Chapter 4: …Than Being Loved

"I don't like this," Dean complained as he knotted the blue tie of his FBI suit.

Tabitha walked out of the bathroom as her hands busily pulled her hair into a French twist, pinning the loose hairs in place. "Well, tough, Dean. I don't have a problem with you playing faux Fed to the local police, but you can't go with me to meet Evans, and I can't go to the morgue to check out the bodies. Evans is a real Fed, and the chance that he'll recognize you guys is just too high. You guys kinda made a name for yourselves with my colleagues. They're going to remember the outlaw duo brothers of another Federal agent. And I can't show up at the local PD because someone might recognize me from the last time I was in Cleveland. So, no dice. You're not going with me. You guys go check out the bodies, I'll meet with Evans," she insisted.

Finished with her hair, she smoothed her dark blue knee-length skirt, and stepped into the plain looking pair of black heels on the floor, instantly kicking her height up a couple of inches. She pulled the matching suit jacket over her white blouse, once more donning her familiar FBI persona like armor.

Her brothers continued to scowl silently as they drove to the Cleveland Police Department, Dean getting out of the Impala as Tabitha slid over into the driver's seat.

"I won't be gone long," she told them. "I just need to meet with Evans and go over the case a bit."

"Why?" Sam asked, coming around to stand with Dean on the sidewalk. "I don't get it, I thought that guy already sent you the files the FBI has on the abductions."

Tabitha nodded as she reached out for the driver's door, not closing it quite yet. "He did. But I still want to talk to him. He's been on the case, and there are always things that don't make it into the reports, theories and gut-feelings that an agent has but can't prove. But a lot of times, those feelings and reactions are important," she explained.

"But I thought you already decided it was this same vamp?" Dean said, his hand not yet releasing the driver's door.

"It never hurts to check everything out," Tabitha reminded. "Just go. Check out the bodies and make sure these really were vampire attacks, and I'll be back in no time."

Dean helped push the door closed, but called through the glass, "Just take care of my baby."

His sister laughed and waved out the back of the window as she drove away.


"I ordered some coffee, wasn't sure what else you'd want," Evans said as she entered the small family diner and sat in the booth across from him.

"That's fine," she told him, hailing down a waitress to place her own breakfast order.

When the waitress had finally left, Tabitha turned back to the agent across from her, noting that Phil Evans was still staring at the cup of coffee in his dark hands, not touching his food, and not looking up into her eyes.

"What's wrong?" she instantly asked, not liking the somber feel in their booth.

Evans continued to roll the half-filled cup between his hands, but his dark lips lightened slightly from the pressure of him clamping them unpleasantly together, an almost sour look filling his face.

"What?" she repeated.

Evans finally looked up, pinning her in a hard stare as his dark eyes looked her over, seeming to search her face for some truth.

"Why'd you come?" he suddenly asked, his deep voice rumbling dangerously.

Tabitha leaned back in surprise at the hostile edge to his tone. "I told you, after reading the case files, I decided to come take a look. Unofficially of course, since I'm still on leave. Just figured I could lend a hand."

"'On leave?'" he repeated, leaning back in his own booth and slinging one arm across the back as he continued his hard stare. "That's what you told everyone, 'on leave for a family emergency.'" But the way I just heard it, you're on an unofficial suspension. You know you can't be here without compromising the case. So why are you?"

Tabitha sighed and crossed her arms on the table as she leaned forward over them. "You've been talking with someone from my office about me."

"Yeah, when you said you were coming to take a look at things, I decided to give your office a call and find out just why you'd taken such a long leave of absence from your own field office. Didn't want you getting into the case if you were burning out or something. But this is worse." He shook his head and whispered low and accusingly, "What the hell did you do?"

Tabitha huffed, trying to decide what to say as their waitress brought her plate of food, mercifully giving her a moment to think.

"I didn't do anything really wrong or illegal," she finally whispered confidentially to him when they were alone. "After Casey died, they found out we'd been intimate with one another, and you know how the Bureau doesn't like that kind of thing, so they put me on leave. Especially since he'd been killed."

