Round Robin 2

	Archon pressed a fingertip to his lip and silently studied the single red rose set in the 
middle of his bed.  Like a royal sword of state, the bloom dominated the dark green 
damask of the bedspread.  It even took command of the four tall posts and great carved 
headboard, glowing softly crimson in the low light of the room.  Only his breathing broke the 
fixed silence of the room, of the entire house.  He was alone, or so he thought.  
	Julian was working late at the newspaper with Caitlin, and had taken his driver Billy to 
wait on him.  The Prince found many excuses to stay close to the Byrne woman, having 
promoted her to managing editor when he purchased the paper.  Archon longed for the 
moment when Julian would realize that his dalliance with the human would lead only to 
danger.  
	Lillie was at The Haven.  She had been attending to matters at her club day and 
night, not so much that The Haven needed her full attention, but that it gave her an excuse 
to be absent from the home she and Julian shared.  
	Sasha and Cash were in Portland on an errand for the Prince.  Daedalus had 
gathered his Nosferatu for a meeting in some dark isolated warehouse that only the 
Nosferatu knew.  The house and grounds staff had gone for the night, except for four of 
Cash's Gangrels out at the gate and along the estate perimeter.  
	Dropping his hand to his chest, folding his arms together, Archon reared back his 
head, deep in the beauty of this rose.  
	Lillie, he thought.  Lillie had left a Toreador rose in his room.  He had argued with her 
days ago, and they had not spoken since.  He thought it wrong for her to support Eddie 
Fiori in the recent conclave debate on who would control the licensing of Pacific rim imports.  
Julian wanted to allocate licensing and distribution through the markets controlled by Ventrue 
and Toreador.  Eddie wanted to control it through his shipping outlets, dominated entirely 
by the Brujah.  Lillie's support of the Brujah Primogen puzzled Archon, for it left her 
Toreador out of any licensing agreements.  
	Finally stepping to the side of his bed, he picked up the rose and passed it under 
his nose.  Its bouquet soothed him. 
	Then a creak on the backstairs to the upper hall gallery broke the fragrant spell.  He 
turned to his open door.  A shadow leaned against the archway to his room.  It was Lillie.  
He knew that lithe frame with the long legs and dark hair.  
	Smiling, he presented the rose to her.  "It is most lovely, Lillie.  A kind thought or a 
peace offering?"  
	"And what makes you think I gave you a rose?"  
	"You would not be here otherwise."  
	Stepping across the wooden floor onto the great Oriental rug at the room's center, 
Lillie squarely faced him.  "It's a peace offering."  After a pause, she added, "And a kind 
thought as well."  
	"I'm touched.  What has brought you to make such a gesture?"  
	Lillie walked to the fireplace and dropped into one of the chairs before the hearth.  
"Eddie is selfish and heavy-handed."  She swung one long leg over the other, her black 
stockings sheer against her pale skin.  
	"And this is a revelation?"  
	"He's even worse than before."  Lillie then turned to Julian's sire and mentor.  "He 
came to The Haven a few nights ago.  He was proud and arrogant as ever, but this time, he 
has broken the Prince's law."  
	Archon stroked the rose along one palm and studied the Toreador Primogen, 
waiting, knowing she would explain.  
	"He has increased Brujah numbers, Archon.  He has embraced against the Prince's 
will."  
	"Why did you not say something to Julian?"  
	Lillie averted her head.  "I didn't believe Eddie."  
	Archon let go a low laugh.  "Lillie, I know you.  Of course you believe Eddie.  You 
thought it was to your advantage to keep the information from Julian, but now you do not.  
Let me suggest that you tell me why."  
	With a soft rustle of her dress, Lillie swiveled in the chair, looking up to Archon as he 
moved to stand over her.  Her voice almost a whisper, she said, "He knows that Cash and 
the staff are gone."  
	In the next instant, Archon dropped the rose to the floor where it broke apart in an 
explosion of petals.  He raced through the door and flew down the front stairs, his footsteps 
ringing throughout the hall and stairwell.  He didn't care if Lillie followed.  He had to reach the 
Gangrel sentry.  He had to contact Billy.  He had to warn Julian.  The moment, he reach the 
gate, the headlights of a dozen cars strafed the night.  Brujah.  The clicking sound of metal on 
metal punctuated the murmur of idling motors as Cash's Gangrels targeted each car in a 
patterned sweep.  After a tense moment, the engines shut off one by one until one door 
opened and the Brujah Primogen sauntered out.  
	"It's rather late for a social visit, Eddie," Archon said through the closed gate.  
	A slow smile lifted one side of Eddie's sharply chiseled face.  Finally, he said, "I've 
come to talk to our Prince."  
	"With so many as escort?"  
	"We want to keep him safe."  Eddie moved toward the gate.  "We hear that his 
Gangrel bodyguard is absent."  
	"Prince Julian is safe and well."  Archon then looked back to the mansion, to the array 
of Gangrels behind him.  He gestured to them.  "As you can see."  
	"I see nothing but a pack of gypsies."  
	Archon then stepped to the bars of the gate.  He leaned forward and folded his 
arms over his chest. After an edgy pause, his voice low and hard, he stated, "Take care that 
they are not Assamites."  
	With that, Eddie drew a deep breath through his flared nostrils.  He made no remark.  
He stiffened, then whirled back to his car, dove in, and before the door was shut, called out 
to his driver to speed away.  
	Archon remained at the gate.  He stood still, without moving, almost without breath.  
The Gangrels inched toward him, and when the racing motors faded down the hill and back 
into the night, Lillie swept down the mansion steps, calling out to Archon.  Only then did he 
turn around.  
	"What did he want?" she asked, wrapping her shawl tightly around her shoulders.  
The night seemed to have taken a sudden chill...in many ways.  "Did he hurt Julian?"  
	"No, he did not.  He believes Julian is here."  
	"But why would he -- " 
	'Toreador," Archon sliced her off.  "When will you ever learn that your dalliances with 
this Brujah are going to be your undoing?  Some Brujah have reason; they understand how 
Kindred are all integrated to our advantage.  But this one -- this Eddie Fiori -- he will be to 
our detriment."  
	Archon then marched back to the mansion, with Lillie trailing behind.  The Gangrels  
stepped aside as the two Primogens passed up the stairs.  
	"'I should have told Julian," she said.  
	"There are many actions you should have taken.  But you sit back to see which way 
the pendulum swings.  One day, time will run out."  
	"Are you going to tell him?"  
	At the top of the steps, Archon stopped.  "I must."  
	"No, I must.  Please," Lillie begged.  "I'll tell him."  
	"Only in my presence."  
	She lowered her head, "If that's how you want it."  
	"What I want is for you to know that Julian is Prince."  
	"But I know that!"  
	"Lillie, you still see him as your lover.  And because you cannot see beyond that, 
you allow your jealousy to cloud your role as merely one of the Primogens under his reign.  
Take care that you make no offense against The Masquerade."  With that, he marched into 
the mansion where they all lived -- he, Julian, and Lillie -- leaving her standing at the top of 
the stairs with the Gangrels staring up at her.  Archon knew their thoughts.  He wondered if 
she did, and if she did, he wondered if she would be alarmed.  
	Upon returning to his room, he stepped into the red rose petals scattered across the 
floor.  How is it that she understands the folly of her actions, he though, yet persists, only to 
fall back and request forgiveness?  
	His private telephone rang.  
	"Yes," he said plainly, scooping up the handset.  It was Julian.  
	After a short pause, he replied, "No, Julian.  You must come home tonight.  Events 
are underway that we must examine."  
	There was another pause.  
	"No, it will not wait until morning.  You must come home, and you must come home 
now."  
	After another interlude of quiet within the room, Archon said, "It has to do with Eddie 
and Lillie."  Pause.  "Good, and I would suggest that you have Billy take an alternate route 
home, something that the Brujah would not anticipate."  
	When he hung up the phone, he turned to find Lillie retrieving the rose remains from 
the floor.  "Is he on his way?" she asked.  
	"You get your wish.  He will not be with the Byrne woman tonight."  
	"I'm so sorry."  
	"You are being exceptionally penitent.  What else is there that you have not 
divulged?"  
	"Nothing.  I told you that Eddie knew Cash was away and that he had Embraced 
without permission.  That's all there is."  
	He stared down at her as she looked up from her crouch with the petals in one hand.  
"Leave it," he stated flatly.  
	Lillie rose and left the room.  
	One red petal remained on the floor.  At first, Archon wanted to tromp it, to smash it 
with his shoe, to smear it over the floorboards.  Instead, he stooped down and picked it up, 
cradling it within one hand.  The petal was Lillie.  

