Starlight Carnival Supplies
Outskirts of Frankfort, KY
The disembodied voice took great pleasure in tormenting her. With each
recording, he reminded her of all the terrible things she had done in
her life. He even had a slide show prepared of crime scene photographs
of Mr. White's body. But that wasn't enough for him.
"Tell me about Eclipse," he urged her. "About Bobby."
She shrugged, unable to summon the energy to fight. "There are recordings
of that, too. Don't you have them?"
"Of course, I do," he assured her. "But there's so much
that's not on the recording. Lyle won't talk about Retrieval, but he's
afraid of you, like he's not afraid of any other woman. I want to know
"You'll have to ask him," she sighed, and laid down on her
side, pillowing her head on her crooked left arm. She was exhausted, and
her head was swimming. She couldn't tell any longer if it was the drugs
or the weariness. All she wanted was to sleep, but she knew that wasn't
going to happen anytime soon. "What's your name? You never told me."
"You can call me Valentine," he purred. "All my ladies
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle pulled off the road, heading his rented car into the trees down
a narrow dirt track, until he had completely lost sight of the highway.
He shut the car off, pocketed the keys and stepped out, trying to compose
himself, to catch his breath. The memories were overpowering, shutting
out the forest surrounding him, the scent of rich earth and coming rain,
and the distant call of birds in the otherwise silent woods.
He thrust his hands into the pockets of his jeans, and closed his eyes,
willing the memories to come.
He hadn't wanted to clean the blood off, but they made him. Raines
insisted on it. He had protested when they took the Asian woman's body
away, trying to impress upon them how important it was to finish, to perform
the ceremony properly, but they wouldn't listen. They had tried to stop
him, but he had guessed they would, and used a chair wedged under the
doorknob to keep them out until he had taken the woman's spirit and energy
He had won, and for a moment, he enjoyed that glory.
But then, they had broken down the door and come in, separating him
from her before he had a chance to collect her blood. They had bathed
him then, dressed him in some flimsy pajamas, and taken him to a different
room, locking him up by himself. For an hour or so they watched him and
he stared right back, waiting for someone to come in that door. He was
ready for them, ready for whatever they threw at him.
Except for her.
From the moment he saw her, he recognized who she was. This girl had
been the one in the movie Raines had shown him in the kitchen of the Nebraska
farmhouse. He remembered her, sitting compliantly with her wrists bound,
and he wondered if she would fight him or give in and let him do whatever
he wanted with her.
But as he stared at the teenage girl on the other side of the glass
panel in the door, he sensed something strange inside him, a sense of
calmness that soothed the raging tide of his emotions. He felt happy,
Then they opened the door and let her in.
"Hi," he told her. "My name is Bobby. Who are you?"
"Faith," she returned flatly. "Do you know why I'm
This was the girl Raines had promised him. He smiled, reached out
and smoothed his fingers over a lock of her long blonde hair. "To
Faith stepped aside and shook her head. "No. To help you find
your way back. To be the person you used to be."
He came close and bent down to kiss her, but she dodged away. "You
don't want to do that," she snapped.
To his surprise, he found that she was right. He had no interest in
her sexually, though that had been all he wanted a moment earlier. He
glanced around, noticing for the first time that there was no furniture
in the room, just blank walls, floor and ceiling, and that one door with
a window in it.
He was tired, and went to sit down, leaning back against the wall.
He closed his eyes and remembered the Asian woman, felt the pleasure of
"Don't do that," Faith ordered sternly.
He glanced up at her, the memory suddenly meaningless; he roughly
shoved it aside. "I'm not doing anything."
She sat down on the floor, facing him, her legs tucked up on one side,
knees discreetly closed. "Let me help you, Bobby," she said
quietly. "Let me bring you back."
"I don't understand," he confessed, his brow furrowing.
"Just close your eyes. Let me show you."
* * * * * * * * *
Starlight Carnival Supplies
Outskirts of Frankfort, KY
Just close your eyes. Let me show you."
Needing a vehicle for the retrieval process, Faith decided on an ocean
setting, laboriously constructing the emotional landscape. They sat in
a small rowboat bobbing in a black sea that represented the evil all around,
threatening to swallow him up.
