Book: Queen Bitch



Queen Bitch

CONTENTS

Dedication

Legal

Social Links

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Author's Note


To Family, Friends and

Those Who Love

To Read.

May We All Enjoy Grace

To Live The Life We Are

Called.

DO YOU HAVE A PREVIOUS VERSION?

I will have the edit history (editing and story additions / corrections) on the books Amazon page (so you can always tell).  Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t automatically download the latest version, you have to delete and re-download yourself.

EDIT HISTORY:

Release 1.0 : 11/11/2015

Version 1.1: 11/28/2015

Version 1.2: 12/17/2015 (Edited by James Coyle)

This book is a work of fiction, All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Sometimes both.

Copyright (c) 2015 Michael T. Anderle

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Cover art by Michael T. Anderle

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Michael Anderle - Nov 11, 2015.


CHAPTER ONE

Brasov, Romania

Bethany Anne was waiting for Ecaterina and Nathan to give her the most important information she needed to focus on for the next day.

Where could she go shopping?

In the last eight months, she had been expecting to die, been introduced to a vampire, been subjugated to genetic changes to her body and had to eat people.

Granted, most of that time she was asleep.  While she was asleep her alien symbiont was making changes to her body. But one had to admit that the rest of it was pretty damn disturbing and she was seriously in the need of some shopping therapy.  Especially a good pair of shoes, well maybe not.  Having grown 4-5”, her old effort to use high heels to accentuate legs that were just too short was not a problem for her anymore.

She could hear both Ecaterina with her exotic and sexy Romanian accent and Nathan talking. His good looks officially off the market if Ecaterina didn’t screw up.  He was drawn to her like a moth to flame.  This time, however; she was interested in him just as much and her normal self assurance had apparently been left behind.  She was constantly doubting herself and worrying whether Nathan had any interest in her.  Her self doubt was blocking the obvious.

Not Bethany Anne’s problem right now.  She had a need to be dressed in anything but the ill-fitting rags she was presently wearing.

If you had asked most any man in Brasov, or the world for that matter, Bethany Anne was a knockout.  Black hair and a stellar, lithe body would have most guys working hard to not look at her. They would be able to feel their wife’s and girlfriends eyes watching them like a hawk.

Both of the guys in the room with her right now, however; had seen her when she wasn’t her best.  Mind you, this wasn’t a ‘bad hair day’ kind of not her best.  But rather, it was a red eyes, fangs in her mouth, blood all over her face and hands as she killed supernatural wolves and drank their blood kind of bad day.  It was a cock-blocker for both Alexi and Nathan.  As well it should be for any non-sociopathic males.

She had been helping both Alexi and Nathan overcome a serious difference of opinion with a local werewolf pack under the command of the late and certainly unlamented Algerian. Algerian had received his marching orders from the vampire Petre’.  Petre’ made the mistake of paying attention to Ecaterina’s ample cleavage instead of the bear-trap that crushed his leg when trying to make his sneaky escape.

Having heard the screaming and a sudden thud, Bethany Anne was worried about the spunky woman when she erupted out of the tunnel only to find Petre’ laid out on the ground, foot in the trap and Ecaterina buttoning up her shirt.  That had made Bethany Anne’s day.

Ecaterina, in her present state of self-doubt, was worried that Nathan (who was the most cautious Were in the world when it came to being careful around vampires) would succumb to Bethany Anne.

Ecaterina shouldn’t have been worried.  A boyfriend was the last thing on Bethany Anne’s mind at the moment.  She didn’t have time for a boyfriend or even a friendly boy for that matter.

What Bethany Anne wanted was a solid pair of Christian Louboutin’s in the worst way.  She needed to feel like a woman for a while.  Her abilities not withstanding, she was more accustomed to projecting confidence behind the armor of a Coach purse, a pair of Christian Louboutin’s and a tailored suit.  None of which should have blood stains on them.  Something she couldn’t say for most of the clothes she had been wearing for the past few days.

If they didn’t hurry up and let her know what they were finding, she was going to start walking towards the center of town and pity the person who interrupted her therapy efforts.  It didn’t help that she couldn’t understand or read Romanian and Nathan had decided he needed to ‘brush up on his Romanian speaking skills’ around Ecaterina.

Kiss-Ass, she thought.

Switching to English, Nathan got her attention and closed the laptop they had been using.  “Ok, we think you should start at the Coresi Shopping Mall on the Northeast side of town and you can get yourself presentable with the higher-end stores.  From there, you will present a, uhh…”  At this point, Nathan got the look on his face that suggested his sense of self preservation had just kicked in. He ate whatever his next comment might have been and looked up at Ecaterina who had been standing behind him as he sat at the table.

Bethany Anne thought it was hilarious.  According to Nathan, all of the other vampires in the world were hard-asses about comments that could be taken the wrong way. She didn’t feel she was that bad. Mind you, she still had a horrible temper and she was known to have kicked a few guys’ asses, or their twins. But she didn’t have the predilection to immediately just kill the offending person that Nathan assumed she had being a vampire.

He was such a good looking and dangerous man himself, that she couldn’t get over how very circumspect he became around her at times.  Fortunately, he had broken through this conditioning occasionally. Michael, her ‘boss’ in a way, had spent a thousand years making sure that she followed his strictures on pain of death.

Michael, on the other hand, had disappeared.  She wasn’t sure if that was due to enemy action or pre-arranged duplicity on his part to leave her to clean up his mess.  If it was the former, then that was a pretty significant ‘tell’ that she was in over her head by a significantly large amount.  He had a thousand years of experience and from what she could tell was the baddest ass for a group of bad-asses that had hardened military men feel the need to get religion when they came around.  Dangerous men know dangerous enemies.

This led her to conclude there was a very good chance he was still around.  Where, she had no idea.  She hoped and prayed that it was trying to find out more about a serum which helped create intelligent Nosferatu. If the Forsaken, the splinter group of Michael’s Family which believes that humans should be a subjugated race and probably a cattle call, truly had a workable serum then they had potentially billions of easily created fodder for their army.

Since she knew nothing for sure, she couldn’t accidentally give anything away.

She had originally been created to take the place of Bill, a vampire who had been killed in an ambush in Virginia a little less than a year ago.  She figured that getting back in contact with the government agent who was the liaison with Bill and see what, if any, operations needed her skills was a necessary step.

She also needed to talk with Stephen.  He was one of Michael’s immediate children and lived on the other side of the Carpathian Mountains.  He was the parent of Petre’, who she had killed and was still getting his imaginary dust out of her hair.

Nathan had wanted her to go get permission before she took out Petre’, but she decided that introducing herself to the UnknownWorld in a stricture bending fashion was required to get the respect that was necessary to move forward activities even Michael didn’t know needed to occur.

Activities that included eventually getting the World to prepare for a possible inter-galactic war.

But, before that happened she was going to get a nice pair of high-heels.


Washington D.C., USA

The phone rang two times before Frank Kurns, the liaison between the UnknownWorld and the Government picked it up.  “This is Frank.”  His rough voice, a little weak after almost a hundred years of living, wouldn’t win any Tony awards.

He was in his office, down below the ground under an old government building in Washington D.C.  It worked out well for him and those he might have to meet who wanted to remain anonymous or out of the sun.  There were two old tunnels which he could access from his level.  One of the access ways was left over from World War II and one he had built in the 70’s.  That access way didn’t show up on any plans for the building, historical or not.

The voice on the other end of the line was a mellow, deep male baritone.  “Good evening, Frank.  It’s Gerry.”  Gerry was the lead of the American Pack Council and the Alpha of the New York Pack, Nathan’s direct Alpha.

“Good evening, Gerry.  I had expected a contact from you for the last few days. How can I help you?”  Since Frank had asked a favor of Nathan, Gerry’s second, a week and a half ago he had expected to hear from Gerry when Nathan failed to contact Frank for the last couple of days.

“I’ve got an update, if you can make heads or tails from it, and a concern.”

“Let’s hear both.”  Frank got comfortable in his chair, this might take a while.

“First, the update. Not sure it makes a lot of sense to me, but my second sent me an email by a third party I’m not that familiar with.  Says to let you know the lady was found, she was fully grown and no dad in sight.  I’m going out on a limb here and assuming this has to do with Michael?”

“Yes, yes it does.  I assume the fully grown part means that the woman is a vampire now.  That isn’t going to set well with her Dad necessarily, but the other option would be she was dead.  I’ll have to find out a way to make sure he at least knows she didn’t die.  Although I do wonder why he didn’t pass this on to me himself.”

Nathan barked a little laugh on the end of the line.  “Frank, you know Nathan.  He is going to be pretty circumspect about anything he does around a vampire, even a young one that might not be all that strong.  He would be concerned ‘daddy’ would show up.

Although, I’m not so sure she is weak. Nathan’s one of the most careful guys in my pack.  That confirms my thinking.  He must be with the vampire if he didn’t call you directly.  I imagine she doesn’t want to talk with you yet.”

“Then why did he get a hold of you and why isn’t he concerned about updating you?”

“Well, I suspect she didn’t absolutely forbid communicating with me.  He has a responsibility to try to keep me in the loop and through me, you.  Why she isn’t communicating with you would be a question I have.  Do you know much about this new vamp?”

Frank considered his responses.  Right now, he needed backing any way he could get it.  He had more operations going pear shaped because there wasn’t an operative of Bill’s capabilities he could rely on.  He had lost over twenty-two men in seventeen raids, all of them black, because he didn’t have access to one of Michael’s Family to help him out.

Since Michael and Carl had disappeared, he had no way to contact and coerce any of Michael’s Family to help.  Michael was the only vampire based here in North America that helped on this continent.  There were some vampires in South America, but that was a Forsaken zone and Frank never connected with them.  They would certainly be ones to bite the hands that fed them.  Well, the hands, arms, necks and so on.

Frank answered Gerry’s question. “Yes.  Her name is Bethany Anne Reynolds and she is, or was, an operative in a semi-black agency based here in Washington D.C.  I’m not sure I have all of the particulars about how long it takes to convert someone to a vampire, but I didn’t think it took more than a week, maybe two.  Certainly nothing longer than a month and she has been missing for over seven months.  What did you mean earlier about not so sure she is weak?  I’m pretty sure that Michael took care of her conversion. That should just about assure she is going to be pretty strong.”

There was a pause on the line.  Gerry spoke, drawing out his word as he was finishing his thought, “Weeellll, that would make sense.  Rumor has it that the Bravos pack in Romania where Nathan went has suffered several highly placed member deaths.  Nathan didn’t say he was in the hospital and while I wouldn’t want to take Nathan on, I feel pretty confident that he didn’t take out the seven Weres that have been rumored to be dead right now.  Oh, and one vampire.”

“What!”  Frank was astonished at this information.  He knew that given the right situations, Nathan Lowell certainly could have taken out seven pack members.  So long as he didn’t have to fight them all at once. Frank would bet against any one or two Weres taking Nathan down by themselves.  But, he highly doubted Nathan killed seven Weres and a vampire.  One, his operation wasn’t to get involved, just to locate and report his findings.  Two, Frank couldn’t imagine what would happen that might cause Nathan to get involved beyond the find-and-report request Frank asked him to do.  It wasn’t like he had someone he cared about and Frank doubted that Nathan would lose his sense of self-preservation by falling for Bethany Anne, even as pretty as she was.

“Yeah. European Council has been hearing about some shady connections between the Bravos pack Alpha Algerian and Petre’, one of Stephen’s kids.  Now, the council was contacted by someone from the pack in Bravos about mid-way down in the hierarchy.  Seems someone cleaned out half the pack starting at the top.  When this person went to get information from Petre’, his house was trashed from a fire with two burnt remains inside.  One of the remains had an arm, and get this, a head missing.  They found the burnt skull on the other side of the room.  They found one other burnt crispy body.  They figured out that these two bodies were the Were officers that hung with Petre’ for daytime protection.  They were able to find Petre’s exits and found one that opened up about two hundred yards away.  There was a bloody bear trap sprung by the hole.  The could still smell a little of Petre’s blood on the trap, but no Petre’.

Frank’s mind was furiously trying to figure out the ramifications of everything Gerry was telling him.  He needed to get more information and Frank’s advisor was most likely not permitted to contact him at this time, wonderful.

“Damn, Gerry.  Now you’ve given me more than a headache, I’m afraid to ask what your concern might be.  Want to share it with me?”

Frank heard Gerry sigh on the other side of the line.  “Yeah, its the young and dumb.  They haven’t seen a really scary vampire in years and now they are starting to act up.  The council can put a lid on it for so long before either a vampire needs to take care of it, or the council will have to own up and make a decision which way they really want to go with this ‘not telling the world’ stricture.  When we had Michael to lay the blame on, it was easy to just say it wasn’t in our hands to deal with.  Now, Michael has gone missing for a while, at least that is the rumor…”

Frank could feel Gerry wanting confirmation, so he sighed and confirmed Gerry’s comment. “Yes, Michael is missing.  Like I mentioned, Nathan was supposed to find and report on Michael and Bethany Anne.  Apparently, he has found Bethany Anne and god only knows what else he has been up to.  Except giving me an update, of course.”

“He did, just not to your face.  You tell me the next time you want to ignore a vampire and I’ll get ready for your funeral.”

“Ok, good point.  So you guys are wanting what from me, exactly?”

“I need to get Nathan’s input and your thoughts.  What do you think will happen if we allow more were-wolf sightings to occur?”

Gerry knew very well what might happen, Frank thought.  It wouldn’t be a pretty situation at all.  If humans could confirm the existence of the supernatural, all sorts of problems would happen.  He could think of a few that would be pretty negative and that didn’t even include what the major religions would say.

Frank really wished Michael would show up.  He hadn’t considered just how much everything stayed quiet when everyone would tell stories about the dreaded Vampire Patriarch.  There must be a lot of pent up aggression just waiting to pop if anyone could confirm Michael was dead.

He needed to get in contact with Bethany Anne.

“Let me see if I can get in touch with Bethany Anne.  I’m not sure what she can do to scare the young and dumb, as you put it, but she is a vampire that will probably talk to me.  The rest of Michael’s kids only talk with Carl and he is missing, as well. If it goes completely in the can, I can see about contacting her dad.  God, this is a mess.”

Frank heard Gerry sigh over the phone, “Yeah.  If and when you talk with Nathan let him know I need him back here in the states.  He’s got a bit of a bad reputation for not taking any shit from anyone, so maybe he can become the boogeyman for a short while.

“Alright, let me see what assets I have in Romania that might be able to find them.  Talk to you later, Gerry.”

“Take care, Frank.  Let me know if you hear anything. Bye.”

Frank heard the click of the phone and set his handset down.  He rubbed his face in frustration.  Not only did he need help with the mayhem and destruction, but now the Weres were getting involved and causing friction.  This whole pot was going to explode if someone didn’t put a lid back on it, and quickly.


CHAPTER TWO

Zurich, Switzerland

Bethany Anne was feeling pretty good.  She was able to get two sets of clothes to mix and match in Bravos, and then here in Zurich she was able to pick up an additional two and another pair of shoes.  The train ride over here wasn’t too bad either.  She was still taking in Etheric Energy and TOM says that should could probably pull off two translocations before needing to ‘hit the vein’ as he called it.  She had stayed in her sleeper compartment for the duration of the trip resting up.  She let Nathan know that he would need to give her a heads up if he felt they were in danger.

Ecaterina had stayed behind in Bravos to take care of a few things.  They would meet up in a couple of days before Bethany Anne went to go wake up Stephen.  Assuming no one woke him and told him about Petres’ demise.

While they had been in the mall in Bravos, shopping, Nathan had recognized a perfume scent and then the face of a female who had tracked him and bugged his clothes when he first got to Bravos.  She was pretty hesitant when approaching him.  Bethany Anne kept half an eye on the situation while she was trying on one of three pairs of shoes with 2” heels she liked.

The two of them stepped out in the courtyard to talk.  Bethany Anne noticed Nathan was discretely looking around the area to see who else could be watching them.

Bethany Anne decided to pay for the one pair that suited and ask the clerk to hold the shoes.  Fortunately, the ladies English was good enough to understand Bethany Anne.

Alexi, Ecaterina’s Were bear uncle, had gone back to visit family before he went back to live on his mountain.  Bethany Anne knew where to find him should she need him and Alexi wasn’t one who enjoyed company.

Ecaterina had decided to come with Bethany Anne to the States, as expected.  Presently, Ecaterina was with her brother Ivan getting some business taken care of and setting up the discussion to tell their parents she was leaving. Well, leaving with a man who was unmarried and another woman they didn’t know.  She wasn’t concerned for her dad, but she said her mom, ‘would have, yes, how you say a bunch of cows?’  It was kittens, but Bethany Anne wasn’t going to correct everything she got wrong.  Idiomatic English is something best experienced.

The funniest situation was when Ecaterina didn’t give any of Nathan’s money back for the trip that he had contracted with her.  She said it was to make sure that Ivan learned that it didn’t matter how ‘nice a man is, or good looking.’  She had earned her pay and then some.  Ivan should learn from her example and make sure the cute women didn’t take him for more money.  Especially now that she wasn’t going to be there to protect him from the dimples.

Once Bethany Anne left the store, the pretty female Nathan was talking to was leaving.  She raised an eyebrow.

“Local pack representative.  They have tracked the problems down to me and ‘forces unknown’.  They didn’t agree with how Algerian was getting them involved with Petre’, and now that everyone who was ‘pro-vampire’ is dead, they wanted to make sure I wasn’t gunning for them.”  He smiled and his face lit up. “One concern taken care of!”

Bethany Anne watched the woman walk across the courtyard.  Just before she got to the other side, about 30 yards away, two other guys connected with her and they all walked around the corner.

“How can we be sure they are telling the truth?”

Nathan looked back to where Bethany Anne was looking. “Pack politics.  She says that it wasn’t only the Bravos pack that wanted the situation stopped, but that the pack contacted the EPC and it was a directive from the council.  Without Algerian here, they don’t have any way argue the ruling should they want to.  I can call Gerry back in the States and ask him to confirm the ruling, if you want?”

Bethany Anne looked back at Nathan, “you can’t call?”

He shook his head, “No, well, I could but it would be breaking a few rules of decorum around here.  If someone was from Europe and did the same thing in America it wouldn’t raise too many eyeballs.  Here in Europe they would get their boxers in a twist if I did it.”  He noticed Bethany Anne’s eyebrows start to draw together.

“Is that sooo….”

Nathan was accustomed to Bethany Anne’s careless disregard for proper channels of communication.  He wouldn’t be too surprised if she decided to make the call herself.  He just resigned himself to what she wanted to do; it wasn’t as if he would be able to change her mind if she decided to call.

Bethany Anne, in a fashionable dark grey suit and Nathan in a casual sport coat over jeans entered the Swiss bank.  It was a monument to the use of stone as a building material.  The beautiful entryway towered up over 40 feet as their shoes clicked and clacked over the stone that had to have been in place for centuries.

There were two security guards flanking the entrance into the main banking area.  A row of tellers were on the left side, while a group of cubicle offices were on the right and a waiting area with four couches in a square were on a carpet in the middle. A receptionist was at a desk in front of the waiting area.  There were large televisions in all of the corners on finance stations.  Only one showed CNN.

The two of them walked over to the desk and the lady was quick to smile and greet them.  Bethany Anne noticed that she seemed to take a little while extra when greeting Nathan.  His easy smile and warm handshake seemed to sweep her off of her feet.

Bethany Anne rolled her eyes, “Excuse me?”

The receptionist quickly looked back over to Bethany Anne and had a feint blush on her cheeks.  “Yes ma’am, how can we help you?”

“I need to see about getting access to some accounts that should have been opened for me.”

The receptionist looked down at her phone, different lines both blinking and off. “You would need to speak to Mr. Berger, unfortunately, he is on the phone at the moment.  May I get your name and let him know you are waiting?”

“Yes, My name is Bethany Anne.  Please let him know I am not terribly patient.”

The receptionist coolly took her information and picked up the phone to make a call.  The two of them went around the desk to sit on a couch.

Nathan spoke up, his voice a little low so it wouldn’t carry very far. “Why didn’t you give your last name?  Will he be able to find you?”

Bethany Anne took one last breath in and looked over at Nathan, “Oh yes, he will know who I am.  This bank does business with vampires.  I can smell their scent.  Faint, but there.  Plus, vampires don’t have last names, Mr. Lowell.  I gave up Reynolds when I changed.  At least, for the foreseeable future I have.  You know how you have had to deal with money issues for living so long?  Well, compound that issue by 10.  Michael setup a group within this bank and a couple of ancillary banks to handle the issues without always having to create new personas every thirty years or so.  If Mr. Berger isn’t part of the ‘in’ group, I imagine my name will be flagged and we will get a different contact.”

“How will you know if he knows anything?”

Bethany Anne smiled at Nathan, “Why, Mr. Lowell, I’ll see him sweat.”

Kevin Berger was having a fine day.  He had just got off of the phone with a small business who had decided to move their accounts to his bank.  While not something that would get him a raise, enough of these little victories and he would be on track to receive a great quarterly review.

His message waiting light was on so he picked up the phone and called the receptionist.  She explained that an ‘impatient American’ was waiting for him in the lobby.  He got the American ladies name and hung up.

Not even an impatient American was going to ruin the small victory he was feeling right now.  He ran the name in the system to see if anything was pending for her yet.

Not only was something pending, but it had the unique flag associated right next to her name.  The blood drained from his face.  Here was a way to ruin his feel good moment.

He opened the necessary files and reviewed there were over eight accounts that this… lady… was to have access to.  He quickly hit the keys to review the accounts and had he any blood in his face to drain, it would have drained away a second time.

There was enough money in these accounts to float a small to medium nation.  Not only was she Nacht, but she had to be high up for this kind of money.  He, literally, couldn’t afford to upset her or his quarterly review was going to be unnecessary.  He would either be out of a job, or possibly if he upset her enough then the best he would hope for was a quick death.

Kevin was ‘on the inside’, as it was called in the bank.  This was his first meeting with a real Nacht.  Since he worked days only, he had never considered that he would be called to interact with any of them.

He quickly grabbed all of the paperwork he would need, stuffed it into folders and closed and locked his computer.  There was only one way that Nacht were allowed to confirm their…uniqueness.   He really hoped she wasn’t hungry.

Getting on his coat, hopefully hiding the perspiration under his arms, he went out to meet his newest client.  Unfortunately, the receptionist had it all wrong.  Everything he knew about Nacht suggested to him that this lady was being incredibly patient.  He tried not to jog out onto the floor.




CHAPTER THREE

Zurich, Switzerland

Nathan was looking around the bank, but mostly at the large television that had CNN running.  He heard quick footsteps in their direction so he pivoted his head to find out what was happening.  He didn’t expect anything bad to happen in the bank, but he wasn’t a fool, either.

A younger man, probably mid 30’s in a three piece dark-blue suit with red pin-stripping was headed in their direction at the fastest walk he could possibly accomplish without jogging.  Nathan considered this man must be ‘in the know’, he was sweating and his eyes kept shifting to Bethany Anne and back ahead of himself.

Nathan watched as the receptionist recognized the director was stressed.  The guy noticed her hand and surreptitiously shook his head no.  The receptionist took her hand out from under the desk.

Beside him, Bethany Anne stood up.  If he ever got around the vampire part, she was an incredibly beautiful woman. Her grace in moving led one to believe she must have been a ballerina.  Her demeanor and looks even caused the bank representative to take a second look.  It was obvious that who he expected to meet and who he was actually meeting didn’t coincide.

“Ms. Bethany Anne? I’m Kevin Berger, the bank representative and I can help complete your account, um, conclusion so that you may access the finances.  Would you walk with me?”

Bethany Anne graciously took his hand and shook it.  “Certainly Mr. Berger.  Please lead on.  My compatriot Mr. Lowell will be joining us.”  She never asked for Mr. Berger’s permission for Nathan to go and he wasn’t about to refuse this woman anything.

He led off across the foyer and went to a wall clad in wood.  There was a small, hard to see catch that he pushed which opened a door that opened into the wall.  He opened the door and stood aside.  Nathan went in first followed by Bethany Anne who gave Kevin a sweet smile.

He gulped and closed the door behind them.

Inside was a small hallway with a coffee bar, refrigerator and snacks all laid out on the left and then the hallway opened into a larger room about 12’x15’.  There was a couch on the near wall with a gorgeous rug and a coffee table.  Towards the other end was a table with three chairs around it.  When the door shut behind them, you could feel the pressure.  This room was soundproof.

“Would either of you care for refreshments?”  Kevin grimaced.  He hoped he didn’t just offer his neck.  As both of the people in front of him were walking into the room, he was glad they didn’t see him roll his eyes at his own stupidity.

“No, we are both good Mr. Berger.”

“Very good, Ms. Bethany Anne.  Would you care to join me at the table?  This is a soundproof room and there are no electronic recording devices allowed.  I have the trust of the bank that what I do, is proven sufficiently.  Since the Nacht setup the requirements for verification, nothing is allowed to be recorded.

Bethany Anne looked over at Nathan.  He just took out a small box from his jacket and retrieved a little rectangle device he plugged into his phone.  In a minute, he shook his head to Bethany Anne.

“Very good, Mr. Berger.  How is it that you want me to confirm, or verify, my identity?”

“You don’t know?”  Kevin wanted to slap himself.  His surprise that the lady in front of him didn’t already know the method of verification slipped past his mouth at a most inopportune time.

“No, Mr. Berger.  Would you care to enlighten me?  Or do I have to play twenty questions.  I can guarantee that after the first two I will get very impatient.”

Bethany Anne was getting a little worried.  She figured she would have to give some DNA or something.  That is what Carl was expecting.  Maybe he didn’t understand the true method?

The sweat beaded a little more on his forehead.  “Um, My lady, you have to prove who, or what you are.  Rather, you have to verify that you are, in fact, a vampire Ms. Bethany Anne.”

Bethany Anne wanted to laugh out loud.  The bank representative went from concerned to deathly afraid in a second when he had to say vampire out loud.

Did every person think the only thing vampires did was drink blood?  While tempting to see what he would do if she did bring her fangs out, she decided that she might try other ideas first.

“Mr. Berger, are there specifically ‘approved’ ways to prove my, unnaturalness?  I presume that you really don’t want me to bite you, right?”  She had a difficult time not adding a lip-smacking sound while glancing at his neck.  She didn’t really need to smell him urinate right here.

“Well, to be honest it wasn’t ever expected that I would have to actually perform one of these introductions.  I, uh, I figured that just showing me your fangs might work?”

He sounded so hopeful.  She almost did as he asked.  However; she could think of a few ways that you could try to trick someone.  She needed him for future work, and didn’t want him ignorant.

“How about we do this, Mr. Berger.  I will slap your head off of your shoulders.  If I fail, then you know for sure I am not a vampire.  However; if I succeed… No, I guess that will just make a significant mess.”

Kevin was rapidly shaking his head up and down at this point.

Seriously?  Bethany Anne was almost pissed that she was going to have to do something so prosaic as show her fangs.  She wanted to do something with class.  It was then that Nathan cocked his head and turned it back towards the entrance.

Bethany Anne cocked an ear and heard the noise from outside as well.  It seemed the bank was being robbed.

In a calm, yet annoyed voice, Bethany Anne spoke.  “Those fucktards are messing up my day.  I swear to god if I get any blood on my suit I will shove their guns up their asses.”  Bethany Anne figured anything that might show up on video would be erased before anyone could see it.  What was the worst that could happen, Michael show up to spank her?  If only he would show up so she could give him a piece of her mind.

She took off her pumps and set them on the table; turned around and started walking towards the door and disappeared.

Kevin’s mouth dropped open.  He looked over at the guy who was still staring back out towards the door.  It was soundproof, what did he think he was listening to?

Kevin started to walk towards the door.

Nathan put out his arm to stop him, “You need to go back to where you were standing a minute ago.  She will be right back and if she doesn’t come through the door, you don’t want to be where she might end up.  I’m sure it will be bad for her but it would absolutely ruin your day.”

Kevin stepped backwards until he was back in his original space.  Then she appeared again, but this time with two pistols and an AR-15.  She handed the rifle and one of the pistols to the guy and placed one in her waistband.  She looked over her shoulder, “Remind me to get shoulder holster, would you Nathan?”

Nathan just nodded his head, checked out the AR-15 and put the safety on both guns before moving over to the hallway and faced it as if someone might come in.

Bethany Anne caught Kevin’s attention.  “Sorry about that, your bank was being robbed.  I would really hate my day to be interrupted.”

“What…what did you do?” Kevin’s face had gone white when he saw the guns the lady suddenly appeared with.

“Hmmm?  Oh, I just took the guns away from the annoying fuck-nuts outside that wanted to rob your bank.  I don’t have time to deal with the cops right now.  Can we get moving with this?  Does disappearing and reappearing with guns suit you just fine?  If not, I could use a little energy.” When she finished saying that, she willed her eyes to start moving into the red realm on purpose.  Usually, they went red when she was completely vamping out.  However; she had a discussion with TOM and he explained how he could manipulate the right nerves to get the effect.

It worked, splendidly.  “No, no, I think translocation is a working reference for me.  I have the documents and the account numbers right here for you.”  He quickly sat down at the table and pulled out the documents and a pen from inside his jacket.  He directed her through all of the locations to sign and provided copies for her.

Bethany Anne finished all of the signatures, took the copies and slipped the envelope into her Coach purse.

There was a knocking at the door.  Nathan turned around and raised an eyebrow at Bethany Anne.  She turned back towards Kevin.  “Mr. Berger, I really don’t want to be interrupted right now.  Please see what they want and I will need appropriate credit cards to pull from my accounts, how do I go about procuring three sets of cards?”

The knocking happened again. Kevin jumped up and slipped by Nathan to crack the door an inch and talked to a person on the other side.  He quickly closed the door and came back into the room.  “As you said, there has been a robbery attempt and the cops are asking that everyone be interviewed before they leave the building.  I explained that you were a very important client who

didn’t want to be involved but they are very confused with what happened outside.  One minute the criminals have guns and black masks and the next they are all on the floor without their masks or guns.  They have them all cuffed, but can’t figure out what happened.  They are asking for our video.”

“Who did you talk with out there?”

“A local officer, I think.  I’m sure an Inspector will be here as soon as he can.”

“When the Inspector arrives, please have him come here.  I’ll take care of his questions.  However; I will need a large hat and veil to get back out of here.”

“Why wouldn’t you just,” Kevin moved his hands around as if something exploded.

“I would request a small token of your affection Mr. Berger, say a few ounces.  Are you offering?”

“No, no.  I am sorry for letting my curiosity go like that, it is inexcusable.  I will find a hat my lady.”  With that, Kevin bowed and went out through the door.

Nathan went to sit by the couch, out of the direct line of sight from someone coming in the door.  “So that disappearing trick takes a bunch of energy?”

“Always trying to get information, aren’t we Nathan?”  Bethan Anne’s lips formed a mischievous smile.  “But I didn’t use much energy for what I did.  I just wanted to encourage Mr. Berger here to be a little more circumspect.”

“Can you take more than just you?”

Bethany Anne pursed her lips.  “I don’t know.  If I do, it could take a dramatically larger amount of energy to accomplish.  I could end up on the other side immediately needing a top off and the person I took might become my snack.  Seems a little risky.”

“Do you always have to, ah, eat them?”  Nathan was thinking back to the clearing where they had first met.  Bethany Anne had grabbed at least 80 lbs of hungry wolf and plucked it out of the air as if it were a feather.  Then proceeded to rip its neck open and drink before dropping the lifeless body back on the ground in front of him.  It made a very memorable impression.

“You know Nathan, I really haven’t tried just taking a little sip, yet.  How about we try it real quick?”

Nathan suddenly realized how the presently missing Mr. Berger felt.  It was a damn useful way to shut someone up quickly.

“I’m good, thanks.”

A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. And Mr. Berger came back in.  He handed Bethany Anne a small manilla envelope.  “My lady, here are the cards that allow you access to the accounts at any Cash Access Machine pretty much anywhere in Europe.  The Investigator is here, and will be coming this way shortly.  I’ve made sure the video will not be available.  As someone with responsibility for your accounts, I have the ability to override even the bank president if necessary.  We will give them any video that doesn’t directly show what happened.  They will be less than pleased but they don’t have any hostages either. I think they came out ahead on this one.  I have a lady out purchasing the requested hat and veil right now.

“Very good, Mr. Berger.  While I wait, would you give me a printout of the accounts and any annuities and how the income is derived and how much is in cash?  Thank you so much.”   Kevin bowed his head and left.

“What do you want to do with the weapons?”  Nathan looked longingly at the AR-15.

“Well, we can probably get away with the pistols, but I’m not sure how to deal with the rifle.  It isn’t like we can take it with us on the train.  Then again, I suppose we could get a case to hide it in.”

“It is a weapon untraceable to us.  I would feel a little better with a couple of options.  The randomness of this attack concerns me.”

“Why, you don’t think it is random?”  Bethany Anne went over to the couch and sat down.  Nathan stuck the pistol behind his waistband under his coat.  Setting the rifle down beside the couch, he sat with Bethany Anne.

“Yes, I think it is most likely random.  To assume enemy action is to look for all problems to have someone behind it and that way just leads to crazy.  However; to not take precautions in case I’m wrong and it is enemy action is also foolish.  Just because the EPC told the Bravos pack to back down doesn’t mean that there isn’t a suborning team on the council that wouldn’t like to take out a new vamp.”

Bethany Anne raised a single eyebrow to Nathan.

“Look, everyone pretty much assumes that new vamps aren’t as powerful as you are.”

“One minute.” Bethany Anne went inside herself for a moment.

TOM, what is the story behind this weak vampire comment?

It makes sense, Bethany Anne.  When you consider that the Nanocytes are propagating and taking some of the best and worst features to their next host they won’t be as pure as those from my ship.  With each generation it will take longer to accomplish the change and the connections to the etheric would take time as well.  There would be fewer nanocytes created capable of connecting to the etheric.  However; not even Michael has as many nanocytes as your body and I stay on top of what they are doing at all times.  Michael was never taught how to direct the efforts so I doubt any of the other children know it can be done as well.

That’s interesting, I didn’t know this either.

You have me.

Right, but not forever, don’t forget I expect to eventually find a way to provide you a different host to annoy.

You wound me, Bethany Anne.  I’ve been quiet for a while.

I know, it causes me concern.  

Why?

Like a small child, the biggest problems are when they are their quietest.  When we get done here, you and I are going to talk.

Bethany Anne didn’t get a response which confirmed her suspicion that TOM was up to something and now wasn’t wanting to own up to what he was doing.  Damn.  Served her right for ignoring him the last week.  She turned back to Nathan. “Ok, it makes complete sense what you are saying.  It is very unlikely that a regular vampire would be as powerful as I am.”

It was Nathan’s turn to think in silence for a minute. “So, this could have been setup to see how you reacted?”  The door received a knock at that moment.  Nathan stood up and motioned for Bethany Anne to stay seated.  She hid a smile thinking how this man was taking the responsibility for protection over his objective experience that she was better suited to handle problems than even he was.  However; he certainly caused more people to reconsider violence when they took one look at him.

Nathan came back after closing the door and offered the shopping bag with a large box inside.  Bethany Anne pulled the box out and set it on the coffee table.  Opening the box, there was a very pretty fall fashionable hat with a black veil which would keep any cameras from getting a good picture of her face.

Nathan snorted as she giggled like a little girl when placing the hat on her head, “How do I look?”

He shook his head and was saved from trying to answer that question by another knock on the door.  He went to the door and opened it, seeing the Inspector, he opened the door and allowed him in.


CHAPTER FOUR

Zurich, Switzerland

Inspector Golay knocked on the door.  If he hadn’t been directed to this section of the wood covered wall, he wouldn’t have realized there was a door there.

Whoever was inside must be important to the bank.  They didn’t want to be part of the circus which was happening out in the rest of the bank.  While he could sympathize, he wasn’t willing to treat anyone too special just because the bank management would wring their hands.

He was still annoyed at the video run-around.  To have it all be available except for the clips where the criminals were taken down was beyond suspect. It was actual collusion to keep evidence out of the hands of the police.

This bank was one of Switzerland's oldest.  They had secrets from their secrets.  Trying to get too much information out of them would certainly bring him headaches.  If not from his Chief, then from people leaning on his chief.

The rumor was that it was a couple of American’s.  While not particularly rare to be doing banking here in Zurich, for Americans to avoid publicity was not what you expected.  They usually seemed to be publicity hounds.

The door was opened and one of the biggest men Inspector Golay had seen was in front of him.  Dressed in a sports jacket with a couple of days-old growth on his cheeks.  He glanced around behind the Inspector and opened the door to let him in.

This man was a professional.  Right now he was a professional guard, it seemed, but he wasn’t so sure that the man wasn’t a professional with the darker deeds, as well.

As he stepped into the suite, the door was calmly shut behind him and all noise seemed to be shut off behind him.  Ah, he thought, sound proof.

He pulled out his recorder and walked into the room.  To his left, a lady in a suit, hat and veil was sitting demurely on the couch.

“Welcome Inspector.  How can we help you today?”

“Thank you, I appreciate your willingness to talk with me for a minute.  Do you mind taking the hat off?”

“Why would you need me to do that, Inspector?”  He could see enough of her lower face to see a small grin form.

He looked around, walked over to the table and grabbed a chair and brought it back to the area across the couch and coffee table and sat in it. “I like to see the eyes of the people I speak with.  Certainly you have nothing to hide?”  She smiled at him but said nothing and didn’t take off the hat.

“Inspector, are you suggesting that an American woman was able to take down those bank robbers and no one was able to see?”  She lifted a foot, and a very shapely leg, from behind the coffee table, “in high heels, no less?  This is what I’m trying to hide?”

Well, it was obvious she wasn’t running in those high heels and taking down alert bank robbers.  Even in the conservative suit, he was sure no men would fail to notice her.

He looked up at the man who had come to stand by the couch, his hands in front of him. “What about you,“ He looked down at his notes.  He had stopped by the receptionist’s desk and written down the names of all of the people who had waited in line for help.  “Mr. Lowell?”

The mans green eyes stared back at the Inspector, completely at ease with him knowing his name. “I’m sorry, Inspector.  I have not been out of the room here since we came in.  I’ve not seen anything out in the teller area since coming in here and cannot help.  I wish I could.”  He shrugged his shoulders.

The Inspector knew that he was both getting the run around and wasting his time.  They had good alibis.  People noticed them coming into the room, but never leaving.  The door never opened.  He felt sure someone would have noticed if a door had unexpectedly appeared in the wall.

But something was nagging at him.  They were too calm, too collected.  Even with not hearing anything out of this room.  They should be talking about it, at least.  However; they were poised, calm and collected.

He started looking around the room, keeping them in his peripheral vision.  “Did you know that the guns from the robbers disappeared?”

Ah!  He got a little start from the man who had looked down at the lady.  Maybe this wasn’t going to be a waste of his time.

Bethany Anne decided to take control of the conversation. “Why yes, Inspector Golay.  I did know about this.  How do you believe it occurred?”  What had Ecaterina said back with Petre’?  Oh yes, ‘father said to use the right bait.”   She stood up and walked right by the Inspector on her way to the table, allowing Nathan to sit back in the couch where he had been.  The Inspectors eyes followed Bethany Anne the whole way, ignoring Nathan.

Nathan took the time to push the AK-15 back under the couch a little better, hiding it well unless the Inspector chose to get on his hands and knees to look.

