Author's note: Others own the rights to the Kindred: the Embraced characters. All other characters are my creations. Please do not use them without my permission.

The Investigation – Part 6

By: Diane Maher

Frank and Sonny left the apartment building where Alan lived. As they were getting in the car, Sonny noticed Frank looking up at the window of Alan Ash's apartment.

"What's wrong, Frank?" Sonny asked.

"I have a bad feeling about Alan," Frank commented.

Sonny shook his head as he got behind the wheel, closed the door, and started the engine. When Frank closed the passenger door, Sonny put the car into gear and said, "Not that business about vampires again."

"Sorry, I can't help it," Frank replied. "I just got a weird vibe from the guy."

"If it will make you feel any better, I did some checking and found that Alan Ash is a legitimate private investigator. If you have any other concerns regarding him, don't involve me," Sonny said.

"All right. What about that guy named Mario?" Frank asked.

"You saw Mario tonight. He's a crackpot," Sonny replied.

"Oh great!" Frank replied. "Like there aren't enough crazies in this city now."

Sonny grinned and drove back to the precinct so they could make out their report.

Alan looked around the apartment. They would have to leave here as soon as possible. He wouldn't have any problems justifying this to Sharon because of what had happened tonight with Mario.

"I wish that Mario would leave me alone. I'm sick of him interfering in my life!" Sharon said.

"I agree," Alan said as he stared at the spot where Mario had stood. He wanted to kill Mario, but he realized that without an official sanction or a blood hunt declared by Julian, he would be wiser to leave Mario alone. He couldn't afford to go against Julian now.

Alan knew how tentative his position was in this city at the moment. He wasn't going to fail to secure a place for his clan here because of reckless stupidity. On the other hand, once they were settled in a new haven, he would make Sharon into an Assamite. The sooner that happened the better off they both would be. It would make Mario furious. Alan smiled at the pleasure that thought brought to his mind.

"You look happy," Sharon commented.

Alan blinked and looked over at Sharon. "Yes. I was imagining how nice it would be if Mario no longer troubled us. Did you make any headway over at the precinct with Sonny?"

"Not really. Sorry to change the subject, but I could really use a drink right now," Sharon said.

Alan looked sideways at her. "Are you all right? You rarely want a drink."

Sharon took his hand in hers and he could feel her shaking. "I know. I normally feel safe when I'm with you, but tonight, even that's not enough."

Alan pulled Sharon close to him and said, "Okay. We'll go to the Haven and then I'll take you to my new place."

"You have a new place?" Sharon asked, surprised.

"Yes," Alan replied. "I was going to wait until this business with Mario was sorted out to take you there, but it looks like it will be better for us to leave here as soon as possible."

"I agree," Sharon said. She then added, "Please do what you must to protect me from Mario."

Alan looked at her and replied softly, "I will."

Frank Kohanek sat at his desk in the precinct and read once again the information in the file he had on Mario. He had been one of Eddie Fiori's confidants. In fact, Mario was the only one of them who was still alive. The rest of them had been killed recently in gang violence.

The others with Mario at Alan Ash's apartment were unknown to him. Mario was a smooth operator; nothing could be tied to him, so he wasn't convicted of the various crimes which he'd been accused of over the years.

On the other hand, Alan Ash was new to the city. Sonny was right; Ash was a licensed P.I. However, what bothered him about Ash was that he felt a cold chill being near him. It was the same chill he felt after meeting Eddie Fiori face to face in the alley down by the Dock Workers' Union offices. He also felt it when he spoke to Julian Luna.

Frank considered Sharon St. James. Ever since the night her apartment building burned down, she had been very close to Alan. Frank decided to speak to her, provided he could find her. The only place he recalled seeing Sharon alone recently was at the Haven. A wry grin came across Frank's face and he shook his head in amazement. It seemed as though all his time lately was being spent at the Haven.

When Frank arrived at the Haven a short while later, he casually walked through the main area and his gaze wandered over the room. He saw Alan Ash at one table; Mario and his henchmen were at a table in the corner of the room close to the stairs leading to the exit. Frank strolled towards the rear of the building. As he entered the hall where the restrooms were, a door opened and he saw Sharon St. James come out.

"Hey!" Frank called.

