Blood in the snow

The man watched the tall blonde haired woman in the pale blue silk dress. The centre of attention for a coterie of admirers, she had only eyes for one man, him. Nodding carefully to the handsome men around her, she glided over to him, passing close to the jazz quartet playing in the corner.

"You look bored Arthur." Her hand reaching out and resting lightly on his arm.

Arthur smiled. She always called him Arthur, when they were at functions like this, although he had abandoned the name years ago.

"I am Sarah, too many fake smiles, and forced laughter this place is as false as the people."

She frowned. "Cissy insisted I come, apparently he's a name with connections."

"Nervous connections." Arthur replied. "Considering all the armed men around this place."

She stared at him, a look of worry crossing her face. "You're certain?"

"Very, and before you give me that look no I didn't use any magic to find out, just used my eyes."

She glanced across to an older woman in dark silk, a cigarette holder to her lips. Although she was in conversation with some younger men, like the ones that gathered around Sarah, the sly glances she was giving Arthur could have stripped paint off the walls.

"Who's she trying to match you up with now?" He asked her directly.

Sarah shook her head as if arguing with herself. "You know you will always be mine no matter who or what she throws my way." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek her hands briefly touching his.

Arthur smiled the first time he had done so that evening. "I'm going for a walk."

She sighed. "Be careful and don't wander too far I might need to you to come and rescue me."

He smiled again seeing the effect it had on Sarah, he grinned broadly making sure Cissy could see it, keeping the woman's chagrined look in his memory, he left the lounge.

He found himself in a long corridor, with doors leading off either side. Arthur walked down the corridor looking for a way out. Near the end of it was a partly opened door, coming from within the sound of raised male voices. He ignored the sound it wasn't any of his business. Suddenly the sound of a fist hitting flesh and a woman's cry made it his. He opened the door wide and stepped through. Inside he saw three men and a woman. Two of the men stood either side of an ornate wooden desk. The third was standing over a blonde haired woman not as blonde as Sarah, but still blonde, his hand raised into a fist. The woman was pretty, or would have been if hadn't been for the black eye and split lip she sported. Arthur's sudden appearance had taken the group by surprise.

"Lefty, Spots get this bozo outa here! Make sure he's reminded of why he shouldn't interfere."

The two men either side of the desk reached into their jackets.

"I think not." He replied invoking his magic with a gesture sending the two men crashing into the walls behind them. With a squeal of terror, the third man let go of the woman vaulting over the desk, pulling open a draw, and scrabbling inside. As quick as the man was Arthur was quicker. Invoking a spell, the man froze in mid move. Shakily the two men clambered to their feet. He moved fast invoking the same spell, he used on the man on them. The woman had not moved, a quick examination of the woman told him she had fainted. Healing her injuries, he revived the woman. She looked dazed and confused. Arthur could smell alcohol strong on her breath. He noted her eyes the deepest blue he had ever seen and they reminded him of jewels. She was trembling uncontrollably. He hadn't the heart to leave her it was a reminder of how he had met Sarah. Rescuing her from three men that would had raped her, and beaten her to death in the streets. He couldn't walk away then, and he couldn't walk away now. Helping her up, she stared deep into his eyes as if seeking answers. Of the same height as his Sarah, he noted she was younger.

"Who are you?" He asked her.

Her hands gripped his arm tightly licking her lips before she answered as if a little hesitantly. "Alison, Alison Mayweather."

"Well Alison would you like to leave. I can take you somewhere safer."

She glanced at him then at the three statue still men. "You would do this for me after all I have done for this man."

Arthur sighed he had made a commitment, but he wasn't about to abandon this woman. He was sure she could be redeemed unlike the three men. He was a wizard, and what was a little magic to him if he couldn't make a better world. Sarah wouldn't approve she never did, she hated him using his magic, as well as some of the company he kept.

"So?" He asked. "What is it you need to tell me?"

She glanced at the three pulling Arthur towards the door. "Not here they can still hear us." She frowned. "I'm not sure I'm imagining this or dreaming. Whatever you did to them has answered my prayers."

He stopped her. "They can't hear you I've made it so. They can't harm you." Adding on seeing the expression on her face. "You can't harm them."

She gazed deep into Arthur's eyes various emotions crossing her face. "What are you?" She whispered.

"I'm a wizard."

She stared at him blankly. "A what?"

Arthur shrugged. "Just say I can do things. Come we must leave."

Alison snatched a sable coat off a rack, and retrieved her pocket book from the corner where it had been thrown. As they walked she leaned heavily on him for support, she talked, telling her life story of how she had met the man in a Speakeasy. He charmed his way into her heart, and it wasn't until she started living with him that she found out what he really was. It was fun at first poking a finger up to the government. Then things started to slide down hill. She found herself pulled deeper and deeper into a world she didn't want to delve into, then the beating started, recently they had become steadily worse. Arthur listened with growing concern getting angrier by the minute. Cissy Vanderville should have never asked Sarah here, it put her in danger. He had a dilemma, if Sarah hadn't come he was sure Alison would be dead, and he was sure she knew it. Reaching the door to the lounge, he could hear voices and the sounds of music. He felt Alison's grip on his arm tighten. She was licking her lips again, a terrified look on her face. Gently he patted her hands and smiled. It seemed to have a calming effect.

"Wait here I've got to get my friend and then we'll go."

Reluctantly Alison let go of his arm. Arthur opened the door and stepped through.

The room was as he had left it, nothing had changed. Sarah was seated talking to Cissy, both woman glanced in his direction, something in his face had alerted Sarah. With a word to Cissy she rose and glided through the throng to where Arthur stood.

"I know that look Arthur." She said. "Someone has made you angry."

"Get your coat and follow me." He whispered in a low voice.

Sarah stared at him like he was talking in a foreign language. Then as if assessing the expression on his face, she left for her coat. He watched her go having to admit to himself, she always looked good walking. All that training had paid dividends.

Sarah wasn't sure which was the bigger surprise learning their host was a racketeer or the fact that the woman had been rescued in similar circumstances to her.

She sniffed Alison's breath taking in her unsteady steps. "You wouldn't believe there was a Prohibition on Mike." She whispered to Arthur, then cursing her slip of her tongue.

"If I remember correctly you're storing sixteen crates of booze for your friend Cissy." Arthur replied just as softly. "Just get in her in the car. I've got some things to finish up in here."

She became frightened. "Please Mike don't kill anyone!" She begged.

He shook his head. "What I have planned is much worse."

She shivered, bundling up the other woman she hurried out a side door her last glimpse was of Mike watching her back.

In one way Mike was glad the two women were gone with their departure he had thrown off his Sir Arthur Pendergast persona. He returned to the room where he left the three men. None had moved or were they likely to until the spell ran out. Mike took steps to prevent it happening. Bitter experience reminded him he couldn't re-invoke that particular spell again. It was frustrating that the magic didn't work that way. He invoked another spell he used a lot, taking control of their bodies while letting them to see and hear everything. The leader of the three, the one that had been in the process of beating Alison, let off a tirade of abuse. Mike waited until he paused for breath before speaking.

"You really think you could do that to me?" Mike spoke softly the man's face flushed red then realising his predicament paled to an ashen white. His two companions both silently mouthing prayers. "You didn't realise that if you dance with the devil he expects to be paid?"

The two henchmen prayed harder, their eyes squeezed tight. The third would have been trembling if Mike had let go of his body.

"Listen." The man eyes darted around the room his voice displaying the jagged edge of his fear. "We can cut a deal. Anything you want it's yours!"

"Too late for that, far too late." Mike stared at the three men considering his options. He could let them go but that would put Sarah and Alison in danger. He could kill them himself, try as he might he wasn't prepared to go down that road. There was only one option left, let justice deal with them. Mike smiled he felt more at ease than he had all night. He took a deep breath and started the spell.

