
heart. *On the up side,* Lorraina thought, * at least his wounds are 
healed.* 

Sasha had gone out and brought back one or two street waifs for 
Cameron to feed from, as he was still weakened from the drugs and lack 
of blood. When Cash awoke, she rushed to his side, leaving her own 
Primogen to regain some of his composure. "Cash," she said, "you're 
awake." 

Lorraina rolled her eyes as she grabbed the canteen she'd retrieved from 
her saddle bags. "Hello, Mistress of the Obvious." she remarked dryly to 
the Brujah. Turning to Cash, she handed him the canteen. "How are you 
feeling?" 

Cash chugged the water and gasped for breath, handing the canteen 
back to his brood-sister. For the briefest of moments, Lorraina thought 
she saw flames flash across Cash's eyes. "We have to stop her." the 
Gangrel gasped out as soon as he could stagger to his feet. 

"What are you talking about?" Sasha asked as she followed Cash to the 
door. 

"Yeah, stop who?" Lorraina chimed in. Sasha helped Cameron to his feet 
and they all followed the Gangrel Primogen out of the ruined building. 

"Charlie." Cash replied. "We have to stop Charlie." He motioned for 
Lorraina to throw him her bomber jacket, to cover his bare chest against 
the wind. 

"Okay, I?ll bite," Cameron retorted icily, angry that he'd been roped into 
following a Gangrel around, "Why do we have to stop your bitchy 
girlfriend, now? 

Cash mounted Lorraina's bike and she got on behind him. Sasha got no 
hers and motioned for Cameron to follow suit. "Because, you jackass," 
Cash growled to his rival, "she's going to kill everyone." 

Without further elaboration, Cash revved up the motorcycle's engine and 
sped off into the night. Sasha gave Cameron a shrug and followed Cash. 
The small group of Gangrels who remained to guard the compound while 
their Primogen recovered took their cue from the two Brujah and followed 
the two pairs into the city. 

**********************************************************

The Prince of the City awoke with a throbbing headache. He looked 
around through the haze covering his eyes and quickly located Lillie. The 
Toreador was tied up to a chair placed back to back with his own. The 
Hunters had done their homework, it seemed. The chairs anchoring the 
two were thick, solid oak and their tether was 1000 pound test cable. 
Lillie was still out cold. 

"Well," said a voice emitting from the vast darkness stretching out before 
Julian, "it seems his Highness has awoken." 

"What do you want, Hunter?" the Prince growled out. His eyes shifted to 
their predatory state in his rage. The Ventrue was in no mood to joke 
around with his captor. 

Suddenly, a light was turned on overhead and Julian could make out the 
figure of a white haired man. He wore a shirt and tie with a dark green 
cardigan and khaki pants. The thought popped into the Prince's head that 
this man looked like a sadistic version of Mr. Rogers; not that Julian ever 
watched public access. He simply contributed to the show's funds from 
time to time. Nonetheless, the Mr. Rogers wannabe seemed quite 
threatening with the aid of the drugs in the Ventrue's system. "Are you 
quite comfortable?" the wannabe asked. "The tranquilizers we utilize are 
specially formulated to your species' particular biological make-up." 

Julian gave the man a venomous smile. "Such a gracious host. I don't 
suppose you'd like to tell me why you haven't just slaughtered us all, 
instead of taking my friends and I prisoner? This isn't exactly the standard 
procedure for Hunters, is it?" 

"Of course," the Hunter replied, with an equally condescending air, "how 
rude of me. Where are my manners? You have been brought here for the 
purpose of providing us information we require." 

"Information such as?" Julian decided to make small talk as he worked 
through the muddle in his head. 

"Our organization would like to know the names and locations of all the 
other Princes in North America; as well as the boundaries of all their 
domains." 

This made the Ventrue's eyes flare again. "And what makes you think I 
would ever agree to such a 'request'?" 

