A/N: It has been AGES since I have updated this story, and for anyone who followed it regularly and still does, I apologize DEEPLY for that. Life happens when you least expect and the free time to write just got away from me. I'm hoping this chapter doesn't feel too disjointed. It's been so long that I am trying to get myself reacquainted with the story and its characters. I did a little bit of re-reading and noticed some inconsistencies here and there. I'm hoping to be able to fix those over time and I'm hoping to have another post soon ...

XV

With every mile they passed, Lynn's heart sank deeper and deeper into the pit of her knotted stomach. She had tried to call the house three times since they had left her childhood home, but all she heard was a busy signal. The idea that the phone was off the hook unsettled her nerves even more.

Simon sat silently in the passenger seat, his eyes never leaving the road. Every direction the car took he committed memory on the off chance that he may find himself in need of knowing the way there ever again.

The car rolled to a stop in front of a set of towering metal gates, their iron spikes reaching towards the starry sky. Lynn glanced at her passenger's gaping mouth as he stared up the long and narrow drive towards her home. The white stone mansion was nestled perfectly atop the hill's well-manicured grass, surrounded by towering trees. Lynn would normally find comfort in the sight, but the house's many windows were black and empty like the eyes of a rotting corpse. Silence hung thick in the air and as she rolled the window down, Lynn felt like she was suffocating.

"You live here?" Simon murmured in disbelief, completely unaware of her discomfort.

Lynn would've made a witty or sarcastic quip and laughed at how stunned Simon was by the size of the house, but she felt as far from humorous as one could get. A simple nod was all she offered in reply.

Time seemed to be slowing down around her and it felt like an eternity had passed as she opened the cleverly disguised keypad on the stonewall that connected to the gate and entered the pass code to allow access. The car seemed to crawl up the drive towards the mansion even though Lynn knew she was testing her luck by pushing the speedometer to thirty.

"Are you okay?" Simon asked as the car stopped in front of the main doors and Lynn turned her face—a now ghostly shade of white—up to her home.

"Fine," she whispered as she shut off the engine.

Instead of opening the door, Lynn tilted her head back and closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. Her mind was an absolute mess. So much had happened in such a small amount of time, she felt like her head was going to explode.

"You really don't … look okay," Simon muttered, slowly reaching out to touch her shoulder.

"I just need to detach … need to stop …"

"Thinking?" Simon finished for her. "Try to kind of displace your mind so that it's not you walking into that house but someone who has no emotional attachment to any of this?"

"Yeah ... something like that." She continued to breathe deeply.

"Try something for me, okay? Open your eyes and look at me." Simon took her hand as she said this and when she did open her eyes, they were glowing brightly. "Okay," he continued. "Now, I want you to take all the emotions you are feeling right now and push them to the back of your mind."

"It's not that easy," Lynn breathed with a heavy sigh.

"Sure it is," Simon responded. "It's the same thing you do when you're stalling a change. Easy as pie if you've done that enough."

With another heavy sigh, Lynn pulled her hand out of Simon's grasp and looked down at her hands, now fidgeting in her lap. "I haven't ever had to do that. I've never actually changed."

"You're in your twenties … you should've had your first change with your first—"

"Menstruation, I know," she quickly finished for him. "It's been quite a source of confusion for my housemates for a very long time. Either way, it's how things are. I can't change."

"But … that would drive a lycan insane. Not to be able to free yourself like that." As Simon spoke those words and carefully observed the look of hurt on his sister's face, he realized just how right he was.

"London has tried to figure it out," Lynn offered, still staring down at her hands. "He's done so many tests and so much research, but there just isn't a documented case of a lycan who can't … why are you staring at me like that?" Lynn glanced up to see that Simon's concern had suddenly shifted and he now stared at her with caution.

"You said London has tried … you don't mean London James, do you?"

"What if I do?" Lynn raised an eyebrow, her own tone now one of caution. "What of it?"

"London James, the lycan that adopts humans and forces them to do their dirty work?"

"And this conversation is over," Lynn growled as she stifled her rising anger and reached for the car door. Her arm was quickly pulled away and she was forced to turn and face Simon.

"Conversation not over," he snapped back. "Do you have any idea how many humans have died because of that man?"

"Simon," Lynn whispered, slowly twisting her arm. "This is not a discussion I am going to have with you right now. My friends are in there and they could be very hurt or possibly dying … I need you to NOT freak out on me right now. If you're not going to help me, you're going to stay in this fucking car. Now… let go."

Lynn pulled her arm forcefully from Simon's grip and the two stared at each other for a good, long moment. This was not the time to have a spat with someone claiming to be her older brother. The claim may have been proven, but Lynn wasn't having warm fuzzy feelings about the guy and she certainly wasn't ready to have him grabbing at her.