Evans looked momentarily surprised, but then seemed to be replaying every time he'd around the pair on the two cases where they had collaborated. He leaned forward again and stabbed at his own omelet. "Damn," was all he said for a moment.

"One of the many reasons my wife is thankful my partner is a man," he said lowly. Then he met her eye. "I'm sorry. They didn't say what you were being 'unofficially' suspended for, and I just assumed the worst. I'm sorry about Casey, too. He was a good man. Good agent. We were all sorry to hear about his death."

Tabitha nodded into her coffee, not meeting the other agent's eyes as she sipped the hot liquid.

"But why so long?" Evans pushed. "I get that the Bureau wanted you to take some time off after the man you'd, ugh, been with had been killed. But almost five months? Seems pretty damn long to me."

Tabitha shrugged and stared at her cup in her hands, absently stirring the stemming liquid with a spoon. "I can come back when I want. As long as I agree to counseling. It's also being mandated that I complete a full evaluation before I can return and I don't agree it's necessary."

Evans reached across and briefly laid his large warm hand on her arm, offering his silent support. "Counseling is mandated anytime you lose a partner, Tabitha. You know that, and this is even more complicated because of, ugh, your close relationship with him. Maybe it's not a bad idea."

"So what can you tell me about the missing girls?" she asked, eager to change the topic.

But Evans hesitated. "You sure you should be working on this. I mean, you are on leave or suspension, whatever you want to call it. Maybe you should be staying away from casework for a while."

"No," she answered with a shake. "I'm fine, and I've been away for almost five months now. I've had plenty of time off. Just let me take a look at the files."

He hesitated, but finally grabbed the files off the bench beside him, handing them across as he explained which file belonged to which girl. Tabitha didn't say anything, but the sheer fact that Evans had brought the files with him anyway meant he'd intended to share them all along. Either he trusted her more than he'd let on, or he was stuck bad and really needed an outside pair of eyes.

For the next hour, Tabitha picked at her food and flipped through the files, looking through the pictures and reading everything Evans had gathered as she asked him to clarify different points and give his impressions.

"So. What's your gut telling you?" Evans finally asked.

Tabitha shook her head slowly. Her gut was even more convinced now that these girls had been lured away by a vampire. The man that had been able to lure three intelligent women from bars and clubs like that was obviously intelligent himself, and a skilled and practiced hunter. Many years of skill, she was sure. But she couldn't tell another FBI agent what she was really thinking.

"My gut tells me that these girls are dead and we won't find their bodies or who did it," she told him, sliding the files back across the table to Evans. "Whoever did this, it isn't his first rodeo, and he left very little evidence behind."

"He left blood," Evans pointed out.

"Yeah, at each scene. Which leads me to believe it was deliberate or he just didn't care. Blood doesn't do us any good if we can't match it to anyone in the system. And this guy knows it, too."

"But his blood is on file now. We could catch him for something else and link him back to these women."

"Do you really think we will?" Tabitha asked, leaning back as she gathered her purse and threw a few bills down on the table to pay for her meal.

Evans sighed in frustration, likewise throwing some bills on the table. "No. We haven't even found any familial DNA in the database to match to the guy. It's like the guy doesn't exist and has no family."

"And that's why I think it'll be a miracle if the FBI does actually find him," she agreed as they walked out of the diner.

Evans reached out to shake her hand. "Well, thanks for coming to look, even if you've only confirmed what I've feared. We'll keep digging of course, but I'm not sure we'll find anything."

"I'm always happy to help," she assured him.


Tabitha pulled up in front of the Cleveland PD where she'd left her brothers, waiting only a few minutes before scooting to the middle of the seat as they piled in on either side of her. At least she hadn't had to wait long for them to be done as well.

Dean was surreptitiously looking his car over, and not so sneakily changing the station on the radio as he threw her a dirty look for changing it.

"Find anything?" Sam asked as they took off.

