Moonlight, Roses & Murder

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“How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”  –Bram Stoker

Prologue

Walking out of the club, Hailey smiled and looked back at her friends.  “I told you it’s only a few blocks and I like the exercise.”  She tried to adjust the corset of her Steampunk costume, but it was determined to keep riding up.

“This isn’t Ellensburg,” said her friend Sonya, smoothing out her long black dress.  “Seattle is not someplace to be walking around by yourself at night.”

“I’ll go with you,” Andy offered.  He looked good in his Victorian outfit, but he’d been slurring his words since their third shot of whiskey.

“That’s okay,” Hailey replied, holding up one hand.  “See, it’s right there,” she said, pointing towards one of the buildings.  “Okay, right behind the tall one,” she added, laughing.

“Let’s all go,” Sonya offered, looking at her watch.  “We can get there and back in time for the next set.  The band is really good tonight.”

“I’m fine,” Hailey replied, giving her a hug.  “Oops, sorry about the ruffles.  They keep getting in the way.”  She smiled.  “I’ll talk to you in the morning.  We still have three days left of Spring Break.”

“She has to go call Doug,” Andy said, smirking.  “Lucky guy if you ask me.”

“Okay Andy, time for coffee,” Sonya said, pulling him back towards the club.  Looking at Hailey, she added, “Be careful.”

Hailey nodded, then turned and walked across the street, cutting through Pioneer Square.  She loved Seattle especially this part of the city.  The glass-covered, metal pergola was beautiful and with the trees and old buildings, it almost felt like she’d stepped back in time.

She heard music playing, probably from one of the clubs.  The Steampunk Convention was bringing out a lot of people for a Thursday night.  Two creepy guys were standing next to one of the doorways, which Hailey carefully walked around.  Glancing over her shoulder, she was relieved that they seemed deep in conversation.

Almost there, she told herself as she crossed the street and walked along the sidewalk.  As she passed the alley, she thought she heard a noise.  She looked over and saw nothing, but started walking faster.  She could swear she heard footsteps and suddenly, this part of the block seemed deserted.  She stopped and heard two clicks, then silence.

“Okay, this is getting scary,” she said softly, wishing she’d asked Andy to come with her after all.  As she hurried to the end of the block, she saw the hotel across the street.  Finally, she thought, sighing with relief.  She took a step towards the bright lights of the hotel as someone grabbed her from behind, pulling her back into the shadows…

Chapter 1

Selina Bellerose looked up as one of her employees walked into the office.  Jeremy was her head bouncer and he usually came in making a joke or complaining about a difficult customer.

“Selina, we’ve got a problem,” Jeremy said, seriously.

“What is it?” she asked, brushing her long, brown hair over her shoulder.  When he hesitated, Selina said, “Just tell me, Jeremy.”

“You’d better come look for yourself,” Jeremy replied, walking out of the room.

Selina nodded, following him out of the office and through the now deserted club.  As they walked up the stairs to the rear entrance, Jeremy stopped and looked back at her.  “It’s not pretty,” he said.

As they stepped into the dim light of the alley, she could see a figure lying on the stones.  “It’s a girl,” Selina said, walking over to the very still young woman.  She was dressed in a beige and brown Steampunk outfit with her hair done up in pigtails.

“She’s older than she looks,” Isabella said, standing next to the body.  Her assistant manager paused and added, “Or at least she was.  She’s dead, Selina.”

“Have you called the police?” Selina asked, turning to Jeremy.

Jeremy and Isabella exchanged a look.  “Call them,” Selina said.  Walking back into the club, she added, “And stay with her until they arrive.”

Isabella nodded as Jeremy pulled out his cell phone.

Selina walked back down the stairs, looking around the club.  This was going to be trouble, she thought.  Trouble she didn’t want or need.  She walked into her office and started putting papers and a few other items into her safe.

 

Detective Nathaniel Wright looked around the crime scene.  He was in his early 30s and had been a detective for almost three years, so he knew this case was going to attract some attention.  The victim was young, pretty and had lost a lot of blood.  She was also wearing a Steampunk costume, which had very little blood on it.  As he went over the crime scene, it was obvious the murder hadn’t happened in the alley.

He looked over at his partner, Maria Fuentes.  She was in her late 40s and easily the smartest detective he knew.  She had a way of getting people to relax and tell her much more than they would normally admit to the police.  She looked like the average mom, but she’d solved more cases than any other detective in the Seattle PD.  He had learned a lot from her.

“What do you think?” he asked Maria.

“I’ll let you know in a minute,” she replied, walking over to the young woman standing behind the club.  She had dark blonde hair, tied up with a blue velvet ribbon and was wearing a blue and white, Victorian style dress.  “Excuse me, it’s Isabella, isn’t it?’ she asked, recalling that two people had called in the murder.  “Do you have a moment to talk?”

Isabella nodded, looking back over at the handsome, young African-American detective, then down at the dead girl.  “Of course,” she replied.  “Would you like some coffee or anything?”

Maria shook her head.  “Thank you, but we need to stay with the body until the forensics team gets here.”  She pulled out a small notebook and a pencil.  “Did you find the victim?”

“No,” Isabella replied, “Jeremy found her, when he came out here to dump…” she paused and swallowed.  “When he brought the garbage out.”

Maria edged over a little, so that she was blocking the view of the body.  “And then he went back into the club and got you?” she asked.

Isabella nodded.  “I told him to find Selina and I would wait with the young…with the body.”

Maria looked up.  “Did he tell you she was dead?”

“He said she didn’t seem to have a pulse,” Isabella replied, “but he was only out here a moment.”

Maria nodded.  “Then, you called us right away.”

“As soon as Jeremy brought Selina up,” Isabella replied.  “She’s the owner and we thought she should know.”

Maria was used to this type of thing.  Some people called immediately, others were in shock and had to be told to call, and a few didn’t want the police involved.  She’d give this young woman the benefit of the doubt for now.

“Where is Jeremy?” Maria asked.  “I’ll need to speak to him and the owner.”

“Of course,” Isabella said.  “I told them I would stay with her,” she looked back towards the body.  “I would stay until you arrived.”

Maria nodded.  “Why don’t you ask Jeremy to come out here.  You’re free to go home if you like.”

Isabella nodded and went into the club.  Maria looked around, then back over at her partner.  Finally answering his question, she said, “I think someone murdered this young woman and staged her body behind the club.  What I want to know is why?”

“Her ID was in her pocket,” Nate said, glancing down at the ruffled skirt.  “Says her name was Hailey Elizabeth Brockner.”  He shook his head.  “Looks like she was here for the Steampunk Convention.  Why these kids want to dress up like freaks is beyond me.”

“They seem to enjoy it,” a soft voice said behind them.  Turning, they saw a beautiful woman in her early 30’s.  “She was quite lovely,” she said, looking down at the young woman on the ground.

Nate cleared his throat.  “And you are…”

“Selina Bellerose,” she replied.  “I am the owner of Luna’s Nightclub.  I understand you wish to speak to Jeremy.” She looked over at Maria.  “He’ll be right up…he’s in the men’s room.”

Maria nodded.  “It’s not easy finding a dead body.”

“Or to see them on a regular basis, I would imagine,” Selina said, looking from Maria to Nate.  “Can I get you anything?  Maybe some coffee?”

“We have to wait…” Nate began.

“I’d appreciate a cup,” Maria replied, surprising her partner.  She turned to Nate.  “Wait for the forensics team, then meet me inside.”

Nate nodded as Maria followed Selina into the club.  The owner was gorgeous, he thought to himself, even in that weird, black lace dress.  He smiled for a moment, then looked back down at the victim and shook his head.

 

Maria followed the owner, Miss Bellerose, down the stairs and into the club.  It was quiet now, looking more like a very large Victorian parlor than a nightclub.  They walked over to the huge L-shaped mahogany bar, which took up one end of the space.  Black metal stools with matching leather cushions offered plenty of seating.  Edison style lighting hung from the ceiling, reflected in the large mirror behind the bar.  Shelves full of sparkling liquor bottles were lit up by more vintage fixtures.

“Very nice,” Maria said, looking around at the mahogany paneling, which covered the lower two thirds of the walls and the old brick above.  A large mahogany fireplace took up most of one wall with benches on either side.  Small tables and chairs were pulled up to them for additional seating.  Maria smiled.  “I would have loved to have had a club like this, when I was a Goth girl.”

“We do have some Goth clientele especially the Romantigoths,” Selina agreed.  “They love the Victorian feel, but Steampunk seems to be the most popular at the moment.”

Maria nodded, thinking of the body outside.  “Do you remember seeing the young lady in your club tonight?”

“No, but I was in the office most of the evening.  Did she have a stamp on the back of her hand?”  Selina asked.  “Ours will show up under an ultraviolet light.”

“We’ll know more, when forensics gets here,” Maria said, looking at her watch.

Selina poured two cups of coffee.  “Cream or sugar?” she asked.

“Black is fine,” replied Maria, picking up one of the coffee mugs.

As she started to sit on the barstool, Selina smiled.  “Let’s go to one of the upholstered benches,” she suggested.  “They’re much more comfortable.”

Maria followed her to one of the red leather benches along the wall.  “This is better,” she agreed, sitting down.  “Did you have trouble with any of the customers this evening?”

“No,” Selina replied.  “And I would have been notified immediately if there had been.  We had a large crowd for a Thursday night, but it was mostly college kids and convention people.”  She paused. “The girl seemed very pale.  She must have lost a lot of blood.”

Maria nodded.  “And I’m guessing you noticed there didn’t seem to be any in the alley.”