"Your name is Bobby Bowman," she reiterated gently. "You
don't belong in this place. Come back with me."
He smiled at her. "I know where I'm going," he assured her.
"I like being in control. It makes me feel powerful, in a way I've
never felt before."
She started rowing, glancing behind her to get her bearings, the gleaming
white sand of the shoreline in the distance beckoning them.
"This is where I want to be," he assured her. "I don't
want to leave."
"This isn't you," she shot back, facing him again. "This
is someone else's nightmare. They gave it to you. I can help you get out."
She rowed harder, putting all her strength into getting them back to shore
quickly. She was losing him. She could feel it.
"I'm going to be powerful forever," Bobby vowed. "If
you come with me, I'll share it with you." He smiled, desire in his
eyes. But not desire for her. "It'll only hurt for a minute, and
then we can be together, forever. You'll like it, I promise."
She stared at him, then shook her head. "I don't want to lose
my soul. I just want to go back. Let me take you there, please."
"I'm never going back," he insisted, his voice rising. "But
I don't want to be alone. I want you to come. He promised you'd come!"
With a sudden jerk, he pitched sideways, tipping the boat over and
throwing both of them into the thick, black water.
Bobby let himself sink into the depths, snagging her by the ankle
as she sought to keep her head above the surface. He stroked against the
liquid, dragging her down with him, until her face sank beneath the waves
as she gulped in a last breath. She could feel the evil pressing all around
her, trying to find a way in, to incorporate itself into her.
She fought with all her strength as they sank deeper, wanting to scream
but not daring to open her mouth. With a final kick, she managed to free
herself from his grasp and surged back toward the surface. Choking on
the breath of fresh air, she dogpaddled back to the boat, which she hurriedly
righted before flopping inside, and snagged the one oar that had not floated
away. Black water clung to her, itching at her, still calling to her,
but she ignored it, willed it to roll off and leave her be.
A noise made her turn, and she saw him break the surface like an agile
dolphin. He was reaching for her, evil gleaming in his eyes, determined
not to let her get away.
"You have to come with me!" he shouted angrily. "I
can't be alone. Raines promised you'd be mine!"
"No!" Scrambling for a weapon, Faith grabbed the oar and
smashed it against his hands and then his head, propelling him back into
the water. He disappeared, this time for good, but she could feel the
anger and disappointment he left behind. Exhausted, weeping with effort,
she forced herself to sit upright and paddle the boat slowly, inexorably,
back to shore. Alone.
Faith pulled herself back from the imaginary landscape, and turned
haunted eyes up to Mr. Raines.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly, her breath hitching. "I
Raines only smiled. "Not at all," he told her. "You
performed exactly as expected. But no one else has to know that, do they?"
Valentine's chuckle drew her back to reality. "So Eclipse was designed
to fail? How interesting."
Faith huddled against the cold glass, shivering, and nodded her head,
the tears she couldn't hold back streaming silently down her face. "Raines
wanted to create a dark Pretender, and Jarod was the last one to undergo
Eclipse. He wasn't supposed to come back. None of them were supposed to
come back. But Jarod wanted to survive. Bobby didn't."
"He also didn't want to be alone. Thank you for that. It's an interesting
facet of his personality that I hadn't quite figured out." Valentine
paused. "And now that the game is over, it's time for the real fun
to begin. You wanted to know who I am, little Looking Glass. I'll be there
shortly, and you can find out for yourself."
Her head came up as she felt something inside him change. He'd had enough
talk; now, he was going to kill her. After he was through with the torture.
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle was tired. The hotel sign caught his eye, and he pulled off the
road at the next exit, registered for a room and requested laundry service
from the concierge. He had barely undressed when the bellman arrived at
the door, and wrapped a towel around his waist before handing them off
to the startled servant.
Once more in the quiet of his room, he turned on the television to unwind,
but that was more of a distraction than he wanted. He flicked it off and
headed for the bathroom and a long soak to help him stay focused on the
task at hand. As he sank up to his neck in the warm water, he leaned his
head back against the cool tiles and closed his eyes.