				###

	When Julian called to him from the stairs, Archon left his room to join his Prince in his 
office.  A single lamp on the desk lit the room.  Lillie was already there seated before 
Julian's desk.  Archon gave her a slight nod and sat next to her.  Julian perched on the 
corner of his desk.  The rest of the universe lay in shadows around them.  Only the three 
figures bathed in the soft light sat at the core of the world.  
	Finally, Julian spoke, "Lillie tells me that you had an encounter with Eddie at the gate."  
	"Yes, and did she tell you how it was that Eddie came to be at the gate?"  
	Julian flashed his attention to Lillie.  
	Archon watched her stir in her chair, then gather her pride and sit up.  
	"I don't know how he found out that Cash has been gone for a few days and that 
Daedalus was out tonight, but he knew."  
	"When?" Julian asked.  
	"Three days ago...on Tuesday."  
	Julian's face soured in disbelief.  "And you didn't tell me?"  
	"No."  She lowered her gaze.  
	"Why not?"  
	"It didn't seem important."  
	"When Eddie is concerned, it is important."  
	"I'll remember the next time."  
	Julian stood away from the desk and came around behind Lillie.  'There may not be 
a next time."  
	"There's more," Archon said.  
	Lillie quickly added, "Eddie has Embraced without your permission."  
	Julian quickly stepped around to face her.  "And this you also kept from me?"  
	When she suddenly stood up and approached him, Julian stepped back.  "Get 
away from me," he demanded.  
	"What are you going to do, Julian?" she asked, her anger adding an edge to her 
words.  "Are you going to send your Gangrels after them, like dogs after a poor animal?  
Are you going to hide in your mansion until they've done your work for you?"  
	Julian quickly turned on her.  "That's what they do!  I am the Prince, Lillie!"  
	"And I am the Toreador Primogen!"  
	"Then conduct yourself as one, and not as some long past lover whom I allow to 
wind her way in and out of my life at will.  That is going to stop, and it is going to stop right 
now."  
	Julian then stormed to the other side of his desk.  
	Lillie continued, "And what happens when Eddie finds out about Caitlin Byrne, 
Julian?  What happens when he and his Brujah ravage her to get to you?  Are you going to 
just say: 'This is going to stop and it is going to stop right now'?  Huh?  Or will you brutalize 
him for the loss of your human lover?"  She paused for only a breath.  "We need a Prince 
who has Kindred and The Masquerade uppermost and foremost in 
his mind.  You are not that Prince, Julian!"  
	"Do I say anything about your dalliances with the young men who catch your eye?" 
Julian sneered.  "Your club is a haven for your little intrigues."  
	"There is no comparison!" she fired back.  
	Archon then stood and walked between the desk and Lillie.  He turned to Julian.  
"Lillie is right, Julian.  I cannot support what she does, but I can give some support to why."  
	"And you called me back from my evening for this?"  Julian said, gesturing between 
Lillie and Archon.  "Excuse me."  And he left the room.  
	Archon sighed.  "It would have been much better for you to inform Julian of Eddie's 
infractions and his awareness that Cash was away.  You have been very unwise lately, 
especially for a woman so intelligent and savvy as yourself.  First you support Eddie in his 
struggle for the import licensing, then you deny Julian important information -- information 
related to the one and the same Eddie Fiori."  
	"What can I do now?"  
	"Do nothing.  You lack reason right now.  Julian lacks reason as well.  I will tend to 
Eddie."  
	"You?  How?"  
	Archon smiled.  "Do you think I would tell you?"  With that, he left Lillie alone in the 
empty lamplight.  