"Nothing concrete, but I'm even more certain these are related and it was a vampire that took those girls," she told them.

"We'll see," Dean shrugged, still unconvinced.

"How 'bout you guys?" she asked, smoothing her hand over her skirt as she ignored Dean's skepticism.

Sam was pulling his tie loose as he answered, one arm slung behind her on the seat. "Definitely got a vamp here in town. At least one, probably more from the number of bodies in the time frame. You were spot on about that."

Tabitha hummed a sound of agreement, but stared ahead as they drove, ignoring her younger brother's implication that she wasn't right about her other theory.


It was after dark as the siblings argued in their motel room.

"Look, I agree with you one-hundred percent on those guys, Tab. No way were they torn up by an animal. That was definitely the work of a vamp, but I still don't think the missing girls are connected. So let's just go to the area where it's been hunting and see if we can't find it before it kills someone else," Dean argued. He'd changed out of his FBI suit and back into jeans and a heavy button-up shirt, and was currently sitting on the edge of her bed as he pulled a machete out of the bag at his feet.

Tabitha looked up from where she was sitting at the small square table, a map of the city laid out in front of her as she marked off the areas where the girls had been from and where the bars and nightclubs were where they'd been taken.

"And I'm agreeing with you, they've killed more people than one vampire would need for food. But I think this vampire has turned those girls and they're feeding now, too, or he's hunting to feed them. But either way, based on the timeline of when those girls were turned, I think he's going to be hunting for another one to turn tonight or tomorrow night. So I think we should watch these clubs and look for him," she argued, trying to point to the area where the girls had been taken. It wasn't a huge area, but there were a couple of nightclubs left in it he hadn't taken girls from yet.

Sam leaned over her shoulder to look at the map. "Okay, even if there is a vampire hunting and turning these girls, how can you be sure where he'll be?"

Tabitha threw a grateful look at her younger brother, glad he was at least taking her somewhat seriously. "Vampires were once human, too. And they still have enough human instinct in them that they hunt in similar patterns to human predators. And they like a comfort zone. These girls have all been taken from different clubs in the same area. And there's only two clubs similar to those other ones left in that area that haven't been hunted yet. I say we stake them out. Try to figure out which one he's gonna hit next."

"We don't know a vampire has been hunting those girls," Dean maintained. "But we do know a vampire has been killing those men, so we're gonna go hunt where we know it's been killing people. Not where it just might turn up and be hunting chicks to turn. Besides, even if you were right, it's already turned three girls. Why would it turn more?"

"You know vampires tend to like nests with numbers of six or more. It's rare to see ones much smaller. As quickly as this one is turning girls, I'm guessing either his old nest is dead, or he's just establishing his own nest for himself. He's not done yet," she argued, getting to her feet and standing in front of her brother.

"We're hunting the area we know this thing has been," Dean told her, his voice brooking no argument.

As though that had ever stopped Tabitha. "Fine. Maybe that's a good idea. You and Sam head over to the east side of town and check there just in case he is hunting for blood again, and I'll go to the area where the girls have been taken. Maybe I'll get lucky and hit the right club, but this way, we're covering our bases better."

"What?" Dean sputtered. "You want to go hunting a vampire by yourself?"

"I'll be fine," she huffed. "According to you, I'm wrong anyway. But I'm going to go check it out just in case I'm right."

"Come on, Tab," Sam interceded. "You can't go hunting a vampire by yourself. How are you even going to find it?"

Tabitha fluffed the loose hair around her shoulders. "He's got a type. And physically, I fit it well enough. And I know enough about the other girls to fake the personality type."

"You want to be bait?" Sam asked, his mouth dropping open. "Do you know how dangerous that is?"

Tabitha whipped around and began digging through her bag, looking for clothes to wear to fit the part. "I'm a Fed, Sam. I'm familiar with the dangers of playing bait. We use our own agents when we need bait for a sting. I've played bait twice when I've fit the profile. I'll be fine."

Her brothers were silent, and she finally looked up as she found clothes that would work for a girl looking to have a good time at a nightclub.