Sitting in the car waiting for Mike, Sarah was in a pickle. He had told her to take in this woman that she knew nothing about. He had told her the woman had got herself into the same type of situation, she had been in, the wrong place at the wrong time. She tried to engage the woman in conversation. Either Mike had put a spell on her, something she would never approve of, or the woman didn't want to speak. Sarah was at a loss at what to do.

"What is your name?"

The woman sat stiffly in the seat face forward, staring into the night. Sarah noted it had started snowing, a light fall, not that unexpected this early into November. She shivered in the cold.

"Oh Mike where are you?" Sarah said out loud.

"I'm Alison Mayweather." The woman spoke as if responding to Sarah's original question. Her head turned to regard Sarah. "Who are you?"

"Sarah Pendergast-Volstien." Sarah held out her hand to Alison.

The woman stared at it if it was a live snake. Sarah sighed unsure what else to say. Alison fumbled in her bag pulling out a hip flask and taking a swig of its contents. Sarah tapped her hands impatiently on the steering wheel. Suddenly out of the swirling flakes a figure appeared. Alison went stiff with fear, while Sarah relaxed, recognising the walk, Mike had returned. She waited until he was in, before starting the car.

"You didn't?" Were the first words on her lips.

"No I've let justice deal with them."

Alison's head whipped around to stare at Mike, her eyes going large and round. "God no, they'll wriggle out of that and come for me." She started to panic.

Mike reached forward invoking a spell and calming her down. He heard Sarah mutter something under her breath in German, like she always did when he did something she disapproved of. The car with its three occupants drove through the gate and to freedom.

Mike explained to Sarah what he had done. Although she disapproved of making Alison sleep with his magic what the three racketeers were involved in made up for that. The knowledge he had used his magic on them didn't concern her this time she felt his involvement justified. Parking the car outside Mike's bookshop, she helped him get Alison out of the car. Mike glanced around seeing a man standing in the shadows near the entrance. He spoke to Sarah.

"Take her inside and warm her up please Sarah. Nicholas is here."

Sarah spun around staring towards where the man stood. She uttered a few curse words in German. "No not here not now! Send it away Mike I'm sure I can work something out with Alison here."

Mike hesitated hearing the fear in Sarah's voice she was terrified of Nicholas and those like him. "If he's here it's important I must go."

"Please Mike don't." She tugged at his sleeve.

"Sorry love I must." He walked away from Sarah trying hard to ignore her heart rending pleas.

Nicholas towered over Mike wearing a heavy coat and a felt hat. Mike knew he didn't need to wear them, creatures like Nicholas didn't feel the cold. Mike knew him for what he was, a vampire, pale faced, and blue eyed. He watched Mike walk towards him. "Michealas we have a problem." Then glancing towards Sarah and Alison. "Apologies for causing hurt to you and yours."

Mike sighed. "Think nothing of it if you are here. Then it is important."

The vampire looked relieved. "Thank you. I need to show you something I've found." He again glanced towards Sarah and Alison. "I will make it up to her."

"She would rather you didn't"

The vampire sighed. "Does she hate us that much?"

"She fears what you are."

Nicholas nodded. "My car is this way."

Mike followed the vampire into the darkness.

Nicholas led Mike to his car parked in an alley, a block from the shop. He slid into the passenger seat while Nicholas slid into the driver's seat and started her up. He wasn't sure what surprised him more that Nicholas could drive or that Nicholas hadn't asked him to.

"You can drive?" He asked Nicholas.

The vampire shrugged. "Self taught I prefer to hunt far from home."

Mike left it at that he really didn't want to know. A vampire's choice method of hunting, varied with each vampire. He was relieved in a way to know vampires no longer killed their meals. They considered it uncivilised to drain their choice to death. It was just the thing to bring in the mobs with the flaming torches no vampire wanted that. It was outside another alley in a more rundown part of the city that Nicholas halted the car. Waiting for Mike he led him down an alley. The place reminding him of the alley, he had rescued Sarah from. It was dark Mike had to invoke a spell to see better, to the vampires in might as well been a sunny day the night held no secrets for them. At the back of the alley was a pile of trash. Nicholas pulled back the debris as Mike leaned down and examined the body hidden there. Straightening up he glanced at Nicholas. Nicholas had been correct this was important. The body had dozens of bite marks and not one set the same, the body that of the man had been drained of blood.

"Many ships, many new vampires all arriving from the east."

Mike nodded there was a lot of upheaval in Europe especially in the east. Nicholas was right this was a problem.

"The others?" Mike asked.

"It doesn't concern them so they don't care."

"But surely this many in one place at a time?"

Nicholas regarded Mike sadly. "They will not speak to me let alone listen."

"Do you want me speak to them?" Mike wondered what Sarah would say about this. She hated his talking to them at the best of times. It was for her he had to do this.

"You can try." Nicholas replied suddenly turning and looking down the alley. Slowly out of the darkness, a figure emerged.

Mike and Nicholas waited watching the figure approach cautiously. Mike knew it wasn't a vampire. Then again, it wasn't human either. It was a werewolf, in human form. The werewolf was of medium height, olive skinned with dark hair peppered with grey. Mike watched him his eyes constantly flicking from Mike to Nicholas. Taking in the werewolf's stance Mike knew this was no ordinary werewolf, more than likely the leader of his pack.

"Patriarch?" Mike said bowing in the werewolf's direction.

The werewolf looked startled, but recovered quickly. He nodded to Mike acknowledging the formal address. "What are you? You're not a human or a Slave?"

Mike winced slightly, it wasn't the first time he had heard those words, werewolf words for those that served vampires giving blood and taking vampire's blood. The werewolves called them Slaves. Drinking the blood of a vampire bonded them to the vampire. Drink three times, and you were a vampire's heart and soul. Slowly Mike replied. "I'm a wizard?"

The werewolf regarded Mike carefully as if waiting for something else, a question unasked. Mike had his secrets no one knew, things he wasn't prepared to tell anyone werewolf, vampire or lover. "Just that and nothing else." He was aware Nicholas was examining him in the same detail that the werewolf did.

With a flick of his eyes to Nicholas, he addressed Mike. "Why are you here?"

Nicholas interrupted before Mike could speak. "We hunt rogues it was not our intention to violate your territory."

The werewolf ignored the vampire. "Is this true?" He asked Mike.

"Yes."

The werewolf shook his head as if debating something. "Many new vampires in this city, many smelling of the sea."

"That has us worried as well. Would you care to join our hunt?"

"No vampires can clean up their own mess." He looked at Mike than at Nicholas. "I killed two freshly turned, they yours?"

Nicholas shook his head. "I wouldn't do that I don't like to share my territory with any vampire, one I created, or any other."

"Well!" The werewolf replied. "One of yours is."

Mike was uncomfortable. He knew most of the established vampires in this city. He was sure none of them would do this. This didn't take into account the new comers.

"Would the others co-operate?" He asked Nicholas.

"No we don't trust each other that much."

The werewolf laughed harshly. "Well you're on your own." And turning was gone.

"That was interesting Michealas, I was sure he would have attacked straight away. I sensed his heartbeat, he was ready to." Nicholas said, keeping watch on the way the werewolf had disappeared to. He turned to Mike scrutinising him carefully. "He was most interested in you." He sighed. "Your secrets are yours to keep, but for the sake of our friendship please don't keep it all to yourself."

"There are some things I've even kept hidden from Sarah."

Nicholas glanced back to the body. "I'll continue to search and let you know what I find."

"I'll try to convince the others to help."

"Good luck Michealas though I don't hold out much hope. There are one or two that might listen as for the others. Well I wish you all the best."

"I have to try for Sarah if nothing else."

"I'll help the best I can, if you need anything just ask?"

"Well there is one thing I need?"

"That is?"

"A lift home otherwise it's a long walk."

Nicholas laughed. "Granted."

Mike invoked a spell, there was a flash, and the body was reduced to ash. Slowly they walked back to the car there was little they could do here. If it were rogue vampires then in daylight Sarah would be safe.