“Well, I don’t really know.  That is why I am asking you.  I thought perhaps Americans would know better?  There seem to be guns all over the United States, so I figured maybe you had run into it more often?”

Bethany Anne started laughing quietly.  To think that she was getting thrown into the ‘gun toting American’  stereotype.  If the Inspector knew how dangerous she could be without a gun, he wouldn’t have worried about asking her that question.  Then she realized it wasn’t a stereotype.  Both she and Nathan had guns on them at that very moment.  They hadn’t brought them into the bank, but they did have them and planned on keeping them.  Gott Verdammt, his stereotype was right in this case.  Bethany Anne hated being a stereotype.  She sighed and faced him, raising her arms just a little to accentuate her figure.  “Do you need to search me, Inspector?”

Inspector Golay started sweating a little.  This woman had just turned the tables on him, playing with him.  He was tempted to inspect her just to be a snit.  However; she wasn’t hiding anything that he could see, and certainly neither one had an AR-15 under their coats.  She certainly wasn’t hiding anything illegal, maybe immoral, but not illegal under her suit coat.  He stood up.  “Certainly not, Fräulein.”  I appreciate your time and should I have any additional questions, where might I get hold of you?”

“I’m sorry, Inspector.  But Mr. Lowell and I are only here to take care of banking business.  We will be leaving in a couple of hours.”

“Are you heading back to America, Fräulein?”

“No, we are actually heading back to Romania, Inspector.  May we go, now?”

“Certainly, I will see myself out the door and let the others know you may leave.  Have a pleasant day.”

With that, Inspector Golay tipped his head to Nathan and left the two Americans in the room.

On the train, Nathan noticed that there seemed to be two men who surreptitiously were paying attention to Bethany Anne and had sat in seats to make sure that they could see the door to her sleeping compartment.  One Nathan had pegged as probably just someone who might be excited by her looks.  The other, however; had that edge that suggested a hunter.  Probably a government agent.

He knocked on Bethany Anne’s door.  “Yes?”

“It’s Nathan, do you have a moment?”  She cracked the door and peeked out the slit, raising an eyebrow.

“Privately?” She pursed her lips and opened the door to let him in.  The sleeping compartment was very small.  She liked to lay down and hadn’t wanted to share a compartment so had purchased her own and asked Nathan what he wanted.  He wasn’t sleepy so had opted to sit out in a seat to see what was going on.  He still wasn’t comfortable with the robbery happening while they were at the bank.

She was wearing a night shift and a robe on top of that.  Appropriate, but hardly demure.  Fortunately, he was still well aware of her dark side and frankly, he was still anxious to see Ecaterina again.  Ecaterina was gorgeous, fun, gregarious, enjoyed the outdoors and didn’t have red eyes.  A major plus for Nathan.  Plus, she had an accent to die for.  All things considered, he had almost died for Ecaterina once so far.

Nathan got to the point, “we have two guys watching your compartment.  I think I’ve placed one as a romantic interest, the other, however; is probably undercover.”

“You mean like an inspector from the police back at the bank?”

“No, like a governmental individual.”

“European?”

“Could be, might be American.  I can’t tell and I haven’t talked with him yet.  I haven’t spoken to Frank in a while, so it could be another person sent to look after me, looking after you.  Or, it could be Pack related.  Either way, I’ve been out of touch for a while.”

Bethany Anne felt a pang of remorse.  She knew she had taken too much of Nathan’s time, but she was too new with the UnknownWorld and she had to admit she was using Nathan as a lifeline to not screw up too much.  She needed to not take advantage of her, admittedly few, friends right now.

“I guess we do need to talk with Frank.  However; I refuse to label it as ‘checking in’.  I’m not a big fan of thinking someone has me on the proverbial leash.  You either.”  Then she smiled up at Nathan in that ‘I’m going to have fun at your expense’ way he was becoming used to.  “Well, let’s be honest, I’m only ok with either myself holding your leash, or maybe Ecaterina?”

Big, bad Mr. Lowell looked down at the shorter vampire and both blushed and gave her a long suffering look at the same time.  “That obvious?”

“Only to everyone else, Nathan.  You know she has it bad for you, too. Right?” Bethany Anne didn’t promise to not get involved and the longer these two danced around each other it was driving her mad.

“Really?”

Bethany Anne rolled her eyes, “Only to everyone.  Alexi, Ivan and myself.  The only two clueless are you and Ecaterina.  Like two teenagers mooning for each other.  Wipe that grin off of your face, Nathan.  What do you suggest we do about you checking with your Council and Frank and our unexpected guests outside?”

Nathan tried to dampen his smile and focus on her questions, but Bethany Anne shouldn’t have confirmed that Ecaterina liked him if she wanted his full attention.

“Ah, damn.  Uhhhh, let me call Gerry and get the lay of the land and then I’ll talk with Frank.  Do you want to talk with them?”

“Not yet.  I don’t mind you updating Frank with what is going on, however; I don’t want him to think that I need anything from him right now.  Hell, maybe never considering what was in the accounts.”

Yeah, that was true, thought Nathan.  When Bethany Anne shared that she was officially independently wealthy with the money in the accounts that Michael had connected her.  He was simultaneously relieved and concerned.  If Michael had given her access to that much wealth, it could lead one to believe that he wasn’t expecting to be around for a while, if ever.  She had access to all of his holdings all over the world.  She had asked him to keep the particulars to himself, but that he could share his suppositions and concerns regarding Michael he had shared with her.

“Nathan, once you talk with Gerry and Frank.  I think we need to make further plans.  I will understand if you need to go back to the States.  Ecaterina and I will follow you as soon as I finish with Stephen.  I value everything you have done for me and I hope that we can stay friends?”

Nathan was surprised.  So far, Bethany Anne had been very aloof since they had met.  This was the first time she had offered the fig leaf of friendship in his direction.  “So, if I ask how again how you could get back up with a hole so big in your stomach I could see the wall through you?” He smiled at the memory.

Bethany Anne smiled back, “Yeah, ok.”  She put her fingers really close together. “Maybe only 1 minute away, Mr. Lowell.”

She started getting out a pair of jeans and a shirt. “Give me a couple of minutes to get dressed and you can use my compartment. They way things are going, check the compartment for bugs before you call.  I’ll go hit the restroom and get a bite to eat.

Nathan just smiled and stepped out of the compartment.

Bethany Anne placed her hat on her head and then opened the door. Nathan was getting up from a seat a few feet away, she stepped back and let him go into her sleeping compartment to talk with Gerry and Frank.

She walked up towards the bar-buffet car.  With her Premier ticket, the food was included.  She hadn’t any previous experience with eating on a train and was immediately enjoying the experience.  It looked pretty posh to her.

The seats were all in a deep red velour, with white table linen and red drapes around the windows.  There was a huge amount of polished brass in the car and it was certainly an upscale experience.  She sat down at a table with two places.  She didn’t want to be rude and take a whole booth for herself.   She wasn’t sure how long Nathan would be on the phone.  She had been pretty strict not wanting him to check in.  Now, she was going to have to suffer the results for requiring Nathan to stay out of communication.

The waiter came and he enquired what kind of white wines she might like.  She smiled and just asked him to surprise her.  With her hat on, an affectation she had to admit she enjoyed, the most people could see was her mouth and chin.  She sat a moment and watched the countryside slide by.

She had a lot to accomplish.  Now, Michael had saddled her with the means to do anything she wanted.  She had more money and accumulated wealth a thousand years can bring and frankly, she was overwhelmed.



She thought back to the basics.  Shelter, water, food.  Well, she didn’t suffer from a lack of shelter if she trusted Michael’s homes across the world.  Just glancing through the documents she had multiple domiciles on all of the major continents and a few very secret places in South America and Africa.  She guessed that made sense with his forsaken children over in that area.

But did she want to use them?

Her wine came and she thanked the waiter and took a sip.  A very nice Chianti Classico from Italy, she had been told.  It was nice.  She noticed a black rooster design on the neck of the bottle before he had taken off the seal.

She had no idea how much it cost, and was still trying to understand her life.  She needed to consider short term goals, such as talking with Stephen and connecting with the UnknownWorld while still planning for the far future when the world would need to be able to defend itself.

TOM, what do we need to produce the parts for our ship?

Our ship?

You keep calling this our body, it makes sense to me.

She sensed that TOM was a bit befuddled through their connection.  Ever since the organic computer had been placed in her head, she was getting a better and better connection in her discussions with TOM.

Ok.  I guess that makes sense but it is a bit much to understand.  I’m in your body, so ‘we’ are sharing it.  The ship was mine as I landed it here.  I can’t take control of it back without a body, so I guess you’re right.

Back to the question, TOM.

Well, it needs two structural joints that were destroyed when landing.  Without them we can’t get the landing legs to retract into the body and then we would not have a craft that would work without atmosphere.  Other than that, the whole body will need a review and patching with some rather sophisticated alloys I’m not sure your world has available yet and of course, there is the jump-engine and anything which might have been affected when I came in on the last jump.  I didn’t have time to do a full diagnostic on the engine and you can’t do this while in an atmosphere.

So, to summarize, with the landing gear fixed we can go out of the atmosphere, but what about here on the ground?  Why didn’t you ever move the craft after you landed?

I’m not sure what other pieces were broken and while it had power, I didn’t want to chance crashing it completely with another ascent and descent.  When Michael came to the ship within the first thirty to forty solar turns I figured I was in a good enough place.  I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t see anyone until you.

Bethany Anne considered his comments.  It seemed the ship was probably capable of making a trip to a hanger she could acquire.  There they would look into ship refurbishment and reverse engineering.  However; how was she going to accomplish this without getting the tin-foil hat group or governments involved?  She knew that her own government would grab the ship and stuff it into a black hole even she would have trouble getting it back out of.  It spoke to why powerful people worked with smaller and more easily manipulated governments.

However; if she was going to make a difference she would eventually need to be able to work with the major powers.  All of them.  The U.S., China, Russia, India and the European’s.  If she decided to start with a smaller country, it would make it harder for any of the big governments to get involved, but not impossible.  Plus, she doubted that as much pull as she might now have, she had more than the biggest governments.

What a freaking headache, she finished off her glass of wine.

“Would the beautiful lady allow me to provide your second glass of wine?”

Bethany Anne looked up through the veil to see a spectacular example of a well groomed and cultured European gentleman in front of her.  With dark hair, an Italian suit and shoes, gold cufflinks and a glass of wine in each hand he stood on the other side of her table a smile in his eyes.  God, she thought, this man was smooth.  “And how, dear sir, do you know that I am beautiful?”  She had to smile in spite of the interruption to her conversation with TOM.  It wasn’t like this man had a clue.  He looked familiar.

You saw him sitting two rows behind Nathan when you left your sleeping cabin.

She forgot that TOM saw, and remembered, everything.  However; it was damn useful right now.  So long as he didn’t become an ‘I told you so’ pain in the ass, she would deal with it.

“Madam, any who would block their beauty to save the rest of us from the sadness of no longer being permitted to view their face is not only beautiful on the outside, but is truly beautiful inside.”

No wonder American woman loved Europeans.  While it was so much beautiful bullshit, they certainly made it smell as wonderful as spring time with flowers.  She reached out to accept the wine and the gentleman sat down.  The waiter was right there to take away her extra glass.  She took a sip of the wine and set it down.

Bethany Anne, this wine is not the same makeup as the one you just drank.

Bethany Anne frowned, not letting the concern reach past her eyes.

What do you mean?

I mean that this wine has other chemicals that the glass you originally drank did not.  Let me see what it is doing to you and I’ll let you know.

You do that.

“May I introduce myself?”

“First names only, please.”

He smiled, “Certainly, My name is Rafael and you?”   He seemed to be even more sure of himself as he sat down.  Was that due to her acceptance or something he put in the wine?

“Bethany Anne.”

TOM, hurry the fuck up.

“How has your trip been so far?  Are you going to Romania, or returning to Romania?  You are an American, correct?”

“Going back, Rafael, and yes, I am an American.”

Got it Bethany Anne.  It is a set of chemicals that are working on your cognitive ability, making you less able to function.  You would have started seeing effects in about twenty to thirty minutes after you drink enough of the wine.

Can you get rid of it? 

Absolutely.

Ok TOM, I am upgrading you to less-than-pain-in-the-ass status.

Does this mean I move off of the couch.

Hell, no.

Well, I tried.

Bethany thought through her options.  When she slipped into ‘vamp speed’, everything slowed down around her and she was able to complete a significant amount of activity, physical or mental.  Considering this ass-wipe just tried to roofie her, one of the options was to throw him off the train while it was still rolling.  With her luck, they would do some sort of passenger count, find out they had a missing person and stop the train.  Of course, he could be working for someone and was trying to kidnap her, too.

She still liked option #1.  Violence was never too far from the top of her preferred options.

Her voice slipped to silk over steel.

“Tell me, Rafael, what is your real name?”

The man’s eyes first started to look scared, then his whole face took on an almost blank expression.

“Paul, Paul Rutherford.”

“So, you’re not Spanish at all, are you?”

“Some, my mom was Spanish, my father English but we lived in France.”

“And what were you expecting to do with me, Mr. Rutherford?

“Once you were under the effects of the drug.  I was going to have you come to my sleeping cabin for the night.  There, I was going to go through your purse and steal your money and credit cards.  I would have you share with me your PIN codes as well.”

“How many times have you done this type of theft, Mr. Rutherford?”

“Three times.”

“Why have you not been reported and apprehended before?”

“The ladies don’t remember due to the drug and I stop using the cards within 72 hours. They often are too embarrassed to pursue it with the law.”

Bethany Anne switched their glasses of wine.  “Drink up, Mr. Rutherford.  I think you are about to have a poor night.”

Paul drank the glass of wine, almost finishing it one long gulp.

After getting his sleeping cabin number, she commanded him to go and sleep in his cabin and stay there until the train got to his stop.  At that time, he was to go to the nearest police officer and admit his crimes.  He stood up to leave and while he was turning around, he bumped into Nathan coming down the car from her sleeping cabin.  Paul ignored Nathan and stepped around him making a beeline towards his cabin.

“What was that all about?”  Nathan sat down.

“He just tried to roofie me.  He dropped Rohypnol into the wine he bought me. Apparently, he has a small dick and a smaller amount of talent.  He finds rich woman susceptible to a few good lines and slips them a drug-laced drink.

Nathan just sat there, keeping a completely blank face.

“Nathan, shut up.  I was trying to be nice to someone.  He was interrupting my thoughts and I was trying not to be a raging bitch to the man and look what that got me.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t throw him off of the train.  Without his arms.”

“I considered it.  I’m still considering it, actually.  I know where he sleeps.”

“I take it that the drugs don’t affect you?”

“Not in the small amount I drank before I, well, before I could tell he slipped the drug into the wine.”  Not going to let him know that TOM was the one who figured it out.

Thanks a lot, I get no appreciation.

Shut up or it’s back to the dog house.

Fine, fine.

“That is a piece of good news, maybe the only good news for a minute or two.  So, I have bad news and even badder news.  Which do you want first?”  Nathan got the waiters attention and found out they had both steak and lamb available.  He ordered both with a double side of vegetables.

Bethany Anne raised her eyebrow at his double order of vegetables.

“Don’t say a word.  Just… don’t.”

She pinched her fingers together and made to zip her mouth shut.  It’s the least she could do.  Considering Nathan had just suggested ripping Mr. Rutherfords’ arms off.  It was a stellar idea and she was giving it some serious thought.



CHAPTER FIVE

Zurich, Switzerland to Brasov, Romania

They sat at their table for a minute in companionable silence as Bethany Anne had a fresh glass of wine delivered.  The waiter took everything away.  A minute later, he was back with Nathan’s food.  Nathan, she noticed, had very good table manners.

He gave her a discreet update while he ate.  “Our DC contact is having a lot of problems.  He has lost a lot of men without Bill supporting the dangerous operations. He is getting heat from a few higher up in the law enforcement / military hierarchy since he can’t provide any resources except information.  The rest of the family won’t talk with him without Carl who had his authority from Michael.  So, no one here in Europe is getting any help, either.  The problems are starting to jam up, and with so many deaths starting to happen it won’t be too long before someone is going to figure out there has been a substantial increase in deaths due to unexplainable causes.”

Finishing his meat, he started in on his vegetables, “Now, we move to Gerry who is having a problem with the young and stupid and full of testosterone within the Were community.  They have never liked the rules Michael put in place.  The rumor mill is full of speculation that Michael is dead and there hasn’t been anything from the vampire community to quell that rumor in America.  So, the council is having more and more troubles keeping a lid on the troublemakers.  At least here, the council has run into an incident with a vampire involved.  Well, involved proactively.  Everyone knows if you go and tweak a vampire you should have your life insurance paid up.  However; the problem has been that they aren’t doing anything without direction from Michael, or Carl in this case.

Stephen isn’t awake, supposedly and Barnabas hasn’t been seen in a dozen years or more.  Peter is awake in Asia, but he takes care of that area without Michael’s involvement.  The last one, David, is supposedly over in Russia for the last five years and I have no information on him. I know he has one more, but I can’t remember his name.”

Bethany Anne set her drink down.  “I will have a discussion with Stephen.  He isn’t on my good list since he hasn’t been paying attention.  Petre’ was a fine example.  I’ll get him motivated.”

“How do you plan to do that?  It isn’t like you can just throw him into the sun like Petre’.  He is the only other vampire that the sun doesn’t effect.”

“Nathan, everyone has a point of encouragement.  If they don’t and I can’t trust them then I figure I can always elevate someone within the organization when a sudden opening at the top of the Family occurs.”

“You know, you kinda scare me when you do that.”

“What?”

“Act like Michael.  Where killing is always the first, last and potentially the only solution.”

“Nathan, I don’t want to have killing them be my first choice.  However; at the moment it is the only punishment that most of the Family seems to recognize.”

As the waiter approached, they kept quiet while he took Nathan’s plates and returned with coffee for both of them.

Bethany Anne continued, “However; you will notice Michael had a soft spot.  Except for the Forsaken, he hasn’t directly punished his own children when they have had less than exemplary conduct.”

“How would you attempt to do that?  No offense, but going after Stephen, Barnabas or any of the rest is going to be too much for you.”

“Nathan, have you ever had any kids?”

“Yes, but I lost him in Vietnam.”

Bethany Anne was reminded just how old Nathan really was.  He looked like he was in his late 20’s or a very good 30.  “Sorry to hear that.  Did you have any problem punishing him?”

Nathan sat back, thinking back over the years that he grew up.  “Yeah, they say that little girls can tie their fathers around their fingers.  It was a good that Adam wasn’t a girl: he had me tied up pretty good all on his own. His mother had to punish him more often because I would just slap his hand.”

“Then you understand Michael’s situation.  He recognized a character trait in himself that wasn’t working for everyone.  So, he made a change.”

“That change was you?  How is bringing in a sister going to change the brothers?”

“That’s just it, Nathan.  I’ll let you in on a secret, one that you will keep on pain of death.  He didn’t create a sister, but rather a Mother.  As his Mother, I’m about to school Stephen on how upset ‘Mom’ really is.”

Nathan could see her eyes glowing red behind her veil. Oh, fuckity-fuck, he thought.  He had been concerned when he believed Bethany Anne to be a powerful vampire for her age.  Someone that Michael might have a ‘talk’ to when, and if, he ever came back.  Now he wasn’t sure that Michael could, or even would, correct her if he came back.

Nathan desperately needed to get Gerry and the council to get the troublemakers in line and circle the damn wagons.  He was pretty sure that if Bethany Anne had to come ‘fix’ things, it was going to be another bloodbath they would be talking about in another 150 years.

Brasov, Romania

Ecaterina was in the hotel room waiting for Bethany Anne and Nathan to get back.  Ivan had gone to pick them up at the train station.  She was emotionally tired from arguing with her mother.

Why is it that mothers push on their children expectations of themselves?  Ecaterina had never wanted a small house, a husband and two children.  She had never played house at all while growing up.  She had always been outside, or away on the mountain with her father.  That her mother had continued to push Ecaterina into the mold of a family woman was a testament to her mother’s ability to ignore reality.

When it had come time to speak with her parents, Ecaterina’s mother tried a massive guilt trip complete with crying and sobbing.  When that failed to work, her mother told her father he needed to talk some sense into Ecaterina.  Her mother went on to explain how bad his life was going to be if he didn’t help her change Ecaterina’s mind.  It almost broke Ecaterina’s heart to see her dad suffering between two woman he loved.  However; her dad had chosen to live with one, so as much as Ecaterina loved him she couldn’t take that burden off of his shoulders.

At the end, her mother just went to her room and shut the door.  Her father had helped Ecaterina take her luggage and put it into Ivan’s Mercedes.  Her father looked at her, with a small smile on his face.

“This is what you are, Katia.  Your mother will realize her life in one of your other siblings. Maybe Ivan if he is able to stop helping every pretty woman and choose one, yes?”  He smiled over at Ivan who had a long suffering look on his face.

“She wants to have grandchildren and she had her plans that figured you would have kids before your brothers.  I told her before this wouldn’t happen and she told me I would see she was right.  Well, now you are leaving and worse she knows I was right.  I’m sure she will calm down eventually.  Don’t worry about me, I’ll just go to the mountain for a few nights if I need some peace and quiet.  But don’t forget about us, ok?  Send us an update, let us know what is going on.”

She had promised her father she would email them from time to time.  She didn’t know where she was headed but she did expect to end up in America.

Her father started asking Ivan questions about Bethany Anne and Nathan, especially Nathan.  His questions got so embarrassing that Ecaterina was blushing furiously and started to get mad at her father.  He just winked at her, said goodbye and then they took off.

She was embarrassed.  Her father had just baited her and she responded.  Now he knew she liked Nathan after she had spent all night working hard to keep the focus on Bethany Anne. Gott Verdammt!

Constanta, Romania

Bethany Anne decided to have Nathan take Ecaterina to America.  She didn’t want any potential hostages around when she schooled Stephen’s family.

She passed a message on to Frank that they would talk when she got back to the States.  She used some of Nathan’s connections, he was so useful to have around, to get some bonafide genuine passports.  With the contacts in Switzerland, she had a legal passport for “Bethany Anne” from the Swiss.  Frank got word to her he would have a U.S. Passport for her waiting in England that she could pick up on her way over to D.C.

It was amazing how much power a few billion dollars and over a trillion in assets provides someone.  This was a little more than she was prepared to handle.  She was going to need a damn team of accountants to figure it all out.  She had no idea how Michael handled it.

Once Ecaterina and Nathan were safely on their way, she went to track down Stephen and give him the ‘talk’.  Without Nathan around to caution her, she was getting a little madder each time she thought about the way he let Petre’ act and hadn’t taken care of the responsibility of that loose cannon.

It took her three days to finally find his home, and what a home it was.  Three stories tall, made of beautiful stone that looked like marble in the countryside outside of Constanța, Romania.  The city itself was gorgeous.  With streets that were paved with bricks from hundreds of years ago and bike racks setup for people to just grab a bike and go, Bethany Anne had wanted to walk around and see more.  Unfortunately, she felt the pressure of getting back to America now with the situations Frank was dealing with.

While trying to find Stephen’s house she had thought that she should, once again, follow the money.  She found the oldest three banks in town and visited the first two to open an account.  By dropping a million in U.S. dollars, she was introduced to the bank presidents. When admitting she might have more that she could deposit if she felt inclined they would bend over backwards to answer her questions.  She hit the jackpot on the second bank.  When she put the president under the influence, he admitted that his bank had a very wealthy patron by the name of ’Stephen’ that had no last name and he would be happy to give her the address and a letter of introduction to pass to him.  She thanked him for the help and left.

After getting lunch, Bethany Anne went back to the train station and searched around for a very lonely spot.  She found one out behind the ticket booth.  After that task was finished, it was just a few minutes to capture the attention of a taxi and headed towards Cupana.  She had the driver leave her at a gas station about a 1/2 mile from the road that went to Stephens house.

Admiring the view, she walked up to the house and rang the doorbell.  It was a real f’ing bell, too.  She pulled on a rope which passed through a hole above the door and rang a bell deep in the house.  After pulling the rope three times and waiting twenty minutes she considered banging on, or down, the front door.  Finally, she could hear slow steps making their way to the door.  The door locks were turned and finally an old, wizened man stood in front of her.

If her nose hadn’t confirmed it, and TOM as well, she wouldn’t have believed that she was staring at Michael’s son, Stephen.

He was old.  Not like “grandpa stop glaring at the girls, it’s gross” old.  He was in the grave, just wait and close the coffin lid old.  He had sunspots on his bald head and even his eyes looked like they had a light-grey film on them.

What the fuck?

“Yes?”  His voice was a little wheezy, but not too bad.

“Stephen?”  She couldn’t help herself.  She was expecting someone… younger.

“Yes?”

Well, what the fuck was she supposed to do now?  If she bitch-slapped grandpa here, she might break his fool neck and although a consideration, she didn’t feel like hitting this bag of bones.

“You got something to say, or shall I close this door young woman?”

Yeah, that’s right.  He couldn’t smell anything vampy about her.  Well, he might not be able to smell anything at all.

“May I come in?  I have some news that you might want to hear.  It’s about Petre’.”

“Yes, of course.  What has that little miscreant done now?”  Stephen turned around and walked back into the house.  He had let go of his live-in caretakers five years ago.  He still had his groundskeepers come weekly and a house cleaning service came once a month to take care of dusting the house and vacuuming.  Stuff that wouldn’t wake him up in the basement.

Bethany Anne looked around.  It was clean, but obviously no one lived here.  They sat in the front room.  It had 10 foot ceilings and drapes hanging from the ceiling all the way to the floor along one wall.  A Roman bust sat on a pedestal in the corner.  The furniture looked hundreds of years old.  Shit, it might be his original furniture from hundreds of years ago.

She got to the point. “That miscreant got involved in using the Bravos Were pack as his gang of hoodlums who then tried to assassinate an American Pack Council representative and a couple of locals.  A human and a Werebear who lived on the mountain were caught in the attack and were also going to be killed.”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it?”  Stephen was still trying to wake up.  This woman was beautiful, but he was way past the stage where beautiful woman did much for him, anymore.

“Nothing, I killed him.”

Stephen got a little jolt from that and opened his eyes a little more.  “You?”  The film seemed to be receding from his eyes as he woke up. “How? Why?”

“The ‘how’ was by pulling him into the sun a little at a time when he wouldn’t, or couldn’t answer my question and the why was because he was being a little shit.  Yeah, and he shot me.”

Stephen was waking up fast, now.  “When was this?”

“A couple of weeks ago.”

“You don’t look like you’ve been shot.”

“I heal, really fast.  You should know.  Hell, Petre’ was healing fast.  That was why I kept hitting him with the cricket bat.  Well, that and I was pissed about getting shot.  Did I mention the little shit shot me in the back?”

Stephen’s eyes creased a little.  “You don’t smell like you should to have been able to do that.  You smell… normal.  Why should I believe you?”

“You want me to come over there and let you get a better smell?” She raised an eyebrow daring him to accept her offer.

“Yes, yes, I’ll take you up on that offer young lady.”

Bethany Anne walked over to Stephen and offered her wrist towards his face.  In her last step, she switched over to vamp speed and the world went into super slow motion.  She let her arm hang about a foot from Stephens face.

She saw the moment Stephen decided he was going to get a bite of that juicy wrist and his incisors started growing.  He tried to launch off of the couch and grab her arm with both his hands to bring her wrist up to his mouth.

She didn’t want him to get his teeth in her.  She felt she could eventually pry him off, but not only what a pain it might be, but she was sure her etheric energy would get drained and while turn about is fair play.  The thought of drinking his geriatric blood just grossed her out.

So, she grabbed his forehead with her left hand and pushed it back.  Pulling her right hand closer to her chest, she was able to do a quick twist and break his hold.  Using her right hand, she popped him in his right ear and he shot away to land 15 feet into the foyer.  She started walking over to him. Stephen was lying on the ground moaning with his hands covering his ears.

“Why did you hit an old man like that?”

“I’m going to break your old man legs if you don’t stop acting like a fucking moron.  Get a fucking backbone Stephen. I expected more from Michael’s child.

He looked up at her suddenly, realizing that he was ‘playing’ with someone who not only had an idea about the UnknownWorld, but also knew who Michael was and how he was related to him.  Which meant that she had to have had an idea how powerful he might have been, if he had rejuvenated in the last few hundred years.

She had come alone, and had just boxed his ears across the house.

“What is it you want?”

“I want you to get off your bony ass and have a real conversation with me.  You’re a pathetic excuse for a Family head, what the hell has gotten into you?”

“You want to know?”  Stephen gingerly got up and walked with a little decorum to the inside living room.  At least in here the floors were carpeted if he got a beat down again.  The way she had been able to easily break his hold, he didn’t have a chance of over powering her right now.  Maybe after a rejuvenation…. Maybe!

“Yes, I not only want to know, but dammit I need to know.”  Bethany Anne sat near Stephen.  Showing him that she wasn’t overly concerned with his attacking her again and giving him something she felt he was desperately needing, attention.

They ended up talking through the night.  By dawn, it was obvious that Stephen was drowning in loneliness.  Now, he needed etheric energy in a bad way.  He was so bad off a teenager might be able to kill him.

She considered what she could do about that.  When she arrived at the house, she thought she was going to kick his ass, and probably have to kill him.  Now, she wanted - no she needing to save him.  Save him both physically and emotionally as he was hurting horribly. He cared and it was his achilles heal.  He was hiding from his troubles by sleeping and he didn’t want to create another child so that he could grow young again.

TOM, is there any way to safely move any of my etheric energy to Stephen without endangering me?

Yes, you could give him some of your blood.

I am not letting those geezer fangs bite me, hell no.

Cut your wrist and let some drain into a bowl or a mug, he can drink it from there.

What about the Nanocytes that are in me?  What will they do to him?

The usually follow the 3 stages, remember?  His body doesn’t need to be made ready like stages two and three, so it should just make him younger.  Although I doubt enough in a mug of blood will do too much from the nanocytes.  Depending how much Etheric Energy you provide, that would probably do the most good.  

So the nanocytes aren’t going to super-program him?  

Uhhhhh, one second.  

Bethany Anne’s head started to hurt.  TOM was accessing the organic computer in her head.  One of these fucking weeks she was going to hole up and fix her connections.  She wouldn’t allow TOM to access the computer because it hurt so much, but then she couldn’t get information without the computer.  It sucked.

Finally, about 10 seconds later the pain started to recede.

Ok, I can use some of the etheric energy and reprogram the nanocytes so they don’t make any additional changes.

Wait!  We can ask them to do additional changes?

Well, possibly.  What do you have in mind?

Can you program them to have a backdoor or something?

What is a backdoor?

In this case, something that we can contact through the etheric and have them change routines if we want?

Another bit of silence from TOM.

Yes, we can at least get them to communicate their location if you want?  I’m not sure how much more, I hadn’t considered that.

That will have to be good enough.  If I can figure out where he is, I should be able to figure out if he is doing what I want.

Bethany Anne stood up and moved into the kitchen.  Stephen watched her with curiosity.  Although he was tired physically, his brain was awake.  It had been many, many decades since he had talked with anyone who could be safe to share any secrets.  The strictures limited him to talking with his siblings who were spread all over the world.  He felt bad about what Petre’ had been up to, but it seemed this woman took care of that.  He hadn’t wished ill on Petre’, but he had gone against the strictures himself when he shot this woman.  His poor judgment in not finding out more about her.  Petre’ should never have shot anyone connected with Michael in the first place and had Stephen been informed, he would have been required to kill Petre’ for his actions.  She saved him the anguish of killing one of his own children.

She didn’t seem to have that many hangups. At least where respect for your elders came in.  She knocked him on his ass without blinking.  He wondered if her generation didn’t appreciate what it took to live this long, or if she would have hit him before she was transformed?

She looked around the kitchen and in the drawers until she found the type of knife, a filet knife and grabbed a mug from above the sink and took it into the living room.  She looked around.  She didn’t want to make a mess but she would lose the value of the effort if she didn’t do this right in front of him.

She sat the knife and the mug down between them on the coffee table.  He sat up on the couch and looked at the mug and knife and back up to her.

“Stephen.  I appreciate all that you have shared with me.  Know first, I am not Michael.  If I make a pact with you, then you can know that I will do what is in my power to make that pact work.  I need a powerful Nicht here in Europe.  I need you to come back to the living again, Stephen.  Come back awake and stay awake.  I need you to be my eyes and ears here in Europe.  I need you to be strong again, Stephen.  For me, For Nicht, and frankly for the world.  Will you accept this gift of my blood.  Blood that will strengthen you, connect you to me and will you work with me to make this world better for Nicht, for the UnknownWorld and for the Humans as well?

Stephen looked into her eyes.  Those beautiful eyes that he imagined glowed as he told his story through the night.  She had become his priestess, his sister, his friend.  Would he?  Would he be willing to do this?  For the humans?  No.  He didn’t have enough love for any humans or Weres right now.  Maybe in the future.  But for Bethany Anne?  For Bethany Anne he would do this and he would follow her until the grave finally claimed his body.

He placed his frail arm over his chest. “Yes, my lady.  I will do this as you ask.  However; I am from centuries past.  I know that you don’t ascribe to the old ways.  Ways that have been old generations before you were born.  But if you would let me drink from your wrist, I will be your servant until the end of my days.  Whether they be today or a thousand years in the future.”

Bethany Anne looked down at the mug and knife and realized that it was a poor substitute for the ritual, for the request of Stephens allegiance.  If she was going to be a Queen, the Queen of the UnknownWorld it would not be done with a porcelain mug and a filet knife.

She stood up, and walked over to the Stephen, who looked up into her eyes as she stood next to him.  “Drink, Stephen.  Swear your allegiance to me and I will provide you sustenance to come back to me.  But, if you don’t stop when I tell you, I will put my fist through your skull, do you understand me?”

“Yes, my Queen.  I understand.”

She offered her wrist and Stephen lovingly took it and slowly, ever so slowly pierced her veins with his two teeth, making sure that he was beyond careful with this woman who had saved him from a mortality of loneliness and given him a new lease, a new reason to live.

She gently tapped him on the head about five minutes later.  His mind, his body abuzz.  The blood was changing him.  Changing him again it felt like.  Any point of light in the room was bright.

“Lay down Stephen and sleep.  I will protect you while you rest: you have my word on that.”

Stephen closed his eyes and just leaned over and was comatose.  Bethany  Anne pulled his legs up on the couch and searched around the house until she found a cover.  She wasn’t sure he needed it, but it might be a comfort and she wanted to tuck him in.  She then went back to the chair across the coffee table and sat down.

Michael’s Family was dysfunctional, she thought.

She had learned that TOM had the ability to pay attention to what was going on around her, even when she wasn't paying attention.  For example, when he was able to pinpoint where she had seen Paul Rutherford on the train.  She had talked with him later to find out he was constantly ‘paying attention’ to all of her senses and learning more as he went along.  He was very smart, if a little ignorant about Earth customs and was constantly pulling in more and more information trying to understand it.  Considering that it was becoming more and more dangerous for her should she be caught unawares, she needed TOM to catch what she missed.

She was missing Nathan’s ‘guard dog’ sensitivities.  She hoped he and Ecaterina were doing alright.

She got up and went to the front door and made sure all of the locks were in place.  Going back to the linen closet where she got the first blanket for Stephen, she got another one for herself and sat back down in the chair.  She asked TOM to take the first watch. She then had to explain the story how people would break up the nighttime into watches so that some could sleep while others would stay awake to protect them.  He told her he would be glad to take the ‘first, second and third watches’.  It wasn’t like he slept, anyway.

She closed her eyes and rested. Emotionally drained, she was out in seconds.


CHAPTER SIX

Constanta, Romania

Bethany Anne, I sense that Stephen is waking up.

Bethany Anne opened her eyes, quickly assessing the room.  Nothing had changed.  She was still in the chair and Stephen was still laying down on the couch.

How?

His heartbeat just increased by 10%.  It is an anomaly that hasn’t happened the entire time he has been out.

"So, his heartbeat changed and you’re ready to say he is waking up?

She stood up and went around the coffee table and looked down at Stephen.  He was looking a lot better.

While he still looked old, his face seemed a little less skull and leather skin and more flushed and fuller.  His skin had lost all of the sunspots, marks and blemishes he had and generally looked about 10 years younger, maybe.

While she was looking down at him, his eyes suddenly opened, startling her.

“Hey, you’re awake.”

Stephen looked around and rose up so that he was in the sitting position.  Stephen looked at the blanket on his lap and back up to Bethany Anne.

“I couldn’t let you just lay there like a cord of wood.  I didn’t know if you got cold or not so I went searching around your house and found the linen closet and borrowed a couple of blankets.

“Thank you.  It has been a really long time since I have been looked after.  Maybe centuries in fact.”

Bethany Anne smiled.  “Trust me, I’m happier to have looked after you sleeping than having to knock some sense into you.”  She went back and sat down in her chair.

“I think you would have done just that, truly.”

She sighed, “Yes.  I had become a little jaded to the fact that it seemed the only thing that vampires understand is violence.  Lots and lots of violence.  So, I had expected to come here and have to drag you outside to get your attention.  I knew you could walk in the sun, but I figured it would have woken you up.”

“May I ask what you would have done then?”

“Well, I figured I would have to yank off one of your arms, then beat you with it until I got your attention.  Frankly after that I had no ideas.  I was rather hoping you would be a reasonable guy.  However; from the stories that I was hearing, I wasn’t giving that a very high probability.”

Stephen just looked at his new Queen for a minute.  She was such a dichotomy between gentle on one hand and violent on the other.  She would make a very good Queen, he decided.  He truly was the happiest he had been in centuries.  His time of loneliness, ever since Michael had gone to the new world, was over.  For her, he would even get on a plane to go visit.  Although he had never flown, he now had a reason to do so.

“What will you do now, Stephen?  I’ve got to get back to America for a while.  I will need to come back over here, I’m sure.  If for no other reason than to talk with you. How do you keep your grounds up when you hibernate?”

“I have people.”  He left off that they were just an agency he had set up a decade before and hadn’t spoken to since that time.

“Ok, I see you’re looking better, how are you going to…”  Bethany Anne stopped.  She never knew what it took to get younger again.

“Rejuvenate?”

“Is that what you call it to look young again?”

“Yes.  In order for us to take our bodies and make them young again, we have to consume a significant amount of blood and exchange it with another.  This process turns them into a vampire, and turns their parent young again.”

“Do you force this change on others?”  Bethany Anne wasn’t sure she could allow this.  In fact, she knew she wouldn’t allow it.  There had to be a different way.

“No, no one in Michael’s family would force a change.  He has placed certain rules we adhere to.  One of them is that the person must understand their options and another is that…”

Bethany Anne finished the sentence with him, “they can only have 6 months to live.  Yeah, I got that one.”  She started biting the inside of her cheek.  It was an old habit when she was thinking.

“You have been asleep pretty long, right?  You don’t have anyone that you know wants to go through this process and is ready.  Shit, this is going to be a tough nut to crack.”  Bethany Anne got up and started pacing.  She thought better while she moved.

TOM, what is the process that really turns the vampires body back young again?  Is it the blood, or is it the etheric energy that much blood gives them?

It would be the energy.  The age of a human has to do with the cells decaying.  With that much energy, the nanocytes would be able to accomplish stage one again.

So, if we connected Stephen to an etheric energy battery, he would be able to do the same thing, right?  Basically, doing this blood transfusion…”  Bethany Anne realized she had an answer, possibly.