Sharon paused as he approached. "Yes? Oh, Detective…Kohanek wasn't it?"

"Yes," Frank replied. "I was wondering if we could talk."

"Talk about what?" Sharon asked.

"About your boyfriend Alan," Frank replied.

"What about him?" Sharon asked, mystified.

"Has he hurt you in any way or done any strange things to you?" Frank asked.

"Excuse me?" Sharon asked, taken aback. "It's none of your business, but Alan has treated me with nothing but respect."

Sharon turned to leave and Frank touched her shoulder. "Wait, please."

"What?" Sharon demanded.

"I'm concerned that Alan isn't the man you think he is," Frank said quietly.

"What makes you say that?" Sharon asked.

"It's a feeling that I have. When I'm around certain people, I get a chill. Alan is one of those people. Mario is another," Frank replied.

"If you're friends with Mario, I want nothing to do with you," Sharon said as she walked away.

Frank grabbed her by her arm this time. "I'm not a friend of Mario, I'm a cop, remember? Mario hates cops."

Sharon's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Sure, you're a cop. Mario's probably paying you to hassle me."

"What do I have to do to convince you to be careful of the people you choose to be with, especially those whom you have met here?" Frank asked, frustrated. He was trying his best to tell her to get away from Alan without mentioning vampires. He knew because of the reactions he had gotten from Sonny and his chief at the precinct that she wouldn't believe him. At the moment, Sharon didn't believe he was concerned for her.

"I don't see a problem with Alan. He's…" Sharon said.

"He's using you like Mario did," Frank interrupted.

"No!" Sharon exclaimed. Several people turned towards them. Sharon noticed this and when she continued, she lowered her voice and they turned away. "In case you forgot, Mario sliced me open and licked the blood as he made it ooze from my wounds. You have no idea how disgusted and dirty I felt after that!"

Frank nodded. "I want to know if Alan has acted similarly with you; especially around any open and bleeding cuts."

Sharon's brow furrowed. "Alan has not done anything like that, especially around my wounds, which are still healing."

"What about when you and Alan make love?" Frank asked.

Sharon gaped at him. Her brow furrowed and she put her hands on her hips as she replied, "I will not discuss my sex life with a cop. It was hard enough to tell you and your partner what Mario had done to me in the first place. What Alan and I do in private is our business." Her tone was anxious as she added, "Please leave us alone. We've broken no law and you have no right to stick your nose into our private lives."

"Okay," Frank said with a shrug, realizing by her reaction that she wasn't going to talk to him about Alan. Sharon returned to the table where Alan sat. She was upset as she spoke to him. Frank knew that she was telling Alan about their conversation, when Alan briefly glared at him across the room. Frank sighed and went to the bar to order a drink. A moment later, someone sat on his left.

Frank turned his head, saw Alan there and said, "Hello."

"I understand that you've been asking questions about me," Alan said without preamble.

Frank took a drink from his glass and replied, "Yeah. I'm concerned about Sharon being around you."

Alan's eyes narrowed. "Why are you concerned?"

"I know what she is dating," Frank whispered. "I know what you are."

Alan glared at him. "Is that so?"

"Yeah. What are you going to do about it?" Frank asked.

Alan was about to reply when a hand touched his shoulder and Cash said, "He'll do nothing, if he knows what's good for him."

"And why is that?" Alan asked.

"He's under Julian's protection," Cash replied, indicating Frank.

"I see," Alan said, frowning. Looking at Frank, he added, "What Sharon and I do together in private is none of your concern, Detective."

"I don't want to see her become like you," Frank said.

"There is little you can do to interfere," Alan replied.

Frank frowned, and stood to leave. "If I knew when and where you intended to do this to her, I'd be there to stop you."

After Frank left, Cash whispered, "But Julian…"

Raising one hand, Alan replied quietly, "I have spoken to Julian and he gave me permission to remain in the city and to make one childe. I have chosen Sharon."

Cash looked up towards the window that looked down into the Haven. He said, "I hope that Julian knows what he's doing."

Without another word, Alan stood and returned to where Sharon sat with her empty glass. He motioned for a waitress to come over and ordered another drink for himself and Sharon.

