Plight of the Werewolf

Part One

The bedroom was dim, but Vanessa could still see him. He whirled around when he figured out she was there, shielding the little blonde from her eyes. Like that could hurt her now...

"Why are you here?" he asked, his words coming out as a sharp growl.

"I forgot my purse," she said simply.

It was then that he noticed her black dress, high heels, and makeup. Her hips swayed under the black fabric as she walked forward and grabbed the small black purse that had been thrown over the back of the chair next to the bed.

He had the blonde pressed into the corner and he was still using his muscled chest to try to hide her.

Vanessa walked to the door with a small grin on her face. When she reached it, she looked back over her shoulder.

"Don't soil our bed too much, dear husband of mine," she taunted as she left the bedroom.

"Is that your wife?!" the outraged blonde demanded viciously. That was the last thing Vanessa heard before she left the house.

A wide smile lit up her face as she realized she had probably disrupted his sexual prowess for the night.

Vanessa sighed and sat down on the side steps. The welcome purr of the car that would take her away for the evening couldn't yet be heard. Her date hadn't arrived yet. Another sigh escaped her lips as she started to think.

Marriage at 19 was stupid. Forced marriage at 19 was even more stupid. But then, her parents had never been educated, had they?

"It's for the betterment of the pack," they had told her. "Gavin is a fine match for you. We're optimistic about your future together."

Everyone was optimistic about their wedding except the two of them. When the day came, though, and they both saw there was no escape, they decided they'd give it a try and took the vows seriously, including the vow to be faithful to one another. Vanessa had held up her end of the bargain until she learned he wasn't keeping his promises.

Vanessa sighed again. Some days, she wished she weren't a werewolf. The laws of the pack were so strict all the time, and seeing humans except for buying groceries and the like was harshly forbidden. Both she and Gavin broke the damn rule anyway. Unfortunately, they were expected to continue the pack on together, both by ruling over it with the death of her father, the leader, and by supplying its future members. That meant they'd have to have children, and Vanessa could never imagine having kids with that pompous, arrogant—

"What are you doing? Shouldn't you be off on your date by now?"

Gavin had come to the door and found her sitting on the cold cement of the steps. The blonde stormed past the two of them.

"I'll call you!" Gavin yelled to her.

"Don't bother," the blonde said, her tone flat and angry. She shot a dangerous glare at him as she got in her car. Her tires squealed as she sped away.

There was tense silence for a moment.

"Are you happy now?" he asked softly in mock-calmness. Vanessa knew that tone carried all of his hidden hatreds.

"I hate you," she muttered as she stood up and walked away.

She had walked a couple of blocks before she saw the car she had been looking for. The driver slowed to a stop beside her. The window rolled down.

"Now what's a pretty girl like you doing out here all alone?"

The mock question brought a smile to Vanessa's lips. The handsome man inside the blue car leaned over the seat and opened the door for her.

The car's interior smelled of cinnamon, which made Vanessa look around until she spotted the red pine-tree-shaped freshener hanging from the rearview mirror. It was new, and she was certain it was there because she had told him on their last date that cinnamon was her favorite scent. Just the fact that he remembered made her love the silly human boy even more. Gavin would have never done anything like that for anyone ever, except maybe to seduce one of his lovely blonde whores.

The human's eyes were pointed in Vanessa's direction. He looked nervous.

"If you don't like it, I can take it down," he said, his eyes shifting to the air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror.

"No. It's lovely." Vanessa let her fingers trail over its smooth red surface.

The deep cerulean pools were still gazing at her.

He had his long, silver-blonde hair tied back that night and was wearing all black. He looked quite good like that, at least in Vanessa's eyes, and she smiled again as he pulled her closer and gave her a small kiss.

"We better go," he said, rolling down the windows. "Don't wanna be late."

The car sped off into the night as he accelerated wildly. The tingling in the pit of Vanessa's stomach exploded in a wild frenzy. The human was a crazy driver, but she loved it. Gavin never drove so fast. Neither did she. She supposed she didn't have the confidence that this silly human had.

"Where are we going?" Vanessa asked, having to yell rather loudly because the windows were open and the wind was scattering hair as well as noise.

"A concert," he replied.

"Which one?"

"A small one." He rolled up the windows as the car sped on. "Down at the bandshell at the lake. They're relatively unknown, but I like their music."

"What type do they play?"

"Sort of blues-rock. It's hard to determine, really."