“Stephen, have the vampires ever consumed blood from a blood bank?”

He looked over at her and thought about it.  “I haven’t.  Since I don’t talk with my siblings I can’t answer for them.  If something like that works, I don’t imagine that they would share the information.”

“Why not?”

“We might all be siblings, as in children of Michael. However; we compete with each other and frankly we really guard our secrets.   It’s one of the reasons we don’t really talk with each other.

Bethany Anne started down that path of logic.  If one, or more, of the vampires really studied blood they probably were able to pull out the components of blood that connected to the etheric.  Maybe they didn’t understand the ‘how’ it worked, but what it accomplished might have been enough.  With as much genetic study that had gone on in the past four decades, she imagined a lot of research was available.  Since Stephen, and Michael for that matter, had ignored humanity and stayed hibernating they wouldn’t know much of the advances in science.

“Ok, I think I have an answer.  Let me research this a little more.”  She got out her smart phone and made sure she had a signal.

“What is that?”

“Hmm? Oh, this is a phone that is able to connect to the Internet.  From there, I can pull up information, something like books in a library from anywhere in the world.”

“Really?  I’ve been asleep too long.  I have no knowledge of this.”

“I know, trust me.  First, I need to get you younger, fast.  Then I need to get you up to speed with reality and connect you with the EPC.”

“EPC?”

Bethany Anne put the phone to her ear, “European Council of Weres.”  She put up a finger to hold his next question.

“Hi, this is Bethany Anne.  I read on a website that Lithuania has four blood donation sites and that you pay about 12 Euros for each donation or about 63,000 donations a year.  Is this right?  Yes, yes I’m willing to make a donation.  No!  I don’t want to donate blood, I want to purchase blood for a financial donation.  How much?  Well, let’s see.  There are about 5 liters of blood in a body, right?  Ok, how about 5,000 Euro for 25 liters of blood?”

“Yes, I am looking to make a donation of $5,000 Euro for 25 liters.  It has to be flown to me tonight.  I’ll pay all of the fee’s necessary if you will get it to,” she put her hand over the phone.

“Stephen, what’s a good place to get a delivery around here?  I don’t want it coming directly to your house.”

“We can use the hospital.  I have a foundation that provides them money every year.  They will do this for me.”

“Really?  That’s incredible.  Remind me to let you know you’re my new favorite vampire.”  She took her hand off of the phone and told them what hospital she wanted it delivered to.

Twenty minutes later she got a return call.  They made a deal with the hospital for the 25 liters of blood out of their stores and they would resupply the hospital within 48 hours.  It cut down on the costs of transportation and they could access the blood right away.

Bethany Anne was smiling.  It was nice to have something go right for once.  Now, stretching her luck a little, she made another phone call back to Bravos.

“Hello?”  A man’s voice was on the phone.

“Ivan, this is Bethany Anne.”

“Hello!  How is my favorite… Uh… Lady?”  Ivan stammered a little when he realized he couldn’t say some things out loud.

“I’m good. Hey, do you want to do your favorite ‘lady’ a favor, and get paid?”

“Probably, but you know you took my negotiator out of the country, right?  You wouldn’t take advantage of me knowing my weakness for dimples, would you?”  Ivan’s smile could be heard through the phone.

“Of course not.  Tell you what.  I’m going to need you to come to the coast and teach my friend how to use technology.  Cell phones, Internet, computers.  If you could be here by tomorrow morning, that would be fantastic.  Can you do that for me?  I swear I have dimples showing right now.”

Ivan laughed. “Even for you, tomorrow morning is a little too soon.  Can it be tomorrow afternoon?  I need to meet with a couple of people before I leave.  How long will you need me?”

Bethany Anne looked at Stephen and considered what he told her last night. “Uh, plan on a couple of months, possibly.  He is not so up to date.”

“Is he educated?  This isn’t for a female?  I could get there even sooner for a female.  Well, maybe not.  If you need me for that long, I’m going to need to talk with another friend and let my dad know I’m going to be gone.”

“What about your Mom?”

“She still isn’t talking to us.  I think now she is embarrassed and her pride isn’t allowing her to say ‘I’m sorry’.”

“Well, I hope that solves itself before you get back to Bravos.  You know you could just marry some girl and that would fix it, right?”

“Oh God, no!  I will call dad on my way out of town.  Thank you for reminding me what might happen if my mom hears about this on the phone.  You said I’ll get paid?”

“Yes.  I checked how bad you screwed over Nathan.  How could you charge him that much?”

“Hey, I was looking out for Ecaterina.  Rich American, what was I supposed to do?”  Ivan was certainly smiling again.

“Yeah, ok.  I’ll tell you what.  I’ll pay the same amount for each month your here helping my friend.”

“And partial months?”

“Yes, and partial months!”  Bethany Anne had to laugh.  Ivan was in negotiation mode and not even dimples were going to get her off the hook.

“Ok, anything special I should know about your friend?”

“Well, his name is Stephen…”

“Bethany Anne, you did not just negotiate for me to train technology to a…a…Uh…”

“Yes, yes I did, Ivan.  Now be a man and own up that you just got snookered by the dimples and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Ok, but I’m holding you accountable if I’m not safe.”

Bethany Anne was able to smile, “Ivan, I think you will be one of the safest Romanians in Europe while you’re here.  I guarantee it!”

They hung up.

“Stephen, let’s go to the hospital.  I feel a miracle is about to happen.”

“How do you want to get there?”

“Let me guess, you don’t have a car?”

“Yes, I did learn how to drive.  But I imagine the gas is probably bad after this many years.”

She pulled her phone out again, “Well, let’s use the miracle device and find a taxi.”

Stephen couldn’t help it, with Bethany Anne around he found he rather was looking forward to living again.  It seemed like his hope had been rekindled.

“By the way, Stephen?”

“Yes?”

“If anything happens to Ivan, I will come back over here and beat the shit out of you, with your own arms.”

“My lady, if anything happens to Ivan while I am around, I’ll already be dead.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear.”

“I understand, I’ll not fail you.”

For once, Bethany Anne felt like there was a little light at the end of the tunnel.  At least here in Europe.  They continued to talk about what changes needed to happen and changed to normal topics when the taxi got there.

Constanta, Romania

The hospital was almost a non-event.  When they showed up it was still early evening and the hospital administrator was on the premises.  When Stephen explained that as the foundations executor, he wanted to see how the hospital was using their funding, he immediately received preferential treatment.

Bethany Anne was amazed to see that he still looked like he was slowly getting better.  He moved like a spry 70 year old as they walked around the hospital.  She had her hat on again and loved the air of mystery it provided her.

Plus, she looked damn good in it.

Stephen was overjoyed with her company and wouldn’t allow Bethany Anne to do anything but be on his arm the whole way through the hospital.  He knew that she approved of his funding the hospital and was very proud that he could make her happy.  At the end, Bethany Anne switched her voice and gave the administrator instructions to have someone place the 25 liters of the freshest blood in a secure room and leave it there.  She then told him to work at least three more hours and waited in the room with Stephen until the blood was delivered.  She ‘told’ the hospital worker that the blood was picked up and that he couldn’t remember who it was to.

Once the worker was gone, she turned to Stephen.

“Ok, I have some information to give you.  I am trusting you with this information and expect you to keep it a secret unless I tell you otherwise, or in your best judgment the risk is worth the reward.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, of course.”  He looked at the quantity of blood.  It was a lot of blood.  Way more than he could possibly drink.

“As you know, when you change a human the act of making them a vampire rejuvenates you.  What you don’t realize is that there are infinitesimally small genetic machines inside your body that need energy to work.  When you suck the blood out of another human and then force it back into their body, what you are doing is putting these machines into their body and those machines will then turn them into a vampire.  For you, however; it provides your nanocytes with needed energy so that they can fix your body again.  This is what turns you young.

When you exchange the blood with a human, you drain about 4-5 liters of blood at a time.  I purchased 25 liters because I don’t know how potent the blood is and how much energy you will need.”

TOM chose that moment to interrupt.

Bethany Anne, you might make this easier by mixing your blood into the bagged blood.  If we wait a little while, then the nanocytes will already start propagating in the blood mix and possibly allow it to be more effective.

She thought this through.  She didn’t want Stephen to have too many of her nanocytes, but she didn’t want to be here all night, either.  She was pretty sure the ether was gathered by the whole body, not just the blood where it was focused.

“Ok Stephen, I want you to start consuming the blood.  I am going to mix one of these bags with mine and depending how long it takes, you will consume it later.”

It took two hours for Stephen to consume three bags of the blood.  The fourth liter was the one Bethany Anne had mixed her own blood with two hours before.

Even before he consumed the last bag, he looked like he had dropped another twenty years.

By the end of the fourth bag, which took another two hours as it was very difficult to consume anymore and it was obvious that he wasn’t going to need any extra blood.

“Huh, I guess I went over-board on this, didn’t I.”  She looked at the additional 21 bags of blood in the coolers.

Stephens vitality was up again, it looked like he had just consumed a Thanksgiving turkey, by himself.

“No, my lady.  It won’t go to waste.  I will donate it back to the hospital and ask them to set aside a revolving stock of fresh blood to have available 24 hours a day.  If I had known that rejuvenating was possible without needing to make a vampire, I might have considered doing this before.  I can’t be sure.  Until you came along I was ready to just rest a final time.  I appreciate all you have done for me.”

Bethany Anne smiled at him, “Don’t worry, Stephen.  You will work diligently to get Europe back on track.  We are going to make this work, and work well.  I’m happy to have been here to help you and I’m happy that I didn’t have to rip your arm off.”  She patted him on the shoulder.  “Ivan will be here tomorrow.  He has a phone and knows my number.  You know that small room next to the linen closet in your home?”

“Yes, I believe so.  To the right or left?”

“Left.  It has a small bed in it right now.”

“Yes.”

“Good, I want you to remove the bed and lock the door.  Only allow someone to clean it once a quarter.  If you need me, I’ll come to you.”

“How will you do that?”

Bethany Anne reached over and grabbed one of the packages of blood.  “Why, like this.”  and then she disappeared.

Stephen stared at where she had just been for a minute before realizing that she could instantly move her body to different locations.  She must need to be sure no one was in the same space in order to be safe.  He would make sure the room was safe for her.

In fact, he decided, he would make sure all of Europe was safe for his Queen.  He grabbed the icebox of blood under his arm and left the room.  Even feeling rotund, no time like the present to get started.


CHAPTER SEVEN

Washington, D.C. USA

It was 3:30 in the afternoon when Frank’s phone rang.  It was an unknown number.

“Hello, Frank Kurns.”

“Hello Frank, this is Bethany Anne.”

He straightened in his chair, “Hello Ms. Reynolds, I appreciate the phone call.”

“Not Ms. Reynolds any more, Frank.  The Nicht don’t have last names, we surrender them when we change.”

It was a quick and efficient way to inform Frank that he wasn’t speaking to the lady that left America any more, this was a new woman, a different woman altogether.

“Yes, I see.”  No, he really didn’t. But he needed to get his game hat back on.  For almost a year he hadn’t been speaking with any vampires or Carl, and he remembered how particular they could be.  “Bethany Anne it is, then.  I appreciate your call.  Are you here in the States?”

“No, I’m presently at a train station in Romania.  I was considering taking a commercial flight back and realized we might be able to work together.  I want a fast way back to America. However; I’d like a flight were I’m not concerned about mayhem happening to random people. I know you want me back there quicker to see how I might be able to help with both your operations and the Were problem.  Do you happen to have a potential solution?”

“Um, mayhem?”  What was she into already?  How did she get involved where mayhem could occur on a commercial flight?

“Yes, it seems that Mr. Lowell and I were tagged on a train from Switzerland to Romania and I’ve had someone try Rohypnol on me already.  While I know I can take care of myself, I tend to be a little extreme in the way I dish out retribution.”

Frank considered his responses.  So, his guy was made on the train, so he should come clean about that and he needed to see what he could setup for a fast trip across the Atlantic.

“Well, I can update you on the train incident.  I had an agent trying to find Nathan and you to get some more information on what was going on.  Nathan talked to me during the trip and I sent my guy a message to drop off before contact.”

“Was his name Paul Rutherford?”

“No, it wasn’t, why?”  Frank penciled in the name Paul Rutherford with a question mark beside it on a scratch pad.  Something to look up later.

“Just confirming something.”

“Ok, as to the transportation, I feel confident that I can get you here.  I have an operation going down tomorrow night.  If I can get you here in time, are you willing to take it on?”

“Most likely, what are the parameters?”

“We have a situation in the Florida Everglades.  We think we have two forsaken down there.  The alligators are getting the blame for people disappearing and I can’t have a major military effort as it’s too obvious.  My smaller team is good, but these guys have been on the sharp end of this stick four times in three months and frankly, they are wiped.  They have lost two men recently.”

“We have forsaken in the U.S.? Those ass-maggots.  Yeah, I’ll be happy to go down there if you get me there, I’ll help them.  Just make sure you have the right gear for me.  I didn’t buy any sets of ‘Florida Everglade Fatigues’ and I’m not ruining my Louboutins in that swamp.”

Frank just wanted to pull his phone away from his ear and look at it, ‘ass-maggots’?  Bethany Anne was a whole lot of different than who he was accustomed to working with.  He had a short voice message from Nathan this morning to treat her like ‘the real deal’ and to not piss her off.

No one tried to piss her off when she was human.  In light of her super-lethality anyone trying to piss her off was having a certifiable moment of stupidity.  Frank hadn’t lasted this many years by making too many mistakes.

However; Nathan’s comment got him wondering just how powerful had she become?  Apparently it didn’t take as long to grow into her powers as he thought it might.

“I’ll call you back in 15 minutes with the transportation details.  Send me your clothing sizes and I’ll have someone prepare a set of fatigues ready for you at the site or maybe sooner.”

“Ok, that works for me.  I’ll be at the main pickup location for the train station.  Just a warning, don’t send an ass-munch to pick me up, you might not get him back, bye.”  Bethany Anne hung up her cell phone and dropped the blood bag into a trash can as she walked to the main pickup area.

Frank looked at his phone before hanging it up and pulling up his computer.  Yeah, she hadn’t changed too much from what he had researched.  Well, except now when she said ‘you might not get him back,’ he was pretty sure she didn’t mean that figuratively.

Now, he had to get busy if he wanted to make sure the team had the best shot for all of them to be alive tomorrow night.

He sure hoped the team remembered to mind their P’s and Q’s when she got there.  She was a pretty good looking woman from her pictures he had and those Spec-Ops guys thought they walked on water.  That might not work too well around a woman that might just be able to walk on water.

Atlantic Ocean

Bethany Anne had been picked up in a black sedan by a female captain.  The captain asked no questions, was very polite to Bethany Anne and took her onto an airfield about an hour and a half away.  In the car was a flight suit and boots in Bethany Anne’s sizes.  She changed in the car and hated leaving her outfit behind.  She asked the Captain if the car had a box anywhere so she could bring her change of clothes on the plane.

Looking a little confused, the Captain explained that in a two-seater fighter jet, there wasn’t much room to change your mind, much less carry an extra load of clothes.  She would see that the box of clothes got shipped red-label Fed-Ex the next morning.

Bethany Anne was a little surprised that Frank would provide a fighter jet for her transportation.  She later learned by talking with the pilot that pilots always had to have enough flying hours.  He was a little short for fighters as he had been mostly dealing with larger transportation planes. When the chance came up to get some F-15 hours, he jumped on it.  Had he known he was going to fly a gorgeous model to the United States, he would have slit his wrist for the chance.  She could hear the smile in his voice, it wasn’t like some of the more scuzzy comments she received when working in Washington D.C.

She took the compliment as it was intended and thanked him.  They were going to refuel in the air and fly straight to Florida.  She zoned out and allowed TOM to pay attention for a while.  She noticed that she lost her ability to ‘feel’ what direction Stephen was about midway across the Atlantic, however; she could still tell he was alive.  She wondered if this ability would stay with her or would she lose it as her blood worked its way through his system?

A couple of hours later, the pilot came over the headset and directed Bethany Annes attention to the Azores Islands as they passed over.  The flight was peaceful.  As peaceful as you can be in a jet flying as fast as they were.  She finally decided to just go to sleep.

A few hours later, she woke up with the coast in the distance.  She missed the mid-air refueling, being completely zoned out.  The pilot was amazed she was able to sleep through the whole thing.  All he knew about his passenger was that he needed to get her to Florida, fast.

She had been moved so quickly from his plane to the car he never got a chance to ask her for a phone number.

New York City, NY USA

Ecaterina was looking around at all of the strange and exciting city lights.  Nathan had brought her over on first class tickets and had made sure that a limousine was waiting for them, with her name on the placard, when they came out of the security gate at John F. Kennedy.

Security was a two hour nightmare for them.  Especially since Ecaterina had never before been out of her own country.

Nathan was able to get them through the security, finally.  She was excited to be in the limousine and he had the driver go through Times Square. It added an additional 45 minutes to their trip, but he didn’t care.  Her face radiant with delight was all of the payment he needed.

She finally came over and sat by him when they left Times Square.  She gave him a shy smile and gently took his hand and rested her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes.

My god, he thought, I love this woman.

It had been over 30 years since Nathan had any type of serious relationship.  His first wife had suffered when their child had been killed in Vietnam.  She was never the same.  While she eventually got through the grief, and a serious depression, she was never the same vivacious woman he married.

His first wife hadn’t known about him being a Wechselbalg.  Although it wasn’t a serious problem in the relationship.  It meant that Nathan was always aware that their relationship wasn’t completely transparent.   Now, due to Bethany Anne more than anyone, he had a chance to really enjoy a relationship and this time there would be no secrets.

He felt like the most special pillow in the world that moment as he listened to her breathing as she slept against him.

He quietly told the driver to take the very long way to his house.  He had the money to make this last a little while longer and he was going to do it.

New York City, NY USA

Waking Ecaterina up in the limousine wasn’t the struggle Nathan thought it would be.  She was instantly awake and quickly looking around.  He realized she was acting no different than she would out in the forest.

God, he really loved this woman.

The driver grabbed all of the bags, only two of them were Ecaterina’s, and placed them on the doorstep of his brownstone.  Two bags to move to another country. God, he really, really loved this woman.

What Nathan didn’t know was that Bethany Anne had another 3 boxes being shipped across that Ivan had taken care of.  Some of the things Ecaterina wanted to take along were not easy to place on a commercial flight.  They really frowned on firearms and ammunition.  They weren’t wild about traps, either.

Bethany Anne wasn’t concerned and figured Ecaterina had an emotional attachment to the equipment so she got on her phone and rented a place outside Newark and had the boxes shipped there.  Personally, Bethany Anne had an emotional attachment to the bear trap and had gone back to get it.  She tracked it down to one of the Pack members who was quick to give it up.  They never could do something too fast for Bethany Anne.  She supposed they might have finally made the link between the unknown vampire and her.

Nathan had paid and tipped the driver before waking Ecaterina up.  He had thought he might have to carry her in.  Nope.  In fact she was ready to explore the neighborhood in the dark.  He hoped the cleaning ladies had been there while he was gone.  They did a good job, mostly.  His only complaint was that they stuffed EVERYTHING in his kitchen into the pantry. Every single time.  It made his kitchen look pristine, but he would find moldy bread there a week later because he forgot he had it when they ‘cleaned’ for him and would buy another loaf.  Eventually, he smelled the bread and would find all of the food and bring it back out.  No telling what he would find this time.

He carried the bags inside as Ecaterina walked around the house, checking all sorts of curios and knickknacks he had out.  He showed her the guest bedroom on the first floor, behind the kitchen.  It had its own bathroom and shower and small closet.  He knew the bed in that room was the best in the house as it was the room he gave to most of his visitors.

She smiled at him and gave him a peck on the cheek for bringing in her luggage.  She wouldn’t have expected him to, but being curious to see the house she didn’t think about it until it was too late.

“Thank you, Nathan.  I’m sure I will only be here a few days until Bethany Anne arrives and we will be going… somewhere.  She used to live in Washington D.C., is that far?”

He smiled at her.  “No, maybe 4-5 hours by train.  Shorter for a plane and car, of course. My home is your home.  Whatever you want, grab it.  Don’t make me tell you again, please?”

Her radiant smile was with him as he climbed the stairs all the way to the third floor, which was his room.  He showered and got ready for bed.  On the nightstands by the bed were two pictures.  One of his son and himself, and one with his wife, son and himself.

He grabbed the one with the three of them and looked down at it for a couple of minutes.  He walked to his closet and pulled down a box of pictures.  It was time to move on, he figured.  Life has a way of finally healing all hurts in time.  He placed the picture frame in the box and put the lid on before placing it back up in the closet.

He shut off the lights and went to sleep.

Down on the first floor, Ecaterina was wishing that he had asked her to come upstairs.  The distance between them seemed like a thousand miles.  But, she was happy.  Impatient, yes. But very, very happy.

Hopefully Bethany Anne wouldn’t get finished too fast, she thought as she turned off her lights to go to sleep.


CHAPTER EIGHT

Everglades, FL USA

Bethany Anne was treated with kid gloves from the landing at the Air Force base to the forward operations center an hour and a half away.  The Jet taxied right into a hanger where they picked her up in a blackened SUV. She felt they must be filming an episode for a Hollywood movie.  She had to laugh at the whole presentation.  Black SUV, black leather, bullet proof glass and super dark tint on the windows.  Who did they think they were transporting?

As the only passenger in the back of the Limited Edition Explorer, (go Ford, she thought), she only had the driver and his shotgun support to talk to.  These guys were professionals. She asked why the tint was so dark on the windows and they look confused before the driver, Eric, confessed that it was for her.  The guy in the right front passenger, John, followed that he was under the impression that the ‘agents from her group’ had an aversion to sunlight like their previous contact, Bill.

Eric was in a dark suit with white shirt and dark red tie.  John followed the prescribed dressing  regimen but substituted a classy medium blue tie.  At least they weren't MIB, she thought.  Well fuck, maybe she represented MIB since she was the one with the alien.

"Did you guys work with Bill very often?"  She wasn't able to get Carl to open up about Bill very much on their flight to Romania, so she was curious on the agents’ insights on a 'true' vampire.  While Bethany Anne knew everyone considered her a vampire, she wasn't in the classic sense. Not what most considered a vampire to be, anyway.

John took up the talking and let Eric focus on driving.  "Yes ma'am, I probably worked with him on about eight operations.  He was scary as hell, no offense, ma'am."

Bethany Anne delivered the following comment with the most sophisticated English accent she could pull off. "John, you’re going to have to grow a fucking pair if you’re going to cuss around me. There isn't a cuss word you butt-munches have ever said that could possibly offend me, and I give ten points to whoever can make me laugh."

Eric had to pull the SUV over to the side of the road.  He was laughing so hard, tears were flowing down his face obscuring his ability to see.  John was rolling in his seat.  It didn't take too long before the radio came on with a request from the op center asking if everything was ok? Their car GPS showed that they had stopped.  The voice seemed a little worried.

Bethany Anne took the Mic from Eric who couldn't stop his laughing long enough to answer the request.  With both of her escorts incapacitated, she clicked the mic and spoke into it.  "Ops center, this is Bethany Anne.  I need to stretch my legs after flying for so long.  We will be back on the road in 5." She clicked off the mic and stepped out of the vehicle to walk around, leaving John and Carl a moment to compose themselves.

They had needed just this kind of relief valve after their last half a year.  Frankly, the team needed all of the help they could get and they were on eggshells around Bethany Anne.  They didn't know what kind of personality their contact was going to have.  They knew that she was a vampire and they knew the type of creatures that they were fighting.

Both John and Eric had been in the hanger when the fighter taxied right through the door.  As the canopy disengaged and pulled back, the figure in the back stood up and turned around and stepped down the stairs.  Both of them had enough presence not to say anything in case she was paying attention, but they had not realized that they were going to be picking up a female who made their eyes want to bug out.

She took off her helmet and handed it to the ground support guy, John and Eric noticed he never closed his mouth. John watched as two others helped take off all of the support pieces on her flight suit.  She had waved to the pilot with a smile, walked over to the SUV and got in.

Inside the car, John and Eric could hear ops center ask, to no one in particular. "Did she just say she was going to walk around outside a bit?"

A few minutes later Bethany Anne heard John roll down his window and speak in a normal voice, 'Ma'am, we have our fucking shit together whenever you’re ready."  She smiled and turned back to the vehicle and walked the 50 yards at a normal speed.  No need to freak them out when she had just got them settled back down.

She sat down in the back seat, "Home James."  Both John and Eric smiled and Eric pulled the SUV out onto the two lane freeway and quickly gunned the engine to try and make up the lost time.

God, John thought, it feels good to have hope again.  The two agents spent the next hour telling her stories of their time with Bill and trying to throw in various cuss words to see if they could surprise her.  They didn't, but she almost made Eric pull back off the road one more time.  John was just happy he wasn’t driving.

New York City, NY USA

Gerry was going to strangle somebody before this day was through.  He was presently in his office in Queen’s.  Nathan had made it back in town the previous night and was supposed to get with him at mid-day.  However; he had been taking a huge amount of calls from the local pack for the last week while Nathan was out of town.  Irene had tried to help him out, but the amount of butt kissing was pissing him off.

He had assumed that there wasn’t a large amount of politics in his pack when he talked with Nirene and Nathan weekly. They never mentioned it. What he figured out was that the pack members had found out that Nathan hated ass-kissing, intimidation or any other forms of manipulation.  One idiot had tried blackmail only to find out that all of the darkest secrets he was hiding were completely shared on his social media accounts.

Further, he then received an email from an anonymous source that told him that his financial accounts would be hit next. Did he want to continue this ‘black mail’ effort?  As the story got around, no one considered trying blackmail on Nathan again.

Gerry’s phone rang; it was another pack member that ‘just needed to see him’.

Gerry’s face broke out into maybe the first genuine smile he had all week. “Max, I understand but I am really busy through today.  Tomorrow?  No, I am not available tomorrow but Nathan is back in town and I am sure he will talk with you.  Should I tell Nathan you will call?  Don’t bother, you will get in touch with him?   Fine, I’ll let you do that.”

Gerry hung up the phone and smiled in satisfaction.  Maybe today wasn’t going to go so bad after all.

Now, if he could just throw Nathan at the Councils problems life could get back to being good again.  Unfortunately, as the Lead Alpha of the Council it was his burden to bear.  Nathan left him a short phone message that morning that Michael wasn’t found. But that if the Council didn’t get their act together they were going to wish he was.  Gerry couldn’t understand that message at all.  Who would possibly make them wish for Michael to be back?

It couldn’t be the new vamp, could it?  He had heard some rumors in Europe that she was involved in the event in Bravos and had taken out another vampire, but he would wait until he heard from Nathan before believing those rumors.

Anyway, he would know more in a few hours.

Everglades, FL USA

Agent Dan Bosse heard the front tactical lookout, euphemism for sniper, in his ear.  "Sir, I have the agent’s vehicle in site."

"Understood, how does everything look?"  Dan was at least hoping for the sniper to report he had two, very alive, agents in the front seat.  This contact was unknown and although he was told she wasn't a meat-eating monster, he was paid to worry and bring his men back alive.  Unfortunately that meant working with these contacts to help his crew take down other monsters that made even his men lose sleep at night.  It was a shame he couldn’t just napalm the whole area and save his guys the risk of dying tonight.

Dan had worked with Bill for 15 years and during all of the operations which Bill was a part of, he had only lost two men.  Now, he had lost two men in the last month, not counting the others in the last 12 months.

After working with Bill for so long, his team had attributed more of the success to their part of the operations than they should have.  He hated to admit it, but his guys were getting slaughtered.  If he needed to work with a monster to take down other monsters he would do it,

"Sir, I have them on scope and you aren't going to believe this."

"Spit it out, Killian”

"Sir, the agents are laughing and smiling.  I can see the pickup and holy shit sir, she is a looker."

"Killian, keep it professional.  If you mouth off around one of these, agents, you could lose your head."

"Yeah, but what a way to go."

Dan just shook his head.  At least he had two agents alive and apparently in good spirits.  It was the first piece of good news he had received that day.  Well, that wasn't true.  That comment on the radio when she said she was going to step out of the car to walk around in the daylight was a good piece of news.

So long as she was even remotely as good as Agent Bill had been he was golden. Her ability to walk in the sun would give his team a huge tactical advantage.

He walked out of the command tent when he heard the SUV approach.  He stood there and watched when Eric got out of the driver’s seat and stepped back to open the passenger door.

The woman who got out of the back seat was not what he was expecting.  Maybe if he was at a fashion show, perhaps.  But not here in the Florida Everglades and he was further surprised to notice that Eric seemed to respect her.  He wasn't treating her just like a lady. Most of the guys who grew up in the South had those kinds of manners.  No, he was treating her with respect. Like he would a superior officer that he got along with.

Shit, if he didn't watch his step this woman was going to have all of his hardened men eating out of her hands.  Well, if Eric and John were any indication.

Now, if she can just fight his night might not be so bad.  He went over to introduce himself.


CHAPTER NINE

Everglades, FL USA

Bethany Anne appreciated Eric opening her door.  He did it because he wanted to, not because it was a proper and required way to act.  It touched her and made a very deep impression on her.

She noticed the Agent In-Charge come out of the tent and start walking over to them.  She waited for him to come to her.  She didn’t know for sure what he was thinking, but she had a good idea.  After the stories that Eric and John shared, she knew any of the agents from 'her' agency had often been accepted as a tactical expediency. It wasn't until Bill died, no replacement occurred and the massive amount of injuries and deaths had occurred on ops had it became obvious they were overmatched without help.

So, she figured that this agent was hurting not only from the deaths in his group, but his pride and he had to be wondering if she was going to be an asset, or a prima donna pain-in-the-ass problem.

She hated not just walking over to him, but by making him come to her, it set the right precedent.

He reached them and put out his hand to shake, ”Agent Dan Bosse."

She met his grip with the same amount of strength as they shook hands.  "Bethany Anne, Agent.  I understand we have an infestation we need to get rid of quickly, is there any way you believe I can help?"

Agent Bosse was flummoxed for a couple of seconds.  He had expected the agent in front of him to, be, well not this exactly.  She was professional, polite and radiated capability.  He had three decades on the teams and he could tell she had been in the pit before.  "Yes, I think you can Agent Anne.  Please come with me and I'll get you up to date and I have your requested clothes as well."  Dan turned around and started walking back to the tent.  If he didn't know better, from people he trusted with his men's lives, he would not believe this woman was more than what she looked like, a sophisticated model.

By the end of the operation, Dan Brown would know that he never, ever wanted to piss this lady off.  Then he was going to go pray that she would be the only agent he would have to work with for the rest of his career.

"Agent, it is just Bethany Anne.  One name, no last name and I am certainly not an agent."

Dan turned around to look over his shoulder as he was walking, "Oh?"

"Not like you are probably thinking, Agent Bosse.  I will help your team through the same contacts that you are familiar with, but I don't have the same position in the Family as Bill did before me."

They went into the large tent being used for the operations center.  There were two laptops and a couple of large screens setup to show weather radar and it looked liked real time satellite tasking on another.

"If it isn't inappropriate, can I ask what your role in the Families happens to be?”

"It hasn't been formally qualified, Agent Bosse.  But I think by the time I get to meet everyone, I'm confident some will call me Bethany Anne and to some others I will be known as the 'Queen Bitch'."

He smiled at her, ”with affection?"  Dan was trying to figure out when this meeting went off track.

"Oh God, I hope not.  If I don't have some upset with me, then I am not doing my job correctly."

Dan couldn't help himself.  She was providing more insight into the other side than Bill had in his whole career.  "What job is that?"

This was the question Bethany Anne was working this whole conversation to get to.  "Agent Bosse, I'm here to quell the problems your team knows about, those you don't know about and fix problems a thousand years in the making.  If the supernaturals don't get their act in gear they better find a priest.  Most of these Para-humans only understand strength and violence, and if it is one thing I'm good at, Dan…”

He was looking at that beautiful, raven haired beauty when her face lost the angelic look and his hind brain started freaking out in gibbering terror.  He had been through a hundred operations and had seen forsaken and two different vampires from the family.  He still occasionally woke up at night sweating from dreams related to the worst operations.

However; he became a believer when he saw the absolute personification of destruction and torment looking at him with blood red eyes and fangs sticking out of her mouth.

A malevolent, deeper voice replied, ”I am good at delivering violent messages. Any questions?"

Agent Dan Bosse just shook his head back and forth.

Her fangs retracted and her eyes turned back to their natural color.  She waited a few seconds for his heartbeat to settle down, "So tell me, who and what is the story behind the pricks that are the focus of the operation tonight?"

Agent Bosse had walked into the tent, a commander sharing information with, at best, a qualified support specialist.  That changed. He proceeded to give the presentation as he would to a powerful partner who had the ability to rain death and destruction to the enemy.

For the first time in ten years, he was wishing he could suit up and be on the sharp end.  For the four agents going in with this woman were going to come out changed.  He was sure their stories were going to become legend.

Dan cleared his throat and started giving her the background.  They had two Nosferatu, as far as they knew, holed up in the following square mile of Everglades he showed on the map.  They couldn't track them down to get to them during the day.  Somehow, they were protecting themselves from the sun.  The best guess was with mud.  It had taken a while to get a satellite tasking priority when it was only suspected that a couple of people had been eaten by alligators.

Then, a group of teenagers had been out sneaking some alcohol and having a drinking party. They claimed they saw a zombie kill a man fishing and then drag him out into the water where they both submerged, the man’s body still kicking.

The news turned it into a story about an Everglades serial killer and their priority for the satellite, which was on screen two as well as eyes in the sky with incredibly sensitive FLUR cameras, suddenly became the priority and so tonight was their first chance to do this operation.  The Florida state police and state guard were planning an operation through the Everglades in 36 hours.  The preparation was happening now and the news was focused on that operation.  The government was trying hard to let the populace know that something was being done about the serial killer.

They needed to get this solved quickly, before it became a fuster-cluck.

Bethany Anne asked how they would operate when Bill was with the team.

He explained that normally Bill would take point and the rest of the team was there to help with support.  Basically, if anything got around Bill, they would try to either kill it, contain it, or turn it around back at Bill who would then kill it.

“Ok, I get it.  I’m the point.  My job is to take down the baddies and my team’s responsibility is to help watch my back while I do it.  Should I get overwhelmed, they do what?”

“Well, we haven’t had too many issues with that happening, yet.  Unfortunately, Bill’s last encounter was the one which told us that bad things had escalated.  Generally, the team has a point person and you will need to work out the details with him.”

“Who will be my point person?”

“John Grimes.  He picked you up earlier.”

“Oh.”

“I had both John and Eric pick you up to get a read on you.  You were an unknown and they had to get a relationship, whatever it could be, situated as quickly as possible.  I have to admit I am surprised you bonded so rapidly.  Bill would talk with the team members when they first got introduced, but over time he became more and more quiet.  Just coming in, doing the op and leaving.  That reminds me, you don’t have a Carl equivalent with you.”

“No. Carl is missing, if you didn’t know that.  I’m hoping that we don’t have to get too technically advanced.”  She pointed to the monitors showing the weather, spy and FLUR information with her eyes. “I think you might have it covered at the moment.”

He looked back at the setup.  While it seemed pretty advanced, especially with the Everglades as the backdrop, he would have felt more comfortable with Carl’s equipment and skills to back them up. He sighed.

“I hope so.  It has been hell since Bill got taken down.  I keep wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.”

“What do you mean?”

Dan’s face got a pensive look to it.  “I think that first attack with Bill was just the opening move.  Our ops have been more frequent and more dangerous since that happened.  Here, let me show you something.”  He turned to the agent behind the monitors.  “Barry, would you pull up the map with the operation locations pinned on them?”

Both of them moved behind Barry, looking over his shoulder as he pulled up a mapping program on the left monitor and made it full screen.  The locations started in Northern California and continued throughout the Mid and Southwest finally ended in Florida.

Bethany Anne grunted, “Huh, can’t take the show into the Atlantic.  So either this is possibly a big one or they will turn and go up the coast.”

“That’s what I’m thinking.  It is one of the reasons I was relieved to get any help from your group.  If this is going to be bad, I’m going to need all of the help I can get.”

“How have you setup the play?”  She looked up at Dan, getting a sense for his emotions as well as his logic.

“With you, I figure a 5 person team.  You plus a group of four.  Grimes, Escabar, English and Jackson.  I have an additional 6 shooters here with me and I’ve got medics.  Recently I’ve added a second medic with as many injuries as we’ve taken.”

“Ok, where is my gear and I’ll get suited up. We have some daylight to go and I want to get ahead.  Maybe we will get lucky.”

Dan yelled out of the tent, “Grimes!”

John came over from the group of three men he was with, finishing the rest of his comment to them, “… see that I don’t.  I’ll bet you $500 I get off clean.  You in?”  Eric was the only one who declined the bet. “Yes sir?”

“Can you get Agent… Can you get Bethany Anne her gear?  If she says she checks out on something and wants it, see if we have it in the weapons locker.”

John carefully kept his face blank.  “I’ll do that sir.”  John hadn’t known any stories where he hadn’t encountered some frosty attitude for the vampire contacts from Agent Bosse. He seemed to be thawing around her.  Well, she got him comfortable with her in one car ride, so he was only a little surprised that she was able to work with Dan.

Dan left the tent heading for one of the White cargo vans that was a separate command area.

He walked over to Bethany Anne, ready to set the right tone.  He smiled at her and said in a loud voice that carried well outside the tent. “Hey, fuck-face, what kind of guns do you want?”

You couldn’t hear a pin drop from ANYONE within hearing distance.

Bethany Anne looked up at John who was smiling down at her.  She replied in a loud voice as well.  “Listen gutter ass, you had better do better than ‘fuck-face’ when you try that, or I’ll make you get down and give me 50 with me standing on your back.  You feel me?”

John stopped smiling, but the sparkle was still in his eye, “Yes ma’am.  Just how heavy are you?”

Bethany Anne shook her head. “Don’t you know never to ask a lady what she weighs?  Shit John, if you aren’t that aware of social rules I’m not sure you’re going to work too well out in the ‘glades.  Wait, never mind.  Out there I need muscle and testosterone.  You’re good for that much, right?”

John started with, “Lady?” He noticed Bethany Anne’s eyes went very narrow.  “I mean, Yes ma’am!”

She smiled and said in a quiet voice, “Good.  Now you better give me half of that score with those two newbies out there or I’ll yank your dick up through your throat, got that?”

John swallowed.  “Uh, Yeah.  I got that Bethany Anne.”  He pulled the box of her combat fatigues from behind the table where he had placed it before they left to pick her up. He still couldn’t completely wipe the smile he had going as he exited the tent.  The fire-teams faces, except for Eric’s, were priceless.

The Everglades had a musty smell occasionally enhanced, if you could call it that, by stagnate water.  Bethany Anne, however; was hoping that she could smell the Nosferatu before they woke up.  It was getting to be late in the afternoon and they had covered the search area pretty well.  For a while, they were able to use a couple of john boats.  Now, they had found a sizable mound and were poking and prodding into all sorts of nasty areas.

Before the team left, Bethany Anne introduced herself to them.  John and Eric she already knew and that went a long way to reducing the concern and some fear that Scott English and Darryl Jackson felt.