Sarah took Alison into the shop the woman glanced around surprised by what she could see. Sarah ignored her she was more concerned by what Mike had said. They never came to see him he had to go to them. It worried her even more. She walked up stairs to the sitting room unaware that Alison had followed her.

"You live here?"

Sarah stared at the woman. "Yes!" She answered.

Alison took off her coat and sat down on the couch with it folded across her knees. Out of politeness, Sarah had to ask. "Would you like a coffee?"

Alison nodded and licked her lips nervously. "Nice place."

Sarah sighed and went off to the kitchen. How long she had spent in there she had no idea, when she returned Alison was asleep lying on the couch, the now empty hip flask on the floor. Sarah bent close to the woman and stepped back, her nose crinkling at the woman's breath, it stank of booze. She was unsure what to do, she hadn't the strength to lift her and put her into bed. She hadn't even got the spare bed prepared. Leaving Alison to sleep she made the bed and sat in Mike's armchair a book in hand. All she could do was wait. Wait for Alison to wake, wait for Mike to return. The clock on the wall ticked away the minutes.

Mike returned home to find Sarah fast asleep in his chair and Alison sleeping soundly on the couch. He woke Sarah. "Get yourself to bed my love."

Sarah yawned regarding Mike's face. "What time is it?"

"Late get yourself to bed." He paused, glancing towards Alison. "Did you make up a bed for Alison?"

Sarah frowned. "Of course I did! Where did you go?"

Mike shrugged knowing what Sarah would say. He told her about what Nicholas had found, and what he had implied. Sarah got out of the chair and walked to the window staring out into the darkness muttering a stream of unintelligible words under her breath. Mike could see her glancing around her hands opening and closing into fists. There was movement on the couch. Alison sat up surveying her surroundings. She stretched and yawned.

"Hello I thought I heard voices?" She stared at Mike. "Thank you."

He gave her a brief smile. "Sarah would you show Alison to her room."

Whatever Sarah was going to say was put aside as she took her out of the room. His last sight of her was the expression on her face. He knew she hadn't finished with what she wanted to say and for that he would pay later.

Mike was at the bedroom window looking out when Sarah slipped quietly in the room. From past experience she knew he knew she was there. Mike had broken her heart yet again, she loved him deeply, yet he had to go and solve other people's problems. She amended that thought, other creature's problems and shivered. As much as she hated them Mike was right. She wasn't about to let him know this. Her fingers itched to throw something at him. Spotting a china vase a Christmas present from Mike she picked it up and threw it putting all her anger behind it. She knew as soon as it left her fingers it would never reach him, but she felt better for doing it. He turned quicker than humanly possible and gestured. The vase halted in mid air returning to the table it has stood on. She opened her mouth to yell and scream at him. The expression on his face stopped her. The extreme sadness she saw melted her heart gathering herself to him, she cried into his chest. She felt him stoke her hair gently and comfort her. Later she woke Mike's side of the bed was empty, and light streamed though a partly opened curtain. She shivered it was cold.

Last night's snow had melted away with the morning. She felt safe it was daylight she always felt safe in the daylight no vampires here. In the kitchen Mike was cooking, Alison was seated at the table a cup of coffee in front of her still wearing the clothes she had worn last night. She loathed going back and fetching something to wear. She was determined never to go back to that place ever again. She watched Mike at work she had to admit he was the perfect gentleman. It surprised her that he was the one doing the cooking and from her talk with Sarah it looked like she never lifted a finger to help. She watched Sarah glide in stepping as if she was a proper lady. All Mike seemed to do was smile at Sarah, in Alison's eyes she seemed to treat him like her personal possession.

Sitting in the sitting room Alison was bored, Sarah had gone out shopping to get her some new clothes. It had amused her to see Mike tell Sarah to do it and the annoyed expression on her face. It was a surprise that he owned this bookshop and was busily working hard. There were a number of customers the shop was quite popular. She wandered down and watched Mike work.

"Need a hand?" She asked, she wanted to do something anything to keep her mind away from wanting a drink. A quick search upstairs revealed this place was drier than the Arizona desert. Mike smiled and agreed, he noted Alison was a quick learner one of those that threw her whole heart into her work. His customers were full of praise for his new assistant. By mutual agreement, he no longer called her Alison, but Anna a name off a book she had seen on one of the shelves. Sarah was the only fly in the ointment. Alison could feel the sting of her jealously seeing her and Mike working together.

Sarah had words with Alison putting her in her place Mike was hers. Hopefully the woman knew that and would act properly. He had talked to her earlier telling her he was going out. He told her his reasons and why he had to, she had pleaded with him but to no avail. She watched him dress her heart full of worry. Her greatest fear was one day he would go out and never come back. They had discussed his other problem he would one day have to hide. As she aged, he would remain the same. The knowledge wounded her heart but she knew he loved her too deeply to just abandon her. It was cold in the street outside the shop as he waited for the cab not as cold as the night before. As he waited he became aware he was being watched from the shadows not a malign feeling just a feeling of being watched. He straightened up slowly the words of a searching spell on his lips then it was gone. Whatever it was it wasn't human, then again it wasn't a vampire if it had been a vampire he would have never have known it was there. A fact that frustrated him after all this time one failure he had no answer for.

Getting out of the cab, he glanced around at his surroundings. It was a better neighbourhood the buildings were definitely classy Sarah would like to live here. Mike wasn't here to buy real estate. A vampire lived here, one that he could at least rely on to listen to him. The apartment he was after was on the top floor. A little metal elevator was his route to the floor he wanted. At the end of a dimly lit corridor was a black painted door. He knocked on the door and waited. A short brown haired woman opened the door a crack and peered out.

"Yes?"

"Hello Eve, Joseph in tonight?" Mike knew what the woman she was the vampire's guardian or confrerie, as they liked to call themselves. A sisterhood of those that watched over vampires servicing their every need. Their reward a sip of vampire blood every now and again making them stronger and faster than normal humans. It also slowed the ageing making them seem younger than they really were.

Eve frowned clearly unhappy to see him. Unconsciously she touched the high necked collar she wore. "Yeah he's in the bath."

Mike recognised the gesture. The confrerie he talked to all did that. As if checking that their marks were hidden. Mike guessed from her expression he had interrupted something possibly the vampire's night in, with her as the climax of the evening's events. "I won't keep him long."

She sighed, opening the door letting him in. He slipped past her she closed the door locking it behind him. Mike caught a glimpse of the gun as she shoved it back into the pocket of the apron.

"Trouble?" He asked her.

"Talk to Joe." She replied leading him into the sitting room.

Mike waited Eve served him a coffee while the vampire dressed.

"Wizard? What brings you to our door." The speaker had a German accent much stronger than Sarah's.

Mike gazed at the vampire confronting him. Joseph was tall with dark hair shot grey at the temples, handsome to women had it not been for the pale skin and eyes that seemed to look through you. Mike told Joseph about what Nicholas had discovered. The vampire was concerned.

"It would be now?" Joseph apologised. "I can't help you. As much as I agree with the Russian it's the wrong time."

"I saw Eve with a gun."

Joseph frowned. "I told her it's no defence against one of us."

"You having trouble with vampires?" Mike asked him.

"No just old trouble with one."

"You want me to speak to her again?" Mike remembered the last time he had spoken to this particular vampire he still felt the bruises. She had politely listened and then when he had finished, all smiles she threw him bodily out the door and down a flight of stairs.

"No I'll handle it. We should be all right as long as she stays on her side of the river. I've got you to thank for that."

"How so?"

"That last talk must have got though. She's not crossed the river but it hasn't stopped her from sending a man to kill Amethyst. I've had to take her with me when I go hunting." Amethyst was Joseph's name for Eve.

Mike wasn't so sure it was her. He knew she would rather take direct action herself rather than using a proxy. "I'm sorry you can't help. Be careful Joseph, watch your back."

"Thank you Wizard be safe stay safe 'till night falls."