Alan noticed that Frank remained where he could observe them. It will be tomorrow night and neither you nor Mario can stop it.

Julian looked down into the Haven. He saw Alan there and considered how the presence of the Assamite had changed his city. As prince, it was his decision whether to allow a clan into his city. He remembered his first meeting with the Assamite. Alan was respectful towards him and had thus far kept his word when he had given it. Even Sonny seemed to respect Alan. Cash was still wary of Alan, especially when he showed up at the mansion.

Julian admitted to himself that he wasn't that comfortable around Alan either. I suppose it's only natural to fear someone who is trained as an assassin. However, I don't allow fear to rule my life or cloud my judgments. Alan Ash and his progeny are welcome to stay as long as they follow Kindred law.

A feminine hand touched his shoulder, bringing him out of his reverie. Julian turned away from the window and found Lillie standing there.

"What are you thinking?" Lillie asked.

"I was thinking about how things have changed since Alan arrived in the city," Julian replied, turning back to the window.

"Isn't Alan the Assamite I've heard about lately?" Lillie asked.

"Yes," Julian replied.

Frowning, Lillie asked, "Are you serious about allowing him into this city? How long before he makes another of his kind?"

"Alan has requested to be allowed to remain in the city and to make one childe," Julian said.

"Are you going to allow him to remain here and double his clan's presence?" Lillie asked.

"I am," Julian replied.

"Why?" Lillie demanded. "His clan is nothing but assassins!"

"Actually, I spoke with Alan at length not long ago. The Assamites have a unique culture within their clan. I think that Alan will be an asset to this city," Julian replied.

"Culture? Asset? What happens when more of them show up?" Lillie asked, incredulous.

"When that happens and if Alan is still here and abiding by Kindred law, then I shall consider their request to enter the city," Julian replied, noticing how flustered Lillie was over his choice to allow the Assamite to remain in the city. In a tone that brooked no argument, he added, "I would do that for any clan if their members showed me respect and proved that they were willing to abide by Kindred law."

Lillie scowled, said nothing more, spun and left the room. Julian turned his attention back to Alan who had been joined by Sharon. She was still human, but that would change soon, he suspected after Sonny informed him of the evening's events with Mario. He was sad to hear that Sasha was also one of the Brujah who had been with Mario tonight. Glancing at his watch, he realized that it would soon be time to meet with Caitlin for whatever trip she had planned for the weekend. He was looking forward to it.

When the sun set the next evening, Jason called Mario on his cell phone.

"It's Jason. I found out where Sharon and Alan went," Jason said.

"Where?" Mario asked.

"They're at a house in the hills above town," Jason said.

Mario was silent as he considered what Jason said. "Thanks, Jason. Return to the Haven."

"What are you going to do?" Jason asked.

"I'm going to deal with Alan, once and for all," Mario replied.

Mario hung up the phone and left his apartment. It galled him that he was considering approaching the Prince to get Alan out of the city. However, he was out of options. Cameron didn't seem to care one way or the other about Sharon's fate. Mario went down to his garage and climbed into his car. He started the motor and headed for Julian's mansion in the hills.

When Mario pulled up out front, he parked, got out of the car and entered the mansion.

"Hold it!" Pete, a short, blond-haired Gangrel on guard duty shouted.

Mario paused and the Gangrel came up to him. "What?"

"What are you doing here?" Pete asked.

"I'm here to see the Prince," Mario replied.

"You can't," Pete said hastily.

"Why not?" Mario demanded, frowning.

"Yes, why not?" another voice chimed in from behind Pete.

"Sorry, Archon," Peter replied. "I didn't think you wanted to be disturbed.

"Truth be told, I wasn't expecting anyone to visit for the whole weekend. However, this man," Archon said with a glance towards Mario.

"Mario," Mario said.

"Mario seems to have something of great importance on his mind. I will speak to him alone," Archon said. After Peter left, Archon asked Mario, "What do you want?"

"I want to speak to Julian regarding Alan," Mario replied.

Archon's expression hardened. "Hmmm. Julian isn't in right now. What about Alan?"

"I believe this Assamite has killed many of my clanmates!" Mario said. "I want this assassin either out of the city or dead!"

"Do you have proof?" Archon asked.