Suddenly, Vanessa saw the reflection of the lights on the lake and the bandshell came into view. The human stopped the car and parallel parked (perfectly). He got out and opened the door for his beautiful date.

"Here we are," he announced.

As they walked toward the bandshell, Vanessa felt him slip an arm around her waist. The human's body shielded her from the cool wind. She let him, her actions showing her defiance.

The music caught on the air swirled around them, its enchanting melody humming to them softly. It was beautiful, the lyrics soft and pleading. The two of them sat down far from the other listeners and the music drifted to them on the wind.

"You look wonderful tonight," he said, letting his hand run down Vanessa's back and then back up.

"Thank you," she replied, brushing a stray lock of hair behind his ear.

"We haven't been seeing each other very long, have we?" the human asked.

"No, not very long."

"Would it be too terrible to ask you to come away with me?"

"No, I don't think so."

Suddenly, Vanessa realized the music was enchanting her. A pressure was released from her head.

"I mean," she floundered, searching for the right words. "It depends…are we going for a day trip, or…"

"I meant, come live with me…at my place."

"I—I can't," she said, turning from the nervous, pleading eyes that were watching her intently.

"You could leave him."

Vanessa whirled back around and stared at him for a long while.

"How did you-"

"I've seen the two of you out together. Plus, you're wearing your ring tonight." His voice was more spiteful now and less pleading.

"I-" Vanessa looked down at her hand, gazing solemnly at the sparkle of the small diamond. "I'm sorry."

She didn't want to look at him; she knew she couldn't look at him and see the sadness in his blue eyes. She got up, almost tripped, and stumbled away. Thoughts whirled in her head. How could she do something like that to the only man she actually had real, true feelings for? Her stomach spun dangerously as if an icy cold hand took hold of it and twisted.

Vanessa almost made it to the car before the human caught hold of her arm and turned her to face him.

"I didn't mean it like that," he said. "All I meant was that I'm sure I want you more than he does. Leave him."

There was a suffocating pressure in Vanessa's head again and she turned from him, then vomited. She leaned against the car, trying not to pass out. The human's concerned eyes appeared before her and he helped her into the car before the approaching blackness flooded her vision and she was conscious no more.

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Vanessa awoke in complete blackness with a spinning head. Not only could she not see where she was, she realized she couldn't move. She was chained to the wall. That was the first time she let it run through her mind that her silly little human might be neither silly, little, nor a human.

She tried in vain to pull the chains from the wall. Her werewolf strength had left her. When she tried to shift forms, nothing happened. So, she did the only thing she could think of. She screamed for help.

Almost instantly, a door across the room opened. The bright yellow light blinded Vanessa and she shrunk back against the wall, trying to shield her eyes from the burning. When she dared to open them again, she could see the shape of a tall, thin man silhouetted against the bright light.

"I wouldn't bother fighting it," the man's familiar voice taunted. It was definitely the "human." Vanessa had never heard the undertone of evil in his silky smooth voice before. It had transformed him from a feeble little boy to a strong, powerful man. It had taken away the romantic innocence and replaced it with something terrifying.

Vanessa let out a low growl and then spit harsh words at him. "What the hell is going on, human?"

The man walked closer and laughed a deep, evil laugh.

"Human?" he asked, laughing at first. Then, "HUMAN?!" It was rough and sharp.

Finally, the man reached Vanessa and stood close to her. She saw his luminescent green eyes, his long silver hair, and his pale, pale skin.

"I," he stated egotistically, "am Vincennes."

Vanessa had heard of him. Hadn't everyone? He was the right-hand man of the most powerful vampire in the world.

"You know, until I tried mind control on you last night and had extreme difficulty keeping you under it, I thought you were human! But no, you're something much more valuable. I've needed a werewolf for a long time. You are going to be quite beneficial to the plan, my love. I'm glad my control overpowered you in the end."

Vincennes gently trailed a finger down Vanessa's throat. She wanted to bite his fingers off and desperately tried to change form again.

"Don't bother," he taunted. "You're in a very special place right now. Welcome to my home. Too bad you couldn't have seen any room except the anti-shifting chamber. I must say, it doesn't do the castle justice. This is all you'll ever see. There is no escape. Anyway, no morphing for you, my dear Vanessa. Right now, you're no more powerful than an average human."

Vanessa tried to lunge at his stupid, smirking face, but he was just out of reach. Her chains clinked against the walls as she fell back against the cold, wet stone.

"How feral the pretty beastie is," Vincennes cooed mockingly.

