Kindred: The Embraced ? ?episode one? By Rosalind McKinsey (a.k.a.-Rhapsody, at-nexus, and Dreamspider) General Disclaimer: This story is based on the television series ?Kindred: The Embraced?, which belongs to Fox Inc., Spelling Productions, and Revolution Films. This story is not an attempt to infringe on their rights. The writer is making no monetary profit from the dissemination of the following literary work. CHAPTER 1 The sun began to rise in the city of San Francisco. The daily buzz of life began to pick up as people started waking and moving through the city to get to work. It seemed like a perfectly ordinary day, except for on a warehouse rooftop, beyond the eyes of the countless citizens far, and not so far away. A large male figure flew out of the door that opened to the outside world on the very top of the building. The whitewashed rooftop reflected the morning light, which was getting brighter by the minute. The man?s long, blonde hair flew wildly in the rush of air as he ran. His strong, well-formed build was clad in black, belted jeans, a tan suede jacket, and work boots. Not seconds later, two other large male figures came bolting out of the same rooftop access door. They wore familiar trench coats, suited for the crisp, cool weather of the season. Underneath, were expensive suits, covering equally large, strong bodies that were well groomed with short, modern fashioned haircuts. The last two chaised after the first?at a speed that wouldn?t have seemed possible if anyone else were watching. On the main floor, a car pulled into the large building through a loading entrance. It screeched to a stop as soon as it passed through the entry, and two figures tore out of it in a flurry. The driver was a white male, with brown wavy hair that spilled down past his ears. His dark brown eyes were wild and alert, housed in an almost boyish face. He wore black Dockers, a gray, long sleeved polo, and casual suede shoes. Another male, came out of the passenger?s side, wearing gray denim jacket over a ?Beavis and Butthead? t- shirt, and matching jeans. He was an Afro-American, just a couple of inches shorter than the driver, but with a heavier build and a sensibly short haircut. His eyes seemed large and almost attractively cat-like. ?Is this your idea of being a cop?? The dark skinned passenger demanded. ?You get me down here on a Sunday morning, because some voice on the phone says ?be here at dawn?? Man, are you sure he was on the level?? ?I don?t even know if it was a guy,? the driver admitted anxiously, ?They were using one of those voice-boxes that goes in the throat.? The driver raised his hand to his throat and tapped at his larynx for emphasis. ?Oh, that?s great, man!? The darker complected passenger exclaimed irritably, with a look of annoyance clearly written on his face. ?Sonny! Now we?ve been looking for this bodyguard for two months! This is my only chance of indicting his boss!? the young driver looked determinedly at his friend, ?And I want Luna,? he said with utter conviction. Sonny blinked in seeming disbelief, then watched his friend head up the wooden stairs that lead to the roof. As if deciding he didn?t have any other choice, he began the long climb. ?Is your obsession with Luna all about this woman?? he asked as he followed with equal determination. His voice seemed to echo slightly within the open bare wood framework of the huge warehouse. Once he caught up, he went on with his argument that he already knew would get him nowhere. ?Frank! Julian Luna is THE boss of bosses! He could have your badge shoved up your butt sideways if he called in favors with his friends downtown?and knowing this, you decide in your usual, objective, PROFESSIONAL manner to ask Luna?s ?long-time SQUEEZE? out on a date! Now am I leaving anything out?? Frank continued up the stairs, one flight, and then another, as his friend and partner followed right on his heels, trying to steer him otherwise. He stopped when his partner finished his question, and put an arm around the man?s shoulders, ?She?s a great woman,? he told Sonny, in a sudden moment of happiness, ?One day you?re gonna meet a woman like her, and she?ll show you colors that you didn?t even know existed.? He smiled as if he?d forgotten the moment, and his target, then slipped his arm away from Sonny and started heading upward again. As Frank pulled away to take the lead again, Sonny seemed to look at him in disbelief. Briefly, though, when Frank?s back was to him, a slight, pleased smile flicked across his full lips, and glint in his eyes. It had only lasted a split second, just before he went to catch up to Frank again. Above them, the two large men in trench coats had caught up to the blonde. The chaise had turned into a violent physical battle, as the blonde fought