Mario stared at the Ventrue. "All of my friends are dead! What other proof does Julian need?"

"They could have been killed during the power struggle within your clan," Archon suggested.

Mario frowned. "I doubt it."

"Julian would want proof of wrongdoing on Alan's part," Archon said.

Mario turned and walked to the window. He mumbled, "Which is worse, the Assamite or this Ventrue?"

"What was that?" Archon asked.

"Nothing," Mario muttered. "Sorry I wasted your time. When Julian returns, I'd like to speak to him. I am at the Haven most nights."

"I can arrange it," Archon replied. Mario turned and left the room.

Mario went to the Haven after making a phone call from his cell phone. According to Cameron, Julian wasn't to return to the city until tomorrow, if he returned at all. As he sat in his customary place, Mario watched as the various Kindred who regularly frequented the nightclub arrived.

His attention was drawn to the entrance as he glimpsed Sharon out of the corner of his eye. Her body no longer glowed with the heat from her blood. She was Kindred and then Alan walked in behind her. Mario felt a burning fury rising within him. Alan had embraced her; the bastard had taken what should have been his.

Alan went to the bar and Mario crossed the room to where Sharon stood.

"Sharon, what did that bastard do to you?" Mario asked.

Sharon looked straight into his eyes and for a moment, Mario was captivated by their beauty. Then she replied, "Alan kept his promise to me."

Mario's brow furrowed; he cocked his head to the left and said, "I don't understand."

"By making me like him, Alan has protected me from you," Sharon replied coldly. Without waiting for an answer, she went to the table where Alan now sat and joined him.

Mario went back to his table, sat down, picked up his beer and looked over at Sharon again. His hand shattered the glass and he pounded the table with his fist, spilling the drinks of the others at the table.

"Damn it, Mario! This was a clean jacket," Jason exclaimed.

Mario grabbed the lapels of Jason's jacket. His eyes glowed with fury. "Shut up about your damned jacket, Jason. I want to get rid of Alan now. Find me some Brujah to fight him. We need to overwhelm him."

"But Cameron..." Jason stuttered.

"Cameron is busy with other things," Mario replied angrily. Realizing that they were attracting attention, Mario let go of Jason. After people turned away, Mario added quietly, "We have some new blood following the gang war, don't we?"

Jason nodded. "But Cameron told you to forget about Sharon. What do you think will happen when he finds out about what you are doing?"

Mario paused and frowned. "Who's going to tell him? You? I'll slit your throat and feed on your blood if you do. I'm outta here. Call me when you've done what I asked."

Jason held up his hands and replied, "All right. I'll get things together and then I'll call you."

Mario stood and left the Haven. Jason watched as the others at the table followed Mario. When they were out of sight, Jason pulled out his cell phone and dialed. "Cameron, you were right about Mario." He listened and said, "I'll be there shortly." He then hung up, returned the phone to its place in his pocket, stood and left the Haven.

Jason entered the house that Cameron used as his haven a short while later.

"Cameron? It's Jason," Jason announced himself.

Cameron came through the doorway leading to the rear of the house. He had just showered, hadn't fully dressed yet and was toweling his hair dry when he asked, "Well?"

"Mario has decided to destroy Alan at whatever cost and is planning to use some of the new Brujah created in the recent violence as fodder to overwhelm Alan. I am not sure, but I think he's planning to attack Alan in Golden Gate Park. He doesn't want to give Alan access to more weapons by attacking him in a warehouse."

Cameron considered this. He had to do something. He couldn't risk his long-term plans to take over San Francisco just because Mario had decided to go off on his own. The human authorities might notice and become involved because of Mario's actions. Cameron scowled and said, "Mario is a fool. He couldn't let Sharon go." Turning to Jason, he added, "Keep me informed of Mario's whereabouts."

"What about Julian?" Jason asked.

Cameron bared his teeth in anger. "Julian is in Manzanita. I hope he is buried there for good this time."

"What happens if Julian makes it back here?" Jason asked.

"We'll deal with Mario first and Julian later," Cameron replied. "In the meantime, do what Mario asks of you."

"But…" Jason stuttered.

"I need someone I can trust on the inside with Mario. I think it's time you moved up in the clan and work for me," Cameron said.