Mike left Joseph's apartment and hailed a cab home. Again he was aware he was being watched but by who he was no nearer the answer.

Mike returned home at a loss he was relying on Joseph. If he had problems it was best to leave it, vampires didn't really like his interference in what seemed to be their own affairs. Sarah was waiting for him a slight smile on her face as she guessed that Mike had failed and was relieved that had been unable to get the vampire to help him. If only he did the same with the others. She secretly hoped that this would be the end of it, once she got rid of the Mayweather woman she could settle down to a peaceful life with the man she loved deeply. Alison sat at the breakfast table the paper spread in front of her. The fear in the pit of her stomach had eased the paper was full of the report that a local racketeer and two of his henchmen had walked into a police station and confessed. Not only to their activities but also to her murder. Whatever Mike was he made good his promise she owed him for that at least.

"You look remarkably cheerful for a dead woman?" Mike smiled at her.

On impish impulse, she kissed Mike well aware of the daggered looks Sarah was giving her. Despite the glare, she was in a buoyant mood.

"Where will you go now you're free?" Sarah asked her, her words a direct challenge to what she considered a violation of her territory.

Alison returned her look with interest. "I'd like to stay on until I get back on my feet." She replied. "If Mike doesn't mind."

"I could do with the help in the shop." Mike remarked thoughtfully. Unfortunately, he had his back to Sarah so never saw the horrified expression on her face. Alison thought, that is one to me. The day passed in a blur to her she actually enjoyed the work. Sarah was out visiting her friend Cissy. Alison was sitting in the lounge a book in her hand when Mike walked in coat on. She put her book down regarding the serious look on his face.

"I'll be out for a while. When Sarah comes back make sure she locks up behind her." He frowned. "If anyone comes to the door other than Sarah do not let them in."

"Yes Mike, I learned about security from Flanagan." Adding. "I hope he takes a long drop with a short rope for what he did to me." She stared at Mike licking her lips a habit she seemed to have. "You must believe me I really didn't know about the other girls?" She hesitated. "You didn't make him say that did you?"

"Except making him believe he killed you, every other word out of his mouth was his own."

She shivered watching Mike turn and leave. He at least seemed to genuinely care for her even if it wasn't love she was grateful for that.

Mike left the shop and almost immediately his watcher was back and was away before he could cast a spell to trace it. He walked the streets aware for danger. How long he walked for or even what time it was he had no idea. As he walked past an alley, he heard someone crying. Cautiously he entered the alley well aware it could be a trap. Invoking a spell, he trod lightly into the dark of the alley. In one trash filled corner, he found what he was seeking. A woman huddled in a corner, Mike approached cautiously aware this was a trap. One thing he was certain of was that the woman wasn't technically alive. It wasn't one of the locals he was sure about that. Her skin hadn't taken on the pallor associated with long term vampirism.

"Hello?" He said, the woman continued crying. Mike stepped closer. In a blink she leapt at him, hands clenched into claws, her mouth open, preparing to sink her teeth into his throat. Her lunge rebounded off Mike's shield propelling her backwards into the path of a broken wooden chair leg. The wood punched through her chest and for an instant, before she crumbled into dust she smiled, as if at last she had found peace. He didn't have time to react, as two more vampires crashed into his shield. Invoking a spell, he held one hard against a wall. The other clawed futilely as his shield, unable to comprehend why he couldn't reach his target. Mike concluded that both these vampires were too crazed to provide him with any answers. Grimly he came to a decision they would have to die. Unlike humans, his magic would not work on them, nor could he afford to release them. With a chill in his spine and a sinking in the gut of his stomach, he invoked a spell consigning both vampires to the flames. Cancelling his shield, he stepped away from the piles of smoking ash. Again before he could react, something dark and furred, streaked out of the darkness bowling him over, and then it was gone. Shaken Mike picked himself up and walked out of the alley and turned. He stopped and stared, there had been another vampire one he had missed. It was on its knees scrabbling at its throat. Something had torn a huge chunk out of it. Black blood spurted out of the open wound, staining the ground around it. Mike wasn't sure who was the more surprised, he or the vampire. Someone, or something had saved him Mike suspected it was his unseen watcher. Whatever it was, it was fast and strong. He re-invoked his shield, as the vampire crumbled to dust. Four down and eight more to go, if the bite marks on the victim Nicholas had showed him was anything to go by. As he walked home he felt this would not be the end of it only the beginning.

Sarah returned home from her friend Cissy's, to find that Mike had gone out, but to where he hadn't told Alison, or she was not telling. She knew it to be the former although she wanted to believe the latter. She itched to have it out with Alison, but Mike's lessons were too ingrained for her to act unladylike in front of Alison. She was sure Alison knew it as well. Both women stood toe to toe, daring the other to start first. Sarah wasn't sure what set her off, finally her patience snapped, and she lunged for Alison. The woman was quick. In a fury, both women were at each other, reacting to their baser instincts. The fight didn't last long both women stood back breathing hard, and looking a mess. Sarah sported a black eye, and Alison's injuries consisted of a split lip and scratches.

"I'm glad we got that settled." Alison told Sarah, in an all too quiet voice. "I'm staying whatever you think."

Sarah hissed. "He's mine!"

Alison smiled. "I wonder how long he'll stay yours if you continue treating him like you own him? From what I can gather he loves you deeply, yet you continue to treat him like a possession, an object for you to show off, like some sort of a trophy."

Sarah hated to agree with Alison. She had to endure the pain of the truth. The sound of footsteps on the stairs alerted her to Mike's return. A quick glance at her rival indicated that both had the same thought, and that was to keep it from Mike. Mike was aware of the stony silence that greeted him. Taking in the dishevelled appearance of both women, he guessed Sarah's temper had got the better of her. He decided against asking questions, keeping what had happened to him to himself, in Sarah's current state he wasn't sure how she would react.

When they went to bed Sarah was extremely passionate as if she wanted to keep hold of him at any cost. All day in the shop Alison remained quiet keeping to herself, at times licking her lips. She desperately needed a drink to calm her frayed nerves. She had been so sure that Sarah had said something to Mike, taking in her triumphant smile at the breakfast table this morning yet he had treated her no differently. The evening came and Mike walked down the stairs dressed to go out. Sarah followed closely her hand resting on his arm, pleading for him not to go. Mike listened carefully. Several times almost turning back, and going back up the stairs, but he hardened his resolve, it was for her he had to do this. One glance into her tear filled eyes nearly broke him, then remembering his encounter the evening before, he stiffened it was hard not to see the expression on the female vampire's face as she died. He wouldn't wish it on anyone, and he had to protect Sarah, he had no desire to see her go the same way. As he waited for a cab he sensed his watcher was back and as he stepped forward, the sense was gone, moving too swiftly for him to find out what it was. Nicholas was waiting for him in the little church that the vampire had made his lair. In all the years that Mike had known Nicholas the vampire had lived here. The stories about vampires being allergic to holy symbols was proved a lie. Nicholas despite being a vampire actually believed in God and regularly attended midnight mass. Nicholas listened with growing concern to Mike's account of his battle with the three vampires, and how he was saved from the forth.

"I thought you could detect us?" Nicholas asked concerned.

"I can't it's a failing I have. I can't detect vampires. I know if I see one, other than that you're invisible to me?"

"Michealas?" Nicholas was unhappy. "Please don't do that to me. I asked you if you had any secrets. I really thought you could. I can't have you put yourself in danger like that, not for one of us?"

"I never did it for you, it was for Sarah."

Nicholas frowned and sighed. "I can see your point." He stared wistfully into the distance as if remembering something. "Please Michealas no more secrets there is only one of you." He shrugged, "Who else would I be able to play cards with."

Nicholas was right he trusted this vampire, one of the few he could really trust. So he told him about how he became a wizard and a few other things, some Nicholas had heard before, one revelation shocked him to his very core.

"Two hundred years?"

"Yes that's the life span of a wizard, I've nearly lived half that."