to get away, and the other two began delivering brutal blows. In a world full of crime and other countless atrocities, it might have looked ordinary enough. Had anyone been there to witness the scene, however, they would have also heard the strange, vicious growling that came from all three during the confrontation. ?You need t?be reprogrammed, man!? Sonny insisted, as he followed Frank even further up the stairs. Out of habit, they were both looking around for signs of movement. With no walls, they were easily visible. Who was to say that there couldn?t be someone watching them right now, concealed by the jungle of wood beams? If the call Frank had gotten WASN?T on the level, then they could be walking straight into an ambush. Frank stopped to draw his handgun at the bottom of the last flight of stairs. ?This is the roof, baby,? he nearly whispered to his partner as he looked upward in anticipation. Sonny didn?t waist time or words, ?Who?s going up first?? he asked, already reaching for his weapon to have it at the ready. ?YOU are!? Frank exclaimed, as though surprised that he?d even been asked. ?BULL-!? Sonny fired back without hesitation. ?You?re the one who sees vast assorted colors! Although he seemed reluctant, there was also an underlying readiness that almost matched Frank?s. //Not again//, Frank?s expression and movements almost seemed to say. He rolled his eyes and slumped his shoulders as he turned to face the other officer. ?Come on man! Would y?shut up with that?? Frank groaned with growing inpatients. Sonny was growing impatient as well. His face set in determination, and he made one last attempt to reason with wild-eyed partner of his. ?Look, we already worked our shift! We?re NIGHT! It?s about to be DAY, Frank!? He waved his hands in front of him to emphasize his words. ?You?re always doing this,? Frank grumbled under his breath, although he almost seemed amused. ?What?? Sonny demanded in his own growing exasperation. ?This!? Frank hissed as his agitation grew, ?You act like you don?t wanna go in there, but when we do, you think you?re too tough t?die ?n?end up shooting it out!? Sonny?s face remained set with restrained anxiousness, as he listened to Frank without further comment. The violence between the three already on the rooftop had escalated. The blonde was being pinned down on one of the skylights by his attackers. He let out an animalistic roar of rage as he struggled to free himself. The second assailant reached above him with one arm and tore part of a large, nearby antenna free from its base. The one with the antenna section raised the large pole of metal like a crude sword. ?You think you can go to war with me, Eddie Fiorri?? he demanded through a hate-filled snarl that distorted his ruggedly handsome face. ?THIS is what the Brujah clan will do to all you Gangrels!? He plunged the shaft of metal into the blonde?s chest and sank it with a merciless thrust. The blonde roared again, agony entwined with the rage. He went on roaring, his body twitching helplessly, as though he could command his limbs to do nothing more. The sound was becoming less and less human, and more beast-like. The strange thing, was that it was coming out of him at all; the projectile had been forced into his chest?where his lung should be. Rather than roaring endlessly, the victim SHOULD have been coughing, and gasping for air. Just then, the two plain-clothed police officers burst through the rooftop access door, their guns held in front of them. Sonny?s face flinched as if in pain when he came out of doorway into the light of the sun, acting slightly blinded by it. They both heard the loud growling and looked around wildly to find the direction it was coming from. Frank stepped out further away from the cover of the doorway, and saw the three that formed the gruesome scene. ?Freeze!? Frank shouted at the top of his lungs as he leaped out with his gun pointed directly at them. Not a second later, Sonny moved to stand in front of Frank in the same stance, ?Put your hands up!? he shouted at the two in trench coats, ?Put?im up!? He raised his weapon and prepared to fire. The blonde went on screaming angrily, but couldn?t move, even when his two attackers released their hold and began backing away from the two cops. Frank pointed his handgun to the sky and fired a warning shot into the air. ?Hands up!? His own enraged yell came out when Sonny?s commands were ignored. Only then, did the two begin to raise their hands slowly, and back away from the two officers. With calm smirks on their faces, they continued to back up, hands still raised, towards the nearest edge of the rooftop. Frank and Sonny watched them, their confusion showing clearly on their faces. ?They?re not stoppin?, Frank,? Sonny said worriedly, his eyes fixed