Raines had promised him Faith. He had promised him unlimited power, without
repercussion. He had promised him that life and death would be in his
But Raines had lied. He had lied about who sent Bobby to Nebraska, and
why he was there in the first place. Lyle was glad the old ghoul was dead.
He had stolen into the morgue personally for a last look, then signed
the order for experimentation on the cadaver before the autopsy was even
Raines deserved to die. The entire Triumvirate deserved it, for what
had been done to him.
Feeling melancholy, frustrated, angry and alone, he looked forward to
being on familiar ground again. Maybe then the ghosts would leave him
* * * * * * * * *
Starlight Carnival Supplies
Outskirts of Frankfort, KY
Panic surged through Faith, and she heard banging -- the sound of a determined
man pitting himself against a wooden door, and winning. She heard it open
distantly, possibly somewhere else in the building where she was housed.
She could feel him coming closer, the lust and excitement in his heart
growing with each step. The slight haze of drugs interfered with her control,
though their effect was starting to wear off. He had been right about
his own psyche
there was nothing inside him that she could use as
a weapon: no fear, no shame, no compassion for anyone or anything.
But there was hatred. Hatred of women. And she was a woman.
Valentine came out of nowhere, stepping into view between two panels
of mirror glass, appearing like magic. He was handsome, with an air of
unmistakable charm about him. She knew what that was for. Lure the flies
in with a little honey, and catch them in the web before they know they're
in danger. But she sensed the danger clearly, right along with his psychosis.
She knew how he planned to use her, to hurt her. His motivation was not
desire, but revulsion and rage.
And then it came to her. If she could amplify that hatred enough, push
him until he couldn't stand to be in her presence, maybe she could make
him go away. It was her one chance to survive this. But if she failed,
things would go badly for her. Very badly.
"You hate me," she began softly, struggling to stay calm, to
focus. She could feel it now, like a coal in the palm of her hand, and
in her own heart. She reached out to him, her fingers closing on empty
space between them, and then flashing outward as she boosted that hatred,
making it flare brightly in his soul.
His eyes gleamed with it now, taking away all reason. He struck out at
her, and she rolled with the punch, making it a glancing blow to the side
of her head. She went down on one knee, both hands halting her fall. She
jerked upright just as he lashed out with his foot toward her ribs, and
He grabbed for her, catching hold of her sweater and slamming her against
the ground. He pinned her with his body, straddling her while he cupped
her chin in his hand. "This is going to be sweet," he breathed.
"I really wasn't anticipating getting this close, but since you haven't
put up much of a fight
He ran his hands over her body, deciding where he wanted to start.
Faith stared up at him, ignoring the flashes of light in her peripheral
vision, shutting out the pain of the migraine that lately went with such
intense uses of her talent. She grunted as she shot everything back at
him that she had.
"Hate!" she cried. "You hate me! You can't stand the sight
of me! I make you sick. You have to get away!"
Never before had she pushed anyone so hard. The effort seared her, blinded
her temporarily, and left her drained and weak. Then the colors faded,
and she saw him above her.
Valentine withdrew his hands and stared down at her blankly. He blinked.
Then he rose slowly off her and backed away.
"Go away," she ordered between clenched teeth. Her hands came
up to her head, holding it to help her concentrate through the pain. Panting,
she watched him turn mindlessly and go out, keeping a mental tether on
him so she knew where he was.
For a moment she just lay panting on the floor, keeping up the pressure
as he got into his car and left the grounds. She was trembling now, horrified
at what had happened. Valentine had reminded her of what she was, what
she was capable of doing. And now, to save her own life, she had done
Once outside her range, the man would calm down. His normal emotions
would return to their twisted perspective, and he would be doubly displeased
that she had gotten away from him once more. But for now, she needed to
stay focused, pushing him until he was far away, and she was safe.
She sat huddled in the corner, her head pounding so badly it made her
nauseated. She could barely see, unable to make sense of her surroundings
just yet. There would be time for that later. Now she just needed to pull
But she had to stay strong. She had to stay in control. Her life depended
She recognized the voice, though she still couldn't see through the flickering
lights exploding in her brain. "Jarod?" she called faintly.
Footsteps rushed toward her, and a familiar voice whispered, "Oh,
my God." Hands touched her, gentle hands examining her for injury.
