Categories > Movies > Underworld

In Thrall

by renee1965 1 review

This is the unfolding of the story of Michael and Selene, painted on a much broader and richer canvas than the story begun with Underworld and ended with Underworld: Awakening. How does an ordinary...

Category: Underworld - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Romance - Characters: Michael,Selene - Warnings: [V] [X] - Published: 2013-04-10 - 33573 words - Complete

Disclaimer: I do not own or lay claim to the Underworld universe. The original characters, plots, settings, etc. are the property of their original respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I am deeply indebted to Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride and all those involved in the creation of Underworld. The story I tell here of Michael and Selene is of my own invention and not purported or believed to be part of the original canon. This story is for entertainment only, not for financial gain.

“Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don't do it for money. That's not what it's about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They're fans, but they're not silent, couch bound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.”
—Lev Grossman, TIME, July 18, 2011

in thrall
(a) a person in moral or mental servitude
(b) in a state of complete absorption


“It’s over, it’s over…” the words spun in her head. Her breath came in ragged sobs and she clenched her fists until her nails pierced her palms. Marcus and William were dead. Viktor, Amelia and Kraven were dead. Lucian, though she had not known he lived until it was too late, was dead. All that she had perhaps once loved, and all that she had held in hatred or fear or had once believed was now gone. A tear, singular and warm, fell onto one closed fist and she glanced down as it slid across her skin. “Oh, God,” she thought tiredly, “The sun is rising.” Her head spun still faster and a wave of nausea rolled through her. The crunch of steps caused her to turn and she stumbled.

He was alive. Michael was alive.

The heat of the sun touched her hand as she reached for him. The light illuminated the hollows under his eyes and outlined the exhaustion in them. Selene steeled herself for the inevitable searing fire of sunlight upon her skin but still she reached for him. Michael. And immortal though he might now be, years of medical school overrode his thought processes. He covered the distance between himself and the trembling vampire in two strides and gently moved her away from the light, his eyes searching for injury. He pushed her hair back and kissed her cheek, murmuring words of comfort almost without realizing he was doing so.

Selene’s lips were moving, but he couldn’t quite catch the words. He knew she sensed and heard things on levels unknown to humans. But…was he still human? Was there any shred of humanity left within him? What was this thing he had become? With effort, he attuned himself to sound no mortal alive could hear. “…no pain,” his newly awakened ears heard her saying.

“Michael,” she said louder. “Look.”

Selene was staring at her hands.

It was then he understood.

They stood in a shaft of sunlight; snow began to swirl around them. Michael stared into eyes that had not seen the light of day in six hundred years and was overcome. “Selene,” he breathed her name in joy. He pulled her closer and kissed her forehead. And for the first time since the night of his accident, his first thoughts were not for Samantha. His grief and his guilt were for once laid aside.

“Selene,” he said again. Her stunned tears made dusty tracks though the grime on his chest. She gazed at her hand a moment more and then frowned.

“You were dead, Michael.”

“I know, I know. It’s alright now.”

A smile touched his lips at the sound of her impatient sigh. And though he had known her mere days, already he knew that any admission of need, any admission of weakness angered her. His death had been agonizing for her. She wanted him and she needed him and she was burning with anger because of it. Her anger almost eclipsed the fact that she was standing, exposed to light and had not burst into simultaneous flame.

“We have to leave,” she said bluntly, dismissing the moment. “They’ll be hunting us.”


Hours later, she woke in a shadowed room. Grit and dried blood covered her hair, her clothes, her skin. Always fastidious, she was disgusted. She rolled away from Michael’s softly snoring form and sat up. Whose house was this place? Would they be found here? How much time did they have?

She leaned down and smoothed Michael’s hair from his eyes. It was as stiff with gore as hers. He sighed deeply but did not wake. She traced a faint scar down one temple and contemplated this man. He had saved her life and she his. Together, they had slain immortals none upon the face of the earth had dared raise a hand against. Yet, he was an innocent and his vulnerability both moved and deeply frustrated her. Was he now her harbor or a stone about her neck? Her very blood beat in his veins and this troubled her. Just what did this mean? What was this man to her now?

More importantly, what did she mean to him? She had seen horror in his eyes as she had revealed her vampire nature. He had been equally horrified by his own lycan transformation. Would he grow to blame her that he now carried the vampire virus much as he blamed Lucian for hunting him down and deliberately infecting him with the lycan strain? Monster or no, he was now bound to her. She did not know the depth or strength of this bond.

He sighed again and his eyelids fluttered. Abruptly they snapped open. For a moment, he had thought he had slept through his shift. He was sure he had heard his name being paged. But no…that was a lifetime ago. He knew he would never again practice the art of healing. Not as a mortal, not ever again. He turned his head to see Selene coolly appraising him.

“What is it?” He asked, afraid of the answer.

“Whose house is this?” She demanded.

He frowned and sat up beside her. “How about, ‘thanks for bringing me here?’ ”

“Is this yours? Because if it is, they’ll trace us. We have to leave.” She started to rise and he reached out and caught her arm. It was akin to catching hold of an iron bar. She pulled back and he tightened his grip. Surprise flared in both of their faces. She was implacable as a mountain, and yet, he was equal to her strength. Elated, he reached up with his free hand and took her other arm. She had strength, yes, but he discovered his own was equal, if not greater.

“Sit down,” he urged. “Listen to me.” Light burned in his eyes.

She opened her mouth to protest and he shook his head. “No one will find us here. Not for awhile anyway. This is my cousin’s house.”

“Cousin? You were raised here? I thought you were an American.”

“Is it my accent?” He smiled. “You Europeans think you know everything. Ez tipikus. Nem kis meglepetésére.” His smile vanished and he said softly, “I’m as Hungarian as you are. I just didn’t grow up here.”

“Then where is your family?” She demanded. “They have to be protected now. You do realize this?”

“My cousin and I are all there is,” he said, softer still. He didn’t elaborate and she didn’t pursue. Why was he still so, so…human? She had shed her human identity without a backward glance and never lamented its loss. Did he not realize the enormity of the danger they now faced? Irritated, she realized yet again that he had not spent his life dispensing torture and death, night after night. No, his existence had been blissfully free of such brutality.

“Is your cousin a Corvin?”

“No, so don’t get any elaborate ideas.”

“Michael, the lycans...”

“No!” He leapt from the bed and stood over her. “No! Listen to me! I’m sick unto death of vampires and lycans. I don’t want to hear about any war or how there is no going back! OK? I’m going to lie down and close my eyes and I don’t want to hear about all the ways we are being hunted right now.”

“I’m sorry. I really am. I know this must be hard for you, but...”

“Fuck!” The fear, the pain, the confusion of the past four days washed over him. “Fuck! I did NOT ask for this! I don’t even know how to wrap my head around it. Christ, Selene! This is all something out of a really crappy comic book!” He flung himself down onto the bed, breath thundering through his clenched teeth.

“Can I ask you something?” Selene interrupted in her clipped, precise way.


“What exactly is a comic book?”

That brought him up short. Something so mundane, so normal about his childhood…and she had no idea what he was talking about. He felt like crawling out of his skin, just to find a way back to the life he had been ripped from. He wanted to smash something to bits. He wanted to hurt her as much as he was hurting. He was insanely angry, but about to burst into laughter. So he reacted the only way he knew wouldn’t leave irreparable damage to his cousin’s furniture: He reached up and pulled Selene down against him. He wrapped his arms about her and grumbled into her ear, “Stop worrying for five minutes. I can’t take it anymore.”

They lay pressed together, breathing heavily. Michael shifted and felt dirt grind into his skin. His clothes smelled like a slaughterhouse. He wrinkled his nose and his anger slowly drained away. He had more immediate concerns. “Selene,” he whispered into her hair. “Let’s find something clean to wear. I’ll take the downstairs shower and you can have the one up here.” He sat up but then stopped at her intake of breath. “What is it?”

She wouldn’t look at him. Her eyes darted away in shame. “Don’t leave,” she said in a low voice.

“I’m not going anywhere. You don’t have to be afraid.” It was startling to know that a woman who had seen more carnage than he could begin to fathom, and had been the cause of most of it, could have any shred of uncertainty left in her being. “Hey, it’s OK,” he tried to assure her.

She hung her head and her hands slowly closed into fists. He sat still, watching her. “Hey,” he said again. “Look at me. I’m sure two people can fit in the bathroom. What do you think?” He carefully tempered his voice as if he were addressing someone it was his job to stitch back together. Images of long hours at Ste. István rose in his mind but he pushed them down. He would mourn his mortality another time.

“I’m being stupid.” Selene said in a flat voice. “Just show me where it is.”

He smiled again. “What if I’m the one who is afraid?” He held out his hand. “Come on, keep me company.”


“And I thought vampires wallowed in luxury,” Selene shook her head. “This is ridiculous.” Her eyes swept the room, literally bursting with the oils, unguents, salts and lotions so beloved of those who have nothing more urgent to do than to lavish beauty upon themselves.

“Yeah,” Michael followed her gaze. “This is really something. I don’t know what half of this stuff is for.” He turned on the water and before he thought better of it, found himself testing the temperature. But what was heat or cold to someone who could not be damaged in any permanent way?

He laughed under his breath and tried to answer Selene’s questioning expression, “I didn’t want it to be too hot, but…” His voice trailed off and he couldn’t think of any way to tell her what he was feeling. He shrugged and said in as offhand a tone as he could muster, “I guess it doesn’t matter anymore, does it?”

“Michael, I really am sorry,”

“No, don’t be. You didn’t start the war. This isn’t your fault.”

He turned his attention back to the running water and was suddenly nervous. He wanted her so acutely that his muscles knotted and cramped. The moment was huge in its implications and he was still young enough a man to not trust himself enough to make himself plain without becoming awkward. He could feel the change in the atmosphere as if his lust had walked into the room. Unnerved, he straightened up and murmured something in his father’s tongue. It was his way of stepping back and putting formality to his thoughts, he always switched into the language of his forefathers when lost.

“Az rendben van, ha nem tud mit tenni,” Selene answered. She stepped forward and put a hand to his cheek. His mouth flooded and his blood thundered in his ears; he swooned. Hell, he thought, there aren’t any rules for this. At least it won’t matter if I am too rough, his fevered brain hissed. He began to say something witty and her mouth closed on his. So Michael Corvin, with the slow and gentle manners of his mother and her sisters, tried to show Selene what it meant to revel in her human side.

We are not in a storage container, hiding from the sun in some garage. This time will be different, he silently vowed. He was not hurried, with infinite care and grave sensuality he kissed her eyelids, her cheeks, her throat. He took Selene’s hands and kissed her fingers, kissed her palms.

He helped her peel off her stained and ruined clothes. His thoughts became erratic. Did vampires wear any color other than black, he wondered briefly. Shining like a pale pillar of granite, Selene stepped into the spray and he followed, pulling his shirt over his head. It fell in a wet heap at his feet and he kicked it aside. He leaned back against the tile and let the water wash away the filth.

“Come here,” he said softly. She moved toward him and he embraced her. He kissed the top of her head. What he wanted was to shove her into the wall and ravage her until he couldn’t stand up anymore. Instead, he began picking bits of rock and wood from her hair. Never in his life had he shown a woman anything but tenderness. Violence and strife were as alien to him as vampires and lycans had been a week ago. He had no real idea how to approach Selene, a woman for whom violence was tangible.

Selene opened a jar and a rich, heady scent filled the air. She frowned in concentration as she covered Michael in its contents. He was burning and freezing and again words failed him. When her fingers brushed his stomach and moved lower, he gripped her hands and choked, “Don’t.” He took the jar from her hands and set it behind her head.

Could there be a neutral point to start from once you had swallowed another’s blood? He was standing at the precipice of a great height and without warning, he jumped. He grasped Selene’s shoulders, hard. She made no sound and it goaded him. He wanted, needed some response other than her frigid manner. He wanted to know that somewhere within her iron core was a place he could reach. He had to know this. Otherwise he was indeed dead and his body hadn’t caught up with his soul just yet.

He tangled his hands in her dark hair and kissed her again and again. He kissed her harder, clasped her to him. She remained unmoved. Desperation began to color his thoughts. “Let go,” he whispered. “Let it go. There’s nobody here but us.” She shook her head but he didn’t know what she meant.

“I’ll bet you haven’t seen any vampire movies either, have you?” he asked. She looked at him as if he had lost his mind. “Ahhh, then I know what to do.” He slit the skin over his heart and looked her steadily in the eye, gauging her reaction. Her eyes ignited into a brilliant blue as his blood overflowed and spilled down his chest. She stared as it dripped onto his knee and her features hardened.

“Selene,” he said clearly. “Selene…drink.”

She snarled and obeyed.

His head snapped back so hard he heard the tile crack. He began to gasp as if he were drowning, which of course, he was. He clutched at the wall behind him and slowly slid down, pulling Selene with him. Her fingers dug into his flesh and her teeth sank into him. A pleasure so intense it bordered on pain flooded through him. Points of light burst in front of his eyes and he bit the inside of his cheek. Blood began to course down his chin. His head rolled to one side and his hair fell into his face. Selene rose up and kissed him. Her lips were slippery and hot. He tasted his own blood and her wild arousal. He wanted to reach out for her but his hands would not move. His eyes widened in panic and Selene lowered her mouth to his throat and bit him again. His veins exploded into flame and he cried out in tortured exaltation. He was dying and couldn’t find the strength to stop her or the desire to even care to do so. He lost all concept of time and the color seemed to slowly leak from his vision.

Selene swallowed and raised her head. She smiled savagely. “Tell me you want it,” she demanded as his vision cleared. All of his revulsion temporarily burned away. He wrenched himself up and seized her. He tried to push her down under him with quaking hands but the raining water caused them to splutter. He shook it out of his eyes and managed to turn the closest faucet off. “Oh, shit,” he cried, “Shit! This is boiling.”

“Does it really matter, Michael?” Selene leered as his blood ran from the corners of her mouth. Instantly he decided that in his world, it did not. He turned her jaw away from him and locked onto her, drinking in great, burning draughts. Her breasts were crushed against him and Michael could literally feel her essence revive and sharpen his desire. He swallowed and withdrew. He rested his head against her shoulder, heaving for air as if he had run a great distance. Billows of steam rose around them. When he felt steadier, he stood and offered her his hand. He held her at arm’s length and began to bathe her luminous, ice-white skin. Selene’s pupils were caverns and her irises glowed. All he was conscious of was her eyes and the low, throbbing hum that her blood had begun within him.

Hesitantly, Selene reached out and touched Michael’s shoulder. Lucian’s teeth had left long, silvery scars, which she traced with her fingertips. The sensation was exquisite. Michael groaned and stepped closer to her. She began to trace the scars with her tongue. She explored his body with animalistic intent...breathing him in, tasting him, rubbing her face against him and running her hands up and down his thighs. Michael’s normally mild eyes darkened into blackness and he growled deep from within his chest. Her hand closed over his erection and he grasped her wrist. He put his hands around her waist and lifted her up. As he did so, her legs wrapped around him. He pushed himself inside her, deeply. Slowly they began to move together. Their bodies were slick with steaming, streaming water and blood. Michael hit his head on a shelf and several jars and bottles crashed down between his feet. Shards of glass cut into him. He scarcely felt them and pushed aside the interruption with annoyance, as he would a cloud of tiny midges flying before his eyes.

They moved with a powerful rhythm. Selene was breathing so forcefully that he could see the rise and fall of her ribcage. Michael watched her face, fascinated. He had to reach her, must know he had some meaning to her. He could not accept it if she merely considered him a means to an end, the catalyst for physical release. He said her name but she didn’t answer. He said it again as her fingers bit into him. Then, her attention suddenly focused on him. Her pubic hair rasped against his belly as she slowly slid down the length of him. His mind went blank. He was trying not to come, trying to show her that he’d do this forever if she’d let him when she began to shudder, her legs as strong about him as a vice. She touched his face and he felt the world fall away.