on the two retreating criminals. ?What the---,? Frank breathed as he drew back to release the bullet that had jammed in the chamber of his handgun. Sonny heard the sounds of Frank emptying the gun?s chamber, and focused even harder on the two in front of him, making sure his co-worker was covered during the brief moment of vulnerability. He heard the useless bullet fall with a clank against a section of corrugated metal. ?Where?re they goin??? he asked, when he felt Frank was armed safely again. Frank took a few steps closer behind Sonny, his gaze held helplessly to a scene his mind was struggling to deal with. ?They can?t go far,? he answered with uncertainty. ?One more step and I shoot!? He shouted at the still withdrawing pair. As the blonde man went on screaming furiously, his attackers turned their backs on the two cops to climb the protective ledge. With a sickening kind of grace, they brought themselves in unison to stand on the narrow wall of cement. Their coats fluttered in a heavy wind, but they seemed to have no problem at all keeping their balance. ?What the hell are they doing, man?? Sonny asked in a voice filled with disbelief at what he was seeing. As if in answer, the two attackers leaped off the ledge, fearlessly, and disappeared from Frank and Sonny?s sight. Frank and Sonny made a dash for the ledge, Sonny stopping momentarily to look at the still raging victim, ?Oh-man---,? he said in quiet horror, before catching up to Frank. ?Where did they go, man?? Sonny shouted when he reached Frank. Searching the ground several stories below, he saw nothing that could have broken a person?s fall to the sidewalk, or shortened the distance to go down. ?They disappeared!? Frank yelled in confusion and frustration before straightening up to look at Sonny. Sonny started to yell in his own hysterical confusion, ?HOW DO YOU---?? His words were cut off by an unexpected sound that came from right behind them. It was like an eruption of wind. The two officers turned with wide, panicked eyes to see the blonde man?s body suddenly burst into flames. Frozen to the spot momentarily, they both ran to the victim?s side, not daring to get too close to the flaming body. The blonde turned his head to look at them, no longer letting out the enraged roars. His gaze seemed to lock more on Sonny than on both. ?Tell my prince?I told them nothing,? his unusual strength seemed to be quickly fading away as he went on, ?I gave them NOTHING.? Although he should have been screaming in pain from the flames that where covering his chest, he seemed lucid, but tired. ?Now?I am?FREE?? he announced quietly, before his eyes shut, and he let out one final breath and became completely still. CHAPTER 2 The blonde man?s charred body was taken to the precinct?s coroner. It lay quietly in the examination room, the long metal bar still sticking out of it, like a ghastly cross. The mid-morning sunlight was diffused by the glass-brick windows, and reflected off the glossy mint green and off white paint on the walls. Stainless steel shelves, cabinets, and carts that were filled with glass and plastic containers also seemed to boost the lighting in the stark room. Overhead, huge, uncovered pipes that had been painted a glossy blue-green snaked across the ceiling of the hospital basement. A large, standing fan groaned in the corner, diminishing the heat that was already beginning to build as the hours passed. Sonny and Frank made their way there after finishing the report on the events that happened up until then. The coroner was a tall, gaunt figure of about forty-five, with light brown hair that was going gray. His large, kindly brown eyes were about the only thing that kept his beakish nose from dominating his face. He wore a long, white medical jacket over a white and blue striped dress shirt and paisley tie. Over the white jacket, he wore a transparent, plastic blue apron. ?They jabbed?im in the chest with this antenna and somehow set?im on fire,? Frank told the coroner grudgingly after being asked what had killed the victim. Frank kept his mouth shut about the fact that the dead man had been roaring savagely up until he?d burst into flames. When things had settled down, the fire had been put out, and the ambulance had come to take away the body, Frank had gotten a look at where the antenna had been driven in. The guy shouldn?t?ve been able t?scream like that, much less talk. ?Yeah?? the old coroner seemed mildly intrigued, but skeptical. He bent down closer to the corpse, looking for something that seemed to be missing. ?What was the accelerant?? He asked as if it were a common, everyday question. ?We didn?t find any,? Sonny admitted reluctantly after a quick, nervous glance at Frank. He stiffened, knowing the inevitable was coming?again. It had been hard