Agent Scott English was an ex NYPD SWAT team member.  At 5’10” he was the shortest team member.  However; his chest was massive and his arms were illegal in three states. He had been a part of a particularly nasty event in Staten Island three years before.  The SWAT team was called into what they thought was a nasty hostage situation on the fourth floor of a tenement at half past 10 pm.  The bottom two floors had been evacuated, but the team found blood all over the third floor and could hear screams on the fourth as they made their way up the stairs on both sides of the building.  They were unprepared to witness the carnage and gruesome situation at the top.

One violent 32 year old stock broker, black male, had literally started ripping people apart and biting them about 9:30pm that night.  The cops were called.  The found the perp eating a small girl on the fourth floor landing.  Even after emptying their sidearms into David Aldwabi, he was able to grab the first officer, Lieutenant Matt Sanchez. Sanchez, a 9 year veteran, was killed when Aldwabi was able to easily overpower him. Aldwabi bit through Sanchez’s neck while he screamed in pain. Aldwabi held him while he bled to death.  His partner, Sergeant Anthony Roberts was able to call for backup before being killed by Aldwabi when he tried to help his partner.  Aldwabi was too fast for Roberts as he tried to backpedal, he tripped over a dismembered arm. Aldwabi reached down and grabbed his head and quickly broke his neck.

Scott and his team found Aldwabi cradling Roberts and slowing petting his head staring vacantly in the distance.  Unfortunately, Scotts team lead yelled to Aldwabi to ‘Freeze’.  All that accomplished was snapping Aldwabi out of his unfocused state and the screaming and gunfire began.  Aldwabi was finally killed when the combined firepower of 4 SWAT rifles pulverized his chest and head.  Scott’s team leader lost his left eye and ear because he followed protocol with a Nosferatu.

The other partner, Darryl Jackson, was a black ex-special forces recruit.  Darryl came to the team in the last six months due to the massive amount of openings.  Agent Bosse had contacted Frank to help him recruit and he located Darryl working in the pit overseas.  His time was coming due on his third rotation and before he signed up again, Frank was able to convince him that his special skills could, in fact, be used in the United States to protect the innocent.

Darryl had only thought he had seen the worst of the fighting with ISIS and how they behead those in the cities and towns they took over.  Their reign of terror was nothing on a Nosferatu.

He had been in three operations so far.  One each in Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma.  No one was sure why they skipped Texas.

Darryl had never been on an op with one of the ‘good’ vampires.  Well, if you didn’t presume that ‘good’ was equivalent to ‘dead’.

Darryl was trying to keep an open mind.  Unlike the stories he had heard about Bill, this one was both talkative and hot to look at.  Bill, on the other hand, was said to be large, quiet and usually destructive as hell.

Unfortunately, Bethany Anne seemed a little small.  Darryl wasn’t too sure she was going to ‘cut it’.

Bethany Anne was staring into the distance when she heard the high keening behind her.

It seemed Darryl had awoken a forsaken who had been hiding during the day in a pile of detritus and rotting vegetation.  By the time he had jumped back and thrown the stick to his side to grab his AR-15 in its quick sling, His ears were ringing with the reports from Bethany Anne’s .45.

Generally speaking, most vets agreed there wasn’t a pistol that had enough terminal damage ability to stop a determined opponent.  The 9mm rounds were universally castigated by the men and women in the sandpit and the Army had been looking to replace their M9’s.

Regardless, when Bethany Anne was able to squeeze her shots fast enough to make it sound like an automatic.  Darryl’s ears were ringing.  She stopped shooting, holstered her right pistol and reached into the mess to pull out a very disgusting human looking body.  Half of the head was blown off and the other eye socket was draining fluid.  Holstering her other gun, Bethany Anne took out her MKIII knife and quickly cut off the head.

Darryl just stared at her, amazed at the death and destruction he witnessed in the few seconds since he first uncovered the Nosferatu.  All of his previous concerns were completely forgotten.

She turned around to him and casually tossed the head fifteen feet away.  “Stupid leg-humping cock-splurt wiper.  Why did you scream like a little girl?”  Her smile lit up her face as she quickly reloaded her pistols and policed her rounds.

He couldn’t help it.  He busted out laughing at her cussing and got his shit back together.  The keening was a new experience for him and he had frozen for just a second.  He had heard about her filthy mouth.   So he decided to try his hand at giving it as good as he got.

The rest of the team was laughing as Darryl had to pump 10 push-ups while Bethany Anne stood on his back.  She made him think of a unique course word every time he raised up.  She would have had him do 50, but they needed to get back to it and she felt it was enough to get the adrenaline worked through their system.

During Darryl’s push-ups, John had been giving the command ops an update on what happened.  Bethany Anne hadn’t been paying too much attention to the radio, so she reached down and put the earphone in her left ear.  They stayed a little closer as a group over the next half hour. They tried to make sure no one was outside of an easily accessible support person.  When the sun officially went over the horizon and it was getting darker, they pulled together letting Bethany Anne have the lead position.

Two things happened at the same time.  Another forsaken burst up out of the ground about 35 yards to her right and she could hear talk back in the op center from the drone warning they had twelve rapidly approaching tangos coming at the ops center.

Agent Bosse had been right.  They were in the middle of an ambush and their ‘help’ was miles away.

Back in the Command Ops Van, Dan figured that he wasn’t going to outlive his regret for not being better prepared.

Bethany Anne realized the base was going to be screwed if she didn’t get back over there.  However; she had the new Nosferatu to take care of and it had just gone into the water.

Fuck.

Agent John Grimes hated command decisions like this.  He had three other agents for what he hoped was one Nosferatu.  The guys back at the camp needed Bethany Anne.

“GO!”

Bethany Anne stopped looking at the water trying to figure out a way to easily predict where the Nosferatu was hiding and looked at John.

John had only seen Bethany Anne in fun moments or at least none-stressful situations.  The woman looking back at him with the red eyes and fangs glistening made him start for a second.  Realizing that there was intelligence behind the feral face, he told her again. “Go!  We got this one wanking spunk butler.  Help the team back at ops!”

Bethany Anne grinned at him.  A weird situation when you have fangs he decided and then suddenly disappeared.  “Holy Shit!”  The other men were professional enough to continue watching their quarter and ignored his outburst.

“Ok guys, let’s take this one Nosferatu down so she can take care of business.”

Eric, watching his area finished the thought.  “Yeah, four of us against one Nosferatu.  Bethany Anne against twelve Nosferatu.  Seems fair.”

“Well”, Scott added, “we wouldn’t want her to think we gave her the easier task because she’s a girl, right?”

Darryl just grinned and added, “I wouldn’t let her hear you say that.”

“Fuck no!”

They all laughed at that response.


CHAPTER TEN

Everglades, FL USA

Bethany Anne arrived on the docks where she had originally boarded her john boat.  It was the safest place to transport to, she figured.

The command ops area was a battle field.  She could see two Nosferatu with enough holes in them that they would stay down.  One agent was being dragged, screaming, back towards the weeds behind the tent and the cargo van had four Nosferatu beating on it.

She decided to get their attention.  She pulled her .45’s and shot each Nosferatu in the head with each word.  It probably wouldn’t incapacitate them, but it certainly got their attention.

“Come. Try. Me. You. Eye. Less. Ass. Bashers.”   That was actually a pretty poor cussing effort.  Good thing no one heard her.

TOM, how much energy?

The portaling took a little over half your energy.

Gott Verdammt!  I can’t suck energy out of these creatures, can I?

Well, as a last resort probably.  Their nanocytes might cause yours problems we don’t need right this moment.

You got that fucking right.

Bethany Anne went into super speed and raced after the Nosferatu she had seen pulling the agent past the tent.  She had eight of them from all over the camp racing to catch her while she raced to catch the one.

This was going to be a challenge.  She jumped in the air and shot two of them with all of her bullets and twisted back around before landing.  She never broke her stride.

She came around the corner and could see the Nosferatu looking over his shoulder from the pistol noise.  She noticed the moment the Nosferatu realized she was coming for it.  It dropped the agents leg and started running towards her.

It wasn’t even a contest.  Bethan Anne holstered her right pistol and grabbed her knife.  She impaled the Nosferatu in the skull and used the knife to twists its head around as she ran past.  The Nosferatu dropped to the ground like a rag doll.

Five down, six behind me, one missing and my guys have another.  Shit.

She figured she could take them all, but she didn’t have a handy werewolf to grab and drink from.  Well shit, she hoped werewolf blood wasn’t an acquired taste.  Was it only a few weeks ago that even the thought of drinking blood made her queasy?  Now, she was joking about it while she ran from six Nosferatu.

Honestly, the running was starting to piss her off.  She finally spotted a young sapling with a 3” circumference trunk.  That was perfect.

She ran by the tree punching it hard.  The trunk shattered and flopped down and she kept running hard.  She opened up the distance a little.  She needed them to keep following her.  Finally, she stopped and turned around.    She figured she was about a mile from the tree. Waiting for the ravenous horde of Nosferatu she stood there with her thumbs tucked into her belt.  As they got close, she raised her right hand and gave them the finger.  Then, she disappeared.

The Nosferatu started keening in frustration that their prey had got away.  In frustration they ripped at the ground trying to get a scent.  Twenty seconds later all hell broke loose when Bethany Anne, eyes practically glowing red came running back using the same trail they had just come from but this time she had a seven foot long, 3” in diameter pole made from the tree she had punched earlier and tore into the Nosferatu.  Her first swing took two Nosferatu heads.  They exploded in gore.

The tree was almost wrenched from her hands when it connected with the Nosferatu.  It felt really good to get her mad on.  It was four against one now and she tossed the tree straight up 10 feet, pulled her pistols that she had reloaded when cleaning the limbs off of the tree.  Shot two of the Nosferatu in their heads, re-holstered her pistols empty and caught the tree as it came down.  Grabbing it like a spear she threw it into the chest of the Nosferatu on her right.  Running at the last Nosferatu she dropped, sliding under the last one and grabbed its legs causing it to fall face first into the mud.  Jumping up she turned around and jumped, kneeing the Nosferatu in its head crushing it, spilling brain matter all over her right leg.

Gah, that was disgusting.

The final Nosferatu was trying to pull the tree out of its chest where it had landed twenty feet away.  She pulled her right pistol and used her left hand to reload.  She had one reload left.  Calmly, Bethany Anne walked up to the Nosferatu still trying to pull out the pole and blasted it into oblivion.

She quickly reloaded the other pistol.  She had one fully loaded pistol and one pistol with only three rounds.  Checking with TOM, she didn’t have a good handle on how much energy she had left so she couldn’t teleport through the Etheric back to the command base.  She started running, putting everything she had into it.

Where was that last Nosferatu?

John was second guessing his decision to have Bethany Anne leave.  The ‘one’ Nosferatu had somehow turned into two and they were playing with John and his team.

They were completely screwed.

That’s when Eric got involved. “Come get me you Ginormous Shit Eater!  Both you spanky Love Nuts and your friend fudge slapper maximus over there!”

The men started grinning.  If Bethany Anne wasn’t there, then Eric was tunneling her spirit.  The men got a better grip on their rifles and closed any gaps.

They might go down, but dammit they would go down as Bethany’s Anne’s team, not as a group of ‘Stupid leg-humping cock-splurt wipers’.

John took command. “On the count of three, Scott I want you to keep fucktard number one over in the bushes busy.  Eric, you and Darryl turn around and let’s try to light up fucknut number two over here.  If we can get one down we just increased our chances of living a million percent.”

“One… three!”

The staccato burst of gunfire was heard by Bethany Anne in the quiet as she was running back to the command center.  Her team, her men were in a battle.  She feared she knew where the final Nosferatu had ended up.

Gott Verdammt!  She raced to the campsite trying to figure out a way to get to them.  The john boats were not only too slow to help her get to them in time, but they weren’t even at the ops center anyway. They were still out in the Everglades.

Coming into the camp, she could see the men in defensive positions.  One of them started firing at the sudden appearance of Bethany Anne assuming that anything suddenly ‘appearing’ wasn’t human.  It took a second for the man to hear the cease fire and by then Bethany Anne had moved thirty yards away.  She was in no position to be a target right then.

She found the man she was looking for, one of the two medics that Agent Bosse had mentioned.  Looking like a horror show with all of the blood, guts and brains on her plus the intensity of her gaze as she feared for her team it wasn’t a surprise the medic was speechless. “Do you have any bagged blood?”

He just continued to stare.

“Look, snap out of it!  Where is the bagged blood, my team needs it!”  Ok, technically she needed it to help her team but the guy didn’t seem like a clarification was going to help right then.  He turned his body and pointed back to a van next to the bigger cargo van.

“Over there, white insulated box.  You can find it behind…”  He realized she was already gone.  He ignored his confusion and got back to helping Agent Florez in front of him.

Bethany Anne was at the van door, ripping it open and grabbed the chest and put it on the ground.  She opened the lid and pulled three packages of blood. Ignoring the people around her, she ripped the first bag open and started drinking.  She finished that package, threw it on the ground and started on the second.  She was halfway done with it when the people watching her were completely startled. She had disappeared.

Everglades, FL USA

The fight was violent.  The men had clipped the second Nosferatu pretty good but it allowed the first one Scott was trying to distract to almost get to them before the men got their shit together.

The Nosferatu, a old geezer when he was alive and considerably more mobile and dangerous now that he was changed, feinted left and then took off right.  Darryl was unable to get a bead on him and he cut across pushing Darryl back into Eric behind him and grabbing John who was trying to get his gun on target.

The Nosferatu grabbed his gun arm with both hands and broke it.  He then backhanded John with his right hand causing him to lose focus and the Nosferatu grabbed John’s knife and stabbed him hard, he landed over ten feet away.

Without John to worry about, the Nosferatu didn’t have a chance as all three of the team opened fire.  The Nosferatu jerked with the bullets slamming into him and finally lost his footing and flew back into the ground.  Scott walked up to it and unloaded his pistol, demolishing his head.

Eric went to John and told the other two to finish off the first Nosferatu.  The knife was embedded pretty deeply in his chest, in his right pectoral.

“John, I got to tell you, no more tattoos on your breast - it just isn’t going to look good with the scar this is going to cause.”

John moaned and looked up at Eric.  His every breath was a wheezing as the knife had pierced his lung.  They didn’t have anything out here to give him medical help.  He wouldn’t make it back with them carrying him to the john boats.  “Have I told you you’re a real prick lately?”

Eric grinned. “What has Bethany Anne told you about lousy cussing, huh?  She is going to make you do 50 pushups.”

John looked over Eric’s shoulder and smiled a little, “I don’t know, why don’t we ask the little rectal-hole dictator herself?”

Eric turned around to see a very messed up Bethany Anne behind him.  She was holding two bags of blood, one full and one just half full. She smiled at John.  “So, it takes you to almost die to finally get points, is that it John?”  She went on the other side of John from Eric and kneeled down.

“Yeah, that white light has a way of focusing your creativity.”  He coughed hard and blood was coming out of his wound.

“Do you trust me, John?  I can heal you but I can’t explain everything, we don’t have time.  Will you trust me?”

John looked up at her and realized he wasn’t looking into a monsters eyes, but rather hope, compassion and concern, wrapped in a package of blood and guts and the smell of gunpowder.

By this time, Scott and Darryl had come over and were keeping watch over the area.  You could hardly see farther than 10 feet without the flashlights.

It was eerie quiet.

John shook his head yes.  Bethany Anne grabbed the knife in his chest.  “I’m going to pull out the knife, cut my wrist and you have to suck as much of my blood as you can, do you understand me?”

John didn’t open his eyes, but just nodded his head.

Bethany Anne looked at Eric.  “I need you to get that wound showing.  Get the vest and his shirt ripped or anything you can do to access the wound while he is taking my blood.”

Eric nodded.  “Is he going to turn into a vampire?”  He voiced the concern all of the men were having.

“No. My blood will heal him.  It would take a bunch more to turn him.  Now enough talk, let’s get ready.”

On the count of three, she pulled the knife back out of his chest and the vest, slit her wrist and as he gasped in pain stuck the wrist to his mouth reminding him to suck on it.  She had to cut it twice more since it kept healing on her.

Eric was able to get the vest off of the wound and cut away his shirts around the wound with his own knife.  John stopped sucking on her wrist and laid his head back down and to the side.  Some of her blood dripped back out of his mouth.

“Gott Verdammt John, that shit is priceless!”  She slit her wrist one more time and let it drip into the hole in his chest, forcing it down with her finger.  She laid back, willing it to work faster.  She grabbed the full bag and started drinking it.  The half full bag had fallen over and spilled on the ground.

She was a little overcome with the fighting, teleporting and now blood letting.  She lay back just to close her eyes.

Eric, Darryl and Scott had pulled out their flashlights and while two were pointed out into the Everglades, Eric watched in fascination as Bethany Anne’s fangs disappeared while she slept and then as the knife wound in his best friend and their teams lead started closing up right in front of his eyes.

Scott had been talking to the guys back in the ops center.  It was still a major mess over there.  Agent Bosse had contacted Frank who had inbound medical support and additional agency support for clean up.  No one at the little island knew what to tell them yet about John.  If anyone found out what had gone on and John died, they feared what might happen to Bethany Anne if she didn’t wake up.  They decided to say that they were getting John prepped and would be back in 30 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, John opened his eyes.  He closed them quickly as Eric had pointed his flashlight at him raising his arm to protect his eyes. “Dammit, Eric. Shine that light out there where the bad guys are for fuck’s sake.”

“Good to hear your voice, you pain-in-the-ass.”  Eric smiled, but he moved the light out into the Everglades.  Wouldn’t want an alligator smelling all of the blood and come seeking a buffet.

“What happened?”

Eric continued to talk with John as he kept his attention outside their circle. “From when?  When did you black out?”

John took two fingers and rubbed against his chin.  “Did I really drink blood from Bethany Anne?  Am I going vampy guys?”

“Yes and No.  She promised it would only heal you.  She said you had to drink a lot more to become a vampire.  Although, considering her upgrades it might be worth it!”  Both Scott and Darryl agreed as they kept looking out into the night.

John outstretched his left arm and hit Bethany Anne’s vest, right where her left breast was.

She calmly talked into the night, keeping her eyes closed. “I just spent a lot of effort to heal you, Mr. Grimes.  If you don’t get your hand off my tit I’m going to waste all of that effort when I kill you myself.”

John moved his hand and chuckled.  “Well, what do I spend the points on if not to buy a quick feel?”

Not wanting to banter right then, Bethany Anne just said with exasperation, “John, I have a headache.”

All of the men started laughing.  Finally, realizing what she said, Bethany Anne joined in.  John finally got up enough to slide his vest back on.  “God Bethany Anne, couldn’t you have at least taken off my shirt nicely?”

From the ground, Bethany Anne replied.  “John, you munchy butt lover, that was Eric who wanted you so bad he ripped it all off.”

Eric just looked down at John and made kissing noises.  The laughing started again.  The two rested for another five minutes and Bethany Anne started to stand up, reaching down and pulling the massive Agent John Grimes up without showing the least amount of strain.  Bethany Anne cocked her ear.  “Incoming helicopter, look like we are professional men.”

Within 60 seconds, a black Marine Venom helicopter come flying in.  It landed 100 feet away and two marines with flashlights on their weapons jumped out and came over to them.  The four men created a circle around Bethany Anne.

There was no way they were letting any misunderstandings occur on their watch.  She might look like the monster that hell kicked out, but this vampire, by God, was their vampire.

They all got in the helicopter, the two marines the last on and one gave the signal.  The black venom turned off the lights and lifted into the air, heading towards the ops center.


CHAPTER ELEVEN

Everglades, FL USA

Agent Dan Grimes was counting his lucky stars, which were plentiful in the sky above the Everglades.  They were pretty far from any major metropolitan area so the light pollution was about zero.

A Marine Venom helicopter came in, turning their lights on ruining his beautiful night view so he turned around and started walking back to the camp where it was hard to see.  He had needed a minute to get out of his post-attack funk.

He had a bunch to be thankful for.  This could have been a monumental disaster.  He had over twenty-two people on this op and everyone, including himself, would have been killed this evening had it not been for Bethany Anne.

He had no idea what she did, exactly.  The stories were that within a minute of the attack of the forsaken, she appeared and shot every living forsaken.  She didn’t kill any of them.  She took off running after one of his agents that was getting dragged away.  They found the agent about fifty yards behind the command tent.  He would survive. They also found two forsaken with their heads almost gone from huge bullet wounds and one with its head twisted around and a large knife wound in the forehead.

There was an easily followed path eastward out of the camp. A mile or so outside of the camp there was a tree stump and a bunch of limbs.  Two miles away they found six more forsaken.  Two without heads, two with heads destroyed by bullets, one with its face in the ground, a large caved depression like a war hammer had hit it and a final forsaken with a large sapling sticking up out of it with most of its head destroyed by bullets.

Then, the story is that she showed up and asked for blood from a medic, ripped off his van door, grabbed some blood and started drinking it.  Finally, she disappeared again.  There was a fight out with Agent Grimes group and something happened out there.  The men were being too cagey when they were asked questions over the radio.

He got back to the ops center and watched as the helicopter landed about 35 yards away.  John and Scott were the first two off, then Bethany Anne and finally Eric and Darryl.  They seemed to be providing a security cordon around her.   For what reason, he had no idea until they got closer.

She looked tired.  Exhausted actually.  She also was covered in blood and filth.  He could just hear her voice over the helicopter as they got closer, “… and if you ever touch my tit again John, I will kick your nads from here to Miami.  Are we clear?”

Dan raised his eyes, Johns vest looked horrible and he had blood all over his chest, but he looked like the freshest out of all of them.  Like he had just had a full night’s sleep and a great breakfast.  Yup, there was a story here.

“Yes ma’am.”

John and the guys let their rifles hang on their quick-slings.  John came up to his boss and reported in. “Team Queen Bitch reporting in.”  John suddenly grabbed his ear, yelped in pain and turned around to look at Bethany Anne, she just pointed to Scott who rolled his eyes.

Somehow, and he would finally figure out how, this little woman had not only saved his command, helped kill at least 14 forsaken and also brought back her first team alive. Regardless of the blood and damage to John’s chest, everyone seemed in good health and laughing.  Dan just shook his head.

Some other time, he wasn’t going to ruin anything with this woman tonight.

New York City, NY USA

Nathan let Ecaterina sleep in.  She was a little jet lagged.  He left some bananas and apple juice on the counter for her.

He had left two messages so far for both Frank and Gerry.  He didn’t get as messed up due to time changes when traveling.  Having done it a significant amount in his life, it wasn’t a big deal.

He picked up some more food from the corner store and carried the two bags of groceries home.  He went a little heavy on the fruits and nuts.  He figured he could call in delivery for the major meals until they figured something out.  However; he knew Ecaterina liked to snack on ‘real food’, so he got plenty.

He dropped off the food in the kitchen and went up to the second floor to catch up with his backlog of work for his Security Agency, and the other miscellaneous businesses he was involved in.  He went through all of the local companies first.  They never gave him issues and that was true this time as well.  He made sure nothing in the finances for the real estate concern looked fishy and then closed that bank account window.  He had scheduled a 10:30 meeting with his two main leads at his security agency and that was in just a few minutes.

He took the time to get a fresh t-shirt and dress shirt on and kept on his shorts.  It had been brisk outside, but with a jacket he got away with not getting too dressed up.  New York City had a few days of snow a week ago, but it had apparently melted almost as fast as it snowed.

He had requested a Skype call with his leads, but they couldn’t see lower than his shirt, anyway.

At 10:30, he called the first one and once he had him, conferenced in the second.

He asked about the Guardian project and both commented that they were thankful for the help getting it implemented across all of their clients so fast.  That was probably the main reason they didn’t have as bad a time as it could have been.  Nathan was happy with that comment. Frank had bribed him with forty prime network guys if he would go find Michael and Bethany Annes whereabouts. He had jumped at the offer.  While Nathan was a world class hacker, he couldn’t do the same job as forty incredibly competent network admins working simultaneously. It was a pretty easy decision to take Frank up on the bribe.

Now, due to his going to Europe he had met, and almost died for Ecaterina. The lady who right now was sleeping downstairs.  He sighed.  He knew she would go with Bethany Anne when she got back, but he hoped that she might be gone for a few more days.  Maybe a couple of weeks?  Or, if he was devious he could hack her airline reservations and keep changing them.

He grinned.  To keep Ecaterina around he would do that to anybody in an instant.  Except Bethany Anne.  One, she almost surely would find out.  How she knew one of his hacker personas he never did get out of her.  The second was when she found out, life would become incredibly painful.  He didn’t exactly know how, but he did know that she could be really creative when she dished out the pain.

He actually had a really good working relationship with her.  He was surprised that he had any relationship with a vampire.  His perspective on them was to mind his p’s and q’s and then get out of the room.

Either way. Ecaterina was bound with her and he for sure was bound up with Ecaterina.

His ears picked up that Ecaterina had just got out of bed.  A couple of minutes later he heard the shower start.  He decided he would go upstairs and take another quick shower himself.  While he hadn’t sweated much this morning, he wasn’t going to take a chance.

Ten minutes later, he came down dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and sweater and carrying a black leather jacket for his trip to see Gerry.

He caught Ecaterina digging through the fresh fruits and had just bitten into an apple.  She smiled at him and covered her mouth with her hand as she chewed.

“Good morning, Nathan.”

“A good morning to you too, sleepy-head.”

She pursed her lips, “What is this sleepy-head?  Is my hair messed up?  I brushed it after my shower.”  She was patting her hair and then turned around to see if she could see anything in the reflection of the double oven.

“No Ecaterina, it means someone who was sleepy, who slept a long time.”

“Oh, so you think to already start on criticizing me on my first day here in America?”  Her face became a picture of righteous indignation.

Oh shit, he thought, how does a woman turn the tables in a second language so quickly?

He was continuing down this path of figuring out what he could say when she suddenly smiled and said, “Gotcha Mr. Lowell” and bit into the apple again.

He grinned again.  Man, it felt so good to be off the hook!  He had forgotten the downsides to the relationship.  The reality was that the woman had so many cards they could play it was maddening.

Then, he drank in her smile and knew it didn’t matter to him.  He would take it all.

“Before you get too far into that apple, would you like to have lunch?  I have a meeting with Gerry you can choose to come to, or not.  Whatever you want to do.”

She looked down at the mostly eaten apple.  Took the last two bites and gave him a thumbs up.  Walking past him she put up one finger and went to her bedroom and shut the door.  Since she was wearing shorts he was not complaining.

Almost one minute later, she came back out dressed for cool weather in a white jacket, blue shirt, jeans and tennis shoes from a brand he didn’t recognize.  He figured that they were a European brand.  He would see if she liked Puma, one of his favorite shoe brands.

“Ready!”  A lady who took just one minute to change?  Priceless.

He didn’t want to drive around today, so he had called a taxi while she was changing.

They sat and talked about different foods she might like to try, waiting on the taxi to show up.  By the time they had decided on New York Pizza the cab was there.  He had to explain to her that New York pizza was NOT going to be like anything in Italy or anything similar to the pizza true Italians made.

She was game.  If it was pizza, she could get excited about it.

He decided to start with Joe’s pizza in the West Village, they had the foundational New York pizza. It was pretty universally agreed that if someone was new in town, you took them to Joe’s.  It took a while in traffic to finally get to Joe’s and the apple from breakfast hadn’t lasted very long for her.  She was hungry again.

They finally got to Joe’s and he paid the taxi fair.  The pizza joint is just a hole in the wall in a brown brick building with a lot of outside fire escapes running up the building and a big white sign with “Joe’s Pizza” on it.  The ‘Joe’s’ was in script.   Underneath was a red overhang with a walk up white marble bar on the right side of the door.  It had a ’24 hour ATM’ sign on the left hand side of the overhang. Inside the room was pretty narrow and long with the pizza in the back past a few stand-up tables.  The drinks in a stand up cooler you just opened and grabbed one out of.  They were very proud of the fact that the pizza place was shown in the movie ‘Spiderman’ and had it plastered on their hanging sign on the wall.  On the other side were the customary pictures of famous and not-so-famous people enjoying themselves at Joe’s.

While New York was significantly dirtier than Brasov, Ecaterina didn’t seem to mind.  A couple of times he noticed that she wrinkled her nose.  He could understand that.  He just appreciated that she didn’t let a couple of things she didn’t like potentially ruin her experience.

They got up to the counter and each ordered the two-slice and a drink option.  Taking them to a stand up table, he got to enjoy her eyes light up with enjoyment as the deliciousness that was Joe’s played like a violin in her mouth.

He bit down on his pepperoni slice.  God, he thought, it was so good to be back home.

He smiled.  He was thinking “Hey Ma, look what I brought back from Romania.  Can I keep her?”  His mom had passed away many years back, but he thought she would approve.

They finished their pizzas and just spent some time walking around.  Finally, he called a cab and gave the driver the address for where he was going to meet Gerry.

It took too long and didn’t take long enough to get to Gerry’s building.  He got out and held the door for Ecaterina to get out, closing it behind her.  He had paid for the cab with his credit card en route.

They walked into the building and up to the security podium.  The security guard took one look at Nathan and did a quick bob of his head to let him know he was good to go on up.  The security guard then took two looks at Ecaterina.

Nathan decided she deserved two looks.  If he took a third he would box his ears in, though.

They got onto the elevator.  It wasn’t the speediest elevator in New York and certainly not the slowest. That might go to the elevator in the Prada store.  He smiled thinking that he should get Bethany Anne over to the Prada store if she hadn’t been there yet.  She would be loving the fashion and then become so impatient when the elevator seemed like it was going nowhere fast, because it wasn’t.  They even have curved benches for people to look through the glass to view the merchandise as the elevator ever so slowly went from floor to floor.

The elevator binged and they got out.  He waved to Stacey at the receptionist desk who waved back and then suddenly stopped as she realized the gorgeous lady coming off the elevator was following Nathan.  Then, he stopped and made sure she caught up.  Stacy was suddenly in a funk and wasn’t sure what caused it.

Nathan knocked politely on Gerry’s door before opening it.  Gerry would have scented him coming down the hallway.  Gerry had the air vents specifically directed to point the air flow down the hall and into his office.

Sneaky bastard.

It had taken Nathan a couple of weeks to realize what Gerry had designed as a passive friend / foe detection system.  He loved it.  When one entered Gerry’s office, you could walk up to his desk, but it was twenty feet away.  On your right were a couch, coffee table and two chairs that slightly faced the opposite wall.  On your left was a large screen TV system and underneath the TV system some built-in cabinets.  Behind the couch on the right was a little space to let someone get to the bar.  It was pretty well stocked with different liqueurs.  The liquors were presented with lights pointed up through them as you would see at a fancier bar and were really pretty.   His desk had two chairs facing it and a small round coffee table between them.

Gerry got up from behind his desk and came around to give Nathan a huge hug and a couple slaps on the back. “It is so damned good to see you again.  Do you have any idea what a pain in the ass those people under you are?”

Nathan just looked at him, deadpan.

Gerry smiled, “Never mind, of course you do!”  He turned to Ecaterina.  “My sincerest apologies my lady.  I didn’t notice you when I saw my good friend show up.  My name is Gerry.”

Ecaterina reached to shake his hand and returned the introduction in her, very, sexy Romanian accent.  “Hello Gerry, it is nice to meet you.  My name is Ecaterina Romanov.”

Gerry looked over at Nathan, perplexed.  Nathan thought maybe he was expecting someone else?  Ah!

Nathan spoke up, “Gerry, Ecaterina is Bethany Anne’s close friend and in her circle of trust.  I brought her here to America when Bethany Anne wanted to have a ‘conversation’ with Michael’s child, Stephen.  She is staying with me.”

When Nathan put the emphasis on ’staying with me’, he realized that Nathan was really putting a claim on her.  The guys in the pack had better treat her gently or there was going to be hell to pay.  That was just from Nathan.  Gerry figured if Nathan didn’t get enough of a pound of flesh (without blood), then Bethany Anne would forgo the no-blood requirement.

Since she knew Bethany Anne, Gerry had to ask, “Ecaterina.  Are you aware of Nathan’s, uh, peculiarities?”

“You mean that he turns into, what you call, friendly pooch?”  Gerry noticed Nathan wincing at this description.  Oh, Gerry was keeping this description alive.

“Why yes, that he turns into a ‘friendly pooch’ is exactly what I mean.”  Yup, Gerry could officially call it.  Nathan was taken.

There were going to be ladies all over America not happy with this relationship.  Gerry had been shown a bulletin board where some women had been sharing everything they knew about Nathan to try and figure out a way to hook Nathan and reel him in. Gerry wondered how this lady had done it so fast?  Well, that would be a story for another time.

“Let’s sit, would you care for anything to drink Ecaterina?  Oh, yeah, you too Nathan?”  Nathan didn’t miss Gerry’s huge smile.  Oh well, it wasn’t like he had seriously expected to hide his affection for Ecaterina.

But now she had called his wolf a ‘friendly pooch’.  He wasn’t sure if that was due to her English skills, her deft handling of payback for the sleepy-head comment this morning or something else.


CHAPTER TWELVE

New York City, NY USA

Nathan got along great with Gerry.  Together, they had a working system.  Gerry would stay in the top spot playing politics with everyone and Nathan would make sure that the pain in the asses in his personal pack didn’t constantly annoy him. The fact that working with Vampires was his main occupation had now turned around and bitten him in the ass.

He looked over at Ecaterina shaking Gerry’s hand.  Ok, so working with this vampire had benefits.

Then, she replied that he was a ‘friendly pooch’.  His carefully neutral face slipped a little.  ‘Oh my god, did she just say that?’

He went through the horrible scenarios in his head.  Just how many assholes was he going to have to deal with before he got through this mess?  He wanted to wipe his face in frustration, but Gerry was looking at him with a huge smile on his face.  He decided not to give the guy another reason to gloat.  Gerry asked him if he wanted something to drink.

What he wanted was two fingers of whiskey followed by three more, but he realized that was the frustration talking, again. “Yeah, how about some water?”

Grabbing two waters, Gerry gave one to Ecaterina and the other to Nathan and while they sat in the chairs in front of his desk, he walked back around the huge thing and sat down.  He looked over at Nathan, “You have no idea how my life has sucked since you were gone, my friend.”

Nathan smiled.  It was nice to feel the appreciation. “Yeah, actually I can.”  Ok, now he knew the negotiation edge to make sure Ecaterina’s little comment didn’t go any further.  Maybe the problems with the comment could be mitigated.  “However; to get down to business without hearing your ‘woe is Gerry’ vent for the next thirty minutes, what about the troublemakers?  Have the council any ideas?”

“Sadly, few.  Half of them want to wring their necks, the other half is just saying that the young need to vent their spleen and to give them some time.  Their comments have been focused on the fact there is no Michael, so what are they going to do, kill their own?”

Nathan considered that comment.  It was true that the Pack Council had handed out death sentences from time to time for heinous crimes against humanity. But not for just talking smack.  The vampires always handled that issue if they heard it in person.  It was only when the pack started talking outside the UnknownWorld and it got back to Michaels Family it was a problem. Of course, it almost always got back to Michael when Carl or someone filling Carl’s role was involved. Then a vampire would start executions and the first the Council would know about it was when they received frightened phone calls.  Often, they got the calls in the middle of the night from the spouses or significant others of the suddenly non-communicative werewolves who had lost their heads.  Occasionally right next to them in bed.  Scary as hell.

The problem was the young have a really short attention span and believe they will live forever.  “Gerry, if we don’t get ahead of this issue, I fear that we will have another Valentines Day event.”

Gerry knew Nathan wasn’t pulling his leg, but he just had a hard time understanding that comment.  Gerry didn’t want to remember the details of that day.  There was so much blood all over the place, and that bastard Michael actually played with a couple of his personal friends by ripping arms off and then impaling them into the floor and allowing them to, sort of, get back together before doing it again.

Unfortunately, what had happened was exactly the sort of thing he had been warning the council would happen for five years before the slaughter.  Gerry had felt as Noah must have in the Old Testament.  As everyone who had laughed at him as the Ark door closed, only to have them screaming when the flood happened.  He could have tried to fight, but it would have been pointless.

Someone was going to need to be available to pull the packs together so this was the only retribution for the massive breach of Michael’s Honor the council instigated.  Why so many of his fellow Alphas thought they could take down Michael had always confused Gerry.  Even most of the seconds and thirds behind the fools followed their leaders into calamity.

Well, they all followed that foolishness into death.

Two of the alphas had tried to sneak out through an air shaft that they could barely fit in.  Michael had pulled them both back out and just cut their heads off with his hands.  Gerry watched, but never understood what was going on.  It was like Michael had wolverine hands, but Gerry never saw any knives or metal in his hands.  But occasionally, like those two who tried to get away it was simply a slice and the blood would fly up everywhere while the head landed a few feet away cleanly cut off.

But to be worried a new vamp could do this?  Not making sense.

Nathan continued.  “I can see your doubt my friend.  And trust me, when I first saw her walking into the bushes where I was fighting Algerian and another of his lackeys I saw red-eyed death walking.  The other wolf jumped her.  She caught him in the air.  She didn’t even stagger at the weight, Gerry.  Then, she watched both of us as she just pulled the wolves head almost completely back and then drank his blood, which was spraying everywhere.  Then Gerry?  She just stepped over the body and told the two of us to change. I got busy and that idiot Algerian decided he was going to go for my throat.  He never had a chance. He had barely moved in my direction before she had grabbed him, picked him up and threw him down on the ground like it was nothing.  He had to be at least twenty pounds heavier than me.  Then she picked him back up and hit him in the back of the skull with her forearm to knock him out.”

“Why did she knock him out?”

“Questioning.  She wanted answers out of him.  Which, by the way, she got.  During the interrogation she was waiting for Algerian to wake up.  Some how, I guess she heard his heartbeat or sensed something, she knew he had woken up and was playing possum.  She went to the fire and grabbed a stick out of it that was burning on one end and told Alexi, a Were bear to hold him down.  When he had a foot on him, she threw the stick on his body.  He stopped playing like he was asleep and struggled like hell to get the burning stick off of him.  She tells him to change back right then or suffer again until she is satisfied he had learned the lesson.  He decided to change back.”

“Then what?”

“She got the information out of Algerian but not before he tried to come after me again.  She caught him and this time impaled his hand into the ground with my silver laced Bowie knife.  She warned him the next time it would be with a 5” tree trunk.  He got the message.  When she figured she had what she wanted, Alexi asked to finish the execution as it was personal.  Even a 1,000 lb Werebear was on his best behavior around her.  She might seem a little small, but do not underestimate her, Gerry.  That lady can be death walking when she wants to be.”

Gerry was still undecided and Nathan called him on it.

“You don’t seem to get it, Gerry.  Don’t. Underestimate. Her.”

Gerry shook his head. “Nathan, I get it.  I trust you are telling me the truth but I got half the council advocating strenuously to break from the Strictures and the other half wringing their hands.  None of Michael’s kids are talking with Frank which means no one expects them to come over to ‘the new world’ to deal with anything.  They will assume it is Bethany Anne’s problem and the rebellion group sees a great opportunity to be ‘free’ again.”

Nathan pursed his lips.  “Gerry, tell you what.  If you decide to either do nothing or, god forbid, support this idiocy then let me know.  I’ll get Ecaterina and I two tickets back to Romania and wait until the dust settles.  Hell, Alexi would let us run over his mountain I bet.”

Gerry hardened his eyes.  He had known Nathan a long time and here he was admitting he would leave him in a time of trouble.  He about said something that he would regret as he realized he was looking at himself 150 years ago, trying to make the first council understand that attacking Michael was death.

