I will never be surprised by anything again, Chance vowed silently to himself as he once again entered the bar that was the heart of the Raven. The thought made him chuckle. And I thought I was already to that point–but who would expect something like this? Even with my luck? As if to reassure himself that the bizarre scene had indeed been captured on film, he let his hand come to rest on the camera which was now dangling by its strap from his shoulder.
Audrey’s never going to believe this…
“Care to dance, handsome?” a female voice with a slight brogue asked from behind him. Any other man would have probably spun, startled, and stood gaping at the beautiful woman behind him, but now that Chance was feeling himself again, he just turned calmly and frankly studied her face.
She was a petite little thing, slender and delicate. Still, something–probably the fiery red-gold hair–hinted that she was stronger than she looked. Spirited turquoise eyes met his with a silent challenge.
He smiled. “The name’s Chance Harper, and I would love to dance, Miss…”
Smiling broadly, she took his arm. “Masters. Brenna Masters. But call me Brenna.”
“In that case,” he replied as she led him out onto the dance floor, “please call me Chance.”
He had never considered himself a terribly good dancer, but at least doing something helped take his mind off the picture he had just snapped. It was better than just standing around thinking about it.
“So, tell me about yourself, Chance,” Brenna suggested, her eyes sweeping over him in a way that made him rather uncomfortable. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…
“Well, I’m a photographer from Seattle. I’m in town to do a photo essay about the night life in Canada, and how it compares to the U.S.”
“Oh, really? Have you found it to your liking so far?”
Chance wasn’t really sure how to answer. He didn’t exactly want to tell her about the picture he’d taken. Brenna’s eyes were still fixed intently on him, and he realized that he *really* didn’t like the way she was looking at him. It was almost like she was…hungry.
At that moment, the music stopped, and Chance felt overwhelmingly relieved. This place was giving him the creeps, and he had decided he was ready to leave. And never come back, he added silently.
He started to step to the edge of the dance floor, but Brenna caught his hand. A little worried, he glanced back at her. Their eyes met and she spoke slowly, in a very different voice from the one she’d been using earlier.
“Let’s go outside…where we can have some privacy.”
Her words echoed in his ears, having a curiously calming effect on his mind. For a moment, he started to follow her. Then the haze broke, and Chance shook his head vigorously, startled and a tiny bit frightened at how close she had come to changing his mind with those innocuous words.
“Actually, I should be leaving now. Detective Knight only brought me here as a favor. I don’t want to take advantage of his generosity.”
A well of conflicting emotions sprang onto the woman’s face, from disgust and frustration to a sort of grudging respect at the mention of Nick’s name.
“Very well, Chance Harper. Perhaps we will meet again, some day.”
Without another word, she vanished into the crowd of patrons. Chance found himself heaving an incredible sigh of relief. Strange that such a slight figure should put him so much on edge…
Resolutely, he turned back towards the hallway he had just come out of. This time, though, he intended to announce his presence long before he got within view of Janette’s office. He didn’t want to interrupt another puzzling interlude between the proprietress and the detective.
earlier, at LaCroix’s apartment…
LaCroix had been about to pour himself a drink when he sensed another vampire behind him. A younger presence, and yet power permeated it. He turned to find a familiar face staring back at him from the doorway. “Delia…” he whispered, his mind taking him back to almost 1800 years before…
A very young (vampirically) LaCroix roamed the streets, looking for food. He had not yet gained the knowledge or wealth to acquire meals in a more refined manner, so street sweepings would have to do. As he rounded a corner, he came face to face with a girl of about twelve. She was raggedly dressed, with matted hair and large, brown doe eyes. Such a little slip of a thing, he thought as he grabbed her. Hardly more than a snack. No matter, he rationalized as he sank his fangs roughly into her neck.
As he drank from her, a strange feeling of familiarity washed over him. She reminded him of someone…of…Divia. Not the master he’d been forced to kill, but the daughter he’d loved and cherished above all else. Daughter! Daughter! his mind screamed, and he wrenched his fangs from her throat.
A week later, in his modest home, he watched as the tiny figure on the bed faded in and out of consciousness. He hadn’t been able to kill her, and now she was lingering in the shadows of painful death. He wondered if he should attempt to bring her across. Should he do so, however, he risked creating another Divia. Neither he nor the world needed another Divia. But he couldn’t let her die, could he?