enough going through the questions that had been asked before they?d made it here. The coroner?s eyes widened in surprise, ?You found nothing?gas can, lighter fluid?? His voice rose in quiet astonishment, as he fixed his eyes on Sonny. Just looking at the body, the coroner couldn?t believe that this much damage could have been done to a live victim unless something extremely flammable was used to fuel the fire. ?Nothing.? Sonny enunciated with finality. Before the ambulance team was allowed to bring the body here, other officers had painstakingly scoured the area, collecting up all physical bits of evidence that remained. Even before now, the question kept coming up: what caused the fire? Sonny remembered the suspicious looks that he and Frank got from the other officers, as if they might be withholding information from their comrades. ?X-rays of the TEETH, Sharon! That?s all I really care about!? Frank told the coroner abruptly. He wanted to stop a repeat of the questions that there were no logical answers for. He walked around the examination table behind the coroner and yanked at his arm to turn his face towards him. ?I have t?confirm that this is Julian Luna?s bodyguard, Stevie Ray!? Frank tried to draw his own thoughts away from what was really bothering him. Just a few seconds sooner, and maybe this guy would still be alive. Maybe, if he just hadn?t allowed himself the luxury of the banter with Sonny, he?d have a living person to question. The informant that had led him here?did he know this guy was gonna die? Sure, the guy may have worked for Luna as his bodyguard, but did that mean he deserved what had happened to him? The words of the dying man still haunted him, along with image of the ice-blue eyes that looked at him just before they closed for the last time. What had he meant by ?now I am free?? What the hell kind of life had he been living? ?Who d?you think speaks for him?? Sharon demanded indignantly, waving a hand at the corpse. ?Who will tell HIS story?? The coroner looked at the two cops with an almost hurt expression. It wasn?t Julian Luna who had murdered this man, and that?s exactly what Sharon saw right now. Not a body, not a corpse, but a man?a life that had been defiled. He didn?t care about Julian Luna; he cared about finding the two who had actually ripped away the life of this person. ?Unless you tell me what REALLY happened, you won?t get a DAMN thing out?ve me,? he said stubbornly. Frank planted his hands on his hips, looking defeated. ?There was no gas?he just BURST into flames---HE was the accelerant!? Okay, it didn?t make sense, but that?s what Sharon asked for, and that?s what they found. That?s all they knew. ?Spontaneous combustion? Y?gonna put THAT in your report?? Sharon looked at Frank in sarcastic challenge. The body, now evidence for the case they were working on, was his now. It was up to him to determine the cause of death. Usually, it was perfectly obvious?usually. On top of the two police officers coming in and both saying that they weren?t sure WHAT killed the victim, they were unusually agitated and tight lipped. In the habit of protocol, he?d asked them how the victim died when they came in. He?d expected to hear that the death happened shortly after the victim was stabbed with the antenna. Instead, a few uneasy moments passed before Frank had admitted that they weren?t sure. Frank glared at Sharon, obviously struggling with what to actually say. He looked away as his lips moved to form the silent word ?no?. A second later, his eyes turned to Sonny, who remained calm, but silent. ?How?d you get the fire out?? Sharon asked, breaking the building tension of the moment. There were substances that that took certain measures in order to stop them from feeding a fire. How the fire was put out might be the clue as to what started it in the first damn place. Frank took in a deep breath, knowing what the coroner was aiming for?and he didn?t want to give him the answer that he had. ?I covered?im with a tarp, and?e went out.? He looked down at the body after waving at it himself as he spoke. There was no reason that Sharon shouldn?t disbelieve him. It shouldn?t have been that easy. With the way the flames were going, just covering him with a tarp shouldn?t have been enough, not that fast, at least. Sharon, of all people would know that. His gaze fell back on Sharon and he waited for a reaction. To his horror, Sharon?s skepticism gave way to enthusiasm. ?Extraordinary?? Sharon mused out loud, and bent down to look at the victim more closely. ? ?you know how long I?ve DREAMED about this kinda case---spontaneous burning of living tissue?? He looked down at the victim?s body as if just discovering a priceless treasure, ?I?ve never seen it?? he nearly whispered in obvious awe. ?I?m wanna