Oh my gosh this is way over do! Sorry everyone, but with finals and moving back home for the summer I kind of lost track of this story, but here is an update that I'm happy with, and I hope you will be too.
Thank you to Mariagoner for your lovely review. I hope I can deliver a classy LaCroix romance to the internet. xD
One week passed before Diana received word from Sebastian LaCroix to meet him at his tower once more to discuss the Sabbat attack in Toronto. In that amount of time, she found herself a rather small apartment to call her own. Much of what she had managed to bring with her, wardrobes from her belly dancing days, had all been sold quickly to help cushion her move. She did not feel sorry for letting it go. Anne had pressed her into such an act, and Diana didn't blame her sire for that idea at all. The Toreador who made her living off teaching belly dance had become a threat.
The person who had dragged her into a world of such female empowerment (or at least that's what the dancers would always tell you it was), would probably never find herself in Los Angeles if she survived the attack. The auction of such antique and tribal goods as the coin belts and hair pieces would mean little in the light of what it meant for Diana to continue in the city. She had little money ready after the attack, much of it frozen in Anne's assets. She had just a few weeks until the mess would be sorted out and transferred to her, and perhaps then she could make herself feel like a real Ventrue. Until then, she had to carve out a niche for herself from nothing.
Wear something flattering, but be careful about it. You are not a Toreador, no matter what anyone seems to think of you. Keep it tasteful or I will rip it off of you myself and give you something of mine to wear.
With Anne's harsh criticisms and words of wisdom floating in her mind, Diana prepared herself for her second visit to the tower with a strapless, knee length dress. The tight fight suited her body, and the red color did well to contrast her pale skin.
Red is the key to everything. It is the color of blood. Everyone you'll ever care to know loves blood. It's not just food for Ventrue, dear Diana. It is passion. Wear red, and you are passion.
Perhaps there was a grain of truth to that advice. Diana felt powerful when she was wrapped up in that silken cloth. As she looked at herself in the mirror, securing her hair high in an ornate up-do, any other Kindred would feel overdressed. Not her. Not after everything Anne put her through. She would tell her that a Ventrue must always be 'overdressed'. Diana could not even own a t-shirt after she became part of Anne's clan, and in the end, she did not even desire to dress like she did before she was embraced.
Everything became heels and silk dresses and decorated hair pins and pretty necklaces. Anne would never say no to something that allowed her Childe to hold sway over men, and she often bragged of her Childe's ability to do such a thing in various ways. For Kine, the image of a woman shaking her hips and sliding her rib cage back and forth was a powerful motivator. The image was seductive and real to them, and for that reason, Diana had made herself useful no matter how she tried to fight her blood.
In the end, Diana learned that she could never fight blood. Five years after her embrace, it all seemed worthless now. She should have given up the fight just days afterward, for even the Ventrue blood takes time to sink into the Childer. All she wanted was to not become Anne, and yet, had she truly avoided such a fate? She came to Los Angeles because Anne told her too. She wore her hair up, wore dresses and necklaces, because Anne told her to do so. She had no better advice to go on in a foreign city where she cared to know no one but the Prince himself, and the other Kindred downtown appeared unsavory and coarse.
There are very few things that change when we are embraced, my dear. Men still adore the attention of the women around them. The slightest touches and the briefest glances still ignite something in them. Perhaps it is not the same brand of lust that you experienced as Kine, but it is there. It is living and breathing in our cold, dead hearts. You make them bend to you, you make them want you, Diana, and you shall be the real ruler.
Anne firmly believed that. She shaped her Childe into the kind of woman that many of the older male Kindred in the city found themselves fascinated. Diana appeared fragile and easily manipulated. She would nod her head and say yes to nearly anything they asked, and with those false words, she lulled them into security. Sometimes her tactics were enough to secure even the friendship of female Kindred in the city for her Sire, and within the short time she had been a Ventrue, Anne told her that Diana was exactly the kind of woman she needed to be in order to survive.
With a deep breath of encouragement, Diana turned away from her mirror, latched onto a small clutch purse that matched her dress and moved toward her front door. On a coffee table nearby, she noticed and reached for a pair of tickets to a symphony later that night. Before she left, she picked her phone and made a call to someone she had met in Toronto.
"Alex? Yes, hello, its Diana. . . I'm coming tonight, yes. Thank you for the tickets. I'll try to find someone to come with me so I do not waste the second one. . . Oh, no, no. I appreciate it really. Ever since I came to Los Angeles things have been a little dull, it will be nice to see you! . . . Good bye, Alex. Good luck."
Alex, or Alexander Williams, was a young violinist who had performed with Diana in the past as a member of the first violins, a section of the Orchestra, while she was the Sugar Plum Fairy for a season of the Nutcracker in Toronto. They had kept in contact for all of those years, and Diana found herself very glad for it. When she was embraced, she found that no blood but that of a musician truly satisfied her pallet. Anne always thought it ironic that the ballerina needed the blood of those that played for her.