Jason smiled slyly. "Okay Cameron. I'll do what you ask."

Mario left the Haven and headed for the address given to him by Jason. Perhaps Sharon was still there. When he arrived, he found the place dark and no one there at all.

Jason called just as he got into his car. There were to be a group of Brujah waiting for him north of the lake in Golden Gate Park. Mario shut off his cell phone and headed there. When he arrived, he made his way to a clearing where a group of people waited.

Alan and Sharon were sitting on a bench not far from the lake.

Alan said, "Relax and clear your mind."

"What will happen then?" Sharon asked.

"Your body can act like a chameleon. It will gradually shift to match your surroundings," Alan replied. "Like this." He closed his eyes and within a minute, was gone from sight.

"I can't see you anymore, Alan," Sharon said.

"No. If you close your eyes, you will be completely invisible. People can walk right past you and never notice you. It's a useful skill," Alan replied. He looked toward her as she sat still and as she vanished to his sight, said, "You're getting the hang of it. Keep practicing."

Something approaching the lake caught his eye and Alan said, "Stay here and get out of sight."

"What's going on?" Sharon whispered.

"I don't know. I saw something or someone move over by the lake. I'm going to investigate," Alan replied and stood. "I have a bad feeling about this."

Sharon stood and went to hide in some nearby bushes. She watched as Alan headed away toward the clearing. Someone tapped her on her shoulder. When she turned to see who it was, she found herself facing Sonny and next to him, a bald headed man whose presence frightened her.

Sonny must have sensed her fear, as he whispered, "Daedalus won't hurt you. Stay quiet."

Sharon nodded and then whispered, "What are you doing here?"

"There are a lot of Kindred out tonight. We believe that most of them are Brujah and that their target is Alan," Sonny replied.

"Shouldn't we warn him?" Sharon asked.

"Alan knows something is wrong or else he would have remained with you," Sonny replied.

"Sonny, look over there, you can see a large group of people," Daedalus said, pointing.

Sonny looked in the direction Daedalus indicated. "I see them. Come, there's a hill that overlooks the clearing. We'll see better from there," Sonny replied.

The three Kindred headed for the hill. As they arrived, there was a scuffle going on below. Alan and Cash were surrounded by six Brujah and Mario was with another group which surrounded the six.

"What is Cash doing down there? Sonny wondered aloud.

"Cash must be trying to protect Sasha," Daedalus said.

"I don't see her...wait, I heard her voice; she's right below us," Sonny said, looking down.

The Brujah closed in on Alan and Cash. Suddenly, both of them attacked and punched the two kindred nearest to them.

"Attack them! They are only two, you have them outnumbered!" Mario ordered.

Alan pulled out his Kukri knife and rushed toward two of his attackers. A moment later, one had been decapitated and the other lay on the ground with a broken neck.

Mario grabbed a gun and a sword from two of the Brujah nearest him and said, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

"Why are we just watching?" Sharon whispered, anxious.

"Because we're not armed and Sonny is only carrying bullets, not Dragon's Breath," Daedalus replied.

"What's Dragon's Breath?" Sharon asked.

"It's a gun that fires phosphorus rounds," Daedalus replied. "Plus, you have no fighting experience. You would get in Alan's way."

"Oh. You're right. I forget that these aren't ordinary people down there," Sharon replied.

"Mario has had it with these others getting nowhere against Cash and Alan," Sonny commented.

"Get out of here, Gangrel dog. I am only interested in this filthy assassin!" Mario exclaimed. To the Brujah, he added, "Let the Gangrel go for now."

Cash took Sasha and headed for the higher ground where they found Sonny, Daedalus and Sharon.

"What are you doing here?" Cash asked.

"We're watching. We aren't armed and would get in the way," Sharon whispered in reply.

Cash and Sasha sat close to Sonny and watched as Alan and Mario began their battle below.

Mario tried to slash at Alan, but missed. Alan slashed Mario across his thighs.

Mario howled in pain and prepared for his next attack. "Damn you!"

Alan had room to evade Mario's attacks and made use of it by staying out of arm's reach. None of the Brujah were going to get involved in this fight so they didn't prevent him from moving away from Mario.

"What is this, do you fear me after our last encounter?" Mario taunted.