"I don't like this," Dean told her. "But I still don't think it's a vampire you're looking for that took those girls. It's probably your garden-variety, human sicko."

"In which case, I still can't walk away without looking for him," she replied, heading to the bathroom to change.

When she came back out, she was wearing a brightly colored, shimmery purple halter top, and tight low-cut jeans with strappy heels.

"Taking bait to a whole new level, aren't you?" Dean snorted, sitting on the bed once more, machete still in hand.

Tabitha ignored the jab, carefully looking at her loose, curly hair and makeup in the mirror again.

"I don't like this," Dean repeated.

"Fine. Duly noted. But I'm still doing it. I can take care of myself. Especially if it is a human sicko as you say. I'll be fine," she insisted, slipping flashy silver earrings in place.

Dean stood and held something out to her. She turned and looked down to see a small syringe in his palm, filled with dark red liquid.

"Dead man's blood?" she asked, taking the syringe. Then she looked down at her outfit, unsure how to hide the syringe in her skintight jeans.

"Yeah, it's not a lot, but should be enough to drop a vamp for at least a while," Dean answered. "And I want your cellphone glued to your hand. The second you think you see a man or a vampire that might be your guy, you call me or text me, and Sam and I will make a beeline for your location. That's the only way you're doing this."

"Fine," she easily agreed, and then handed the syringe back to Dean. "Why don't you find some tape, and tape it to my lower back. It's the only place I can think to keep it. And I don't want to put it in my purse. Just in case."

Dean riffled through his bag, coming up with a roll of duct tape. "Good idea," he agreed. "I'll feel better if you have this on you in case something does happen."

Tabitha held the back of her halter-top up out of the way as Dean taped the syringe in place along her spine. "I'll be fine," she insisted over her shoulder. "You guys be careful, too. We don't know for sure where this vampire's gonna be, and you guys will be more exposed out on the streets in gang territory than I will be in a crowded club."


Several hours later, Tabitha was nursing her second daiquiri and wishing it was a beer instead. But the daiquiri fit the profile better.

Tabitha was at least thankful the nightclub she'd chosen didn't seem to have an FBI presence. Evans had told her he was working with a very small team and using mostly local PD to watch the clubs and bars. And given that Evans had only been able to narrow the target area down to five bars and nightclubs, wouldn't have been able to station his own guys at each of them. She could spot the undercover local cops by the way they scanned the crowd too intently, but luckily, she didn't know any of them, and better yet, none of them knew who she really was.

She shifted in her barstool, her fresh tattoo aching dully as she moved. She'd just shooed away another drunken come-on, and was trying to decide just what was the bigger pain in her ass for the evening. The drunks, or the tattoo.

"Why, what's a lovely rose like you doing all alone at the bar?" a smooth, lightly accented voice asked as a man slid up beside her. Another man had been sitting on the barstool to her left, trying to get her attention for the last twenty minutes, but the newcomer easily pushed the protesting drunk away.

Tabitha glanced at the stranger, noting his charming smile and dark exotic skin and hair. He looked middle-eastern, and easily played up the foreign mystique with his dark clothes and only partially buttoned shirt, exposing a good portion of the smooth olive skin of his chest. But she ignored his question, and turned back to her drink.

"Waiting for someone, perhaps?" he tried again, the dark waves of his hair tumbling slightly over his brows as he tipped his head down towards her, his smile undeterred by her silence.

"Yeah," she admitted, careful to seem upset by it. "I'm waiting for a friend to meet me here. We were going to have a girl's night."

He didn't seem any more putout by her answer than he had been by her silence. "Perhaps you'll permit me to buy you another drink while you wait, neshama," he suavely suggested.

Tabitha paused at the foreign endearment, trying to seem as if she was carefully considering his offer. "Sure, why not. My friend should be here soon anyway."

She glanced at the phone in her hand as the stranger hailed the bartender, ordering two glasses of wine. Tabitha's brow rose at his change in her drink order, but decided to go with it.