Later, when they were washed clean of the last few days’ battles, Michael turned off the water. He wrapped them both in towels and led Selene back into the bedroom. She sat down on the bed and he knelt at her feet, kneading and massaging them with his hands. He then moved up to her calves. She rested a hand on Michael’s head. He kissed her knee and asked, “What do you want to do?”

Startled, she looked down at him. “What?”

“What is it you want to do?” He repeated slowly.

She turned her gaze toward the windows and said simply, “I want to see the sun.”

“That I can promise you,” he said softly. “Later. Right now, there is something else I want you to do.” He kissed her other knee.

“What is it?” she asked, certain she knew the answer and his purpose. An ironic smile curved her lips. Perhaps human men, vampires and lycans had one common thread running through them.

Again, she was startled when he said, “Tell me if you loved him.”

“Loved him? Who?”


Her eyebrows shot up in shock. “Kraven? Michael, are you mad?”

“Answer me,” he demanded.

“For as long as I have walked in darkness, I have hated him. It never mattered to him. He tried to control me for nearly as long as I have memory,” she said bitterly.

“But he was in love with you. I saw it in his eyes when he shot me.”

“Kraven never knew love. He had no use for it. His only aim was possession.”

“Did he achieve it?” he asked, loathing himself even as he said the words. He felt like a child complaining that no one would chose him for schoolyard games. He felt small and mean and petty but he could not or would not stop himself.

“What are you asking me?” Selene said sharply.

“Did you belong to him? Did he share your bed?”

“Share my bed?” Selene drew a breath and said, “Michael, I have something to tell you so you’d better come up here and sit with me.”

He joined her, feeling utterly and completely ridiculous but knowing that he must hear the truth. He was not a casual person. He did not know how to be callous or careless. It was not in his nature. Selene took his hand and paused, collecting her thoughts. She was not accustomed to explaining herself and Michael’s need for reassurance was exasperating. Hers was a world of silence and detachment.

“I have never given anything but vengeance and death to anyone. I have never allowed myself to care for anyone or permitted any attachment save Viktor since the night he made me a vampire,” she said as evenly as she could. “Why are you making me say this? I know you have my blood memories.”

“It's just pictures. Random pictures. I don’t want to know you that way. I want to hear from your mouth how you feel, what you think. When I see your memories, I make myself concentrate on something else. I don’t want to live inside your head.”

“Now I’ve said it. Now you know.” Selene was both defiant and hesitant.

Well,” he said thoughtfully. “OK.” He took the towel from her and dropped it over the side of the bed. “I guess I’m going to have to try to change that.” He laid her back onto the mattress and covered her with his body. Selene bit his earlobe, digging her fingers into the muscles of his upper arms.


When he woke again, the sun had set. His legs were wound in the bedclothes and when he moved his foot, glass cut into him. He sat up and turned on a lamp. Strange, he thought. The bottoms of his feet were smooth, although he had no memory of removing the bits of glass from them. Instead, the pieces lay scattered around him, winking in the lamplight. He felt light-headed with hunger and wondered if there was anything to eat in the house. Then reality hit him and he let out his breath in an angry explosion. It didn’t matter if there was a banquet waiting for him downstairs. He wouldn’t be eating any of it.

Selene was gone. Still, he could sense her presence nearby. He rose from the bed and went in search of her.

She was in the room he had slept in as a child. In her hand was a photograph, framed in silver. She looked up at his approach and turned the photograph toward him, her eyebrows raised. “Uh, yeah,” he mumbled. “That’s my brother.”

“Isn’t there anyone else?” Selene asked. “We have to warn them.”

“No, we don’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve told you, they’re dead.” He turned and walked out of the room.

Selene wouldn’t let go. She followed after him, where she found him carefully brushing glass into his hand. She waited until he threw it away and began again. “Michael, I think we should leave this place.”

“Yes, you’ve said that already.”

“I have, but you aren’t listening.”

“I can hear you perfectly. And I am not going anywhere.” He crouched down and looked under the bed. He wasn’t going to leave any tattered and stinking clothes lying around for his cousin to find later. He’d set a bonfire in the yard if he had to.

She tried another tactic. “If the two of you are the only ones left, why put him in danger?”

“He isn’t a Corvin. Why would the lycans want him?”

“I don’t think they’re that discerning. If they even suspect he is linked to you, no matter how remotely, they’ll come for him.”

“Of course they will. What was I thinking?” he said acidly. “Of course they will.” There, he thought. I see the other shoe. He dropped to his stomach and reached for it. Selene considered his nakedness and ground her teeth. Death was practically downstairs, trying to break through the door and he didn’t give a damn. If he were hell-bent on suicide, there was no reason she should be too. “I’m leaving,” she announced.

“I don’t think you will.”

Goddamn him. “I’m sure I’m going to regret this…but let’s have it. Why?”

“You aren’t leaving me any more than I am leaving you.” His head appeared over the side of the bed. He wasn’t smug. In fact, he looked grim. “Maybe it’s because we’ve shared each other’s blood. You know, you must realize by now that you’re infected with the lycan virus because of me. Maybe that’s it. Maybe lycans hear each other’s thoughts. I don’t have any idea how these things work. But I know something has changed. Don’t insult me by pretending you don’t know what I’m saying. I know you do. Every single time you moved in your sleep, even if it was a finger, I felt it. It was like one of those dreams where you think you’re falling and you wake up. I know you felt it too and I know you woke up with me. But you never did open your eyes.”

“That’s ludicrous,” she spat.

“I agree. That’s doesn’t make it any less true.”

Selene rolled her eyes in derision.

“Look,” Michael said. “I get it, OK? I get it. You don’t need me. You would be a thousand times better off without me dragging you down. Vampires are egocentric bores. Lycans are dogs under your boots. I might….MIGHT feel the same except for one thing…I am one of those dogs. And I can’t even believe I am saying that with a straight face! It’s all ludicrous you know, but the most ludicrous thing of all is that you’re lying to me and to yourself.” He paused for breath and said very quietly, “That’s fucked up, but at least I can admit it. You won’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? Selene, you’re six hundred years old! Six hundred years. You know the uses for every weapon ever built but you haven’t ever been in love with anyone? That isn’t fucked up? You can personally take it upon yourself to kill every living thing on this planet but it won’t bring anyone back. Not your family, not Viktor. What kind of life is that? Haven’t you ever wanted to be more than what you are?”

“More than what I am,” she echoed.

“Can we stop repeating each other? Lie to your coven, but don’t lie to me, Selene. Not to me.” Michael pitched his ruined jacket and shoes into a pile and sat down at the foot of the bed. He caught Selene’s quick glance and decided he was stupid enough to not pretend he hadn’t.

“There!” he accused. “I know damned well that you want to look at me. I’m freezing my ass off but I won’t put clothes on because I’m hoping you’ll notice. And do you know what? I don’t care how pathetic that is. I’m hoping you will look at me and stop this bullshit. You think we won’t make it if we don’t fight them. I’m sure you’re right. But do we have to fight each other?”

“How long has your wife been dead?” Selene interrupted, switching gears.

“We weren’t married.”

“How long has it been since she died?” Selene asked again.

“Long enough that I don’t remember the exact sound of her voice. And long enough that I don’t want to try anymore because it hurts. Come to bed with me,” he said. “You know, when I look at you, I can’t see anything else. I don’t want anything else. It’s eating me up inside because I know I’d do anything to show you.” He threw the last bit of caution to the wind. “I know you feel the same. I know you do.”

Her lips were pressed into a thin line. Tears slowly rolled down her face and fell onto her breasts. Michael crawled up the bed toward her and licked the drops away. He rose and kissed her cheeks and then her mouth. She sucked the salt from his lips and closed her eyes. She started to push him away but ended up clasping his head to her. She held him with a strength that left him faint.

“Sssshhh,” he soothed. “Lie down, lie down. Go to sleep. Tomorrow I’ll show you the sun.”


Two days passed before Selene did much more than look out the doors of the small balcony. She found daytime bewildering. Not for the first time, Michael wondered what sort of life she had led. What possible good was a life focused solely on genocide? What value did either species have if their only purpose and only function he could see was that they took great pleasure in annihilating one another? Although she didn’t say it, he knew she was grieving her fallen coven and she was at a personal crossroads. She spent countless hours silently studying patterns of sunlight and hardly bothered to look up when Michael brought her a chair and put a blanket around her bare shoulders. She was tuned to an inner dialogue, arguing with herself. She struggled and wrestled with her demons and would not share her fight. Michael attempted to reach her first through conversation and failing that, his body. She wouldn’t talk to him but she didn’t refuse his tentative advances. They made love repeatedly but Selene gave little evidence that she even felt his presence despite the fact that she was sore and exhausted from lack of sleep.

Michael became consumed with nervous energy and spent his time with the television, his cousin’s computer and finally picked up and discarded several books in irritation, all to occupy himself. It made him uneasy to have large amounts of time stretching before him; his internal clock was synchronized with never ending hospital rotations. He hated knowing that he was a fugitive from the law and couldn’t release any of his growing frustration outdoors. He also was in grave danger because his blood was an invaluable asset and that positively galled him. His need for nourishment grew but he wouldn’t admit it. The more his hunger grew, the more he could feel himself changing. He was deeply afraid and deeply resentful.

The breaking point came on the third afternoon. Selene was staring out the window when Michael strode into the room, carrying a cup of coffee. She didn’t waste words explaining it was lethal to their physiologies, he should have learned that lesson plainly enough already. “Do you want some of this?” he offered through gritted teeth, angry rebellion stark on his face. She didn’t answer and turned back to her study of the trees across the park. I’ll let him work this out for himself, she thought.

He made a great show of blowing on the steaming brew, although they were both aware that there was no need. The air in the room fairly crackled. Six minutes after the first determined swallow, Michael pitched forward onto his knees and gagged. He threw the cup across the room, where it shattered against the wall. He vomited helplessly and writhed on the floor. Selene came to stand over him and offered him her hand. He refused her help so she sat down with him. Neither said a word for several minutes.

“I don’t think much of a species that can’t enjoy a fucking cup of coffee.” Michael wiped a hand across his mouth. “I could murder every coffee grower in South America right now and plow through the coffee beans.” Under his declaration was a gnawing, clawing hunger that he absolutely refused to acknowledge.

“I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” Selene told him. She left Michael sitting beside a pool of vomit. When he heard the door close downstairs, he was too miserable to wonder where she was headed. It didn’t offer much comfort to know the cord that bound them would certainly bring her back to him. He gave into self-pity and decided he didn’t care that he had no clue what Selene could possibly find to wear before she went out.

When he heard the door again, several hours later, he wasn’t physically able to walk downstairs to see if he should defend himself from vampire or lycan invasion or if he should paste a smile of welcome over his sweaty features to greet Selene. He was feeling deep empathy with the heroin addicts of the world. He was shaking and tossing on the floor beside the bed, which he had fallen out of. He had a skull crushing headache and he didn’t have the strength to sit up; the floor seemed canted at an impossible angle. He heard footsteps rush toward him and found his tongue too thick to speak. He could smell blood. Holy Mother of God, he could smell blood. His eyes rolled back into his head. His fingers plucked and pinched at the rug bunched under his shoulders.

When he came back to awareness, his arms and legs were tangled with Selene’s and he was feeding from her, his mouth full of her blood. She was moaning, but from pleasure or pain, he could not tell. He rose off of the floor and jerked her up. He threw her across the bed and followed. Before she could offer any sort of resistance, he tore at her clothes, the fabric ripping like paper in his hands. His teeth lengthened and sharpened. He plunged both his teeth and his penis inside of her body as he held her down savagely. He was snarling, long threads of saliva and Selene’s blood pooled beneath them. The smell of iron and the taste of salt on his tongue inflamed him. He was absolutely blinded with a frantic hunger and lust. In some tiny corner of his mind not yet consumed, he could not believe he was doing something so base and so vile to someone he loved so completely. It went against everything he believed about himself. Still, he couldn’t stop; he didn’t want to. He left deep furrows in Selene’s arms with his claws. He was both horrified and in ecstasy. The bed was crashing against the wall. Michael wanted to bleed Selene dry when she began humming and he felt her muscles clamp down upon him. He broke into harsh sobs as he came, filling her with his seed and his pain. His head fell forward and he shook with the effort to hold himself together. His unshaven beard scraped against Selene’s skin. “I can’t live this way,” he sobbed.

“You’re right, you can’t,” Selene whispered against his forehead, kissing him softly. Nothing he had just done to her hurt quite as much as the sound he was now making. Michael rolled onto his back and wearily pressed his fingers to his eyes, trying to stop his tears as he wiped away bloody sweat. He didn’t seem aware that he was slowly changing back into a human form. He took no notice. His hands were trembling violently and his breathing was uneven. “I am not cut out for this,” he said.

“Michael, no one is. No one is. But what you are going to do right now is stand up, walk fifteen steps to the shower and get in. Then you are going to shave. Then we are going to strip this bed and burn these reeking sheets. And then we are leaving this place. You are coming with me whether you want to or no.”

“I have to clean the kitchen first,” he mumbled as his breathing returned to a normal rate.

Selene’s eyebrows shot up. “Now I know you are losing your mind. Get up, I am too tired to drag you.”

“Wait, wait. I didn’t mean, I…couldn’t…” Michael struggled.

“I tried to warn you before. You cannot ingest human food nor can you ignore your cravings. It will either kill you or you will end up killing. You won’t be able to control yourself.”

He made a strangled sound and she continued, “You’re still the same person inside, no matter what you’re feeling right now. Who you are, who you have always been doesn’t have to change no matter what you are evolving into! Don’t let Lucian’s bite turn you into a mindless beast…a caricature of a lycan.”

She stopped for a moment and then sat up against the headboard. She pulled his hands from his face. “And don’t let what I did to you make you into a killing machine. Don’t you dare become the vampire I have been. That surely isn’t who you are either. You are not doing this, do you hear me! You are not going to show me that some other life is possible and then take it back! You’ve been holding that possibility out to me for days like some glittering prize and then you change your mind? You’re so intent on showing me that some other life is possible and when it gets tough for you, you’re giving up? Like hell you are, Michael Corvin.”

“Stephen,” he muttered.


“Stephen. Michael Stephen Corvin,” he clarified. Selene’s fingers itched to close into a fist and hit him in the mouth.

“I don’t care what your full name is right now. I’m trying to...” Her voice hitched, broke and stopped. She rubbed at a smear of blood on her thigh and started again. “Do you want to know something? This is the longest conversation I have had in the last hundred years! I’m not about to let another hundred years pass before I find another reason to share this much with someone. My coven is gone, I saw it today. Marcus burned it to the ground. The elders are gone and I don’t know how many others. I’m sure I’d be killed on sight for what I’ve done. Not only did I raise my hand against Viktor, I’ve struck Marcus down with him. But the worst, the absolute worst sin in the eyes of my kind is that I had a hand in creating what you are.”

He shook his head, “I would never let anything happen to you.”

“And how would you stop it? You won’t leave this house and you won’t accept who and what you are! Sooner or later you will have to accept this: something you would never have chosen has happened to you. It has made you into something you never would have wanted and something you haven’t found a way to reconcile yourself with. You’re struggling as much as I am, I can see it. You’re something completely new in this world. So am I. Michael, we could end this war once and for all. I know that’s why Alexander gave me his blood. I know it. God, do you realize, even for one minute, what this could mean?”

“Selene, I am no one’s savior.”

“No, you couldn’t save your fiancée. But you have another chance! Make no mistake about it. You are a hybrid and you have a destiny. You are going to have to accept it. It can either come crashing through the door when the vampires and lycans finally find us or you can walk out of here and meet it on your own terms. I am not kidding…get out of this bed.” She pushed at his shoulder and he sat up, offering her his hand.