			###

	When Billy parked outside the Dock Worker's Hall, Archon gazed up to the window 
where Eddie conducted the business of running the docks, of running the Brujah, of 
dreaming of taking the Princehood.  
	"Are you sure you want to go in alone?" Billy asked.  
	"'Wanting to' and 'having to' are two different things.  Wait until I return.  If I'm not back 
within an hour, leave and get Julian."  
	The door to the building opened as Archon stepped away from the car.  The ground 
floor smelled of dust and age.  It was cluttered with tools and an apparatus here and there 
for the various dock workers, humans and Kindred side-by-side.  If the humans only knew.  
Led to the stairs, Archon followed his Brujah escort up the creaking planks, across the short 
hall, and into Eddie's office.  
	Eddie sat there staring hard at Archon.  His eyes followed his guest until the escort 
left and Archon was seated before him.  
	"I'm pleased that you came alone," Eddie remarked.  "It shows that you might have a 
little trust left in that old body of yours."  
	"Not at all, Eddie. But let's get down to business, shall we?  You have broken the 
Prince's law."  
	"There would be no Brujah left if we did not increase our numbers!  How can a Prince 
be so cruel as to let a clan die out in his city?" 
	Archon raised a hand to pause Eddie's pending tirade.  "There is room for 
negotiation on this matter.  You would do well to learn Cyrus's skills and patience."  
	"Leave Cyrus out of this."  
	"Very well.  May I continue?"  
	Eddie breezed one hand through the air and sat back.  
	"What is your prime concern," Archon asked, "increasing Brujah numbers or taking the 
Princehood?"  
	"I never said I wanted to be Prince."  
	"You don't have to, Eddie.  Everyone knows you think Julian has failed as Prince.  
Everyone knows you believe you should take his place.  So, what is it -- more Brujah or the 
Princehood?"  
	Eddie pondered a moment, then replied, "More Brujah. I want the Prince and our 
Conclave to recognize my right to raise the numbers of my Clan."
	Archon nodded. Neither he nor Eddie was stupid enough to think that this answer 
had changed how Eddie felt about Julian and the Princehood.
	"Then this is what you should do..."
	It didn't take long for him to explain to Eddie the legal reasoning that could be used 
to convince the Conclave and, through the Conclave, Julian. In fact it was a lot easier than he 
had expected. A small voice in the back of his head whispered that maybe he had 
underestimated the Brujah Primogen, but the rest of his mind immediately dismissed the 
thought. Eddie had been watched carefully by Ventrue since his arrival in San Francisco 
some thirty years earlier fresh from his and Cyrus' victory in L.A. It was Eddie's arrogance 
which made it seem like he had already thought all these things and that now Archon was 
playing right into his hands. Perhaps it was time to remind Eddie of some of his many 
mistakes.
	"The strongest problem will be to convince Julian. Without the support of the 
Conclave, you'll fail completely. Embracing Sasha Luna was a very bad miscalculation on 
your part, Eddie. You thought you could hit out at Julian and Cash in one go, but you never 
even considered that the other Clans might get involved. Lillie has always known what side 
her bread was buttered on. You see Julian only as the Prince, but to Lillie he is her lover first 
and Prince second."
	Archon took a chance that Lillie had never revealed to Eddie her attempt to keep her 
Toreador out of the final showdown over Sasha. Figuring Lillie deserved to get in a little 
trouble with Eddie he continued.
	"She was first to offer Julian her support against you. And you should have known 
that with Daedalus in charge, all Julian would have to do is convince the Nosferatu that the 
Masquerade had been threatened by your behavior.  They would immediately join the 
Prince. Maybe Sasha seemed like just a little girl with a vague connection to the Prince, but 
she ended up having four Clans fighting for her."
	"How was I to know she was his niece? She could have been some little toy of his, 
or Cash's for that matter. All I wanted was to force Julian to negotiate like he did when he 
ended the Clan war. Ten years ago, Stevie Ray was allowed to increase the numbers of 
his Clan in exchange for supporting the Prince. Why should I get anything less? Ten years 
and I have nothing to show for it. My Clan is the second smallest in the city. I haven't 
threatened Julian once, haven't broken the Masquerade and the only time I disagree with 
him at the Conclave is when his plans are bad for my Clan. Julian gives no respect to 
Brujah Clan. The other Clans see it and follow his example. Tell me, Archon, how is my 
Clan to have faith in a Primogen that no one respects?"
	"Don't treat me like a fool, Eddie. You're not as innocent as you paint yourself. We 
know you were behind the takeovers of Lillie's clubs in L.A. They didn't just fall into Cyrus' 
hands by themselves. You've done many things to threaten both Julian's personal 
business and those of the other Primogens. That is why they don't respect you. What you 
tried to do could have gone very wrong. Frank Kohanek is still breathing down our necks. A 
Clan War would be very hard to keep secret. The fallout from such an act could have been 
fatal for all of us. Was that what you wanted?"
	"Of course not. We all remember Manzanita Springs. If other Princes decided that 
San Francisco was a threat to the Masquerade, we wouldn't have a chance in Hell."
	Archon had had to fight to keep his face blank when Eddie mentioned Manzanita 
Springs. Of all the people to find out what had really happened that night in 1985...but 
Eddie didn't know, couldn't know. He would have used it to his advantage many years ago. 
He looked at Eddie, but the Brujah Primogen was looking down at his desk. His head was 
bent so that reading his expression was impossible. Straightening his shoulders Archon  
dismissed the notion. Eddie was a greedy, violent animal. One had to be cautious in 
handling him as in all dealings with dangerous animals. But to assume that the man could 
actually have been planning something for over ten years was to give him too much credit.
	"Very well, Eddie. I think we understand each other. Make your proposal at the next 
assembly of the Conclave. I'll make sure Julian listens."
	Standing up to leave, Archon smiled amiably and reached across the desk to shake 
Eddie's hand while making a mental note to wash that hand particularly well before going to 
his day rest.
	They shook hands and Eddie summoned an escort to take Archon to his car. Walking 
towards the door leading outside Archon glanced briefly at his escort and was struck by a 
sense of familiarity.
	"What is your name, Brujah?"
	"Cameron, Sir."
	"Have we met before?"
	"I believe that outside my presentation to the members of the Conclave this is the 
first time since I first arrived in San Francisco."
	Nodding slightly Archon stepped through the door and headed for his car without a 
backward look. Thus, he didn't see the look of hatred that crossed the young Brujah's face 
and made his eyes glow with all the violence of the Beast. Forcing the Beast out of his 
eyes, Cameron turned and went to inform Eddie that the Ventrue Primogen had left. 

          *****

	"Thanks Cameron, that will be all."
	"Yes, Mr. Fiori."
	Leaning back to watch his Clansman leave, Eddie allowed himself a small mental 
sneer. Cameron was country Brujah. Polite when required but a little dumb. He would never 
be anything more than a foot soldier.
	Closing his eyes, Eddie thought back over the conversation. What had been said, 
what had been meant and how he could use it.
	Manzanita Springs. MAN-ZA-NEE-TAH. He could almost taste the word. 
Hopefully, the security cameras had picked up the expression on Archon's face when he'd 
casually mentioned the old incident. It had been a risk, especially since he couldn't afford for 
Archon to think that he, Eddie, knew too much and had to be eliminated. But if the cameras 
had caught Archon's face not to mention the rest of the conversation, it would be worth it. All 
conversation, however innocent, can be turned around and twisted into something it never 
was. 
	His father, an Italian car salesman and con artist, had taught him that many decades 
earlier. Yes, having tonight's little talk on recording would one day prove beneficial. Just as 
having Lillie call Alexandra Serris a problem she wanted to go away on video might prove 
beneficial when it became time to elect a new Prince. 
	But not yet. Just as it was also too soon to bring up Manzanita Springs. It would 
bring down Archon, but it wouldn't hurt the Prince's position. His heart, yes, his position, no. 
Eddie had watched Julian closely over the past decade and felt convinced that the Ventrue 
knew nothing of what had truly happened that night. And Archon would be sure to make 
certain that the other Primogen knew too. It would make Julian miserable to execute his own 
sire, but it wouldn't weaken him. Just as it would weaken but not hurt Julian to put Sonny to 
death. Eddie grinned. He had been thoroughly fooled by Sonny's pretense that he had 
decided to betray Julian.. The Prince had really planned that one beautifully. 
	Still, Eddie knew one thing the Prince didn't. Sonny craved power the same way 
some people craved money, material goods or drugs. Sonny might have managed to 
convince Eddie that he was willing to betray his sire and Prince as well as his Clan. Yet 
Eddie had always planned to kill him once he himself had become Prince. There was 
something too cold about the guy. Besides which he'd learned from watching his own sire 
that there was no place for a traitor when you were trying to consolidate your power. But 
although he had recordings of Sonny feeding secret Kindred information to Frank Kohanek it 
was not the right time for that revelation either. Sonny's connection to the human cop could 
still serve as a way to discredit both him and Julian if properly set up to look like he 
threatened the Masquerade. Eddie knew better than to truly risk anything. The human cop 
would die the moment Eddie became Prince simply on principle, but it was still better not 
to risk anything, at least personally. Nevertheless, when the situation started playing in his 
favor he would play them all against Julian. Archon, Lillie and Sonny.
	All he needed was a couple more months, six at the most, and a little help. Help his 
sire would give him in return for Eddie's support in taking L.A. from another one of Archon's 
pathetic brood. 
	Hmm, a few business acquisitions should do it. Some ventures to threaten the 
business interests of the other primogen would raise a lot of tension (and division, he 
hoped.) Lillie was still fuming over the loss of her clubs. Yes, just a few more months .....
	Getting out of his chair, Eddie briskly put on his jacket. He'd go out for a snack, he 
decided, then come back to compose a message that would be sent by courier to Cyrus. 
Better not risk saying anything over the phone. Happy that everything was settled in his 
mind again, he left his office, wondering briefly what Archon thought had happened here 
tonight.