Alan closed in again, swiped his blade across Mario's stomach and upper torso and replied, "I don't fear you, Mario. You're hardly worth the effort to fight."

"You bastard; you take what isn't yours and then have the gall to flaunt her in front of me," Mario said.

"You started the whole chain of events that led Sharon away from you. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Don't blame me for your stupidity," Alan replied.

Mario growled and charged toward Alan. Just then, a man wearing a suit came through the crowd of Brujah. He had an air of authority about him when he called out, "Stop this fight!"

Both Alan and Mario looked towards the source of the voice.

The man continued, "My name is Cameron. I am the Primogen of the Brujah clan in this city."

"Cameron, what are you doing here?" Mario asked.

"I'm not going to allow you to continue to be a loose cannon in this city, Mario," Cameron said. To Alan, he added, "I will see to it that Mario is punished appropriately for his lack of self control. There need not be any further bloodshed tonight."

Alan glared at Cameron momentarily and then nodded. "I got the point across to Mario. Now he understands what he did to Sharon and how it felt."

Mario gaped at Cameron who nodded and someone behind him knocked him out.

Cameron came to stand over Mario. Jason stood next to him. "Jason, take Mario to my car and put him in the trunk."

Jason motioned for a couple of men to carry the unconscious Mario to Cameron's car.

After they left, Sonny called to Alan, to indicate where they were. Alan came up the hill. Sonny said to Alan, "Cash and I will hide the evidence of this fight. You take Sharon and leave here. I suggest the two of you visit Julian. Daedalus knows the quickest way there from here."

Alan nodded and they headed away from the area.

Mario opened his eyes and found himself lying in a light cell. He sat up and thought about what that meant for a moment. Someone moved outside his cell. "Sharon?" he whispered.

"No, it's Sasha. Cameron wanted to know when you were awake," Sasha replied. She turned and left.

"But..." Mario said, reaching through the light towards her without thinking. The light burned his hand and he pulled it back, smoking.

A few minutes later, Sasha returned with Cameron.

"Mario," Cameron admonished. "You couldn't stay away from Sharon and look where you are."

Mario stood and looked at Cameron. "What will happen to me?"

"I don't know. Your fate will be decided soon," Cameron replied.

Mario's eyes widened, "However..."

"However, it is no longer up to me to decide your punishment," Cameron said. He glanced at his watch. "I have to go. The Primogen are meeting shortly and I have some pressing business to attend to. Julian will be arriving shortly after that and the council of Primogen will decide on your punishment. You'll be lucky to get out of this in one piece. The Assamites want to punish you themselves."

Two hours later, Julian entered the room. "I had a message that you wanted to speak to me."

Mario looked up, stood, and crossed the cell. "Yes. But it's too late now. Alan has had his way with her."

"You wanted to talk about Sharon?" Julian asked. "I have better things to do than listen to you, Brujah."

"Wait a minute! That wasn't all I wanted to talk about. I want Alan to be held accountable for the deaths of my fellow Brujah," Mario replied.

"Can you prove that he killed them?" Julian asked.

"I saw him kill one in Sharon's apartment," Mario replied.

"He told me about that and how the evidence was destroyed by fire," Julian said.

"So are you taking his side?" Mario asked.

"No. I have evaluated the facts as I know them. The Kindred world is harsh Mario, and Alan has acted within the boundaries I have set. Without proof to the contrary, I will take no action against him," Julian said. Cameron entered the room then and stayed close to the door.

The door behind opened a second time. Alan and Sharon entered.

"Sharon?" Mario whispered. To Alan, he said, "Bastard. What are you doing here?"

Alan folded his arms over his chest and replied, "I introduced Sharon to the Prince as my childe formally."

Mario frowned, and then asked, "Julian, why did you allow this assassin scum to embrace Sharon?"

"Your clan took Sasha away from someone she cared about very much and who had been given permission to embrace her. Now someone else who asked my permission embraced someone you wanted to embrace. Consider this as payback for the forced embrace of my niece by the Brujah," Julian whispered harshly.

Alan then glanced toward Cameron who scowled briefly and his gaze then shifted to Julian who added, "You have a choice, Mario. Exile from San Francisco, never to return; or, I will give you to Alan and Sharon to dispose of as they see fit."