Selina shrugged.  “I didn’t look very carefully, but one would imagine there would be a lot of blood around the body if she had been killed there.”

“You’re not going to play amateur detective on this, are you?” Maria asked.

Selina smiled.  “Hardly.  I just want to make it clear that my club does not attract that kind of violent element.”

“How long have you owned the place?”  Maria looked around.  “It seems more like a Victorian parlor than a nightclub.”

“Almost three years,” Selina replied.  “It was pretty rough, when we bought it.  A lot of hard work and a very good designer got us to what you see today.”

“Us?” Maria repeated.  “Is there a co-owner?”

“My nieces and I purchased the club,” Selina said, reminding herself not to share so much information with a police detective.

“How old are your nieces?” Maria asked, “just for my own notes.”

Selina smiled.  “They are 22, 24, 25 and 27.  They were my older sister’s daughters and I’ve had them for quite a while.”  She paused.  “My sister was killed in an automobile accident several years ago.”

Maria nodded.  “And do they all work at the club?”

“Yes,” Selina replied, “but only Isabella was here cleaning up with Jeremy.  Everyone else went home after the club closed and there was no body in the alley at midnight, I assure you.”

“You close early for a club,” Maria noted.  “Is that typical?”

“We close at midnight during the week,” Selina replied, “but on Friday and Saturday we stay open until 2 am.  The club is closed on Sunday and Monday.”

Maria wrote it all down.  Selina wondered if she was always so thorough.  “I’d like to speak to Jeremy now,” Maria said, looking up.

Selina nodded and walked over to a door next to the bar, which Maria hadn’t noticed before.  Selina went through it and came back a few moments later with a tall young man, who was built like a football player.

“Jeremy, Detective Fuentes would like to speak to you,” Maria heard Selina say as they walked back over.  Selina had a hand on Jeremy’s arm, who still looked a little pale.

“What time did you find the victim?” Maria asked, indicating that Jeremy should sit down.

“About twelve thirty,” Jeremy replied.  “Sorry, I’m not usually so upset, but she just looked like she was sleeping.  I walked over to see if she’d passed out and then I realized…she was cold.” He looked up at Selina.  “Too cold.”

Selina nodded.  “It’s alright, Jeremy.  Tell the detective what happened after that.”

“I checked for a pulse.”  He looked over at Maria.  “We learned to do that in college.  Check our pulse rate, while working out.”  He shrugged and shook his head.  “She didn’t have one.”

“So, you came back into the club and told your boss,” Maria said.  “Then, what happened?”

“I brought Selina back up and she told us to call you.  To call the police.  And to stay with the girl…with the body until you arrived.”  Jeremy looked down.  “She was a pretty girl, wasn’t she?”

“Yes,” Maria agreed.  Turning to Selina, she asked, “And what did you do while the others were waiting for us?”

Selina kept her muscles relaxed.  “I came down to check the video tape in my office.  To see if the young woman was outside tonight, standing in line to get in.”

“And did you see her?” Maria asked.

“No, but we don’t have any cameras in the alley.”  Selina sighed.  “I didn’t think we’d need them.”

Maria was about to respond, when Detective Wright walked into the club.  “I take it forensics finally showed up?” Maria asked.

“It’s been a busy night,” Nate replied.  “Apparently, they had a crime scene in Wallingford to deal with before they could get here.”

Maria nodded.  Looking over at Jeremy, she said, “Thank you for your help.  You’re free to leave.”

“Go wait in my office with Isabella,” Selina said.  “We’ll drop you at your apartment on our way.”  Jeremy nodded and walked back through the door by the bar.  “If there’s nothing else, I would like to get them home.”  Glancing from Nate to Maria, she added, “I can give you a copy of the video if you like.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Maria replied.  “And if I could get your address and phone number in case we have any other questions?”

After she wrote down the information, Selina walked over to her office.  A few minutes later, she returned with a thumb drive, which she handed to Maria.  “Here’s what we have from the front door security cameras.  I hope it helps.”

Selina escorted the detectives upstairs.  When they opened the door to the alley, one of the men working on the body said, “Detective Fuentes, we have a problem.”  Maria walked over with Nate as Selina followed a few steps behind.  “We turned the body over and found this.”

The man moved back to show them.  “The coroner should be here any minute, but it looks like she hit her head…then someone did this.”  He indicated the two punctures, which were just a few inches apart.

Selina looked down and closed her eyes.  When she looked up, all she saw was the flash.  “Get out of here,” Nate yelled, pointing at the man holding the phone.  “No pictures at a crime scene.  Show some respect.”

“Are you saying someone bit her on the neck?” the man asked.  “My blog followers are going to love this!”

Selina looked at the man, who was wearing a long, dark overcoat and realized he was probably one of the Steampunk bloggers attending the convention.  As she turned to go back into the club, she hoped he had merely taken a picture of the crime scene and not one of her.

 

Chapter 2

Selina walked back into the office and looked at Isabella.  “Let’s drop Jeremy off, then we’ll tell the others what happened after we get home.”

Isabella nodded and walked over, gently shaking Jeremy’s arm.  He was sleeping on the black leather sofa against one wall of the office.  Selina walked past him and through the doorway to her private quarters.

The old storage rooms had been reworked into a marvelous living space and it was one reason they had purchased this particular property.  It was perfect for the nights they didn’t want to drive all the way out to Port Townsend.

Selina looked over at the living area as she walked past it on her way to the bedroom.  It was still one of her favorite spaces, she realized.  All velvet and dark colors, which was typical of Victorian design and a mahogany fireplace on one wall with bookcases on each side.

Walking into her bedroom, she picked up her purse and a few other items, which she’d rather the police didn’t find if they decided to search the property.  She doubted it would happen, but best to be prepared.

As Selina walked back into the office, she said, “Isabella, did you phone for the car?”

“Yes,” Isabella replied.  “I didn’t think you’d want to drive tonight.  It’s already after three.”

Selina nodded.  “Let’s go out the main entrance.  There’s no reason to go back through the alley.”  And no need to be around any other social media types, she thought to herself.

Jeremy grabbed the gray duffel bag he’d brought in that night.  “I’ll need this for tomorrow,” he said, referring to his day job as a coach’s assistant.

“Are you sure you’re up for it?” Selina asked, concerned.

“I’ll be fine,” he replied.  “It was just unexpected.  I really thought she was asleep,” he added, referring to the dead girl.

“The car should be here any minute,” Selina said as they walked up the front staircase.  “There are a few things we should discuss on the way home.”

They walked out the front entrance and over to the black Mercedes town car.  “We’d like some privacy,” Selina said to the chauffeur as she got in.

He nodded and put up the glass divider before they pulled away from the curb.  Selina looked over at the flashing lights and saw more people standing around.  “This is going to be all over the news,” she said, quietly.  “The girl lost a lot of blood, when she was killed and it obviously didn’t happen behind our club.  There was no blood at the scene as you both know.”

She hesitated for a moment, then continued.  “There were also two small holes or puncture marks on the side of her neck.  No one noticed them until they moved her body.”

Isabella stiffened slightly as Jeremy looked confused.  “Why would anyone do that?” he asked.  “Were they trying to make it look like a vampire attacked her?”  He shook his head.  “What a pervert.  He, um, he didn’t….”

Selina shook her head.  “I don’t think so, Jeremy.  Her dress was not torn, but we won’t know any other details until the police release them.”

“Here’s your stop,” Isabella said.  “Have a cup of tea and get some sleep.  You’ll feel better in the morning.”

Jeremy looked over at Selina, then back at Isabella.  “I was thinking of something a little stronger than tea.  I’ll see you both tomorrow night.”

As he got out of the car and walked up to his apartment building, Selina looked at Isabella.  “This is going to be trouble.”

Isabella nodded.  “I know.”

 

The next afternoon, Selina walked down the stairs of their Victorian home and through the small parlor into the dining room.  The girls were already eating lunch and watching the news.  One of them had brought in their laptop.

“There she is,” Annalise said, looking up at Selina.  “Show her.”

Genevieve nodded and started the video clip again.  “It was all over the news this morning,” she said, quietly.

Michela walked over and handed Selina a cup of coffee as she sat down to watch the clip.

“This is from our correspondent in Seattle, Washington.  Last night, a young woman was attacked and murdered by what might be a vampire.  If not, it’s someone trying to frame one of the undead.”  The man laughed, which Selina found totally inappropriate.

“And this one…” Genevieve said, tapping a button and brushing her auburn bangs out of her eyes.

“Downtown Seattle’s Pioneer Square was the scene of a vicious and deadly attack by a vampire or an individual with serious mental and emotional problems.  Police are advising all people, especially young women, to travel in groups and not walk alone until this killer is found.”  The woman reporter added a bit breathlessly, “The Count may not be satisfied with just one victim.”

Michela rolled her eyes.  “Seriously?  What happened to real reporting?”

Annalise looked at Isabella.  “This isn’t good.”

Isabella walked over and pushed one of the buttons.  “It gets worse, Selina.”

“The body of a young woman was found behind a Seattle nightclub last night.  Apparently, the victim of a vampire attack, which yours truly captured in these amazing photos.”  There was a photo of the young woman and what seemed to be Detective Wright’s hand, grabbing at the phone.  Then, they showed a photo of Selina in the black lace dress.  “This is the owner of Luna’s, a club that caters to the weird and perverse nightlife of Seattle.”

“What?” exclaimed Michela.  “We might be a little weird, but we don’t allow any perverts into our club.  Not knowingly anyway.”

“There’s a bigger issue,” Isabella said, “and what are we going to do about it?”

“Hope that no one pays any attention and it all blows over,” Selina replied, looking at the laptop.  “The likelihood of this story being seen outside of Seattle is remote, is it not?”