He pushed one of the wine glasses across the bar towards her, saying, "I am Calev."

Tabitha took the glass and sipped from it, tasting the rich flavor of the red wine. "I'm Crissy," she answered, feeling inspired to use the name of her little tattoo artist.

"A lovely name," he complimented. "And what is it that fills your days, neshama?"

Tabitha let herself smile as she felt her cheeks flush, trying to sell the flirtatious act. She knew that one of the things all the women had in common was that they were all highly intelligent, but worked fairly mundane jobs. Looking at this exotic man, she could see that if he was her target, he'd easily been able to fan the buried need for adventure in the life of a woman with a mundane job. And though they'd all worked mundane jobs and had simple lives, their friends admitted they did have a wild streak to them. A streak that liked to cut loose and have a good time.

"I work at Cleveland University, and teaching classes and meeting with my slacker students mostly fills my days," she primly answered, the hint of a grin showing through. "And what is it you do, Calev?"

He grinned and reached over, lightly running just the back of a fingernail down the skin of Tabitha's arm. Goose bumps followed in the wake of the light touch, but it hadn't been enough for Tabitha to determine if his temperature ran hot or cold.

"I'm in acquisitions," he laughed, his eyes sparkling at some private joke.

"Hmm," Tabitha hummed unimpressed. She swiveled towards him on the stool, but also effectively pulling her arm further away from him. "'Acquisitions,' huh? Doesn't sound very intriguing."

He laughed again, leaning towards her conspiratorially. "It has its moments," he confided. "And what of you? Teaching at a university can't be all that adventurous. What is it you teach?"

Tabitha smiled and let her own eyes shine with a private joke. "Oh, you'd be surprised. Teaching on a campus like that is always an adventure. Never the same day twice." She paused, letting him wait and lean eagerly forward for the rest of her answer. "But I suppose I don't teach the most exciting subject matter in the world. I teach English literature. I spend most days reading freshman papers from kids I'm not even sure have a basic understanding of the English language. How some of them got out of high school and into college, I'll never know."

Calev swirled his own wine glass, taking a slow sip before he spoke. "So you come here to unwind from the strains of reading the poor attempts of spoiled American children?"

Tabitha paused thoughtfully. "I suppose I do. Or at least, that's what I was supposed to be doing with my friend," she explained, carefully looking around the bar for her "missing" friend.

"A girl's night out?" he pondered. "I would have rather thought so lovely a rose would rather spend her time in the company of a different persuasion."

Tabitha let a coy smile come forward, as she laughed, "My boyfriend's out of town actually, so that's part of the reason for a girl's night."

But her dark companion wasn't discouraged, pressing his hand to his chest theatrically. "Alas, 'tis always my poor luck. Though I must congratulate the splendid fortune of whatever man may call you his."

Tabitha let herself blush again, looking away as though in embarrassment.

"I must ask, what does this gentleman of yours do? I find myself interested in what sort of man could so thoroughly captivate such an exquisite woman. Tell me, neshama, what kind of man must I be to prove worthy of a beauty like you."

Again, Tabitha felt the blush deepen, actually impressed by his suave and caviler manner. But then, she realized she needed to fabricate a boyfriend. And quick. In the past, she'd always tried to stick to core truths for her covers, but she suddenly realized that she couldn't possibly force herself to use even general truths about the last man she had slept with.

Realizing she'd been silent too long, she suddenly said, "He works for the church."

He works for the Church! Where the hell did that come from? she berated herself.

"'Church?'" Calev repeated. "I take it not a priest or some such thing?" he coyly added.

"No," Tabitha laughed, trying to hide her embarrassment. "Oh, you know, he's one of those guys who are always thinking he's going to save the world. He's always volunteering at the church, to help the homeless or something, he's actually in South America now, you know, rebuilding some village down there somewhere. A missionary trip to help the less fortunate." Shut up! You're rambling, she continued chastising herself.

"I see," Calev answered. "A difficult match I would think."