Michael took a long time showering. Several times Selene heard him hit the wall. Wisely, she left him to his anger and grief. She didn’t enter the room until she heard the water stop. She stood in the doorway and watched him shave. His expression was terrible and his eyes were rimmed in red but his hands were steady. It broke her heart to realize yet again how young and how vulnerable he seemed. But, there was something in his eyes that had not been there before: a quiet determination. He set the razor down on the sink and turned to her. “I want to get some things from my apartment if the bastards haven’t seized it all for evidence.”

“Do you think that is a good idea?”

“I don’t see why not. Who or what could stop me?” He didn’t sound bitter or ironic, only matter of fact. He glanced at her clothing and asked cautiously, “Um, what are you wearing?”

She looked down and then back up at him and said through her teeth, “The only thing you haven’t ripped apart yet, Michael.”

He gave her a crooked smile. “You look beautiful. I’m going to have to come back and leave some money for the mess and for anything we take.”

Selene snorted and said sarcastically, “You’re like the thief who leaves an apology letter after he ransacks the house.”

He frowned and said sharply, “You said I don’t have to change. Well, this is me not changing.” Naked, he walked past her, rubbing his hair with a towel. “I’m going to find some paper and a pen.”

An hour later, a cab driver who spoke no Hungarian, English, or German, picked them up. They took nothing with them from their five day refuge except the clothes they rummaged together from his cousin’s closets. Michael left behind a note and money Selene gave him, a resigned look on his face. He directed the driver to his apartment building across the Danube, mostly through gestures. “Rákóczi? Rákóczi út?” the driver asked several times as he sped across the Chain Bridge at an alarming speed. Michael finally just nodded and held on for the ride.

After several confusing turns and driving down the same boulevard three times, the cab stopped and Michael helped Selene out. “I’d give just about anything for a car,” she said wistfully as she paid the driver.

“Stop,” Michael said. “We are not stealing one.”

Whatever he had been planning to say next died in his throat as they entered the building. The hallway was blocked; the elevator door crisscrossed several times with yellow tape. The walls were riddled with bullet holes and deeply scored with what he assumed were lycan claw marks. There was a heavy astringent smell in the air. It had taken a large quantity of disinfectant to clean up the gore left behind the night both Selene and Lucian had come for him. He shook his head; already it seemed as if it had happened years ago. He reached for Selene’s hand and they took the stairs up to his flat.

There was a new bolt on the door. Absently, Michael pulled it off without effort. He seemed to be more accustomed to his strength or maybe it was that he was in shock. He stopped in the doorway and didn’t move until Selene quietly pushed him inside and shut the door behind him.

Michael looked up at the ceiling. In his mind’s eye, he could still see huge pieces of plaster falling onto the floor as the lycans crashed through the windows of the apartment above his. He slowly walked to his desk and picked up a textbook. He thumbed through the pages, not saying anything. Every drawer of his desk was missing, the contents gone. There were no other books left on his bookshelves, discarded papers lay in piles on the floor. Upholstery hung in shreds from the chairs. He set the book down and walked into the small room where he had slept. Clothing was strewn on the floor and the bed was stripped. Broken glass covered the rug. Selene started to say something when Michael made a strange sound. He sat down on the bare mattress and reached for a crumpled photograph wedged against the wall. It was one of the only ones left of Samantha. He’d brought nothing from their life together, saved nothing except a few photographs. When he left the States, he’d brought one bag, his entire life condensed down into what he could carry and stow above his head on an airplane. Selene came to him and stroked his hair. He set the picture down and pulled her onto his lap. He kissed her and she could taste his sorrow.

In the end, he decided to take no more than was necessary. He took off his cousin’s too-small boots. He changed into a wrinkled shirt that he picked up from the bedroom floor and a pair of pants with one of his own belts. He found a jacket draped across a chair in the kitchenette and a pair of his boots sitting inside the pantry. He stopped to put these on. He picked up a worn pack sitting beside the kitchen table, stuffed a change of clothing into it and walked into the lavatory. He selected several things from the tiny cabinet over the sink and dropped them into the backpack, which he then slung over his shoulder. He paused to take a small blue bowl out of the kitchen cupboard and walked back into his bedroom. He set it on the bedside table and reverently kissed Sam’s photograph. Selene started to protest when he touched a match to it but stopped when she saw the look on his face. He dropped the burning picture into the bowl and walked out of the room. He picked up his grandfather’s St. Stephen medal where someone had left it lying beside his answering machine. He dropped the silver chain over his head, tucked the medal beneath his shirt and joined Selene at the door.

They were almost back to the stairs when they heard someone call his name. Michael turned, a hand out, almost as if he were about to raise it in greeting. Selene shoved him aside and before his neighbor could speak, she struck him. He fell to the floor.

“Christ!” Michael yelled. “What in the hell did you just do?” He was furious. He spun Selene around and yelled again, “What are you thinking?”

She looked at him with glowing blue eyes, which held no remorse. “I am thinking about keeping you alive,” she said without hesitation. “That is what I am thinking.” She jerked her arm away from him and stepped over the man at her feet.

Michael crouched down and felt for his pulse.

“I didn’t kill him, Michael. Let’s get out of here before someone calls the police.”

“No,” he said as he continued his examination. “As long as we are here, we need to get something straight.” He carefully moved his neighbor away from the center of the hallway and straightened up.

“Listen to what I am saying, Selene. No one else dies. Not by your hand or mine. If we end a life, it will be because we were acting in self defense and there were no other options left to us. No more violence, no more death. Do you understand what I am telling you?” His eyes traveled to the unconscious man and then back up to Selene, who was now white with fury.

“I understand that you are determined to die.” Selene moved past him and her angry footsteps echoed like cannons. She marched down the stairs without waiting to see if he would follow.

Michael did not join her immediately. If he understood anything at all about women, it was that they seldom, if ever, wanted a man to belabor a point. He allowed her to walk ahead of him out of the building. He did not try to keep pace with her. After several minutes, he took a deep breath and called Selene’s name. She did not stop. He increased his pace and said her name again. She stopped but did not turn to him. He stepped around her and was startled by her eyes. They were absolutely burning.

He sighed heavily and inclined his head toward a small park lined with trees. Together they walked across the dry, brown grass. It was bitterly cold. Selene seemed not to notice the biting wind. Michael glanced at her and decided the strange combination she was wearing was even more arousing than her usual black leather. She was wearing a pair of his cousin József’s jeans, tightly cinched with a brown belt, a torn tee shirt layered over another one and a coat many sizes too large for her small frame. A scarf was wound around her neck several times, hiding the fading marks left by his teeth and claws. Her sleek hair blew about her in a dark cloud.

“This is one of my favorite places to sort things out. I’ve spent more than a few hours here.” Michael said. He came to a large tree and sat down, leaning against its trunk. Selene stopped, crossed her arms and stood stiffly in front of him. “Oh, for God’s sake, sit down!” Michael said in exasperation.

Reluctantly, she joined him. “I caused that man no lasting injury. I was trying to keep him from reaching for a phone. If we bring any attention to ourselves, the lycans and vampires will be around the next corner before we’re ready for them.” She took an angry breath. “You aren’t changing? Well, that was me not changing. I protect those important to me. It’s my job. It’s what I’m trained for.” She knew that sounded patently ridiculous, given their present situation.

Michael laid his head back against the rough bark of the tree. “You know, this ‘brave new world’ is going to take some time to get used to. Fortunately for me, I have all the time in the world to sort it out.” He looked up at the clouds, which were heavy and threatening snow. Several long minutes passed as they sat in silence, intent on their own thoughts. Michael glanced at Selene and wondered why she had not once expressed any kind of emotion or said anything to him about the miracle that she could now share sunlight with him. Was she truly that reserved? Or that numb?

“I’ve always loved snow,” he finally said, very softly. “Let’s find somewhere to stay and watch it fall.”

“We are not going to find a new place to hide and pretend the world doesn’t exist,” Selene said in her very precise, measured way.

“If we are going to find what is left of the lycans and vampires and propose peace, I think we need a plan first. No one follows the politician who has no platform, Selene. And as much as I like snow, I am not going to sit on my ass in it while I am thinking. Come on, let’s find somewhere to stay.” He rose, brushed leaves from his clothes and picked up his backpack.

“Hey,” he asked suddenly. “Where did the money from?”

She fell into pace beside him and said tightly, “A safe house. I took all I could find, I suppose we could try another. We could stay the night at least.”

“No. No way. I am not sleeping with one eye open. You might like staying up all night, but I don’t. I do not want to fight off a horde of vampires at 3 o’clock in the morning. Besides, we have something else to do. We’re going to find you something to wear, we’re going shopping.”

Shopping? Selene hadn’t known many Americans. Shopping? Were they all this magnificently self-assured? Since that night in the Metro, she couldn’t decide if Michael was insanely brave or simply insane. She had never known anyone like him. The feelings she had about the sensation of sunlight on her skin were somehow part of and somehow tied up in the feelings she had for this crazy American who had braved gunfire to save a complete stranger and spoke Hungarian with an atrocious accent. He was achingly tender, yet he had considerable strength.

Although he was struggling, Michael seemed to be surfacing, reassessing his identity. More than a few humans were driven to madness or suicide after transformation into an immortal. But he would find his way, she could feel it. She would just have to unobtrusively protect him. She shook her head, stuffed the Beretta and extra clips she had taken from the safe house further down into the coat she was wearing and scanned the horizon for lycans. Flakes of white began to dance on the wind.


The further Michael traveled from József’s house, the less he really cared if he were recognized by the police. There was no cell built by human hands that could hold him, he realized. Vampires couldn’t pursue him in daylight and the lycans were strangely absent. In retrospect, he realized he had been struggling to keep from going under for the better part of three years. He had been sleepwalking, just getting by. Now he had awakened to the most fantastical, most life-altering thing he could have imagined. It was bewildering, but more than that, it was liberating. His eyes were opening and every cell of his body was beginning to vibrate. It was as if he were watching his life played out on a screen and someone had just wrenched up the sound and adjusted the color several shades too bright. But God, it felt good. It felt more than good. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been totally present in his own life.

Michael, it turned out, was a gentleman, truly a reflection of his upbringing. He was patient and he was unfailingly kind. He did not even smile when it became obvious that Selene was not in the habit of purchasing her own clothing. She had lived so far removed from human interaction for so long that the simple act of buying clothing was beyond her. She accepted everything he chose for her except the coat he held up for her inspection. “I like this one better,” was all she said. She handed him money and walked away; she didn’t have the patience for interactions with humans. He paid for everything and was startled when the saleswoman let her fingers deliberately linger on his. That had never happened to him in his life. Perplexed, he wondered if it was all in his mind.

“You’ll get used to it,” Selene said flatly when he found her outside the small shop.

He stared at her in amazement. Had she read his mind? Had she been reading it all along…all the hours they had spent together? God, he sincerely hoped not. The fevered thoughts he had about her were embarrassing enough to him, he’d just as soon not have her pluck them from his head.

“Humans don’t know what they are seeing, but they sense it just the same. You are different to them and they are attracted to you. You’re something from a grimoire, from the old stories of vampyr. If that woman watched you long enough, she’d be afraid of you. Your gestures, your movements….they’re a little too fast, a little too exact. I don’t know if that’s true for lycans too, but it probably is. You are a mythical creature now, Michael. That woman wanted you badly and she’s standing in that shop right now trying to figure out why.”

He had absolutely no idea how to respond to that knowledge. He hoisted his backpack higher and suddenly felt close to tears, yet he was smiling. He walked a few steps and then stopped, not knowing how to proceed. He felt as if he had been given hours to live and told that he must memorize everything around him, must commit it all to memory.

He fell in love with an old couple who passed him, deep in conversation. Their tissue-thin skin was exquisite and as delicate as spun sugar. Their conversation faltered as he caught their eye. He was entranced with a tall blond mother who crossed the street in front of him, her dark-eyed baby staring solemnly back at him from out of a yellow coat. He could smell the perfume of women who were walking up and down the sidewalk, intent on their journeys. Their scents floated to him, caressing his face. They turned to look at him as they passed, their hair blowing in the wind.

He wondered why he had never before realized how frankly sensual a gold bracelet could be when worn about the wrist of man…the wiry hair on the back of his hand and wrist curling over the shining metal. He gazed at the man in absolute rapture as he passed and the man’s eyes widened, wary but intrigued. Michael didn’t know it, but his mouth was open slightly and he was in danger of dropping the things he held. He wanted to embrace the entire street, to absorb the very things that made them each unique…and also the things that made them all the same. He was…he wanted…

Selene leaned close to him and whispered, “This is why you must feed. You’re going to end up beguiling this whole street and then where will we be?”

Suddenly he remembered the first time he had seen Selene, how she had looked more beautiful than anything he had ever laid eyes on. How he had not been able to look away. He had been staring at her shimmering skin and he had been fighting a very real and deeply compelling urge to approach and touch her. Had she been seducing him that night without realizing it, just because she needed to feed?

Michael’s gaze drifted from the surging humanity. Selene’s voice seemed to be coming to him from a very great distance. He blinked several times and leaned down to her, concentrating on her moving lips. Slowly, things came back into focus. His voice shaking, Michael said, “We need to find a room. I think I’m falling in love with this entire neighborhood. I may be mythical, but I am not spending the night in this. I have limits. I’m overwhelmed and I’m losing control.”

He began to walk quickly, keeping his eyes on the ground. “How much money do you have left?” Michael asked as they walked down the stairs leading to the Metro. “I know a place not far from here. A couple of guys I work…worked with…stayed there when they first came over from the States.”

“You know that you could be recognized.”

“Yes. That’s a risk we are just going to have to take. Keep walking and let’s not look like we’re trying to hide something. Not that I’d have to tell you that. You’re the expert, right?”

After they made their way through the late afternoon crowds and found seats on the speeding tram, Michael began to relax. Still, he focused his attention on Selene. He would not risk becoming overwhelmed again. Casting about for a topic of conversation, he turned to her and asked, “How does a vampire get money, anyway?”

Selene made a dismissive sound, “They go to someone like Kraven and lie when asked what they need it for.”


“Honestly, Michael, would you want to explain yourself to someone like him?”

“Why did you have to explain yourself to him in the first place?”

“Hierarchy,” was all she said. She leaned her head against his shoulder and shut her eyes. He put his arm around her.

They disembarked on Raday utca. Selene was annoyed that the flat, which was on the fourth floor of a gorgeous art deco building, had a three night minimum. She handed money to the agent with an angry frown. She became impatient with a group of loud tourists speaking French and stalked off in search of the stairs. Michael shook his head and followed, wondering how vampires interacted with humans on any level at all. He caught up with Selene inside the stairwell and lifted her up. She wrapped her legs about his waist. “You don’t smile enough,” Michael told her as he kissed her throat. He carried her and their packages up the four flights to their rooms.

They had scarcely closed the door behind them before he was urging Selene out of her clothes, kneeling to unbuckle her boots. Together, they wrapped in a quilt and stood at the window, watching the snow fall. Michael laid his cheek against Selene’s silky hair and listened to her breathe, thinking that he could stay that way and never move again. Something in her nearness was speaking to a part of him that he had believed was lost…a part he had stopped mourning and searching for because he believed it had died.

His naked skin was hot against Selene’s as he held her. He began to burn for her but would not act upon it. Had he been enamored by the crowds because his senses were sharper or because he wanted to devour them? He wasn’t sure. And did he now want to devour her? Again, he wasn’t sure. Desperately, he began talking, his words a frantically built wall between him and his hunger.

“You know, it wasn’t until I couldn’t eat food anymore that I realized how much time is spent in pursuit of it,” Michael said.

“Two weeks ago, I’d have asked you to dinner. I’d have moved my chair closer to you and you would have laughed when I offered you food from my plate. I’d have gotten turned on when you accepted it. We’d have had too many glasses of wine and stayed so late that I’d have slunk back to work with my head spinning, wondering how soon was too soon to call you. Or maybe I wouldn’t have had that much nerve and I’d have asked you to coffee instead. I’d have walked around the block several times, wondering how to impress you. When I finally showed up, you would already be there, wondering why I was late. You know, you might have even thought exhaustion was sexy and smiled when I said I lived on caffeine. Maybe you would have taken pity on me and offered to meet me somewhere for breakfast after my next shift.”