“Seriously, Selina,” Annalise said, then shook her head, blonde curls bouncing.  “You need to get with the 2017 technology.  This blog has gone viral.”

Selina looked down at the table, then back up at her girls.  “I don’t see that we have any other choice.  We’ll go to work as we always do and hope that no one who matters saw the blog.”

The girls looked at each other, then at Selina, who forced a smile and went back upstairs to get dressed.

“Nice one, Anna,” Michela whispered as she followed Selina out of the room.

 

Michela sat on the edge of Selina’s bed, watching her go through the clothes in her armoire.  She had thought that armoire was like something out of a fairytale, when she was little.

“What are you going to do?” Michela asked.

“Exactly what I said downstairs,” Selina replied.  “Go about our business as usual.  The chances of anyone seeing that blog in Europe have got to be pretty low.”

Michela knew Selina said that more for her benefit than any real conviction.  “Always trying to protect us,” she said, walking over and hugging her, “but we’re not little girls anymore.  And we can fight if necessary.”

“No,” Selina replied firmly. “Absolutely not.  If it comes to that, we’ll relocate.  I won’t have you girls taking any unnecessary risks.”

“They won’t want to leave,” Michela said, looking down at the floor, then running a hand through her black hair.  “You know how long it took us to find this place.”

Selina smiled and gently put a hand on each side of Michela’s face.  “There are many, many places we can go.  We don’t have to work, but if we stop now, we’ll only look guilty.”  She paused.  “However, I will liquidate some of our investments.”

Michela nodded.  “Probably for the best.  I’ll start looking online for another location to get some idea what’s available.”

“Still my little helper.”  Selina smiled.  “The oldest of my girls and always the one to look out for the others.”

Michela glanced back at the armoire.  “Wear the dark blue dress.  You’ll look beautiful and it’s less severe than the black.”

Selina nodded.  “I think you’re right,” she said, seriously.  “Blue will make all the difference.”

Michela rolled her eyes and smiled as she walked out of the room.

 

When they got to the club, there was already a crowd by the front door.  They weren’t going to be open for another hour, so they assumed it was all the talk about the murder.  The police tape was still up, separating the crime scene from the rest of the alley.  And there were two new security cameras installed above the door that Selina had ordered that afternoon.

As they got out of the town car, Selina and the girls walked through the back door into the club.  No one bothered them, but the phones were ringing, when they got down the stairs.

“I’ll get it,” said Isabella.  “I’m assuming our response is no comment?” she asked.

Selina smiled.  “Good guess.”

Genevieve started setting up the bar.  As she was the head bartender, she would take care of everything until David showed up to man the other side.

Annalise walked up.  “Brandon left a message saying he’ll be in early.  He saw the line outside on TV a few minutes ago.”

“Good,” replied Genevieve.  “You’ll need help with the tables.”

Selina walked over as they were talking.  “Anna, call Marcus and ask him to come in early, too.  Michela and Jeremy are going to need him with this crowd.”

Selina looked over at the stairs as Detectives Fuentes and Wright walked down.  “I hope you don’t mind, but we have a few more questions,” Maria said.  “Your back door was unlocked, so we thought we’d try to get this done before you open.”

Selina nodded.  “Why don’t you come into my office?”

She looked at the girls and smiled as the detectives followed her over to the door by the bar.  “If you need anything, call me,” Selina said as she closed the door.

Isabella shook her head as she listened to the last phone message.  “They’re all asking the same thing,” she said to Genevieve.  “Do we serve any blood with our Bloody Mary?”

“Oh, that’s tacky,” Genevieve replied, wrinkling her nose.  “Maybe we should take it off the menu tonight.”

“No, leave it on,” Isabella said.  “We’ll ask Selina, when she comes back out.”  They looked over at the office door, then back at each other.  “Time to get to work,” Isabella said.

 

Selina closed the door and indicated that the detectives should sit on the sofa.  She sat across from them in one of the chairs that could be turned towards her desk or the seating area.  “How may I help you?” she asked.

Detective Wright looked at his partner, then over at Selina.  “We found out the girl was at another club last night with two of her friends.  She decided to walk back to the hotel by herself.”

“Not a smart idea,” Detective Fuentes said, “but usually more of a mugging risk than murder.  Especially in this neighborhood.”

Selina waited to see what they wanted to ask her.  Maria noticed she didn’t ask any questions, but waited to be asked.  Careful, she thought.

“We were wondering if you had any thoughts as to why someone would leave a body behind your club?” Nate asked, trying to ignore how beautiful Selina looked in the dark blue dress.

“I have no idea,” Selina answered, truthfully.

“The hotel is a few blocks from here,” Maria said, nonchalantly.  “But the thing is…your club is not on the path between her hotel and the other club.”

“It makes us wonder,” Nate asked, “why the detour?”

Selina looked down at the table, then back up at the detectives.  “Do you suspect me or a member of my staff?”

Maria was surprised by her direct approach.  “Honestly, we don’t know at this time why she changed course.  Or if she was left here for some other reason.”

“I see,” Selina replied.  “My nieces and our other employees are all intelligent, hard-working people.  They are also smart enough not to leave a body at our back door.”  As the detectives exchanged a glance, Selina added, “And none of them have a reason to make me a suspect either.”

Nate looked over at Maria.  She’d anticipated almost every one of their questions.  “We appreciate you being so frank, Miss Bellerose,” he said.  “Can you think of anyone outside of the club, who might have a motive?”

“A jilted boyfriend, a competitor, someone with a personal grudge?” Maria asked.

Selina shook her head.  “There is no boyfriend, I don’t know of anyone that has a personal grudge against me…and no competitors with this type of issue.”

“Any other club owners, who might want to make you look bad?” Nate asked.  “One, who might dump the body here if he found it in another location?”

Selina hesitated.  “Honestly, the only person we’ve had trouble with is Lou Williams, the owner of the Emerald City Blues Club.  And that was nothing really.”  She looked at the detectives.  “He claimed our clientele was scaring off his regulars.”

“You’re probably not the only one since he’s in the center of three other music and dancing clubs as well as the alternative club down the street,” Maria said, causing Nate to raise an eyebrow.  “I’ve been working this area a long time,” she replied.

Selina hid a smile, then continued.  “The only other problem we’ve had is with a few of the neighbors.  One walks his dog in the evenings and said we’re responsible for the neighborhood ‘going to hell’ as he put it.”  She paused.  “The other seems to be an artist of some sort, but I don’t know much about him.”

Nate nodded, writing down the information.  “Do you know their names?” he asked.

“I believe the one with the dog is Mr. Jones and the artist is Mr. Paulsen.  I don’t know their first names,” Selina replied.  “If that’s everything, we open in fifteen minutes.”

Maria stood up.  “Again, we appreciate your help, Miss Bellerose.”

Nate glanced around the office as he got up.  Nice, he thought, even if it was a little more traditional than his taste.  “One more question,” he said, walking towards the door.  “Do you have any idea how that blogger found out about the murder last night?”

Selina shook her head.  “No, I do not.  The last thing we need is this kind of publicity.”

Maria wondered about that, but nodded and walked out of the office.  Nate followed her as Selina escorted them back upstairs.

When they opened the door to the alley, an African-American man in his early 40s stood there, looking very upset.  “I told you this club is scaring off my customers!” Lou Williams exclaimed, angrily.  “You need to think about closing this place and moving to another location.  My blues club was here first!”

“Did you just threaten Miss Bellerose?” Nate asked, taking a step towards the man.

“I’m Detective Fuentes with the Seattle PD,” Maria said, “and I would encourage you to go back to your own club, sir.”

Lou Williams glared at Selina and stalked off.  “Maybe a little more upset than I realized,” Selina said, looking over at Nate and smiling.

As she turned and went back into the club, Maria tried not to laugh at Nate’s expression.  “Calm down, Romeo.  She’s still a suspect even if not a very likely one.”

Nate nodded and followed Maria back to their car.  As they got in, a dark gray Maserati Gran Turismo pulled into the alley and a man got out.  He was tall, had dark hair and was wearing a long, gray coat.  Nate got out of the sedan and walked over to him.  “Can I help you?” he asked.  “This is still a crime scene.  No tourists allowed.”

“I’m here on official business,” the man said, reaching into his coat.  As Nate’s hand moved closer to his jacket, the man smiled.  “Relax, just showing you my credentials.”

Nate looked at the Interpol identification and asked, “What’s Interpol’s interest in the case?  It seems unusual that a murder in Pioneer Square would draw this kind of international attention.”

“My name is Damian Salvadori,” the man said, “and I’m here because your case…I assume this is your case?”  When Nate nodded in agreement, Damian continued.  “It’s very similar to three cases we’ve had in Europe over the past six months.”

Nate took a step back.  “Did the victims have the same marks?”

“Similar, but not exact,” Damian replied.  “That’s why I’m in Seattle to see for myself.”

Maria walked up.  “What’s all the excitement?”

“Mr. Salvadori is from Interpol,” Nate replied, looking over at Damian.

“I see,” said Maria, nodding.  “And do you have anything besides the badge to show us that you really are, who you say you are?”

Damian smiled.  “Of course.  Let me get my file.”  As he reached into the car, Nate took a long look at the Maserati and thought how much he’d like to drive a car like that.  He didn’t realize Interpol paid so well.

Maria was also looking at the car, knowing that Interpol did not pay that well.  “Thank you,” she said as Damian handed her the paperwork.  “I appreciate you showing me your credentials.”

Damian nodded.  “You’re the first one in the States, who has asked to see them.”

