Author's note: This is a new, completely random story I began several days ago. I can't make any time guarantees on when new chapters will come out: probably once a week at most. I hope you enjoy it! Please read and review.

Chapter One Noon Shadows

Stella paused in her walk. Something had distracted her. She caught a reflection in a window and turned. A black cloak fluttered as its wearer vanished around a corner.

She followed quietly. Occasionally she would glimpse her quarry, but never completely. He – or she, or it – was taunting her, goading her into irrationality. Stella smiled grimly to herself. Well, it wasn't going to work.

The person in the cloak must have decided that the chase wasn't worth the effort, because he/she/it stopped and turned to face Stella.

"Well met, Astriella Starfire," the cloaked figure said softly. "Indeed, this is a pleasure."

Stella dropped into a fighting crouch. "No, Venitus, not well met. I should have known it was you." Her eyes narrowed. "No one else would spot me hunting. What do you want?"

The creature called Venitus chuckled menacingly, answering in a near-whisper, "Ah, Astriella, do you really need to ask? Whatever happened to your telepathy?" He – for it was a he – gestured toward his head and laughed knowingly.

Stella stopped. She concentrated and tried to probe his mind. When she failed, she looked at him in alarm. "What . . . why can't I read you? Venitus, what's going on?"

"My dear Astriella, you have a very . . . unique brand of telepathy. It's quite a simple matter to block such a distinctive energy," he responded with cool diplomacy. "Now, why were you following me?" His voice took on a hard edge.

"Ummm . . ." she wracked her brains for a good excuse, and came up with nothing. "You know I was trained to hunt shadow-wraiths . . ." He nodded. "I guess at first glance, you looked like one. I didn't think. My instincts . . . the training process was more than physical: it's nearly impossible to countermand the instructions the trainers gave us." She shuddered, as if from bad memories.

Venitus waited for her to compose herself, the commented, "You may want to look behind you."

She did so, then gave a muffled scream as he grabbed her from behind, pinning her arms to her sides.

"I've waited a long time for this moment, Astriella," he snarled in her ear. "If you don't struggle, I won't have to use force to subdue you. Come along."

Stella acquiesced reluctantly. She knew Venitus was more powerful than she was, and the simple fact that he could block her telepathy meant that psionic attacks would be pointless.

Astriella. Unless you would prefer your actions to be under my control, you must behave as though we are one of the many couples on the street. Put your arm through mine. She jumped at the feel of his voice in her mind, but complied unwillingly. Venitus' shoulder was surprisingly muscular. Stella realized that there was more to the man than met the eye.

Author's note: Okay, this is where I stopped the chapter. I should finish the next one in the next few days, and I'll post it as soon as it's typed. Ciao!