					###

	Billy secured Archon in the back of the limo then pulled away from the docks, back to 
the hilltop mansion.  "Was he any trouble?" Billy asked, referring to Eddie.  
	Archon hid a smile.  "He is so transparent," he responded.  "He tried to put me off 
stride by mentioning Manzanita Springs, as if the Brujah there did not deserve my wrath. 
"Archon leaned back in the deep leather of the rear seat.  "He is also stupid," he continued.  
"He took the option to increase the Brujah numbers, rather than address the issue of the 
Princehood."  
	"You gave him that option?"  Billy asked, his voice rising with disbelief.
	"Of course not.  I gave him the illusion that he had such an option.  For him to opt for 
the Princehood would deplete his numbers dramatically.  The other clans would hunt them 
down."  
	Driving along the boulevard toward the bay, Billy added, "The Gangrels would do it 
given any reason, but Eddie taking the Princehood would give theme great cause."  
	"The Gangrels need to step back from this one." 
	"Why?"  
	"I have a feeling that this is between me and Eddie, and me and Eddie alone.  No 
Julian, no clans, for that matter.  I once made my will known to the Brujah.  I can do it again."  

				####

	When they arrived back at the mansion, Lillie stepped into the foyer to greet Archon.  
She had a glass of wine in each hand, and following Archon into the front drawing room, she 
press one into his hand.  "What did Eddie say?" she asked, anxiety rasping her voice.  
	"About what, Lillie?"  
	"What did you two talk about?"  
	"If you are asking if we spoke of you, then the answer is that you were barely 
mentioned."  
	With a whisper of "oh," she turned toward the window and gazed out into the night.  
"Well what is there to do?"  
	"Nothing."  
	"Nothing?" She spun back to him.  "Julian's anger with me is beyond baring, the 
Brujah have multiplied their numbers, and you say that there is nothing to do?"  
	"Ah, I thought you were asking for yourself," Archon said.  "Let me elucidate: there is 
nothing for you to do.  I would prefer that you pay more attention to your clubs, especially 
now that many more Brujah may find their way there."  Taking a full sip of the wine, he then 
stated, "There may be an accident about to happen."  
	"Accident?"  
	"They happen all the time, Lillie."  Archon emptied the glass and set it on the table 
near the front parlor door.  "And we've all seen too much death."  With that, he left for his 
rooms upstairs.  

			*** 

	"My Prince, there is a phone call for you from San Francisco. Archon Raine."
	Gazing at nothing in particular Cyrus continued folding the letter in his hands, a 
communiqué from his Childe Eddie Fiori, before placing it on the table in front of him. Finally 
he looked up at the servant. "Put the call through, but do not record it."
	"Not record...but...Sir --"
	"Are you unhappy with your life, Gerald?" The Prince's voice was neither angry nor 
threatening, merely bland, but the servant stiffened and quickly bowed to his master.
	"As you wish, my Prince." 
	"Yes, Gerald, as I wish." Cyrus momentarily entertained the idea of punishing the 
young man for questioning his Prince, but decided against it. When making allies fear had 
always served him better than pain. After all why bother with actual torture when people's 
minds could do the work for you.
	Noticing a blinking light on the phone on his desk he went to answer the call from his 
old adversary. Each word of Eddie's letter fresh in his mind he had a good idea of what 
Archon Raine wanted to discuss with him.
	Half an hour later he hung up. There had been no surprises and as he had thought, 
there had been no reason to record the call as he usually did. Archon had a way with words 
and phrases. A replay of the conversation might cast a slight shadow of doubt on the 
Ventrue Primogen, but that would be entirely obliterated by the taint on Cyrus himself as 
he agreed to help his enemies against the machinations of his own Childe. 
	Yet, he found the phone call quite satisfactory. He had begun to have his doubts 
about Eddie Fiori. Especially after the Embrace of Sasha Luna. The man had helped him 
take L.A from the former Prince, but had seemed to learn nothing in the process. Cyrus 
knew he was different not only from Eddie but from most Brujah. In general his Clansmen 
were violent and even brutal in the pursuit of power. Unlike Cyrus they valued shows of 
force above the strategies of politics. Eddie was like that, Cyrus thought. A sneer crossed 
his face as he recalled the vague wording of the letter from his Childe. No suggestion 
of a plan or a strategy, just a cry for help as if Cyrus didn't have enough to do in L.A. It 
never occurred to the Brujah Prince that Eddie might not trust his sire enough to reveal his 
plans in a letter. Instead, he sat down by the fireplace and began to plot while the 
light from the flames flickered across his face. He would go to San Francisco himself. Once 
there, he would be better able to judge the situation and decide which side to bet on. 
Perhaps Eddie could still be swayed to Cyrus' own way of thinking and what he fondly 
thought of as his cloak-and-dagger methods. Perhaps not.

			***

	Humming to himself, Eddie surveyed the documents on his desk. Everything had 
been planned. Preparations were about to begin. In two months, he would ask his sire to 
commence his part of the endeavor to overthrow Julian Luna. Although his sire had yet to 
reply to the message that Eddie knew he had received two days earlier, there was no need 
to be concerned. The plan was perfect, all the cards where in his hands ready to be played 
whenever he wanted it. Every little detail had been carefully thought out the way Cyrus 
himself had showed him when they had plotted to take L.A. First, he would use his 
knowledge of Archon's and Lillie's mistakes to isolate the Ventrue Clan. Then, he would 
cripple Julian with the betrayals of his loved ones and the subsequent executions. It would 
all come down like dominoes...

			***

	Ending his phone call, Cyrus walked out of his office and got into the car that would 
take him to a private airfield and a jet bound for San Francisco. It had been three days since 
he had received Eddie's letter and the first move had already been made. It would all come 
down like dominoes...

			***

	Eddie's office was empty save for the Brujah Primogen and a lovely young woman 
he had picked up at a bar. Running his hands up and down her body, he watched the 
overhead light play with the undertones in her light brown hair. She was beautiful in a 
mysterious sort of way. The secrets in her eyes were what had drawn him to her. He'd 
always had a preference for mysterious women.
	He sensed the presence of others a millisecond before slightly taunting words 
disturbed the deep silence in the office. Eddie knew the shock would show on his face as 
he looked up at the newcomer. "Cyrus. I wasn't expecting you so soon." Too soon...the 
plan could not be implemented yet. He had meant to tell his sire that when Cyrus 
eventually contacted him from L.A. Instead, Cyrus had come here without any knowledge 
of Eddie's strategy. That had to mean that his sire assumed he was going to fail and had 
come to bury was he now thought of as a weak link. 
	"You sounded a little desperate," Cyrus said. "Who's your playmate?"
	"Oh, just someone I met. Go on, sweetheart. Go get ready for dinner. Make yourself 
pretty." Thinking hard to try and figure out what trap Cyrus might have set in his way, he told 
his sire what Cyrus would expect to hear from someone he considered a weak link. "It's 
Julian Luna. He's always trying to clean up the Clans. Looking down his nose on anyone 
who's not old money Ventrue."
	"He hurt your feelings, Eddie?" Cyrus taunted.
	"He hurt business. My numbers are down."
	"And that threatens your standing as Primogen."
	"I'm sick to death of having to fight Luna to hold on to what's already mine." Eddie let 
a slightly petulant note creep into his voice.
	"You're thinking maybe what this town needs is a Brujah Prince. Someone who will 
let the Clans do business the way they want. Someone...someone like you."
	"You got it." Eddie made his answer light in its tone, but inside he was furious. So 
this was what Cyrus had in mind. An attempt on Julian's life in order to make Eddie Prince, 
and when it failed, Cyrus wouldn't have to worry about Eddie anymore. Assamites! The 
deadly Kindred assassins. That had to be it. Cyrus would have made sure things would 
look right on the surface so he would have had to hire an Assamite to attempt to kill Julian 
knowing full well that Julian's past as an Enforcer would make the job extremely tough.
	Cyrus was smiling. "And who better than your sire to guide you along."
	Yeah, who better, Eddie thought ironically. Out loud he said, "I'm really grateful for 
this, Cyrus."
	Cyrus shrugged. "Gives me a toe-hold in San Francisco. I'm gonna take over the 
state, Eddie."
	"That'd be something, Cyrus." Leaning forward as if eager to hear his sire's answer 
Eddie asked him, "Did you call in the Assamite?" He briefly cursed himself for letting slip 
that he thought Cyrus had called in one of the dreaded assassins, when he wasn't 
supposed to know that, but his sire didn't seem to notice.
	"You ever work with Assamites before?"
	Eddie shook his head. "No."
	"No one knows where they come from. But remember this. Once you send them in 
you can't call them back. No one can."
	Keeping his face eager was difficult as Eddie realized that Cyrus would already have 
given the Assamite orders to kill thus putting Eddie in a tight spot. Still, he played along. 
Now wasn't the time to let Cyrus know he understood what was going on. Obviously, 
when the time was right, he would have to implement his plans alone. Until then, he had to 
survive Julian's laws, Archon's manipulations and Cyrus' betrayal. "Can they pull this off? 
I'm taking a huge risk here."
	Cyrus smiled. "Assamites even take contracts for Nosferatu."
	"Then what's the problem? Send them in!"
	"Not so fast." Cyrus shook his finger at Eddie. "You have to show the other Clans 
that you're willing to reason. You have to sit down with Julian, first."   
	Ah, the hidden olive branch, Eddie thought. This was where Cyrus would see if 
Eddie might become a puppet to the L.A. Prince. But it was too late for that. Eddie's plans 
didn't have room for Cyrus taking his time about who he wanted to support. Eddie would 
have to do things alone from this point on. "I'm tired of talking."   
	As he spoke, automatically saying what Cyrus expected from him, Eddie let his 
mind wander back to another time, a different situation.  