She growled, making another feral noise deep down in her throat to let him know she was not going to give up. She wanted to break the chains, leap toward him, and cave in that silver-blonde head of his.

Vincennes leaned closer. A few strands of his silver-blonde hair whispered over her arm and sent a chill down her spine. Another growl, fiercer this time, grew in the back of her throat. For the first time in her life, she knew what real, true hatred felt like.

The wolf inside her was struggling. It wanted to tear the vampire limb from limb as much as she did. While it could not be with her physically, it was sure as hell there mentally. The spirit of the wolf was coursing through every cell of her body. It filled her up, and all of its anger and hatred was centered on the face growing ever closer.

While Vanessa had been plastered against the wall trying not to let Vincennes touch her, she now willed him to come closer…closer…

She lunged and clawed his smug face with her hands. She knew she didn't have to be in werewolf form to have sharp nails.

The smug, egotistical look dropped from Vincennes' face immediately. Four streaks of red could be seen on his cheek, illuminated by the light from the door. They healed quickly enough and left no scar, but Vincennes' face soon showed the rage of his mind. His hand flew forward and Vanessa, at least at first, thought he was going to strike her.

Suddenly, the chains pulled her back to the wall. Her head met the stone with a sickening crack. Now the shackles were attached only to the wall, no chains included, and left no room for movement of any kind.

Then Vincennes did strike her. The blows came quickly – alternating five times on the right and six on the left. The last blow left four red lines of blood identical to the ones he'd just suffered. His eyes told her she wouldn't live to see the world outside of the castle again.

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Vanessa didn't know how long she spent in the chamber. A few seconds seemed to take an eternity. She assumed it had been at least a day, but she couldn't know for sure. Her shoulders and back were numb. After a while she couldn't feel the rats nibbling at her feet.

The wolf inside was crying.

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Gavin, being dateless and a little angry, returned to the house and watched TV until he fell asleep on the couch. When he awoke the next morning, Vanessa still hadn't returned.

He was angry at first. She had never stayed out all night before.

When she hadn't returned the next morning, he became worried.

The next day, he went to her father, the leader of the werewolf pack to which they belonged.

"Do you have any idea where she may have gone?" Vanessa's father asked sternly. He was always a stern man.

"No," Gavin lied. It was plain to see that he knew more than he was letting on. Vanessa's father (Julian) knew it quickly.

"No matter what it is," he said, "I can handle it. The most important thing is that we get her back where she belongs. Now, do you have any idea where we could start looking?"

"Well, I don't know for sure, but I know she went out for a date that night."

Gavin braced himself for the storm of anger that would come.

It didn't. Instead, Julian's voice sounded sad.

"The two of you aren't in love?"

Gavin looked down in shame, trying to put what he was thinking into soft and elegant words.

"Sir, my actions have not permitted us to be. I haven't been faithful to her, and now she isn't faithful to me. We just weren't ready for how complicated marriage is. We were both so young…we're both still so young."

Julian looked down and sighed.

"Listen, I was watching TV after she left and I saw something about a concert on the news. I think I saw her there, sitting with her date, when the camera scanned the crowd."

"What did her date look like? Maybe we could start by questioning him, if we could find him."

"Well, he had long silver hair and was dressed all in black. And there was a certain aura around him, it seemed. It's kind of hard to explain."

"Try."

"Well, it was like…darkness. My heart started to beat faster when I saw him; the hair on the back of my neck raised a little. It was like instinctual fear."

"And you've never seen him in real life?"

"No, just that night on the television. It captivated me."

Julian felt his heart clench in his chest. He had studied the effects of other creatures on the senses of werewolves for a long while, and he knew what was going on.

"She wasn't dating a human, then," he stated in a flat tone. "She was dating a vampire."

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Vincennes stormed into his office and felt his cheeks for any sign of scarring. There was none.

"Sir, why is there blood on your fingers?"

Vincennes shoved his stupid little hunchbacked minion across the room and then stared at his fingers. The blood there sang to him. Slowly, he raised his index finger to his mouth. An involuntary tremble ran through his body. It was werewolf blood. He could taste the sharp power of it between the red cells and the atoms of iron. He could sense her heart beating, even though she was six floors below him. His fangs began to protrude from his mouth. He was hungry and needed to feed.

"Soon," he whispered to himself.

Yes, soon the werewolf girl would be part of his machine and all her blood would become his. He would have to wait.

Vincennes walked to the large oak desk at the north end of the room and perched over the blueprints once again. The machine was almost ready. It was an incredible invention.