He shook his head, leaned back in his chair and sighed.  Ecaterina spoke up.

“I don’t know why you two boys try to figure this out just by yourselves.  Why don’t you call Bethany Anne and ask her?”

Nathan wanted to slap his forehead and Gerry looked surprised.  “What?  She would talk with us about it?”

Nathan snorted, “Yeah.  I didn’t mention that she wasn’t going to kill Algerian because he was fighting.  He just didn’t listen to the ultimatum.  He signed his death sentence when he disobeyed her, NOT because he disobeyed something that the strictures said.  She doesn’t always side with Michaels command.  Ecaterina here is the first example.  She didn’t wipe any of the UnknownWorld from her mind.”

Gerry turned his head and looked at her, “I was wondering…”

It was Ecaterina’s turn to snort.  “Just like men.  Snort and beat your breasts while just talking might solve it.”  She reached inside of her white coat and pulled out her cell phone.  She hit Bethany Anne’s speed dial and immediately went to voicemail, so she left a message. “Hey, it’s Ecaterina.  Nathan has a small issue come up with the Weres and the council and he and…” She looked at Gerry real quick to get his permission, he nodded. “Gerry need to talk with you over some stupidity with younger Weres.  They need you to know your opinion on something before all the stupid stuff starts.  Give me or them a call.  Hope it’s going well with Stephen.”

She hung up and stared at both men.  Nathan looked relieved and Gerry looked confused.

“Stephen?”

She answered.  “Yes, one of Michaels children who is based out of Romania.  She went to track him down and have, what did she call it Nathan?  It started with a ‘d’?”

Nathan shook his head and smiled a little.  “She called it a ‘discussion’.  However; she was using it as a euphemism for she was going to lay down the law and he would either get in line or she would kick his ass, and if that didn’t work she would take him out.”

Gerry wanted to ask about this Stephen comment.  Ecaterina didn’t want them going down that road.  That was personal business of Bethany Anne’s and she didn’t feel they needed to butt in.

“So, the word ‘euphemism’  is when you use one word for another that you don’t want to say in polite company?”

“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.  Or you could use it as a joke, too.”

“I still don’t translate jokes that well in English, but I will get better.  I promised Bethany Anne I would work on my English so I need to understand this euphemism better.  Can you two help me?”  She smiled her best ‘please oh please’ smile to them both.

She looked back at both men who had totally forgotten their big argument a minute ago and were trying to upstage each other with explaining euphemisms.

Nathan started, “Here is an example ‘you have passed away instead of died.’”

Gerry came back with, “correctional facility instead of jail.”

“Letting someone go instead of fired.”  Nathan raised his eye to Gerry as if to say ‘your turn’.

“Collateral damage instead of deaths.”

Nathan gave a point to Gerry. “Big-boned instead of fat.”

Gerry gave a point with his head to Nathan, “Time challenged instead of late.”

Nathan just held out his hand and twisted it left and right like, ‘not quite good enough’.  “Sanitation engineer instead of garbageman.”

That got Gerry to award a point to Nathan.  It was two points to one.

You just needed the right bait, she thought.  Plus, she was getting good information.  Two birds, one stone.

Washington, D.C. USA

It was ten o’clock that night when Frank finally got a chance to talk with Agent Bosse alone.  He had tasked the marines to come help when the whole operation was caught in the ambush.  Both Frank and Bosse had been concerned about something like this happening.  It was the reason he had moved heaven and earth, or at least called in favors from the military, to get Bethany Anne to Florida in time.

As he got the story from Dan, he was becoming more and more surprised.  Bethany Anne was significantly more powerful than he had assumed, even with Nathan’s update to take her seriously.  Considering she was picked up in Constanta Romania, that means she was probably meeting with Michael’s child Stephen.  He wondered how that went.

Dan was explaining that not only had she handled the forsaken, but somehow she managed to help her team who had taken out two forsaken by themselves in the open, with no fatalities.  He then went to explain how the team’s story was definitely not adding up.

Frank wanted clarification on the team’s story. “Why’s that?”

Dan answered from the phone, “my main team lead is a guy by the name of John Grimes.  She definitely had both he and his number one, Eric, comfortable before they even arrived.  But something happening out on that little island in the ‘glades.  When the five of them came off that chopper after the battle, the four team members surrounded her like she was a princess and they were the guards.  Mind you, she is in black battle fatigues covered head to foot in mud, blood and gore and looking like she couldn’t lift a pencil off the floor.  She was very tired.  Now, John is coming up to me and his vest Is completely mangled, it has a big hole where a knife when through it and he had blood all over his chest and a little on his neck and chin.  All of them were full of mud and stuff, but John’s vest looked like he had been stabbed. But he was walking as if he had just woken up.  She did something out there to heal John.”

“So, what’s your problem with that?”

“Frank, don’t be an ass.  I realize that I’ve been a dick about vampires for fifteen years and I own this one.  She is one tough nut, and I mean that in a nice way.  But what did she do out there?  Is John going to stay human?  Does she have some sort of connection with those men that can make them do what she wants?  Get this, when they get off the helicopter, I hear the end of a conversation where she is telling John he better not ‘touch her tit again’ or she would kick him in the privates until Miami.”

Dan sighed on the other side of the phone.  “Look, Frank, I’m not freaking out and I can’t tell you about other vampires, but I’m good working with Bethany Anne.  I just don’t like surprises and now I’m having to reevaluate my vampire prejudice.  Give me something to go on that I’m not just being mind melded or something.  I want to know she is the real deal and isn’t playing me and my men.”

Frank thought about that.  Could she?  Actually, the bigger question was would she?  He couldn’t rule anything out with Bethany Anne since he didn’t know that much about her.  Every bit of information including the two guys he had over in Romania tracking down the stories were helping him create a picture of Bethany Anne.  Just this morning he finally tracked down a Paul Rutherford who had gone to the police to give a statement and just vomited up all of his crimes.  They had tracked him back to the same train she and Nathan were on.  One of his crimes included trying to use Rohypnol on women.  Seems like he found one woman it wouldn’t work on.

“Dan, I don’t have an easy answer for you.  My gut feeling says no.  She wasn’t anything like that before she was transformed and from my research vampires don’t change their core personality.  In fact, it usually accentuates it.  One of the biggest concerns I have is Bethany Anne going berserk if she met some stupid gang who either attacked her or some innocent bystander.  She hated injustice before, she won’t allow it now.”

“Why would her meeting a gang be a problem?  They certainly wouldn’t be able to hurt her now.  Hell, a few less gang bangers might be a good thing.”

“Dan, I’m not worried about one or two.  But if someone intelligent enough to go and find all twenty gang members in different homes all die?  When the deaths include people’s arms and legs getting torn off, or heads splattered all over the place I think we would find the FBI all up our asses, what do you think?”

Dan had almost lost a cousin to gang bangers, they threw her out of a car violently when carjacking her new Camaro.  “I think I wouldn’t mourn their loss too much and I’d help hide the bodies.”

Ok, Frank thought, that was a bad example.

“Frank, I hear what you’re saying.  We are trying to keep this out of the public’s eye and a bunch of Feddies with those big FBI letters on their jackets only draws the reporters.  I get it.  So you’re telling me you think she is the real deal, what I see is what I get?”

“Pretty much.  Oh, I’m not suggesting you stop being polite, but if she is easy going than I wouldn’t think it’s all a ruse to get  you off balance and then kill someone.”

“Hey, tell me what you think of this story.”

“Ok.”

“So, I am talking to Bethany Anne in the command tent and we finish. Then as I’m walking out I tell John Grimes to help her get her clothes to get dressed.  As I’m walking away I hear John, who is in the tent with Bethany Anne now, practically yell to her ‘Hey fuck-face, what kind of guns do you want?’.  Frank, you could have heard a pin drop it got so quiet.  I thought he just lost his ever-loving mind.”  Dan paused.

“So, tell me the rest!”

“She told him he had to do better than ‘fuck-face’ or she would make him get down and do 50 pushups while she stood on top of him.”

“Huh, who would have thought a vampire had a good sense of humor.  Well, that about confirms my guess that you have the real Bethany Anne with you.  However; that being the case I really would suggest a box of athletic cups for your men who don’t know her well enough.  If she thinks any of them are being sexist towards her?  They might not find him again, ever.  She put a few in the hospital and that was before she was a vampire.  Imagine what she can do now.”

“No, I don’t think she would get a chance to hurt anyone.  These men love her.  I think they would be beating the shit out of anyone who didn’t treat her right.  That includes their best friends.  It is kind of scary.”

“So, we are seeing a real charismatic leader here, huh?”

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

“Good, that helps me on another problem. I need someone to pick up the pieces on the American Council side.  They are being a bunch of pussies on one side and breast beating nutcases on the other.  Gerry is trying to figure out what to do.  Fortunately, Nathan is back and he is the Were who found Bethany Anne over in Romania.  Well, maybe she found him, whatever.  He met her in Romania and was supposed to talk with Gerry earlier today.  I really hope they had a good conversation.”

“Well, me too.  Werewolves and the other Weres are nothing to sneeze at.  I wish I had some on my team from time to time but they keep telling me the ‘rules’ won’t allow it.  They just wouldn’t tell me whose rules.”

“That was probably Michael’s strictures.  They wouldn’t even admit that much because they fear him too much.  That is part of the problem; they don’t fear Bethany Anne enough.”

Dan laughed a little on the line, “Frank, if you saw what I did when her eyes glowed red and her fangs were growing out of her mouth?  Well, let’s say you get religion pretty quickly.”

“Good!  That’s good to know.  Now, I just have to figure out how to make a connection happen.”

“Yeah, you worry on that, I’ll worry about what I got down here.  You need anything from Bethany Anne?”

“No, I’ll call her directly if I do.  No need to get you caught up in our conversation.”

“Ok, thanks for the help with the military; it was a boost there at the end.  I’m going to see if she has anywhere to stay.  If she doesn’t, we will get her a room with us to clean up and rest. Talk to you later.”

“Bye.” The line went dead.

Frank was tired.  He had been up all day and monitored the take down and the ambush as best he could.  He needed to be more restful when he talked with Bethany Anne again.

He closed down his office and went home.


CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Florida City, FL USA

Bethany Anne was cleaning her hair the next morning in her room at the Cambria hotel in Florida City.  It has six floors and hers was on the fifth.  She didn’t care.  The team took her in the back.  Even after the wash down out in the glades, she was a complete mess.  She got her room, dropped her clothes and took a long, hot shower and scrubbed everywhere until even her skin looked pink.

Then, she just faded into the night on the bed.  She finally got up when she couldn’t take the sunlight through the window. She had failed to close the drapes before she went to sleep.

She felt better.  The fight was draining but not too bad.  She needed to remember to keep some sort of blood on her when she went into battle.  She needed her own type of ‘healing potion’, she smiled at the thought.  The problem with regular blood would be the amount of energy she could get out of one bag and the type of  protection she would need.  If she could get it into a smaller amount, maybe a vial, which would be perfect.

TOM, have you got a moment?

Like I do much in here, Bethany Anne.

Give it a rest, TOM.  I know you hit the computer from time to time.

Uh, well, I’m just trying to get the connection going.  

You’re doing an all-right job. The headaches are only minor and I appreciate that you leave me alone.  It can’t be too exciting to just be a tag-a-long.

Actually, Bethany Anne, quite the opposite.  Your adventures so far have been fascinating and give me plenty to think about after they are over.

Bethany Anne thought back through everything that had happened since she turned.  Maybe he had a point.

Glad to hear it.  Listen, can you work on a problem?  I need to see if we can bottle the etheric.

You mean like the blood?

Yes, only better.  The amount of energy in a bag of blood is pretty substantial, however; I can’t carry 10 bags of blood all over me when going into a fight.

What amount are you looking for?

She thought about that.  They hadn’t actually figured out what her max was and just pulling from the Etheric was enough to keep her out of food and water and a constant, if slow, amount of extra.  But the amount of energy expended during a battle was stupefying.  If the medic hadn’t been there with the extra blood, John would be dead right now.

What about the same amount as twelve bags of blood, but something in a really small vial I can carry on my body?

I can see what I can do.  It’s a good suggestion I just don’t have any ideas at the moment.  Can I use the computer for this?

Bethany Anne grimaced.  Anytime he truly used the computer her head hurt like a mother-fucker.

Yeah, hold on.  Let me see if I can get some pain medicine up here first.  We need to solve this problem.  While you’re picking around with the computer, see if you can figure out why it hurts me so much.

Good point, I’ll do that too.

Bethany Anne called down to the front desk and ordered up some pain relievers.  She asked for a bottle and only grimaced at the cost a little.  For a woman who had the wealth she had now even a Tesla was a rounding error.

Five minutes later, she received the pain relievers and popped all 12 of them.  Which helped and what was too much TOM could deal with.

She lay back down on the bed and waited for the pain.

TOM didn’t disappoint.  On the bad side the first fifteen minutes hurt more than anything she had felt in months.  After that, it became bearable and somewhere around 45 minutes she went to sleep.

An hour and a half later, she woke up and felt good.

TOM, are you finished?

Hmm?  What?  No, why?

I don’t feel any pain.

Oh, I figured out what was wrong and was able to fix it.  

What was it?

What was what?

Bethany Anne was starting to get suspicious.

What was the problem, TOM?  Why did it hurt so much in the first place?

Well, there was a problem with the connections.

TOM, don’t make me drag this out.  What was the problem?

They were connected incorrectly.

So, you’re saying you connected the computer to my mind wrong, right?

This was getting confusing to Bethany Anne.

Yes, I connected the computer incorrectly the first time.  It took me about 15 minutes to figure that out and about 30 minutes to fix it.  I’m sorry.

Bethany Anne, relieved that the computer was online and didn’t cause her any pain anymore was past being annoyed by the mistake.  It wasn’t like TOM had a manual on how to connect Kurtherian organic computers to a human.

Apology accepted.

There was a knock on the door, she could hear two men trying to argue in a whisper.  It was John and Eric. She was smiling listening to them argue until she realized they had her red Fed-Ex box!

She jumped up and ran to the door, opened it, grabbed the box and slammed it shut before the two could even turn their heads.  They just stared at the closed door.

Her clothes!  Thank god they made it here.  She wasn’t going to figure out who had re-routed the clothes to this hotel and she wasn’t going to question the providence.

She spent just thirty seconds getting changed.  She had no makeup so she opened the door and stepped into the hallway.

John and Eric had made it three doors down from her when they heard her door open back up.  They both turned around and their looks at seeing Bethany Anne in her fashionable clothes and high heels smiling at them was priceless.  Feeling like a woman again and not a vicious killing monster she twirled once around and asked, “You like?”

Neither one knew how to answer that.  John finally got his voice as he noticed that their hesitating was not pleasing Bethany Anne at all.  “Wow, I have no words to describe what I see and ‘like’ is completely inappropriate!”  He followed it up with what he hoped was the most handsome smile he owned.

Eric just grinned realizing that his team lead had saved them both.  She could take it any way she wanted and they couldn’t get in trouble with HR.

“John, you’re making me happy I saved your ass.  Let’s go to lunch on me, I’m starving.  Get whoever wants to go and well find a place.”

Eric shook his head. “No can do, some of us are stuck here filling in reports.  If the upper brass hear of us taking time to go eat somewhere far away, and there are no good steak places near here, it will be our ass.”

“You guys hold on,” she started to walk back into her room and yelled to them to join her.  Eric looked at John and he just shrugged his shoulders.  “As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t be here so if she wants me to join her in her room then I’ll just have to man up.”  He grinned at Eric as he walked towards her room.  He could hear her plainly, “Miami is closer, but it’ll still hurt like hell Mr. Grimes.”

“My bad, sorry, just wanted to make sure.”

Bethany Anne was pecking on her phone at a really fast rate when they joined her in the room and Eric shut the door.

She stopped and looked up, “How is everyone with hot dogs and hamburgers made fresh?”


CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Florida City, FL USA

Almost the whole team was in the back parking lot.  Half of them already eating hot dogs, hamburgers, philly cheese steak sandwiches and munching down on chili cheese fries and a couple had ordered gator balls.

Bethany Anne was under a tree nearby enjoying her third Bronx Bomber sans onions.

Scott was talking with Eric while they waited in line.

“Hey, tell me the truth.  Were you there when she ordered the food?”

“Yes, why?”

They moved a couple of people forward.

“They say she just told the man in a scary voice to come and show up and start feeding us.”

Eric laughed. “Scott, you should know her better.  She didn’t do any scary voice.  She negotiated with them and they agreed.  I can’t admit more.  I told you I wouldn’t talk about her behind her back, even this buddy.”

They got up to the front of the line and Joe looked out of the red food truck.  It was actually a red trailer with a black and white checkered line going from the bottom back up towards the top of the trailer but at an angle that didn’t make it cut the trailer in two diagonally.  The serving window was the width of the two wheels in the back.

“Hey buddy,” the guy in the trailer caught their attention. “I can tell you.  We have a place over on South Dixie.  Been there a few years.  I get a phone call that asks me to come over with the trailer and I tried to explain that we don’t move from our spot.  She asked if I would do it for some of America’s finest and I said we could schedule it.  She then asked me if she could schedule it in an hour for $25,000 before food costs and I told her I needed to get my trailer fixed, so maybe I could stop by on the way and here I am.  So, you want a dog, burger or sandwich?”

Scott didn’t answer quickly enough as he was processing the story so Eric ordered a Double Stack Chili Cheese burger and gator balls.  He looked over at Scott, “You snooze, you lose ya poser.”

Bethany Anne sighed contentedly.  She was finally full again and all of the guys seemed to be getting over the event.  They were all professionals but knowing your mortality was in front of you pulled the rug out from under your feet a little.  Her phone beeped and she pulled it out.  Shit, she had it on voicemail and she had missed a couple of calls.

The first one was Ivan.  He was with Stephen and things were going well.  He provided her with Stephen’s new number and asked that she give him a call when she could.

The second was a voice message from Ecaterina.  She was wanting Bethany Anne to call Nathan or Gerry and talk to them about some Were issues.  Not a problem.

First, she checked the time in Romania.  About 7’ish at night, ok.  She dialed Ivan up.  “Bethany Anne! Good to hear your voice.  I take it things are ok in the States?”

“Good here at the moment, Ivan.  Belly full of food and a good pair of shoes, what’s up?”

“Nothing special.  Stephen is a fast learner.  I was concerned when you let me know he knew nothing at all.  Most times, not knowing something similar makes it harder for a person to catch on quickly.”

“Treat him well Ivan, he is a good guy and I think that he might be very important to me in the future.  Also, stay close to him.  I don’t want you outside without his protection while you are around him.  I don’t know that anyone is watching but I don’t want to take any chances with you.  I don’t need to be the one to tell Ecaterina that I got her favorite brother killed.”

“No worries.”

“Good, where is Stephen?”

“One second.”  She could hear him walking through the house. “Stephen?”

“Yes?”

“Shit!  Stephen, you have to stop sneaking up on me.”  She could almost imagine the vampire jumping out of the dark shadows to have fun at Ivan’s expense.

“But Ivan, it is the most fun I’ve had in ten years.”

“That’s because you’ve been asleep for ten years.  Oh, Bethany Anne is on the phone.”

“Why didn’t you say that first?”  Bethany Anne could hear them passing over the phone. “Hello?  My Queen?”

“Hello Stephen, how are doing?”

“I am beyond enjoying myself again.  I am learning this new technology and with the bagged blood I am dropping years each day.  It is amazing.”

“Stephen, am I going to have a little baby boy when I get back to Europe?”

Stephen laughed, “No, Bethany Anne.  I have never been regenerated younger than when I was turned.”

“When was that?”

“Twenty-Five.”

Bethany Anne was trying to figure out what he would look like in his twenties and came up with nothing.

“I’m sure you are a handsome rogue, Stephen.  However; no biting on the first date, understand?”

“My Queen, how could you think of me like that?”  Stephen was chuckling on the other line.

“Because I know guys, you cad.  Now, I need you to tell me straight.  Are you up to contacting and working with the Pack Council there in Europe for me?  I’m not talking about where they call you and kiss the vampire ground you walk on, but actually roll up your sleeves and work with them as equals?  Ok, let’s not go too far right now, mostly equals?”  She smiled while she said that last part.

“Of course, my Queen.  You have but to tell me what to do and I will make it happen.”

“Great!  I was hoping you still felt that way.  Do you have a way to contact them or do I need to get you the info?”

“I’m sure I have a way to do this.  There is a pack near here.  You don’t need to get your hands dirty with this.  I will take care of it.”

Ok, Bethany Anne thought, she loved a good subordinate that wasn’t a cranky bitch.  She was glad she never had herself as a subordinate.  She owed her old boss Martin a thousand apologies. “Thanks Stephen.  Hey, did you get that room ready?”

“Of course, I did that the first night. Why, are you ready to use it?”

“No, not yet.  However; I’m working on it.”

You’re working on it?

Stop Interrupting, I’m talking here.

More like you’re lying here.  But go on.

“Well, it is ready for you anytime.”

“Great!  Keep Ivan safe, ok?”

“I’ll do that, and Bethany Anne, thank you.”

“For what?”

“For calling and talking with me.  It just confirms what I knew that first night.  You care about your relationships, I’ll not fail you.”

“I know Stephen.  Keep learning and touch base with the Council.  Make sure they aren’t suffering from wanting to change the rules too much right now, bye!”

“La revedere.”

She hung up.  She was amazed with the whole Stephen situation going so well and Europe seemed like it might be handled.  She certainly hoped so because America seemed under attack.

She waved at Eric and Scott talking over by Joe’s Famous Hot Dogs trailer.  Everyone seemed in good spirits.  Good.

John and Darryl were looking at her and John gave her the universal ‘everything ok?’ nod of the head and she shook her head yes.  She realized that she hadn’t had many people come by.  There was at least a ten foot circle around her.  No problem, she didn’t think they would run away if she got up.  She hoped they were just giving her some personal space.

She went to the message from Ecaterina and listened to it one more time.  She decided to call Nathan.  She hit his name on her phone and waited.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Thanks for calling, Bethany Anne.  You got Ecaterina’s message?”

“Yes, she said you guys are having problems and needed my input.”

“More like serious issues and we are trying to figure out how to solve the problem without it becoming a bloodbath.”

“Considering your asking me, should I wonder if I am going to want to create the bath?”

Nathan sighed, “That’s about it in one.  Where are you?  Did you finish with Stephen yet and did you leave him in peace or pieces?”

She laughed, “You wouldn’t believe the story, which I will tell you later, but he has turned into a great guy.  I’m here in Florida at the moment hanging with the team that Frank has.  We had an op last night so I crashed in their hotel.  I should be good to come up there if you need me.”

“No, we can wait until the next few days.  In fact, that might be best.  Let me talk with Gerry again and plan this out.  I would prefer we do an ambush of all of the trouble makers and let them make a fool of themselves but we would probably just get another Valentines day massacre.  Weres tend not to make good decisions when confronted.  We are kinda a hot headed lot.”

Sarcastically, Bethany retorted, “I hadn’t noticed during our altercation in Bravos, Nathan.”

“Yeah, ok.  You have a point.  Let Gerry and I think how to make it happen and we will get with you when we have a couple ideas.  I really appreciate you working with us, Bethany Anne.”

“No problem Nathan.  Take care of my girl, ok?  I’ll be up there in a day or two.”

“Please, take a vacation.  I’m sure you are tired after all of your efforts.  Why don’t you relax for an extra one, maybe two months?”

Bethany Anne smiled.  “If I was going to do that, then I will just get a ticket for Ecaterina to come down here this evening.”

Nathan backtracked quickly, “My mistake, see you in a couple of days.”

“I’ll bet.  Say hi to Ecaterina for me. Bye.”

“Bye.”

She hung up.  Now that she had everything taken care of, she was trying to think of what to do for a couple of days.  She knew Nathan must be doing well with Ecaterina to suggest she not come up right away.

She needed to get to know this team better and she was here, right after a good op it would be stupid to leave right away.

She considered what she could do to get them together.  Maybe a party at a bowling alley?  No, too pretentious for these guys.

She laughed.  Here she was all dressed up and she was saying a bowling alley was too pretentious?  She needed to get dressed in something a little down and she did need transportation.  She considered her options and got her phone out to look at what options were in the area.

On the other side of the trailer, Jesse Bivoreux was just putting his trash away and grabbed his Coke from the table with Joe’s signage on it.  He walked over to John and Darryl.  “Hey guys, congrats on getting those two Forsaken last night.  That was some scary shit.”  Bivoreux was in the command ops van.  With the door closed, it was the most scared he had ever been in his life and he had been pretty sure he was a dead man.

The trailer was getting shaken horribly while they suffered the constant banging by the forsaken trying to bust into the van.  The men had drawn their side arms and were looking around in the lights of the computer screens.  Everyone’s heartbeats were in overdrive.  There had been some additional pistol shots outside the van and he heard one of the forsaken fall off the roof.  Then the banging just quit.  It became quiet and they heard the keening get softer as the Nosferatu all left the area.  Two more quick sets of pistol shots and then nothing.

Everyone had quickly got the computer screens picked back up and one of the computers had been unplugged.  While it was rebooting they were able to see the FLUR camera input and see that six Nosferatu were leaving the area quickly chasing a single figure.  According to the computer, they were traveling close to 45 mph.

The following was totally unexplainable.  The first figure stopped and waited for the six Nosferatu to catch up.  When they did the first contact just disappeared.  The FLUR operator looked a little outside of where the forsaken were, but there was nothing until it came back on screen from the same direction as before.

The next couple of seconds were almost too much to figure out on replay.  But it was obvious that the one that had come back in had just kicked the asses of the Nosferatu and left none of them standing.  Then it practically ran so fast back towards the command ops that the FLUR couldn’t track it.  Later, he would learn that it had been the new vampire that the team was working with and he was incredibly impressed.

Both John and Darryl high-fived themselves.  “Got two, bieeeetch!”  They laughed the laugh of the living.  They knew how close it really had been.

“Say, tell me who is that hot lady is over there?”

John and Darryl both looked around, “Where?” Puzzlement on their faces.

He thought they were pulling his leg, “Right there on the ground working on her cell phone, you two ass-wipes.  Why isn’t anyone trying to talk her up?”

Their eyes got really big as they followed his gaze and realized he was talking about Bethany Anne.  They both realized that when you didn’t look at her with the knowledge of last night, she had to be one the most beautiful women in the world.  Then their self-preservation came back and the desire to pull a quick joke on Jesse never entered their mind.

John could tell that Darryl had voted him the spokesperson.  Ass.  “Jesse.  That woman over there is our Team Leader.”

Jesse looked at him.  “John, you’re shitting me again.  Even I know you’re the lead.”

John tried again.  How could he explain so that Jesse understood without being crass?  He respected Bethany Anne too much for that.  “Jesse, I’m the team lead for the four of us.  I take my lead from her, we got her back, do you understand?”  He stared at Jesse leaving him no room to misunderstand.

Jesse finally got the point, she was the vampire.  Blood started draining from his face as he realized what he had said about her earlier.  She was the one who had killed the forsaken six to one in just a few seconds. He needed to go back to his room so no one saw him have the shakes.

“Thanks, congrats again guys.  I appreciate the heads up.  I’m going to go finish my reports.”  He threw his Coke at the trash can and never noticed that it bounced back out as he quickly walked back into the hotel.

John just shook his head and picked up the Coke bottle and dropped it in the trash.  He did notice that no one was talking with a gorgeous woman.  He suddenly wondered if she got lonely.  Only one way to find out.

He walked over to her and she looked up from her phone.  “How are you doing?”  She smiled up at him.

“I’m doing well, how do you feel?  Having any desire for your steaks to be rare?”

That was like her, he thought.  She wasn’t afraid to get to the point.  He sat down a few feet away. “No.  Trusting you was the best decision I made.  Honestly, it has done me a whole lot of good.”

“How’s that?”  Bethany Anne was curious.  She knew what might happen, but wasn’t sure.

“I had a long scar from a bad op a couple of years ago.  It’s gone.  Tightness in my back right calf?  Gone.  No scar from last night at all.  Can you tell me what happened?”  He had wanted to ask her.  In fact, half the time he was talking with Darryl he was psyching himself out to come over.  Yesterday was all about psyching him and his team out for the op.  Doing the crazy shit he did.  He had to ask Bethany Anne, “Did I really call you a rectal hole dishrag?”

She laughed.  “No, you dillweed.  You called me a ‘little rectal hole dictator.’  You got 10 points for that one!”

He smiled.  He couldn’t remember why he was feeling so uncomfortable with the thought of coming over earlier.  He heard Darryl, Scott and Eric coming up behind him.  Those fearless followers made sure he wasn’t killed first.  What a great backup team he had.

John’s phone rang.  He looked at the caller id, It was Dan Bosse.  He answered, “What’s up boss?”

“John, we have a possible problem over in Miami.  They have two SWAT situations and their team is already engaged on op number one that’s too far away.  Apparently, it was a ruse and the main hit is on a bank in the Financial District. They are claiming they are terrorists. But we are pretty sure their hiding a financial hit.  We’ve been asked to see what we can do.  We don’t have to, but it feels almost mundane after all the shit we’ve been through.  Do you and your team think they can help in any way?”

John looked at Bethan Anne and remembered that she could hear anything around her.  He raised an eyebrow.  She remembered that he now considered her the real team lead.  She reached down and took off her high heels.  “I’m going to need a change of clothes.”

“Did I just hear Bethany Anne?”

“That you did, Dan.”

“I hadn’t meant to ask her.  This isn’t a forsaken takedown.  I’m not objecting, just surprised.”

“Yeah, well imagine what the little shits will do when they find out that Team Queen Bitch is on the way?”  He smiled at Bethany Anne who shook her head and then looked at all of them.  She smiled and let her eyes go red.

Darryl whooped loudly, getting everyone’s attention still out eating. “Look out, Miami.  Queen Bitch is on the way!”

The guys all laughed and got up quickly.  John stayed on the phone but got everyone’s attention eating outside with a whistle. Waving his hands in a circle he started walking with Eric on his side.  Scott had helped Bethany Anne up and then he and Darryl formed up behind her.

The ones who had seen them get off the helicopter recognized that the team had just got back into op mode.  Guys all around starting shoving their food in their mouth and dropping off plates and sodas in the can and all rushed to get back inside and find out about the next op.

Yup, they were going back into action and they were going to kick some ass.  Guaranteed.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Miami, FL USA

Dan was trying to pull the information together with the van rushing through the traffic.  It wasn’t the smoothest of rides and the van had some left over issues from last night.  He was getting the best information he could from the Miami PD.  TQB, as they had become known in the last hour, was out shopping.  They only had a little of what she needed.  They had the vest and a shirt she could use, but no pants.

The guys had stopped by a leather shop and Bethany Anne had actually agreed to wear some black leather pants.  He had to shake his head.  He never would have imagined the day when he was truly feeling like he was working for a vampire and liking it.  But he couldn’t help himself.  That woman was a complete bad ass, but she didn’t always take herself too seriously.  She was the perfect complement of respect and laughter and the cusswords her and her team came up with were hilarious.

The rest of the ops center were begging them to wear mics and cameras.  While Carl and Bill had helped them a lot, Bethany Anne was absolutely against it.  She didn’t mind them audio recording the op.  Dan had looked at John to see if he could get some support but he just shook his head in a negative.

The say never give a command you know will be ignored, so he didn’t even request the team wear the video cameras.  Maybe he could get building video recordings later?

Bethany Anne was with the guys in the SUV they originally used to pick her up.  She was in the middle between Scott and Darryl.  John and Eric took the front again with Eric driving.  She felt good, really.  Her team was jelling, and she was truly beginning to think of it as ‘her team’.

She was finding the team name a little less than thrilling, but what did she want?  Team “We kick your ass and slap your father”?  She could be bitchy at times.  Besides, it beat Team ‘Murder & Mayhem’ which was honestly truth in advertising. It would come out later at any rate and it might as well put the focus on her.

For those that wanted to see her in an ugly light, the name would just galvanize them around it.  For those that wanted to believe she was a good girl, it hopefully caused them to pause a minute.  Either way, it sounded like it had already stuck and nothing short of her having a raging bitch attack was going to change it.  So, the Queen Bitch was truly going to stick.

Ah, fuck it.  Time to live up to the hype.

“John, what is the word from Dan?”

“Not too much and none of it good.  They hit the Southeast Financial Center right after lunch.  Their early morning hit in Pompona Beach was a valid hit.  They got the SWAT stuck in good there before they hit this one.  Now, all they have are regular cops and the National Guard that might be able to help, and the FBI.  The FBI is probably going to be there as well.  This could be a real political dick-beating we will have to deal with, Bethany Anne.  It isn’t going to make you any friends if it gets out that you aren’t a team player.”

“What do you mean, I’ve got you guys with me?”

“What smooth operator over here is trying to say”, Darryl spoke up beside her, “Is that you will have Human Bias against us if they find out you’re not playing on Team Human.”

The car got a little quiet at that pronouncement.  Bethany Anne considered how she felt being ‘something else’ than Human, considering she got to live a longer life.  Probably hundreds or thousands of years longer, and now her ability to help people was off the charts she decided that they would have to get over themselves.  But it did bring up that she was going to need protection and a good place to rest.

“Ah, fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke, right guys?”  She winked into the mirror so Eric could see it.

“Hell Yeah!” Eric hit the steering wheel.  “They say make your weakness your strength, right?  Why don’t we just make up fang badges with Queen Bitch on the logo and we can act like complete badasses with pretend fangs and red eye contacts?”

The guys all loved the idea.  Bethany Anne just put her face in her hands.  Gods, what was she going to do with this team?  On one side she hated it.  On the other it was fantastic.  Shit, she could have a pair of fake fangs and red contacts that actually could be used.  “Eric, I hate it, but its genius.  Can we get anything like that before we hit the bank?”

Darryl and Scott both pulled out their smart phones while John called back to Agent Bosse to let him know they were going to have to make another slight detour and short stop on the way to the building.

Scott found it first; it was only about 8 blocks out of their way.  They stopped right in front of the store blocking the road.  John just reached under his seat and flicked on a portable cop light and stuck it to the roof of the SUV. Just two minutes later, Scott jumped back in the van and had two brown bags full of vampire teeth and three sets of red contact lenses.  “All of us need the teeth, not just Bethany Anne.  They only had three sets of the contacts but I figure we can order from Amazon and get it tomorrow wherever we need it.”

Bethany Anne was having a hard time with her emotions.  Until these guys had taken to her, she hadn’t realized how alone she had felt.  Stephen was the first step in the direction of being accepted, but these guys were human and they didn’t shrink away and fear her.

She had heard the Agent Bivoreux talk earlier in the day.  She resented the course discussion of her looks a little, but she also couldn’t fault him too much.  She knew that she was still changing and she suspected that TOM was doing something.  Her bra size had gone up a cup already. So, either she was too good looking or all of the guys knew about her being a vampire and it was completely sucking the life out of being accepted.

She knew that she wouldn’t be part of society when she took the job.  She just hadn’t realized what a change it could make just existing.  Hell, even the animals back when she was on the mountain in Romania got freaked out by her.

These guys were keepers.

The team pulled into the corded off area and John showed his badge.  They got in the protected area and everyone got out and walked over to the command ops van and John knocked on the door.  A second later Agent Bosse opened it and came out.  There was no way the five of them were going to make it inside.

Dan smiled.  He wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but he knew it would be good.  “This is what I have.  There are probably three different groups in the building.  One group has the hostages.  One is hacking in the server room and one is in the basement doing god only knows what.  We figure to save the hostages first and then go after the other two.”

Bethany Anne chimed in, “Do you know who the main hack is against?”

“Not at this time, there are three of the biggest fifty financial companies in this building.  It could be any of them, or all of them.”

“Wait one second.”  She got out her phone and hit Nathan up again. “Nathan, Bethany Anne.  Hey, are you protecting any of these three companies?”  She told him the list.  “Yeah, we are on an op and it looks like the hit might be against one or all of them.  There is a group in the server room right now.  Yes, Ok.  Thanks.”  She hung up.

“I have a friend who works with financial firms; he is in the electronic and digital security profession.  He says that all three of the names are clients and all of them have been targeted by some pretty effective penetration tactics in the last two months.  He wouldn’t be surprised if they are hitting them internally because the digital method of attack isn’t working.

“Also seems like they are pressed for time.” John said.

Eric didn’t follow that, “Pressed for time?”

Bethany Anne completed the thought. “Yeah, if there hackers have been at it for 8 weeks, and these two ops would take a couple of weeks at least to plan…”

Dan interrupted.  “I’d say four if you include the necessary casing of the buildings for two locations.  So, they worked one month on electronic means and then took four weeks to get ready for this.  They could have tried half a year or more on the digital side before getting lucky.  I see your point, John.”

He just nodded.

“Alright, we think that the hostage situation is a legitimate ploy.  They will be giving up two per hour for the next few hours and then they will either disappear or blow the building and get away.  I’m concerned that group in the basement is locating the main structural members that hold up the building.  Break them and the whole thing collapses or enough of it to matter.  How they get out is a question.  I’ve requested underground details to see if they expect to maybe leave in an old shaft or something.”

Bethany Anne looked at him, Dan raised his hands, “Just making sure, maybe I’ve seen too many Hollywood movies.”

She asked him, “Hey, whatever happened to the blood from last night?”

“Should be around still.  Why, are you going to need some?”

“Maybe, or the men.  John, can you get us about 4 packs?”

John looked at her, “Do you need a particular type?”

“Yeah, give me an unpretentious B-.  No, you ass.  Whatever he thinks he can do without will work fine.”

John nodded to Darryl who left to go find the blood.

Dan started talking again, “So, how are you going to get into the building without getting noticed?  We know that all obvious entrances and a few others have been booby trapped.  We can tell that there are a lot of encrypted video transfers happening.  We surmise that means they’ve planted video cameras watching us out here as well.”

Bethany Anne turned one way, and then around another looking at the buildings next to them.  The Southeast Financial Center was a very nice 55 story office building with a stepped top and a 15 story parking garage next to it.  It was surrounded by multiple buildings that weren’t as tall as it was.  Damn, she wanted the roof.  “Any chance we can get a helicopter for my team and I.  Also, a crew that won’t see or speak about anything that happens?”

Dan considered that a moment, turned around and opened the door to the van.  A second later, a phone was handed to him. “Frank? It’s Dan.  Yeah, we made it over here just fine.  Bethany Anne has a plan, no, no I don’t know the plan and neither, I suspect, will you.  She wants a helicopter with a deaf and mute crew.  Yup, completely silent and never knew anything.  How long?  That long?  Hold on, she wants the phone.”

Bethany Anne took the phone from him.  “What’s the problem?  Is it the helicopter or can you not promise they won’t talk?  Ah, so a senior officer could just order them to talk?  Well, I can take care of the not talking part. No.  No it wouldn’t be through scaring them.  Look, you have your secrets let a woman have hers.  Ok;  Still that long?  Shit!  Ok; work your magic and I’ll try to work mine.”

She handed the phone back to Dan, took out her cell phone and started researching local helicopter aviation companies.  She found a likely solution and hit the phone number.  She hoped this worked out.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Miami, FL USA

Captain William ‘Bobcat’ Carlson was tinkering on his love.  A retired early 2002 UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter.  The Army went to the upgraded UH-60M and Bobcat had been able to get one that was going to be retired.  Usually, he flew a Hiller UH-12C for most of his commissions but his love was for the Black Hawk.  If it wasn’t such an expensive beast to fly, he would love to do it all of the time.