spend some time with this body?? he murmured eagerly as he reached down below his chin to put his safety goggles on. His eyes were fixing down on the corpse longingly. ?Sonny, let?s go,? Frank said, knowing it was time to give up?for now. Sharon was as good as gone. Frank knew that. Besides, if they left Sharon in peace for now, then maybe he would find the answers to the mystery of how the damn thing went up in flames to begin with. Too many weird things were tallying up?a guy screaming with a pole of metal planted in his lung, then bursting into flame for no reason. Two guys just jump off a roof that had been eight stories up and disappear before he can reach the edge to look down. Oh, not to mention, how come the victim hardly lost any blood? A wound like that should have?well, gushed, especially since the other two had been pinning him down. His heart should have been pumping like crazy, especially the way he was?roaring. Of course, Frank also wanted to get out of there?just in case Sharon found answers that weren?t logical-every-day explanations. ?That guy get?s stiff over stiffs,? Frank grumbled, as they left Sharon, and passed through the next room which had a line of covered bodies on gurneys. ?Are you sure about those perps goin? over the wall, man?? Sonny asked as he found himself chasing after Frank again. Now seemed like as good as time as any to jog Frank?s memory while the events were still fresh in his mind. Now that things were settled down a little, and the pressure was off from those who showed up AFTER what had happened, maybe there was something that Frank might remember. Maybe there was some piece that just got overlooked in all the excitement. The image was still fresh in Frank?s mind. All he had seen was the completely flat brick wall of the building going straight down to a wide, empty sidewalk, and equally empty street. There had been a single streetlamp, and a bus sign pole, but both had been too far away from the top of the roof to help make a safe landing. Not only that, but even if there had been some mechanical set up to help the two killers, there should?ve been something for him to see. There was a covered manhole, but it would have taken time to lift, climb down, and recover. He?d made it to the edge and looked in plenty of time to catch a glimpse of SOMETHING. ?Sonny, I told y?already: no fire escapes, no ropes---that?s eight stories down!? He stopped suddenly and whirled around to face Sonny with his last words. ?Look! I gotta bad feelin? about this.? Now that he seemed to have Frank?s attention, he was going to try and make good use of it. ?You know what stakes through the heart are used for, don?t you?? He spoke with his hands nearly as much as with his voice, perhaps to hold Frank?s attention a little longer. ?Let?s walk away from the Luna case, man!? This time, he let the sound of desperation come through in his voice. Maybe Frank would hear that, if not words of reason. ?Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah?there?s normal every day reasons for this.? Frank raised his own hands as he spoke, waving them as if to halt Sonny?s suggestions. On a face that had been wrought with frustration and helplessness, an expression of new hope took over. ?I ain?t gonna let these mob guys get away with this macabre crap,? he vowed with, as he reached briefly to grasp the back of Sonny?s neck with tender reassurance. A moment later, he was marching out the nearest door that led to the rest of the hospital. Sonny seemed to think briefly, before following Frank out the door. He said nothing, and simply let Frank take the lead. CHAPTER 3 In one window of the beautifully carved mansion doors, an etched glass image of a wolf?s eyes seemed to come alive in a moment when glowing white eyes looked out behind them. A silent figure stood on the other side of the doors. Except for the unnaturally incandescent eyes, the figure appeared to be a perfectly normal young man, dressed in a black suit and tie, complimented by a French-blue dress-shirt. His hair was nearly black and slicked back on his head in a stylish fashion. His features seemed perhaps Italian, or maybe Spanish. Heavy dark eyebrows accented a strong, well shaped face that was flawless and clean-shaven. Even with the suit, his smooth fluid movements spoke of a lean, well-muscled body. Many could easily expect to find such a man within the pages of GQ magazine. A low, slightly gravely voice came from behind the young man, ?Be patient Luna. The sun?s almost down. Whoever did this is hoping you will frenzy?make a mistake.? Soft footsteps joined the soothing drone of the calm voice. They made their way slowly down a couple of marble steps and across the continuing marble flooring in the large foyer. The young man, addressed as ?Luna? bowed