Nicholas regarded the wizard he considered a friend carefully. "I swear here in the sight of God that I will never reveal this to any soul living or dead unless you ask me to."

Mike was sure Nicholas would keep his oath. He was thankful that he had someone he could rely on to help him protect the city. It was a shame he couldn't convince any of the others. With the help of the tall Russian vampire, they continued their hunt.

Two weeks passed without any new leads the bad weather keeping everyone in doors. It was as if the rogue vampires had gone to ground. Nicholas insisted on coming with Mike every time he went out hunting, for once, he was glad of the company. Things seemed to have settled down between Sarah and Alison, they were all grins and smiles Mike knew better, he was sure they were holding on to their tempers ready to be at each others throats at the slightest excuse. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror frowning he was going out, one of Cissy's gatherings she had invited Sarah, and as per usual not him. He didn't want to go but he had promised Sarah. She sauntered in from the little dressing room that led to the bathroom. He smiled seeing her reflection, watching him watching her. She looked refined in the little black silk dress it suited her. Although her clothes were the latest fashion she always insisted on carrying the little aquamarine beaded purse he bought her one Christmas, and the gold locket, another gift from him that he had bought for her three years after he rescued her from her attackers. He noted she wore it more often now, as if a reminder of how they met, more so since Alison had come into their lives.

"Don't frown so, Mike it spoils your handsome features."

"Do we have to go?" He asked her. "I know how much she detests my presence."

Sarah sighed. "How often do we seem to plough over this same ground Mike?" Then giving him a critical look. "Come here your tie is crooked."

Patiently Mike stood while Sarah fussed with his tie. He inhaled, taking in her scent, the floral smell she always seemed to favour.

Sarah drove to Cissy's as she always did, never letting Mike learn. On the several occasions, he asked her to teach him, but she refused saying she would take him anywhere he wanted to go. She had drawn a line at taking him around to any of the vampires. He had never asked her again, taking in her fear of them, he loved her too deeply to do that to her. They arrived early, Cissy had asked them to bring two of the crates that Sarah stored in the cellar for her. Cissy embraced Sarah kissing her on both cheeks and totally ignoring Mike. He did what he normally did as these functions stand in a corner looking bored, watching Sarah. Cissy gathered her friend to her, and surrounded by fawning admirers they chatted. Mike moved away and circulated with Cissy's other guests, aiming for several men in police uniforms standing talking to others in black tuxedos, like the clothes that Mike wore. It amused him that the police were flouting the very laws they were supposed to uphold. One of the men was wearing the uniform of the Deputy Police Commissioner. He was close enough to overhear him tell another man about the mysterious number of odd deaths in the city, bodies with their throats torn out, and blood drained from the bodies. Mike realised the rogues hadn't gone to ground just moved locations. Little wonder he and Nicholas couldn't locate them, they were looking in the wrong area. Mike listened on with growing horror. They were talking about bringing in hunters, and blaming it on wolves. He was certain it would be a disaster for the werewolf community. Any werewolf shot in wolf form, would change to human, then the secret would be out, and that also put the vampires in danger. He had to get a warning out to the werewolves and the sooner the better. Sarah watched Mike approach a growing chill spreading into the pit of her stomach. He had that expression again, something had happened. Desperately she hoped it wasn't another Alison. It would be too much.

"Get your coat Sarah. I'm afraid something come up." He gave Cissy his most chilling smile. The woman actually shivered, going pale.

Getting her coat Sarah hurried after Mike. She found him waiting by the car.

"Mike?" Trying hard to keep the fear out of her voice.

His hard expression softened. "I'm sorry my love I didn't mean to frighten you. You know I wouldn't do that to you."

"What is it Mike not them again."

He shook his head knowing that she would not mention what they were. "No someone else, innocents that were never a part of this."

"Alison?"

"Not her someone else." He stared into the night. "Just take me home."

Sarah hugged him, kissing him for all it was worth. She was truly frightened, all her fears coming to the surface. Mike was getting himself into something deep. She feared that she was going to lose him forever. Reluctantly she drove home, Mike silent, sitting deep in thought.

Alison was bored she had the whole place to herself. She wondered from room to room exploring, for a while she lay on the big four poster staring at the ceiling. Finally, she found herself in the cellar examining the crates in the corner. A pry bar, lay across one crate, her curiosity getting the better of her, she opened one, inside were sixteen bottles of whiskey. Her hands shook as she pulled a bottle out, holding it up to the light. Nervously she licked her lips, opening the bottle she put it to her lips, intending to take only a small swallow. That was how Mike found her lying on the floor of the cellar, an empty bottle at her side. The morning sun woke Alison, remembering the night before she went pale. Someone had put her to bed. She blushed horrified that her thirst had betrayed her in that way. Mike had taken her in, and this was how she had repaid him, by downing a bottle of whiskey. He was unconcerned about that, he had already spoken to Sarah about it. As far as he was concerned, it was Cissy's fault for making Sarah keep the stuff here. Sarah watched Mike leave taking her heart with him. He told her he had business downtown, as it was day she knew it wasn't with any vampires. She watched Alison at work, hatching a plot to rid herself of her rival once and for all. Alison had a weakness and Sarah was determined to use it to make the woman leave.

Mike walked the streets looking for one of the werewolves, they had to be warned. It was cold, but for a wizard like Mike it didn't touch him. At last, he sensed a werewolf close by. He scanned the people around him. He singled out a middle-aged man in a brown coat and hat. A werewolf, somehow the werewolf sensed him, and hurried away he followed. He cursed himself for being upwind of the werewolf. He should have thought. Following the creature, he was in time to see it duck down an alley. He trailed behind, and as he entered the alley he invoked a shield spell. The difference between this encounter and that of his with those rogue vampires was that he could sense the werewolf, so knew exactly where it was at all times. A pile of clothes lay discarded on the floor. Mike knew a werewolf had to strip naked before it could change form. He was ready when the wolf leapt from behind the trashcans. Invoking a spell he cast it at the wolf, it hung in mid air vainly scrabbling at nothing.

"I'm going to put you down, don't do anything stupid."

The wolf growled as he lowered the creature to the ground. Arms folded he watched as it transformed, and dressed. The werewolf's eyes darted around, torn between attacking or fleeing.

"What do you want?" The werewolf growled it was a challenge.

Mike had dealings with werewolves before, he remembered the advice a werewolf Patriarch had given him about dealing with his kind. "You will take me to your pack leader!" He replied, putting enough menace in his voice to cow the werewolf.

It cringed noting that Mike was the dominant one.

"Yes!" It growled.

Mike followed the werewolf through the streets. It led him to a large rundown house in a part of the city that had seen better days. He sensed many wolves in the house. Prepared Mike stepped into the sitting room, immediately werewolves surrounded him. Growling and sniffing, unsure whether he was a threat or something else. Silence fell, as a werewolf with a female in the late stages of pregnancy walked in. Mike smiled. He had encountered this particular werewolf Patriarch before.

The werewolf smiled, although it didn't touch his eyes. The pregnant female slipped back, and the pack moved to protect her, as the males surrounded Mike. He ignored the pack concentrating on the Patriarch.

"What are you?"

Mike sighed, until he gave the werewolf some sort of answer he would get no conversation. "I'm a shape shifter."

The answer seemed to satisfy the Patriarch. "I'm Greymain this is my pack. I ask you now why are you here." He gave the werewolf that Mike had forced to take him a significant look. The werewolf cringed looking suitably chastened.

"He had no choice I was too strong for him."

Greymain nodded thoughtfully. "Why! Are! You! Here?" emphasising every word.

"A warning." All around Mike the werewolves growled, and poised to attack.

Greymain held up his hand, and the growls subsided.

Mike continued. "The humans have called in hunters, they seem to think that the deaths were caused by wolves and not vampires. I came to warn you to be careful."

"Why?"