                  ###


	"I am tired of talking, Cyrus. You will do as you're told or you will leave my city." The 
nasal voice of the Los Angeles Prince had always sounded slightly peevish to Eddie Fiori, 
like an old man embittered at his lot in life. Tonight though Prince Raphael sounded like a 
petulant child. He had all the arrogance of someone who expected to be obeyed and had 
yet to find out the true nature of the world.
	As he left the Prince's office with his sire and Primogen, Cyrus O'Patrick, he voiced 
his opinion. "The Prince is half insane Eddie. But only half, the rest of the time he is perfectly 
capable of holding together the other Clans against us Brujah. That was the reason behind 
this meeting. I'll see him again, somewhere public, a Toreador hangout perhaps, and he'll 
put me off again." 
	"Then why bother Cyrus? I mean if you're already convinced he's not going to listen 
to Brujah?"
	"Because the other Clans are watching. This is their chance to see what they'll get if 
they support me. Once that's settled I'll be free to kill him. You see, Eddie, the thing is if I kill 
him now I'll still be able to take the position of Prince by force. But if I wait until the Prince has 
shown that he's the one unwilling to negotiate some of the other Clans will side with me. Not 
all of them, but enough to ensure that I wont have to keep fighting after I become Prince."

                  ###

	How young he had been, then, Eddie recalled. Violence had been the only way he 
knew from the moment of  his Embrace. Cyrus had taken him into his household from the 
very beginning. He had taught Eddie about the ways of the Kindred and the Masquerade 
and how to be a Brujah Primogen. It hadn't taken long for Eddie to figure out that he was 
being groomed for something and then Cyrus had sent him to San Francisco. The old 
Brujah Primogen had been pathetically weak. A puppet with Prince Archon Raine the 
Puppeteer. It had taken Eddie little more than a month to secure the loyalty of the other 
Clansmen. He had killed the Primogen himself making sure that no witnesses could run to 
Archon with the tale. Officially the Primogen was still missing although everyone had 
guessed what had happened. But without evidence the Prince had been powerless to 
stop Eddie from becoming the new Brujah Primogen. His next step had been to take over 
the Dock Workers Union, the most important union in town. 
	Keeping Cyrus' words of restraint in mind for later he had decided that violence 
would speak faster than words amongst these people. Five people 'disappeared' and 
things were suddenly very favorable. It had taken him two years to ensure that things were 
completely under his control, then he had started thinking of the future. Having kept a close 
eye on the Ventrue community he had gained some knowledge of investment planning. 
	A perfect opportunity had shown itself when a small Greek merchant company had 
looked to expand from their offices on the East Coast to the Californian peninsula. The 
plans had been solid, the economic benefits had been large. Already after three years the 
investment would have paid itself back and more. Except it never got that far. Leases ran 
into problems, smaller subcontractors cancelled their participation, competitors stole the 
clientele background and millions of dollars had been lost.  
	It had taken only a couple of days to find the tracks that led back to the Prince of the 
City. When confronted with Eddie's rage Archon had been suitably apologetic and had 
offered to make up for his mistake. Had Eddie heard of this arms deal with some "business 
men" in Detroit? That had been Eddie's first encounter with the "glass ceiling." 
	Archon Raine wanted to make sure Ventrue stayed on top of the city and the best 
way to ensure it had been to stay on top of the financial market.  Brujah had been left in 
charge  of all connections to the mob, ensuring that nothing could ever lead humans to 
Archon.  To be fair, Archon had also been rough-handed with the Toreador, deciding what 
they should and shouldn't support in the world of arts.  The Nosferatu had been forced 
steadily into the sewers, step by step, and the Gangrel had not even had a place 
at Archon's table. 
	In 1985 his attitude had led to a Clan War.

                             ###

	Cyrus was talking again.  Eddie forced himself back to present events and tried his 
best to look interested. 
	"Assamites are shape-shifters.  They can make themselves look like anyone.  Your 
best friend, your lover... or some broad you just picked up at the bar."
	Cyrus had Eddie's full attention now.  Automatically, Eddie looked to the mystery 
women who still sat seated on a side chair in his office.  One moment he was staring at a 
pretty brunette pulling back her hair in a barrette, the next there was Prince Julian Luna 
himself staring back at Eddie.  The Brujah Primogen cursed himself resoundingly.  Cyrus 
had pulled a fast one on him all right. But Eddie managed to screw his look of initial shock 
into an eager grin, for Cyrus' benefit.  "Assamites only work for Princes.  That's why I 
needed your help, Cyrus."  Needed it like I need a day in the sun, he sneered inwardly.
	Eddie then mechanically filled in the rest of the conversation as he knew Cyrus 
expected him say.  He was glad when it came to an end.  Eddie leaned back in his tall chair 
and watched as Cyrus left the office accompanied by the Assamite.  He was still shaken 
that Cyrus had planned his nasty surprise for Eddie so well, but then again, Eddie had 
already figured that Cyrus had called in the Assamites.  Eddie gave a wide grin and 
stretched out his arms, and then pulled his arms back to rest his head snugly in the palms of 
interlaced fingers.  What Cyrus *didn't* know was that Eddie had called in an Assamite of 
his own.  Thanks to Cyrus' personal assistant, Gerald, Eddie had learned that when the 
price was right, the sneaky killers were just as willing to deal with Primogen as they were 
with Princes...
	Eddie's grin widened.  What Cyrus also didn't know, was just how unhappy the L.A. 
Brujah were with the way their Prince was running the city.  And it wasn't just the Brujah 
either.  The Ventrue in L.A. were too weak to topple the current power regime but the 
Toreador in Los Angeles were not - a private detail that Lillie quietly but constantly hounded 
Eddie with for the past two decades.  Finally, the two of them had put together a deal 
behind the backs of both Princes that would one day bloom to sweet fruition.
	So when Archon had appeared in his office alone the other night, Eddie had lead him 
to believe that he still coveted Julian's job, even though he'd said that what he really wanted 
was to increase San Francisco's Brujah population.  
	Oh, Eddie wanted the Prince's job all right.  But it wasn't necessarily Luna's job that 
he was after...  However, until the time was ripe, appearances had to be maintained, and so 
he had sent over a full fleet of Brujah troops the night Lillie had informed him that Cash was 
away and Julian was alone with his new human lover.  He'd known full well that where Julian 
was, but had let Archon think that he'd convinced Eddie that Julian was in the mansion and 
left in a huff.  Eddie shook his head.  When everybody believed you were just some 
dumb brute of a Brujah and Cyrus' brute at that, it was so easy to manipulate even the best 
of the manipulators.