Nate looked at the ground as Maria glanced over at the Maserati.  “Nice car,” she observed.  “Is this standard Interpol issue?”

“Not exactly,” Damian said, looking somewhat amused.  “I upgraded my vehicle since I have a little of my own money.  Now, is there anything else you’d like to know?”  Suddenly, the humor was gone and Maria saw a much more serious look in his eyes.

“No, I think I’ve seen everything I need to see.  Thank you, Mr. Salvadori.”  Maria tapped Nate on the shoulder as she headed back to their sedan.  Nate took one last appreciative look at the Maserati, then followed her.

 

Chapter 3

Damian walked down the stairs into the club.  He’d discovered the back door was unlocked after looking around the crime scene.  Not much to see in his opinion.  Hopefully, talking to the people who had found the body would clear up some of the details.

“You can’t come in this way,” said a young man, walking over to him.  He was tall, had blond hair and walked with a casual stride.  His brown slacks, white shirt and brown vest with antique brass buttons made it obvious he was an employee.

“Relax,” Damian said, pulling out his identification.  “I’m with Interpol and I have some questions about the murder last night.”

“You’ll need to talk to Selina,” the young man said.  “I’ll see if she’s available.”

Damian walked over to the bar and sat down.  He looked around at the fireplace and cozy seating, nodding approvingly.  Turning back to the bar, a short, very cute girl was pouring drinks.  She had red hair, a great smile and wore the same kind of outfit as the other employee.  “What can I get you?” she asked.

“I’ll take a whiskey, neat,” he said.  “Irish if you have it.”

Genevieve nodded.  “Brandon will be right back,” she said as she slid the drink over to him.  The girl didn’t miss much, Damian thought to himself.

He looked around the bar, while he waited to see this Selina.  He assumed she was the owner, although the club was named Luna’s.  Damian glanced at his watch wondering what was taking so long, when he heard someone say, “May I help you?”

He turned to see a beautiful woman in a dark blue dress.  She had long, brown hair with bits of fire shimmering through it.  Her eyes were golden brown and seemed to sparkle in the vintage lighting of the bar.

“Damian Salvadori, Interpol,” Damian said.  “You must be the owner?”

She smiled, but her eyes stayed serious.  “Selina Bellerose,” she replied, “and yes, I am the owner.  We’re about to open, so if you have any questions, perhaps we should speak in my office.”  He looked over and saw some customers walking down the front stairs.

“That would be fine,” Damian said.  “Nice place,” he added as they walked through the door into her office.

“Thank you,” she replied, indicating the sofa, but he sat in one of the chairs.  Selina decided to take the sofa and looked over at him.  He was very handsome, but there was something about him that put her on edge.  “Would you like any coffee…or just the whiskey?” she asked with a touch of sarcasm.

“Whiskey is fine,” Damian said.  “You really are a beautiful woman, but you know that don’t you?”  He paused.  “I don’t trust beautiful women.”

“That’s alright because I don’t trust men, who tell me I’m beautiful,” Selina replied.  “Did you have any other questions for me?  It’s going to be a very busy night.”

“Murder is good for business, is it?” Damian asked, not sure why he was being so confrontational.  She had him feeling slightly off center and he didn’t like it.

“All publicity, good or bad, seems to bring in more business,” Selina replied, “at first.  That doesn’t mean I enjoy the type of media circus that is going on outside my club.”  She looked at him more closely.  “Why are you here, Mr. Salvadori?  Surely, one murder in Seattle is hardly enough to interest Interpol?”

He noticed she had a very slight, French accent.  “You’ve lived in Seattle for a long time?” he asked.

“Three years,” she replied.  “And again, why does this case interest Interpol if I may ask?”

Damian stared into her eyes for a moment, then looked down at the table.  “We’ve had three other cases in the past six months, which were similar to this one.  Someone murdered those young women, then tried to make it look as though a vampire had done it.”

Selina shook her head.  “There is no such thing as a vampire, so why would someone do that?”

“There are many things that exist all around us, whether we realize it or not,” Damian replied.

Selina wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so she looked at her watch.  “If there’s nothing else, I really do need to get back to work.”

Damian looked around her office.  “Your entire club has no windows.  At least, none that I’ve seen, which seems rather odd.”

“We are in a basement,” Selina said, looking at him as if he were a bit dense.  “We don’t have windows, but we do have emergency access areas and two sets of stairs into the main club.”

“And where are the emergency access areas?” Damian asked, innocently.

Selina had finally run out of patience.  “Get a warrant and I’ll show you.  Otherwise, I need to get to work.  Good night, Mr. Salvadori.”

Damian smiled and walked out of the office.  She followed him to the front stairs and watched him walk up, then went back to the bar.  It was going to be a long night.

 

As Damian walked out of the club, he stopped and looked back at the bouncer.  A woman in her 20s with shoulder length, black hair was telling three men they could not go in without paying the cover charge.  She was maybe 5’5” and as things began to get heated, Damian walked back to help her.  He smiled as she grabbed one of the men and pushed his head down onto the desk, twisting his arm behind his back.

A young African-American man, another bouncer by the look of it, walked up laughing and shaking his head at the other two.  “I wouldn’t if I were you.  Mike is not in a good mood tonight.  You got this, Michela?”

She nodded.  “These gentlemen were just leaving,” she said, releasing the man’s arm.  “Right, boys?”

The man rubbed his arm and followed his friends down the block towards one of the other clubs.  Damian smiled.  “Pretty strong,” he said, walking up.

“You mean for a girl?” Michela asked, smirking.  “You want to give it a try?”

Damian held up his hands in surrender.  “No, I’ve got a full evening planned.  You do martial arts or something?”

Michela started to reply, when a young woman walked up and smiled at him.  She had dark blonde hair, tied up with a green ribbon that matched her dress.  “Michela, this is Mr. Salvadori from Interpol,” Isabella said.  “Selina told me to let all the staff know that he might be asking questions.”

“Interpol,” Michela repeated, sizing Damian up.  “Interesting,” she added as he shrugged and smiled, turning back towards the alley and his car.

Smart, Damian had to admit, sending the girl around to notify the staff.  It made Selina Bellerose look clever, guilty or maybe both.  He didn’t know what exactly bothered him.  She didn’t have any of the telltale signs of a vampire, but there was something about her….as well as the other people working at the club that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.   There’s something odd going on here, he thought to himself.  Whether it was tied to the murder, the supernatural or something else entirely he didn’t know, but he planned to find out.

As he drove down the street to his hotel, Damian thought about Selina.  He’d been a vampire hunter for a lot of years and he’d developed a sixth sense about these things.  She basically had a business in a dungeon even if it was a nightclub.  She was beautiful, but so were a lot of women in Seattle.  And except for the murder scene, he had detected no trace of blood anywhere in the club.  Still, he knew this would bother him until he figured it out.  He changed his mind and headed for the Seattle police station, deciding he needed to see those reports.  The hotel would have to wait.

 

Selina walked over to the bar and sat down on one of the stools.  It was almost one thirty and the place was finally starting to slow down.  “We’ll need to get some more supplies if this keeps up,” she said, looking over at Genevieve.

The bartender smiled.  “David said he’s low on fruit juices especially tomato as well as vodka and whiskey.”

Selina shook her head.  “I don’t know if we should offer Bloody Mary on the menu tomorrow night.  It seems to be in such poor taste.”

“Yes, but it was almost ten percent of our sales tonight,” Isabella stated, walking up to the other two women.

“Fine, we’ll leave it on the menu,” Selina said, “but let’s offer a discount on the rum drinks.  We’ve got plenty of that and it doesn’t mix well with tomato juice.”

Genevieve smiled at Isabella.  “Another half hour and then we close up.  Are you staying here tonight?”

Isabella nodded.  “I think Annalise and Michela plan to stay, too.”  She looked over at Selina.  “What about you?”

“With all the work to do tomorrow, it doesn’t make sense to take the ferry and then drive all the way up to Port Townsend,” Selina replied.  “Let’s stay and have a big brunch tomorrow.”

“Sounds good!”  Isabella smiled and winked at Genevieve.  “Should we invite the guys?”

Genevieve rolled her eyes.  She knew Isabella was referring to Marcus, who Genevieve thought was pretty wonderful.

“How about just the girls tomorrow,” Selina said, growing more serious.  “We have some issues to discuss that we won’t want the others to hear.”

Isabella nodded.  “I’ll let Annalise and Michela know.”

 

Damian rubbed his hand over his face.  His eyes felt like they were seeing double, but he’d been looking through these reports for hours.  Not that there was much in them as far as helpful information.  The girl had been killed between 10 pm and midnight and the body had been moved to the alley.  Why?  That was the question that bothered him the most.  Okay, second most since the punctures were the biggest problem.

Damian had seen this type of thing before, but these punctures were different.  They could have been made by a vampire or carefully staged to look like one.  He’d been hunting vampires and other supernatural threats for a long time and at least half turned out to be amateurs staging deaths to blame the supernatural.

What surprised him about all this was Selina.  What was her story?  And why place the body behind her club?  He looked through the report again.  A few other club that might or might not benefit from her closing.  These types of clubs brought in a lot of college kids and tourists, who traveled from one to another.  Sometimes three or four clubs in one area did a better business than one or two on their own.

He looked at the blues club owner’s background, but didn’t see any red flags.  Same with the neighbors, who had complained about the noise and weirdos in the funny costumes.  He smiled. Steampunk costumes were not that weird and some of those short skirts weren’t half bad.  He stopped smiling.  The murder victim had been wearing a somewhat short skirt, but no sexual assault.  Something to be thankful for.