"Are you all right? Did he hurt you?"
"Not really," she whispered. "I'll -- I'll be okay."
A new set of hands touched her, on her shoulder and arm, and she instinctively
pulled away. "Who's that?"
There was a note of startled surprise in Jarod's voice. "It's Namir.
Can't you see him?"
She sighed. "Migraine. It's pretty bad this time."
Jarod held her hands in his, and Namir's lay on her forehead and against
the back of her neck.
"Oh, my," said Namir. "Just lie still for a moment. I
can help you a little here, but I'll need to work with you more once we
leave this place."
"Okay. Sure." Faith was too exhausted to care. She dropped
her mental pursuit of Valentine, and let Namir work his own particular
brand of magic. After a few minutes, she was feeling a little better;
the headache was still there, but reduced to tolerable levels.
Jarod helped her to her feet and walked her outside to the car. Trevor
carried a Halliburton he had retrieved from the office as he slid behind
the wheel, and Namir took his seat in the front, giving the back seat
to the two old friends. Jarod pulled Faith close, his arm around her shoulders,
and stroked a lock of hair away from her face as she rested her head on
"It's all right now," he promised her.
She felt the shock recede just a bit as her pent-up emotions began to
surface, and she started to cry in earnest. Jarod seemed to understand
that she needed the release; he simply held her, whispering platitudes
as she slowly let go of the tight emotional reign that had been her way
of life for so long.
The worst was over, at least for now. The only place to go from here
* * * * * * * * *
"You sure you're okay?" Jarod asked.
"I'm fine, Jarod," Faith assured him for the umpteenth time.
"Just a little shaky. That will go away after I've had some rest."
She punched the 12th floor button.
He raised an eyebrow at her in inquiry. "Angelique knows you're
okay," he reminded her. "She can wait to see you till morning."
"She needs to see me now," Faith argued gently, wearily. "She
needs me to hold her." Pushing past him, she stepped out into the
foyer, where an anxious Nancy stood in her pajamas, holding the little
"Mommy!" Angelique called. "Mommymommymommy!" She
ran to Faith, who took the toddler in her arms, thanking Nancy and assuring
her that they'd be fine for the rest of the night.
Without another word, Faith turned and headed back to the elevator, smiling
and kissing her daughter as the child loved her back.
"Why don't you let Angelique stay with Gabriel and me tonight?"
Jarod suggested, "You really need to rest, and you'll do it best
if you're by yourself."
Faith eyed him grumpily, her expression admitting that he was right.
She turned to the child and asked if she'd like to sleep with Gabriel
for the night.
Angelique nodded reluctantly. "Sleep wif you tomorrow?" she
asked, her eyes big and round and pleading.
"Absolutely. I promise." Faith started to take Angelique into
Jarod's room herself, but he gestured her on down the corridor to her
Waiting until he was certain she was in bed, he took Angelique to his
rooms and bedded the little girl into the bunk with Gabriel. Asking the
nanny to stay on duty for just a few more minutes, he made a special trip
to Elizabeth's room, knocking quietly on her door and hoping she wasn't
sleeping as well.
She answered the door with a book in her hands, her dark curls tumbling
over her forehead. "Jarod! Is Faith all right? This place has been
in an uproar all evening."
"Yeah. She's fine," he replied grimly. "But she's been
through a lot. Could you keep a special watch on her tonight? She's bound
to have nightmares, and I'm sure they'll be pretty nasty."
"Yeah, sure, mate," Elizabeth promised him. "I'll take
care of her."
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
"We'll talk later. Good night, Jarod."
He headed back to his room and pulled out his cellular phone once he
was alone. Reporting in to Miss Parker didn't take much time, but he had
to let her know that her sister was all right. Faith hadn't spoken about
what happened during her ordeal, but he knew it was serious. He'd get
her to talk about it later, when she was stronger.
But for now, he wanted her to rest.
* * * * * * * * *
23504 Blythe Street
He answered the door shirtless and sweating.
"Valentine! What the hell are you doing here?"
The sweeper stood in the hallway outside the apartment, hands in his
trouser pockets, smirking up at him. "Am I interrupting something?"
