Anne eyes cracked open as she regained consciousness. The bedroom was dimly lit, but Anne could make out the dresser to her left and the small bedside table to her right. The bed was soft and warm. Anne could smell the faint scent of lilacs. She lay in the bed for several long moments, trying to clear the foggy feeling from her mind. Still groggy, but feeling more able, Anne sat up.

Her feet landed on plush carpeting, and for a moment, Anne wondered if she was in Lady Maritza’s house. No, the last thing she remembered was Welks hitting her with that blackout drug. Anger roiled through Anne as she thought of Welks working for the vampires. She knew Welks was a lazy slob of a detective, but corruption was something new. Anne was going to either put a bullet in him or make sure he was locked up.

She felt the wild magic dancing around her an instant before the floral arrangement on the dresser erupted in flames. Anne instinctively reached for the vase, but she stopped herself. If she could start a fire with magic, she could stop it as well. Anne focused on the wild magic flowing around the room and saw the bindings on the vase. With careful thought, she altered the bindings slightly. The flames extinguished as if a switch had been thrown. Anne coughed as the smoke filled the room.

The door opened and two vampires materialized in her room. They moved so fast that they seemed to appear out of thin air. One was the vampire that had fled from the hotel room. The other was a woman. She was about Anne’s height, with a face and shape that would have made a supermodel envious. Her silver head flowed as if an unfelt wind was blowing it. She said something to the male vampire in some European language. He picked up the vase and vanished. The female vampire turned to Anne with glowing blue eyes.

“You’re the one who tortured Erik,” Anne said, recognizing the vampire from the description Samantha had given her. The vampire looked pleasantly surprised.

“Unfortunately, yes. I didn’t know how badly he’d been hurt by that woman,” the vampire said, sounding truly regretful. “Hers was the only one I could pull out of that vault of a mind that he has. Once I saw the truth…” The vampire’s voice trailed off. Anne watched the vampire’s face incredulously. She had a thing for Erik?

“You realize he wants to kill you?” Anne asked. Was she in the clutches of an insane vampire? Were any vampires sane? The vampire looked over at Anne and smiled.

“I’ve already marked him as mine,” the vampire answered, as if it was perfectly plain. “He can fight all he wants, but he’s already coming around. He didn’t even kill me tonight with that magic sword of his. Now let’s talk about how you’re going to help me.”

“Screw you,” Anne snapped. Anne felt the sudden pressure against her mind. It wasn’t like when Samantha telepathically spoke to her. This was intrusive and violent. It sent Anne to her knees.

You will help me, the vampire spoke into Anne’s mind, You and that lovely blood of yours. Anne let out a whimper and fell to the floor as the pressure on her mind increased. You will fulfill the prophecy, and I will be the new leader of this clan.


Erik was watching the target house when Veronica flinched in her seat. Erik twisted back as his sorceress’s head focused on one corner of the large mansion. From the expression on Veronica’s face, she’d felt some magic being used. That was pretty good confirmation that this was the target house. Erik let himself feel a tiny bit of relief from failing to tail Anne, but only a little bit. Erik would let himself feel more after he put Nao down.

“So, the tracker was correct?” Kurt asked. The German’s voice might have been professional, but Erik could feel Kurt’s fear and dread radiating like a space heater. Erik leaned into Kurt.

“Relax, my friend. We’ll get her out of there,” Erik said. Kurt nodded, and his feelings lessened a bit. Erik would rather deal with Kurt’s fear than Jason’s boiling anger. The American agent had been infuriated about what happened between Erik and Nao, and had not so subtly hinted that maybe Erik was compromised. If Erik was being honest, he wasn’t sure himself. That was why he was wearing the small drug harness under his battle armor.

The Imperial Army had experimented with battle drugs many times in the last century. It had to look at anything that would give its soldiers an edge against the likes of orcs and trolls. Chemical enhancement was one of many avenues. The results of the trials had been mixed. The drug cocktails needed to bring a human on par with an orc tended to have some nasty side effects. Very nasty side effects. That said, the Imperial Army had an institutional culture of never throwing away a weapon system. There might come a time when it had to be dusted off and used. Which was why Lady Maritza’s closet had a full chem rig. Erik had just switched out the normal battle drug cocktail for the venom treatment that the Americans had developed. He could feel the cool liquid being pumped into his system and hoped that it would fend off the craving. So far, so good.

“I think Anne’s in this room here,” Veronica said, highlighting the room on the floor plans. “At least, I think that’s where the magic surge came from.”

“Are you sure it’s not just the vampires?” Jason asked.

“No, it felt more like one of the spells we taught Anne,” Veronica answered. The agent nodded in understanding.

“If she’s there, we can go through these doors here into the sitting room,” Nigel said, highlighting the route. “The sitting room connects to the servants’ quarters where they’re holding Anne. We haven’t observed any vampires in this sitting room yet, and there’s no security system active. Just a quiet sneak and retrieve.” The two Foreign Security agents looked satisfied with the plan. Erik was pretty sure that the vampires would know the moment they entered the house, but he didn’t have any better plans. At least this time, they’d be bringing some surprises of their own to cover them.

“Everyone get ready. We go in ten.”