As he flipped through the paperwork, he came across the victim’s friends again.  The young woman, Sonya, had said their friend Andy had been with her all night.  But the bartenders the police interviewed said she’d been dancing and the young man had wandered out towards the back.  Then, they got too busy to notice much else.

Damian wrote down all the names and decided to check them out the next day.  If he didn’t get a sense of anything out of the ordinary, he’d let the police tie up the case and head back to Italy.  As he pushed up from the chair, he decided to add Selina to his list of visits the following day.  Looking at his watch, he realized it was almost 2 am.  Good thing he’d slept on the plane.

 

Nicole was laughing and flirting with Rob, who had bought her three margaritas and been trying to reel her in all night.  Okay, not a good term for a woman he actually found very interesting.  She was wearing this sexy brown and black Steampunk outfit, which made her legs looks amazing and the corset was doing wonderful things for the rest of her.  He smiled as she teased him about his terrible costume.  He’d decided at the last minute to go to the club with friends and looked more like a chimney sweep than a Victorian gentleman.

As they crossed Pioneer Square, he thought this was the place to make his move.  It was kind of romantic and fit the mood of the evening.  Victorian London, a bit of mist from the water giving the illusion of fog.  He took her arm and leaned over to kiss her.

Suddenly, all he saw were stars as someone hit him from behind.  The last thing he heard was Nicole saying his name and then a cut off scream.

 

Nate looked at Maria and shook his head.  All deaths were bad, but with these young women it was such a waste.

Maria glanced over at the young man in his early 20s, who was with the paramedics.  “He’ll be okay,” one of them said.  “Looks like he’s starting to come around.”

She focused on the girl, who was carefully laid out on the stones with a red rose by her body.  She had those same puncture marks on her neck in almost the same place.  This one had lost less blood, but she’d also been killed on the spot.

“This is going to be hell on tourism,” Maria said, trying to cover up the fact that the deaths of these young women bothered her more than she cared to admit.  She focused on the crime and not the thought of having to notify the parents in the next few hours.

“You think it’s a copycat or the same guy?” Nate asked.

“What makes you so sure that it’s a man?” Maria replied.  “There’s been no assault at least, there doesn’t seem to be.  And anyone can murder young women and get off on puncture marks and vampire stories.

Nate nodded.  “Good point.  Never assume, right?”  It was one of Maria’s favorite sayings.

Maria looked over her shoulder at the sound of someone trying to push his way through a police line.  “Here comes Mr. Interpol,” she said under her breath.

Nate turned around and stood up.  “Damian,” he said, walking over.  “You got here quickly.”  Nate was starting to wonder about the coincidence of these murders and some guy showing up from Interpol.  He decided to run a check on him if Maria hadn’t already.

“I was looking through the police report, when the call came in,” Damian replied.  “Thought I’d see if it matches our first victim.”

“Yes and no,” Maria said, looking over at Damian.  “We have a red rose with this one, but someone could have taken the last one…or the killer is getting more dramatic.”

“Or it’s a copycat, who thinks he can improve on the original,” Damian said, looking around.  “Anyone in the crowd look familiar?”

“We have officers getting everyone’s name and information,” Nate said, looking over his shoulder, then added, “The blues club owner is over there.”

Maria nodded as Damian glanced back, then looked at the body.  “Forensics been here yet?” he asked.

“They made good time tonight,” Maria said, looking at Nate.  “Go ahead and show him.”

Nate turned the body over and Damian saw the two puncture marks.  There was no doubt this was the work of a vampire.  The first had been more tentative, but this was definitely a puncture.

“Seems similar to the first case, but not exact.  So, do we have two murderers or one?” Damian asked, getting up and heading towards the young man, who was now sitting up.

“I told her I’d walk her back to her apartment.  Even made a joke about the vampire and how I would protect her,” said Rob.  “Not much protection, was I?” he added, shaking his head.

Damian walked up to Rob.  “The killer came up to you from behind by the look of it.  Did you see or hear anything before you were hit?”

“Just Nicole saying my name and then she started to scream…”  Rob looked at the ground.  “I just met her tonight, but she was really cool.  She didn’t deserve this.”

Damian nodded and put his hand on the young man’s shoulder.  “You’re lucky to be alive.  If you’d seen him coming, you might both be dead.”

“Or she might be alive,” Rob replied.  He turned back to the paramedics, who were still trying to determine if he had a concussion.

Damian wandered over to the old storefronts and started looking around, trying to get a sense of the murderer.  Where had he or she hidden?  Why attack in such a public place?  And did this mean Selina was not involved or had someone done this to draw suspicion away from her?  No, that didn’t fit, but he needed to consider all the possibilities.

Finally, Damian got into his car and drove to the hotel.  Maybe some sleep would help.  He had too many questions and very few answers.  One thing he did know was that more women were going to die if he couldn’t find the murderer.  This latest victim had definitely been killed by a vampire.

 

Chapter 4

Selina woke up to see four women staring at her.  She smiled.  “What is it, girls?”  She still called them her girls, although they were quite grown up.

“It happened again,” Michela said, looking sad.  “Another young woman murdered, but this time with a red rose by the body.”

“And puncture marks,” Annalise added, frowning.  “This is bad, isn’t it?”

“Of course, it’s bad,” Isabella replied.  “Don’t be stupid, Annalise.”

“Hey, she was just asking,” Genevieve said, defensively.

What had she been thinking about them being all grown up, Selina wondered.  She raised a hand.  “Enough,” she said.  “Yes, this is bad, but more for those young women right now than for ourselves.”

Michela nodded.  “Selina is right.  We need to get our priorities straight.”

“And just what are our priorities?” asked Genevieve.  She didn’t want to move again.  She had finally met someone she really liked.

Selina smiled.  “You.  Each and every one of you has always been my priority.”  She hugged each of them.  “Now, go and set the table and let me get up.  I’ll start brunch in a few minutes.”

“Pancakes?” Annalise asked, hopefully.

Michela mussed her hair with one hand.  “You’re such a kid,” she said, smiling.

The girls walked out of her bedroom and closed the door behind them.  Selina let out a breath and laid back down for a moment.  Why did this have to happen?  Things had been going so well.  Now, to possibly have to relocate again.  They’d had plenty of time three years ago to decide where they wanted to live.  This time, they might not have that luxury.

She got up and changed into a long, purple dress with a matching belt and mid-length lacy sleeves.  Not very domestic, but at least her sleeves wouldn’t be in the pancake batter.  She knew she should start wearing more modern clothes, but she loved her old ones.  They were still in good shape and they felt familiar.

As she walked into the small kitchen, she saw some blueberries sitting on the counter.  “Where did these come from?” she asked, smiling.

“Annalise saw them yesterday and thought they’d be perfect for our next brunch,” Michela said.  “That girl has an amazing love for blueberries and pancakes.  Combine them and she’s good for the day.”

Selina nodded.  “And you feel the same way about chocolate chip cookies.”

“Everyone feels that way about chocolate chip cookies,” Michela replied, shrugging.

Selina started some bacon and made the pancakes.  She didn’t cook as much as she used to and she found herself enjoying it.

No one said anything about relocating until after they had finished eating.  As Isabella picked up the plates, Selina looked around the table.  “We need to decide what we should do,” she began, “and if we want to move again.”

“I vote no, unless absolutely necessary,” Genevieve said.

“I want to stay, too…if we can,” Annalise replied.  “I think Brandon is pretty cute.”

“You think all boys are cute,” Michela said, pulling her curl.

“Hey, I’m not a little kid anymore,” Annalise replied, then laughed.

“Well, I vote we leave,” Isabella said as she sat back down.  “The sooner, the better.”

Michela nodded.  “I’m with Isabella.  It’s not worth risking our safety to stay here, no matter how much we like it.”

Selina looked around the table.  She’d had a pretty good idea how this would go and wasn’t surprised she had the vote that would decide their future.  They’d done it this way for a long time.

“I’ve thought about this since yesterday morning,” Selina said, “and I think we should stay…for now.”  As the girls started to talk, she held up her hand.  “However, I think we should find a suitable location in case we do need to move.”

“These murders are horrible,” Selina continued, “but they don’t have anything to do with us.  The last one was a few blocks away, which shifts suspicion away from us and back to Pioneer Square.  As sorry as I am for the victims,” she added, “I am glad that we were not the target.”

The girls nodded, then got up.  “So, does this mean we can have the guys over for the weekend?” asked Annalise, all smiles.

Michela rolled her eyes, although the guys were fun to have around.  “You and your cute boys.”

“Actually, I was thinking…” Selina stopped as the phone rang.  “I’ll be right back,” she said, walking into the living area.   She had a cell phone, but liked having a separate line for the townhouse.

“Um, Selina, we have a problem,” she heard Brandon say.

“Brandon, where are you?” Selina asked.

“Here in the club,” Brandon replied, “and I’m not alone.”

 

Damian took the turn too fast even for the Maserati.  He had wasted the last three hours driving down to Olympia to interview Andy at his parents’ house. The kid looked like a possible suspect in the first murder, but it turned out he’d been behind the club getting sick.  And he had been in Olympia last night, which meant he hadn’t been responsible for the second murder.

Damian took another curve and told himself to slow down.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic on I-5, but he didn’t need a speeding ticket.  He still had other suspects to interview, when he got back to Seattle.  He also had some questions about the first murder and thought another visit to Selina’s club might be a good place to start.

 

Selina hung up the phone and turned around.  “I want you to stay here,” she said.  When they started to say something, she added, “I mean it.”

She walked thorough her office and into the bar, where she saw Brandon standing with some men she did not recognize.  She smiled and asked, “May I help you?”