Mario's eyes widened with fear. "Cameron, can't you do anything?"

"No, Mario, I can do nothing more to help you now," Cameron replied, his scowl gone as Julian turned to face him.

"Mario, are you saying that you would rather remain here in this city with us?" Alan asked, as an evil grin came across his face. "That would make Sharon's training much simpler if we had a live target for her to practice her new skills on."

Mario shook his head fearfully and backed away to the farthest corner of the light cell. Swallowing nervously, he turned to Julian and said, "I will go."

Julian nodded in satisfaction, and then turned to leave. He paused and without turning around, said, "Mario, remember this. If you ever return to this city, you will be given to the Assamites, no questions asked and there is no appeal. Do you understand?"

Mario made his way closer to where Sharon stood and looked at her one last time, drinking in her appearance and savoring what he had once loved about her. When he met her gaze, it was cold and hard. He gasped and finally understood that the Sharon he wanted was lost to him in all but memory.

Mario replied quietly, "I understand."

Julian said, "Cameron will see you out of the city and report your departure and expected destination to me."

"Why didn't you say anything about this before?" Cameron demanded.

"I want confirmation of Mario's departure. As for his destination, I will contact the prince of the city where he's going and inform him or her of Mario's upcoming arrival."

"What else will you tell them?" Mario asked.

"Nothing. I'm giving you a chance for a clean slate," Julian replied. He then turned and left and Alan and Sharon followed.

Several nights later, Cameron and Mario stood next to Mario's car parked on the outskirts of the city. "I suggest that you try not to get so obsessed over a human woman in the future," Cameron said.

Mario looked down at his feet and replied, "Yeah."

"Where will you go?" Cameron asked.

Mario replied, "I'm thinking of heading to Denver."

Cameron nodded his approval. "Good. Our clan is strong there."

Mario climbed into his car, started the motor, put it into gear and drove away.

Cameron climbed into his car, picked up his cell phone and dialed Julian's number. When Julian answered, he said, "Mario just left the city. He's headed for Denver." He listened to Julian's reply and then said, "Good-bye." After turning off the phone, he said aloud, "Damned Ventrue. One day, I will be prince of this city and you will be dead for good."

In the back seat, an all but invisible man listened to this and his lips curled upwards in an amused smirk. Cameron started the car and drove away. He drove to the Haven. After he parked and went inside, the back door of his car opened and Alan stepped from the shadows and hailed a cab. He went back to Cameron's place, picked up his Harley and headed for Julian's mansion.

Julian turned away from the phone at his desk and said, "Cameron tells me that Mario is headed for Denver."

"That's good to hear," Sharon replied. "Alan and I can finally have some peace."

"You are planning to stay with Alan?" Julian asked.

"After all that has happened, did you expect me to just pick up and leave?" Sharon asked. "Besides, he is teaching me about what I have become and helping me to adjust."

"No, I suppose I didn't expect you to leave. Tell Alan about Mario leaving the city. Also, tell him that I would like him to consider becoming a Primogen and sitting on the Conclave," Julian said. He added, "I'm glad that you are adjusting to your new life.

"What do you mean become a Primogen?" Sharon asked.

"It means that your clan would be represented on the Conclave that oversees the Kindred of this city. Politics is a fact of Kindred life as much as it is human life. I think that Alan would make a good Primogen," Julian replied. "However, the rest of the Conclave will have to approve his appointment."

"How likely is that?" Sharon asked.

Julian shrugged. "I don't know. Alan is still something of a mystery to us. His recent actions show him to be someone willing to abide by Kindred law and that is the kind of person we want on the Conclave."

"I see. I will tell him," Sharon said. She left the study and then the mansion. She noticed that Alan was waiting for her as he said he would. She climbed on the back of his bike and put her hands on his waist to hold on. He put his Harley into gear and headed out the gates. He drove back to his place and parked the bike in the garage.

"How did it go?" Alan asked after they arrived.

"It went as you expected. Julian received word that Mario was on his way to Denver. He also wants you to consider becoming a Primogen and sitting on the Conclave," Sharon replied.

"Good. The future of our clan in this city depends upon things going as expected," Alan replied.