His eyes roved over Lyle's torso provocatively.
Lyle felt distinctly uncomfortable under that intimate scrutiny. "What
do you want?" he snapped.
"Aren't you going to invite me in?"
His first instinct was to close the door, or at least block it with his
body. "Is this business related?"
Valentine's eyes darkened, and all trace of amusement left his face.
"I'd say so, yes. Project Looking Glass is still business, as far
as I know."
Lyle opened the door wide and closed it after the man. "Is that
what you've been doing for the past three days? Did you kill her?"
The sweeper stiffened, and shook his head. "I tried," he admitted
sadly. "But next time you can be sure I'll take your advice and do
it long distance, with high velocity lead poisoning, instead of my hands."
He sighed and hung his head. "I had her, boss. Had her right in my
"And she got away," Lyle shot back, disgust rising like bile
in his throat. "That was a stupid mistake. You knew better--"
Valentine lunged at him, clasping Lyle's face in his hands. "I do
things my way, Bobby," he rasped hotly.
Lyle could feel the other man's breath on his lips, he was so close.
He froze, not wanting to further antagonize his underling. This was a
dangerous man, and Lyle knew it. He just waited, knowing Valentine would
let go when he was ready.
He did, and then stomped a few steps away, head down, massaging the back
of his neck. "I had my own plans for her, boss. Things I wanted to
try. I was careful, and I did have some time with her." He stopped
pacing and turned to stroll back toward his host. "I learned a few
things from her. Things about Eclipse. Things I'll bet even you
Lyle didn't like being so close to his guest, and retreated toward his
bedroom. But remembering what had been going on in there before the sweeper
arrived, he halted beside the doorway. "I know everything I need
to know about Eclipse, thanks."
Valentine just stared at him for a moment, then sauntered closer, his
eyes dark and gleaming.
The skin on the back of Lyle's neck prickled and his hackles stood on
end in warning.
The sweeper came to stand right in front of him, inches away, and placed
one hand on the wall beside Lyle's head. He didn't dare step backward,
both because it would be seen as a sign of weakness, of retreat, and because
he knew Valentine would follow him into the bedroom. He didn't want the
other man in there, for a variety of reasons.
"Did you know it was meant to fail?" Valentine murmured, pressing
closer until his body pinned Lyle's to the wall. "Did you know you
were a guinea pig, a trial run to see if it would work, before they tried
it on the one real subject they wanted to change?"
Lyle swallowed hard. "No."
"You smell like sex, Lyle," Valentine observed softly, sniffing
at Lyle's chest and face. "Do you have a woman in there?"
"I don't share." Lyle was distinctly uncomfortable, too aware
of the hard muscled, well toned body of the other man, a graphic reminder
of his physical power.
Valentine grinned. It was a slow, sexy smile, meant to charm, to entice.
"I didn't ask to share," he reminded his boss. "But any
time you're interested
He grasped Lyle's face gently in his left hand, making his lips pucker
"Don't kiss me again," Lyle ordered, anger boiling up inside
him now, corroding his fear until it crumbled. He shoved the other man
backward. "Don't you ever touch me like that again, Valentine,
or I'll sanction you myself! Understood?"
With a chuckle, Valentine straightened his suit. "Understood, boss.
But who knows? You might like it."
"I thought you liked women," Lyle spat, rubbing his chest where
the other man had touched him, as if he could rub off the contact.
"Women? They like me," he responded coolly.
"So are you gay? Do you have a thing for me? Is that what this is
all about?" Lyle was seething now, mind racing to all the places
in the room where he had weapons stashed.
"I have no sexual preference," the sweeper answered dispassionately.
"It's not about sex, anyway. For me, it's about power, just like
it is for you. And power is very, very sexy... But you'll be happy to
know you passed the test, boss man. Not everybody I've served has earned
my allegiance. You just did." He offered a gracious bow, smiling
as he lifted his head. "We can do great things together. All you
have to be is strong enough to keep me under you, and the world will be
Lyle narrowed his eyes, suspicious of what sounded too much like innuendo.
"I don't want you under me, Valentine. I want you as my right
The sweeper laughed, glancing down at Lyle's thumbless left hand. "You're
right handed, aren't you?"