					###

	Archon sat behind his own mahogany desk, deep in thought.  He was reading 
through for a second time the file that Julian had just presented him.  The information was 
remarkably detailed, and if accurate, spelled trouble for the Ventrue.  Or more specifically, 
for their business assets in city.  He carefully closed the folder and looked up at Julian, who 
had been pacing the floor restlessly as a caged lion.
	Archon raised an eyebrow.  "And you say Caitlin gave this to you an hour ago?"  
Perhaps he had underestimated the value of this human.  But of course, Archon reflected, 
the Bryne woman hadn't received her reputation as San Francisco's most feared 
investigative reporter by chasing after butterflies.
	Julian stopped pacing to stand directly before Archon's desk.  "Yes.  I told you, I 
went to the Times at nine to pick her up for our date.  She was working late this evening."  
Julian paused and a slight smile came over his face.  "She often works late."
	"And how did Ms. Bryne know you would be interested in the latest matters 
regarding the licensing of Pacific Rim imports?" Archon inquired, already guessing the 
answer.
	"Her background research on me for her article was quite thorough," Julian stated.  
	"Impressive, I'd say," murmured Archon.  "Well, for once, Julian, I am glad for your 
affair with Ms. Bryne.  If she hadn't alerted you to BenTron's recent acquisition--"
	"Yes, I know," Julian cut Archon off with a dismissive gesture.  "She has no idea, of 
course, that the corporation is Brujah owned.  But her assessment that this is just a 
diversionary tactic--"
	"Could Lillie have known about Eddie having initiated a hostile takeover?" Archon 
wondered aloud, cutting off his own prodigy in turn.
	"Lillie?" Julian said, his expression one of clear surprise.  Then his features darkened 
with displeasure. 
	"It's very possible," Archon stated, his own expression grim.  "She and Eddie had 
been very cozy until recently."  
	Archon reopened the file, quickly skimming its contents.  "You see, here," he said 
pointing at a particular line in the text.  "Here, here, and here."  
	Archon slapped his hand on the desk.  "I'd say we have all the tell-tale markings of 
Toreador involvement.  Carefully disguised, but present nevertheless."  
	Julian reached for the folder and quietly read through it.
	Curse that Toreador woman and her infernal intrigues, thought Archon vehemently.  It 
all fell into place now.  Her refusal to support Julian's allocation of licensing and distribution 
through Ventrue and Toreador controlled markets, in favor of Eddie's demand to control the 
imports through his own Brujah dominated shipping outlets.  Lillie's support of the Brujah 
Primogen had puzzled Archon, for it left her Toreador out of any licensing agreements.  But 
if the information Caitlin Bryne had dug up was accurate - and Archon had no doubt by now 
that it was - then Lillie stood to gain a pretty penny by backing Fiori's scheme, much more 
than Luna's own ideas.
	Archon tapped his chin.  To think that he, a Ventrue Primogen, had been so mislead 
by what he now saw as careful Toreador manipulation - oh, that humble show of deference 
marked by just the right touch of fear - the night she had placed the rose on his bed 
and 'confessed' to knowing Eddie's outrageous acts of Embracing without the Prince's 
permission.  
	What she had really wanted to do was to outwardly distance herself from the Brujah 
even as she continued to aid them behind the scenes.  But to make her break with Fiori 
appear genuine, she first acted properly petulant over Julian's new fascination with Caitlin 
Bryne - petulant enough so that Lillie had just enough excuse to delay in reporting Eddie.  
Then the great show of humiliation and contrition as she realized the 'errors of her ways' 
that she manifested to Archon in breaking with Eddie, mixed with the perfect balance of 
jealousy over Caitlin when the two of them had confronted Julian with their news.  
	"I apologize, Julian," Archon said wearily.
	"Sire?" Julian asked with clear puzzlement, looking up from the folder.
	"I'm afraid I *did* call you away from your night with Caitlin needlessly three days 
ago.  When Lillie came to me, I badly underestimated her.  I should have dealt with her 
myself."
	"Archon, what are you talking about?" Julian asked, a little irked.
	Archon proceeded to tell Julian his thoughts, noticing the increasingly dark scowl on 
his Childe's brow as he did so.  
	"It makes sense," Julian said reluctantly, placing the closed folder on Archon's desk.
	Archon knew that tone well.  Julian hated to be caught unawares as much as he did.
	"But why make herself a silent partner with the Brujah?" Julian mused, leaning himself 
back against the desk, his arms folded.  "Last month she was still furious over having been 
ousted from her clubs in L.A."
	"Or was she?" Archon countered.  "I wonder... All we have is her word and the 
Toreador Clan's grand show of indignation.  At the time I thought it felt wrong.  Lillie is far too 
savvy to let her holding simply 'fall' into Brujah hands."
	"So perhaps she got something in exchange?" ventured Julian darkly.  
	Archon sighed and leaned back carefully in his chair.  "Whatever it was, it must have 
been worth a great deal to her that she would part with those clubs.  I think it best we 
contemplate what that 'something' is."
	Archon gazed into Julian's eyes and saw his Childe give a nearly imperceptible nod 
of agreement.
	Archon allowed himself a slow smile.  "Accidents," he said.
	Julian raised an eyebrow.  "They happen all the time, Archon," he said, matter-of-
factly.
	Ah, Archon had taught his Childe well.