His words began to run together. “God, I’m going to miss good food or conversation over coffee! That’s something we’re not ever going to share. You haven’t eaten food in hundreds of years and I’m not going to eat it ever again and...” He stopped, his thoughts a tangled heap.

Selene turned in the quilt and laid her head against his chest, his St. Stephen’s medal cool against her cheek. He shuddered as her hands slowly moved down his back. Should she tell him now or should she lead him to bed and try to persuade him with her body? She knew he wanted her, even as he talked himself into an agitated corner. He was fairly throbbing with desire. She decided upon honesty. Anything else was unforgivably crude.

“You have to feed before we go out. You aren’t strong enough or old enough to control your hunger.”

“And why do we need to go out?”

“I want to look for members of my coven. Surely some of them survived. If there are any members of the council left, I want an audience with them.”

“They aren’t going to welcome you with open arms, Selene.”

“No. But I have to approach them. I have to make them understand. I have to do it now, before they can convene and condemn me. I can’t afford to wait. You’re going to need to feed first.”

He stiffened. “This isn’t something you can ignore. It isn’t going to go away. I’m sorry, but you are going to have to face facts,” she said gently but firmly.

He dropped the quilt and stepped back, shaking his head. “We’ve been over this before. I can’t do it.”

“You have to!”

“No,” he said. “I’ve spent years learning how to save people. I’m not going to start killing them now! I’m telling you, I can’t do it. I can’t.”

She clutched his arm. “Stop. I’m not saying you should. I’m not asking you to run out of here and commit murder. We can’t exactly break into Ziodex tonight and steal blood. That’ll bring too much attention to ourselves. But maybe we can make do with what I found at the safe house. I took some.”

“You did?” he sounded incredulous. “Where is it?” He loathed the note of eagerness in his voice. It disgusted him. He looked over Selene’s head and tried to regain his composure.

She pointed to József’s coat and shrugged. “I could have stored half the safe house in there and you wouldn’t have noticed.”

She motioned him to the sofa. “Just get it over with.”

Michael sat down. He was breathing heavily and he was acutely aroused. His eyes were black as pitch. Selene handed him a pack of manufactured platelets and he stared at it, turning it over and over in his hands. She could hear his teeth grinding. Finally he looked up and shoved the pack toward her. “I can’t do it,” he said.

Selene ripped the bag open and drained it, her eyes never leaving his face. She dropped it beside the sofa and reached for him. He picked her up and buried his teeth in her neck. He carried her down the hall and into the small bedroom. He pushed the door open with his foot and it slammed against the wall. They fell into the bed together. Michael thought he heard singing from somewhere very far away. “I love you,” he said, his voice thick with desire. Then he turned Selene’s jaw aside and pressed his lips to her skin. She moaned and wrapped her arms around his neck. The voices swelled, sweeter and closer to his enthralled ears.

Over the next two hours, Selene rose from the bed twice more and took blood from the coat. She swallowed the first pack and climbed back into bed, pressing the inside of her wrist to Michael’s mouth. She knew his newly awakened body needed large quantities of blood as it continued to evolve. It would take the better part of a month before his transformation would be complete. She didn’t know if that was also true for lycans, but she had witnessed vampire transformation. The second time she tore the pack open with her teeth and took the blood into her mouth. She kissed Michael, passing blood to him. He drew back for a moment, grimacing. His teeth were stained a rusty red. Seeing his indecision, she quickly pressed the bag to his lips. He put out a hand to stop her but she urged him on. He hesitated again and then he took the deep red bag from her. He would not look at her as he drank. He fell back against the pillows and put a hand over his eyes. Selene took the empty pack from him and quietly put it on the bedside table.


They found Kahn several hours later. Selene was so relieved to know he had survived and so relieved to see him that for a moment she forgot that she was traveling in the company of an avowed enemy, even if he was her lover. Kahn shoved her aside and was looking at Michael down the barrel of his weapon before she could stop him. He fired and she cried out, simultaneously. There was no need. Michael moved beyond the speed of light. The only way she knew he had moved at all was a change in the atmosphere beside her. She could not follow him with her senses, heightened though they were. Kahn lowered his gun, a look of astonishment on his face. Michael came to rest beside him and almost casually flicked the weapon from the vampire’s hand before another second passed. Michael looked distinctly uncomfortable. He didn’t seem to know what to do with himself.

“I’m going to assume this is Michael,” Kahn finally said as he bent to retrieve his gun.

“Yeah,” Michael said, holding out his hand in greeting. Kahn took a step backward and hissed in warning. Michael slowly let his hand drop.

“We have to talk.” Selene said tightly. “Is there somewhere we can go?”

Kahn looked Michael up and down several times. He jerked his head to a nearby car, motioning Michael to walk ahead of him. He didn’t care if Selene had lost her sanity, he didn’t intend to follow. Somehow the creature beside her was familiar…but no, that was impossible. He was plainly lycan, he couldn’t possibly be a vampire, no matter what impression he gave.

As they approached the car, Kahn suddenly stopped. He shook his head and said, “On second thought, I’m not putting myself into such a small space with a lycan. Whatever you have to say, Selene, say it here.” His expression was steely, his eyes narrow.

“Kahn, all I’m asking is that you listen.”

He spit on the ground before her. Selene was not surprised by his rejection, but still it tore at her. “When did you decide to turn your back on your own kind?” he demanded.

“It isn’t like that. You have to understand. All that we are, all that we have been fighting against has been a lie. Every single thing we’ve been made to believe is a lie. I need to tell you this! Please listen to me!” She took a step forward and Kahn brought his gun up. Michael growled in warning. He stepped between the two vampires. His eyes were a glittering deep shade; his fingers lengthened into sudden claws.

“He’s protecting you?” Kahn was furious. “A lycan? A lycan? You’re a Death Dealer! What in the hell has happened to you, Selene?”

“My eyes have been opened,” she said quietly. “All I want is a chance to tell you what I’ve learned.”

He shook his head and Michael added, “I’m not your enemy. There are some things you need to know. Kraven betrayed you…”

“What do you know about Kraven?” Kahn sneered.

“He was in league with the lycans to overthrow your Elders. That’s something I know. You want to keep fighting for an eternity? First you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. You owe it to the survival of your species to hear us out. If you don’t want to get into a car with me, then we’ll walk back the way we came. I’ll walk in front if you’d like.” With that, Michael turned away.

Kahn took an angry breath. By nature, he was a logical man. Neither Selene nor her creature appeared to be armed. Neither had drawn a weapon or made any hostile move toward him. He had known Selene for centuries and if anything, he knew her to be truthful and unequivocal. He decided to listen to whatever they had to tell him. “Alright!” He tossed the keys to Selene. “You drive, I’m not taking any chances.” Michael stopped walking and turned back. His eyes slowly faded to their customary hue. He gave Selene a small smile and shrugged.

Selene took the wheel. Kahn directed them across the Danube, toward Gellért Hill. He never let his guard down, nor did he loosen his grip on his weapon. The tension literally rolled off of Selene’s fellow Death Dealer. He spoke very little, giving directions in terse bursts. When at last they arrived at the end of a long, wooded drive, he pointed toward a majestic villa, its stucco a rich, burnt orange and cream.

“Is this yours?” Michael asked, impressed.

“My home was Ordoghaz,” Kahn spat. He climbed out of his car and led them to a pair of beautifully carved doors. He stopped before them. “I’m going to allow you inside for one reason. Neither of you has made any move to arm yourselves. I’m curious to know what could be so important that you’d allow yourselves to be at such a disadvantage. I’ll hear you out and then I want you to leave, do you understand?”

He did not speak again until they were inside. He escorted them into a large sitting room and made no attempt to hide his displeasure when Michael sat close enough to Selene to touch her. “Do you think she needs you as a watchdog, lycan?” Kahn asked, his voice caustic.

“Yes,” Michael said quietly. “Make no mistake, I’d fight you with everything I have before I’d let any harm come to her.”

“Is that a threat?” Kahn hissed.

Composed and with absolute conviction Michael said in a low voice, “No. It is my promise to you.”

“Enough!” Selene snapped. Both Kahn and Michael turned to her. “Enough,” she said softer. She leaned forward, her eyes glowing. “Kahn, sit down please. We’ve been fighting a war for the wrong reasons. Three of our elders have been slain within days of each other: Amelia by Kraven’s treachery, Viktor and Marcus by my own hand.”

“Your hand?”

“Yes,” she said simply.

Stunned, Kahn slowly sank down. “I think you’d better explain what you mean.”

Selene nodded and began to speak. She began with the night she had returned to the coven, bringing a clip of ultraviolet death to Kahn for analysis. She confirmed that Kraven had indeed plotted against the Elders with Lucian while Lucian built his army of lycans. But when she tried to describe Viktor’s death, she faltered. She took several breaths before she could continue. Michael continued the story to the meeting with Alexander Corvinus and then Selene again found her voice. What she refused to share was losing Michael…her desperation, feeling as if she could not survive his death. For reasons she could not explain even to herself, she also held back the secret of Alexander’s blood. She was the ‘future’, but what did that really mean? How could she explain this to Kahn, make him understand what she still struggled to understand? If Kahn were captured or tortured, she would not have this miracle become yet another reason to hunt her down and take her life. She carefully related the events surrounding Marcus’ defeat. When at last she stopped, she closed her eyes and sat back, exhausted.

No one spoke for several minutes. “Why do you think Marcus destroyed the coven?” Kahn asked, breaking the silence.

“I think he was driven mad by grief,” Selene answered. “The legends, Kahn…the legends were all true! Marcus and William inherited immortality from their father. Even still, Marcus could not stop his brother’s lust for human flesh. He must have been desperate when he sought out a warlord and agreed to make him and his men immortal in turn for their help in subduing William.”

“Who?” Kahn asked.

“Viktor,” Selene said flatly. “Viktor. He was not the first vampire. Marcus gave him the gift of immortality in exchange for helping Marcus capture his brother.

“I don’t understand, if Marcus was the first vampire, wasn’t he the strongest? Why would he have deferred to Viktor? That doesn’t make any sense, Selene,” Kahn said.

“He endured centuries of deferring to Viktor because he thought his brother’s survival depended upon it. When William was hunted down and captured, Viktor offered either imprisonment or death. Of course, Marcus would not see his brother cut down before his eyes. I also don’t think he ever accepted the fact that his father would not intervene on William’s behalf. That must have weighed on him. It must have! You would not have recognized him, Kahn. He had become something truly monstrous when we saw him. He’d become a hybrid of some sort…a demon. It was the final link in a chain of misery and madness. You know how he was, how high strung and unstable he had always been. Sooner or later, Marcus would have broken.”

“So you’re telling me the legends were true? Alexander Corvinus was the father of both species, and two of his sons the original carriers of the virus?” Kahn sounded skeptical.

“No matter how fantastic it sounds, it is true,” Selene assured him. “He was alive…all those centuries. He was alive and he never stepped in, never tried to stop or help his sons. Even when Viktor manipulated his own hatred of lycans into full scale genocide, Alexander did nothing. The only thing he did was keep vigil. Anytime the war spilled into the mortal word, his men cleaned up the mess, destroyed the evidence.”

“Where are they now?” Kahn asked.


“Corvinus’ scrubbers.”

“I don’t know. But I do know this, lycans are no more monsters than we are, no matter what you believe! They didn’t start the war, Kahn, Viktor did. He condemned his own daughter, his very own flesh and blood to death for her love of a lycan. That was the beginning of the slaughter.”

“And next you’re going to tell me that Lucian was that lycan, right?” Kahn smirked.

“I know this all sounds like a fairy tale. I understand that you don’t believe me, I didn’t want to believe it either. But I am telling you that everything I am saying is real and everything we’ve been lead to believe has been a lie. We have to find a way to reach any vampires and lycans still alive!”

Michael leaned forward, “Are there any other survivors? Have you been contacted by anyone from your coven?”

“No,” Kahn answered.

Selene spoke up, “I don’t know how many survivors there are, but it’s time to lay down our arms and find a way we all can exist, living outside of nature as we do.”

“And you mean to assume control and form your own coven?” Kahn asked as he looked Selene in the eye.

“No! Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Because you are ‘next in line’ Selene. Surely you realize that.”

Michael spoke up, “What do you mean?”

“Marcus burned Ordoghaz at sunrise,” Kahn explained. “He made sure any survivors of the fire would be destroyed by the sun. The only reason I’m alive is that I was forced to spend that day in Lucian’s compound. Unless I’m mistaken, Amelia’s coven died with her. Selene is the only vampire Viktor sired after the death of his daughter. Any vampires left will look to her to assume leadership. They’ll likely even overlook your creation, lycan.”

“I have a name,” Michael reminded him.

“Not to them you don’t.”

“It doesn’t matter. I have no desire to assume control of anything. I’m through living in a coven,” Selene said.

“What will you do? Join his den?” Kahn demanded, his voice incredulous.

“Michael is not the lycan alpha. He’s lycan dominant, true…but remember he’s a hybrid.”

“If you don’t know how many lycans are left, how do you know he isn’t the alpha?” Kahn persisted.

“I’m no one’s ‘alpha’ nor will I be used as a weapon,” Michael said. “I’m not going to spend the next several centuries fighting and running from lycans who want my blood to defeat vampires. And I’m not joining a coven so they can use me for the same purpose. This war has to end!”

Kahn looked skeptical. “It will take a lot more than the two of you giving pretty speeches and rallying for peace.”

Michael nodded. “That’s why I’m giving Ziodex my blood.”

“What?” Selene and Kahn said in unison.

“What do you mean?” Shocked, Selene turned to Michael. “When did you decide this?”

“I’m a doctor, Selene. I’ve studied viruses and genetics. You and I are both hybrids now even if you don’t want to admit it. I know Ziodex can use our blood to create some kind of viral therapy to even out the playing field. The war will stop if all the players are suddenly on the same side.”

“When did you decide this?” she repeated.

“Just now. Why, does it matter?”

“How is Selene a hybrid?” Kahn demanded.

Michael ignored his question, his eyes locked with Selene’s. Finally she shook her head and looked away, deep in thought. He stood and held out his wrist to Kahn. “Go ahead, Death Dealer. Become a hybrid. Get in on the ground level, so to speak.”

Kahn’s eyebrows rose and he frowned, looking for a trap. Michael sighed and turned the inside of his wrist closer to Kahn, his veins a faint roadmap. “Do it,” he whispered.

Kahn gripped his hand, crushing his bones. Michael winced but did not pull away. He shuddered as Kahn’s teeth pierced his skin and he clenched his jaw, struggling not to cry out. The pain was immediate, immense, surrounding him completely in a fiery red cocoon. Images bloomed within his mind…19th century London, swirling with fog, a woman with painted lips, laughing up at him from the bottom of a boat…a young girl handing him a letter, her fingers stained with ink…an old man eating an apple. Michael understood that he was seeing Kahn’s life, played back as if he were a Parisian gentleman viewing the Cinematographe.

Hot tears rolled down his cheeks. He saw and felt what had once been the vampire’s hopes, dreams, and felt also his agony at being wrenched away from the mortal life he had once led. The images faded and sharpened in rhythm with Michael’s heartbeat. When he began to see pictures of the villa he now was standing in, Kahn dropped his hand. Blood dripped onto the exquisite hand-knotted rug at Michael’s feet.

Michael opened his eyes and pressed shaking fingers against his wrist. He could not begin to have imagined that he would have felt such pain. Somehow, neither Lucian’s teeth gnashing his shoulder or Selene’s needle-sharp fangs had ever brought this agony. He felt as if someone had injected his veins with petrol. He stumbled and Selene caught him, easing him down beside her. He wondered if Kahn’s grief had alchemized his blood. Was that even possible? Was he beginning to think as they did? Nothing too fanciful, no fiction too extreme? He felt Kahn watching him and Michael raised his eyes, still brimming with unshed tears. Kahn looked away.