At ground level there were three small platforms. That would be where the filthy human prisoners would stand to meet their demise. A series of tubes would drain their blood and bring it straight to him. That way, he could snack on his tall platform while he waited for everything to be set correctly on the middle platform. That would be where Vanessa was placed. She would be locked up, of course. Hopefully she would even change form while in the cage so that more of her power could be harnessed by the machine. Two tubes would be placed in her neck to drain her blood. That, too, would be sent to him on the top platform. Much of the werewolf's power was in the blood, and drinking it in large quantities enhanced the vampire's power. Near the point of death from blood loss, a metal helmet not unlike the kind used in electric chairs would be attached to both him and Vanessa. A switch would be flipped and the electric power of her body would be drained. He would sit there on his top platform, showing all of nature and anyone else that cared to watch that he was supreme to all other Earthly creatures. He would sit on the throne bolted to the platform, drink all the blood he could ever want, and then have all of the werewolf's power jolted straight into his head. If all of Vanessa's power was relayed to him, he would grow much more powerful. If all went well, it would give him the power to kill the strongest vampire in the world and claim the title for himself. If not, he would be more able to capture another werewolf and complete the process again and again until it was enough.

Vincennes felt Vanessa's heartbreak and started to laugh.

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Another day had passed before Julian and Gavin could get the news tape depicting Vanessa's supposed kidnapper. Julian began to shake as he watched the film and was in near convulsions when Vivian appeared on the screen. His worst nightmares were confirmed. Not only was this boyfriend of Vivian's a vampire, he was Vincennes, one of the most terrifyingly evil vampires in the world. Something had to be done, but Julian wasn't sure where to begin, let alone how to rescue his daughter and bring her home to safety.

Gavin blamed himself. Of course it was his fault. If he had only been faithful to her and given himself a chance to truly love her…it might have been different. He vowed that if she was recovered, he would give it a true chance.

Gavin and Julian found an old table in the garage and sawed its four legs off to fashion into stakes. They knew what had to be done, and they worked silently away at carving the legs of the table to sharp points. Neither one of them said a word. They both understood what the other was thinking.

The stake felt good in Gavin's hand. It gave him power over the man who had his wife held captive. Julian's lack of composure worried him, though. He had never seen the man do so much as twitch in a dangerous situation, but now he was shaking.

Gavin sat down next to him on the garage bench.

"Are you okay?"

Julian hung his head lower and sighed.

"She's my little princess, you know. And now—I haven't."

"It's my fault—all my fault."

"If you weren't happy together, why didn't you two just say something?"

"We couldn't disappoint the pack, that's all. As unhappy as we were, we couldn't let the rest down."

Julian sighed.

"I suppose we should get going," he said.

"Do we even know where we're going?" Gavin asked, gathering the four stakes in his arms.

"We'll have to go see Diana. She'll be able to tell us."

The four stakes were packed in a bag and the two men walked down the road together in silence.

Diana's house was dilapidated and blue. The two men walked through the yard of tall grass and climbed up the leaning steps. Seven or so cats were basking in the sunlight on the driveway. Diana opened the door just as they reached it.

"Saw you coming," she said. Both Julian and Gavin knew she didn't mean with her eyes.

Gavin gazed at her for a second. Her long gray hair was unbrushed, her face wrinkled, her eyes the same as always, one brown and one green.

"I suppose you know why we're here, then."

"Yes. I do not know the location of Vincennes. Perhaps if you brought me something of his, especially with his scent on it, I could track him down."

Gavin didn't know psychics worked like bloodhounds.

"She came back home with his jacket a few nights ago, I think. I'll be right back."

Diana nodded and turned to talk to Julian. Gavin returned a few minutes later with a leather jacket. Diana turned up her nose as he walked in with it.

"How could you not smell that?" she asked. "There's no doubt this comes from a vampire."

The psychic reached out and laid her hand on the jacket. Gavin could tell by the look on her face that images were flashing before her mind's eye.

"He's in his castle…in France."

"France?!" Julian demanded as if someone could answer his question. "How in the hell are we supposed to get there?!"

"An airplane?" Gavin offered.

Julian scowled.

"Does it look like I have that kind of money?"

Gavin sighed.

"If the whole pack got together – "

"The whole pack would have to know the whole story, then, Gavin."

"And it has to stay a secret because…?"

Julian didn't know the answer.

Gavin walked forward and placed a hand on Julian's shoulder. He leaned in close.