						###

	"It's all set, Lillie," Eddie spoke gruffly into the phone.  "Our time is finally come."
	Lillie smiled.  "Lovely," she murmured.  She cradled the receiver gently in her hands 
as she sat seductively at The Haven's bar, surveying the evening's patrons.  She gave a 
chuckle.  Her and Eddie's plan had always been stunning in both its simplicity and its 
duplicity.  Cyrus' Assamite would soon kill Julian.  Eddie's Assamite would soon kill Cyrus.  
The enmity between the two Princes was well known throughout the state.  It would appear 
that the two rival Princes had been slain while trying to take the other out.  Eddie would 
move into L.A. to fill the power vacuum while Lillie would step forward in San Francisco.  
Since both would support each other, they had the unprecedented advantage of having 
the backing of the Prince of a major city behind their quest for power.
	True, hiring the Assamite hadn't come cheaply for Eddie, so Lillie had agreed to hand 
over her more popular night cubs in L.A. to the Brujah as compensation.  Currently they 
were under Cyrus' management, but within a week's time they should all belong to Eddie 
when he had secured his reign as Prince.  To help him in that endeavor, the L.A. Toreador 
would place their influence behind Eddie's bid for supremacy.  That influence combined with 
the weight of the L.A. Brujah who were secretly sworn to Eddie's cause, should be enough 
to see that his reign was a long one.  
	In return, Eddie had already seen to it that the Brujah in San Francisco would back 
Lillie's claim to the throne.  He had been recently adding members to his clan right and left 
so that if it came down to a show of force between Lillie's Toreador and the city's Ventrue, 
the Toreador would have all the soldiers they needed for support.  
	The way Eddie and Lillie saw it, the only one intelligent enough to foil their plotting 
would possibly be Archon.  But a decade ago, Eddie had discovered a way of neutralizing 
that particular threat, and within Kindred law to boot.  Once events were under way, the only 
one with enough power to stop them was presumably Julian, but Lillie had seen to it that 
the Prince would be too distracted to notice the end coming.	
	As if reading her thoughts, was ' by Eddie startled Lillie out of her smug 
contemplation.    "Are you sure you can keep Julian's attentions elsewhere?"  A note of 
concern had crept into the Brujah Primogen's  voice.
	"Oh that won't be any problem," assured Lillie.  "After all, I didn't just spend the past 
two years tracking down the perfect distraction for him in vain.  Caitlin has him wrapped 
around her little finger and she doesn't even know it."  Lillie smiled wickedly.  Although Caitlin 
would never remember it, Lillie had been the one to suggest she pursue an article about 
Julian Luna, the mysterious Californian tycoon.  Lillie had also been the one to secretly pass 
along information to Caitlin, enough to keep the reporter interested in her story until the 
evening she had finally met Julian.
	Lillie couldn't applaud herself enough over her having arranged Julian's new love 
affair.   His fascination with Caitlin and fear of her finding out about his true nature occupied so 
much of his time lately, that he wasn't keeping as close an eye on his daily business affairs 
or the state of Kindred politics as he normally would have.  Had Lillie still been his lover 
instead, he would have been more focused on Kindred matters.  That would never do.  
	Lillie had been outraged when she had sensed Julian's feelings for his old Kindred 
flame, Alexandra Serris, begin to resurface.  That had been just before he and Caitlin were 
supposed to meet for the first time.  So Lillie had swiftly moved to offset any potential 
damage by going to Eddie and asking his help in removing  Alexandra's unwanted Kindred 
presence.   And of course, throughout it all, Lillie played to the hilt the part of the scorned 
woman.  As Julian became increasingly interested in Caitlin, Lillie continued to play for his 
affections, knowing that would further push him into Caitlin's life - further into his desire to live 
as a mortal among mortals instead of  a  Prince among Kindred.
	"There's no need to worry about keeping Julian busy," Lillie stated.  "That's what 
Caitlin's for.  Frankly, I'm more concerned about Archon."
	"Archon's history," Eddie said flatly.  "Cameron will see to that - and no one will 
suspect we're involved.  Cameron's reasons for revenge are well known among our clan."
	"And I'll see to it that it becomes well known among the Toreador as well.  No one 
will be able to fault Archon's death.  Just say when." The site of two Kindred descending the 
entrance steps into The Haven momentarily distracted Lillie.  Lillie became concerned.  
Things were running too well now for any error.
	"Eddie, I'll have to get back to you," Lillie said quietly, then hung up the phone.  
Putting on a broad smile left the bar and made her way to the front of her establishment. 
	The sight of two Kindred descending the entrance steps into The Haven 
momentarily distracted Lillie. Lillie became concerned. Things were running too well now for 
any error. "Eddie, I'll have to get back to you," Lillie said quietly, then hung up the phone. 
Putting on a broad smile left the bar and made her way to the front of her establishment. 
	"Julian, Archon, good evening to you both."
	Archon nodded a slight greeting while Julian ignored her. Sudden fury engulfed Lillie, 
how dare he ignore her in public.
	"Is something wrong between you and Caitlin, Julian? Didn't she have time for you 
tonight? It's been a while since you came here."
	Again it was Archon who responded, "We have business here, tonight."
	"Oh, well, I'll just leave you to it, then." Lillie had turned away when Julian spoke.
	"Like Hell you will!"
	"Perhaps I didn't make myself clear." Archon allowed mockery to creep into his 
voice. "We have business with you."
	Julian's tone had momentarily frozen her, but now she quickly gathered her wits 
about her and turned back to face them a calm smile in place. "Why don't we go upstairs 
then? I'll just call for...wine."
	Julian's response was to grab her arm and physically force her up the stairs. Anger 
threatened to erupt, but she quickly showed the Beast down. They had to know something 
or Julian would not be this mad. Her Prince was a perfect politician. She had less than 
30 seconds to decide how she was going to play this. Caitlin. The human woman could be 
used to explain nearly every act Lillie had been guilty of lately. If the two Ventrue thought 
they had her cornered, they could think again. When she was human London society had 
been ready to laugh her out of her first stage performance, instead she'd vowed them all 
with her acting abilities. Archon and Julian were about to learn that those skills had been 
honed not forgotten during the decades that had passed.
	In Lillie's office Julian showed her into a chair and stood towering over her.
	"Why did you support Eddie on the Pacific Rim matter?"
	Bingo. Raising her chin defensively Lillie looked up at Julian. "Because it served my 
Clan better. We gained more money from Eddie's ventures than from yours." Lillie nearly 
smirked at the look of fury on Julian's face. Her old lover might pretend to be angry at her 
betrayal but he was far more angry at her insinuation that Eddie Fiori might be the better 
businessman. 
	"I would have thought that his taking your clubs would have kept you away from 
Eddie, Lillie." Archon said.
	Quickly letting her earlier anger at Julian's behavior surface, Lillie let the Beast show in 
her eyes. "We keep our friends close and our enemies closer. Isn't that what you told me, 
Julian? Of course, having to bend over backwards to support my Prince was what lost me 
the clubs in the first place. Too bad you're so involved with your human pet, Julian. 
Otherwise I might have had my clubs back by now. Still as things are it was definitely more 
beneficial to go with Eddie."
	Archon moved uncomfortably. Lillie was still hiding something, but she also had a 
point and perhaps now was the time to make it. "That part is true Julian. Business has 
suffered due to your attention to the human woman. When you first involved yourself with 
her you told me it was in order to control her and the paper, now you say you need her. 
Julian, you are Prince, The Masquerade must come first, regardless of your own feelings."
	Rising from her chair Lillie echoed Archon's sentiments. "Yes, Julian, you have to let 
Caitlin Byrne go." She allowed a small note of eagerness to sneak into her voice, just 
enough to push Julian in the opposite direction of where Archon wanted him to go.
	Julian laughed harshly. "Oh, you'd like that wouldn't you Lillie?"
	Refusing to meet his eyes, Lillie shrugged. "I want what's best for the Clans."
	Lightning quick Julian grabbed her by the arms and showed her up against the wall. 
"Let's just test my understanding here. You want what's best for the Clans. And you don't 
particularly care whether I come back to your bed. Fine!" He bit her lower lip softly, once, 
then a little harder before crushing his mouth to hers.
	Stop him. Have to stop him...The thought kept running through her head even as 
she surrendered to his touch. His mouth was so arrogant, impatient...greedy. He used lips 
and tongue and teeth and she was swamped by a wave of hot need. His or hers. It was 
impossible to tell. His rock hard body against hers, his scent embracing her. Ventrue, male, 
erotic...On a long throaty moan she drowned in him, going under for the third time. Even as 
the sound died away she was wrapping her slim legs around his waist, oblivious to 
anything but what he was doing to her. And found herself roughly thrown on the floor Julian 
standing above her completely calm.
	Giving her a mocking bow, he turned and walked out of the office, Archon right 
behind him.
	A sob escaped her lips before she could control herself. Then she forced herself to 
thinking about the upcoming events. Soon, Julian would be out of her life for good...