“Let the boy go,” a woman’s voice instructed.  As she stepped into view, Selina couldn’t help a small gasp.  “Hello, Selina,” said the blonde woman.  “It’s been a long time.”

“Brandon, go wait in the back,” Selina said, knowing he’d go through the office and into the townhouse.  As he hesitated, she said, “Stay there until I come to get you.”

He nodded and walked into the office.  Selina turned and looked at Diana Dupre, who she hadn’t seen in some time.  “Diana, what brings you to Seattle?”

“So, we’re going to be friends?” Diana asked.  “You seem to have gotten yourself into a little situation, cherie.”

“This has nothing to do with me,” Selina said.  “Why are you here, Diana?”

“Two deaths that look like a vampire attack?” Diana replied. “They had to send someone.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you,” Selina said, walking towards the stairs.  “Perhaps you and your friends should leave.”

“Not very nice, Selina.”  Diana smiled adding, “And after all I’ve done for you in the past.”

“All you’ve done for me?” Selina exclaimed.  “You’re right, you’ve done more than enough…so I’ll ask you again to please leave.”

“I was invited in,” replied Diana.

“Not by me,” Selina said and pointed to the stairs.  “Leave.  Now.”

Diana looked around at the others, five good-looking men and a striking brunette all dressed in gray or black suits.  “We’ve been uninvited.  Time to go.”  She looked back at Selina and smiled.  “But I’ll be back, should the trail lead here again.”

Selina watched the group walk up the stairs, then followed them up and locked the door.

Damian had just parked his car and was walking up to the club, when he saw the others leaving.  All of them dressed in gray or black suits, Italian and expensive if he had to guess…and wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day in Seattle. Looks like I finally found the vampires, Damian thought to himself.  He smiled as he turned and walked back to his car.  He pulled out and followed the others, when they got into their black limousine.

 

Damian watched the limo park in front of the hotel and seven people get out.  Five men, a hot brunette and a gorgeous blonde.  Like I said, he thought to himself, female vampires are always beautiful.

He parked across the street, then walked back over to the lobby.  “My friends just came in and I’m supposed to meet them for a drink, but I’d like to send up some champagne first,” he said to the front desk clerk.  “Can I do that here?”

“Of course,” the clerk replied.  “Who is the party?”

“The five guys with the gorgeous brunette and blonde,” Damian said, smiling.

“Oh, Miss Dupre’s party,” the clerk replied.  “I expect that would be a bottle of Dom Perignon you wish to send up?”

“Nothing, but the best for Miss Dupre,” Damian agreed.  “I’ll wait for them in the bar.”

The clerk nodded and picked up the phone.  Damian walked over to the lounge, waiting for a room service waiter to ask for the champagne.  He doubted any hotel would trust kitchen employees to be responsible for Dom Perignon, so it would most likely be kept with the bartender.

And there he is, thought Damian as the young man took the champagne over to the elevator.  “Just a moment,” he said, grabbing the elevator door as it started to close.

The kid nodded and Damian rode up to the seventh floor with him, then got out and headed down the hall in the opposite direction from the waiter.  He glanced over and saw him knock on the door at the end of the hall.  Damian turned and went down a side hall, then came back about five minutes later and walked over to the door.

 

Selina had been surprised to see Diana. Who was she kidding, she’d been shocked.  And having her in town was another reason to consider moving.  As she walked back into the office, she saw Brandon sitting on the sofa.

“The girls asked me to wait here and let them know if you didn’t come back in five minutes,” he said.  “Sorry for letting them in.  The blonde lady said she’d like to come in and I told her we were closed.  I was just getting my cell phone, which I forgot last night and she said she’d come with me.”

Selina nodded.  “Diana has a strange sense of humor.  We were friends before the girls and I moved to Seattle,” she explained.  She smiled at Brandon.  “It’s almost time to open.  Do you need to go back home before your shift starts?”

“No, I’m good,” replied Brandon.  “Selina, I really am sorry.”

“It’s alright,” she assured him.  “Why don’t you start getting things ready for tonight, while I talk to the girls.”

Brandon nodded and went out to the bar.  Selina walked into the townhouse, not looking forward to the girls’ reaction as she gave them this latest information.

When she told them, the girls all looked at each other, then started talking at once.  “Are you kidding me?” demanded Michela.  “Diana is in Seattle and we’re all just sitting here?”

“Relax,” Annalise said.  “If she’d wanted to hurt us, she could have done it a long time ago.”

“Annalise is right,” Isabella replied, surprising Michela.  They usually saw eye to eye on these things, being the oldest.

“So, you’re okay with Diana Freaking Dupre hanging out in our club?” Michela asked, exasperated.

“Everyone, just calm down,” Genevieve said, looking over at Selina.  “What do you think?” she asked.

“I think Annalise has a point,” Selina replied, “but you were all much younger then. She didn’t see you as a threat and now she might.  I honestly don’t know what she would do if she thought you could harm her.”

“We move tonight,” Michela said.

“You only have one vote,” Genevieve reminded her.

“Girls, sit down and take a breath,” Selina said.  “And Michela, please go get my laptop.  It’s time to find another location.”

 

Damian could hear people talking, mainly a woman’s voice and correctly guessed that she must be Miss Dupre.  He was considering whether to walk in and confront them or wait until they left the hotel, when he heard something behind him.  He turned just in time to see a man swing a champagne bottle at his head.

Damian ducked, but still received a glancing blow, then the three guys were on him.  Damn, he thought.  He hadn’t considered that they might be watching out for him.  They’d probably paid the clerk to tell them if anyone asked about their party.

As he took a swing, he realized they were too fast for him.  Or he was too slow.  He was getting hit a lot more often than he was landing any punches.  He felt himself sliding to the floor, then they started kicking him.  This was definitely not one of his better days, he thought as he felt another sharp pain in his side.

Damian looked over and saw a man stepping out of the elevator.  So did the others, who took off.  Still not wanting to be exposed as vampires, he thought.  The man looked over, then backed into the elevator, probably on his way down to tell security that someone was being attacked on the seventh floor.

He decided it was a good time to get the hell out of there.  Damian managed to get up and make it to the other elevator, taking it down to the parking level.  As he got out, he held his side and walked across the street to his car.  He moved as quickly as he could, but he was pretty sure one of those vampires had cracked a few ribs.

Damian turned the key and tried to think where to go.  Police were no good.  They’d want him in the hospital and he hadn’t met anyone else.  Selina was the only one he could think of as he drove back to her club.  He parked in the alley and walked up to the back door, bent over and still holding those ribs.  It was locked, so he took out his cell and called the number of the club.  Just as someone answered, he said, “Back door,” then passed out.

 

Selina was scrolling through properties for sale in Ireland, when Brandon came into the townhouse.  “Sorry to interrupt,” he said, “but we may have another problem.”

Selina set the laptop down and followed Brandon up the stairs.  Damian Salvadori was passed out in her alley.  “He called the club and when I got up here, he was like this,” Brandon explained.

“Help me get him up,” Selina said somewhat exasperated.  “I’d call an ambulance, but we don’t need the police here again,” she said more to herself than Brandon.

As they lifted him, Damian groaned.  “Someone really did a number on this guy,” Brandon observed.

“So, it would seem,” Selina replied.  She had a pretty good idea, who that someone might be.  “Let’s get him inside.”

 

Chapter 5

When Damian opened his eyes, he saw Selina Bellerose looking down at him.  “It’s about time,” she said.  “You had me worried.”

He smiled in spite of the pain he was in.  “Sorry to drop in on you like this.”  He noticed he was missing his shirt and could feel the sting of antiseptic on his face.

“You seem to have gotten yourself on the wrong side of someone’s fists,” Selina said with some concern.  Then looking down at his ribs, she added, “Or maybe their boot.”

“All part of the job,” Damian said nonchalantly, waving a hand and wincing.

Selina tried to hide a smile, then grew more serious.  “I was surprised to see you choose my club rather than a hospital,” she replied, “until I saw this.”  She pointed to his shoulder, where there was a tattoo of a woman shooting an arrow.  “This looks like Diana, goddess of the hunt.”

Damian nodded.  “I like to hunt…”

Selina shook her head.  “And this symbol above and to the right.  It looks like a crescent moon.”

“So, I like to hunt at night,” Damian replied.

Selina smiled and shook her head again.  “No, this is the mark of the vampire hunter.  I did not know they still existed.”

Damian looked at her and said very quietly, “How do you know what this represents?”

“I like to read,” she replied.  “I have a library at home and I collect old books.  Some have a little paranormal mixed in with the history and I remember seeing this symbol.”  She smiled.  “My name gave me an early interest in mythology and this is Diana’s bow and arrow under the crescent moon.”

Damian relaxed and smiled.  “Selina, as in Selene.  That makes sense.  And you’re right…my older brother taught history and mythology in Florence many years ago.  He’s the one, who told me about the meaning and I thought it would make an interesting tattoo.”

“While I would enjoy discussing this further, Mr. Salvadori,” Selina paused, glancing down at his bruises, “tonight, you should be in the hospital.  I’m no expert, but it would seem you have two possibly three cracked ribs.”

“No hospital,” Damian replied too quickly.

Selina’s eyebrow went up and she tipped her head.  “Surely, a valued member of Interpol should be in a hospital,” she said.  “You are a valued member of Interpol, are you not?”

“Yes and no,” Damian admitted.  “I have a complicated relationship with them and having the hospital ask a lot of questions would not help.”

“Well, you can’t stay here,” she replied.  “The girls and I are going home in a few hours, when the club closes.  We’ll be gone until Tuesday afternoon, so you’ll have to find somewhere else to recuperate.”