his head as he leaned his hands against the doors, ?He was not only my bodyguard, he was my friend,? he announced with an edge of pain in his voice. He turned around to face the older man that was speaking to him, ?They staked him out in the sun like dead meat and burned him like a beast,? the rage was just barely contained in his words now, ?Someone must pay for this,? he said in a low growl before crossing the lavish, black marble floor to stand in front of the older man. The older man?s patients didn?t falter even when the younger man stalked towards him with murder in his eyes. A few inches taller than Luna, he looked to be in his early to mid fifties, with graying, receding hair, and a strange handsomeness of his own. He wore brown dress slacks, a smoke- colored dress shirt with no tie, and a chocolate brown corduroy sports coat. ?It?s not the events that determine. We can?t control them. It?s the reaction to the events.? The words themselves spoke of a practiced detachment that could only have been honed by experience, whatever strange experience that might be. He moved closer to Luna, and then reached into the younger man?s jacket with one hand. ?Allow your heart to stop?rage won?t help us.? He instructed Luna softly. It should have seemed like an odd thing to say, but Luna responded as if it were a perfectly normal conversation. He looked down where the other man had his hand on him, and then looked back up into the older man?s face. He stood still, with a look of concentration on his face. The rage in his eyes seemed to fade, along with the strange white glow. He stared calmly then, out of eyes that didn?t quite match. The right eye was almost black, while the left eye was a normal dark brown Watching carefully, the older man seemed satisfied when Luna?s shoulders relaxed and withdrew his hand. He raised his chin slightly before speaking to Luna again, ?Now here are the questions we have to ask: how is it these two cops happen to find Stevie Ray?s body before is was consumed by fire?? Luna started to turn away from the older man, bitterness obvious in his expression and voice, ?I don?t believe in coincidences.? ?Neither do I,? the older man added softly without hesitation. ?Also,? he went on with a little more volume in his voice for emphasis, ?how does this cop know so much about us? The Kindred in the department don?t know?? His question seemed to echo against varnished hardwood walls. The air rang for a moment over flights of elaborately carved stairs, and up to the extensively high ceiling. Luna took a few slow steps away from the older man as he was listening, then stopped and seemed to struggle with the only idea that came to mind. There was no other way these things could have happened, and there was no was to deny it. He turned to face the older man again, dangerous determination flashing in his eyes, ?We have a traitor among us,? he announced ominously. CHAPTER 4 In an elegant restaurant where the gentle sound of live piano music was playing, Frank sat at a white cloth-covered table in a booth across from a beautiful woman. He was showered, and freshly dressed in slacks, dress shirt, tie, and blazer. Between them were the remains of two salads. There was also a half-eaten dinner roll, one glass of red wine, a glass of beer, and a single red rose in a small crystal vase. A small lamp sat further off to the side by the wall with the salt and peppershakers. Higher up, above the booth, a large silkscreen painting decorated their section of the wall. It depicted, in life-size, a woman in a red dress that revealed her long slender leg and red shoe, as she at a black lacquered bar, holding a glass of champagne, with a man dressed in a tux and top-hat, holding a cigarette as he stood at her side. ?So, did you chose this place because it?s cozy?n romantic, or because Julian won?t find us out here?? He asked his company in a pleasantly teasing voice. The woman?s angelic face was framed by short blonde hair that swirled in soft waves, almost exactly like the woman in the painting above. The woman sitting in front of Frank, though, was wearing white; a sleeveless silk dress, and a transparent shawl that draped all the way down to the bottom of her dress?s short skirt. ?You have no idea how powerful he is,? she said in a soft murmur, giving him an undaunted smile before taking a sip from her wine goblet. She folded her arms in front of her and looked at him adoringly. ?I?m startin? t?get a pretty good idea.? Frank?s tone became more serious, but still remained pleasant. He reached over and tore off a small chunk from his dinner roll, but rolled it around in his hand instead of eating it. ?He?s got his finger in a lot of pies: the docks, construction, restaurants, entertainment?? His eyes seemed to start seeing