"A repayment of a debt." Mike gazed at Greymain watching the expression on his face, the werewolf quickly masked it. "I would ask you to pass it on to the other packs. What affects them affects you where humans are involved."

Greymain gave Mike a nod. As quickly as he had entered he found himself back out on the street. Glancing up to the house, he observed that it looked grey and silent.

Returning home, Mike expected to walk in on a fight between Anna as he now called her, and Sarah. Both women were all smiles Mike thought he could smell brandy on Anna's breath. Sarah felt slightly guilty about that. It was part of her plan to rid herself of the woman she labelled her rival. Although Alison, Sarah refused to see her as anything else, had made no move to separate Mike from her. She seemed happy to be away from her old life. To Sarah this was a ploy to lull her into a false sense of security then strike. So she kept the woman's hip flash full, waiting for the best time to rid herself of Alison, knowing full well Mike would not approve. She loved Mike, but she couldn't help herself, she was jealous of all the attention she thought he was lavishing on Alison. Another night passed, Mike accompanied by Nicholas, roamed the streets searching for the rogues. They managed to put an end to another three, but were no nearer to finding the vampire creating them. He was more frustrated by the lack of co-operation from the local vampires. He had spoken to the vampire that had his friend Joseph worried about. She had been all smiles and promises, then as before had thrown Mike out her house. He was limping and could still feel the bruises. Nicholas was unhappy.

"I told you she wouldn't listen. She hates the Hannoverian with a vengeance. I did warn you?"

Mike shrugged. "Why listen politely then do that. It doesn't make sense?"

"I've never had the opportunity to talk to her, you know we never will?" Nicholas replied.

Mike had to agree that vampires kept to themselves. They walked on into the night continuing their private war.

Mike was behind the counter with Alison, when two people a man and woman, walked into his shop. He knew instantly they weren't human. They both glanced around sniffing the air. He noticed both were keeping clear of Anna, werewolves' noses more sensitive than human.

He spoke to Anna. "I'll serve these two, why don't you get yourself a coffee."

Anna nodded gratefully Mike noted she was looking tired. Both werewolves waited until Anna had gone before speaking to him.

"Our Patriarch sent us. Thanks for the warning, the Patriarch Greymain spoke to our Patriarch who spoke to us."

"Thank your Patriarch for me."

The male seemed pleased but his companion was watching someone behind Mike. He sensed her presence, Sarah was there and gone before he could speak to her.

"That one smells of you." The female werewolf said suddenly.

"My mate."

"She smells as if she wants your cubs."

Mike was taken aback he had forgotten how forward a werewolf could be if it felt it was safe. It had lead to several embarrassing incidents with the two teenage daughters of a werewolf he had spent some time with. He would have stayed longer but his presence was putting a strain on the pack. "She can't have them."

"Get yourself another mate, the other female, the one that smelled bad would be a better prospect."

"I'll keep that in mind." He did not intend to do that to Sarah, liking Anna as a friend but nothing more than that. The werewolves satisfied they had delivered their message left. Later that evening he spoke to Sarah, Anna had retired early citing that her head hurt. Mike surmised the reason, the smell of alcohol stronger on her breath than it had been earlier. Sarah needed reassurance he was certain of that.

"You know I'll never desert you."

Sarah straightened up on the couch staring deep into his eyes. "Who said that? Alison?"

"Two werewolves?"

"God Mike not them again it's bad enough as it is with you out nearly every night."

"I have to, I need to protect you."

Sarah's voice wavered putting the fear she felt into it. "Couldn't you do that better if you were here?"

"If it was only you I would, there are others, those unfortunates that were forced into becoming something they had no idea existed."

Suspicion suddenly bloomed on Sarah's face. "Those two earlier? What did they want?"

"Just thanks for my warning. The female said you wanted my cubs as she called them."

Sarah blushed, she knew as well as Mike the reasons why. She hated it as much as he did but things were not to be. "And they said?" All too lightly.

Mike winced knowing full well that she was about to explode. "They told me to find another. Sarah I love you and always will. I look to you to keep me human, otherwise I would have become an uncaring monster years ago."

She shuddered Mike was correct again. For once, she wished he wasn't so blunt about it. He noted Sarah was more passionate that night as if she was determined to keep him at any cost.

Another day passed Sarah seemed to be paying him a lot more attention, as though she had something on her mind. To Mike's eyes she seemed to be happier, as if she had come to a decision. What surprised him the most was her eagerness to get him to leave the shop and go out hunting with Nicholas, none of the usual pleas to stay, and that concerned Mike more than anything else, he was tempted to stay, but Sarah practically shoved him through the door.

Mike's last words to her were. "If I lose you, my life will have no meaning."

Her reply was a lingering kiss and a promise to be here when he returned. With a heavy heart, Mike walked to his rendezvous with Nicholas. Sarah's sudden change troubled him more than anything else.

Nicholas sensed it and asked him. "Michealas what ails you?"

Mike told him about the werewolves, and Sarah's reaction to what they said. "I'll never understand the heart of woman."

Nicholas laughed although there was no humour in it. "I'm hundreds of years older than you and I still don't." It was as near as the vampire got to say how old he was.

They continued their search.

Nicholas was the first to become aware they were being followed. He suddenly turned staring into the darkness.

"Werewolf behind us."

Mike turned and invoked a spell sensing the werewolf, he noted that he had sensed this particular werewolf before. "Greymain Patriarch of the pack I warned about the mortals."

Wizard and vampire waited for the werewolf to approach. Greymain walked up to them an angry expression on his face.

"Vampires have attacked one of my pack! He crawled home to bring me the news, he won't make the night."

"I can heal him." Mike said.

"It's not our way."

"That's crazy!" Nicholas snorted. "No vampire in its right mind drinks werewolf blood it does things to us."

"What things?" Both Mike and Greymain asked at the same time.

"In some it causes a reaction to blood, we can't drink it even the mere thought makes us ill until the hunger gets the better of us and sends us mad." Adding. "I've seen it happen I had to stake the vampire. Elders are not so badly affected. The sickness passes, but an elder drinking werewolf blood has a tendency to laugh at the most ridiculous things, frankly I'd rather go hungry than touch werewolf blood."

Greymain seemed to absorb this information. It gave Mike an idea, he wasn't sure whether the vampire or the werewolf would go along with it. They desperately needed a tracker. The werewolves were the best neither he nor Nicholas had any tracking skills. He was blind to vampires unless he actually saw them. To Nicholas tracking mortals was easy he just had to bite them to know where they were. Other vampires was something he would have trouble doing, not that any self-respecting vampire would bite another.

Mike asked the question. "Would you be prepared to help our hunt." He explained the reasons.

Greymain stared at them. "My pack would never approve. I can't ask them to do this."

Mike's heart sank. "I had to ask." He told Greymain.

"I never said I wouldn't." He glanced at Nicholas. "It would be a novel experience working with a vampire. I agree until the danger is past, I will track for you."

Mike felt better although he had an odd feeling that something had happened that was important. With his worry about Sarah, he couldn't be sure as to what it was.

Sarah waited until she was sure that Mike had left before putting the first part of her plan into action. She hated herself for what she was about to do, Alison had to go, it was putting a strain on her hold over Mike, his comments about what those creatures said was the last straw. She shuddered not for the first time she wished that Mike were just an ordinary man, he wasn't and she would have to live with that. Silently she watched Alison seated on the couch reading, one eye on the radio. She glanced up at Sarah then back to the book she was so engrossed in. Sarah's fingers gripped tightly on the full bottle of bourbon hidden behind her back. She smiled and walked across the room placing the bottle on the coffee table in front of Alison. Noting the bottle had Alison's full attention.

"I thought we could have a drink together." She told Alison.

Alison put her book down and stared at the bottle, licking her lips nervously. A flicker of suspicion crossed her face, but was replaced by a thirst. "That would be lovely thank you."

Sarah smiled pouring a more than generous helping into glass in front of Alison. She downed it in one go. Sarah still smiling refilled her glass.