Suddenly, footsteps rang down a long hall and a woman rushed into the room, her voice sharp with fear. She knelt in front of Kahn, frantically searching his body for injury, many rings upon her slender fingers, many circles of gold and silver about her wrists. He shook his head and embraced her. He looked at Selene and Michael over her head and motioned with his chin for them to leave. As they crossed the threshold, something flashed through the air. Selene raised her hand and deftly caught the keys to Kahn’s car. She did not look back, merely walked with Michael out into the night. The woman’s warm human fragrance followed them out the door. It was once again snowing.


“It’s been agony for him to lead a double life,” Michael said as they sped back toward the city. “I felt his pain.”

“Don’t ever let him hear you say that,” Selene advised as she threw the car into fifth. Michael refrained from commenting on her insane love of speed.

“Why?” he asked instead.

“He’d sooner a pack of lycans tortured him and left him to bleed to death before he’d show any weakness. He’s a warrior.”

“What about you, Selene?”

She smiled thinly. “I’m learning.”

With that, she flung the car around a hairpin turn and Michael gripped the dash. He started to ask Selene to slow down when a strong, dark scent assailed his senses. “Stop the car,” he demanded, already reaching for the door. The tone of his voice made Selene stomp on the brake. Her other foot flew off of the clutch and the car slid dangerously across the road as the engine died.

“Michael?” she cried. He disappeared into the snow. Selene’s brain couldn’t process what her eyes were telling her. He was gone. Completely. In the space of a second, he had vanished as if she had never known him. Goddamn it. “Michael!” she called again.

Should she wait? Should she try to follow? The swirling snow covered his tracks. Selene slammed her door so hard it rocked the entire car. Michael’s door hung open, forgotten in his haste. Selene stalked toward the trees. He was out there somewhere. She could feel him, even if she could not see him.

Michael was running, snarls bursting from his heaving chest. His entire focus was on the chase. He had never been as exhilarated in his life. He felt as if his heart would explode. Dimly, he heard his clothing split and tear. He kicked off his boots and dropped to all fours to increase his speed. He fairly flew over the ground. The red stag ahead of him bellowed and shot over a frozen stream. Michael lunged and caught it on the opposite bank. In one fluid motion, he pulled the stag toward him and plunged his teeth into it. He moaned as scalding blood sluiced down his throat, wave after wave after wave. The heavy animal fell back onto him and he toppled over, still clutching the beast. Hooves struck and beat at him, scrambling for purchase. It only inflamed him further. He snarled and ripped the stag’s head free, its horns snapping into pieces in his hands. He laughed and threw back his head, howling into the snowy night. Blood rained down onto him, sticky and steaming. He laughed again and threw the stag’s head aside He stood and shoved the carcass away. It was still moving when he stepped over it and ran back toward Selene. He could feel her looking for him. He wanted her…now.

She was less than a mile away, furiously calling his name, certain that every vampire and lycan left alive could hear her. The weather made it impossible for her to find him with her senses. Michael loped back toward her with an easy grace. She stopped short when she saw him, her eyes wide with shock. He loomed over her in all of his lycan glory and picked her up, pushing her against a tree.

The blood covering him looked black against his skin. It dripped into the white, white snow. He was leering, snarling, laughing, pulling Selene’s clothes open. He looked like a madman, his eyes were glowing with a wild euphoria. Selene felt the first real sliver of fear she had ever known as a vampire. “Michael, stop. Stop it!” she said as she tried to push him away. “No,” he answered. The tree against Selene’s back cracked, a gunshot in the night. Snow fell down upon their heads from its branches. Michael howled and pulled Selene down onto the freezing ground. They rolled over and over, struggling against each other.

“Stop. You smell like an animal. You’re hurting me.” Selene said as snow filled her mouth.

“I am an animal!” Michael growled. “Look at what you’ve created! I am an animal.” He threw back his head and howled again and again. He held his arms out wide. “Look at me, Selene! Isn’t this what you wanted? Look at me!”

“Stop,” Selene panted. “Stop!”

“Isn’t this what you wanted?” He stood up and stepped away. He began to spin, his arms still flung out wide. Blood covered every inch of his hair, his naked skin. “Isn’t this what Lucian fucking wanted from me? Well, here it is! I am an animal!”

Selene sat up and watched him, unsure how to react. Drunkenly, Michael tripped and fell. He rolled onto his back and laughed up at the night sky. “Here I am,” he said. “Here I am...” and his voice faded away. His arms fell to his sides. He slowly transformed back into human form. He made no move to shield himself from the snowfall.

“Do we have any money left?” he finally asked.

“What?” Selene choked. “Why?”

“I’m going to need more clothes. I’ve run through just about everything I have.” He sighed but continued to lie in the snow, letting it cover him with its whiteness. It fell into his eyes.

Selene cautiously approached him. “I can only say ‘I am sorry’ so many times and in so many ways, but believe this...I truly am sorry that this has been so hard for you. What I am not sorry about is that we are together.” She sank down at his side and laid her hands on him. He was absolutely on fire. She leaned down and softly pressed her lips to his skin. He reached up and enfolded her.

“Michael, Michael...” she whispered. He caught her face in his bloody hands and she kissed him. The wild, untamed taste of the stag passed to her from his mouth. Their teeth knocked together as they sought to devour one another. Selene sat up and pulled away the last of her clothing. Her face was shining with dark triumph. Animal he might be, Michael Corvin was hers. She sank back down on him and he arched up to meet her. The snow beneath them turned to water in the heat.


Michael said little as they journeyed back. He did not seem conflicted, only introspective. The only sound was the click and drag of the windshield wipers. The sun slowly rose, painting the sky a steely gray.

Selene parked the car and touched Michael’s hand. “Wait here,” she told him. He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. He fell into a fitful sleep almost at once. When Selene returned with his cousin’s coat and a pair of trousers, he jerked awake and pulled them on in the confines of the small car. He picked up his boots and followed Selene up the back stairs of the building. In the early morning hour, they encountered and startled no one with their disheveled appearance.

Back in their rooms, Michael picked up the quilt he had earlier discarded and threw it around his shoulders. He lay down on the floor and was instantly asleep. Worried, Selene crouched down and shook his shoulder. He did not wake and she shook him again. His eyes snapped open and he blinked several times. “What?” he mumbled. His mouth was dry and his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. His eyes fluttered and closed again. He tried to turn away but Selene caught and held him. He was very pale under all the grime.

“Michael!” Selene said urgently. “What is wrong with you?”

“Nothing. I’m too tired to find the bed and too dirty to sleep in it. Stop shaking me.” He opened his eyes and fixed her with a bleary stare. “Just give me a couple hours.” He pulled his shoulder from Selene’s grasp and turned over, burrowing tighter into the quilt. His breathing deepened and he shuddered. He mumbled something unintelligible and went back to sleep. He did not stir for the next seven hours.

When he woke, Selene was sitting next to him. “Impressive,” she remarked.

He yawned and smiled. “Residency,” he said. “You learn to sleep anytime and anywhere.” He looked around, still somewhat dazed. “What time is it?”

“A little past two. Hurry and clean up. I want to see Viktor’s attorneys.”

“I imagine they’ll be surprised as hell to see us.”


“They probably don’t conduct much business with vampires in the daytime. And they damned sure don’t transact with lycans."

“You have a point. Hurry up. I’ve never been to the office. I’m not sure I can find it.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “I’m driving. You drive too fast to read street signs or addresses.”
Selene gave him one of her rare smiles and lightly punched his arm. He chuckled and reached up for her. She shook her head, “You reek.”

Michael sat up and stared at the far wall. “Um, since you mention it…” He turned and let the quilt drop in illustration. There wasn’t a portion of his skin not caked with dirt or crusted with blood.

Exasperated, Selene demanded, “Explain to me why we have to keep going over this!”

“Because I’m starting to feel like a bad cartoon. I’m David Kessler and the townspeople are telling me ‘stay on the road, keep clear of the moors’. I’m going crazy. I have to understand this whole thing, square it in my head.”

Selene crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about but I’ll give you ten minutes.”

“OK, if you’re immortal, how do you die?”

“We aren’t magic, Michael. The laws of nature still apply, no one is immortal.”

“Aren’t magic! I saw a woman at Ordoghaz hanging from the ceiling!”

Selene smiled, “Well, there is that. But no one is immortal in the true sense of the word. Vampires have very heightened powers of regeneration. But that does have its limits.”

“OK, so what did you do before Ziodex?”

She made a derisive sound. “Livestock. Only renegade vampires lived off of the blood of humanity. It was forbidden.”

“I can’t think that Viktor did that out of any lingering sense of morality.”

“Hardly. It was self preservation. Our covens could never have co-existed alongside the inhabitants of this country for as long as we have if we used the populace for sustenance.”

“Is that why you didn’t?”

“I do have a conscience, no matter how it looks to you. I was trained to kill lycans, not humans.”

“Do you know if lycans crave blood? Is that what happened to me last night?” he asked next.

“I don’t know. All I really know about lycans is how to kill them. Everything else was a lie.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“Yes,” she said simply. “Do you? Why?”

“Because I want you to marry me, Selene.”

She drew her breath in sharply. “No.”

“No? No? You don’t want to think about it at all?”

“No, I don’t. Creatures like us weren’t meant to play house.”

“Good, because I don’t want to play house. I want you to marry me.”

“Michael, I will share your bed, where ever that may be. I will live with you for as long as you want, but I will not marry you. I definitely will not stand with you in some church. This conversation is ridiculous! Right now, we don’t even know what will happen to us in the next hour.”

“All the more reason to have at least one thing decided, isn’t it? OK, no church. That was a stupid idea anyway. I wonder what the waiting period for a license is in Hungary.”

“Do you want to be arrested on sight? If you show your passport and apply for a marriage license, you will be put in jail.”

“I don’t have a passport. Everything at my apartment was seized. I was thinking that Viktor’s attorney can give us new identities. We can cross the border into Austria and get married there.”

“No, we can’t.”

“No, we can’t or no you won’t?”

“I can’t think about this right now. Please get up and get dressed. I don’t know who Viktor’s heir is or if I have access to any of the coven’s assets. I have no legal identity, no passport, no means of support. That was all handled for me for centuries. I feel like I’m backed into a corner and I don’t like it. So, as much as you mean to me, I cannot sit here and discuss commitments with you.” With that, she rose and walked away.


A week had passed and still there was not a newspaper, radio or television in Budapest that had not broadcasted the demise of Selene’s coven. Pictures were everywhere of the beautiful, ancient mansion reduced to rubble. The legal staff sitting across the table from Selene was shocked by her appearance in their office. They hid their uneasiness behind a veneer of complicated legal terms and a barrage of documents as they answered her questions. When she was told that she was Viktor’s sole heir, she was stunned. When she found her voice and asked how she could obtain access to Viktor’s assets without any documentation of his death, a nervous man in a dark suit leaned cautiously across the table and said, and “We know what you are.”

Selene looked briefly to Michael and then back at the group of men. “What do you mean?” she asked politely. Under the table, Michael took her hand.

“Madam, this firm is over two hundred years old! Viktor has been a client all of that time, mortal men do not live so long. Neither he nor any of his representatives ever conducted business here in the daylight, not once in two hundred years. Granted, his fortune guaranteed requests for nighttime meetings were never denied. The staggering size and growth of his financial portfolio defies logical explanation. The senior staff of this firm has always known that Viktor is not human. If you wish appear so, rest assured that no one here will ever divulge your identities to the outside world.”

Michael cleared his throat and spoke for the first time. “Can you create new identities for us?”

“Dr. Corvin, your photograph has been on the evening news for the past week and a half. The charges against you will have to be cleared.”

“Can you do that?”

Another one of the men smiled and said, “Money greases all sorts of wheels, Dr. Corvin. Just as money was paid to implicate you, money can declare your innocence. It will take a day or so, but it can be done. Is there anything else you need in the meantime?”

Selene shook her head.

“If that is all, the only thing left is to give you access to the estate. Please make yourselves comfortable and someone will be with you in a moment.” The tension drained from the room as the uneasy humans quickly withdrew. None of them seemed eager to be left alone in a room with vampires. Not one had been gauche enough or brave enough to ask the obvious question: how was Selene and her companion able to visit their office during the daytime?

Selene stared at her reflection in the beautifully polished tabletop. Her mind was moving in a hundred different directions. In the space of a week, she had gone from being a soldier subject to the orders of her superiors to being the master of her own destiny. “Well,” she said briskly. “I suppose we can afford a few more nights.”

Michael leaned toward her and whispered, “You could buy the whole block now, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Yes, I think you’re right. After we’re finished here, I want to visit Ziodex.”

“Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“You never show or say how you feel. Don’t you have any sort of feelings about sunlight or about all this?” he gestured around the room and to the papers on the table. “At the very least, don’t you have any feelings about Viktor’s death?”

“I don’t think this is the place or the time to discuss it,” she said sharply.

“When is the ‘right time’, then? We’ve been alone for days. Right now, there is no one else in this room but us. Every time I bring something up you don’t want to talk about, you walk away. You don’t have to hide anything from me. Not ever. Why don’t you understand that?”

Her eyes cut over to his and then looked away.

Michael let his breath out in an angry rush and shook his head. “Sooner or later, fucking is gonna wear thin.”

“You don’t have to be vulgar.”

“Why not? It’s the truth.”

“Is this because you’re American? Is everyone over there so in love with their feelings? Because I have never met anyone like you before, I really haven’t.”

Michael sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “Fine,” he said. “Fine. If you’re ever ready, let me know. Just don’t think I’m going to shut down all of the sudden. That’s not how I’m made, OK?”

The door opened and Selene gratefully turned her attention to a young man holding a large sheaf of papers. She did not look at or address Michael again, not once in the next hour and a half. After arranging to return the next afternoon, she stood and walked out of the room. Michael shrugged and rose from his seat. He shook the hand of the uncomfortable law clerk and followed. What he wanted most in the world at that moment was a cold beer. Or conversation. Neither was a possibility.

Selene was waiting in the car. Michael opened the door and carefully sat down. He was afraid he’d wrench the handle off of the door. He closed it gently and leaned back in his seat. He pressed his fingers to his eyes and slowly counted to ten. “Selene,” he began.

“Wait, Michael. I’m sorry. Really.”

“There’s a word we keep tossing back and forth.”

“It's not you, it’s me. I know it is,” Selene said in a low voice. You have to understand that I have lived in a very controlled, very secretive way for hundreds of years. I am trying, I really am. Just give me some time.”

“Time’s something we have. Let’s go back to our rooms. I have a splitting headache.”

“This may make it worse.” Selene held out a folded piece of paper with Michael’s name written on it.

“Where did you get this?”

“I found it under the windshield wiper.”

Michael took the paper and quickly scanned it. “The lycans want to talk to me. Without you, of course.”


“Tonight. Oh, perfect!” He smiled sarcastically and waved the note in the air.

“What is?”

“They want to meet me in Corvin Square.”


“Under Castle Hill. My grandmother took us there as kids to show us the seal of King Matthias Corvinus.”

“You aren’t going alone.”

“Oh hell, my headache just became hot pokers in my eyes.”

“I’m serious!”

“Yes, I know you are. Could you please, please start the car?”


Back in their rooms, Selene’s continued silence was more than Michael could bear. On some level, he knew she was right. She had been divorced from her feelings for so long that she could not share them with him, no matter how sensitive and supportive he professed to be. Her empty eyes and blank expression tore at him. Several times, he tried to approach her. Each time she turned away, his headache sharpened and his frustration mounted. Her lack of emotion was straight out of the DSM-IV. If he hadn’t been in such pain, he’d have talked to her about her numbness and detachment. When she sat down and stared out the window, he gritted his teeth and decided the room was too small.

“Can I have the keys?” he asked.

Selene turned and studied him for some moments before asking, “Where are you going?”


Her eyebrows rose. “Hunting?”

“Selene, I’m an adult. Do I need permission?”

“Of course not! No! I just don’t think you should go alone. Not yet. You’re still changing.”