"They'd help her," he pleaded. "They're her family. They love her. They'd help. That's what being a pack is about – Dad."

It was the first time Gavin had ever called Julian that, and if the preceding words hadn't wedged a stake through his very soul, that one did. Gavin's eyes pleaded softly. Julian could see the sadness and fear in them and, behind all that, the hope and intense determination.

"Alright," he finally said, defeated. "We'll call a pack meeting."

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Word had spread quickly. By 9:00 that night, the entire pack, minus the children who were not allowed to be there, was gathered in the living room of Gavin's house. They were chatting with each other happily, or at least feigning it nicely. Deep down, they knew a late evening meeting excluding children was never a good thing. The noise stopped immediately when Gavin and Julian entered the room.

There were three spaces reserved, all in a row on the couch, and the two men sat down. Gavin felt his heart twist painfully in his chest as he looked at the empty space meant for Vanessa.

This was the first time he and Julian had decided to run a pack meeting together. The strain and fatigue was evident on both of their faces. The pack turned worried eyes upon them and waited silently.

"There has been – " Julian tried, but his voice failed and he was silent again.

Gavin sighed. The tears were pressing against his eyes, but he pushed them back.

"I've made a mistake," Gavin said. Somehow, admitting his guilt to all the people who had raised him to be better than that was more difficult than admitting it to Vanessa's father. "I didn't give myself a chance to love Vanessa. I wasn't faithful to her and after a while, she decided not to be faithful to me either. She was dating a man…"

Gavin fell silent. He couldn't say any more.

"What man?" someone asked.

"Where's Vanessa?" another demanded.

Julian gained composure and took the reigns.

"It was not a human man she was dating," he said, looking up. "It was a vampire, a horrible creature of the night, who betrayed her trust in him by tricking her."

"Which vampire?" a voice insisted.

The conversation erupted again, drowning out all noise.

"Quiet!" Julian roared above the whirlwind of sound, and every noise disintegrated.

"He has kidnapped her. Now, we have no idea what he's plotting with her, but we know we need to get her back."

"Then we'll all go!" Gavin's brother called out. "We have strength in numbers!"

"It isn't that simple. He's got her in his castle…in France! We will need airfare and we can't afford it for everyone."

"Then we'll send as many as possible. Her life depends on it."

The pack roared in agreement, seemingly millions of voices all in support. Money was being piled on the coffee table. The pack knew that every last cent counted. Many emptied their pockets down to the last penny. Multitudes of checks were scrawled out quickly in less-than-perfect handwriting. Every member of the pack knew that it was important to send as many people as possible.

When everything was added together, there was $5,728.32. That was enough to send six people on the rescue mission.

Gavin and Julian were going, but that left four positions open. Diana was offered a spot, but she said that she was too old and would only slow them down. Max, Gavin's older brother, desperately wanted to go. He was one of the strongest wolves in the pack and therefore was added to the list.

Three spaces remained.

"Any volunteers?" Julian asked.

The time for crying was over and the strength was returning to the two leaders.

A hand instantly flew into the air. It was Kaya, one of the stronger, quicker, wittier females who also happened to be the healer. Julian and Gavin both agreed and added her to the list.

Two spaces remained.

"I would like to see Ray go," Gavin said, swallowing his pride. Ray had been a close rival since they were just cubs. However, by teaming up together, they would be the strongest pair in wolf history.

Ray seemed to sense these thoughts and nodded. He stood and shook Gavin's hand. He knew he could be useful to the expedition.

There was only one space remaining.

"Mark," Julian called.

A timid-looking man with mousey features and round glasses looked up.

"Yes?" he asked, as if he didn't know why he was being called on.

Sure, the man was a bit meek, but he knew more about vampires, and more about Vincennes, than anyone else in the pack, which would make him very valuable to the cause.

"Would you like to join us?" Julian asked softly.

Mark looked pensive for a second.

"There are six going," he stated. "A werewolf has a 2/3 chance of surviving a violent encounter with a vampire, a one in three chance of getting only minor wounds, and a one in six chance of escaping unscathed. That means that two of the members would die, two would be injured, one would come out just fine and—no, wait, I'm missing one…"

"Mark, are you coming or not?"

"Well, I--" Mark looked like he was frantically trying to figure out the fate of the last person.

"Mark!" Julian stated forcefully.

"Yes. Alright. I'll go."

"It's settled then. Six are going: Gavin, Max, Kaya, Ray, Mark, and I."

The pack nodded in approval.

"Gavin, go book the flight, direct into Paris."