"Look," she began. "Whatever problem you have with London James … I need you to just put aside. Displace, if you will." Simon opened his mouth but Lynn gently raised her hand with one finger extended toward the roof of the car. "You wouldn't let me leave with you and you agreed to do as I said. I need you to be true to your word right now. We can fight about this all you like, but until I know what actually happened to my friends … you are just going to have to put it aside. Can you do that for me?"

With a heavy sigh of his own, Simon nodded slowly. "I'm not happy about it," he muttered, "but I'll do it."

Lynn nodded and closed her eyes again, taking a long deep breath.

I can do this … I can do this … As she repeated this mantra over and over, she felt her emotions slowly begin to slide towards the back of her mind. With nothing else to really reference, she tried to find the source of that cold, calculated peace she felt when she ran the kitchen knife through that vampire whore's chest.

Her eyes opened suddenly and she smiled. Displacement accomplished.

"Let's go," she said, pushing the car door open.

Simon followed suit and slowly stood, resting his elbow on the hood of the car. "So what's the plan, chief?" He attempted at humor once more, hoping to prove to Lynn that he did have every intention of doing as she said while they were on her territory.

"One of us searches the first floor while the other searches the second. Look for anything that seems out of the ordinary … overturned furniture, broken objects, and … bodies." Lynn paused. "There should be five inside."

"Do you really think it's that bad?" Simon glanced over his shoulder at Lynn.

"I know what I heard. Here," she said as she tossed something at Simon. He caught it with ease and his eyes widened slightly as he realized he was holding a pistol.

"Lynn, I'm not much of a gun person … as a lycan, I generally prefer tearing people apart with my bare hands or teeth." He watched her ease the car door shut so gently that it barely clicked as it latched. Her entire demeanor had changed. He felt as if he were suddenly walking into some kind of crime scene with a seasoned investigator. "Is this really necessary?"

"It is if there's still something inside the house," she replied. "Don't turn on any of the lights when we get inside. I'd rather catch it off guard." She slid back the barrel of her own pistol, loading a bullet into place.

Simon's mind flooded with questions, but he didn't have a chance to ask as Lynn walked to the front door and placed her hand on the knob. She looked over her shoulder once to assure that Simon was ready and after a moment, he nodded slowly. Aiming the gun at the ground, she turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open, ducking to the side so that she would be out of view. Simon did the same, taking the opposite side of the door. After a few moments of silence, the two peered inside and Lynn took the lead, Simon close behind her.

Lynn could find nothing unusual as she entered the foyer. She forced herself to focus on every photograph on the walls, the table with the small wicker basket for mail and the hooks above that for car keys. Everything was where it should have been. Lynn took a few steps forward, and once Simon was inside, shut the door.

Fighting off the urge to flick on the lights, Lynn closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Simon stood behind her in silence, mimicking her actions. After mere seconds, the two immediately opened their eyes and looked at each other.

"Blood," Simon whispered.

"But I can't tell where it's coming from," Lynn whispered back.

"Perhaps we should split up." Simon caulked the pistol. "This is a very large house and we're both very capable of protecting ourselves so we don't have to worry about watching out for each other." The suggestion left a sour taste in his mouth, but he was a full lycan and even he couldn't pinpoint where the scent of blood originated.

With a slow nod, Lynn motioned to their immediate left with the tip of her gun. "That corridor to the left leads to the kitchen, the study, and a room with a whole bunch of computers," she whispered. "There's a door to the basement on the right hand side, the kitchen is the opening at the end, and the other door on the left is a small bathroom. If you don't find anything, come back down the hall and head past the staircase towards the living room. There's a short hall off of that that leads to the infirmary."

"Infirmary?" Simon asked with a lift of his brow.

Lynn nodded and lifted a finger to silence Simon when he opened his mouth to ask another question. "I promise I will explain everything … but right now there are more pressing matters." She glanced up the stairs. "If you don't find anything, we'll meet at the top of the stairs … unless something goes wrong. Got it?"

Simon nodded before turning to head down the hall towards the kitchen. He kept the gun aimed at the floor as he walked, praying he wouldn't have to use it. The scent of blood grew stronger with each step he took and a weak heartbeat began to pound in his ears.

Lynn waited until Simon had disappeared around the corner before she began her ascent up the main staircase.