He came to stand beside her. “I don’t want you to worry. Why don’t you make some headway with that mountain?” He inclined his head toward the papers Selene had brought back from the attorney’s office. He leaned down and kissed her forehead as he took the keys from her outstretched hand. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”

“Michael? You might take your clothes off before you hunt. You don’t have anything else.”

He grinned. “I might at that.” He turned and opened the door. “You know what, that’s exactly what I’ll do.” He chuckled under his breath. His headache began to lift when he shut the door behind him.

When Selene heard the click of the doorknob, her head fell forward into her hands. Tears ran between her fingers. She sobbed. She was angry, deeply angry. And her grief was an immense black weight, a stone burning in her chest.

She cried for Viktor and for herself. She had loved him, he had been her father. Mixed with her grief at his loss was her outrage at his callous betrayal. He had murdered her mortal family. Six hundred years had passed, she could no longer picture their faces, hear their voices. She could shed no tears for them. Her grief for them was well-worn, a faint scar upon her heart, only a misty shadow across her soul after all this time. Viktor had filled the void left by their deaths. He had replaced her grief by setting her on a path of revenge and vindication. She had loved him, respected him, sought his approval. Now, she could not find a way to reconcile herself to what she knew about him, what she knew about his motives. If she hated him, how could she still love him? How could his death hurt this much when it had been her hand that brought him down?

Her purpose in life was gone. The driving force, the reason she existed…it had been a lie. With no agenda of hatred to steer by, her nights and her days held no pattern, no structure. The lycans had not taken her family from her, her vampire father had. Lycans were no longer her enemy. What was worse, in the quiet of her heart, she knew their blood was on her hands. She found that she mourned them. All the countless thousands, cut down without remorse. Now they cried out to her and she could not escape. Just as she could not soothe the restless souls of her vampire brothers and sisters who had died in the effort to annihilate their lycan enemies. How could she ever hope to avenge the lies they too had been told? When she closed her eyes, she saw so many faces. Those she had loved, those she had slain.

She could not lay down her burden and find solace in sleep. The familiar walls of her home, of Ordoghaz, were no more. Except for a brief period two hundred years ago, she had rarely slept outside the safety and comfort of her coven. Her home, her sanctuary…it was no more. Those who had lived within its walls were no more. Tears ran down her forearms. How could it be that she would never again stand within the walls of her home? She felt uneasy, cast adrift. When she tried to sleep, the familiar sounds of her sanctuary were absent and sleep would not come. No matter that she used Michael’s desire for her as a way to exhaustion, as an inducement to sleep. It did not matter, nothing eased her pain.

Viktor had shaped her, molded her into a warrior, into his image. Now only the bare bones of existence held her together. Six hundred years had burned everything else away and left only a hard, spare core. That core was now forged into absolute iron with the blood of Alexander Corvinus, the blood he had passed to her like a gift. He had said she was the future. The future of their kind. She now possessed Alexander’s immense strength; she could now walk in sunlight. But what else did this mean for her? She could not yet rise up and fully embrace that future when she was still so crippled by her past. Yes, Viktor was now gone. In his place was Michael.

Michael. How was it she could she love him? She could not bring herself to need him or cherish him. Certainly, she wanted him. Most certainly. He set her on fire with his body. But, she truly did not know if she could stay with him. She cried for the look in his eyes every time she turned away from him. She cried for the way his breath caught and his fingers trembled when he touched her. She cried for the ice in her heart when he held her, whispered to her. At times, she felt like shoving him away. She hated the irrational anger she sometimes felt when he called her name. What if she did not have it in her to love him enough? God, could she shed tears enough to wash that guilt away? How many tears would he shed if she could not find a way to continue to love him?

Alone, Selene cried and cried. She wound her fingers into her hair and rocked back and forth. She was afraid that she could not contain such anger and such grief. She had not allowed herself the luxury of emotion for so, so long. She was unequal to her pain; it swallowed her. She cried until she found the weary road to the sleep she had so craved.

Many hours later, she woke. Michael was crouched beside her, gently removing her boots. He had covered her and tucked a blanket around her as she slept. “What time is it?” she whispered.

“Around four.”

“Four!” She sat up and threw the blanket aside. “Why didn’t you come back for me?”

“I wanted to meet the lycans on my own. Having you there would have been like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

She started to protest and he held up a hand. “Not because of what you would have done, Selene. Because of what you are.”

Selene leaned toward Michael and wrinkled her nose. “I didn’t know you smoke.”

“What? I don’t.”

“You smell like cigarettes.”

“Oh. It was the lycans. They were so nervous all three of them smoked like a chimney. I think they thought I was going to tear them apart. I felt sorry for them.”

“Sorry? Why?”

“They’re leaderless, their ranks have been decimated. One of them was so young, he couldn’t have been over thirteen or fourteen when they made him. I think all he wanted to do was throw in the towel and go back home to his parents. Not that he could, of course.”

“What will they do?”

“There’s a den near Bucharest. They’re leaving later today. Those that are staying are living in a compound Lucian owned. I don’t think there are many of them left.”

“Did you…” Selene stopped and cleared her throat. She tried again. “Did you share your blood with them?”

“No. I don’t think that’s a good idea until Ziodex comes up with a serum of some sort.”

“Then why did you share it with Kahn?”

“Because of his woman,” Michael said gravely. “I did it for her. Her fear of losing him hangs over them like a pall.”

“How did you even know he’d been living with a mortal woman before you shared his memories?”

“I knew it the minute we sat down. Her presence was all over that room. I’ve lived with a woman, some things you don’t forget.”

Dismissing the ghost of Michael’s lost love, Selene grimaced and rose from the couch. Her eyelids felt like they were lined with sandpaper and her throat was raw. She had never cried herself to sleep before in her entire existence; she had no tears left for Samantha. Not today. Despite the hours of rest, she felt heavy and weary.

Michael looked up at her. “Where are you going?”

“To bed. Why don’t you come lie beside me for a few hours? I don’t have to see Viktor’s attorneys until this afternoon.” She turned and walked down the short hall. As she walked into the bedroom she paused, “Michael?” she asked. “What did you hunt?”



Viktor’s attorneys were as good as their word. After taking Selene’s photograph, they handed her a newly minted passport and a driver’s license. To Michael’s extreme surprise, they returned his own battered documentation. “There is no need to create an identity for you, Dr. Corvin. It was an easier matter to clear up the criminal charges made against you.”

Phones and credit cards were handed to them. Selene looked down at her hands blankly when these were passed to her. “The staff is at your complete disposal. All invoices for purchases, bills, and requirements for legal representation will be handled through this firm as they have always been. We will need a list of individuals to whom you plan to disperse monetary support. Will you need an automobile?”

Selene looked up. She seemed stunned, confused. “I’m sorry. What did you ask me?”

Michael put his hand on her shoulder. “Yes, she needs a car. I think this has all been a lot to take in. Do you have somewhere she can sit for a few moments?”

“Yes, yes, of course.” They were ushered to a beautifully furnished, dimly lit room. Selene sank down into a chair and closed her eyes. Her heart was beating at twice its normal rate and the walls seemed to be closing in around her.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I couldn’t hear anything anyone was saying.”

“Your entire life has changed. No one expects you to…” Michael stopped when Selene suddenly reached out and grasped the wrist he had not offered to Kahn. She looked at it closely and then turned it upward.

Michael sighed and looked away for a moment. He swallowed and then looked down at the scars he had put there. “That’s what I did when my life turned upside down. It didn’t work. It won’t work for you either, Selene.”

“What did work?” she asked. “Can you tell me that?”

Michael sat down and took Selene’s hands between his own. “I stopped thinking about my whole life and focused on the five minutes right in front of me. And when I lived through that, I went on to the next five. While I was busy doing it, I wasn’t thinking about how much I wanted to die.”


“Honestly. I know it sounds simplistic. It is, but I swear it's true. You need to stop looking at the big picture for awhile and get used to the little things around you.”

Selene shook her head. “I don’t know how to turn my mind off. Before last week, I’d just take a gun and shoot whatever bothered me.” She smiled and added, “I don’t think I can do that anymore.”

“Unless you’re going to shoot me, I think you’re right.”

Selene leaned forward until her forehead touched Michael’s. “Never crossed my mind,” she told him.

Michael chuckled. “I’ll bet it hasn’t. Come on, you’d better go tell them you want a car with some speed.”

While arrangements were made, Michael read several days worth of newspapers to reorient himself with the world. He was surprised to find it was Thursday and that his native Long Island was in the midst of an ice storm. He was thinking of the stark beauty of Sag Harbor in winter when a soft voice interrupted his reverie.

“May I ask you a question, Dr. Corvin?”

Michael lowered the paper. “Pardon me?” he asked politely.

An earnest, nervous young woman stood before him. She seemed to be struggling with fear as well as intense excitement. She was gazing at Michael as if he were a holy grail of sorts. A dangerous but priceless relic just the same. “I wanted to ask you…” her voice cracked.

He leaned forward, “Yes?”

She stepped back so quickly that she stumbled. Without thinking, Michael rose and took her elbow. Her eyebrows shot up and she gasped at the unnatural speed of his movements. Eyes wide, she pulled away in panic.

“God, no!” Michael cried in frustration. “I wasn’t going to hurt you!” He sat and placed his open palms on the table with exaggerated slowness. “What did you want to ask me?”

“Well, I…um. What…what is it like?”

He didn’t have to ask what she meant. He knew well enough. How did he feel? How had he changed? How had he adjusted? What meaning did time have for him, now that his days stretched into eternity? Did he value human life now that he was no longer a mortal? Was he, even now, fighting a hunger to bury fangs into her fragile flesh and steal her life away as hot blood filled his mouth? Was he a threat to all he encountered? Did he have a right to life now that he was a potential killer?

“It's nothing like you are thinking,” he told her. “Had I been given a choice, I would have refused.”

She took a step closer, her eyes shining.

“Stop,” he warned.

“But you’ll live forever!”

“You’d give up your life for this?” He asked.


He laughed, a harsh, disgusted sound. He shook his head. “You think you would, but you’re wrong.”

“Dr. Corvin, I…”

“Please, don’t call me that. My name is Michael. I’m not ‘doctor’ anything anymore.” With that, he picked up another newspaper and pointedly directed his attention to it. After a few moments, the woman turned and quietly left the room. “Shit,” Michael muttered and slammed the paper down. He was angry at himself for being angry. He was angry that it now took so little to incite him to anger.

When Selene returned, she handed him a strip of paper with an address written on it. “We have an appointment with Ziodex tomorrow morning,” she announced.

“Why not today?”

“I imagine Kahn wants his car back,” she answered with a smile. “Let’s go. You can follow me there.”


The ride to Gellért Hill gave Michael time to calm down. He had almost achieved a state of relaxation when his new phone began demanding attention. He picked it up and put it to his ear.

“Michael? Something’s happened to Kahn!”

“What’s wrong?”

Selene made a strangled sound. “He’s dead.”

“What! How? Hold on, I’m almost there.”

Once at the villa, Michael sat in the car for a moment, filled with dread. He was a direct descendant of the father of them all; it gave him a genetic edge. But did that heredity make him toxic to all others? He had a nagging suspicion that Kahn had died as a result of ingesting his blood. Something Selene had said kept coming back to him…‘the viruses we transmit are deadly’. What if a direct source of the original virus was incompatible with the virus Selene and Kahn carried? Or, what if a vampire’s virus was incompatible with the lycan strain? And if that were true, why hadn’t Selene suffered the same fate as her fellow Death Dealer? A cold fear washed over him. He had been sharing his blood with her for days…over and over. Had he condemned her to death without knowing he did so? He climbed out of the car, steeling himself for the worst.

Selene met him at the door. He was gripped with a terrible fear at the sight of her. He pulled her into his arms, pressed his face into her hair. “Are you alright?” he asked. He held her away at arm’s length, his eyes frantically searching her face. “Are you OK?”

“Of course I am! Michael, did you understand what I said on the phone? This isn’t about me. Kahn is dead.” She put her hands on his chest, pushed him away. “I’ve never seen anything like this; I don’t understand what happened. I want you to see him.” Selene was slowly shaking her head as she spoke, as if denying what she could not comprehend. She turned and led Michael up the stairs.

At the top step, she paused. “That human woman is with him.”

“That ‘human’? God, Selene, that’s harsh.”

She fixed him with a hard stare. “No, it isn’t. She is human; we are not. She doesn’t want us here.” Selene raised her chin, challenge glinting in her eyes. “Are you coming or no?” She turned and walked into the closest doorway.

Michael’s sense of dread deepened. The smell hit him before he stepped over the threshold. It was something he was intimately familiar with. It was the smell of the trauma unit at Ste. István. It was the suffocating bouquet of blood, fear and death. Michael clenched his jaw and entered.

Kahn’s lover was seated next to an elaborately carved, massive bed. She looked up at Michael’s approach and pressed a fist against her mouth. She was trembling so hard that the long, springy mass of her hair was bouncing. Her eyes were swollen and red and kept darting toward Selene. Michael came and knelt before her, pity in his expression. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered to her. “So, so, sorry. But I have to ask you this; can you tell me what happened?” Her eyes darted to Selene again and then slowly rolled back toward Michael.

“She’s not going to answer you. She hasn’t spoken a word I could make any sense of.” Selene said flatly. She straightened away from the wall she was leaning against and uncrossed her arms.

Michael continued to gaze at the woman before him, trying to find a way to comfort her. He tried to take her hand in his and she cried out, saying words he couldn’t understand. She pointed to the bed, her fingers stabbing the air repeatedly. Then she began sobbing, clutching at her hair with hands crusted in dried blood.

“Do you think she would let me examine him?”

“No, I don’t. She won’t even let me near the bed. I suppose I could force the issue, but I have a feeling you’d like that no more than she would.”

Michael grimaced. “I think you’d better. I have to look at him.” Selene moved too fast for mortal eyes to follow. It seemed the words were still hanging in the air when Selene caught the hysterical woman in a steely embrace. The woman screamed and struggled, literally howling in terror. Michael reached for the bedclothes and said, “Take her out of here.”

Kahn was lying on his side. His arms were crossed over his abdomen and his hands were curled into fists. His legs were tightly drawn up, grim evidence of an agonizing death. His skin was a grey husk sunken against his bones, which stood out in sharp relief. He did not in any way resemble the man Michael had met two nights before. Rust colored stains splattered the bedclothes, the mattress, the floor beside the bed. Michael examined his body for visible signs of injury and found none. He attempted to turn Kahn over and the stench of decomposition hit his nostrils. A large pool of blood was congealed beneath the body and the bedclothes stuck to Kahn’s lower back. Michael peeled them away but again found no signs of injury or wounds. He carefully laid the dead vampire back into his original position and sat down. There was no good reason a seemingly healthy creature, vampire or no, should suddenly expel every ounce of his bodily fluids and die. The confirmation of Michael’s dark suspicion was staring him in the face. Kahn had died after swallowing blood toxic to his own. In trying to offer the Death Dealer invincibility, Michael had instead handed him a death warrant.

“Fuck!” Michael cried. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! What did I do?” The sense of guilt he felt was magnified by the shrieks and sobs of the woman Kahn had loved. Her voice echoed down the hall. Well, Michael thought…imagine how loud she’s going to scream when I take his body out of here and burn it in the forest behind the house. We can’t possibly leave him here for humans to find. Then a more sobering thought occurred to him: how can we leave her here alone? I hope Selene’s fancy law firm has a suggestion.

Nearly three hours later, Michael sat down beside the glowing embers that had been Kahn’s body. He wearily wiped away sweat, leaving a long mark of soot across his forehead and down his cheek. His eyes were burning both from smoke and his grief. He was silently rehearsing the speech he wanted to deliver to Selene…the one in which he offered to leave her and never return. The speech in which he…well, in which he admitted his cowardice. He’d already watched someone he loved die, he could not bear witnessing Selene’s death as well. And he was fairly sure he would if he continued to share his blood with her. Grimly, he waited as she approached.