Lyle's face flamed as he got the inference, and glared at the man. "That's
enough. Got anything more on Looking Glass?"
With a shrug, the sweeper shook his head. "I'll find her again,
boss. You can bet the farm on that. And when I do
" He held
up his right hand in imitation of a cocked pistol, and fired it. "Bam.
Seven years bad luck."
"I'll make sure you stay in the proper good graces," Lyle assured
him. "As long as you don't touch me again."
"As you wish," Valentine assured him, and let himself out the
Lyle breathed a sigh of relief and bolted the door after him. The man
alarmed him, and he knew that it would be difficult maintaining control
over a maverick like that. He would have to be ready to act, in case Valentine
threw his fickle allegiance in with someone else. The only problem was,
who else had the capability of taking out such a skilled sweeper? No one
came to mind immediately, but he would give it some thought.
After, of course, he finished the floor show and the dinner to follow.
He turned and headed back into the bedroom, reaching for the hidden door
inside the closet as he licked his lips in anticipation of the meal to
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod could hear Jordan moving about next door, and asked him to listen
for Gabriel or Angelique getting up, even though it was very late. The
teenager was up working on his portion of the medical research, and agreed
with a brief smile. Jarod wondered if his elder son had gotten any sleep
that night, and promised himself to make sure the boy rested some the
Heading out of his suite, Jarod wandered past the MacKenzie's apartment,
but decided not to knock. Sebastian's sleep was precious enough, but there
were things on the Pretender's mind that left him too restless to sleep.
Heading up to the observation deck, he decided to mull over his problems
and see if he could come up with his own solutions.
Part of the deck had recently been enclosed with a series of glass panels,
turning it into a kind of climate-controlled sun room. He found the others
there. Sebastian was reclining on one of the sun loungers, and Trevor
stood at one of the windows, a velvet smoking jacket over his satin pajamas.
Namir sat on an ottoman nearby, leaning elbows on knees as he pondered
the subject of conversation. All heads turned when the Pretender arrived
in the room.
"We've been talking about the Centre, mate," Sebastian informed
him. "It's a threat to all of us, and this incident with Faith just
enhances that." He sighed. "I'm sorry about what happened to
her. She'll be okay, won't she?"
"I hope so," Jarod answered with a sad smile. He ran his hands
through his dark hair, trying to tone down the memories of what he had
seen earlier. Trevor had given him the DSAs found at the carnival supply
house, and he had spent most of the night watching them. He was sickened
by what he had seen, by what had been done to Faith through the years.
"I know she's strong, Sebastian. But she's vulnerable, too. And this
guy was really pushing her buttons. I still don't know all of what he
did or said, but I can imagine. I'm good at that sort of thing."
"We'll help her," the Australian assured him.
"Yes, we will," Namir agreed. "She's one of us."
"Part of our family." Trevor slipped his hands into his jacket
pockets and bowed his head in thought. "Thank God for those kids.
If it hadn't been for them
Jarod flinched away from the memory of watching the Seraphim working
together, but forced himself to look back at it, to study what it was
that had so disturbed him about it. He strolled up to one of the windows
and looked out over the city's twinkling lights. "Sebastian, about
He turned to regard the other man directly. "They all knew Faith
was in danger," he said slowly. "They all knew which direction
she had gone, but only a few of them are psychic. Have you thought about
The Aussie's brow furrowed. "No. Why would I? They're all gifted
Jarod stared intently. "But they all knew. All of them. As if they
had one mind."
For a long time, no one in the room spoke. Sebastian stared back, horror
dawning on his face as the implication set in. "You mean, they really
do have one mind? Like bees in a hive?"
The Pretender shrugged. "Probably not to that degree. But I do believe
there's a connection of some sort between them. Possibly on the order
of the link between twins."
" Sebastian shook his head, held it with his
hands, refusing to accept such a notion. "That's not possible. Science
isn't there yet."
Jarod swallowed the lump forming in his throat. "Maybe not in the
rest of the world. But in the Centre, yes. It is."