"Hmm?" Tabitha hummed in confusion.

Calev leaned back as he studied her. "I was only thinking to myself what a shame it is that you've given your loyalty to such a man. One who would rather give his time and energies to saving and rebuilding a village in a faraway country, leaving so beautiful a woman all alone to fend for herself. Should not the love he holds for his partner exceed his need to save mere strangers, removed by worlds? Should he not be more concerned with seeing to your needs and happiness, neshama?"

Tabitha felt herself leaning forward at the bar, her elbow bracing her weight as she listened to him. She had to give him credit, he was good. She was almost upset with her fictional boyfriend for taking a nonexistent missionary trip to a country she hadn't even picked yet.

She forced herself to lean back and sip the wine. "He's very good to me," she maintained. "And what he does is important work. I know and accept that. And he comes to see me when he's able," she told him, trying to maintain the same loyalty the friends of the missing woman said they had.

"Of course," Calev back peddled, raising his hands in surrender. "I surely meant no offense. Merely stating that I would not leave such a lovely woman behind." He pulled some bills from his pocket and placed them on the bar, saying to her in apologetic tones, "But I fear I have overstepped my bounds. Forgive me."

He disappeared through the ever-increasing crowds on the dance floor before Tabitha could stop him. And she cursed herself silently, wondering if she'd come across too forcefully in her "loyal defense" of her fictitious boyfriend.

Or worse yet, if he wasn't her target, and this had all been a wild goose chase.


An hour later, Tabitha thought she might have another possibility on her hands. Shortly after the Calev had left her at the bar, a suave, slick haired man had taken his place. Daniel was every bit as handsome as the man who had preceded him, and just as cunning. Telling her jokes, complimenting her, and even listening to her complain about her terrible friend standing her up on a Friday night and lamenting about the buddies that had likewise stranded him.

"There's no reason you can't still have a good time!" Daniel yelled over the increasing sounds of the bar's music and patrons. "Come and dance with me!"

Tabitha bit her lower lip in indecision.

But Daniel was undeterred. "Just one dance! What'll it hurt?"

She shook her head. "I told you, I have a boyfriend!"

But Daniel only grinned. "We've been stood up by our friends! So screw them, let's have our own fun. But just as friends. Friends who have in common that they have crappy friends," he laughed loudly over the music.

Tabitha considered it, wishing for the millionth time that all vampires were easier to spot. Like some stupid vampire calling card where they all sparkled or something equally ridiculous. But unfortunately, the older they were, the better they got at hiding their differences and mimicking human behavior. And so far, she hadn't had the opportunity to check Daniel's temperature. She'd tried to touch his hands coyly as he flirted with her, but Daniel hardly sat still, his hands moving animatedly as he spoke, and his arms were unfortunately covered by the dark blue sleeves of his pressed shirt.

Finally nodding at his request to dance, Tabitha slid from the barstool as Daniel excitedly stepped beside and slightly behind her, guiding her to the dance floor with a hand hovering at her back.

Remembering the syringe still taped there, Tabitha walked almost sideways through the dance floor as she demurely reminded her companion, "Just one dance though. As friends."

"Of course," he almost gallantly called back over the music.

Daniel finally guided her to the back of the dance floor where there was still a little open space. He stood there for a moment looking down at her, and Tabitha realized he was waiting for her to set the pace.

The music was fast and a thumping dance beat, so she raised her hands over her head and began swaying to the music. Daniel quickly joined her, his hands lightly resting on her hips.

She allowed that for several minutes, just swaying and twisting to the fast pace of the music, not wanting to rush things or be too forceful like she'd been earlier in the evening.

But as she moved her hands down to brush them against the hands at her waist, the pair was jostled by another couple on the dance floor, and Tabitha was pushed hard against the wall at her back.

Daniel cursed as he looked over his shoulder, one hand braced on the wall by her head to keep from crushing her. She again tried to reach up for his hand, but he turned back to her before she could, pulling his hand down as he backed away from her.