“Is there another shovel somewhere?” she asked.

Michael shook his head. “I don’t know. I only found the one; why?”

“I’ll help you dig a grave for his ashes.”

“You don’t have to, I did it while you were arranging for Viktor’s firm to come for Kahn’s woman.”

Selene sat down beside him. He took a deep breath and began, “I have something to tell you.”

“Not now. I don’t think I can listen to any words you have to say.”

Doggedly, Michael continued. “Look, I know you blame me for whatever happened to Kahn.”

Selene turned to him in surprise. “When did I say that?”

“You didn’t. But I can’t think of any other reason he would have died than because of the blood he took from me.”

“Even if that’s true, I don’t blame you. I know you weren’t trying to kill him. You’re not a lycan version of a Death Dealer. ”

“What about you?”

“What about me? What do you mean?”

“I killed him as sure as if I’d held a gun to his head, Selene. I don’t want you to be next, so I…”

“Michael, stop. I mean it, stop. I can’t hear this right now.”

Michael turned and grabbed Selene’s shoulders. “This is important! He shook Selene roughly. “I’m not going to watch you die!” The wind shifted. Michael blinked and his eyes watered.

She reached out and gently touched his face. “It's not going to happen to me. There aren’t many things on this earth that can kill either of us anymore.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Yes, I do. Please believe me.”


“No, Michael. I’ve just spent the last few hours restraining a screaming woman. I’m tired. Kahn was my friend. I just want to sit here for a few minutes without having to think or say anything. And then I want to leave and never come here again.”

“I’m just going to say this and then I’ll shut up: I will never lay a hand on you again. I will leave you and never look back if that what it takes to keep you alive,” Michael said, his voice heavy with emotion.

“I told you. No one else is dying. Whatever power Alexander Corvinus had, he passed to me. And I’ve given it to you. Nothing is going to happen to us.”

With that, she laid her head against Michael’s chest and he put his arms around her. They sat quietly, taking comfort in each other while the funeral pyre burned down. Snow began to drift from the sky, hissing as it fell into the heat. Michael pulled Selene onto his lap and rocked her slowly. “Let me take you into the house and then I’ll bury the ashes,” he whispered into her ear. She nodded and he rose. He carried her back through the woods, humming an old lullaby.

“What’s that?” she asked. “Are you singing?”

“It's a lullaby. I don’t know the words anymore. My grandmother sang it to us when we were children.”

“I don’t remember being a child. It was so long ago. It was…” Selene stopped as tears tightened her throat. “I don’t know why I’m crying. I don’t even remember what my parents looked like.”

“You’re crying because you loved them. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. You’re crying because you lost Viktor and now you’ve lost Kahn. And you loved them.”

“Ah, Michael! I’ve had enough of death!” Selene pushed at his chest, impatient with her grief, impatient to be away from Gellért Hill. He held her closer and she shuddered. “I just want this to be done!”

Michael carried her into the villa and laid her on the sofa, unmindful of the soot and her snow dampened clothes. What did it matter? Kahn would never again return to his secret sanctuary. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Michael said as he turned away. Selene caught his sleeve, refusing to let go. She pulled him down, locking her arms around his neck as she pressed her mouth to his.

“Give me a minute” Michael murmured against her lips, “I’ll be right back.”

She began to cry. “Make me forget, just for a little while,” she begged. “I’ve seen so much death. Stay here with me, make me forget. Michael…please, please.” She reached down and fumbled with his belt. “Make me feel something other than pain.”

Michael caught her hands and brought them to his lips. He kissed them, saying, “It’ll only take a moment to bury him. Then we can leave.”

“Please!” With that, Selene broke down utterly. Sobbing, she pulled her hands back from Michael’s grip and ripped open his belt, her fingers greedy and insistent. She could feel him begin to rise. “I want to feel us,” she panted. She was gasping, crying, sweating…begging Michael to join her.

When her hand reached into his blue jeans and gripped him, he jumped. He pushed her hand away. The look on his face was not one of passion, but of sadness, of resignation. He knew what it was like to search for any remedy to escape death and its reminders. He also knew he loved Selene and would do whatever she demanded of him to ease her pain. He pulled at Selene’s boots as she shoved down her pants. She kicked them hastily off and before he could remove his shirt she reached for him, pulling him back down onto the sofa with her.

Many years later, Selene would look back on her time with Michael and know that she used him. She would remember that they constantly made love, no matter what or no matter where the circumstances led them. In those early days they slept little, always seeming to be rising from some frenzied interlude, whether it was in a darkened doorway, a stairwell, a stand of trees, or one of any number of beds, of any number of rooms. A look, a certain tone of voice, and they were drunk with arousal…searching for any place, anywhere to sate their hunger. Always, Selene could smell Michael in her clothes, on her skin, taste him on her tongue. It never mattered where they were, she had only to turn to him and he became eager to catch the spark she held. Yes, Selene looked back on this time and knew that she led Michael down a dark path to addiction and that he willingly followed. Followed so blindly that he could not have predicted what would come after. The warning signs were there and he shut his eyes against every single one.


Late the next morning, Michael woke when he rolled over on a piece of folded paper. “What the hell?” he mumbled, fumbling under his shoulder. He sat up and unfolded the paper, wondering what time it was and where Selene had gone. His stomach grumbled with hunger. I’ve gone to Ziodex, Selene had written. I’ll be back soon.

“Yeah, sure you will,” he said to the emptiness. He crumpled the note and tossed it across the room. “Sure you will.”

He had talked himself into showering when he spied Selene’s new laptop. Manna from heaven. He pounced on it, finally discovering a diversion. He brought it back into bed with him and opened it. He became so engrossed that he didn’t look up when he heard the lock turn, signaling Selene’s return. He knew it was exceedingly childish, but he resolutely kept his eyes locked on the screen as he felt her sit down on the end of the bed.

“What’s up?” he asked, moving one card beneath the other.


“What was so important that you couldn’t wait for me?”


“If it was nothing, then…fuck it. You know what? I’m giving up. I’m giving in. You didn’t want me to go and so you left without me. No big deal. I can sit here and play with this laptop until you need me for something.”

“What are you playing?” Selene asked in a wooden voice.

“Spider solitaire.”


“Yeah, you know; the card game.”

“Yes, I know it is a card game. It just doesn’t seem very entertaining.”

“You’ve obviously never been to college. I used to play solitaire like a fiend. I know it sounds stupid but it helped me decompress and regroup. Play a few hands and and just about any mountain becomes a molehill.” He finally looked at Selene. “So. What’s up?”

“I told them Viktor and the other elders are dead. I also told them I am Viktor’s heir. Then I asked for blood. It's in an insulated bag by the door.”

“As much as it disturbs me to say this, I hope they were generous. I’m starving; let’s eat!”

“Michael, are you…” Selene began.

“What? Am I manic? Bipolar?”

“No. I was going to ask if you were angry.”

“Don’t ask questions you have no interest in, Selene. It's bad form.”


“Sometime things have to hit me over the head before they make sense. But I get it now. You’ll fuck me but you won’t talk to me or include me in your agenda, whatever that is.”

Selene eyed Michael with a jaundiced expression. ‘I’m not giving any credence to what you just said to me. I’m hungry.” She stood up and stalked to the door. Michael returned to his card game. He heard the unzip and zipping of a bag, followed by the slamming of a door. He grimaced at the predictability and closed the computer. Then he went in search of blood.

He was taking a deep breath in preparation to swallowing when the door opened again. Self consciously, he turned away before consuming the heavy red liquid. Selene waited until he finished before she spoke. She laid a hand on Michael’s arm. “You’re right, I know you are. I’ve been treating you horribly. I’m a soldier. I don’t know any other way of doing things. I’m trying and trying. Don’t give up yet.”

He flashed a lopsided grin. “Well, I always back a fighter. Every time. So, you know what? Let’s get out of these tiny rooms and find something to do that does not involve guns, blood, or monsters. Unless you’re going back to Ziodex sometime today.”

“I know it’s counterproductive, but I don’t want to talk to scientists and doctors yet. Kahn died less than twenty four hours ago. I’m just not ready.”

“Selene, honey. Who cares about counter productivity? There is such a thing as keeping yourself sane.”

“What did you call me?”

“You mean Kraven never called you honey?”

Selene gave Michael a slow, weighted smile. “He called me many things, Michael Corvin, but
‘honey’ wasn’t one of them.”

Michael raised an eyebrow. He pulled Selene into his arms and nibbled her neck. “Honey, honey, my beloved is sweeter than honey,” he whispered as he nibbled his way to her shoulder, pulling the fabric aside as he went. “Let me be intoxicated…let me drown in your honey…” he whispered against the blade of her collarbone.

Selene sighed, running her hands down Michael’s thighs. “I’ll never understand what it is that you do to me,” she whispered back to him.

He kissed the swell of her breasts and the hollow between them. And then he released her, stepped back. “If I don’t put some clothes on, we will never get out that door.”

And so it was that Selene became a tourist in her own homeland. For the next few months, she allowed Michael to show her the vistas of her own city. They strolled down Andrássy út, holding hands and peering into the windows of the boutiques by day. Sometimes they walked the paths of City Park as spring slowly returned, the century-old horse chestnuts in bloom. They explored Castle Hill. By night, they attended opera and ballet in the State House, Selene unable to take her eyes off Michael, resplendent in black tie. Several nights they snuck into the Király Baths, the locks no more than trinkets in Michael’s hands. They made love under the Turkish dome, shafts of moonlight shimmering on the pool.

As the days passed, Selene began to lose the look of a warrior anticipating attack. She stopped scanning crowds for enemies and seemed somewhat relaxed. It was when she was no longer looked for her brethren around every corner that she was approached by a thin, nervous vampire in the early hours before dawn. He at last confirmed what she had feared but would not say...there were very few survivors of either great coven. The remaining vampires in Hungary were hidden away in small bands which called no one place home...their toehold tenuous, in constant flux. She was now the oldest known Eastern European vampire. And except for rumors of a small coven in Wales and one in Spain, she was quite possibly the oldest vampire in all of Europe or Asia. The New York coven had traveled across a great ocean only to die in a train car beside Amelia. This knowledge left her shaken and silent. Periodically, she returned to Ziodex for blood, but only as a source of food, not of knowledge. She turned away each time Michael suggested they volunteer genetic samples for research in a Ziodex lab. She had been profoundly affected by Kahn’s death. She seemed to no longer have any interest in exploring whatever power or immunity she had inherited from Alexander Corvinus. When Michael asked her about stopping the war, she looked at him strangely. What war could continue when the armies were all gone?

She was no more forthcoming with her emotions than she had ever been. Michael stopped trying to elicit a response and hid his disappointment as best he could. All that was unspoken hung like a cloud over them, overshadowing their fragile bond. The only times the cloud completely lifted was at the moment of their physical joining. And so, Michael never refused her, never admitted exhaustion or disinterest. If at any time his passion was feigned or hollow, he hid it from her. In moments of reflection, he told himself that she would grow to love him as completely as he himself loved her. This stubborn belief in the goodness of others and his tendency to overlook any motive but the best ones would always be his greatest weakness, but also his greatest strength. He would not entertain any thoughts but the best ones of his taciturn lover, no matter how it hurt.

All she had do was turn to him and his response was immediate. In this, he was not ashamed. Loving her was not his obligation or her demand. She was his choice…the only free one he had. He had been given no say in what Lucian had done to him. Likewise, he had not had a choice in what Selene had done as well. It had been either death or her fangs. He had no choice in the blood he now ingested to sustain his existence. Nor was he strong enough to deny the ancient urges that led him to hunt under the yellow light of a full moon, returning in the pre-dawn, christened in gore. His only free, truly free decision was the one to love Selene. And that he did. He often fell asleep still inside of her, too spent and drained to speak, his cheek pressed to hers. And he woke scarce hours later, her hands and mouth upon him, rousing him again. He took from her the only thing she freely offered: her body. She rarely allowed him into the sanctuary of her heart. Still, he was confident that with enough time, she would lower her defenses.

The one thing he missed, the one thing his days and nights with Selene could not compensate for, was the trauma unit at Ste. István’s, even though he realized his mortal life was no longer an avenue open to him. His sense of self-worth suffered, no matter how Selene tried to assure him that he had as much right to Viktor’s wealth as she had. He was a descendant of Corvinus and in her estimation, he was Viktor’s heir as much as she was. She waved away his concerns and changed the subject.

Despite everything, there were moments of joy as spring became summer. Selene had spent so long in forced darkness that she took great, great delight in daylight. The more she spent as a day walker, the more she craved the sun. She discovered a love of hiking, travelling with Michael over the wooded landscapes of Lake Balaton. Their stamina was, of course, boundless. They hiked for hours and hours, stopping only to plunge into the lake before resuming their journey. Seen from a distance, no one would assume they were anything but a young, athletic couple in love. Michael’s hair became streaked with blond and to their astonishment; Selene’s pale skin became very faintly tanned. Sometimes they slept beside the lake and woke to wondrous sunrises. It was a summer of luminous days followed by nights dark as velvet.


Summer gave way to autumn and the mornings became crisp. The trees were ablaze with a riot of color. Michael stopped asking Selene to meet with the team at Ziodex and went alone. He submitted to batteries of tests. He asked as many questions as he answered. The doctors and scientists were at first stunned and then thrilled to have access to a direct descendant of Alexander Corvinus. They were, however, not ‘thrilled’ when Michael told them he was not interested in using his genetic material to create a weapon. The only research he was interested in was the creation of a serum to either neutralize the vampiric and lycan viruses or eradicate them altogether. He would not participate in further genocide. When one particularly zealous doctor pressed his argument, Michael’s eyes darkened and he growled softly. The entire lab fell silent and those nearest him stepped back.

On the morning of his third day there, the bottom dropped out of his already shaky world. When he walked into the lab, everyone was tight-lipped and grim. Michael was handed a newspaper, its lead story spelling the end of his carefully built world with Selene. He read the headlines several times and then looked up. All eyes were on him.

For several moments, no one spoke. Finally, “Dr. Corvin, you need to bring Viktor’s heir here. We have the means to keep you safe.”

Michael rubbed his jaw and glanced down at the newspaper again. “Did Ziodex know about this?”

“No, not until today. There were rumors…nothing concrete.”

“Didn’t anyone think I needed to know?” Michael demanded, his voice rising. “I’ve been here for the past two days and no one I’ve spoken to has said anything about this!”

A tall woman with beautifully shaped hands stepped from behind a table. “Let me explain something. During the course of one week last winter, authorities were called to crime scenes at the Ferenciek tere Station, at the apartment building of your last known address, the Nyugati railway terminal, an abandoned metro station, at a burned mansion at the foot of the Pilis Hills, and also a destroyed cargo ship docked near the Chain Bridge. At each one of those sites, bodies and remains were found that were beyond the scope of humanity. Autopsies revealed what was long suspected in Hungary: the existence of vampires and werewolves. What had previously been known by only a select few was suddenly a proven fact. What did you think would happen to knowledge like that? War has been declared on your kind, Dr. Corvin. After today, you cannot remain in this city. A purge has begun. You will be hunted down. To survive, you must let us send you out of the country.”

“This is if I can convince Selene to leave.”

“Frankly, you don’t have a choice. Your face was all over the news last winter; you will be one of the first targets of the purge. I suggest you let a security team accompany you.”

“I don’t think I should draw attention. Let me go alone. I’ll be back in an hour.” And with that, Michael put his phone to his ear and ran.

Outside, a man was waiting for him. “Dr. Corvin, wait…wait!”

Impatient to be away, Michael stopped at the top of the stairs.

“Wait. I have something to tell you. I understand. I don’t think your blood should be used to create warfare either.”

The scientist caught up to him. “I do understand.” He slowly unbuttoned the cuff of his shirt, pulled up the sleeve. He held out his left forearm. “I’ve been where you are,” he said quietly. Michael looked down at the crudely drawn numbers tattooed into his skin and back up into the man’s eyes.