Damian realized he was lying on a sofa in an expensive looking townhouse.  One with a fireplace, but no windows.  “Is there any way I can get someone to take me to my hotel?” he asked, hoping he could make it to his room.

“Excuse me, Selina,” Marcus said as he walked into the living area.  “There’s a woman in the club, who’s asking to see you.”

“Is she blonde and gorgeous?” Selina asked, wishing Diana would leave them alone.

“No, she’s Hispanic and looks like she means business,” he replied.

“I’ll be right out,” she said.  Looking back at Damian, she added, “Don’t move from this sofa.”

She walked out the door as Damian closed his eyes and wished the room would stop spinning.

 

“Detective Fuentes,” Selina said, looking around for Nate.  “Where is Detective Wright?”

Maria smiled.  “We have been known to work separately, but he’s questioning some of your employees regarding Damian Salvadori.”

“The man from Interpol,” Selina said.  “I saw him yesterday, but he didn’t seem very interested in anything we had to say.”

“Someone reported seeing a Maserati parked in your alley this afternoon and we haven’t seen Mr. Salvadori since last night.”

“I see,” said Selina.  “I could check the cameras we have installed in the back.  Why don’t we go into my office?”

“Fine,” Maria agreed.  “Sorry to bother you while you’re working, but it’s important.”

“Of course,” Selina said, leading the way into her office.  “Do you suspect something has happened to Mr. Salvadori?”

“We don’t know, but we have a few questions we’d like to ask him,” Maria replied.

Selina motioned for her to sit in one of the chairs.  “Let me get this copied for you,” she said.  A moment later, she handed Maria the thumb drive and smiled.  “Do you miss your Goth days?” Selina asked as Maria glanced around the room.

“Actually, yes,” Maria replied, laughing.  “It was a lot of fun and drove my mother crazy.  Now, my two boys are doing the same to me.”

Selina nodded.  “They certainly know how to do that.  When the girls….”  She stopped.  “I should let you get back to work.”

Careful again, Maria noted.  She wasn’t sure if Selina was a private person or if she had something to hide.  She liked her, but Maria sensed there was something troubling her.  “You know if there’s anything you want to tell me, we are here to help.”

Selina decided it was time to make a change.  “I just wondered, would the police mind if the girls left for a few days?  We’d been planning this trip to Portland,” she stopped and smiled.  “I won’t be going, but I’d like them to enjoy it.”

“You’d like to get them out of town?” Maria asked, nodding.  “I can understand that.”  She paused for a moment.  “Go ahead.  I’ll contact you if we need to reach them for any reason.”

Selina smiled.  “Thank you.  I’ll be in Port Townsend for the next two days, then back here on Tuesday afternoon.”

Maria got up.  “Thank you for this, Miss Bellerose,” she said, holding up the thumb drive.  “And if Mr. Salvadori does contact you, please tell him to call me.”

“Of course,” Selina replied.

 

As soon as the detectives left, Selina went back through her office and into the living area to see Damian. “You need to call Detective Fuentes.  The police have some questions for you.”

“What did you do with my car?” Damian asked.  “If it was still in the alley, they would have known I was here.”

“We moved the Maserati this afternoon after we brought in your clothes,” Selina said, looking over at the suitcase.  “We thought you might need another shirt since we had to practically cut off the one you were wearing.”

“I appreciate you cleaning me up,” Damian replied.  “And my car?”

“The girls wanted to drive it,” Selina explained, smiling, “but David was the closest to your size, so he put on your coat and moved it to the parking garage a few blocks away.”

“I see,” Damian said.  “So, what do you plan to do with me?”

“I told you,” Selina replied, “you should be in a hospital.”

“Yes, well that’s not such a good idea.”  Damian looked around.  “I could stay here.”

“Also, not a good idea,” Selina said, opening the suitcase and handing him a shirt.  “I need you to call Detective Fuentes, so she stops looking for you.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Damian winced as he carefully put on his shirt.  “I’ll tell her that I’m out of town following up on a lead.  And my phone connection is breaking up.”

“Not a bad idea,” Selina replied as she walked out of the room.  “Do it now,” she said as she closed the door.

 

Selina walked into the club and motioned for Isabella to come over.  “Tell the girls I need to speak to all of you as soon as we close.  The guys, too.”

Isabella nodded, then Selina walked over to the bar and poured two glasses of whiskey.  She carried them back into her office, set them down on her desk, then opened the safe.  She took out a vial and very carefully added three drops of liquid to one of the glasses.  Then, considered for a moment and added two more.

As she walked back into the living area, she handed one of the glasses of whiskey to Damian.  “I thought you might like a drink.”

He looked at her and smiled.  “Nice of you.  I don’t suppose you’d mind switching glasses?”

Selina hesitated, then smiled.  “You don’t trust me?”

“I do if you’ll swap glasses with me.”  Damian raised an eyebrow and Selina handed him her glass.  He gave her the other one and they toasted, then he watched her take the first sip and drank his whiskey.

“That should help you rest,” she said as she took the glass out of his hand.

He felt himself getting foggy.  “What did you put in the whiskey?” he asked.

“It won’t hurt you,” she replied, “but I’m not taking a vampire hunter home with me unless he’s in no condition to be a threat to anyone.”

Damian shook his head and tried to get up.  “You don’t understand, you shouldn’t have done that…”  He fell back and closed his eyes.

Selina smiled and finished her whiskey, then walked back into the office.

 

An hour later, she was talking to her entire staff as they sat around a table at the back of the club.  The customers had gone and they’d just finished cleaning up for the night.

“I want you all to stay in Portland for the next few days,” Selina said, “my treat.  And don’t worry about going home to pack since the hotel is close to several department stores.  You can get whatever you need there.  Again, my treat.”

“What’s really going on?” Michela demanded.

“And why do you think that we’d leave you in the middle of all this…” Isabella hesitated, then added, “this situation.”

Selina smiled.  “It’s only two days and you’ll all be back Tuesday afternoon.”  She looked at Michela.  “I need a little time to deal with the fallout from all this.”

Michela knew that she meant Diana.  “What about the Interpol cop?” she asked.

“He’s going to need a few days to recover,” she said.  “Another reason for you to go have fun and give him a chance to rest.  A houseful of young women is hardly what he needs right now.”

Annalise smiled.  “We can be kind of loud,” she admitted.

Genevieve nodded and looked over at Marcus.  “So, do you guys want to go to Portland?”

Marcus smiled and nodded, looking around at the others.

“I don’t feel right about you paying for everything,” David said, seriously.

“Think of it as a well-deserved bonus,” Selina replied.  “You have all worked very hard these past few months and I believe you’ve earned it.”

David smiled.  “Alright, I’m in.”

“Me too,” said Jeremy, who looked over at Brandon.

“Are you kidding?”  Brandon laughed.  “Free hotel…I’m in.”

Isabella turned to Selina.  “It’s a good idea, but I need to go over some things in the office with you before we leave.”

“Alright,” Selina replied.  “Michela, why don’t you call for a limo and I’ll give you the paperwork for the hotel reservations, when I come back out.”

Michela watched them go into the office, then turned to Genevieve and whispered, “I don’t like it, but arguing with her is pretty pointless.”

Genevieve nodded.  “I know.”  Then, she looked over at Marcus and smiled.  “Have you ever been to Portland?” she asked.

 

As they closed the office door, Isabella turned to Selina and said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea, you’re staying here with that Interpol cop, while we’re all out of the house.”

“Are you worried about my reputation?” Selina asked.

“Very funny,” Isabella replied.  “You know what I mean.  Who is this guy?  And why are you taking him to the house?”

“He needs to recover and he can’t go to a hospital.”  At Isabella’s look, Selina added, “It’s complicated.”

“Uh huh,” Isabella said, smiling.  “You like him.”

“I don’t even know him.”  Selina grew serious.  “Don’t worry the others, but I think Diana may have had something to do with him showing up in that condition.”

“I wondered about that,” Isabella said.  “Michela did, too, but the others didn’t seem to notice anything.”

“Then, I need you two to get everyone settled in Portland and I’ll call you Monday night to let you know if it’s safe to come home.  If not, we’ll extend your stay.”  Selina walked over and handed her the paperwork for the hotel, then hugged her. “Take care of yourself and the others.  And know that I love you all very much.”

“We love you, too,” Isabella said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.  “Be careful.”

Isabella walked out and got the rest of the staff upstairs and into the limo, while Selina checked on Damian.  He was still sleeping, so she went into the office and called for her town car.  When the driver arrived, he helped her get Damian out to the car and settled in the backseat.

“Is everything alright, Miss?” the chauffeur asked.

“Yes, thank you, Daniel,” Selina said.  “I appreciate your discretion as always.”

“My pleasure, Miss Bellerose,” Daniel replied.  He drove her to her house and back at least twice a week and she was a very good tipper.

“Why don’t you put up the divider and we’ll let him sleep,” she said.

Selina looked over, wondering just how much she should tell Damian.  She realized that taking him to the house alone was probably not one of her better ideas.  But with Diana in town maybe a vampire hunter was exactly what she needed.  She leaned back and closed her eyes as they drove onto the ferry.

 

Chapter 6

Selina looked out the window and watched the familiar landmarks as the town car sped along the road to Port Townsend.  They should be home in another fifteen minutes, she thought as the moon finally peeked out through the dense clouds that had been overhead all night.  She smiled as the beams hit the water and reflected back, making the dark night feel almost magical.

She didn’t usually allow herself to have such fanciful thoughts, but she was tired and it had been a very long day.  As she watched, the moon beams played along the water moving closer to the land.  She smiled and turned her head, glancing over at Damian, who’d been sleeping since she gave him the drink.