The human smiled at him again. "Oh, I don?t expect you to cooperate right 
off the bat. That wouldn?t be very much fun, now would it? But, you see, 
we've captured all of the Elders of your Conclave." As the man talked, 
more and more armed Hunters came into Julian's view. Slowly, Lillie began 
to awake. The Ventrue could sense a tremor of fear and aggressiveness 
go through his ex, and he grabbed her hand to comfort and steady her. 
Like Julian himself, Lillie felt the need to poise herself for battle. That was 
until she noticed the steel cables around her wrists. Out of the corner of 
his eye, the Prince could see some Hunters wheeling in a reinforced iron 
cage housing a very pissed off, primal looking Nosferatu Primogen. 

"We have enough enforcement to wipe out your race in this City. And we 
have loads of wonderful gadgets and gizmos to extract from you the 
information we desire. So, resist away.?  The man had an air of incredible 
arrogance about him; as if he wasn?t holding three majorly pissed-off, 
dangerous creatures against their will. ?This facility is secure enough to 
keep an army of your kind from getting in." 

"Very impressive Mr. Rainbird. But you forget, we Kindred have a chain of 
command. Others will just move into our places. Then, you'll be right back 
where you started, and without your cache of information.? Julian 
countered. 

?And by then, our people will tear you and your comrades apart." Lillie 
piped up. She was quickly getting very sick of this little man and his 
delusions of grandeur. Just because he?d managed to capture them didn?t 
mean she owed him any respect or any leniency. 

Rainbird's composure wavered at the mention of his name. However, it 
quickly returned over the course of Julian?s argument. "I have to say," 
Rainbird replied, ?I?m impressed. I wouldn't have thought animals like you 
resourceful enough to find out my name. No matter. As far as your chain 
of command goes, we have a few little surprises for the other Leeches 
like you hidden around the city." Fear welled up in Julian, but he did not 
lose his composure. 

"So, you see," he concluded, "You really have no options, at this point. 
You have no one who can stop me from getting exactly what I want out 
of you." 

"He has me." came the booming reply from the darkness surrounding 
them. Hunters and Kindred alike turned in all directions trying to find the 
source of the powerful female voice. 

Suddenly, a shadow dropped from the rafters, landing directly between 
Rainbird and Julian. Charlie rose from the crouch she'd fallen into to meet 
the gaze of her Prince's captor head on. The Firestarter looked around at 
all the weapons now aimed at her and broke out into an unexpected grin. 
"Well now," she said in her best Southern Belle drawl, "you boys didn't 
have to go to all this trouble for little ol' me." 

Rainbird gave her an annoyed look. "And who, pre-tell are you?" 

"Oh, you might say I'm just an old friend of the family. After all, you are 
related to John Rainbird aren't you?" She said conversationally, "There ?s 
a bit of a family resemblance-is the only reason I ask." Charlie made no 
move to free her Sire or her Prince. This seemed to intrigue Rainbird, so 
he refrained from giving the order to kill her. 

"There should be. John was my twin. I'm Gregor Rainbird. " The lead 
Hunter replied. He didn?t know what it was about this woman that he 
found so intriguing. 

Charlie gave a small snicker. "See, I knew it. You two are exactly alike. 
Any man with that much audacity coupled with stupidity has to be a 
Rainbird. I mean I bet you thought this whole kidnapping thing was a 
pretty nifty idea, right?" 

The indulgent smile on the man's face dissolved instantly at the 
implication that he was exactly like his late his brother. In his rage, he 
missed the blunt insult. "My brother was a fool. He gave up his birthright 
as a Hunter to play around with some kind of government experiment. It's 
what killed the poor bastard." 

The Firestarter took a few steps toward the spitting image of her arch 
enemy. The men with guns tensed around her but Rainbird still hadn?t 
given the order to shoot. 

"Oh, no.? Charlie said sweetly. ?I'm what killed him."  With a lightening 
fast movement, the Toreador's hand shot out to her opponent's throat. "Would you like to see how?" 


To Be Continued....