*Erik*

The room was dim when Erik opened his eyes. The pain was a low throbbing, but something else wasn’t right. His body was missing something. That drug. It was a craving for that drug. Erik spent what felt like a few hours pushing back against the craving and then tried to move.

“Would you just lay there and rest?” asked Sam, her voice filled with a familiar frustration. She stepped into Erik’s line of sight. Erik felt a pang of guilt as he saw Sam’s haggard expression. “Veronica managed to heal most of your wounds, but it took a lot out of her. You’re still not fully healed.”

“We’re not at the apartments,” Erik said, looking around. The room seemed familiar, but his fogged mind couldn’t remember.

“We’re at Lady Maritza’s,” Sam supplied. “You needed a lot more than what Veronica could supply you.” She motioned to the IV. “It’s helping keep the venom under control.”

“The what?” Erik asked.

“You were captured by vampires, Erik. When they bit you, they pumped you full of their venom. It’s highly addictive, according to Jason,” Sam answered.

“So why didn’t Veronica burn it out of me?” Erik asked.

“Because it’s not just a chemical. It has a magic component. Veronica said that the bindings had already seeped into your brain, and she couldn’t undo the bindings without possibly damaging your brain,” Sam answered. “Jason’s people told us how to make a treatment that will lessen the need. Not remove it, but lessen it enough to make you functional.”

“I’ll have to thank Veronica and Jason,” Erik said, sitting up. Sam made a sound of protest, but Erik waved her down. She knew him too well to stop him. Carefully, he reached out and took Sam’s hand. She didn’t flinch. Good.

“I’m sorry about what happened in the hallways,” Erik said. Sam let out a strangled laugh.

“They really screwed with your head, didn’t they?” Sam asked, gently, “I’m guessing one of them pretended to be Anya. Probably while you were weak and doped up on their venom. Jason explained how vampires operate.” Sam cocked her head. “So, I guess you’re not as over her as we thought you were.”

“No,” Erik said flatly. Sam placed a gentle hand on Erik’s cheek and lifted his face to hers. She had a sad smile on her face.

“There are days I want to strangle her for what she did to you,” Sam said.

“Thanks, I think,” Erik said, and the pair chuckled darkly. He looked back up to Sam. “How did you find me? I didn’t even know where I was.” Sam’s smile vanished and an odd tinge of fear lit her eyes.

“A couple of vampires killed a woman to draw out Anne,” Sam answered, “At least, that’s what we think. When we caught up with them, we found out that they were part of Mia Gold’s touring crew.” Erik’s eyes went hard and Sam swallowed.

“Has she been turned? Does she know?” Erik asked. Sam held up her hand to fend off any more questions.

“She’s not a vampire,” Sam answered, “We know that much from watching the paparazzi here in the city. I don’t think she knew that her tour was being backed by vampires.”

“Why?” Erik asked. Sam didn’t answer, but her eyes silently pleaded with Erik not to press further.

“Help me up, or I’ll do it myself,” Erik said.

——-

*Anne*

*We will trade Detective Hearst for Mia Gold at 10 p.m. tonight at the address provided below.*

Anne looked down at the single sheet of paper that had been delivered nearly a half-hour ago to Lady Maritza’s house. The address was a closed restaurant in the Highlands Mall. Kurt, Veronica, and Jason were arguing about what to do. Samantha hadn’t come out of the room where Erik was healing. To top it all off, Lady Maritza was being strangely quiet. Anne looked up at the clock. Five-thirty in the morning. It had been a long night, followed by a long day and an even longer night. Anne really just wanted to go to bed, not make more critical decisions. Then she heard someone calling her name.

“What? I’m sorry, I kind of zoned out there for a moment,” Anne said.

“I was saying that we should be busy looking for where the vampires are holed up,” Jason said. “I’ve already contacted my superiors. We’ll have a DA team from the task force here in twenty-four hours.”

“Mia doesn’t have twenty-four hours Jason,” Veronica replied, “We need to start planning how we’re going to handle the trade.”

“*Nein,*” Kurt snapped, “All of our jobs is to protect Anne, not this singer. We cannot risk Anne’s life.”

“Are you saying that as the professional bodyguard, or the guy who’s in love with Anne?” Jason asked, sarcastically. Kurt shot up from his seat and stormed towards agent.

“Stop it, the both of you,” Anne snapped at the two men. “Kurt, we have to get Ms. Gold away from the vampires. I swore an oath to serve and protect, and I take my oaths seriously. And Jason, she doesn’t have time for your team to get here. We have to make sure Ms. Gold is safe.”

“Anne, please, we don’t know why the vampires want you,” Kurt pleaded, “Handing you over to them may be worse than giving you over to the Dark Towers.”

“That *is* a point,” Veronica said, scratching the bridge of her nose. At Anne’s shocked look, Veronica held up her hand. “Look, I want to save Mia as much as you do, but Kurt’s right. We don’t know what the vampires are going to do with you when they have their clutches on you.”

“So, you’re willing to sacrifice Mia’s life on the possibility?” Anne asked.

“We are not sacrificing Mia Gold,” Erik said from the doorway. Anne spun at the sudden voice. She hadn’t heard him walk in. Erik was pale and his face contorted with pain. Sam was reluctantly helping him stay upright while giving him furious looks.

“Erik, what the hell are you doing out of bed?” Veronica demanded. “You’ll ruin all the work I did on you.” Erik gave the petite Avalonian a level look that made her flinch back. Then he looked over at Anne.

“Anne has made her position clear, and we have a duty to secure Ms. Gold’s release,” Erik said. “Unless Lady Maritza happens to know where the vampires are hiding out, this trade is the our only good shot at rescuing Ms. Gold.”

“With all due respect Erik, but what duty do to we have to this singer?” Kurt asked. To Anne’s surprise, Lady Maritza was the one who answered.

“Because Mia Gold is an Avalonian subject,” Lady Maritza said. Only Samantha and Erik didn’t have shocked looks on their faces, which surprised Anne even more.

“Why is she here?” Anne blurted out.

“Because singer is not an acceptable occupation for Ms. Gold back in the Empire,” Lady Maritza said. “She came here to Earth on the caveat that she could not return to Avalon for at least a decade.”

“I don’t understand that at all. Have you heard her sing?” Anne asked. Lady Maritza gave Anne a sad smile.

“Yes. The young lady is quite gifted,” Lady Maritza said. “It’s why I agreed to broker the arrangement. A talent like hers shouldn’t be wasted.”

“My God, she’s a noble,” Veronica breathed, “That’s why she couldn’t have a singing career in Avalon. She’d embarrass her family.” Lady Maritza didn’t answer. Veronica turned to Erik. “Is that how you knew? You’d met her before she came to Earth?”

“Something like that,” Erik said, “I can’t say anymore, but we *are* going to rescue her, and then we’re going to wipe these vampires out to make sure they can’t threaten Anne or Ms. Gold again.”

“How are you going to do that if I’m being traded to them?” Anne asked. “I don’t think they’re going to let me take my gun or a radio with me.”

“I think it’s time we rapidly accelerated your magic training,” Erik said, and then looked over at Veronica before looking down at Samantha. The two ladies nodded. “First, we’re all getting a few hours sleep.” With that, Erik went back to his room under Samantha’s guidance.

“What did he mean by accelerating my magic training?” Anne asked Veronica.

“If Erik’s going to have us do what I think he’s planning, you better go get some sleep. You’ll need whatever rest you can get.”