into somewhere else, beyond the young beauty in front of him, and didn?t notice the worry that began to show on her face. A knowing, mischievous glint danced in the pale gray eyes looking back at Frank. ??but?e likes t?stay in the shadows?? the woman added with a mystery-tinged whisper. Frank smirked at her comment, but started losing himself to the returning frustration of the day?the whole case. ?I don?t really care how many strings he?s pullin?, I?m gonna nail his ass. Now that I gotta body I can connect?im to, I?m gonna yank him outta that big mansion on the hill.? He let out a little huff after his irritable announcement. ?I don?t wanna talk about him,? she said with certain dismissal, then turned her eyes up to him with a seductive gaze. ?That?s in the past,? she clarified sweetly, and then brought her wine-goblet back up to her lips to punctuate her words. Frank was immediately silenced. His mind came back to the here and now, completely seeing the exquisite creature just a few feet in front of him. A satisfied smile came across his face, as he looked her over, taking in her remarkable beauty. In the next moment, he felt his face heating up when her hint sank in of what she did want him to talk about. The woman watched Frank?s face as he smiled at her with a sideways grin, but she noticed the reddening in his cheeks and ears. ?You?re blushing?? she exclaimed quietly, and reached out a hand to touch the side of his face. ?I didn?t know men did that anymore.? Frank laughed softly, slightly embarrassed, but took the opportunity to clasp her hand gently in his. He stiffened, and his smile was replaced by a look of worry. ?Your hand?s like ice,? he told her in mild surprise. The woman seemed to lose her well-practiced composure just slightly. She pulled the shawl tighter around her shoulders with an apologetic glance. ?Well, it?s a little chilly in here?and I?m starving,? she withdrew her hand self- consciously, and rested it against the side of her neck in a dainty pose. Although she tried to smile reassuringly at him, there was a strange nervousness in her eyes. Frank was watching her more closely now, wondering if he needed to take her home and let her get some rest. ?You look a little pale,? he said as he made a soft swirling motion of the back of his finger against his own face. The woman stared back at him, as though trying to decide what to do or say. She finally straightened, and began to slide across the seat. ?Let me go freshen up,? she said with strained confidence, then withdrew from the booth. ?I?ll be right back,? she promised softly. Frank watched her leave, not questioning or arguing. Maybe it was near ?that time of month? for her. Nonetheless, he watched her carefully. If she didn?t look better after they ate, he?d simply take her home and tuck her into bed for the night. The beautiful blonde strode with cat-like grace down a carpeted isle, past booths occupied by other diners, and disappeared into the ladies restroom. On the other side of the door she entered was a small, more brightly lit room, made to look bigger by mirrors over the black marble counters. Her pumps clacked on the tiled floors, the sound echoing softly as she passed the only other woman in there. The other woman looked just a little younger than the blonde, with dark brown hair that came to the base of her slender neck. A silky black dress with slit sleeves and skirt side complimented her dark hair and eyes. She seemed however to not notice Frank?s dinner companion come through the door, as she stood looking down at a section of the counter that had lines of white power on it. The blonde went to the farthest sink and turned on the water. As she went through the motions of washing her hands, she used the mirrors to check the open space below the stalls behind her. She also observed the other woman for a moment, before taking one of the rolled hand-towels near her and walking over to where she stood. She leaned against the counter a few feet away from the brunette, who looked up at her with obviously subdued cognition. ?I hope you don?t mind,? she said to the blonde. Her polite smile only partially veiled her concern. ?No,? Frank?s companion told the brunette with a reassuring smile and slight shake of her head. ?Would you like to try some?? The brunette held a small, stainless steel tube out to her with feigned confidence. The blonde looked down at the small lines of powder, and almost seemed to be trying to make a decision. With the slightest shrug of one shoulder, she shook her head. ?No. Thank you,? she declined the brunette?s offer casually. Not a second later, the brunette?s attention was back to the counter, which she bent over so that her face was right over it. The blonde walked past her, setting the used towel on the counter