She may not have an escort for that night yet, but she had one in mind.
There is no one you cannot conquer.
"I've been to Toronto a few times in the last year or so, visiting Lydia. She used to talk about some Ventrue girl who insisted on belly dancing with her. Truly a confusing case for her, but she accepted. She thinks Anne sent her so that she could keep tabs on the Toreador, but the girl was there for years," Christian Hall said to LaCroix as he stood near his friend's desk.
A good two hundred years had passed between Camarilla Prince and Toreador Primogen, having known each other since they were sired. Living in the same city under the same leaders led them close, and Christian had no qualms about many of LaCroix's schemes. The Prince kept this Englishman around for just that reason. Christian was crafty and sociable, and he kept his web of contacts very wide. He had come to him immediately when he heard about Diana, and the Toreador was bursting with less news and more gossip.
Gary had been more useful in the respect. He found several recordings of Diana's performances with the Toronto Ballet Company, and his contacts had more useful information. All of her Sire's acquired wealth would belong to Diana soon, meaning she had inherited an empire built over a five hundred yearlong enterprise. The young lady had left more than her fair share of admirers in Toronto, Kindred and Kine alike. Her subtle change from a young ballet star into a Ventrue progeny had been smooth enough that no one saw it happen.
"She is coming tonight, you know. She is a great asset when it comes to the fight against the Sabbat."
"Oh good," Christian began," I'm sure this little Childe, practically still a baby, knows everything there is to know about their tactics."
"Sarcasm is unbecoming of you, Christian."
The two men faced each other, and all the Toreador could do was grin widely. There were few people who existed to this day that could treat Sebastian LaCroix like that, and Christian knew he was still one of those people. His loyalty had been unwavering and not without its benefits for both sides. Where LaCroix was a well-practiced politician and masterful liar, Christian was unbelievably innocent about many things that went on in the city. He trusted easily, laid out the welcome mat for anyone who would come close. This made LaCroix's schemes all the easier to put into action. Christian did well to draw people into his web. As well as they worked together, both men knew less about the other than they believed.
"Sarcasm is just about all I have left. Seriously though, I've been doing some investigating on her since you told me she was in town. I don't think she's left her apartment more than once a night, and I have never heard of her going to other Kindred. I'm inclined to think she's up to something."
"I am aware of this, and I would like to ask you to keep a close eye on her for me," LaCroix said.
"A close eye on her? Are you asking me to seduce a woman for information?"
"If you feel called to seduce her, then do so. I am not privy to your tactics when it comes to such a situation."
"I have an idea," Christian said as he approached his friend's desk," Why don't you keep an eye on her? You aren't so busy that you can't leave this place. If you were, I wouldn't be here right now as this is purely a friendly visit. Go somewhere with her instead of holding yourself up in here. You aren't going to die the minute you hit the streets without your Sherriff."
LaCroix looked at his friend sternly, as if his suggestion was pushing the limit of their friendly conversation. This did not stop Christian at all. He did not fear punishment for what he was about to say.
"She is pretty, and a little exotic if you take her quarter-Japanese blood as any consideration. She's all alone in this town and she's making an awfully serious attempt at B-lining straight to you anyway. You're the only person she has answered to since she arrived."
"Has anyone else attempted to contact her?" LaCroix asked, his patience wearing thin.
"Not that I'm aware of, but for Christ's sake Sebastian, I can't remember the last time I saw you do anything that did not involve becoming or being Prince. When was the last time you—"
"Mr. LaCroix?" A speaker buzzed. Cecilia's voice was hard to recognize.
"Miss Clare is here to see you. Shall I send her up?"
Diana's ride up to the penthouse level gave her plenty of time to think. With the nights coming earlier now, she had another two hours before the symphony started. This gave her time to talk to LaCroix about the Sabbat, and perhaps convince him to join her. If he refused, she would still have what she needed. Diana had made due off of the blood of lesser musicians at some clubs in the city, but they did not have the substance she required. Violinists like Alex had a certain kind of discipline that permeated their blood. To play at his level, he had to practice for hours and hours a day for almost all of his life, and she tasted it each time she bit him. It was difficult not to get lost recalling the flavor as the doors opened for her to move toward LaCroix's office.
As she opened the door, she came into contact with a tall, darker haired man who was on his way out the door. He smiled at her, and with a nod of his head as an apology, passed around her. She watched him go as she slipped into the room and closed the door behind her. Diana looked up at LaCroix, who looked slightly perturbed with whatever had passed before she entered the room. He stood to greet her and without a word motioned to a pair of chairs that sat near the fire place. She took this as an invitation to sit down, and she did so.
He joined her, and she made note of the distance. Just a few feet separated the chairs, and they were alone. The Sherriff that haunted their first meeting was likely somewhere else doing the dirty work she knew came with the job. They sat like that for a moment, and she wondered if he was trying to collect his thoughts. To break the silence, she spoke.