Selina almost jumped off the seat before she caught herself and forced her muscles to relax.  A large, gray wolf was lying on the seat next to her sound asleep.  Now, this was not part of the plan, she told herself, watching the animal’s chest rise and fall as it slept.  When the clouds covered the moon again, the wolf changed back into Damian, still sleeping.

Looking outside, Selina was relieved to see more clouds blowing in and blocking any further moonlight at least for the near future.  When they pulled up to the house, she had Daniel help her get Damian upstairs and into the guest room, giving him a generous tip as they walked back down.

“Thank you again, Daniel,” she said as he set the suitcase just inside the foyer.  Selina smiled as he left, then locked the door.  As she walked into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, she considered tying Damian up…but what if he changed into the wolf again?  Would the constraints hurt him or fall off entirely?  It seemed like a complete waste of time and it would probably only upset, whichever version woke up.

She decided it was better to lock her bedroom door and deal with it all after she got some rest.   If Damian was still here, when she woke up they’d figure out what to do next.  She doubted he would hurt her, but she locked the door and put a chair against the knob, when she went to her room.  Changing into a long black nightgown, she got into bed and wondered if she had lost her mind bringing a werewolf into her home.  A werewolf, who she also believed was a vampire hunter.

 

When Selina woke up, it was late morning and everything seemed quiet.  She put on her robe, which was also black and walked across the hall to the guest room.  She tapped lightly on the door.

“Come in,” Damian said.

She opened the door and slowly walked into the room.  “How do you feel this morning?” she asked.

“Hungry,” he replied, smiling.  “Did I…did anything happen last night?”

“You mean, did you change into a wolf on the ride home?” Selina asked, getting right to the point.

Damian’s blue eyes turned almost gray as he looked at her and considered what to say next.  He finally blurted out the only thing that came to mind.  “Well, you don’t seem that surprised, which I find very interesting.”

“Really?” Selina said.  “And what would you prefer?  Me fainting or tying you up in your sleep?  I almost did the first and seriously considered the second.”

Damian smiled.  “That’s more like it.”  He looked around the room.  “So, if we’re alright with all this maybe we can have breakfast.”

“I am far from alright, but I will get you some food,” Selina said.  “However, we are going to talk about this and what we need to do tonight before it gets dark.  Otherwise, I will lock you up in the cellar.”

Damian laughed.  “Now, that sounds more like a normal reaction.  Not that very many people know the truth.”  He rubbed his hands over his face, then winced.  “Damn, I keep forgetting how much that hurts until I move.”

Selina smiled.  “Then, you may want to lie back down and rest.”

Damian watched her walk out of the room, doing his best not to react to the nightgown she was wearing.  The more time he spent with Selina, the more she intrigued him and that could be a problem.  He decided to forget about everything else and just get some more sleep until she brought him breakfast.  Who knew?  Maybe she was a terrible cook.  That might be enough to end this attraction he seemed to have for her.

Selina walked down to the kitchen and started some bacon and eggs.  Toast or pancakes, she thought to herself.  Pancakes, she decided.  Wolves probably had a large appetite.  She smiled as she stirred the batter wondering what she had gotten herself into.  She had told herself she might be able to use Damian’s help with Diana, but the truth was that she did find him attractive.  Very attractive and she hadn’t felt that way about a man in a very long time.

Of course, there was no way she could or would do anything about it.  She had too much to lose to take a chance on someone, who obviously had some serious issues of his own.  As she turned the bacon, she considered how much she should tell him.  If she wanted his help, she’d have to tell him enough to explain how she knew Diana, but not so much that he would see her as a threat.

She piled the food onto a plate and placed it on a tray along with some coffee and orange juice.  She decided to add a cup of coffee for herself, but no food since she was too nervous to eat.  She wondered how the girls were doing and decided to call them as soon as she finished her conversation with the werewolf.  She walked upstairs and set the tray on the hall table, then opened the door to the guest room.  Damian was sound asleep.

Selina walked into the room and looked at him.  Reaching down, she carefully brushed a lock of hair off his face, then couldn’t help touching his cheek.

Suddenly, he grabbed her arm and sat up, making her jump.  He winced and smiled.  “Sorry, old habits,” he said, carefully lying back down.  “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Not at all,” Selina replied.  “I was just checking to see if you had a fever,” she lied.  “Would you still like something to eat?”

She walked out and brought the tray back in, pleased to see Damian’s eyes widen with surprise.  “It looks great,” he said.

“Did you think I couldn’t cook?” she asked, setting the tray down with a smile.

“No comment,” Damian said, grabbing a piece of bacon and attacking the pancakes.  “This is wonderful,” he said between bites.

“I’m glad you approve,” Selina replied with just a hint of sarcasm as she took her coffee and sat down in a chair across from the bed.  “We need to talk about what happened last night.”

“I know,” Damian said as he started on the eggs, “and we will as soon as I finish eating.”

Selina smiled.  “Very well, enjoy your breakfast.”  She got up and walked over to the door.

“Where are you going?” Damian asked.

“To check on the girls,” she replied.  “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Damian nodded and picked up another piece of bacon as she closed the door.

Selina went downstairs and called the girls from the parlor.  Michela answered her cell phone on the first ring.  “Is everything okay?” she asked, sounding concerned.

“Everything is fine,” Selina replied, smiling.  “I called to see if you were having a good time.”

“We are” Michela said.  “Well, as much as we can, when we’re worried about you and that stranger in our home.”

“Have some fun.  Shop, swim in the pool, see a movie…just don’t sit around and worry.”  Selina walked over to the gas fireplace and pushed the switch.  “I’m going to read a book and relax, while our patient sleeps.  I’ll call you tonight.”

“Okay,” Michela replied.  “Call by nine or I’m going to start worrying again.”

“Yes, my little helper,” Selina said, smiling.  “Tell your sisters that I love them.”

“I will,” Michela promised.  “We love you, too,” she added.

Selina ended the call and looked at the fire, thinking how much they had grown and changed over the years.  Her girls as she thought of them.  She would not let anyone or anything put them in danger.  She got up and walked into the kitchen to get some more coffee.  Time to talk to this vampire hunter, she thought as she started up the stairs.

“Well?” Selina asked as she walked into the guest room.

Damian was leaning back, smiling with the tray on the table next to him.  “That was delicious.”

“Thank you,” Selina replied.  Sitting down in the chair, she added, “It’s time to tell me why you’re here and what exactly is going on.”

Damian stopped smiling and nodded.  “You’re right.  I do work for Interpol,” he began.  “I investigate unusual crimes, which may or may not involve the supernatural.  It’s not really a department, but more of a specialty that I kind of fell into with my particular…shall we call them talents?”

“Do they know you’re a werewolf?”  Selina asked surprised.

“Not exactly,” Damian replied.  “They think I have a sixth sense about this type of thing and I get results.  Unfortunately, I also end up with property damages and other expenses, which they’re not so thrilled about.  That’s why I’m here unofficially this time.”

“Ah,” Selina said with a hint of a smile.  “You getting into trouble?  Difficult to imagine that.”

“Very funny.”  Damian looked down at his bandages and laughed.  “You know, I really thought I’d gotten the upper hand with those, uh, suspects yesterday.”

Selina sighed.  “I don’t have time to play games, Mr. Salvadori.  We both know that Diana and her associates are not what they seem.”

Damian’s eyes narrowed.  “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I have a werewolf in my house and I haven’t called the police or the pound.  That should tell you something.”  She paused and took a deep breath before continuing.  “Diana and I go way back and with her in town I…well, I need to know what you know.”

“Let’s put our cards on the table, shall we?” Damian demanded.  “You know she’s a vampire, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Selina replied, holding his gaze.

Damian just looked at her for a moment.  “Does that mean that you’re one, too?”

“Yes,” Selina said, quietly, “but not like Diana.”

He should have guessed, Damian thought to himself, wishing he had a weapon with him. He’d been suspicious, but had told himself she didn’t fit the profile.  No blood, all those kids around, the way she moved.  He stopped and forced himself to calm down.

“You have me at a disadvantage,” he said, finally.  “Where do we go from here?”

“I won’t hurt you,” Selina said, seeing the look in his eyes, “but I need to know why you followed Diana.  Where is she staying?  What is she planning?” Selina stood up and seeing him tense, she sat back down again.  “I can’t take any chances with the girls.  I have to know why she’s here.”

Damian relaxed.  She’s worried about them, he realized.  “Who are these girls to you?” he asked.  “Are they vampires, too?”

Selina looked down and shook her head.  “I will tell you about myself, but you are not to hurt them.  They are innocents.”  As he said nothing, Selina added, “Promise me, Damian.  Promise me that no matter what else happens you won’t harm them.”

“I can’t promise you anything,” Damian said, quietly, “until you tell me what’s going on.”

Selina nodded.  “I will. But first, I need to know one thing.  Should I put you in the cellar before dark?”

“No,” Damian replied, smiling slightly.  “If you don’t drug me, I can control what happens and whether I change or not.”

“That’s a relief,” Selina said with the trace of a smile.

He couldn’t help feeling something for her.  “Selina, we need to call a truce, while we exchange information.  You tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine.”  He realized she could have killed him as he slept, so he might as well give her the chance to explain.

“Alright,” Selina agreed.  “I will call this truce with you, Damian Salvadori,” she said, “and you will promise me not to hurt my girls.”

“If they don’t threaten me, I will not hurt them,” he replied.  As she paused, he added, “It’s the best I can do without knowing more about you.”

Selina nodded.  “Very well.  I will tell you everything about who I am and what happened, then you will see that I…that we are no threat to you.”

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