			****

	"I'm sure Eddie." Lillie's impatience came across well on the phone. "Julian knows 
about my involvement in your recent business ventures with BenTron. But he believes I 
did it to get back at him for leaving me for Caitlin."
	"Well, everything's ready now. Cyrus' Assamite is going to kill Julian and mine will kill 
Cyrus. A week from now we'll rule California."
	After discussing a few last minute alterations due to Cyrus' unexpected appearance 
Eddie said his goodbyes and hung up. Rubbing a hand tiredly across his face he allowed 
himself one moment of total relaxation. This whole charade had gone on for far too long. 
Having to keep up appearances all the time, never relaxing his guard in case someone was 
watching. Twenty-three years. He'd been planning this for over two decades. If anyone in 
this town had ever known that Brujah were once reputed to be not only warriors but 
scholars, he'd made damn sure they forgot it. Always playing a part. Even with Lillie. Lillie 
Langtry, Eddie had fallen in love with her the very first time he saw her. Beautiful face of the 
Toreador Clan with the heart of a Nosferatu. That's how he'd heard Julian describe her once. 
A perfect mate for himself he'd thought. But Lillie belonged to Julian, mind, heart and soul. 
She didn't know it, or refused to admit it. From time to time she would pick other lovers just 
as there were others for Julian. But they meant nothing to her, just as they failed to take 
away any of her pain at every ounce of love Julian gave to someone else. She thought 
she'd been clever, diverting Julian's attention through Caitlin. Idly, Eddie wondered how 
long it would take her to realize the hole she'd dug for herself. Julian was the only thing Lillie 
truly wanted, but Caitlin was everything Julian wanted... No, Lillie would never forgive him 
for killing Julian. Just as he, Eddie, couldn't forgive her for being unable to love any other 
man. 
	He'd tried. He'd courted her during his early days as Primogen, consoled her when 
Julian went to someone else's arms, supported her businesses and her occasional 
escapades. Pride had kept him from begging. At least he had the comfort of knowing he'd 
never humiliated himself that far. A bitter taste filled his mouth. He wasn't proud to hate her, 
wasn't proud to admit that all the love he'd once held for her had turn into cold fury. She'd 
done that to him. Turned him into less of a man, less of a human being.
	And now, now she had to die. Eddie had no intention of sharing California with her. 
Julian's death would make her hate him and she'd be his worst enemy. No Lillie had to go. 
He'd kill her in the troubles that would follow Julian's death. Then he'd kill Cyrus and take 
L.A. There was no second Assamite, of course, as much as he hated her now he'd felt no 
remorse cheating her out of her clubs. And as long as Lillie's death couldn't be traced back 
to him, the L.A. Toreador would still support him. Beautiful face of the Toreador Clan, may 
you rot forever in Hell...

			****

	How did you apologize to a Prince for trying to kill him? How did you tell a lover that 
it was easier to loose him to his grave than to another woman? Especially a human one.
	Downstairs in the club the music was pounding and people were laughing. Upstairs 
all you could feel was a low, steady beat crawling along the floor and up the walls. Very 
vague. You had to put your hand to the cold, smooth walls to even sense it, or stand 
barefoot on the floor. Lillie was doing both. Yet she felt nothing, saw nothing. The people 
viewable through the two-way mirror didn't register on her mind. Her own reflection cast 
back to her by the dark glass distorted and became something else, someone else. Julian's 
face. Eddie's face.
	She should go. Julian was expecting her. Not because she had been invited or 
ordered to appear. But because every Kindred in the city knew she had stepped wrong. 
He knew she had no choice but to beg his forgiveness. Just as she knew he would give it. 
Not because they had been lovers, and not because they had been friends. No, Julian 
would forgive her for the sake convenience. One Clan without a Primogen was better than 
two. And that was worse. Much, much worse. For Lillie loved him with all of her being. She 
saw that now. For a while she had tried to forget it. Eddie's plan had been brilliant and for a 
while she had clung to it like a drowning woman to a robe. Even with Cyrus turning up too 
soon it had only taken small adjustments to set things back on track. Tonight was supposed 
to have been her first night as Prince of San Francisco. She would have called a meeting of 
the Conclave just as Eddie had. Having killed Julian Eddie was to have taken care of Cyrus 
after that meeting. Then he would have 'disappeared in actuality going to L.A. while Lillie 
united the Clans supposedly to honor Julian's memory.
	Except Julian hadn't died. Julian hadn't died and she hadn't wanted him to. If only 
Caitlin hadn't come to the club. If only she hadn't sat down at her table. If only... But she had 
and the human woman's words had woken her from her dream of a life without Julian. And 
reality had been a nightmare. Reality had been her car moving desperately and much to 
slowly through the traffic on the way to the Compound. Reality had left her car abandoned 
in a dark alley while she flew through the night praying for God to stop the clock and let her 
get there in time. But she hadn't. She'd been pleading with Eddie to tell her he hadn't killed 
Julian even as he dragged her back out of the house. She'd torn loose as he'd tried to get 
her in his car. Sick with grief and remorse she fled to Daedalus with Eddie calling after her. 
She hadn't sought out the Nosferatu for comfort or forgiveness, but for release. She'd been 
so sure Daedalus would take her life in return for Julian's. But Daedalus' punishment had 
been much harsher. He'd wanted to make her live with her guilt and his hatred. 
	Then Eddie had called a Conclave meeting at midnight. And God help her, she had 
had too much time to realize what she had done. She had been contemplating a miserable 
and lonely future when Julian had appeared. Julian, Julian, Julian...Her mind had repeated 
the his name like a chant. In a trance she had risen going instinctively for Eddie's samurai 
swords. Julian, Julian, Julian, Julian. The sword had come loose of the scabbard without a 
sound. Julian, Julian, Julian. She'd stepped up behind Eddie without anyone sensing her 
intentions. Eddie had been talking and she'd said something. She couldn't remember what, 
she only remembered his face. The look in his eyes and the complete silence surrounding 
them. Surprise, shock, fear, understanding and anger. Eddie Fiori had died angry. The 
sword had cut through his throat like it was nothing and the trance had 
left her in a rush. She'd looked up at Julian and his eyes had been understanding, too.
	Dammit! She looked down on her hands and the blood on them wasn't Julian's it 
was Eddie's. Suddenly furious Lillie turned away from the mirror snatching up a vase and 
hurling it against the opposite wall. She was supposed to have been Prince. Instead she'd 
ruined everything for herself. She had to get free of Julian somehow, before he destroyed 
what little spirit she had left. Eager to face him now she stepped into her high heels, 
refreshed her blood red lipstick and went to get her car.
	On the drive to the Compound her eyes kept searching the people walking the 
streets. She was looking for Eddie she realized. Even though he'd have had no reason to 
be there while he'd been alive, she still looked for him. Part of her, she guessed, didn't want 
to admit that she had ruined all their plans. And for what? A man who preferred a human 
woman over her. She could have been free, and with Eddie as her ally all of California 
would have been at her feet.
	As she passed the guards and was admitted to Julian's study she asked herself 
why she had ruined both her own dreams and Eddie's. And found her answer. The Prince 
awaited her alone his back to her as he looked out at the garden below. She loved him. 
Needed him like she needed blood. A sick, twisted emotional addiction that had her 
overlooking all his affairs and allowed him to treat her any which way he liked. Julian Luna 
was a drug and she had killed Eddie to get another fix...Turning to face her Julian caught the 
look of adoration on her face. Walking to him Lillie put her arms around his neck, Eddie's 
death forgotten.
	"I love you."
	Eyes cold, Julian reached up and removed her hands, pushing her away from him.
	"I pity you."

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