"Who was that?"
"An old friend. His name is Christian Hall, a Toreador. He likes to press his luck."
"I suppose he said some things that did not sit well with you?"
LaCroix sighed," Indeed, but to the subject at hand. I am interested in learning what you know about the tactics employed by the Sabbat during their attack on Toronto. They are moving in Los Angeles more aggressively than before, and I fear they will try to cut us off."
"Well, Anne did not tell me much, but I gathered a lot from those she sent me to from time to time. The last time I spoke with the Nosferatu Primogen, he seemed very uneasy and made a comment about some attacks that were happening in the sewers. I know I mentioned to you before how they cut the Nosferatu off from us very early. If I were in your shoes I would watch out for something similar happening here."
"Christian tells me there were news reports about disappearing maintenance workers at the time. Do you believe these were caused by the Sabbat?"
" He has been to Toronto? Hm. . . but to answer your question, Undoubtedly. I'm sure they saw something they weren't supposed to and were killed for it, or turned into cannon fodder," Diana said," After the Nosferatu went silent, there started to be attacks on Kindred who lived separate of Clan homes. I remember a good friend of mine Daniel Walters, a Ventrue like us, being ruthlessly killed in his home. He was not one of Anne's Childer, so he kept his distance."
"I hope you will forgive the amount of prying that I have done in regards to the life you lead in your old home. I am sure you know the rumors that surround you here in this city, and while Christian is a horrible gossip, he tends to know fact from fiction."
Diana stiffened in her seat as she turned her gaze on the fire. She did not like that these things were already in play before she could even get to know the man. She knew the power of rumor and how often it had tortured her in the past. She had been a fool to believe it would leave her be once she arrived in Los Angeles.
"You are talking about how they think I committed diablerie against my Sire? Well if you want the answer to that it is no. Anne died trying to save her Childer, and whatever power I might seem to have is my own. I stole it from no one."
"My friend never made mention of the possibility. While you may not know each other directly, many of his contacts knew you very well. This Daniel Walters was a close friend of his as well."
Another small inconvenience. She had been many things to Daniel Walters, and if this Christian knew of all of them, then he knew how she played the game in order to be safe. Would he say anything to LaCroix about how she had laced her arm around Daniel's for many nights, making him feel like a younger man? She hoped not. She wanted to make her home in the Ventrue tower where she knew she could be safe, and what better way to make it than to carve it out of the Prince?
"I see. Are these things what you truly meant to speak with me about?" Diana asked.
"Then I suppose the questions are yours to ask, Mr. LaCroix. I do not know what your concerns are, but I will do my best to address them."
"Your allegiance is being questioned by many people in this city. You are silent in the face of anyone but myself. Many of the Primogen are concerned that you are here for less than perfect intentions," LaCroix said.
"I have spoken to no one else because I am a Childe of a Prince myself. I was embraced into the Camarilla and that is where my loyalties remain. I have no intention of learning about the Anarchs that populate this city, and I have not had the proper opportunities to interact with other members of the Camarilla," Diana said.
LaCroix turned his gaze on her, and she could only guess his intentions. She knew the look on his face, that of a man searching for the meaning behind the words of a woman. His eyes locked on her own as she met his gaze, and for a moment, she feared he may try to Dominate whatever answers he wanted right out of her. He looked away, and spoke once more, satisfied with her earlier answer.
"I see. Your presence in this city has struck a very tender nerve. The Anarch populous does not enjoy the idea of more followers of the Camarilla entering the city. The Camarilla are suspicious of anyone who was not already here, and the Sabbat will want you dead when they discover who you are. I hope you know that you are not safe."
"I know that. I am aware that my location leaves me vulnerable, but at this time I have nowhere else to go."
"Perhaps in time, there will be room for you here. Many of the Ventrue in the city live in this very tower. I know you mentioned the hope that you may come to stay here someday, and that time will come. In the meantime, I believe we are through here."
LaCroix stood, but as he did so, Diana reached out to him. He felt her hand close gently upon his wrist, and he had never turned to look at someone so fast in his life. The look on her face betrayed little, but her voice sounded smooth, like the words of a snake.
"Do you have any other appointments tonight, Mr. LaCroix?"
He thought for a moment before he answered her," No. I do not."
"I have an extra ticket to the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Beethoven symphony tonight, and I do need an escort. As you have noticed that I make little effort to contact anyone else, I have noticed you make little effort to get out of your tower. I believe the experience would do you good."
"Beethoven, you say?"
She nodded to him.
Go somewhere with her instead of holding yourself up in here. Christian's words earlier that night rang in his head as he considered Diana's offer. He thought it peculiar that she would ask him of all people to join her, but would it hurt to go? He did like Beethoven, and how many years had it been since he heard it played by a competent orchestra?
"Very well, Miss Clare. I accept."