"Sorry about that," he apologized. He looked around and suggested, "Hey, maybe we should step outside, I'm getting hot anyway." As he spoke, he pointed to the back door just down the wall from them, leading into the alley.

Tabitha glanced back through the throng, and decided that it might not be a bad idea. At least out there, he might stand still long enough for her to brush against his hand, but still be close enough to the bar that she could scream for help if she needed it.

"Sure," she agreed, and let him guide her to the door.

It was definitely colder outside, and the sweat that had built on Tabitha's skin from grooving on the crowded dance floor instantly chilled, making her shiver in the night air.

"You look cold," Daniel observed as he stepped closer and wrapped an arm over her shoulders.

Tabitha's hand snaked up to feel the hand hanging over her shoulder as she reminded, "No. I've got a boyfriend, Daniel."

But before her hand could even reach his, he had shoved her roughly against the brick wall of the bar, his mouth descending possessively on hers. Her head painfully reminded her that she still had a lump to the back of her skull from the ghosts attacking them at Bobby's, but she pushed the pain away.

His mouth was warm, and soured by the tequila he'd been drinking. And just as Tabitha started to raise her knee into his groin to vent her frustrations, the annoyingly human drunk was yanked away from her.

"I do believe the woman told you 'no,' you scum," Calev's deep accent growled.

Tabitha looked up to see the darkened face of Calev staring down into the shorter man's belligerent gaze.

"We were just talking! Who the hell do you think you are?" he demanded.

Calev was unmoved by the shorter man's anger, seeming to draw himself up even taller as he stared down into Daniel's face.

"Do you really want to explain to the police that you cannot understand what a woman means when she says 'no?'" he threatened. Tabitha briefly wondered if he was one of the undercover cops, but immediately wrote it off as she realized he meant just calling the police in general. But she couldn't help but wonder why one of the undercover cops hadn't already taken care of this creep. Or where they were now. They were sloppy not watching the back alley as well.

Daniel scowled for a moment, and then tucked tail and disappeared back into the bar.

Tabitha had regained her balance and stepped forward by then, telling her savior in a low voice, "Thanks, but I could have handled that creep myself."

Calev turned back to her, a small smile growing on his face. "I have no doubt you can look after yourself, but is it not better if you need not?"

"What were you doing out here?" she asked him instead.

"I came out for some fresh air and saw that filth grab you. I only thought to offer my assistance," he offered, his hands raised placating.

Tabitha sighed, annoyed that her night had been a bust. She knew the bar would be winding down soon, and figured it was best to head back to the motel and try again the following night.

She turned to walk around the bar, not wanting to work her way back through the maze of people just to get to the front and hail a cab. But as she walked, Calev fell in step beside her.

Not slowing her stride, Tabitha turned a questioning look on the olive-skinned man.

Calev passed her another winning smile. "I only thought it would be best to accompany you until I am sure you are to safety, neshama."

"Look, that's nice, Calev, but I can look after myself. And I still have a boyfriend," she lied, wanting the night to be over. "And what's that mean anyway, 'neshama?' You've called me that several time now."

"Perhaps one day I shall tell you. But are you certain you are all right?" Calev asked. "He shoved you against that wall with some force." As he spoke, he reached behind her with one hand, his fingers threading through her hair uninvited as he searched for "damage" to the back of her head.

Tabitha immediately fainted away from the man, trying to put distance between them as she felt his gripe tighten, yanking hair from her scalp as she moved.

Moving with greater speed, Calev stepped with her, his other hand reaching around trying to lock her into the embrace of his arms as he lifted her off her feet, easily able to do so, taller than her, even in her heels.

Years of training kicked in, and Tabitha twisted and turned in his arms, kicking backwards as hard as she could, and hearing the satisfying crunch and foreign curses as her stiletto heel connected with his shin. The arms dropped her, and she tried to roll away and regain her feet.

But as she pushed up to run, the cold fingers that had threaded through her hair, sailed through the air in a fist, connecting painfully against her temple.


A/N: As always, let me know what you think!