Later while Alison was downing a second bottle Sarah slipped upstairs to Alison's room a large suitcase in her hand. She packed all the things she had to buy for the woman, and with one last glance around she exited the room. She added four bottles to the case before putting it into the back of the car. Alison was roaring drunk by the time Sarah returned to the sitting room. It was an effort to get Alison to stand but Sarah did it. It was even harder to put her coat on and bundle the woman into the car, all the time worrying that Mike would return and catch her. She felt bad enough as it was, but there would only ever be one woman in Mike's life, her. The drive through the darkened streets was fraught with tension, Sarah worried she would spot Mike and him her. The hotel was a long way from the shop, and Sarah thought it the ideal place to drop Alison off. With the help of the hotel clerk, she managed to put Alison in a room. Before she left, she placed a hand full of money in the pocket of Alison's coat along with a short but curt note telling her to take the money and leave town. Satisfied she had dealt with her rival she drove home. She couldn't shake off the feeling it would not be the last of it. Near dawn, she felt the bed rock as Mike slipped in she reached out touching him with her hand. She felt his hand grip hers in a reassuring manner. Sleep took her safe in the knowledge she had done what she had for Mike.

Quietly Sarah slipped down stairs, Mike was still asleep. The mailman had been and gone a pile of mail on the doormat. Picking it up, she went back up stairs to the kitchen. As quiet as she had tried to be Mike was up and awake.

"Alison?"

Sarah had been dreading this moment. "Gone home to her parents."

Mike stared hard. "Oh yes?" He sounded as if he doubted her story.

She found herself looking at the mail in her hands rather than meet Mike's eyes. Shifting thought the mail she noticed a letter postmarked England. Her blood chilled news of the worst possible type for her. The last time he had such a letter it was from someone across the ocean, it had taken her a lot of persuading to make him not go. So engrossed in the mail she hadn't noticed Mike move. Gently he pulled the offending letter from the pile.

"Let it go." He spoke quietly with enough iron in it to make Sarah let go.

She scrutinised his expression as he opened the letter and read though its contents. Suddenly he got up and left the room. Sarah started to go after him, but one look at his face she decided it would be better to leave him alone.

Mike sat in the stairs and re-read the letter feeling the pain in his heart. He had no idea how long he sat there. The bell rang and the door rattled several times but he didn't answer. He turned the piece of paper repeatedly in his hand, at a loss as what to do. There was a creak and Sarah sat next to him her arm across his shoulders and concern on her face.

"Want to talk about it?" She asked carefully.

Mike nodded it was always better to talk. It was inevitable people grew old, and died all except him or the vampires. It was the type of news he had not wanted to hear.

"Anne's dead." It hurt, he considered her a friend, and even after all this time he still felt guilty about her hand and the scars.

Sarah froze replaying his words in her head she knew little about his life before he met her, she hadn't wanted to ask knowing she wouldn't like the answers. "Anne?"

"Lady Anne Winterbourne."

"How?" Sarah asked before she could stop herself.

"Age." He spoke softly, "It reaches us all eventually even me. Sir Charles says she died peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her children and grandchildren." Mike swore. "Christ I didn't even know she had any children so wrapped up in my war with the Cabal."

Sarah heard about the Cabal it was old news to her, the revelation that Mike had another woman before her stung her to her core. "The children?" The words out of her mouth before she could stop them.

"I suspect her husband provided her with them. But I can't help but feel responsible. I abandoned her when she needed me the most."

"I …" Sarah's voice trailed off.

"If I hadn't interfered she would never have been maimed. She lost her hand, and her back was scarred because I failed to protect her." He inhaled deeply. "Just as I got Molly killed."

Sarah stood up not wanting to hear more. Mike lapsed into silence deep in his thoughts. Day turned to night it was late when Mike left the shop. Nicholas was waiting for him as was Greymain. He explained his reasons, and of the two Nicholas understood the most. The three walked into the darkness to continue their gristly work.

For Mike life carried on days in the shop. Nights hunting with Greymain and Nicholas. Although Sarah had her reasons for throwing Alison out, Mike couldn't reconcile that Sarah had sent her into danger. He had told her it was dangerous, and although Alison's tormentors had their taste of justice they still had friends one of them could recognise her and act inappropriately. Greymain was as good as his word helping them track. The thing that surprised Mike and Nicholas the most was the night of the full moon. They had not expected Greymain to help, most of the city werewolves hid from the moon, to the surprise of Mike and Nicholas he arrived at the spot tracking as he did before. Not in his human form but as a wolf, Greymain's only concession to the moon. Weeks passed Mike was starting to despair no matter how hard he pressed the other vampires they refused to help. There was no let up in the number of rogues they killed. They had to find the vampire creating them and destroy it. The heavy snow drove most normal people from the streets. The year turned, then two weeks past the New Year they had a break through. It was the night of the full moon and Greymain was in his wolf form. The clouds had departed leaving it clear, the light of the moon making it almost as bright as day in the open. The shadows were made even darker by the brightness of the night. The three trudged through the slush of the streets, here and there snow piled up in drifts. Already tonight, they had killed four vampires. Mike had dealt with two, Nicholas killed one and Greymain destroyed the fourth. For each vampire, Nicholas had said a prayer. It was one of the things that Mike liked about the vampire, despite what he had become, he still believed. Suddenly ahead of them, they heard the sound of a shot and a scream. They raced towards the sound, Mike had trouble keeping up with the werewolf and the vampire. Breathless he reached them just as Nicholas pulled a gun and police cap out of the snow. Greymain was sniffing the trampled snow around the spot.

Nicholas glanced at Mike. "The mortal shot one before they took him." He frowned. "Why didn't they just drain him here?"

"Possibly their master wants to create more. We have killed a few."

Nicholas examined the cap turning it around in his hand. "Caterina will be pissed."

Mike shuddered Caterina was one vampire that didn't like him she had told him this to his face although oddly she never attacked him. Mike knew she would go out of her way to mark any policemen crossing her territory, the others knew about it but not why. He had asked but she refused to answer.

Something drew both the attentions of Nicholas and Greymain away from the scene both peering down the alley. A heavily pregnant woman bundled in winter woollens stared in their direction routed to the spot in fear. She opened her mouth to scream Mike invoked a spell freezing her in place. Nicholas walked over to the woman the frown on his face deepening. With a growl, Greymain placed himself between Nicholas and the woman.

"He thinks you may cause the mortal harm." Mike told him.

"Why?"

"Werewolves are very protective with pregnant females." Mike knew the reason a werewolf had told him. A lot of werewolf cubs were never carried to full term. Mike suspected this was why Greymain was protecting the woman the concern for his own mate foremost in his mind.

Nicholas watched Greymain. "I have no desire to harm the mortal we do not take the blood of those with child. I merely wish to make her forget and leave."

Greymain pulled back watching Nicholas closely. Mike released his hold on the woman. Nicholas spoke to the woman then watched as she walked back the way she had come.

"Will she be safe?" Mike asked concerned.

Nicholas stared at Mike sadness in his eyes. "Her home is here, the mortal they took was her man. He had heard a sound and had gone to investigate. If he's not dead yet he soon will be." The tall vampire straightening up to his full height. "Tonight we finish this!"

With Greymain in front, they followed the blood spots and drag marks in the snow.

After had Mike left Sarah, she found she couldn't concentrate on any task. Her mind on what he had said about danger. She hated the fact that he left her on her own when she needed him the most. She had begged him again not to go but he had gone. She was left feeling a chill in her chest. She jumped at the sound of the phone it was her friend Cissy asking where she was. She felt no joy in putting on her new clothes, it seemed meaningless without Mike there to admire them. Driving across town to Cissy's house, she looked around for any signs of Mike but she did not see him. Cissy greeted her friend with her usual enthusiasm, then grew concerned at Sarah grim expression. She hesitated deciding not to throw in any cutting remarks about Sarah's boyfriend. Sarah's mind was somewhere else, finally even Cissy's light-hearted banter failed to raise a smile.