Shock gleamed in the Aussie's eyes. He got up quickly, patting at his
thigh as the cloth began to smolder. "Breathe," he reminded
himself. "Deep breaths."
"My God," Trevor whispered. "These people are even worse
than we thought."
Jarod watched Sebastian, but he seemed to be under control. When the
other man relaxed back onto the chair, he continued. "Faith made
a comment before she left that I've been thinking about. She said the
Seraphim have more power than their small bodies and minds can handle,
and that's very true. The Centre wanted to exploit them, train them to
serve the Triumvirate. We can't allow that, but they will need training
to keep their gifts under control. They'll have to be handled just right,
or they'll grow up with very dangerous minds, capable of anything. And
their first allegiance will always be to each other."
Sebastian swallowed hard. "Are you saying we should be afraid of
"No," Jarod assured him. "But each of us will have to
be aware of the damage already done to them. They'll need extra compassion,
understanding and love. And they'll need to be taught respect for others,
for life, so they'll chose to do good things with their skills rather
than manipulate others to suit their whims."
"Which they'll certainly be capable of doing," Sebastian added
sadly. He buried his face in his hands. "Oh, my God."
Silence descended on the group, and all eyes turned outward to the twinkling
city, just beginning to blush in the first rays of dawn.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker flung both doors open and strode through with a glare that
could have cut through marble. "I don't like being used," she
snarled at the man behind the desk.
"Nice to see you, sis," Lyle replied casually. "To what
do I owe the dubious pleasure of this visit?"
"Was this your bright idea, or did your team come up with it on
He sneered back at her. "Well, if I knew what you were talking about,
maybe I could help you. Unfortunately, I have no idea."
"I've been chasing our mother's ghost in Frankfort for the past
three days, you moron," she snapped, tossing a printout of the electronic
photo onto his desk. "Did you catch Faith or not?"
Low-pitched laughter bubbled into her ear as he studied the print. "No
one's reported in to me, so I really don't know. But Valentine has been
out of pocket for a couple of days, now that you mention it. Said he had
a lead on a Blue file, but didn't tell me which one. I'll be anxious to
hear about this myself."
"You want to tell me where you've been, or do I have to dig it out
of your expense report?"
He smiled secretively. "Camping," he assured her. "You
know how I love the great outdoors."
She curled her lip in disgust, certain she knew what else he had been
doing in the backwoods. "Just make sure you keep me informed,"
she ordered, and turned to leave.
Her chest hurt. This had been the cruelest thing ever done to her, and
someone was going to pay. She tended to believe Lyle, transparent as he
was, but she couldn't be sure. If Valentine was behind it, she'd handle
him herself. But if it really was Lyle's idea, she'd have to be careful
in how she exacted her vengeance. To give her that hope, even for an instant,
that her mother might still be alive, and then snatch it away
She took a deep breath and swallowed down her tears. At least she had
the comfort of knowing that Faith was all right, that she had managed
to escape again. That might have to be vengeance enough for the moment.
But she wouldn't forget this attack on her heart.
* * * * * * * * * *
Faith still had her shoes in hand as she opened the door to her late
morning visitor, slipping them on as she mumbled a morning greeting to
her old friend.
Jarod studied her expression. "How's the headache?"
She shot him a startled glance. "How did you know I have a headache?"
"It's written all over your face. I'll take you up to the infirmary
in a minute, so Namir can take another look at you."
"I'll be fine," she assured him.
"It's a good thing he was there yesterday," Jarod told her,
his voice thick with emotion. "I guess there's no easy way to put
this, but -- he said that if you had gone to bed untreated, you would
probably have died during the night."
Faith felt as if the floor had suddenly dropped out from beneath her,
and she was falling with it. She swallowed hard. "What does that
mean? What's wrong with me?"
He pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her. "Apparently,
it's a side effect of the use of your gift," he murmured against
the top of her head. "You'll always be able to sense emotion. That's
ingrained in you, and the energy required is so small it's hardly any
different from breathing. But when you use your mirror talent
He sighed and squeezed her closer. "You can't do that anymore, Faith.
It's causing physical damage. I know you feel it, but You weren't going
to tell anyone, were you?"