"Yes, Sir."

"The rest of the expedition members, go pack and get back here as soon as possible."

The meeting disbanded. Many members of the pack patted Julian on the back as they passed and said comforting words like, "he doesn't stand a chance," and "she'll be back before you know it."

A frantic sense of rushing came over Gavin as the computer loaded the airport's page slowly. To him, the Internet just wouldn't work fast enough.

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Bienvenue à l'aéroport Charles de Gaulle à Paris…

A lovely female voice issued from the speakers throughout the airport.

"Mark?" Max asked as the pack walked quickly through the terminal. "Do you happen to know French?"

"It said 'Welcome to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris'," he piped out without thinking. "What does it matter? Shouldn't we be running? According to the probability of getting her back in time to keep her from whatever sick and twisted plan Vincennes is spawning--"

"Shut up," Ray growled. "Don't you think we know that already?"

Julian just said, "Let's step it up a notch, folks."

The pace of the group became frantic. They began to jog.

"We need to rent a car big enough for the six of us," Julian said.

"In that case," Kaya said, "we probably need a van." She was applying her makeup as she was jogging. One thing could be said about Kaya: she was extraordinary at multitasking.

The Parisian men whistled as she jogged past and kept lingering eyes on her even after she passed.

"It's the custom here for women to dress up when they go out in public," Mark said, already puffing from the jogging. He was rather scrawny and wasn't as in-shape as the rest of the pack.

"They're just lucky she's dressed," Max said, fixing his arm around the beautiful redhead beside him. Kaya gave him a look that said she didn't need his protection.

"If there weren't males all around her like we are, they'd probably start hitting on her," Mark said. "Some Parisian men can be real slobs."

"Les americaines," some French passerby said haughtily.

"What did she say?" Kaya asked.

"Those American girls," Mark translated. "It's best not to dwell on what they say. Just please tell me you brought some conservative clothing."

Kaya flipped her red hair over her shoulder and looked a bit embarrassed. "Well, I did bring a pair of jeans."

Mark shook his head. Kaya knew nothing of French culture and what was taboo in their country. Oh well, that was the way Kaya was, and mentioning how it would offend someone else wouldn't change that.

Finally, they reached the auto rental counter. Mark started conversing with the well-dressed woman waiting to assist them.

Gavin took a letter from his pocket and looked down at the script scrawled elegantly across the sheet of handmade paper. It was Diana's instructions and all the information she could glean from the jacket.

Vincennes is a male vampire whose death occurred at the age of 21. He has been a vampire for 431 years, which would make his date of death occur in the year 1575. He is the second-most-powerful vampire in the world, only following Charais, his master and lover. In his childhood, he was tormented by other children because he was born out of wedlock to a very young mother who had bore the child of her father. To overcome this taunting and to leave his origin behind him, he followed Charais into the dark world of vampirism. Their love overcame everything and Vincennes took the biggest plunge of his life for his lover: the plunge into death.

His castle is located in an eastern suburb of Paris, into the countryside a little ways. There is a prominent dungeon that should stick out to you because it will rise higher than any other part of the castle, but don't let this fool you. I assure you it is heavily protected. The castle will not be able to be seen in the daytime, but as the last gleam of sunlight leaves the sky, it will appear.

I see, in my vision, a machine far off in the distance. Perhaps it is Vincennes' biggest secret, for it is guarded with extreme psychic power and I cannot make out any details of it. Perhaps this machine has something to do with his plans for Vanessa. I surely hope it does not, for I feel only the deepest evil when I see the machine in my visions, but I get the feeling that she will fall victim to this part of his plan.

If I see anything else that will be of help to you, I will find a way to contact one of you immediately. My most sincere wishes for success and safety.

-Diana

Gavin sighed as he finished reading the note again. It was perhaps the thousandth time he'd read it, but he wanted to be familiar with it in case the paper was destroyed or lost. He just wanted to get his wife back. He sighed and realized he would have never noticed how much he loved her deep down inside had she not been taken away so suddenly like this. He was determined to get her back.

Julian clapped him on the shoulder in a comforting but manly way as they approached the car rental desk.

Mark ordered a roomy van with many seats and plenty of room for their luggage. Kaya changed into something a little less distracting to the men of Paris while Max sneaked furtive peeks over his shoulder.

Gavin drew in a shaky breath, then another stronger one. As he looked at the group getting ready to take the biggest risk of their lives for one of their own, he suddenly had the feeling that everything was going to be ok…

to be continued…