next to the brunette. Just as she reached the door, she turned to speak, ?Those are beautiful earrings,? she said clearly, just as her hand made contact with the door handle. As if being ready for such a statement, the brunette turned to face her with a seductive gaze. ?Would you like to see them up close,? she asked in blatant invitation. The blonde?s hand moved not to open the door, but to turn the lock with a loud click. ?Yeah,? she replied in a sultry near-whisper. She moved with slow, deliberate steps, holding eye contact with the other woman until she was nearly toe-to-toe with her. The brunette turned her head to bring one earring into better view?along with her lovely profile. ?Mmmm---? she purred and shut her eyes when the blonde reached out a hand and trailed a fingernail gently down her neck while touching the long ornate earring. ?You know, earrings this showy?a girl has t?be sure she wants that much attention?? the blonde cooed sweetly. With a deft move of her hand she reached under the brunette?s chin and coaxed her to face her again with gentle fingertips. The brunette responded to the gently guiding touch, and turned her head. When she opened her eyes, she blinked once in confusion, and then seemed to stand frozen as if mesmerized. The pale gray of the eyes that locked onto hers was replaced by a strange white glow. A few moments later, the blonde stepped out of the ladies restroom. She glanced around, as if checking with mild caution. Swallowing a couple of times, she ran her tongue over her teeth and adjusted her shawl around her shoulders. Her hand came near the small dark red spot on her otherwise perfectly white dress, but she seemed totally unaware of it. With a lift of her chin, she sauntered back to the table where Frank was sitting. ?Hmmmm? Warm hands?cold heart?? she purred to Frank as she sat down across from him with a strange expression of satisfaction on her face. Frank smiled at her, relieved that she was looking so much better, and pleased as hell that she was once again giving him that very open seductive stare. His attention was drawn away from her suddenly when he heard a woman?s moan and one of the waiters exclaim,?Oh! Miss!? As other diners were exclaiming in surprise, Frank looked up to see a young woman come out of the ladies restroom. A waiter caught her as she fell in a faint, but she seemed to recover and stand again. ?Is everything okay?? A man wearing a tux asked when he reached her. The woman looked around in confusion and seemed to be well enough to answer. ?I must?ve hit my head?? she said groggily. The man in the tux took her by the arm to guide her to a place to sit ?Oh! Right this way?? he said worriedly. Frank looked as if he were thinking about going to make sure the woman was all right. Being a cop, he?d learned how to tell when a person might have a serious problem that wasn?t visible. Before he had a chance to think any harder about it, the waitress came with their dinner. ?Here we are, Madame?two steaks, rare,? the waitress set one plate down in front of the blonde, then set the other plate in front of Frank, ?Sir?? Frank?s eager eyes were now on the food in front of him. As he reached for his fork, he remembered his date?s specifications as to how she wanted her meal cooked. ?You know, I knew we were gonna get along when you ordered your steak very, very rare,? he commented with sincere pleasure. Leaning forward, knife and fork at the ready, the beautiful blonde chuckled almost wickedly, ?Bon appetite---? she told him as she began cutting into her steak. She paused just long enough to cast him an unquestionable look of desire? * * * Luna came out of the doors he?d been staring out of earlier. The sky was a dark blue, tinged with a red/pink glow. The stairs he moved down hurriedly were of the same granite that the rest of the mansion was made of, or perhaps a light gray marble. Stairway and all, the mansion almost looked as if it had been carved rather than built where it was. A sleek black Mercedes limousine was parked at the bottom of those stairs. Two suited men waited at either end of the stairs, like sentinels. There was a third man, shirt and tie under a leather driver?s jacket, long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, and holding the back passenger door open. Even though on his own private grounds, Luna?s eyes seemed to dart around, his head turning quickly in alternating directions. It almost seemed as if he were expecting someone uninvited on his property to suddenly jump out at him. And even in the growing darkness of early evening, he almost seemed to squint slightly, as if the fading light that could be perceived was enough to cause him discomfort. Halfway down the steps, he spoke, ?I?d like to go to the club, Billy.? To be continued?