She struggled out of his embrace, pushing him back far enough to look
up into his face. "Tell me," she insisted. "What does it
"The effects seem to be cumulative," he explained, shifting
to cool, clinical detachment, as if he were a doctor delivering a diagnosis.
"Your neural pathways are worn from the overuse. If you live the
rest of your life without boosting anyone else's emotions, you'll be fine.
But if you push too hard or once too often, the consequences could be
She saw the guardedness in his expression, as if he was waiting for her
to fall apart. Strangely enough, the news was unsettling, but not a complete
surprise. She had known for some time that using her gift had after-effects,
like the migraines she'd had lately. The fact that they were the result
of trauma to her body wasn't that big a leap.
Faith nodded her head. "Okay. So I live a normal life from now on.
I can do that." She smiled, relieved now that she had such a limit
imposed on her. "I want to do that. I want to be normal."
Jarod reached out and clasped her face in his hands, his eyes still dark
with worry. "You're really sure you're okay?"
She patted his hands fondly. "Yes, I'm sure. I just want to see
my daughter, play with her for a while. Thanks, old friend. I'm glad you
were watching my back."
"I think you may not be the only one this is happening to,"
he informed her with a sigh. "Looks like there's more research to
do now, on all of our gifted people." He sighed. "And there's
more. I know you're going to be angry, but
I watched some of your
DSAs last night."
She sighed and turned away from him, but remained silent.
"Talk to me, Faith. Tell me about what happened at the warehouse.
You need to talk to someone. Let me help you carry the burden. Please?"
You're a monster, Faith. Admit it.
Mr. White wasn't the first person you killed. Why don't you tell me
You enjoy the power, making people do what you want. Don't you, Faith?
Valentine had been right. She did enjoy that power, in some small, dark
part of her soul. The Centre, and Raines, had taught her how. She was
a monster, and she knew it. She had always known.
The earnestness in Jarod's eyes, the gentleness in the way he reached
out to her struck home. "All Valentine did was offer me a reminder
of who I really am."
Anger flared in Jarod's dark eyes. "You're not what the Centre made
you," he snapped. "That's what I used to think about myself
His voice became very gentle. "
until I took some advice offered
by a very wise friend of mine."
Faith crossed her arms and started searching aimlessly for something
that would distract her from those eyes, filled now with sympathy. She
couldn't bear that. "And what would that be?"
"That I'm not a monster, could never be one," he replied. "She
told me to put the blame where it belongs, forgive myself, and move on."
Recognizing her own words, she cracked a half smile. "Touché."
"You do want to move on, don't you?" he asked softly.
She felt deflated, worn out by the events of the past 24 hours. "Of
course I do, Jarod." She sighed, and risked a glance at his compassionate
face. "There was a time not too long ago when I was your teacher,
more or less. Now it's your turn. Funny how that happens, isn't it?"
He stepped closer and placed his hands lightly on her shoulders. "You're
not my teacher, Faith, and you're not my student."
He was so close, so there
And so very far away, always just out
"Then what am I?" she asked slowly.
He paused. The corners of his mouth softened into the beginnings of a
smile that never quite materialized. "That's something I thought
we might explore, if you're interested."
Faith didn't dare to hope, but her heart fluttered in her chest. She
smiled back, aware of how close he stood to her, of the warmth of his
hands on her shoulders, sliding now down her arms and leaving goosebumps
in their wake. "Yes," she breathed.
He leaned down to her, just touching her lips with his, his breath warm
and sweet. She wanted more, but had no clue what to do; this was her first
kiss. Faith had never imagined it happening with anyone, or anyone wanting
her, and so had not paid attention to the mechanics.
She was sure her eyes were dancing as he pulled away and looked down
at her. She felt as if her cheeks were on fire, and ducked beneath his
chin to hide her embarrassment and awkwardness, leaning her face against
his chest. His arms swept around her gently, and for a moment, just the
briefest instant, she felt a flicker of something she had only experienced
"You have to stop hiding from the world, Faith," he urged her
softly. "I'll help you, if you'll let me. And whatever lies in wait
for us, we'll get through it. Together, we can face anything."
She smiled against his shirt. "I know. Monsters and all."
End of Episode
Counting down: 4 episodes left!