Cissy Vanderville worried for her friend. "Go home Sarah!"

Sarah stared at her and sighed. "Sorry Cissy what was it you were saying?"

"Go home Sarah he needs you."

Sarah stared at her friend anew. "Thank you." She replied simply.

Sarah drove home unable to shake off a feeling of foreboding something was happening and whatever it was she was powerless to prevent it. Lying on the bed, she drifted off to sleep. Suddenly she woke with a start, the room was still dark. A sense of danger almost overwhelmed her. Sitting up she clutched her chest feeling chilled to the bone the danger didn't seem to be aimed at her. "Mike!" She cried tears staining her night grown. Unable to help herself she sobbed for her loss, but what she had lost she didn't know. Eventually her tears subsided she lay back on the bed no longer caring if her clothes were soaked she just wished Mike was home.

The snow covered the ground making everything white. The tracks were easy to follow in the almost daylight of the full moon. Three sets of footprints and a blood trail. The poor unfortunate dragged back to wherever these rogue vampires had come from. Nicholas ensured Mike the man was still alive but for how long was any ones guess. Nicholas was sure that these particular vampires had orders, as they were acting more rationally than the others that they had destroyed did. He had to find out where they were going and stop them once and for all. Nicholas and Greymain echoed the crunch of his footsteps in the snow. On their way they had encountered some of the rogues, and the stench of their burning flesh still filled his nostrils. It had to be done, and it wasn't until Nicholas commented on the youth of the rogues that Mike realised what had been bothering him all this time. All the rogues were roughly the same age. Mike stopped Nicholas and Greymain stopped with him both regarding him curiously. Mike shook himself, then moving on the other two followed him each deep in their private thoughts. None of them felt the cold of the three only Greymain's breath steamed. They halted, the trail they followed joined several other all converging on the same derelict house. Nicholas and Greymain regarded Mike the same thought on their minds. Mike raised a hand and invoked a spell extending his senses towards the house. Slowly he lowered it.

"There's no one alive in that house."

There was a sharp intake of breath from Nicholas and a feral growl from Greymain, both coming to the same conclusion. Mike stepped forward letting the magic fill him as he prepared to enter the house.

The ground floor of the house was empty devoid of life. Rotting paper peeled from the walls. Where the plaster crumbled it revealed the boards that lined the walls. The rough bare floorboards creaked underfoot as Mike and his two companions moved deeper into the house. He glanced at Nicholas and Greymain, three options confronted them upstairs to the next floor, down to the basement or they could continue to explore this level of the house. They split up, Mike edged towards the door leading to the basement. Nicholas headed upstairs leaving this floor for Greymain. Mike cloaked himself in shadows, a spell he could invoke without thinking about it. Slowly step by step he descended into basement.

It was a lot larger than he first expected. The room at the bottom of the stairs was big. Four short corridors radiated from it. The blood trail lead to the corridor behind the stairs. The brickwork at the end of the corridor had been pulled down to reveal an earthen walled tunnel heading downwards. Mike followed the trail of blood down the tunnel until it exited in a cavernous chamber. It was pitch dark but a spell cured that. A number of figures were gathered at the far end around what seemed to be a throne of some sort. He moved closer seeing first a figure on the throne then the naked form of a young woman on a dais below it. Blood covered the woman's throat and pooled around the back of her neck. A chill shot through him as he recognised the woman.

"Alison?" He breathed. "Damn it girl why couldn't you stayed safe?" Realising she would have been safe, if Sarah's jealousy hadn't got the better of her. He was certain she was dead not in the normal sense of the word but vampiric dead. Another to join the fiend on the throne's growing army of vampires. A body of a man lay close by his policeman's tunic stained red with blood he was dead normal dead, this one would never suffer Alison's fate. Mike was sure he could rescue Alison, quickly he formed a plan, but he had to get closer.

Dropping the shadow cloak around him, he stepped closer to the dais.

"Welcome friend and join us." It was a harsh accented voice Nicholas had been right it sounded Eastern European. The figure on the throne stood up and stepped down to the dais. The vampire was tall with jet-black hair, a crazy look in its eyes. "You like my latest acquisition you're just in time for her to wake." The vampire's eyes narrowed realising this was no ordinary mortal. "What are you?"

Mike said nothing the figures gathered around the vampire, moved circling him, pathetic creatures that had once been men and women. Pathetic but deadly they rapidly encircled Mike, he was in deadly danger one slip here and it would be the end for him. He invoked a spell, and gestured the tightening circle suddenly widened. Alison stirred on the dais she was waking. Time to act, he moved closer to the vampire he was close enough to enclose her in his circle of protection. The vampire slunk back while his creations battered against the invisible wall Mike created. He smiled raising his hand again flames burst from his fingertips. He transferred the fire to his barrier of the creatures that touched it burst in to flames, thus he consigned vampire's creatures to fire and a final rest. He lowered his hands only the vampire and Alison remained. He was certain with the right help Alison could be redeemed. The vampire was another thing. For the first time in its existence, it knew fear.

"What are you?" It repeated. "You've destroyed my creations." Suddenly it launched itself at Mike fingers extended. It hit the barrier and was thrown back. Again, it attacked each time it was thwarted.

Mike raised his hand again and spoke a word. Flames erupted from the vampire. Hotter and hotter it burned until all that was left was a pile of ash. There was a scream on the dais. Alison leapt at Mike fangs bared too fast for him to act. He moved just enough fangs bound for his throat sank into his shoulder. Alison screamed as smoked writhed from her lips and collapsed. Mike was in pain he staggered back. Alison lay on the floor unmoving. If he had killed her, her body would have crumbled to dust. She was still alive in a vampire sense of the word. Picking up a scrap of blanket, he covered her carrying her out of the basement. Nicholas and Greymain waited for him at the top of the stairs both showed signs of fighting. He felt their gaze on the bundle in his arms and the bloodstains on his shirt.

"A friend?" He replied to their unspoken query. He gave Nicholas a significant glance. "Could you take her in and train her up in your ways?"

Nicholas slowly shook his head. "I cannot do it. I will not do it. Not for anything in the world, even for friendship. It's better if she died with the others."

A growl from Greymain indicating he agreed with the vampire.

"I can't do that I failed to protect her. I'm not going to do it again."

"I can't help you." Nicholas replied sorrowfully. "I made a pledge I can't rescind it."

Mike wasn't sure what to do. He certainly couldn't do it. It had to be another vampire. Mike thought about all the vampires he knew, and then the answer came. "Joseph?" He enquired.

For the first time, Nicholas looked relieved. It was settled then, he would take Alison to Joseph.

The three walked a short way from the building, Mike's bundle making it difficult for him to walk through the snow. Mike glanced around too many tracks and bloodstains something must be done. He laid the comatose Alison in the snow and raised both hands chanting. The house burst into flames a fierce wind blew erasing all tracks as if nothing had been there. Satisfied justice had been served and the threat had been ended the partnership was dissolved all going in separate directions. It was early morning by the time Mike returned home standing in the bathroom he examined the bite marks on his shoulder more scars but for now he washed the wounds clean. Sarah was asleep when Mike entered the bedroom he didn't need any magic to know she had been crying again. So, he stood by the window staring out into the darkness. He would give her this night to sleep in peace. She would learn but not tonight. He was still partly frustrated by the knowledge Greymain had refused his healing. What he knew of werewolves it was to do with his social standing with the pack. He was relieved in one way Joseph was agreeable to raising Alison the problem was how to break it to Sarah. He loved Sarah deeply in return she loved him but couldn't reconcile the fact he was what he was. He sighed softly to himself he was in a mess he stared at the sleeping figure in the bed. As he waited for the dawn he realised he would pay for what he done now or later it didn't matter he had to protect Sarah, he would do what he had to. Turning back to the window he glanced out snow started falling, it was going to be a very long day.