Coming to her bedside, he eased her into a sitting position. He’d brought her a warm broth, hoping it would give her strength.
“Drink, little one,” he said in a kindly manner, holding the wooden bowl to her lips.
“I can’t,” she whispered softly.
He’d told her earlier that week what he was, and why she was ill. Why he’d done it, he’d never really understood. Guilt? Compassion, perhaps? Now he said sadly, “I can’t save you if you won’t drink, child…unless…?” He looked sympathetically at the wasted form on the bed. “There is only one way I can save you. Will you let me?”
She nodded slowly.
“Hello, Father,” replied the child-like figure before him. Delia invited herself into the room and sat down in an armchair. Nodding to the chair next to her, she indicated that he should sit.
“A drink, my dear?” he said, his voice coming back to him all of a sudden. After all, it was a great shock to see his Enforcer daughter after all these years. The last time had been right around Nick’s first bout with that pesky Roman Catholic guilt of his.
“Yes, please,” she studied him closely. “You don’t seem pleased to see me, Father. Why is that?”
Handing her the wine glass, he replied, “You merely surprised me, my dear. I wasn’t expecting company this evening.”
“Not even Janette or Nicholas?” she asked. She could sense that he was monitoring them from afar even as they spoke. And as she monitored him, she could feel Nick and Janette as they reached the height of passion in each other’s arms. “Do you always spy on them?” she asked as he sat in the chair beside her.
LaCroix looked uncomfortable. “I…I hadn’t heard from Nicholas in a while and simply wished to see that he is well. It’s a pure coincidence that they are together, my dear.” He, in turn, began to study her. She’d grown in power since the last time they’d met. “Are *you* well, daughter, and happy?”
“Yes…” Delia thought briefly back to Nick and Janette. The two had been lovers for as long as she’d known them. Silently, she regretted looking so young. In this day and age, a twelve-year-old girl was not a woman, but a child. Now in her original day, twelve was practically marrying age. She would have been considered a woman. But no longer. Times had changed, leaving her a helpless member of society. She was no longer able to travel extensively by herself…needing an “adult” to accompany her on long trips. Besides her freedom to travel, she also missed the lost opportunities for love.
Sensing the path her thoughts were now going down, LaCroix frowned slightly. “No…you are not fully happy. I am truly sorry, my dear.” His voice dripped with genuine concern.
She shook her head sadly. “If I am unhappy, it is my own choice. I could have lovers, you know. But I don’t usually like the element that sleeps with twelve-year-old children–mortal or otherwise.”
“You’ll never know how much I regret–”
“It doesn’t matter, Father. It is the life I’ve chosen.”
They talked for several more hours, filling each other in as to what had happened in the years that stretched between their last encounter. LaCroix continued to wonder what had really brought Delia to Toronto. Surely she hadn’t looked him up just to chat. Finally, he decided it was time to ask her what was on his mind.
“Why are you here, Delia? This can’t be purely a social visit,” he asked.
“You aren’t enjoying our visit?” She pouted. “Father, I’m surprised. I thought for sure it would please you to know that I am well…however, as it happens, I am here on business.”
“What sort of business?” LaCroix asked. He now wondered if she was here to check on Nicholas. The Enforcers did that from time to time…just to see if he had compromised the rest of the Community.
“It has nothing to do with Nicholas. I try to stay away from the problems he causes. My brother is…” she smiled ruefully. “…a bit controversial.”
“What is it then?” LaCroix pushed further, even though he knew she didn’t really have to tell him anything.
“If you must know,” she started, sounding a bit annoyed. Then she paused, her expression softening and a devious gleam coming into her eyes. “Perhaps you can help me, Father. I’ve been tracking a mortal by the name of Chance Harper. He’s a photographer from Seattle.” She quickly told LaCroix about the strange things that seemed to happen wherever he went. “Mischief follows him like crows following death. At first I, like the others, believed he knew about us. Now I’m not so sure. It could be that his choice of clubs was purely accidental.”
“And if it isn’t, my dear?”
“Then he is a problem that needs to be terminated. Is that so hard to figure out?” she replied.
“How do you determine if he is a problem?”
She smiled coldly. “Janette owns a club called the Raven, does she not? I will see how long it takes him to get there, and what he will do once he does.”