This is just another job, she tried to tell herself. This isn't my house … I don't know these people ... London is at home in the study sipping his whiskey and being boring, Kaitlin is in her gadget room getting pissed off that I'm not answering my cell phone with Keith behind her stealing her food, and Nic is in his room reading … everything is normal …

She forced herself to envision what each member of her family would be doing at that moment. It helped her racing thoughts and her pounding heart, but only a little. Lynn flattened her body against the wall as she reached the top of the stairs and took a steadying breath as she peered around the corner.

Fragments of glass and wood from picture frames that had once decorated the walls were now scattered across the pale beige carpet. The moon shone through the row of windows along the corridor's right wall and a gentle breeze caused their gauzy white curtains to float back and forth. It felt like Lynn was in a dream as she stepped out from behind the corner. Her dark eyes immediately fell upon the figure at the far end of the hall. The pale body lay sprawled on the floor, a dark patch on the carpet beneath it.

"Kaitlin?" She whispered. The body was distinctively female and the lack of clothing suggested to Lynn that she must've changed right before she had been knocked unconscious.

Oh please, let it be unconscious, Lynn thought as she crossed to the left side of the corridor and slowly moved along the length of the wall. She carefully avoided the shattered vase and the overturned end table.

"Kaitlin?" She tried again now that she was a little closer to the body. "Kaitlin, can you hear me?"

As Lynn neared the body, her detached outlook on the situation began to slip away. Kaitlin's body was covered in blood. Little streams had poured from several small holes, leaving a large puddle to soak into the carpet beneath her. Her beautiful blonde hair was now darker and matted to the floor.

"No, no, no," Lynn whispered, setting her gun down next to the body. "Kaitlin … please." She inhaled deeply and all her senses screamed one word: dead.

No pulse. No heartbeat. No moving blood.

Lynn placed a hand on Kaitlin's bloody shoulder and slowly rolled her onto her back. Her torso was littered with holes. Six, maybe seven, bullets had been fired at close range. Her hand began to shake as she leaned forward and pushed a strand of hair away from Kaitlin's face, her bright blue eyes closed forever.

"Oh, Kait … I'm so sorry I wasn't here." Lynn slid her arms underneath the body to cradle Kaitlin. "I'm so, so sorry …" She whispered as she fought back tears and pulled the still warm body into a fierce hug.

All her emotions hit like a freight train. Fear, anger, hatred, loneliness. This was Jonathan's doing. She knew it had to be. Sedated or not, he must've burned through the drugs and went wild. It was the only explanation.

"Lynn?" Simon stood at the top of the stairs. "Lynn, is she…?"

"Dead," Lynn whispered, releasing her hold and gently resting the body against the stained carpet. "Seven bullets, I think." Her attention was quickly drawn to another gun near the body as she said that. A Desert Eagle with an empty clip. "This isn't one of ours."

"Uh … forget about the gun … you really need to see this," Simon whispered. His voice was hushed.

When Lynn looked up, she saw that he was standing in front of the first door on the right hand side of the hallway. His arms were at his sides, the gun loose in his grasp. He looked … horrified. Lynn reached for her own gun and slowly rose to her feet, her finger just behind the trigger.

"What? What is it?" She whispered.

"I … uh … can't … really explain." A soft wheezing sound came from the doorway and Simon jumped back startled. "Holy Jesus, he's still alive!"

As she rounded the corner, Lynn scanned the room quickly. Posters of scantily clad women and fast cars made it quite clear that this was Jonathan's room. Unlike the corridor, there didn't seem to be any broken or disturbed items in this room. Her eyes quickly fell upon the bed and the figure lying there. His arms and legs were bound by leather straps to the bed frame, making him completely immobile. The spikes helped too…

Long, slender and silver spikes protruded from several points on his body straight through to the floor. Jonathan's chest rose and fell in a very slight and shallow motion. He was alive, but just barely. Blood flowed slowly but freely from each wound.

"Of all the people to survive an attack on the manor," Lynn said, the detachment quickly returning.

Jonathan's head slowly turned to look at her, his dark eyes cloudy. He must've been in shock, or at least on his way there. He tried to move his hand, but cried out. This was meant to be a slow torture that would end in an even slower death.

Simon moved forward and Lynn quickly raised a hand to stop him. "No, let him be."

"Lynn, he's wounded … severely. He might be dying."

"Oh, he's definitely dying and I'm totally okay with that." Lynn stepped into the room and slowly approached the bed. "I'm okay with him dying like this. Slow … and painful … and chained to a bed. Completely helpless to defend himself in any way." She reached out slowly and gave the very tip of one of the spikes a gentle tap.

Jonathan cried out again, writhing in pain. "Please," Jonathan wheezed. "Please stop."

"Jesus Christ, Lynn!" Simon stared at her in disbelief. "I thought these people were like family to you!"