He was just finishing up, closing up the engine compartment door when his phone rang.

“Bobcat Aviation, this is Bill speaking.  Where can we fly you today?”

Bill heard a nice voice over the phone ask him about his availability for flying right then.  “Yes, I’m open today.  Is it just going to be you and another, or just you?”  Hey, she sounded good on the phone maybe it would be a long flight.  Since getting out of the military a couple of years back he was doing ok, but the business was taking all of his time.  His ability to meet women was seriously curtailed.  Besides, the Black Hawk already demanded all of his money.  There wouldn’t be any left to share with another woman.  The Black Hawk was a jealous girlfriend.

“Your asking about the Black Hawk?  Yes, Its available as well but it would be really expensive ma’am.  About $5,000 an hour.  How much for the rest of the day?”  Crap, this was fantastic.  Getting to fly the Black Hawk and actually make money instead of sucking gas fumes.  Thank god.

“I can cut you a deal at $35,000, but that isn’t total air time.  That just means you have my attention for the rest of the day until Midnight.  Any extra fuel over 500 miles will be added to the bill.”

Bill got concerned, “You need me downtown?  I can’t do that.  The aviation rules won’t permit me to do that.  Yes, if you take care of that I can get out there.  Ma’am, if I start now before I get approval you will get a bill for $5,000.  That’s a big risk.  Ok, I’ll do it.”

Bill got the credit card infoCaptain William ‘Bobcat’ Carlson was tinkering on his love.  A retired early 2002 UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter.  The Army went to the upgraded UH-60M and Bobcat had been able to get one that was going to be retired.  Usually, he flew a Hiller UH-12C for most of his commissions but his love was for the Black Hawk.  If it wasn’t such an expensive beast to fly, he would love to do it all of the time.

He was just finishing up, closing up the engine compartment door when his phone rang.

“Bobcat Aviation, this is Bill speaking.  Where can we fly you today?”

Bill heard a nice voice over the phone ask him about his availability for flying right then.  “Yes, I’m open today.  Is it just going to be you and another, or just you?”  Hey, she sounded good on the phone maybe it would be a long flight.  Since getting out of the military a couple of year’s back he was doing ok, but the business was taking all of his time.  His ability to meet women was seriously curtailed.  Besides, the Black Hawk already demanded all of his money.  There wouldn’t be any left to share with another woman.  The Black Hawk was a jealous girlfriend.

“You’re asking about the Black Hawk?  Yes, It’s available as well but it would be really expensive ma’am.  About $5,000 an hour.  How much for the rest of the day?”  Crap, this was fantastic.  Getting to fly the Black Hawk and actually make money instead of sucking gas fumes.  Thank god.

“I can cut you a deal at $35,000, but that isn’t merely total air time.  That just means you have my attention for the rest of the day until Midnight.  Any extra fuel over 500 miles will be added to the bill.”

Bill got concerned, “You need me downtown?  I can’t do that.  The aviation rules won’t permit me to do that.  Yes, if you take care of that I can get out there.  Ma’am, if I start now before I get approval you will get a bill for $5,000.  That’s a big risk.  Ok, I’ll do it.”

Bill got the credit card info and went to his computer.  She had told him to put a hold on the credit card for $50,000 and damned if it didn’t go through.

He went whistling over to the little electric 4 wheeler he used to push the helicopter out of the hanger.  He was going for a ride whether he got the job or not.  $5,000 would be enough for the gas and at least an hour of playing and he would still have enough for the rent this month.

Ten minutes later, he got a call coming in from Washington D.C. That gave him the information to use and the coordinates of his pickup.  Son of a bitch.  He was told this was for a police action and that according to his military jacket he had the security clearances to know how to keep his mouth shut.  While he couldn’t be ordered, it would be appreciated.  The veiled threat was that if he opened his mouth, life could become hard.

Although it rankled him that someone would try to put the screws to him, he never talked about any of his clients.  He certainly wouldn’t talk about a women who has a credit card that didn’t even flinch for a $50k approval.

He went through the pre-flight, got his clearance and the bird was aloft, heading downtown.

He landed in a large park in the middle of a soccer field with three large black SUV’s on the side and men around the perimeter making sure no one came close to his landing spot.  As he was setting down the second SUV pulled out and started driving on the field.  Stopping a few feet outside the main wash of air from his blades, the door opened and 4 guys in black military with full battle rattle got out of the SUV and holy hotdogs in heaven.  There was a female in battle rattle, but had black leather pants.  If she was the lady on the phone he certainly wasn’t talking to anyone about her.  Damn, he wished it was just a flight for one.

The group opened the door and the lady came in third.  The last two got in and closed the door.   The lady came up.  “Mr. Carlson?”

Bob picked up a second pair of headphones and handed them back.  Bethany Anne put them on and immediately it helped compensate for the loudness of the helicopter.  “That’s so much better. So, let’s try this again.  Mr. Carlson?”

“Yes, but call me Bill or Bobcat, it’s my nickname.”

“From the service?”

“Yes.”

“Alright Bobcat. My name is Bethany Anne and behind you is my team leader John, plus Eric, Darryl and Steve.  I need you to take us to within 100 feet above the Southeast Financial Center.  Hover there for sixty seconds after I pat you on the shoulder and then leave going the same direction for five miles.  After that, I want you to just fly wherever you want to.  I have your cell phone so if I need you, I’ll call you back.  Make sense?”

“Yes.  Fly over to Southeast Financial Center.  Count to sixty after the tap and then fly straight five miles and then pretty much wherever I want.  You’ll call if you need me.”

“Right, just make sure you have enough fuel if I need you, Ok?”

He grinned, it would mean he went down a couple of extra times, but that was ok.  “Sure, no problem.  I’ll fly into a nearby airport for fuel in case you call me while I’m on the ground.”

“Sounds good.  Lets go.”

She handed him back the headphones.  Damn, he wasn’t going to be able to get her number.  Wait, he had it on his cell phone already. Sweet!

The Black Hawk helicopter landing in the park was the main subject for the local kids for a week. Finally, a school fight became the new topic when a teacher got punched in the nose trying to break the fight up.

As they approached the tower, she turned to her team.  “Alright, if you aren’t comfortable with trusting me, now’s the time to admit it and pussy out.  Anybody in the not trusting category raise your hand.”

All of them just smiled at her; she smiled back.  “Ok, we are about to do something that is team only.  I don’t want this getting out because it can and will be used against you and me.  I’m going to get each of you down to the top of the building from the helicopter.  Darryl, you and Scott are going second.  Make sure you have those blood bags.  Let me have one now.

Bethany Anne took a bag and started drinking, a little self conscience doing it around the guys.  John just winked at her.

When the Black Hawk started slowing down they double checked their gear and Bethany Anne moved both Scott and Darryl back and told them ‘on pain of death, you two wank lickers better not move an inch, you understand?  They both grabbed a hand hold and promised themselves that nothing could cause them to move from this spot.  She nodded to Eric who opened the door.  She quickly looked out and down at the top of the building below.  She went over to the pilot and patted him on the shoulder, then turned around and ran towards the door grabbed John and Eric in vice-like grips and all of them disappeared.

Scott and Darryl were shocked.  They wanted to run over and look to see if they were splattered over the rooftop or not.  The next thing they knew, she was back in the helicopter, closed the door and came over and grabbed both of them.  Fifteen seconds later the helicopter started leaving the airspace and headed towards Hollywood, Florida.  Bob was the only one in the aircraft.

Down below, the team shook off their surprise, got their op faces on and started towards the door to go into the building.  The team found the main stairway and started going down.  Each level was painted on the doors in green.  It helped them know how far down they had to go.

Bethany Anne left them at level 47.  By the time she came back, the team had made it to 12 and they were breathing hard.  Down is easier than up, but it still isn’t easy.

She let them know that the group in the basement had been wiring up explosives to take the building down.  There was a newly made hole that went to a tunnel.  That was where her team was going to exit if possible.

She let the team rest while she filled them in.  The ‘terrorists’ were in contact with each other every three minutes. So, they had three minutes to take care of everything.

This might suck.

She asked for any ideas.  Eric suggested that the team could split up.  She could take a group and two teams of two could go after the other two groups.

Worked for her.  The first priority was the safety of the hostages.  Then the charges in the basement.  She wanted the last guys to be the ones hitting the computers as she wanted them to answer a few questions.  She took the second bag of blood from Darryl and drank the contents.  Getting all of them down off of the Black Hawk hadn’t been taxing her energy too much, but she hadn’t topped off either.  She didn’t really want to drink this coppery tasting stuff so she only did it when in a situation that warranted extraordinary actions.  Two bags left.  She told Darryl to give one to Eric so each team would have one if she needed it.  Scott gave everyone a set of fake fangs and then everyone  played a fast game of paper rock scissors and Eric was the first looser.  He didn’t get a pair.  The other three got their contact lenses on.  Everyone agreed that it didn’t cause too much of a distraction to their eyesight.  On an op with a huge chance to blow up into a PR nightmare, they needed to make sure that Bethany Anne’s heritage, as recent as it was, was hidden in broad daylight.

So to speak.

They all put their fangs, including Bethany Anne, in a pocket on their vest.  No one could talk well with these things.  They would use them later after the main hit if they needed to.

There were smiles all around.  These men were hardened vets against the Nosferatu, their reaction times were against Pros that even Spec-Ops teams couldn’t compete against.  This team had just taken down two by themselves and had come out the meat grinder on the other side complete.  Now, they had the best fucking leader in the world who trusted them to get the job done, they wouldn’t fail her or the hostages downstairs.

It was time to party.

They carefully made their way down to the fifth floor where the server rooms were located.  Scott and Darryl stepped out of the stairwell carefully, signaled back to the door they were clear and slowly made their way to the area where the guys were hacking the computers.

Bethany Anne stopped at the main floor and signaled John and Eric to beep her when in place.

The minute it took them to get ready allowed her to focus her hearing on what was going on outside in the area with the hostages.  She heard a few women and one man crying.  A couple of times she heard someone get a beating with the stock of a gun and a huge number of threats.  Bethany Anne was getting pissed.  Her eyes were glowing red and her fangs had involuntarily grown to the longest reach they ever had.  No one would be mistaking her fangs for makeup right now.

She fucking hated it when someone in a position of power took advantage of others.  She wondered what these assholes would do if the tables were turned?  Would they shout and berate others if they were helpless?  She heard one woman scream to her child to come back to her.  That tore it, she was going in early.  As she opened the door, she heard the click.

Good timing men.  Good timing.  She quickly clicked a reply and tore into the first man without even slowing down. He had his rifle poised to strike a young toddler who was crying and just blindly running.  She backhanded the man’s head throwing his body, now headless, back into a large decorative tree in the lobby. His body hit the trunk and stopped, then just fell over.

The next two closest to her had been watching the expected beat down of the child, their faceplates each received two .45 rounds blowing chunks of their helmets out the backs of their heads, peppering the hostages on the floor with brain matter and plastic.  Couldn’t be helped.

The three other men were on the opposite side of the room.  There was no way for her to run through the audience.  This room had thirty foot high ceilings. She ran to a wall and kicked backwards off of it aiming to jump over the hostages and then used her ability to slip through the etheric and appeared twenty feet in the air right above the middle tango.  She started shooting as gravity took over and all three were dead before she dropped ten feet. She landed by the first tango, sprawled on the ground with his blood draining from the holes in the top of his head.  She quickly ran over behind a decorative tree and slipped back through the etheric to the safety of the stairwell.  She clicked her headset once to let everyone know her task was complete.

She started racing up the stairs to get back to level five.  The group in the basement had three members.  She was confident John and Eric could take them out.

Down below, John and Eric had eased in the room and blocked the stairway door from closing so it didn’t make a ‘clicking’ sound.  They weren’t sure how Bethany Anne had made it in and out and weren’t about to break radio silence to ask.

John felt alive.  Even more alert than last night if that was possible.  It seemed everything was crystal clear and he was definitely in the ‘zone’.  He pointed to Eric and then pointed to the guy by the exit.

Their team only had one rule of engagement.  The enemy needed to be engaged and put down.  That was the rule.  The corollaries all had to do with ‘If this type of supernatural, use silver frangibles.  If this other type use the proscribed ammunition’.  For humans, lead worked real well.  Maybe if someone had thought about it, they might have activated different rules but no one seemed to remember to do that.  Oh well, tough shit for these guys.

Eric was quiet as he was preparing to take out the last guy.  He gave John the ‘ready in five’ sign and started the countdown.  On five he stood up and took out his contact who had been looking into the newly made four foot hole in a back wall.  They had pulled out some old computer racks that were on wheels and apparently used them as a protective wall and setoff a demo.  The floor was a mess.  Now, his tango had two bullet holes in the back of his head and his blood was all over the wall.

Eric heard one set of shots behind him and he quickly turned around, there should have been two sets of shots. Coming around the corner, he found the first dead tango and looking up he saw John walking over to the second dead tango.  Somehow, he had acquired the second tango and fired fast enough it sounded like one set of shots.  Son of a bitch, that was fast.

They heard Bethany Anne’s click of success and provided their own.  They started to look at the explosives and realized that it wasn’t setup for remote detonation, thankfully.  The wires all went to a master control by the fresh tunnel exit.  They had a good idea how to disarm it, but without a really good reason they weren’t going to take any chances.  They moved the box as far away from the exit as they could and then prepped a defensive position aiming into the tunnel.   They had responsibility to make sure nothing took the team from here.  The rest of the team had to make sure their backs were covered and since Bethany Anne was behind them, they felt pretty secure.

Up above, when Darryl and Scott heard the second set of clicks, it was their turn.

The came around the corner and each put a silenced  bullet into the lookouts legs.  Scott took the right leg, Darryl took the left. He fell down in pain and surprise and never noticed the two come up beside him.  Scott helped lift the lookout high enough so Darryl could grab the badge and slot it in place.  At the same time Scott  grabbed the lookout’s right hand and placed it over the security glass.  Sensing a live hand print and the badge it unlocked the door.  Scott dropped him back to the ground.  Darryl shot him in the head once the door opened.

“Let me go in first, guys.”  Darryl started just a bit, not expecting to have Bethany Anne right next to him so fast.  He was able to continue focusing on his task, but it was close.

Crouching, Darryl moved sideways and Bethany Anne went ahead so fast you would think she was running in a crouching position.  He and Scott then took positions on the inside of the door facing out.  Bethany Anne knew she had tangos in front of her; they were safe from that position.

The inside of the server room was loud.  With this many rows of server racks there was probably over a thousand machines in this sized space, almost all of them running fan systems that made it sound like little jets taking off every time they spun up to cool down the machines.  The little 1U & 2U units could be really loud sometimes.

There were three hackers, each in a separate part of the server room.  All of them had their short bull-pup design rifles on the floor leaning against the rack as they worked.

Bethany Anne recognized the design, it worked by moving the firearms action and magazine behind the trigger to save weight and gain maneuverability while not sacrificing accuracy from a shorter barrel length.  However; she didn’t recognize the make.

It didn’t matter; none of them heard when she knocked a hacker in the back of his head with her forearm.  Unfortunately, she killed the first one when she didn’t think about the difference between a Were’s hard head and a humans.

So, she had two unconscious guys and one dead one.  Wow, never mind.  One of the live ones was a female.  Teach her to be gender biased.  She signaled Scott to come take the female and she threw the male over her shoulder in a fireman's carry.  Scott took the second in the same way and they left down the stairs.  She could hear the commotion with the hostages as they passed the main level.  It was pretty chaotic as people were heading out.  She hoped it wouldn’t become a stampede but she couldn’t show herself right now and her and her team needed to get out of dodge.  She sure hoped that the exit went somewhere or this was going to be egg on her face. She did not want Frank to get involved to help get her team out, how embarrassing.

They went down to the bottom basement and saw the three bodies and the defensive position that Eric and John had setup up.  Darryl took over from Scott to give him a rest.  Bethany Anne gave John the guy she was carrying and he took the load without too much trouble.  That freed her up to go into the tunnel unencumbered.

She was able to make good time and followed a significantly long tunnel that took two dog legs until it hit a regular underground drainage pipe system that went both left and right.  She figured the dog legs were to reduce the blow back from the collapse of the building.  Well, that wouldn’t be happening now.

No one was waiting for her when she poked her head out. They must have figured that they would have an advance team.  Tough shit, they were the winning team and to the victor go the spoils.  Namely contestants number one and two they were carrying with them.

She took out her phone and turned on the mapping function.  She was close enough to the surface to get a reading.  They were under NE 2nd Avenue.   There was another hole 45 feet down the tunnel to her right.  She went down the tunnel and into the hole.  It stopped only a few feet in and had a metal ladder going up which she started climbing.  Reaching the top she pushed aside a metal grate and entered a metal building.  She could see that they had hid their efforts by making it look like this building was under refurbishment.  No one was here, but a quick look outside showed two white vans without windows right outside.  Both had ‘Johns building contractors’ in poor handwriting and a cell phone number painted on the sides.  Both vans looked pretty run-down.  That was how they got in and out of the building without making anyone suspicious.

As she went back down the passages, she met the team as they came to the first exit into the drainage sewers.  She explained the plan and the bodies were moved one more time.  She took the guy from John and Eric took the girl from Darryl.  The three without the hackers went up the ladders, ditched as much of their weaponry and found a couple of shirts with paint all over them.  They went to go look into the vans and both had keys under the front seats.  Scott drove one off and parked it in a daily parking lot and jogged back.  John was circling around the block until they were ready.

On his fourth lap around the block Scott signaled him it was time.  They opened the metal security door and John just drove the van over the curb to stick part way into the shop and left half the van sticking out.  They must have removed the front wall behind the security door for this reason.  Opening the van doors they placed the hackers inside while Eric loaded the gear into the back.  John got out and switched to the front passenger seat and Eric took the driver’s seat.

Scott stopped traffic real quickly by just standing in the street.  It wasn’t like any cops nearby weren’t already over at the Southeast Financial Center.  No one was going to race over here in the next minute.

Eric pulled out and Darryl closed the security door.  Bethany Anne was already in the vehicle before they pulled out.  No need to allow her face to get on any security cameras on the street, if there were any.

Darryl and Scott jumped in and Eric just casually pulled away, sticking his arm out the window in a friendly wave to the honking cars behind him.

Bethany Anne was on the phone again.  She had located a lot on Google Maps about 8 miles away in South Miami.  She wanted Bill to come land there.  He had been flying off the coast near Palmetto Bay, so it wasn’t so bad for him.  He headed North towards the pickup zone.

Landing, he saw a beat up white van with some building contractors name and number on the side.  It was coming over the field towards him so he hoped it was his people.

Considering the permissions to fly over downtown in a Black Hawk, and the knowledge of the person who talked to him on the phone about his security clearance, he was pretty sure he was working with a team that was helping with the terrorist situation downtown.  He didn’t know how they had dropped from his helicopter so he would never have to lie anyway.  But they didn’t leave any gear hooked up behind.

He just figured that they had something new the military didn’t want anyone to know about, yet.

Sure enough, the doors opened and he got not only his original team, but two newcomers that looked, yup, they were out of it.  No blood, so they were probably alive, just unconscious.  Two of the team members had paint spattered shirts over their gear.  Not sure what that was about, but he was sure someone had a good story.  Not that he would ever tell it.

They emptied the van of their gear, loaded up the chopper and Bethany Anne gave Bill the signal to take them up.  She came over to John. “Does Dan have a place he wants us to land?”

“No, nothing yet.  All hell’s breaking loose over at the building.  With all of the hostages leaving so quickly it took a minute for the cops to get past them and into the building.  They found the dead from group one and the guy in the server room.  Since we didn’t fix anything, they know two ‘got away’ and Dan says they are giving updates about the situation in the basement.  Everyone is clearing the building until they can confirm the demolition charges have been neutralized.  He can’t leave just yet, too much pandemonium and it would look strange for a support vehicle to try and leave.”

She shook her head in acknowledgement.  Putting on the extra pair of headphones from the chopper.  She got Bills attention.

“How’s it going?”

Bill gave Bethany Anne a quick glance with a smile before resuming his watch as he flew.  “Really?  You’re asking me how it is going when I’m back in ‘some action’ with my baby here?”  He petted his girl with love.  “Where do you want to go now?”

“Uh, somewhere a Black Hawk helicopter won’t make the news?”

He laughed, “Lady, Black Hawks always make the news.  Didn’t you know that?”

She grimaced; this wasn’t the best choice for an unobtrusive getaway.  How could she turn it around?

“Ok, let’s do this.  Take me sightseeing where the most expensive homes are.  Your story is you had a very wealthy and eccentric lady want your services and when seeing this helicopter decided she wanted a ride.  I didn’t care about the price but I’m looking at homes.”

Bill smiled, this is what he lived for.  Hot dames, hot guns and hot times.  Hell yeah!

“You got it.  We are close to the best of Coral Gables, we’ll head down the beach.  You want to be seen, right?”

“You got it, I’ll flaunt it.”

This was going to be the best PR he could ever receive.  Bethany Anne maneuvered into the co-pilots seat.  She was pretty damn limber.

Pulling out her phone, she searched for property around here.  She found one she liked going for $8.9 million and called the broker.  She told the broker she wanted to see the house, right now.  The broker said she would close out her late lunch and drive right over, did she need directions?”

“No, no directions.  I’ll just see where my pilot can land nearby.”  She hung up.

“Hey, Bill.  Here is a house I want to see.  It has a pool so if you can hover over it I can wash some of this blood off my hands by jumping in.  That would be pretty eccentric, don’t you think?”

“I think it would be crazy, but then I like crazy.  Or, you could use the baby wipes that are under your seat. I use them to get the oil off when I work on the engines.”

Bethany Anne reached under the seat and pulled out a half-used tub of baby wipes.  They did a bang up job cleaning her hands.  She got a fresh one to clean her face.  Now she smelled like a baby’s bottom.

The house she wanted to see was in Smugglers Cove in Key Biscayne so Bill had to angle the Black Hawk over the water.  The house was near the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  Bill was able to find a decent landing spot that didn’t upset the very rich neighbors and Bethany Anne just jogged quickly over to the house.  She jumped a fence and slipped through the etheric across the canal when no one was looking.  This area had no desire for unwanted visitors.  Either of the animal or human variety.

She arrived at the house with the help of her phone when the real estate agent pulled up.

The real estate lady drove up in a late model BMW 5 series. Her name was Nancy, and she was decked out in an expensive white suit and beautiful pair of Brian Atwoods that she had to admire.  Compared to her present outfit, she felt like she was slumming.  Then again, she had the money to buy the house.  So, fuck it.

“Are you Nancy?”

“Are you… Bethany Anne?”  Nancy wasn’t so sure this wasn’t a prank on her right now.  How this lady got into this subdivision was beyond her.

“Yes, sorry about the look but I was having a Rambo day when I spotted the house.  I asked my pilot to land over there in the State Park.  I’ll make this quick, I don’t think they want the Black Hawk staying there too long.”

“Um, Black Hawk?  Isn’t that a military type helicopter?”

“Yup.”  Bethan Anne pointed to her outfit, “I had to dress appropriately.  I just love your Brian Atwoods!”  Bethany Anne put the most kissy-smoochy voice she could dream of when talking about Nancy’s shoes.

That cinched it. Any lady who was playing Rambo with a helicopter for the afternoon and then could recognize her rather exclusive and expensive pair of Brian Atwoods, was a good client for her.

It took about ten minutes for Bethany Anne to decide she wanted the house.

Nancy asked her what she wanted to counter-offer from the $8.9 million asking price and Bethany Anne decided to play it to the hilt.  “What do I care if I can get the house for one or two million less?  Negotiating is a pain in the ass.  When I want something, I buy it.  Let me call my secretary to work with you to finalize the deal.  She is a European that has just come over to America with me. So be a little patient when working with her, ok?”

Nancy assured Bethany Anne that she would be the epitome of patience.

Bethany Anne got her phone out and called Ecaterina.  “Hi Ecaterina, listen, I’m going to give you the contact information for a real estate agent working a deal with me for a property outside Miami.  Oh, Nathan is there?  That’s a complete shock.  So yes, work with him on the particulars but I’m purchasing it for $8.9 Million.  I’ll send you her contact information and a link to the property as well as a double-check.  Yes, I’ll probably be back in two days now.  Ok, bye.”

She hung up and texted her Nancy’s information.  “Ok, got to go!”  You have my phone number but I’d rather not deal with this while I’m playing, ta ta!”  With that she left Nancy to close up the house.

Well, one base of operations was just accomplished.  Not sure why she wanted one here, but it was a major focus for the Forsaken so it might just work out well.

She was going to have to get Ecaterina to come down here.  Besides, ice was a bitch in high-heels up north in the winter.

She jogged back over and jumped the fence again and slipped through the etheric to make it across the canal and came up to the helicopter which was winding up the rotors again.  Darryl, Scott and Eric had stood around and looked fierce and when she jumped on board she saw John with a pistol watching her two hackers who were awake, and very very scared.

The team got in and closed the door and Bill got out of there.  Dan had called while Bethany Anne was busy.   They had finally escaped the madhouse at the Financial Center and were going out to the airport where Bill’s company was located.  They had plans just to meet over at the hanger when Bill landed.

Worked for her.

“I see my two contestants have woken up.  Did they have anything to say?”

John shook his head, “Outside of who are we, where are we and claiming all sorts of innocence, nope.”

She looked down at the two hackers.  If it was true that they were innocent, she might be able to use them.  She couldn’t concentrate well enough with the helicopter racket to deal with this right now.  Well, that wasn’t true.  She could have, but she didn’t want to.

She just nodded and went back up to the co-pilots chair.  She really liked this helicopter.  She put the helmet back on. “Heya Bill, how they hanging?”

“One beside the other sister, one beside the other.”  She smiled at his easy-going attitude. She really liked this helicopter and this pilot.

“So, did you buy it?”

“The house?”

“Yup.”

“Yeah, I liked it.  I have a team member working on the details but I figure it will close in a couple of days at the most.  Looks like I’m going to be in Miami more often, now.”

Bill was truly nonplussed; this lady just REALLY bought a house in Smugglers Cove?  That place was notorious for having huge homes with price tags that could buy less expensive helicopters a couple of times over, easily.

“Need a pilot on your team?”  He smiled to take the seriousness out of the question, trying to make it sound like a fun joke.

“Actually Bill.  I think I need a pilot who has access to a Black Hawk that wouldn’t mind becoming a member of my team.  It includes purchasing his whole business and upgrading his equipment with some items that a few people might not, shall we say, appreciate.  Know anyone who might be interested?”

He glanced quickly over to Bethany Anne, she had stopped the fun loving bimbo act and showed him a very serious face.

He looked back out through the windshields, “Hell yeah, let’s get this baby on the ground and let’s talk.”

“It could be dangerous.”

“How often?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Beats the hell out of me.  In the last month I’ve been in 4 firefights, been shot once, had to kill or incapacitate over 25 people, torture one and other stuff.  John back there was stabbed, seriously, just last night.  Still interested?”

He glanced back over at her.  If she didn’t have four badass men in his helicopter and two obvious hostages and government connections, he would have questioned her comments.  The way she explained them so matter of fact made it obvious she didn’t think it was a big deal.  He glanced back in the back of the chopper one more time and had a gut check.  If he was joining this kind of team, he wanted in.

“I’ve been dying on the vine, sister.  Keeping up this baby here has been my one check on sanity.  I don’t know why the hell I planted myself here in Miami, it’s mostly people playing on the beach that I get to ferry around.  Your group is the first truly interesting charter I’ve had in the last year.  Anything else?”

“Yeah, but it’ll have to wait until we get down and the four in my team and you will have to get together and talk.”

“Looking forward to it.”

Bethany Anne just looked out of the chopper and kept her own conversation with TOM on his efforts with a usable serum until they landed.  She wasn’t sure of the outcome, but things were slowly coming together.

Bill landed the chopper outside of his hanger at the airport.  There were three additional vehicles including a white cargo van and another van with a quick patch on the door.  Not exactly the most interesting or expensive vehicles around.  However; the hard cases that he could see looked like his type of guys.  Damn, it felt good to be involved in something real again.  There is no drug like adrenaline to make you feel alive.  The quickest way to get it was through danger.  Maybe subconsciously that is why he hung it all on the line and put everything into his Black Hawk.  It wasn’t fat cats who wanted this type of ride, it was the people what needed the real deal and he wanted to be there with them.

Now, he had hooked an opportunity and he couldn’t reel it in.  All he could do was ride it out into the sunset however long that took him.  Sounds like it could be as little as in a few weeks.  Well, fuck it.  You only lived one life, best not to be a boring one.

The team egressed the helicopter quickly and professionally and took their two hostages over to the van and handed them over to someone inside.  Another guy got out of the van and it looked to Bill like he was a leader of some sort.  Bill finished his landing checks and finally had everything done to get out himself.

He noticed Bethany Anne walking to the group by the van.  Man, what a looker.  Why the rest of the guys didn’t surreptitiously glance at that ass he had NO idea.  However; he doubted he was going to stay on the payroll if he got caught doing it.  He got out of the chopper and went to go get his 4 wheeler to move the Black Hawk inside the warehouse.

Bethany Anne caught Bill’s attention, “Moving the chopper in?”

“Yeah, need me to leave it out?”

“Maybe, would it harm anything or how long does it take to get it back out again?”

“Just a few minutes.”

“Oh, ok.  Go ahead and I’ll join you after you get it put in.”

She turned back to the other agents.

Bethany Anne turned to Dan.  “Hey, I need to ask you a few questions on how this outfit works.  Can I get some of your time?”

“Now?”

“Yes, I’m a little clueless how all of this works and I need to see if I can connect with you and Frank and make a few changes.”

Dan’s natural suspicious nature came back out, “What kind of changes?”

“Nothing bad, you dick-twaddle.  Now stop being a suspicious fuck and let’s go over here and talk.”  She walked towards the building and Dan looked at John who was smiling at him.

Dan just shook his head and followed Bethany Anne.  She sure helped downtown when the police got their nuts in a vice.  The FBI was still getting pissed off that some black ops group had gone through the ‘terrorists’ like a hot knife through butter leaving them with all of the dead bodies and nosy reporter questions.  Dan figured Frank would kill the investigation as soon as it got too far along by re-routing everyone who was on the case until there was no-one left.  Can’t find out anything if there aren’t people working the case.

He caught up with Bethany Anne asking the owner if she could use his office.  “Not my office now, right?”

Bethany Anne retorted, “What, you think I’m going to have an office in here?  You’re crazy.  I just want to abuse your piloting skills and ride around in the Black Hawk.”

Dan wasn’t sure what he was hearing, she was buying this place?

She opened the office door and left it open for Dan to come in.  It was a typical aviation office.  Mostly crappy furniture and piles of paperwork on an old metal desk with a fake laminate wood top.

She got right to the point. “So, how does this agency work?  Are all of you guys reporting to Frank or do you come in from the military?”

Dan ran a hand through his hair.  Bill hadn’t cared how anything worked.  He would arrive, get the op finished and then leave again.  Wham, bam, no questions man.

Bethany Anne was a whole different kind of vampire.  Yeah, maybe she did act more like a Queen.

“We are seconded from different agencies.  Some military, some agencies depending on where Frank can pull them from and what experience they have.  Similar to Scott having that Forsaken experience up in New York.  He couldn’t talk about it outside of a group like us who mess with it all the time.  Until recently, it only happened a few times a year so there was only myself and two other fully focused resources in the group.  We’ve grown to the four core agents on a team with a backup team and the rest support and medical.  With you, I suspect we can get a little leaner but I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that, yet.”

“What’s a budget like this run?  For all twenty-two of you?”

Dan sat down on the incredibly uncomfortable chair.   “That’s the thing.  We don’t have much of one.  We are a line item in the DOD and it’s so incredibly small it doesn’t usually cause a problem with the bean counters.  Carl always had the big electronic tools that cost a lot so we always leaned on him for that.  You saw what we had in the field over here.  Frank is able to get us tasking most of the time but our living on twine and duct tape almost took us down last night.  Why, you have an idea?”

“Yes.  However; I want your buy in completely and unequivocally.  If I don’t get it, I won’t go behind your back.”

Dan’s stomach eased just a bit.  He knew how her own team followed her and she had a few others as well up North.  Now, it looks like she just hired a pilot with his own damn Black Hawk.

He decided he would be as open as he could.  He started to realize that this vampire in front of him was nasty, scary, dangerous and a handful.  But she was also honest, fun, a leader not afraid to dish out ass kicking’s and congratulations.  She was what his team could get behind and she didn’t undermine her subordinates.  In this case, him.  “Let me know what you’re thinking and let’s see what we can work out.”

Bethany Anne sat down.  She knew that getting Dan on her side was a pivotal step in making this half-baked plan come together.  She didn’t have a Stephen here in America so she needed to pull together an organization that had the connections, the muscle and the manpower.  Dan Bosse had been doing this for 15 years.  He was the one that had the background and experience she needed, desperately.  She sat on the desk.

“I just bought this company here and a house in Smugglers cove to start a base of operations.”  Dan raised his eyes at that.  She just easily claimed to have bought his annual budget many times over.  “But, I need a core group of para-military men and women to create a strike force that can go on multiple simultaneous operations without a vampire.  I’m not always going to be available and frankly I’m not sure who I can trust at the moment.  In the vampire realm I can count that on one finger.”

“I’m wondering if you would accept a change in direction.  Frank will still be the government contact or whoever comes after Frank as well, but I don’t want to only handle issues that Frank can help with.  I want a world-wide organization that we can depend on.  We will base it here and in the Keys for some of our capabilities.”

“Where would we get the manpower?”

“Well, when you have one problem it might be a pain to correct it, but if you have multiple problems they might cancel themselves out.”

“What do you think about…”

Dan’s mouth just opened.  He wasn’t sure what to make of Bethany Anne’s plans.  However; if he could make this type of organization work he might finally feel like they not only had a chance against the forsaken, but could take the fight to them.  Everywhere.

They agreed to get Franks thoughts on the subject and let him ponder it for a little while.  He agreed to help on the first operation to get her plan in motion and go from there. She said she would catch up with Dan and the two ‘persons of interest’ out in the van in a moment.

He left and the pilot waved to him and started coming for the office he just vacated.  Dan had some thinking to do.  He left the hanger and walked out into the light getting Johns attention. “Grimes!  Come here, I need a report, what happened in the building?”

Bill opened his own office door to find Bethany Anne sitting on his desk.  He took the chair.  “I see that you are into something government related, do I need to know more?”

She smiled at him, “Better to not know if you get questioned, is that it?”

He smiled back.  “No, I’m naturally curious so I’m trying to find out the limits right up front.”

She tried to figure out how to explain that he was going to sell his business and become the employee of a vampire.  Michael never covered this. She just tacked it on to the other one thousand things that bastard had failed to mention.  If he didn’t like the outcomes, then he could kiss her ass.

“Bill, I’m a full-disclosure type of person.  If you’re on the team, you’re on the team.  The problem is there is no ‘off the team’.  Not because I or anyone on my team would do anything to you if you don’t talk.  Trust me, we would find out if you talked.  However; the ‘other’ team isn’t going to believe one word of your proclaimed innocence.  They wouldn’t have any problems just grabbing you to see what you know if you aren’t under my protection anymore.  So, walk away but you lose your protection, make sense?”

He scratched at his scruffy five o’clock shadow that was going on twelve-thirty.  “Was what you did back in town related to this?”

“No, well, I’m not sure.  It could be but it was pitched as a normal terrorist attack so I don’t think anybody who got involved on the spur of the moment is going to be targeted at all.  So, you’re safe that way.  You can step out of this office with everything you started with this morning plus the money I promised you. Which has already been deposited into your account by the way.  I don’t want you thinking that I would hold that money out from you.”

“What kind of upgrades were you thinking?”

“What can you fly?

“Almost anything military, except fighter jets and nuclear bombers.  Those I could probably figure out if you aren’t in a rush to get off the tarmac.”  He smiled when he said that.  It sounded that it was plausible he might be in that situation so he should state a few boundaries up front.  She smiled back.

She considered the future and where they needed to end up.  “Would you consider learning new craft and perhaps teaching others if you’ve learned enough?”

“If they have the talent, sure.  But I need to be the judge of the talent part.  I don’t mind letting the pilot risk their own necks, but I won’t be responsible for rubber stamping someone where they can kill others piloting.”

“That’s fair and what I would expect.”

“What’s your business worth?”

“Mostly debt.  The rent on this space is up in six months and with your $50k I now have about $57,000 in the bank account and a car note that will make you blanch.”

She laughed at the ‘car note’ comment. “Not if it means I get to keep you and that Black Hawk, Bobcat.  Ok.  Our new base of operations is going to be out of the house I just bought.”

Bill barked a laugh, “You bought a house in Smugglers Cove and you’re going to run your base of operations out of it?”

“Sure, seemed appropriate that we can get some boats and leave out of there.  Wait until you see the boat I’m going to buy.  I’m going to send in the team if they have a minute and tell them to answer all questions truthfully.  Make sure you feel you’re going to fit because I don’t handle anything but the best relationships on my team.  You really don’t want me to kick your ass, so make sure you get along before you sign on the dotted line. “

“Kinda like signing in blood?”  He smiled as he said it.  But she just cocked her head and said, “yeah, that’s about right” and left.

Bethany Anne was walking out from the Hanger when her phone rang, it was Nathan.


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

New York City, NY - USA

Ecaterina was working with Nathan to get Nancy down in Florida all of the information she needed to close the deal.  Nathan had a real estate company setup with a huge amount of cut-outs to hide who owned it.  He thought this might be something that Bethany Anne would be able to use, but he didn’t want to front her down payment on a $9 million dollar acquisition.

“Bethany Anne? It’s Nathan.  Do you have a minute?”

“Sure, I presume this is about the house?”

“Yes.  One of my businesses has real estate and I use a bunch of cut-outs to hide who owns it.  Namely me in most cases.  It takes a while to setup all of these shell corporations.  Do you have any desire to work with me on this?”

“Really?  That would be fantastic.  Hell yeah, let’s do this.  What do you need from me?”

“Oh, about $2.5 million to handle the down payment.”  Nathan smiled.

“Why not just the whole amount?”  Nathan smile turned into incredulity.  He forgot she was stupid rich.  He didn’t even know how much but Michael must have really given her access to some money.

“Uh, yeah.  We can do that.”

“Nathan, can we use those corporations to hide additional purchases?”

“Like what, 10,000 pairs of shoes?”

“Hey, I’m not Imelda Marcos you overrated mental amputee.  I want to buy an aviation company that has debt due to purchasing a Black Hawk, and I want to add more expenses as I get more toys and the upgrades I want on those toys.”

“Good god, Bethany Anne.  These are serious toys you’re talking about.”  He made a mental note to not joke about vast quantities of shoes.

“Yeah, well, the other side isn’t playing fair and I don’t have a problem cheating either.  It’s why I’m going to upgrade the toys.”

“I should say you don’t. What kind of money are we talking about?”

“Short term?  Probably $150 million.  Longer term?  Probably six times that.”

Good god, Nathan thought, that’s a billion dollars.  Hang on, world, this just got really serious.

“Yeah.  I can make that happen.  However; I’m going to need to get your authorizations and signature ability on your accounts.  Are you ok with this?”

“Sure.  Just remember that the exit interview for misappropriation of funds is incredibly short and fatal and we’re good.”