"This one isn't," she stated matter-of-factly. "This one is a lying, low-life wretch who deserves every moment of this."

"I … I found someone else downstairs," Simon hoped the change in subject might bring her out of her current mindset. "An older man in the study? He's bleeding pretty badly."

"Take him to the infirmary. Do you remember where it is?" She didn't take her eyes off Jonathan. "There should be plenty of supplies. Get him to that room and I'll be down in a moment."

"But …."

"Downstairs. Now."

Frowning deeply, Simon disappeared from the open doorway. His footfalls disappeared down the staircase. Lynn lowered herself down onto the edge of the bed, the movement causing the spikes to shift. Jonathan's body writhed again and he clenched his fists tightly.

"Please," Jonathan whispered. "Please make it stop …"

"Why should I?" Lynn growled in reply. "Why should I, for one moment, help to end your suffering?"

Jonathan didn't speak at first. He wheezed and gurgled quietly, fighting desperately for each breath that filled his lungs. "Because … I didn't do this to myself, did I?" He slowly turned his head to stare at the ceiling.

"No … and you couldn't have killed Kaitlin strapped to the bed like you are."

"She's dead?" Jonathan squeezed his eyes shut and let out a shaky sigh. "God, it's all my fault …"

"Shot to death not ten feet from your door." Lynn motioned to his open bedroom doorway. "And I seriously doubt it was protecting you that she died doing … so what the fuck is going on?"

"I … I'm so sorry, Lynn … I'm so sorry for everything."

The statement took Lynn completely off-guard. His apology brought her back from her detachment slightly and her blood began to boil in anger. She reached out, one hand to grip him by the chin, while the other wrapped around a spike driven through his already broken collar bone.

"No, I mean it," he sputtered quickly. "I know now that everything I have ever done was … wrong. So very, very wrong …" Her grip didn't loosen on his chin, but the spike didn't move either, so Jonathan felt it was safe to continue talking. "All the hatred and anger that I've felt towards you has been wrong … I see that now … how my father treated you was never your fault…I'm … I'm fucked up, Lynn … I'm so fucked up."

The long speech was drastically cutting down what little airflow he had. He coughed, causing another violently bout of pain. Lynn's hand fell away from his chin and instead moved to his chest, trying to steady his body so that it would move a little less. The simple act of compassion seemed to make it a little easier for him to continue.

"I can't fix anything now. I know that … but maybe I can change events that I have set in motion … oh fuck, it hurts ..."

"Talk slowly," Lynn stated. He was dying … even if she had gotten to him ten minutes ago, he would still be dying. A lycan couldn't survive with this much exposure to silver in all the right places. "This was a punishment, wasn't it?" She asked as realization slowly dawned across her shadowed features. "This was someone punishing you … for what? That vampire? Her death?"

"And for not delivering you … I thought the plan was to kill you … but he changed the rules of the game. He's not out to kill you … he wants you alive. I thought that she and I would …" He closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing, but he could feel his life starting to slip away.

"Come on, jack ass. Stay with me." Those were words that Lynn never thought she would hear herself say to Jonathan, but as he lay there dying and spilling his soul, she couldn't help but feel … something for him. She couldn't say it was sisterly love, or any kind of love, but it was something. "You're not good to me dead, now come on! He who? Who are you talking about?" She placed her hands gently on either side of his head and lightly tapped the side of his face.

"I was wrong about so much … I can't tell you much about him other than he's some kind of vampire royalty and Cassandra was his daughter … he thinks you're very special, Lynn. He thinks he can use you … that's the only reason he ever hangs onto anyone … if they're useful. You can't let him find you, you can't let him get his hands on you, you can't …"

"Shhhh," Lynn whispered. "You're going to talk yourself to death and then you'll be no good to anyone will you?"

"Will you hold my hand?" The fingers of his hand closest to her brushed against the side of her thigh. She obliged without hesitation and it brought a small smile to his lips. "Funny how … after all the bad times … all the stupid shit I've done … the one person that I spent my entire life hating … is the person who is going to see me off …"

"Didn't I just tell you that you're not allowed to die, you dummy?" Lynn brushed a few strands of hair away from his damp forehead. "You're not done telling me about what happened … you need to tell me what happened to Keith and Nicolas and once you're done with that, we're going to fix you up. After you're all fixed up, I'm going to kick your ass. Deal?"

"I don't … I can't … his name, Lynn …. the vampire that did this … his name is …"

The words trailed away as the last bit of air left his lungs. His grip on her hand loosened and his fingertips slowly fell away. His dark eyes glossed over, becoming empty and lifeless.