“Never doubted it.”

“Good to know, I’ll get with Kevin Berger over in Zurich to get you on board.  I’ll see if he can make this happen or if I have to go back over there to make it happen.”

“No, they should have someone here in New York.  But you will have to be here to do it.”

“We will make that happen.  I’m coming up there with a team to deal with our recalcitrant puppies.  Do you have any ideas with Gerry yet?”

“You mean ideas that don’t end in mass slaughter?”

“Yes, those are the kinds of ideas I mean.”

“Uh, no.  This stuff has been percolating for decades and some just can’t see the danger because they can taste the change in the air.”

“Yeah, they might taste the change but it’s going to be my foot shoved down their throat if they don’t like it.  Consider a way to get a conclave together of the biggest problem children that you think are at least open minded enough to talk without doing something stupid.  I’ll accept a flag of discussion and unless they do something completely stupid they will leave with their health intact.”

“What might be considered ‘completely stupid’?”  He knew of a couple of stories where vampires took very little to piss off.

“So long as they don’t act like they will physically harm me or my team then we are good.  If they have the strong and stupid types they might want to leave them at home.”

“What kind of team is this?  Do you have additional vampires?  I understand from Ecaterina that Ivan is working with Stephen?”

Damn, she should have mentioned to Ecaterina that she didn’t want everything shared with Nathan.  It wasn’t she didn’t trust Nathan, but she didn’t want to share all of her actions with Gerry and Gerry’s contacts.  Like Frank.  “No, it’s my team that works with Frank.”

“So they already know of the UnknownWorld.  Ok.  I hope they don’t get intimidated easily.”

“Shit Nathan, my team took out two Forsaken last night and a bunch of terrorists today.  I don’t think they are going to flinch by a few mouthy meatheads with a bad attitude.  One second.”  She covered the phone with her hand.  It wasn’t that she was going to stop Nathan from hearing anything but it gave the illusion of privacy.  “Hey, Darryl.  Are you and Scott available for a few minutes to talk with Bobcat?  He’s the pilot, Bill.  Yeah, a nickname.  Let him ask you anything he wants and answer it all honestly or decline to answer it at all.  Nothing is off the plate for me.  Yeah, even that.  I don’t care, your choice if you want to offer it up.  I need you to vet him for the team’s primary pilot.  Yup, I’m hiring or buying his company so make sure you boys can play together in the sand, thanks.”

She came back on the phone. “Sorry about that, needed to get some more meetings going while we talked.  So, setup the meeting with the banking company for us to go over there and with the hotheads too.  I’ll have four additionally with me.  They will all be armed with silver frangibles.”

“Bethany Anne, we both know you don’t need support.  There isn’t a Were out there that can take you.”

“It isn’t about fear, it’s about perception Nathan.  I don’t want to scare them; I want them to want to join me.  I won’t ignore them as I’m going to co-opt them.”

Nathan was speechless.  This, he hadn’t figured on.  No vampire had officially worked with Werewolves or any of the Wechselbalg in anything other than a very superior position and it sounded like Bethany Anne had different plans.  She was bringing humans and calling them team members.  Certainly she would do no less for Werewolves.  Just what the fuck had Michael gotten them all into?  He thought, not for the first time, that Michael was either a genius or a madman.  Unlike the last time, he was smart enough to not say that out loud over the phone.  While she couldn’t scare the crap out of him like she did last time, he knew she would remember it.

He did some political calculations, except for a couple of people on the council who figured that it was time to ‘rise above it all and proclaim themselves superior’, this might work.  He needed to talk with Gerry.  He was the main one that this could seriously threaten.

“Ok, send me anything special you want and I’ll get with Gerry on this.  Anything special Gerry should know?”

Bethany Anne considered this question.  “No.  Tell him nothing changes with the council setup.  I’m just going to have a new organization that needs men and women who don’t know how to take any shit from anyone that isn’t on my team.  The council will still stay in place for everyone else.  That should get most of those that need an outlet for their more aggressive tendencies.”

“Ok, I’ll let him know.”

“Great, my team and I will be up there tomorrow.  Make sure you take care of Ecaterina as I am going to pick her up and come back to Florida after the meeting.”

“Will do, see you tomorrow.”

They both said goodbye and hung-up.  He got on his laptop and went to sign in to the main database that showed where he had real estate in the Miami area.  If he didn’t already own any, he was going online house hunting.  If the girl of your dreams had to live where you lived, then it seemed prudent to be able to visit her.  He might like Bethany Anne and he was sure he could visit her home anytime.  He just didn’t want to stay there and have her super-hearing listening in all of the time.

Miami, FL USA

Bethany Anne went out to the van where Dan and John were still together talking.  They both turned to her as she came up.  John asked her, pointing with his head over to the hanger. “What are the guys doing?”

“I’m having them talk with Bobcat, our pilot, vetting him.  I still need you to do that if you have a minute after Dan?”

Dan answered her, “No, we are finished.  Nice piece of work.  I have a team picking up that van you left over in South Miami.  Don’t want that left behind.  Other than that there wasn’t much left for the FBI and the memories of what you did to the team guarding the hostages wasn’t seen very clearly at all.  The only person I think got a good view was a mom that was watching her son as he was about to get beaten by that one terrorist.  The one who lost his head?”

Bethany Anne nodded affirmatively, “Yup.  He was about to slam his gun butt into the little kid.  Fortunately, he was closest when I exited the stairs.”

“Well, the stories coming from the hostages are that there were at least two members on each side.  One for each group of three terrorists.”

“Are they still claiming that it was terrorists?”

“The news isn’t changing the story, so easier to call them that at the moment.”

John interjected, “You guys need me?  I’m going to talk with Bill and get this going.  I’d be happy to have access to a Black Hawk and pilot all the time.”

Both just said no and he took off over to the hanger to join the rest of the team talking with Bobcat in the office.

“So, you were talking about the mom?”

Dan continued, “Yes.  She saw you because she was already looking at that guy when you showed up and backhanded his head off of his shoulders?”

“Pretty much.”

“Ok, well she isn’t talking.  She has her son and she just wants to forget the whole experience.  She has clammed up so tight you would think someone threatened her.”

“Hey, it wasn’t me!  I didn’t stop to talk with anyone.  We had three minutes to get the op finished so there was no lolly-gagging on our side. “

Dan snorted. “It took you guys maybe, maybe, one minute to take everyone down.  Now I’m finding out from Eric and John separately that John seems to have excelled in the past 24 hours?  Not to mention that he came back to me in perfect health with a massive knife wound and blood all over him last night?  Want to talk about that as I think about your earlier offer?”

Bethany Anne considered the situation.  She wanted Dan on board, but she really didn’t want this info leaked out. “Yes, I’ll share but it will be on your honor that it never goes further than you without my permission.  That includes Frank as well, do you understand?”  As she watched Dan consider her ultimatum, she realized that she just used that damn phrase ‘on your honor’ that had started everything back with her Dad at his base. She really hoped she wasn’t turning into Michael.

“Agreed.”

“Ok, take a walk with me.”  They started across the tarmac and she didn’t say anything for the first hundred yards.  “How much do you know about how a vampire is transformed?”

“Not much.  Bill didn’t explain the situation except to say it’s painful as hell and it’s not easy to accomplish.  The problem is that if you can’t survive the transformation, you turn into a Nosferatu and you’re little more than a hungry pile of vampire flesh that doesn’t have much intelligence.  Cunning, yes.  But not intelligent.”

“True enough I suppose, but the problem is that the way Michael and his children create vampires isn’t the correct method.  I won’t go into the how and why of it right now.  However; I can tell you the first stage in the transformation is to correct the problems with the body at a cellular level.  Nothing moves forward until that happens.”

She waited to see if Dan could put it together.

“So, you’re saying that you had to give John your blood last night?  Is that why you raided the blood stores last night before you left so fast to help them?”

“Not really.  I needed the blood myself.  My body uses it as a type of energy.  However; when I got to the guys they had taken out two forsaken and John was bleeding horribly with his own knife stuck through his kevlar jacket and a blood sucking wound in his lungs.  I asked him if he would trust me.  We had no time.  He agreed and I slit my wrist to feed him the healing properties in it.  While I did this, Eric pulled the jacket and shirts out of the way.

When John couldn’t drink any more he feinted, I dropped blood on and into his wound in his chest.  I pretty much collapsed after that.  Both of us were down for a while and hadn’t gotten up much earlier than when the helicopter picked us up.  By the time you saw John, the healing was mostly finished.  He didn’t have enough blood to go past this first stage of healing.  So, worrying about him changing into a vampire is just wasted energy.  He can’t do it.”

“What about his new skills?”

“Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you about that.  I think it is just the first stage correcting some of John’s natural genetic mistakes in his DNA  increasing things.  If he hasn’t told you, all of his scars are gone now and a problem he had with his calf is healed as well.”

They stopped a couple of hundred yards away.  Both looking towards the distance lost in thought.

Dan looked back at her.  “That’s why you don’t want people to know.  You are literally the fountain of youth here in Florida.”

She smiled a little, “Yeah, Ponce De Leon was a little early to find me.”

“Yeah, well, that was a fabricated story anyway.  I appreciate you trusting me with this knowledge.  I got your back, Bethany Anne.  The fact that you would do that for John and you didn’t know him for even 24 hours means a lot to me.”

“Dan, they were my team.  You don’t leave your team behind and letting them die when you can do something about it is, de facto, leaving them behind.”

Dan made his decision.  He held out his hand and Bethany Anne took it, confused.

“Bethany Anne, I am officially asking you to allow me to join your merry band of military miscreants as we fuck up these Forsaken and anyone else who needs an ass kicking across this world.”

She smiled a hugely radiant smile and added, “And beyond the world Dan?  Any limitations?”

Little did Dan know what he was agreeing to, “No ma’am.  Whether they be here or anywhere out there we can reach, they will be dealt with.”

She shook his hand and he couldn’t believe this beautiful woman with a smile to sail a million ships was as dangerous as she was.  Dan finished the hand shake and they started back to the hanger.  It felt to Dan Bosse like he had just turned a major chapter in his life.  He would always remember his life as ‘pre-shake and post-shake’.

He never did regret that hand shake, but he often questioned his sanity at the time.

They called Frank together to pitch him on the idea and what was necessary to make it happen.  Frank was starting to consider asking Bethany Anne to see if she knew how to give him a few years more.  This was becoming fun all over again and he didn’t have anyone to give it to, anyway.  Now that she was batting for the other team.  He consoled himself that he had been right and she would have made a perfect replacement for him.

Now, he had some arms to twist, favors to use and suggestions to make.  Life just went past interesting to fascinating.


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Miami, FL USA

Bethany Anne left Dan at the van and decided to check in on the status of her team and her possible new team member.  She stopped and took a look at the Black Hawk.  When you looked at it up close, it had its dings and dents of course and paint peeling in certain places.  But there weren’t any large oil leaks on the ground or around anywhere she could see.  She wasn’t a mechanic, so she didn’t know what she was looking for exactly but she figured she would be able to tell if it was a rat trap.  She wished she had thought about that at the time they jumped on, but needs must and she got real lucky.

She didn’t want to trust luck again.  Plus, she hired a pilot, not a mechanic.  She needed a mechanic on her team and as far as she knew, the team didn’t have anything like that.  She wondered where the best place to store all of her teams toys was going to be?

She knew that flying around in a military helicopter needed to be either over the top, or rather infrequently.  Since she expected to be running and gunning, over the top was the only choice.

Considering these issues, she walked over to the door and knocked on it.  Eric opened the door and peaked out, seeing her he opened it all the way and had a grin on her face.  She smelled the alcohol before she saw the bottles the guys were trying to hide from whoever was at the door.  She rolled her eyes.

She didn’t want any, but she didn’t care if they had any.  Since all five of them were acting like busted little teenagers, she figured they were bonding just fine.

“Do I have to separate you guys from Bobcat?  Is he already a bad influence on you guys?”

John pulled his Shiner Bach out from behind him.  “Only if you allow us to keep his case of Shiner?”  He grinned unrepentantly.   They all joined him and pulled their beers out from their hiding places.  Obviously Bobcat had the best hiding place down under the desk since he was sitting in his own desk chair.  The guys were all over the room standing and sitting as they wanted to.

“You would have to take that up with him.  I suppose this is the ritual drinking of new found friendship and team bonding?”

“We’re all good if you are good.  Uh, just one clarification?”

“Whats that?”

“He’s not sure he believes us on your, um…”

Bobcat took over, “Oh geez, John.  Grow a pair.”  He turned to Bethany Anne.  “Are you really a vampire?”  He didn’t look concerned at the question, but needed confirmation.

She smiled and willed her eyes to glow red and her fangs to grow.  Bobcat looked a little shocked at the reality.  It was one thing to be talking about the pretty intense team leader; it was a different situation to see what she looked like when she went all vampire on them.  It took everything Bobcat had to not try to crawl into his right hand drawer.

She let her eyes fall back to normal and her fangs to retract.  She had hated the idea of doing that back in Switzerland, but realized it really was the easiest way to make a point.  Apparently, it affected the person looking at her at a fundamental level that really got the fight or flight reaction.  Always flight.

Bobcat took his cue from the guys around him.  They didn’t get ready to fight for their lives so he was able to pull his shit together.  He didn’t think these guys would steer him wrong.

He looked over at the guys, but talked to John.  “Sorry about not believing you.”

John just laughed and put his hand out to shake, “Welcome to the team, Bobcat.  If you handle when our leader vamps out like that and not pee in your pants, I think you’re able to cut it.  You got my vote.”

Bobcat leaned forward and shook his hand and looked over at the woman with the smile on her face.  “Anything I need to do?”

“Well, I don’t have an HR office if that’s what you mean and I don’t seal it with a bite, either.”  She smiled and the guys took it as an opportunity to laugh off a little adrenaline they felt from a moment ago.

“So, you’re now my lead of all things having to do with transportation on the ground and in the air.  I need to get the six of us up to New York the day after tomorrow.  I don’t care how we get there, but I want it fast and safe.  Also, do you have a mechanic?”

Bobcat shook his head.  “Not full time.  Most of the basic engine work I do myself.  I’ve got a chief engineer friend that is between rotations that helps me from time to time. “

“Is he good enough to retrofit the bird out there?”

“Like an engine overhaul?  She shouldn’t need that for another 500 hours.”

“No, I mean brand new engines.  I want whatever is the latest available for the bird.  While you’re at it, see what the difference is for a new bird.  I don’t want to be a penny wise and a pound foolish.”

“A new bird is probably north of $30 million.”

“And new engines?”

“Not even close.”

“Well, check into it.  I suspect we will use you for drop off and pickup and perhaps supply runs.  No telling how bad it could get.  Also, see what the latest coatings are for the bird.  See if there is anything that we can get that wouldn’t be obviously Military.  We can’t hide her during the day so maybe we can put a face on her that hides her in plain site.”

“What, something like a changing paint?”

“Well, sure if that is possible, however; I was thinking of something like a dark red that doesn’t scream military during the day but is still hard to see at night.  Plus anything radar absorbing to mix with it if possible.”

“That’s going to get us all up in the government’s ass, you know.”

“I’ll let my government contact deal with that end, John.  You and the team need to figure out what we need for an op in two days.  We are going to meet a group of unruly Weres and we need to look sharp and as badass as we can.  Consider our dress on op and off op.  Dan has signed on to lead the new unified team and Frank is on board to get everyone the chance to join me if you want.  If you want to get out, I’ll understand.  You guys didn’t even know me before yesterday.”

She looked all of them in the eyes and there wasn’t one who doubted he was in the right space.

“Ok, I’ll take it that all of you are going with?”

Scott said from the corner, “One for all and all for the TBQ!”  All of them except Bobcat busted out laughing.

Gott Verdammt,  she wasn’t going to get to change that name now.  Oh well, make it your own she thought.  “That’s right, and you guys just became my bitches, so get your asses in gear I want to be wheels up by 5:30 in the morning day after tomorrow.

They all left happy and excited.  They had feared that Bethany Anne was going to go on to her other responsibilities and they would be broken up until the next event happened.  Now, the action wasn’t going to stop and they finally felt like there was hope for the future and a way to take the fight to the enemy.  They were still on their high from two successful ops in 24 hours and they didn’t want it to end.

There was one thing that they were sure of; around Bethany Anne life would not be boring.

Over the Atlantic between Miami, FL and New York City, NY - USA

Bobcat lifted a few minutes past 5:30 AM with Bethany Anne’s team and an extra co-pilot.  Bethany Anne took a few minutes in private with John to take a strip off of his skin for missing the planned take-off time.

He respected her point and he took it for the team this time. But he received the message loud and clear that there was going to be one way to get things done and it was his responsibility to make sure it happened

She went up to the cockpit of the rental Gulfstream G550.  It was a pretty large jet, able to handle almost 20 passengers.  For her team of four it was over-kill, however; she told Bobcat to rent it because she wanted to know if she liked it enough to purchase.  Even as rich as she was, her toy list was getting damn expensive.  She was going to need a way to make some money off of this somehow.  At least eventually.

That reminded her; she needed to start getting with TOM about the future.  Which meant someone was going to have to help her with the businesses she already had access to and the businesses she would need to buy or create to get the science finished to get out of the Earth’s gravity well.  Space-X and two other companies were pushing the envelope with rockets and sub-orbital aircraft liftoff.  That was nice, but TOM’s capabilities were a massive jump in ability above anything they had right now.

A decision she needed to worry about soon, just not on this flight.

She went up to the pilots cabin and sat down next to Bobcat.  The co-pilot they had ‘rented’ with the plane had gone to the back for a few minutes to give her some time with Bobcat.  Terribly inappropriate, but who was going to tell on her?

“Hey, what do you think of the plane?”

Bobcat looked it over.  “Nice, it’s got legs which we might need.  Who’s kidding, we will need it I’m sure.  However; I don’t know about buying it.  We are renting this bad boy for just shy of $7,000 an hour with me flying so the bill is going to be about $60k for the trip there and back.  Considering the heavy duty weapons we have on board I realize you didn’t want to fly commercial, but damn Bethany Anne, this sized?”

“Hey, I wanted to both check it out for a full team load and I’m hoping to come back with more than just five passengers.  Did your chief engineer take the bait?”  Bethany Anne had told Bobcat to contact his friend, Billy “William” Stevenson and find out just how bad he wanted another tour in the sandpit.  They decided a contract to retrofit the Black Hawk, now nicknamed ‘Shelly’, was a good idea. They would see if he wanted to leave once he put his blood, sweat and tears into the girl.

Someone on the team mentioned that Bobcat treated the Black Hawk like he had treated his old girlfriend Shelly. That story stuck.  Then Bobcat made a tactical error and exclaimed that Shelly was not an appropriate name for a Black Hawk.  The more he bitched, the more the team gave him shit until he realized he had cemented the deal himself.

Now, William was ordering all sorts of parts to upgrade Shelly.  Including the engine upgrades the Army used in the latest iteration of the Black Hawk.

“Yeah, he was both happy for the work and is looking forward to working on her and upgrading the engines.  He loves those birds and he already has helped me on Shelly.”

“So, you finally gave in to the name?”

“Had to, the more I fought, the more the guys figured ways to get the name ‘Shelly’ into the conversation.  It became a losing battle and truth to tell, I started to come around and liked it anyway.”

“Good, when we get back figure out if William is the right guy for our team.  We need a kick-ass aviation engineer and I hope he’s the right one.  I want one that has military experience since I figure he will have seen a lot of the problems our birds might have.”

“What, stress cracks from hard use?”

“No, bullet holes.”

“Oh.”  That kind of put a final period to that conversation and Bethany Anne looked out towards the ocean and let her mind drift.

They needed to find another hanger location.  The one Bobcat had was good for commercial customers but not for her team.  She had Dan take over the logistics since he should know best how to move the assets around.  She trusted his knowledge and insights from his 15 years running this team and his time before that.

However; the slower speed they were flying helped explain why Michael’s plane had those kick-ass military jets.  When you were called into an op, speed was a requirement not just a ‘nice to have’.

Fortunately, they were just testing the plane.  There was a new G650 that Bobcat was interested in.  He said the wait time was a mile long.  Bethany Anne just smiled.  She was sure it was, but money might be able to take care of it.  She would talk with TOM, maybe he would have some ideas on how to build a better jet.  She considered that for a moment.  Maybe starting a small jet engineering company could provide what she wanted and start the perfect cover for the engineering efforts to come.  So much to do, she needed a bigger team.  She was going to have to talk with Frank and finally get in touch with her father.

She knew what Michael thought of reaching back into your old life, but she had already broken the rules so many times since starting with Ecaterina that she figured what was one more?  When you’re a day-walking vampire most people don’t find anything too special that makes them want to point and say ‘vampire!’  Especially since she could go without blood except in dire circumstances.  So much had happened in the past 72 hours that she felt like she was on a roller coaster and it wasn’t stopping.

She got up and patted Bobcat on the way out of the cabin.  There wasn’t any reason she needed to be thinking in the cockpit and the co-pilot didn’t need to be sitting in the back.

She passed him and went back to her team to figure out the strategy for making an impression in New York.  They called Ecaterina and got her on the phone to confirm what she was setting up and picking up for them in New York that they had expedited last night.

If nothing else, New York was going to be a blast.  Now, if she could just make it work the roller coaster was going to have jets strapped to the back.

The got down to planning the nitty gritty.

New York City, NY - USA

Carl Corruthers, the executive driver, was waiting for his customers to land at JFK.  He was stationed at a personal hanger that was pretty large.  That wasn’t too strange.  Often, people would park multiple planes in one hanger.  That this one was empty could mean that they were all gone.  This was supposed to be just someone coming into town for a few days and leaving again.

Carl had been told to take the baddest SUV the company had.  It was a beautiful Chevy Suburban that had been modified by Texas Armoring Corporation and was so plush inside that the back two seats could actually lay back like seats on a first class flight.  They even had the little tables that could come out for working or drinks.

He didn’t know who it was he was picking up, but he imagined it would probably be a rich person who had delusions of grandeur.  He didn’t care as he was getting an automatic tip for this whole trip.  He was going to have a great check at the end of this gig.

Finally, a jet which had just landed seemed like it was heading in his direction.  Oh mama.  That wasn’t a little turbo prop.  This was a beast of a private jet.  You could purchase a car instead of renting one of these for just two hours.

Maybe they were important.

He straightened up a little.  The jet rolled up near the hanger, but didn’t go into it before stopping.  The door opened and the co-pilot was the first off.  Then one of the biggest men Carl had seen came down dressed in a two piece black suit and  carrying nylon ballistic that clanked around came down the stairs and headed straight for him.

“Name?”

“Carl Corruthers.”

“John Grimes, pleased to meet you Carl.  Is this the vehicle we requested?”

“If you requested a special executive protection package Chevy Suburban sir, then yes it is.  We can get shot and no one will get hurt inside.”

“Good, open it up and let me make sure there aren’t any surprises.”

Carl was surprised but it wasn’t a big deal.  He popped the locks and he went through the inside while another guy dressed the same style pulled a mirror and went around the base looking under the carriage.  He turned around to see the most beautiful woman coming down the steps.  She had a subtle flair that wasn’t makeup but it was mesmerizing.  She was dressed in a black pantsuit herself with a suit jacket over her top.  He noticed that all of them, included the woman, had shoulder holsters and pistols.  Ah hell, who was he ferrying around that looked like they truly needed this vehicle?  While it might be nice to get a great story, he couldn’t tell anyone if he might actually be dead soon.

His easy gig turned a little worrisome.


CHAPTER NINETEEN

New York City, NY - USA

Gerry was standing toe-to-toe with the Alpha of the Denver Area Pack, Jonathan Silvers.  Jon was as salty as they came and had spent a lot of his time up in the mountains on his ranch.  He had a nice spread out there. Most of his pack was of the ‘live and let live’ mentality.  However; his son was a prick of the highest order and because Jon had a large amount of land, money and influence, his son Pete felt that he was important as well.

The problem was that Weres assumed you were important for what you had personally accomplished. The only thing Pete had accomplished was showing his ability to turn into a wolf.  One time the girl took video with her cheap cell phone. These situations broke the strictures and Jon was having problems with both his son and his council lead.

“Jon, you hard headed son-of-a-bitch.  If you can’t get Pete to fix these issues either the council will have to deal with it or Michael’s group will!”

“This isn’t your son you’re talking about, Gerry!  Get off my case. Michael hasn’t been seen in years and the rumors all say he is dead.”

Gerry wanted to punch something. “Those are rumors!  I’ve talked with Frank and we don’t know that for sure.  I don’t need another massacre on my hands and it isn’t Michael we will be dealing with. We will be dealing with Bethany Anne, you cock-eyed imbecile.”

Jonathan turned around to try and cool down. Yelling at Gerry wasn’t going to accomplish anything.  Gerry was predisposed to never backing down in an Alpha argument, so Jonathan would never ‘win’ that way.  Plus, if it got out of hand Nathan Lowell was standing over in the corner of Gerry’s office.  Jonathan was just lucky Nathan wasn’t in his pack.  He didn’t really know if Nathan or Gerry would come out on top in a fight, but he had to respect any Alpha which handled Nathan as his second.

He turned back around to Gerry, trying to keep his voice calmer.  “Look, I hear you. We have a new vampire here in the States, but you will have to forgive me if I don’t feel like believing she can be as vicious as Michael.  That bastard was a cold-blooded and heartless killer.  I hope to God he is gone and good riddance.  I’m not promoting we reveal ourselves. But killing everyone who might make a mistake is too harsh.  And that’s what Pete has done. He’s made some mistakes.”

“So why can’t he fix his mistakes?”

Jonathan’s shoulders slumped. That was the root of the problem, wasn’t it?  Pete wasn’t a mature guy and when he made a mistake he wouldn’t own up to the mistake.  Everything was someone else’s fault.  It was infuriating to Jonathan to deal with.  So he hadn’t dealt with it and it could be the cause of Pete’s death.  He didn’t believe that the new vampire was powerful because he didn’t want to believe it.  He couldn’t believe it if he wanted to hope his son had a chance to live.

He looked up to Gerry’s eyes and came clean. “Because I didn’t do my duty to make sure he would be a stand-up man.  I went to work on my ranch instead of my son.  It was easier to give him a cherry sucker instead of a spanking.  So here I am worried that if you’re right, I’ve killed my son by being lazy instead of keeping him alive with discipline.”  He was emotionally spent; he sat down on the couch in Gerry’s office.

Gerry didn’t know what to say to that.  He was caught off guard with this sudden declaration and wiped his face and sat down in a chair between the couch and his desk.  He put his elbows on his knees and put his chin in his hands.  “You got anything, Nathan?”

Nathan stirred a little from the spot where he had been holding up the wall. “I have little patience for Pete, if that means anything.  But if you mean do I have anything to help this situation? I’m at a loss. We have two women that Pete has shown him changing from a human to a wolf. That is not only against the strictures, that was careless and stupid.  Now, we have one video that thankfully is mostly too dark since he was being an ass at night and she had a crappy cheap camera phone. Pete doesn’t want to deal with the women anymore since he only knows how to put his head in the sand. The women are starting to figure out that maybe they can make money with this. What a cock-up.”

“What do you think Bethany Anne is going to do?”

It was Nathan’s turn to wipe his face.  “Well, I can tell you her first reaction isn’t to slap someone’s head off.  However; she doesn’t suffer disrespectful fools at all.  Which is just about the definition of Pete. So, I don’t have much hope if we get her involved. However; I don’t know how NOT to get her involved.  She has the ability to make this all go away.”

Jonathan latched on that comment like it was a lifeline thrown to him at sea.  “How can she make this go away?”

Nathan looked at Jonathan.  “Well, she can probably wipe the women so they don’t remember, however; she isn’t really enthused with that option.  She could wipe Pete back a few years and you could start over.”

Jonathan went white when he realized just how powerful she must be to accomplish wiping years of a person’s memory away.

“But again, she probably wouldn’t want to do that either.  She could also just kill everyone.  The girls, Pete and anyone who pissed her off.  I’m telling you Jonathan, the best chance you have is what you just did and that’s to explain the problem and hope she sees a solution we don’t.”

Gerry hadn’t been expecting to be talking about Jonathan’s kid right now.  They were supposed to be finalizing the plans for the people they had termed the ‘green’ team.  As in, these guys are so green they don’t know enough to keep their mouths shut.

The Weres on the ‘Green’ team, however; thought it was a great name and assumed it had something to do with a fresh start.

Either way, this conversation was derailing them.  Gerry had taken Jonathan’s appointment because he was an important person on the council.  “Jonathan, we need to finalize this meeting with Bethany Anne.  The best idea, however; is to approach her with the problem.  What do we have to lose?  She’s going to be involved at some point and it might as well be earlier when she has a better chance to help.”

Jonathan relented, “Ok, I agree.  So, what do we need to finish up this meeting?  You are saying she agreed to a safe harbor?”

Gerry confirmed, “With the qualification that no one was too aggressive with either her or her team.  If that happens then she can and will take care of the problem.”

“Is that why you left out Paul Gleason and his group?”

“Hell yes.  That hothead wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth shut and we would be knee deep in blood in five minutes.”

Jonathan shook his head. “He called and complained to me and others on the council. How he was able to string together ‘No Implementation without Representation’ boggles my mind.

Gerry snorted. “Coached, I’m sure. There are players on the council starting power grabs.  This is a pain in the ass and frankly something we don’t need.  If we aren’t careful, we all will have knifes in our backs as well.  I’ve been tempted to introduce them to Bethany Anne and walk out of the room. After a few minutes I would just work with whoever she left alive.”  Gerry laughed darkly, “Still tempting frankly.  I understand she is in town?” He looked over at Nathan.

“Yes, Ecaterina was picked up at my house ten minutes ago.  She sent a text.”

Gerry grimaced a little.  He knew how much Nathan cared for Ecaterina. “That has to hurt.”

Nathan just shrugged. “She’s not leaving forever, but the time I wasn’t with you I was with her.  I’m going to fly back down to Miami with them and close on a property I’m getting near Bethany Anne’s Little Hacienda.”

Jonathan piped in, “Where is her house?”

Nathan smiled, “Smuggles Cove in Key Biscayne, Fl.”

Jonathan looked at him, “Damn, that is one expensive casa.  Really?”

Nathan just shook his head affirmative.

Gerry looked at Jonathan, “How the hell do I not know of this place, but my friend who lives on a ranch up in the mountains of Colorado knows of it?”

Jonathan just smiled at Gerry. “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, it’s a sinful habit I know, but I love Robin Leach’s accent.”

Gerry rolled his eyes. “Ok, fine.  Let’s get our own show going.  I’ll meet you guys downstairs at the car, you driving Nathan?”

“Yeah, I’ve got the Benz, let’s use that.”

Jonathan and Nathan left Gerry’s office to go to the garage under the building.  Gerry went to freshen up real quick and then joined them.  Gerry rode shotgun and Jonathan got in behind Nathan.

Bethany Anne had selected an out of the way place in Queens Rockaway Peninsula, Fort Tilden for the meet.  It was a desolate area that had been used by the military for aircraft defenses.  For Bethany Anne, she wanted it to be away from New York City so that the cops would take a while to get out there if things went bad, and she had an escape route that wasn’t the sewers of New York.

She expected somebody to be stupid.  She only had four people with her, but she hadn’t limited the other team.  She got Frank to allow the use of a couple of boats at a distance and a couple of small drones who couldn’t go above about a thousand feet.  Still, with the 4k FLUR cameras they had, she should be able to get a read on what was going on before too many people got hurt.

She had asked Frank to capture as many faces for identification as he could with his promise they wouldn’t be tagged in the database as Wechselbalg.  She gave him the name and he was actually familiar with the term.  It figures she would be the last to get the memo.

Her team was using the latest and best protective gear she could buy.  Ecaterina had purchased everything there in New York. A city which had access to just about everything legal and otherwise.  Bethany Anne had made sure Ecaterina made it to Bobcat and the plane for safe keeping.

Frank couldn’t give overt support with military help for working against the Weres, no matter what he might want to do.  Until they became a bigger problem they were American citizens with their rights intact, not Forsaken.  At the moment it was Bethany Anne’s game.

The five of them worked their way through Queens heading out the 278 to the 27 and finally turning on Oceans Drive. Bethany Anne realized why Michael ended up just slapping the shit out of people.  Trying to keep everyone alive, when frankly they were of questionable help, was becoming a little harder each time she did it.  Her patience was slowing being worn down, and she hadn’t even been doing this a year.

What was going to happen when she was a hundred years old?  How about two hundred years old? Would she become so impatient that making a book of sins that told you in black and white what was ok and what wasn’t became the solution?  She saw how well that worked for Michael but it was hellishly tempting.

It wasn’t the Stephen’s of the world that caused her problems.  It was this situation with the Weres that got her down.  She went into this meeting hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.  Not only from a tactical perspective, but expecting the worst in people.

Her heart grieved that she was expecting to be killing again that evening.  She gave herself a pep-talk.  If they acted per the request, no one would die.  It was a huge step up from the normal policy of the vampires.  She was fighting from a superior position to facilitate equality of importance.  There was no question on equality of strength.  Between Michael’s wealth he provided her, Franks help in the government and her own abilities, it would be a massacre if she had chosen to go down that path.

However; that woman that went into the mountains in Romania hadn’t died.  She still believed in giving a chance.  Unfortunately, everyone in the UnknownWorld was playing a higher stakes game just because of who they were.  You didn’t get to play by the paupers rules when you were born into royalty.

If your race is responsible for scaring the bejeezus out of humans for centuries, you tend to get very cautious.  You sneeze wrong and the pitchforks and flames come out.  Except now it was 12 gauge shotguns, molotov cocktails, and then the military would start firing guided ammunitions.

Carl cut over to Flatbush Ave using Avenue J and then went across the Marine Parkway Bridge to get over to Rockaway Point Blvd.

She had priorities that wouldn’t change.  She was responsible, as TOM had so helpfully reminded her, for the future of the whole damn planet.  More important to her right now, she was responsible for her team that was with her right now.

She sighed and reached into the cooler that they brought along.  Inside were five bottles of fresh blood. Her face showed the revulsion of drinking this stuff. But she couldn’t have the bags with her inside the meeting.  Fortunately, TOM had worked out the problems with the poisons which usually caused the ‘nasty smell’ of death around Vampires. She asked him to squelch that. It wasn’t vain of her to worry about smelling bad, right?

She drained two bottles and left three in the cooler.  Eric provided a rag to clean the area around her mouth.  She appreciated the offer.  By now, her personal team was aware she hated drinking the blood.

TOM hadn’t found any solutions on pulling the Etheric charged components out of blood and helping make the drink a smaller, more energy laden liquid.  Maybe she should find out which of Michael’s companies worked with blood?  She would bet at least one or more already did.  She felt like she was behind on her homework.

She put her game face on.  Carl drove through the gate to move closer to the area of the meeting which was inside one of the empty concrete bunkers that had opened towards the city and the sea.

The car stopped and they waited in it.  John spoke up after a minute, “Well, damn.  I had our first attack to happen when the car stopped. There goes my $50.”

Carl said in a squeaky voice, “What?  When were you going to tell me this?”

“I just did.”

“No, you did not tell me anything.  You merely informed everyone that you lost a bet about us getting attacked right now.”

“Keep your panties on. The next expected ambush is as we get closer to the meeting place.  You will be here in the car.”  John looked over at Carl and got his attention. “However; let me warn you that if you drive away with the car, I will find you and you won’t enjoy the discussion.  Do you understand this minor threat or would you like me to escalate it higher already?”

Carl shook his head no. “I’m good. So long as you guys aren’t in the car, I’ll keep it locked and not much can get through this armor.”

“Very good.”  John opened the vehicle and got out.  Making sure his weapons were ready John walked around the car.  Eric was the next one out followed by Darryl and Scott.  Once they reviewed the grounds for a couple of minutes they told Bethany Anne it was ok to come out.

They had decided that treating Bethany Anne this way would work for the Werewolves. They understood two things, at an instinctual level. Power and respect.  If you have the respect of the powerful, then it is a level of power all of its own.

Bethany Anne got out of the SUV and sniffed the air.  She could smell Were, but not anything else out of the ordinary.  The saltiness of the sea was good to smell again.

John had figured they would create burrows in the ground and jump up to ambush the SUV when they arrived.  It was what he would do.  Especially if they felt Bethany Anne was a weak vampire.

Eric was next with an ambush prognostication.  His guess would have them hit right before they went into the tunnel.  While Bethany Anne was pretty sure this wouldn’t happen. Without the protection of the armored SUV, they couldn’t be nearly as blasé this time.  The team formed up around her to make a point.  While she was the deadliest of the five, they were there to protect her.

She sure hoped no one had considered shaped charges and ball bearings.  That would put a damper on the rest of her life.  She couldn’t smell any explosives, so she was mostly sure they were safe.

They had changed out of their travel uniform, which were the black suits, white shirts and the under-arm holsters. Now, they were in their ops uniform.  They looked very deadly coming down the hill from the parking area.

She had procured some ops helmets to provide them information in a heads up display (HUD).  The optic glass protected their face and provided very small video views from cameras embedded in the helmet itself. They had their AR-15’s on quick-slings with the same setup they used when hunting Forsaken. All of the ammunition they packed on this op was silver frangible and silver laced.  Even the Bowies had been changed.

Bethany Anne had requested input from Nathan.  She liked how the Bowie she used on Algerian was so effective to get his attention. She had Ecaterina work with the craftsman Todd Thames.  Todd didn’t come cheap and when you wanted five special made knives within twenty-four hours?  Well, let’s just say the quote would have choked most people.  However; with lives on the line Bethany Anne just agreed to the quote and provided an incentive if he was able to be done early.

Bethany Anne had hoped the Bowies wouldn’t be necessary.  However; she really liked the knife and better to be prepared than not.

John and the team knew they were working against supernaturals, however they had been ground on the crucible of the Nosferatu for months now.  They were brothers who had fought and survived, bled and cried together.  Now, John had a focus and a way to take the fight back to the sons-a-bitches who had been attacking his nation. This meeting was a speed-bump to moving onward to bigger plans.

If the werewolves talked, great.  He was all for talking over fighting but he wasn’t worried long term.  He had, almost literally, drank the cherry Kool-Aid when Bethany Anne had saved his life.  He realized that his focus had turned to her focus.

He wasn’t blindly following her.  He felt he understood the mettle of the woman and he trusted who she was, scary vampire and everything else.  If everyone here talked, great.  The first asshole who did anything more than yell was going to get a beat down.

Scott, behind Bethan Anne, had to watch his quarter which included behind them.  Both he and Darryl had their backward facing cameras on their helmets.  It had taken the team an hour to get used to the technology on the flight up.

When Dan had approached Bethany Anne with the idea to use these helmets yesterday as an option for the team load, she called and got the manufacturers rep who spoke to the both of them on a conference call.

Fortunately, the manufacturer had a distributor in the Miami area which had a case of ten of the helmets.  She just told them to ship them all via hotshot delivery and Dan and Scott had worked with them last night and passed them to the team before they took off that morning.

Hopefully, adding this new hitch wouldn’t be a problem.  However, they didn’t have the overhead support and other capabilities they usually enjoyed.  The small drones were up there, somewhere.  Frank was online but wouldn’t interrupt unless he had input.

They spread apart as the team approached within twenty-five yards of the opening and all of them dropped sensors to help watch their back door. They approached the opening which was twenty feet wide and ten feet high.  Nothing but concrete spray painted with graffiti and gang symbols.  Ricochet’s might be a bitch.

They walked through the opening on their side of the bunker.  No ambush occurred. Darryl and Scott just lost their $50.00.  It was now between Eric and Bethany Anne.

Eric believed no attack would happen.  Bethany Anne chose last and suggested something might happen during the talks.  She knew Nathan wouldn’t be involved in a double cross.  Not only would his life be forfeit, he wasn’t the type to turn his back on Ecaterina.  At least, that was how Bethany Anne was reading him.

So, that meant Gerry would be playing fair and therefore the main meeting was on the up and up.  She had a talk with Gerry, Nathan and another alpha they had in the car by the name of Jonathan.  She had talked with him related to a personal issue for just a quick minute. She said she would talk with him assuming they got through this meeting.

The meeting was set for 4:00 PM.  At this time of the year, Bethany Anne figured the sun would start to create long shadows in another hour.  It should encourage the Weres desire to get through the meeting quicker.

The general belief was vampires and Weres were stronger at night.  Neither was really true.  Bethany Anne knew that the etheric changes which Wechselbalg went through were powerful in either night or day.  However; vampires were so secretive that no one realized that this was also true for Vampires as well.  The team here might be thinking she wasn’t as strong as she could be in a few hours and would want to hit early.

Since Gerry and the main council shouldn’t be a part of it, they unfortunately would be in the crossfire if not actively targeted. Or, they could think it would be a wonderful time to strike while she was weaker. It was a calculated risk either way.

Gerry, Nathan and one more she presumed was Jonathan were approaching from the other side.  She could see beyond them thirty to forty additional Weres.  That group stayed at the other end of the tunnel.  For the first part of the talks, the agreement would be for the main three representatives to talk in the middle with Bethany Anne and her protection squad.

Both sides agreed if there was to be an ambush during the talk, this should get them to spring it.

The headsets for the team included military grade bone conduction technology from BAE Systems.  This technology used vibrations which passed through the teams cranial bones and directly affected the cochlea.  This allowed for information to be given to the team and significantly reduced any chances of the Weres hearing her team’s communications.

Frank’s voice came over the comms, “We have movement.  We have ten incoming from behind you and I see a group of twelve joining the large group at the other end of the tunnel.  That group is making their way through to the front.  So far, that’s it.  Twenty-two Tangos.”

Bethany Anne knew all of her team heard the message, but Nathan, Gerry and Jonathan weren’t in the game, yet.

They had agreed during their conversation that if Bethany Anne’s group was attacked from behind her side, that Gerry and his team would start the ball rolling and Bethany Anne’s group would support him.  If it got too nasty, she would get involved.

If the troublemakers started in on Gerry’s side, then her team would start the ball rolling to support the existing council and she would get involved with the first blood on her side again.

Unfortunately, she had to stay out of it until someone drew blood or was stupid enough to target her directly.  She argued against these rules. Both John and Nathan argued that they were playing for bigger stakes this time and she should just be a little patient and trust them.

They were closing to within ten feet of each other. She put her hand up to her ear while looking at Nathan and mouthed very faintly ’10 behind me, 12 behind you.’

Everyone on her team was already alert.  Darryl and Scott had stepped over to the walls and knelt down ready to pivot and point their weapons behind them.  John and Eric just looked past the group in front and watched the group in back. Bethany Anne’s responsibility was for the group directly in front of them.


CHAPTER TWENTY

New York City, NY - USA

Nathan heard Bethany Anne mentioned there were twenty-two uninvited guests joining the meeting. Her desire to keep the bloodshed minimal probably wouldn’t happen.

He had been studying the four tac-team members in her group. He didn’t know where she got them, but they were pretty fucking serious. Personally, he was glad they were here.

With only Bethany Anne joining, more might try to join in the fight thinking to overwhelm her. He had finally decided Jonathan wasn’t going to turn on them. With the eight of them it was going to be an interested fight.

The two behind Bethany Anne stepped sideways and took a knee, ready to turn around and support Gerry’s group going the other way. He imagined they also made sure no one in his group turned around. They were the guys responsible to protect the teams back and he didn’t sense any hesitation they might have being around a bunch of Werewolves.

Gerry stopped five feet from Bethany Anne, and looked at each of her team and then Jonathan and turned over to Nathan and back to Bethany Anne, “Plan ‘B’?”

Bethany Anne sighed, “Yeah, looks like it. Sorry about the breakage. I tried.”

Gerry gave a sad smile, “I know, if we can keep it down to just the uninvited, we will have had a small victory. Unfortunately, I’m not sure you really would be able to make a good point without something like this happening anyway. I have to tell you, I am happier being on your side, than not.”

Her smile lit up the tunnel. “You know Gerry, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

He looked perplexed, “Really? Where have my manners been?”

She replied, “In a sock drawer, probably.” Bethany Anne looked over at the two others, “Jonathan, nice to meet you. Nathan you irredeemable nut plonker, Ecaterina wants me to say ‘hi’.” She smiled because whatever Nathan decided to say, Ecaterina would hear him back in the plane. Both she and Bobcat where in listen-only mode. Dan was as well back in Florida.

Nathan just smiled, “I’ll see her soon enough, I’m sure. Did I tell you I’m getting a house down in Miami?”

That busted Bethany Anne up. She barked out a couple of laughs before getting her act together. What a way to woo a girl; let her know in the middle of an op that he was being a stalky-stalker.

Then, she heard Ecaterina’s voice in her ear. “Tell ‘friendly pooch’ that he better get his game mask on.”

Bethany Anne leaned a little to her left to look down the tunnel towards the other group. It seemed that all of the faces she could see in the front were ones she hadn’t noticed before. She leaned back again. “Well, It looks like this is about to start. Other than Ecaterina wanting me to tell ‘friendly pooch’ to get his game mask on, anyone got any last words?”

Gerry stifled a snort and Bethany Anne could see that Jonathan, John and Eric were all smiling. That was the result that Ecaterina was probably going for. Everyone was loose going into the showdown.

“No? Not you either poochy-boy? Nothing, you got nothing? Ok. Let’s sit still until they kick it off. You guys got your ear protection?”

All three of the Weres reached into their pockets and casually put in ear plugs.

“Eric, you ready?”

Eric brought his hand out of his pocket, showing Ecaterina the flash bang he had brought along. It was Darryl’s idea and a brilliant one. Since Weres could increase their hearing sensitivity he had suggested they might try to disorient them right away. Most of the just frustrated group would be trying to listen in to the talk and straining their senses to the max.

The flash bang would deliver a 170+ dB noise to rock their world and since they would be looking into the tunnel, she hoped their eyes would appreciate the sudden eye-searing brilliance. Darryl got Nathan’s attention and tossed him one.

Bethany Anne was getting impatient. “Well, fuck. What do these asswad badgers want? A fucking invitation?”

John smiled next to her, “Really? Asswad badgers? That’s the best you got?”

“Give it a shot, you wanking crap herder.”

Jonathan couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. This vampire was drop dead gorgeous, but what an incredibly foul mouth she had.

Before John could reply, there was a screaming voice from behind Gerry. Everyone was careful to keep watching their area.

“You won’t let me join you Gerry? I’m not good enough for the council? Well, say hello to my little friend!” With that, the guy behind the voice started to bring up an old Thompson machine gun.

Who the hell brings a Thompson machine gun to a party anymore? What the fuck was this about? Before numb-nuts could bring his gun level, Bethany Anne had already shot him twice in the arm holding the gun, turning him around where he fell on the ground. He was a big target.

She looked over at John, who was exasperated with her as he asked, “Who was supposed to fire first?”

“Oh don’t give me any lip! He was quoting Scarface for pete’s sake. Doesn’t he realize what a dick-move that is?”

John should have figured that Bethany Anne would break the rules. Nathan noticed her team leads irritation and just smiled to himself, welcome to his world.

Everyone continued their vigilance as the Bethany Anne and her team lead ‘had a moment’ about following the agreed rules of engagement. Finally, Scarface wannabe was able to stand back up and started to scream, “Kill them all!”

Well, that should cover the rules just fine, she thought.

Eric let the flash bang fly. Gerry, Jonathan and Nathan took off towards their side of the tunnel while Darryl and Scott turned around to cover them. Eric and John went to the sides of the tunnel and Bethany Anne just dropped to the floor. There wasn’t a good reason to be standing at that moment. All of them shut their eyes.

Two of the new group had listened and started to pull pistols from under their jackets. All of the Weres were looking into the tunnel when the flash bang went off. The tunnel focused the sound to all of the Weres at the entrance. Many of them immediately fell down, their hands over their ears faces grimacing in pain. A handful either fell to their knees or didn’t go down, but none of them were immediately able to start firing down the tunnel.

Unfortunately, Weres heal a lot quicker from any sort of damage. Three of the twelve were already trying to just blindly fire into the tunnel.

Bethany Anne heard the flash bang go off on the other side of the tunnel.

Bethany Anne blew the brains out of the one in the middle while John stitched the one to the left up the torso and Eric put a three round blast into the stomach of the one on the right. All three went down at that point. Silver really makes a Were lose focus.

Bethany Anne suddenly appeared in the midst of the group. She would grab a Were, stab him with her Bowie in the gut and fling him into the tunnel. John and Eric would grab the Were who would be trying to deal with the sudden pain and zip-tie them. John popped one on the head when he tried to kick him.

The last Were on the ground before Bethany Anne was Paul Gleason, Scarface wannabe himself. Gerry had given her a quick synopsis of the possible party crashers and Paul had been the obvious ring leader making noise. He was also very easy to recognize from Gerry’s description.

Everyone else had taken a step back leaving Paul and Bethany alone.

His arm was healed. He was at least three hundred pounds of muscle and fat. His arms were huge. She wondered if she could just arm wrestle him for the win?

“You cunt-licking bitch!” His face was flushed red in his anger.

Apparently not.

Paul was getting his prodigious weight off of the ground. Figures, she had to fight a Were that was strong and a fucking ox. He had some blood coming out of his ear.

She heard a shot and then Eric yell at one of guys behind her. “I told you to fucking stay still! Now you get to feel that shit until we unzip you. Don’t be a fucktard, ace. We’re trying to get you all through this without killing anyone. You asshat.”

“Stay down Mr. Gleason, I’ll only ask you politely once.”

He continued getting up and held his Thompson in his left hand. She let him finish. Might as well make an object lesson out of this one. Most of the other Weres that had been hurt by the flash bang had healed by now. Two in the front of the blast had a couple of friends trying to help them off to the side.

She heard Darryl and Scott each fire. Must be entertaining back there as well.

Paul just had to get his idiot on. He started screaming again at Bethany Anne, spittle flying, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what you want, bitch. No vampire is going to take away my rights!”

He dared her to do something, anything. He was about a foot taller than her and twice her weight.  Paul had bested over eighteen other Weres in fights, and had downed over twelve humans in a bar fight back in his home town. She didn’t look like she could hurt an old man, much less him.

One issue with fighting big people or obese people is it takes a huge amount of strength to actually hurt them if you punch them in the stomach. Part of the problem is just how much distance through the stomach you have to attain through fat before you can hurt them.

She was trying to keep this as death-free as possible.  If she personally killed Paul, others would use it as a political tool for years.

Bethan Anne pivoted on her left foot and kicked Paul in his right kneecap, shattering it. His fibula breaking out of the skin. Paul never saw her move. He went down again, the Thompson dropped off to the side. Now his cussing got a lot louder.  She walked over and picked up the Thompson and considered breaking it. What a waste that would be.

She looked at all of the guys who stood there.  She turned back and walked over to Paul and looked down at him.

“Which part of ‘don’t stand up’ didn’t you understand?  I personally don’t give a shit what you say around anyone in the Were community. But if you let the humans know about the UnknownWorld? I will kill you Mr. Gleason. Or, if you are man enough, you can try right now. How about it? Are you brave enough without your twenty one other goons to take on the little-bitty girl vampire, boy?”

At this point, Bethany Anne’s patience broke, Fuck ‘em.

Everyone who was watching her face took one or two involuntary steps backwards.  Three guys in the back turned around and ran. Paul looked up into Bethany Anne’s face as her eyes turned red and her teeth grew out.  He couldn’t think straight anymore, she wasn’t a tiny frail woman. He started to pull his body backwards away from her in fear.

She reached down and grabbed Paul’s left leg, the one not trying to mend itself. Her voice dark and deadly, “Come with me.” Paul was grabbing the ground, sticks, holes in the concrete, anything. He struggled, kicked, yelled and cursed as he tried to break the vampires grip on his leg. She just kept pulling him into the dark tunnel and down it.

John watched as she came walking into the tunnel.  He could see the glowing eyes with Bethany Anne’s’ outline. That was fucking cool.

He and Eric had already tied up the eleven stabbed guys, took all of their weapons away from them and triple zip-tied them.

One idiot had decided to show how Weres could huff and puff and break the zip ties. So Eric shot him in the gut and zip tied him again. He was moaning in pain and sweating like a sonofabitch at the moment.

All of them were sitting with their backs against the wall and watched as the tiny looking vampire pulled the kicking and screaming Paul Gleason down the tunnel, all heads turning in unison.

She tossed the Thompson to John and kept going down the tunnel.

Eric looked over at him from the other side of the tunnel.  “He is a clusterfuck experiment.”

John laughed, “Hey, if she didn’t hear that…”

They could hear Bethany Anne yell over Paul’s sobbing cries, “I heard that.” She was half-way to the other entrance at that point.

John smiled, “Dammit!  That was a good one!”

Nathan, Gerry and Jonathan took off towards the opposite opening. They saw Bethany Anne’s people pivot to point up the tunnel. Jonathan sure hoped they were good shots.

Jonathan had gone to Gerry with mixed emotions. He had a real good idea what was going to go down. He wasn’t sure what he would do, but he thought his only choice was going to be to try and kill the vampire. If he didn’t, he feared his only child would be executed.

Pete was stupid, immature, spoiled, and a list of other things. But at the end of the list he was still his son. He felt so much guilt for bringing him up so poorly. What he hadn’t counted on was a vampire you could actually talk to. In the car, he decided that staying with the council and trying to make this work with Bethany Anne was the path he would take. She hadn’t promised him anything other than they would talk after this incident. Gerry had confided with him earlier out of Nathan’s hearing that Nathan had told him he would leave before taking sides against her.

On the phone, she seemed… human? Well, good enough. She didn’t seem like the cold, aloof vampires he was familiar with. God knows if it had been Michael he would have tried to just hide Pete. If Pete didn’t like it, well that’s what drugs are for. Maybe by the time he had figured where his dad had shipped him to and how to get back to America he would have grown a little.

Jonathan had allowed the rumors of a weak vampire to influence his actions. As he was running with Gerry, he realized there were a lot of Weres who had expected as much.

He was surprised how collected she looked within the spec-ops team. This lady had been there, done that and didn’t give a shit what you thought. She only cared if you could walk the talk and the men around her had obviously been able to do that. They all seemed like a well-oiled team. But Nathan had told him she arrived in the States just a few days before.

How she got this team was news to Gerry.

As they ran, he saw the flash bang fly ahead of them. They heard the other teams go off and closed their eyes and everyone stopped running, and bowed their heads and covered their ears. A second later their flash bang went off.

They finished the run to the tunnel entrance and he heard the two humans come up the tunnel. Eight of the ten Weres were on the ground trying to get over the pain of the flash bang.

The two standing had their heads in their hands, cussing.

The three formed up, with Gerry in the lead. He had to wait a little while as they got over the pain.

Gerry started yelling at them. “What are you idiots doing here? You were not invited by the council to be a part of this conclave!”

The two guys that had stayed standing puffed their chests out in belligerence, the one on the left started first by pointing back into the tunnel. “We aren’t just going to let some vampire command us anymore!” His ‘more’ was punctuated by a shot coming down the tunnel and someone from Bethany Anne’s team telling another someone to not be a fucktard.

 Gerry didn’t look behind him, “And how exactly are you going to stop her?”

Both of them pulled pistols out of their jackets. The one on the right yelled, “By shooting the bitch, right boys!” He turned to look around at the other eight. They were all looking right at him as Scott shot him thorough the head.  He fell down like a rag doll whose strings were just cut.

At the same time, Darryl shot his partner in the stomach. It would hurt, but he would come out of it ok. The first one? Probably not.

Gerry just shook his head and reached down to kick the pistols behind him.

The eight standing realized they weren’t only facing Nathan Lowell, everyone knew him, but the Council lead, another alpha and at least two shooters in the darkened tunnels.

They were officially screwed and they knew it.

Their emotions told them to rip and tear and scream their rage, but under the hard gaze of alphas their desire was to submit.

They had conflicting emotions roiling around the bodies and their minds when they heard Paul Gleason crying and yelling and screaming in fear.  He was getting closer.

All of them started looking into the tunnel. Even Gerry, Nathan and Jonathan looked over their shoulders. They could see Bethany Anne’s outline coming closer and then they noticed the red eyes staring at them as she was dragging Paul Gleason behind her as if he was a small sack of flour she was dragging with a cord.

The closer she got the more his sobs of pain turned to cries of fear as his knee was slowly healing. They could tell his right knee had been messed up pretty well.

She dragged him over towards the two council members and Nathan. Dropping his leg her voice dripping with malevolence, “You have a pack member that requires punishment. You can do it, or….“ At this, she looked at all of the eight standing team over on this side of the tunnel. “I will take my punishment out on everyone I feel has broken faith with me today.”  She looked back at Gerry, “What is your decision?”

Gerry felt all eight of the standing pack guys pleading with their eyes to make a decision. The gut-shot guy on the ground looked up at him, his fear overcoming his pain shaking his head back and forth as he held his arms over his stomach.

Gerry looked over at Jonathan who nodded yes. Gerry then looked over at Nathan and nodded. Nathan was the one Gerry relied on to keep his pack in line. As he was the Alpha of the whole pack, no one liked it if Nathan Lowell came to town.

Nathan went over to Paul Gleason and told him to stand up. Paul got his legs, even the mostly healed right one, under him and stood up and turned towards the two members.

Now that the vampire wasn’t dragging him away, he was trying to figure out how to get out of this situation.

He wasn’t happy, but he was in a pickle. It was obvious that the group of guys that all wanted to ‘slay the vampire, let Werewolves be free’ were cowed at the moment and wouldn’t do him any good. Gerry never liked him and Jonathan obviously licked Gerry’s ass. Paul was quickly forgetting his earlier fear and started to get a belligerent look on his face.  Everyone was looking at him.

“What? You want me to apologize? Want me to say I’m sorry for what all of us want Gerry? We just want to be free. Free like we should be. Should I apologize for that?”

He started to believe he could change this around. He played to his audience again. He had worked them into a frenzy on the way over here, worked them like a comedian works a room at Caesar’s Palace.  He started his rhetoric again, willing the guys over here to start getting mad again.

“No little fucking cunt…” That’s all he said when his head suddenly exploded, splattering half of the belligerent group with his brain matter.  Two had their mouths open at the time.

All of them looked at Bethany Anne who hadn’t moved. Damn! They knew vampires were fast but… She just looked upwards in exasperation and pointed towards the tunnel.

All of their eyes and heads followed her finger to the tunnel entrance where Darryl and Scott stood. They both lowered their weapons. Darryl told them all, eyeing each one and made sure to include Gerry, Jonathan and Nathan. “You will respect the Queen Bitch.”

Scott added his own comment, “Or we will kill you. Do you have any questions?”

Even Nathan noticed he was shaking his head left and right. These humans were some scary fuckers.

Bethany Anne walked back into the tunnel. “Let’s get this show on the road. With all of this blood everywhere, I’m getting hungry.”

Two of the Weres involuntarily shuddered. She winked at Darryl and Scott as she went past them as her eyes turned normal again and her teeth retracted.

She didn’t kill Paul, so how upset could John be this time?


CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

New York City, NY - USA

The actual conversations after the fight were a little subdued. No one felt like pissing off the vampire, or her guard and they needed to get out of there. Gerry had already detailed a team to handle the bodies. He had been prepared with four windowless vans. He only needed one.

John and his team had cleaned up all of the bullet casings while Bethany Anne heard the stories from those who had legitimate grievances with the strictures as they were now.

She admitted that she didn’t know where Michael was, and would probably release some of the harsher sentences and take the punishment for doing so should he show back up.

However; everything would go through the council and if anyone got ahead of her and took advantage of her ‘good nature’, she or her team would implement the harsher sentences for breaking faith with her. If they had any questions, they could ask their alpha and their alpha the council. The council could contact her through Ecaterina.

Someone asked how they could get hold of Ecaterina, that rumors were she was a really pretty woman. Nathan stood up and eyed the guy and just said, “Through me.”

That took the tone down a notch until Bethany Anne slapped his arm. “Don’t forget, she is still listening, did you want to make sure that works for her?”

Everyone laughed when they realized that Nathan’s face had lost a little color. Shit, shit, shit! “Of course, I merely meant that as a preliminary process to be clarified later.”

Sniggers were heard in the back of the group. No one wanted to really piss off Nathan Lowell to his face. Except, apparently, the vampire.

The human John Grimes was next to her, but the other three were facing outward, looking for additional dangers.

Finally, they wrapped up everything and needed to go. They would make another meeting happen in the near future without so much drama attached to it.

The twenty uninvited not either dead or in a coma received a personal visit from Bethany Anne. With red eyes and fangs glistening, she asked each one if they would abide by the council’s commands. It wasn’t going to be her problem unless they acted up again. She let each one know that they had just received their one warning.

Her team walked back to the Chevy SUV, got in and Carl took them back to the Airport.

The plane wasn’t the most cozy to sleep in, but it was safer than a hotel and they didn’t have to deal with questions for the explosives and guns they had with them.

The next day, Bethany Anne wore a dark red dress and matching Blahniks to meet Nathan at the bank. Ecaterina went with her and Bethany Anne opened two accounts. One that she shared with Nathan so that she could move money into an account he could use for withdrawals and the same for Ecaterina. Ecaterina opened a personal account as well.

Bethany Anne wasn’t sure what to do about a salary for Ecaterina. It wasn’t fair to just keep her without her own means of support. She deposited $20k into Ecaterina's personal account and told her they would work out the real salary in the near future.

She then deposited one million into the shared account with Ecaterina to start getting the house in Miami ready. She placed fifteen million in the account she shared with Nathan. The house would need ten million and she needed some money to start the process of purchasing Bobcat’s business. Once they had all of the details on the loan for the Black Hawk, they would pay that off directly.

She let the two of them enjoy a lunch together while she went shopping for a pair of Christian Louboutins. She found a style which almost matched a pair she would wear to work all of the time at Neiman Marcus.  It was amazing how much personal service you could receive at that store.

She had them Fed-Ex one of each shoe in a box with no return address to an austere looking office building in Washington D.C. And also to a military base in Denver, Colorado.  The sales lady never even blinked at the request.

Finished with sending her private packages she caught up with the Ecaterina and Nathan.

They actually kissed each other goodbye in front of her. Wow, her two little love birds were finally admitting to the world they were an item. Ach, she could gag herself, but she was happy for them.

Nathan was going to follow the following day. He had a couple of things he had to do in Boston in the morning before he flew down to Florida. Jonathan, however; had asked if he could save a seat on the plane? They talked and she agreed to the idea, it wasn’t like she didn’t have space either on the airplane or at the house. After a quick phone call to John, he agreed to the request as well.

Carl finally dropped the two of them back at the airport and they said their goodbyes. Bethany Anne and Ecaterina had eight shopping bags of stuff on the ground. She noticed a sullen young man next to Jonathan. Guessing this to be the recalcitrant Pete, she walked over and offered her hand to Jonathan. John Grimes was there with him.

“Good afternoon Jonathan, how are you?”

“Doing fine, Bethany Anne. I would like to introduce you to my son, Peter. Peter, this is Bethany Anne.”

She looked over at Pete who just raised his head in a gesture of ‘I see you’. John’s face formed a frown.

Ok, time to setup an object lesson.

“Pete, can you see those shopping bags back there?”

Pete looked to where her head was gesturing to, “Of course, I’m not blind.”

“Good, then you won’t have any problem finding them, will you?”

“I’m not going to be looking for them, so I won’t have to find them.”

Jonathan was starting to get the idea of what was going on. He started to say something but caught the barely perceptible head shake Bethany Anne gave him.

 “And why would you think you aren’t going to go get them?”

“‘Cause I’m not your slave, you twit.” The next thing Pete knew, he was hit so hard in the jaw his arms were flung to the side and his whole body went down. He hadn’t hurt this bad in forever. When he started to focus again, it was the face of John Grimes in front of him.

“Listen, you little spunk rag. The last person who was disrespectful to Bethany Anne had his head shot off by my men. Be thankful that was only my fist that hit you. Unless you want an ass whopping right in front of the girls, you will get up off your useless ass and gently get those packages on the plane. Then you will find a seat and be the nicest gentleman you can possibly be. Do you feel me, Pete?”

Pete looked up into the eyes of the human and understood this man wasn’t his father. He would absolutely kick his ass if he didn’t get into action. He tried to look for his father, why wasn’t he protecting him? Where was he?

He felt a tap on his shoulder and he tried to roll his head the other way. Finally his father would fix this asshole!

“Pete, you better listen up. I watched Paul Gleason get his head shot off for calling Bethany Anne names. She didn’t kill Paul, her protection team did. You have to grow a pair and stop being a jackass. Bethany Anne is going to fix the issue with the two women back in Colorado, but you have to stay for three months with her team. I’m not promised you will come back alive, you got me? Don’t fuck this up, son.” His dad stood up, and he and Bethany Anne started walking towards the car that brought them here. Pete watched him reach the car where Bethany Anne spoke to him for a moment. Pete’s father got in the car and left the airport.

Oh, his life was so screwed up now. Oh my god, he was with the Queen Bitch herself.

Grimes grabbed him by the jacket and pulled him up. “Get your punk ass over to those packages and don’t scratch one of them.”

Pete was about to mouth off again, but his jaw hurt too much to talk right then. Good thing. He didn’t have much feeling left in his jaw and he didn’t need to be hit again.

He sullenly started walking over to the packages.

“Walk straighter. You’re not a weakling, are you Peter? Are you so frail you can’t stand straight up?”

Peter straightened his back. ‘Frail’? Who the hell did this guy think he was? Pete would show him.

John Grimes watched Pete take the packages in two trips. Back straight and arms out showing him he could hold the weight of the packages.

He smiled a little to himself. Maybe the boy has potential, he thought.

Over in Colorado, two women were each mailed packages with scandalous information that they didn’t think anyone knew about them. If they ever tried to release anything about Pete, the information would be released.

They talked together and decided that they weren’t sure what they saw happen with that guy and the wolf. But they sure as hell didn’t want that other information getting on their social accounts. They both decided to delete the video and never talk about this again.

Miami, FL USA

The team made it back to Florida just fine.  The rest of the team went off to deal with the new digs and Bobcat went over to his hanger.

His friend, Billy “William” Stevenson, was tightening up a cover on his baby when he got back.  They slapped hands and punched each other.

“Hows it going on my baby, here?”  Bobcat went into his office and grabbed two beers, offering one to William who followed him in, they sat down.

“Oh, you mean Shelly?”  William smiled at Bobcat’s grimace.  “She’s good, you’ve done alright by the old lady.  How did your trip go?”

“About as smooth as we could have hoped, not too much breakage.”

William raised an eye.  “Was that the glass type, or the sandpit type?”

“Sandpit.”

“No shit?”

“Not a bit.”

Now William was interested.  He had wanted to be with an outfit, but the only chance to be with a group that was making things and breaking things was over in the sandpit.  If there was an option closer to home, he wanted to know more.

“Is that why you have me getting Shelly dressed in the nicest clothes I can find?”

“Could be.  But the answers you are seeking are on a need to know basis my friend.  Not to be an ass, but unless you’re interested in sticking around you don’t need to know.”

William thought about it.  He heard the stories over the last week how a black hawk was seen above the Southeastern Financial Center during the terrorist attack.  Then, it was seen again landing in a park and a deserted field and finally over in the Ritzy Smugglers Cove area.  He had started wondering what was going on when he cleaned out some long grass from the landing skids.  The kind of grass you might find over the area by Key Biscayne.

He had seen the hard cases coming off the G550 when they landed.  He had a really good guess that the black ballistic nylon bags weren’t for golf clubs when he heard the metal clanking.  He watched a sullen teenager carrying shopping bags from expensive stores as well.  His face broke out in a smile as he realized it fit with the stories from earlier in the week.  The Black Hawk was rumored to be above the building of the terrorist attack and then only a couple of hours later it was rumored that an eccentric woman was playing Rambo over in Smugglers Cove. She had landed her helicopter and bought a home right on the spot.  A really, really expensive home.

Williams eyes looked around Bobcat’s office. “Did you say you’re selling your business?”  William took a swig from his bottle.

Bobcat just smiled and took a swig of his.  “Um hmm.”

“So, your new boss.  Is she new in town?”

“You might say that, why?”

“Just curious.  If you had to drive over to where she lives, might you take the 913?”

“I probably would, if I wasn’t flying Shelly over there.”

That was about as close to the truth that William was going to get out of Bobcat.  Som’bitch.  This was the team that took out the terrorists AND bought a $9 million dollar home right afterwards.

“It doesn’t look like these two helicopters would need me full time after the retrofit. If all you’re doing is flying around the keys.”

“I didn’t say we were only going to have a helicopter or two, did I?

“What else?”

“What else are you willing to work on?”

Ah, here was the question that Bobcat wanted William to answer.  They had shot the shit so many times that Bobcat knew everything that William could work on.  Which was just about everything the Army had thrown at him in the last fifteen years.  The question wasn’t what could he do, but what would he be willing to do for the team.

“For the right reasons, I’m willing to put in all the sweat and ingenuity I got.  My birds don’t drop and my auto’s don’t stop.  I just am not doing anything against my brothers, you know what I mean?”

Bobcat smiled, “I know what you mean.  You interested in sticking around?”

William smiled, “Hell yeah, the honeys are good on the beaches in Miami.  That’s a good enough sandpit for me.  So long as I’m not going to be bored, whored or floored I’m good.”

“Trust me, the Army whores you out more often than Bethany Anne will and you get floored every time you get too much to drink. You start a fight.  You can’t hold your liquor to save your life. As for bored?  Well, that’s for me to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“Boy, I hold my liquor like Hoover dam holds water.”

Bobcat busted out laughing, soon William joined him.  It was well known that while William could drink a few beers, he couldn’t hold whisky down worth a damn.  He would get belligerent and start a fight over whatever was popular on the news at the time.

One time he was in Texas, had a couple of shots and stood up on the bar and called all the women in the bar his ‘ho’s’ and the fight was on.  They found him asleep under a table.  As best they could figure out later.  He swung at the first guy who came at him and got decked hard enough to go down hard and woke up in jail.

He would say it was good times, but he honestly couldn’t remember any of it at all.

Bethany Anne had told Bobcat that he needed to vet his chief engineer and was ultimately responsible for that engineer’s actions.  If he made a wrong decision, the exit interview could be a bitch if he went the wrong direction with what he knew.

Bobcat got the meaning. He would make sure that William was the right guy before telling him too much.  He didn’t need to know he had caused an untimely death.

Miami, FL USA

It was a week and a half later.  Bethany Anne was finally enjoying the house a little after three truckloads of furniture were delivered.

Her neighbors weren’t too happy with her at the moment.  They had heard the story about her playing ‘Rambo’ in the attack helicopter and thought she was a little too weird for them.  On top of that, she had so many people living in her house at the moment the stories were starting to fly.

The next door neighbor was bitching out John one morning because a work truck had blocked her driveway the day before.  Bethany Anne was in bed and heard this lady shouting at John.  Bethany Anne didn’t appreciate how her neighbor was disrespectful to her team lead, or the yelling either.

She threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt without a bra.  One thing that the genetic changes provided was outstanding lift with no support necessary.  Not having to wear a bra had Ecaterina jealous.

Before becoming a vampire, Bethany Anne wasn’t very big in the breast department. She had been able to choose between bra and no bra depending on the event.  If she had been human now, the no-bra option wouldn’t have been on the table as a choice.

She walked down the driveway and out through the gate to come up behind John who was stoically taking this woman's shouted drivel.

“And I tell you another thing.  I don’t know why you all have to be up all times of the night, it bugs my cat Mugsy dear to have to sleep with the lights coming over the wall.  This was a pleasant little area before you moved in…”

John straighten up, eyes looking like they were caught in a cars headlights.  Bethany Anne had come up behind him and grabbed him around the waist in a very affectionate manner.

“Why, Ms. Joshwood.  What an unpleasant surprise to find you being so rude with my friend John here.  What are you bitching about this morning?”

Oh god, John thought, he just wanted to leave in any direction possible.  He never liked to be in the middle of a catfight.  Then, he remembered.  Shit, this woman is a vampire, what am I worried about?  The fact she has her arm around me?  That could be it.

Ms. Joshwood saw a chance to start in on Bethany Anne, “Oh, you tart! How dare you complain about my complaining!  Before you moved in this was a decent street.  We never had any trouble at all.  Why can’t you just keep it down and why do you have so many people in your house?”

Bethany Anne just smiled at her, “Ms. Joshwood, you realize that my house has 9 bedrooms in it, right?  Certainly you understand how I might need to try out every one of those bedrooms with John here before I decide which one I’ll use for guests?  Doesn’t he just look like a poster of virility to you?”

John’s face turned red, then white, then he started looking like he might feint.

Ms. Joshwood, on the other hand, just kept sputtering away.  Bethany Anne looked up to John.  “Sweetie, would be so good as to get Pete started on his morning calisthenics? She popped John on the butt as he left.  She suppressed a smile as his back went ramrod straight and hurried away as fast as decorum allowed.  When she saw him go around the corner from the gate, she turned back to Ms. Joshwood who was still trying to make a coherent sentence.

Bethany Anne’s voice went silk over steel, “Ms. Joshwood, you are a pain in my ass.  You will go talk with your husband and tell him you wish to move closer to your kids.  Then you will put your house on the market to be sold for $500k more than what your real estate agent is telling you to list it at.  I want this done in two weeks.  Now get out of my sight, you fucking crone.”

With that, Bethany Anne turned around and walked back into her tiny estate, the black gates closing behind her.  At least her fucking walls went around her house.

Two weeks later, she bought the house next to hers for $8.7 million.

Michael’s Notes (Queen Bitch - The Kurtherian Gambit 02):

Thank you, I cannot express my appreciation enough that not only did you pick up the second book, but you read it all the way to the end and NOW, your reading this as well!

I mentioned in Authors Notes at the back of Death Becomes Her that it took a while to write the first book.  This book took a week. (I hope the quality is up to snuff**).  I won’t get the third out in 9 days, I guarantee it!

However; I do hope to have the third one finished and ready by 12/15/2015.  That will accomplish having three books available and I feel like I can afford to advertise at that stage.

Part of the reason (I think) I wrote this story so fast was I joined NaNoWriMo.  Just doing that one step encouraged me to dig deep and I jumped ahead.  The second is that Bethany Anne is just a fun character to write about.  Her experiences are almost as surprising to me as to my readers.

That whole Stephen episode was NOT what I expected at all.  In the end of the first book, I expected Bethany Anne to find an annoying son of Michael that deserved a horrible beating for being an Ass.  I think I was literally writing the point where she hears his footsteps coming to the door when it jelled in my brain that Stephen was old… Really, really old.  Now, he is my second favorite character.

I mentioned on my blog post (http://kurtherianbooks.com) that an authors success usually entails LOTS of pre-work before you release your book.  However; I just put Death Becomes Her out in the wild with no notice and no advertising.  I really hope that if you enjoy reading these stories, you will share with your Kindle friends the link and encourage them to read it as well.

As far as I can tell, the income from those reading the book through Kindle Unlimited is 5x more than those that purchase the book.  Not that either is very large right now, but I do find it fascinating.  Further, it encourages authors to write to get plenty of pages out there for our readers to enjoy.  It seems like a very good ‘win-win’ scenario to me.

Feel free to jump on the Facebook page to ask me any questions about being an Author on Amazon.  I’m happy to share what experiences I can.

I’ve mentioned before, my writing is more escapist.  I love a good action story, but more than that I want to engage with the characters.  I want to feel what they are going through if possible. I want situations that make me get excited, worried, laugh and say ‘take that, sucka!’ out loud. The challenges faced by the protagonists don’t have to be life threatening, it could be a challenge to ask that special someone out for a date that keeps the story flowing.  I’m not really into books that keep you constantly afraid for the characters.  If I care about a character, I’ll turn the page, and buy the next book, just to see them reach a personal milestone that is challenging to that character.  However; having said all of that action is what drives the story forward.

In this story, Bethany Anne shows her fun side a little more.  The cussing can be a bit extreme, but she uses it (and John, Eric, Darryl and Scott) in a fun way.

There really is a Joe’s Famous Hot Dogs & Burgers (in Florida City - https://www.facebook.com/JoesFamousHotDogsBurgersMore).  There really is (or was) a house for sale in Key Biscayne for $8.9 million with 9 rooms.  I imagine someone will buy it, but in my books Bethany Anne already has!  Joes Pizza in New York City is already famous, they don’t need a shout out from me :-)

I honestly had NO plans for Bethany Anne to setup a base in Miami.  It will be fun to see what she does with it.  Now, she has two houses, I can only imagine that John wants to move next door after the close call he had with Ms. Joshwood and Bethany Anne.

There are presently 13 titles sketched out and I expect more after that.  Queen Bitch is the second in the series.  The next title is tentatively ‘Love Lost’ where the enemy decides to attack Bethany Anne indirectly.  They find out it is a really good way to piss off a very powerful enemy. Further, Bethany Anne needs to start building her military, scientific and business infrastructure as she aims for the stars.

To accomplish these goals, she needs good people.

Please, if you enjoyed this book give it a good rating on Amazon?  Your kind words and encouragement help any author.  I will continue to the next story whether you provide an OUTSTANDING review or not.  However; it might get done a wee bit faster with the encouragement (smile).

As of today (11/11/2015), 9 days since I released the first book I have two 5-Star ratings on Death Becomes Her.  I’ve turned around the second book in 9 days, Imagine what I could do with fifty 5-Star ratings!

Ok, that’s not true.  I can’t write and edit that fast :-(

You can find book links on my Amazon Author Page here:

http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Anderle/e/B017J2WANQ/

Want to comment on the best (scene, comment, event, shoes or gun for Bethany Anne, weapon Nathan would prefer…you name it) join me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/TheKurtherianGambitBooks/

Want to know when the next book or major update is ready?  Join the email list -

http://kurtherianbooks.com/email-list/

Software used to write this book is Scrivener (Windows and Mac):

https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Book Cover Images purchased at PhotoDune.net: http://photodune.net

Image software to make the cover (Mac): http://www.pixelmator.com/mac/  (1.6 ratio @ 300dpi)

Thank you,

Michael Anderle, 2015

*All credit for me having ANY shoe knowledge goes to my wife, who still works to provide me with even a finger’s amount of fashion sense.  Why she asks me to comment on her outfits in the morning still confuses me to this day.

**I hate to admit, but the quality of the first release was NOT up to snuff.  Thanks to a reviewer for calling it out.  I was way too tired the night I released this the first time and I’m not sure if I uploaded a previously unchecked copy, or I just was so horrible with my pre-release check.  That won’t be something I do again. Either way, I hope this latest version is better.  Thank you everyone for working your way through the story before. (Mike - 11/28/2015).


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