“This purge? I’ve seen it before…I was fifteen years old the day I last saw my grandparents, saw my mother. My father had already been dead for months. We were standing outside our building and my mother was arguing with my grandmother about a suitcase. Do you believe that? A suitcase. Men with machine guns were everywhere. My grandfather pulled the suitcase out of my mother’s hands and set it on the ground. It was full of photographs. My mother was crying and shaking her head the last time I saw her. I was put in the back of a truck; I never saw them again. This number…I got this number in Auschwitz. After the war I got this,” he pulled aside his collar to show the scars left by fangs. “I was in a DP camp after the liberation of Dachau.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Michael whispered.

“What is there to say? I was glad to be bitten. Do you hear me? Glad. I begged for it. I was on fire to wipe out the entire German race for what they did to me, to my family. For what they did to my people! I wanted to be immortal so I’d have the time and the strength to make them pay.” The man stopped, looked out across the park. Finally, he looked back at Michael. “But would that have made me any better than them?”

Michael shook his head.

“You’re right,” the scientist softly agreed. “It wouldn’t have. Don’t let them use your blood to create a weapon against the lycans, Dr. Corvin. Let them use it instead to help humanity. Let them engineer the virus to give the power of regeneration to everyone, not just vampires and lycans. Or use it to cure some disease…but not to perpetuate genocide! The world has already witnessed one Holocaust.”

“What about the purge going on right now? Today?” Michael asked. “Isn’t that a Holocaust of its own?”

“Yes,” the scientist nodded. “But you have the power to stop it. When you get to the States, call this man.” He handed Michael a card. “He can help you.”

Less than four hours later, surrounded by heavy security, Michael accompanied Selene out of the city. They crossed into Slovakia and spent the night at a small Ziodex facility in Bystrička. The following morning, they were driven into the Mala Fatra Mountains and there boarded a chartered plane from a private airstrip. Selene, who in six hundred years, had never ventured far from her Hungarian roots, seemed agitated and lost. She had very little to say and tightly closed her eyes as the plane lifted into the early morning sky.

It wasn’t until they were out of Europe that Selene spoke. Without opening her eyes she said softly, “I just have one question.”

Michael, who had been dozing, turned to her. “What is it?”

“Why did you tell the lab in Bystrička that I’d already given blood samples in Budapest? You know I didn’t.”

“They have enough of my blood to run all the tests they want.”

“No, really, I want to know. Why?”

“You know as well as I do ‘why’, Selene.”

She opened her eyes and raised her chin. “No, I don’t.” There was challenge in her expression, but also something else. Something furtive, something afraid.

Michael sighed heavily. “The level of hCG in your blood is elevated. If Ziodex is raided at some point and their files made public, I’m not going to have vampire hunters in body armor tracking us down, looking for a baby.”

“That isn’t going to happen,” Selene said flatly. “You’re a doctor.”

“And that means what?”

“You’re a doctor. Help me get rid of it.”

For the first time since he had laid eyes on Selene in the subway terminal nearly a year before, Michael felt a stab of hatred. He stared at her, unable to bring any words to mind. She continued to look him in the eye, unwavering in her resolve. She held within her hands the power to hurt him more than he had ever been hurt before.

Michael sighed again. “Shit. Why do you always…always value life so little?”

She didn’t answer. Instead, she demanded, “How did you know I was pregnant?”

He couldn’t say it aloud, knowing how absurd it sounded. He wasn’t sure how he could tell her of the silent conversations he’d already had with his baby, knowing it existed even before Selene did.

“Michael, I asked a simple question. How did you know?”

“I can hear it,” Michael whispered.

“Hear it? What does that even mean? What are you saying?”

“I’ve been able to hear your heart beating and sense when you are close to me since I was bitten. A couple of days ago, something changed. I could hear something new. It took me a minute to figure out what it was and then I realized I was hearing another heartbeat.”

Selene made a dismissive sound.

“Don’t make me beg. I can hear the baby; don’t ask me to kill it. I can’t do that. You know I can’t.” Michael’s words began to run together. “You look different to me; you smell different, sound different. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it’s something animals sense about their mates and it’s a lycan trait. I don’t know. But you know what? You know something else? I can feel it, here.” He placed his palm over his heart. His voice faltered and he cleared his throat. “I’m telling you that I can hear the baby. I know that sounds crazy, but I am telling you it’s true. I can hear it.”

“OK, that is emotional blackmail,” she snapped. “You are not going to talk me into becoming something I’m not. I have no interest in being the mother of a monster.”

“And I am not going to murder my own child,” Michael snapped back.

“A creature that feeds upon the blood of others is no one’s definition of a child. That is an abomination.”

“Selene, Viktor’s ideas about what constitutes an abomination started a war that went on for centuries.”

“Vampire children are forbidden.”

“Really? By whom? What great coven exists at this point to make that decision?” Michael was becoming angrier by the minute. “Look, Lucian’s men injected me with an enzyme the night they captured me. It delayed the transformation. Why can’t the enzyme be perfected? Who’s to say this baby has to be vampire or lycan?”

Abruptly, he stopped. Selene’s hands were covering her ears. She leaned forward until her forehead touched her knees. She slowly began to rock back and forth. After a very long while, she leaned back again and closed her eyes. She did not utter another word. She did not speak again until nearly seventeen hours later, when at last their journey ended at a small lakefront airport.

Selene walked into the miniscule terminal through pouring rain. She silently waited with Michael while transportation arrangements were confirmed. When he came to stand beside her, he noticed she was trembling. He tried to take her hand and she slowly pulled away from him.

“Don’t,” was the only word she said.


Despite herself, Selene was intrigued. She was driven down broad, tree lined avenues into a crumbling city magnificent in its decay. “What is this place?” she asked the driver. He eyed her in the rearview mirror and answered, “The only city in the world that embraces her vampires. This is New Orleans.”

“Wow,” Michael mumbled. “If that isn’t stereotypical.”

“Maybe it is,” the driver cheerfully agreed. “But it’s true, there are no purges here.”

With that blithe comment, Selene was introduced to Ville de La Nouvelle-Orléans, the birthplace of jazz and the most haunted city in America. It was a city unlike any she had ever seen.

They were driven to a beautiful nineteenth-century townhouse nestled among towering, black barked oak trees. The house, meticulously landscaped, was ablaze with light. Similar homes graced either side of the street, each a wooden shuttered and many-columned matron of a by-gone era. Ornate iron fences enclosed each property. As they entered the gate, a smiling vampire opened the front door and ushered them inside. His genteel but casual manner unnerved Selene. He did not defer to her, nor did he assume an air of command. He greeted her as an equal. That was something she was not accustomed to.

He held out a hand to Michael. “I’m Jones. Dr. Corvin, is it?”

“Jones?” Michael asked.

“Jones,” he deadpanned. To Michael, he was a breath of fresh air.

He shrugged. A tiny smile lifted the corner of his mouth and Michael caught a glimpse of a sharp fang. “My mother was a twelve year old French whore,” he explained. “I came to this land in 1699 with d’Iberville. My name is a hopeless tangle of French no one can pronounce. So it’s Jones. Short and sweet.” He laughed and clapped Michael on the back. He gave them a brief tour of the house and bade them goodnight. Selene stared after him as he bounded down the brick steps into the rain. He was whistling cheerfully when he leapt the gate without bothering to open it. In the blink of an eye, he was gone.

“Now, that’s something you don’t see every day,” Michael said. At Selene’s puzzled expression he elaborated, “A cheerful vampire.”

Most of the vampires they were to encounter shared that debonair attitude. Covens such as Selene’s were virtually unknown outside of Eastern Europe. The exception had been Amelia’s insular New York faction. The vampires of New Orleans did not live communally. They had no governing council nor did they subscribe to restrictive laws. They were a sharply clever, expressive band of artists, musicians, writers and intellectuals. They had no animosity toward their lycan cousins, which in the New World answered to another name, they were werewolves. Both species lived openly amid the human population. It was an unguarded secret that creatures of myth walked the streets of New Orleans. It lent an air of delectable peril to the tropical atmosphere. The humans of the city amused themselves by mimicking those mythical beings at elaborately costumed balls and masquerades. The city’s Joie de Vivre culture gave its vampire and werewolf inhabitants a freedom never known by their European relatives. No, the city of New Orleans had nothing in common with Budapest.

The werewolves were a jovial yet fierce group who hunted the moss-hung cypress swamps surrounding the city. They lived in rustic cabins built at the end of long, long piers. Their women were swift eyed and fleet of foot, hunting alongside their men with skill. Their children were as wild as the swamps they inhabited.

Michael had little experience or knowledge of lycans. He came to enjoy the company of raucous werewolves who often arrived at his door and sprawled in the double parlor, sharing their ribald stories. They took distinct pleasure in the waxing and waning phases of the moon. They were unapologetic in their hungers and their desires, embracing their animal forms. This deep pride in their identity was a balm for Michael’s continued struggle to accept who he had become. Not altogether comfortable with Selene, they hid their unease in deference to his choice. If they found it odd or unnatural that Michael shared his bed with a vampire, no one voiced it. And though the Louisiana werewolves knew he was a hybrid of some sort, none brought attention to it or questioned it. The more time Michael spent in the company of these remarkable men and women, the more at ease he became in his own skin. More than once it crossed his mind that Lucian, whose entire life had been consumed by grief and revenge, would have greatly liked and approved of these descendants.


September gave way to October. With it came an invitation to a Halloween ball. Without pausing to consider, Selene refused to attend. Michael took the stiff vellum parchment from her fingers and hid a smile. He left her glowering on the side gallery, promising to return at sundown. He returned an hour past twilight, accompanied by a vampire wearing impossibly high heels and red lipstick. They were laden with boxes and their laughter echoed up the sidewalk.

They stepped into the foyer, calling for Selene. She came to the top of the stairs, shaking her head. “No,” she said. “Absolutely not. I don’t care what is in those boxes.”

“It won’t hurt you to look,” Michael motioned his head toward the parlor.

Selene ground her teeth. She slowly descended the staircase, cursing the father of her child and cursing herself. She felt unbalanced and unsure. Her pregnancy was more visible with each week that passed. The hard, round knot deep in her belly was now obvious to anyone who looked closely enough. Accustomed to the form fitted clothing of a Death Dealer, Selene felt uncomfortable in the dress that swirled about her feet. But most unsettling of all…she felt shame. How had she allowed this pregnancy to happen? Why had she done nothing to prevent it? At the bottom step she looked up, painfully conscious of the woman at Michael’s side.

“Honey, this is Leland,” Michael said as he set down his packages.

“Hello,” Selene said as she entered the room. “I’m Selene.” She held out her hand in greeting.

“Yes, I know.” Leland took her hand and smiled. “I ran into Michael on Royal Street. I hope you don’t mind.”


Leland laughed, sweeping her hand toward the sofa. “I wanted to see how these costumes look.”

Selene frowned. “I’m sorry Michael didn’t tell you. I’m not attending your ball.”

Michael opened a long, narrow box. “Maybe this will change your mind.” He held up a gorgeous concoction. “You would be beautiful as Empress Josephine.”

Selene stared at him as if he had taken temporary leave of his sanity. Leland let her hand drop and stepped back, studying the costume. “Oh!” she exclaimed, trying to lighten the moment. “What a stunning dress!”

“Are you serious?” Selene exploded. “Right now, at this very minute, humans are rounding up every last vampire and lycan left overseas. And you want me to wear that…” she pointed. She was furious. “You actually want me to wear that to a costume ball? While our kind is being hunted to extinction? Like hell I will.” She turned on her heel and marched back up the stairs.

“Can you see yourself out?” Michael quietly asked. “I need to talk to her.”

“No, no.” Leland answered. “I’ll do it.” She didn’t wait for Michael’s answer.

She found Selene staring out the window in an unlit bedroom. The glow from an outside street lamp was the only illumination. Leland quietly sat, studying Selene. The silence in the room deepened, spread itself along the floorboards.

“I saw you once, you know…” she finally said.

Selene turned to her.

“In Budapest…with your father.”

“My father?” Selene asked sharply.

“Viktor,” Leland clarified.

Selene shook her head and Leland said “I know he wasn’t your father. That’s not what I meant. Maybe I should have said ‘I saw you with your maker.’ Either way, I could see that you meant a great deal to him.”

“When was this?” Selene snapped.

“At an awakening ceremony. Viktor sat on a golden throne and you presented him with a jeweled sword. Do you remember? The entire assembly bowed down before you.”

Selene nodded. “That was five hundred years ago! But I remember it as if were yesterday.”

Leland leaned forward. “Well, it wasn’t. So many things have changed. So many of the old traditions are dead.”

“And now Viktor is dead,” Selene said savagely. “Did you know that?”

“Yes. But no one here blames you, I want you to know.”

Selene sighed heavily. “No one here knows anything about it.” She turned back to the window.

“Here is what I do know. The old leaders ruled with an iron fist. Selene, those days are gone.” Leland said. “Do you know what I remember most about Viktor? About that night? The way he held you in his power. He followed you with his eyes that entire ceremony and you never made a move he didn’t approve of. Over three hundred vampires bowed before you and yet you were powerless before him! What kind of life is that? What kind of love of a father is that for his daughter? ”

Selene didn’t answer. Leland continued, “If he were alive right now, do you think he’d have allowed you to leave Europe with Michael?”

“Of course not!” Selene cried.

“You’re right. He would have killed Michael first. Or you. I say good riddance to the old ways! If Viktor were alive right now…right this minute, he’d expect you to be at his side, fighting the humans. Or killing werewolves. You’re going to think I’m heartless, but I’m going to say this anyway…maybe the purge you left behind is the best thing that could have happened to Europe. Let the humans finish what we should have done years ago!”

Selene came to stand before Leland. She shook her head. “You’re wrong.”

“Am I? If I’m so wrong, then why are you pregnant? Why are you living with Viktor’s enemy? Where is the conviction of your words?”

“I’m not…”

“Yes, you are. You don’t have to hide it. No vampire or werewolf here is going to raise a hand against you or try to take your child from you.”

“I don’t want our species to die,” Selene said. “I want to fight with them, defend them. It's what Viktor created me to do.”

Leland reached out, took Selene’s hand. “If you do that, you are going to break Michael’s heart.”

“I know,” Selene said softly. She looked down, closed her eyes. “I know I will.”

“Well, whatever you decide, you can’t do anything until after the baby is born. Let’s go downstairs and see if what they say is true about empire waists.”

“Which is what?”

“They hide a multitude of sins. Even a baby.”

“I’m not going, I told you.”

“Do it for Michael, then. You can do that much for him, can’t you?” With that, Leland rose and left the room. Her reproach hung in the air, accusing Selene. She continued to sit in the darkness, swimming…drowning in apologies. Apologies for her unyielding nature, for everything she was and for everything she was not. For so many things… for the man whose faith and fidelity she held in her hand … for the child she could not find it within herself to nurture or desire… By the time Selene walked down the stairs, Leland was gone, leaving behind only the faintest trace of her perfume. The boxes were once again closed and neatly stacked, their finery laid away.


The day after Halloween was All Saints Day. A day to honor the dead. A day for generations of New Orleans families to gather in the crumbling cemeteries and receive one another over the graves of those they had loved. It was a sweetly sunny afternoon, the clouds ephemeral as a long ago dream. Michael raised all of the downstairs windows. He was reading a monograph on gene therapy and dreaming of a day in which he could return to the art and practice of medicine.

“The real estate office dropped this off,” Selene announced as she walked into the room. She was holding a box of chocolates. “I suppose they didn’t know who they were selling this house to.” She handed Michael the congratulatory card as she passed. “I’m going to throw this away and lie down for awhile.” More and more, she craved sleep.

Michael heard her footsteps on the stairs. He finished the journal he was studying. Then he had an idea. He went into the kitchen, where he found the chocolates still sitting on a counter. He opened the box and selected a dark cream. He tiptoed up the beautifully turned, Cuban mahogany staircase to join Selene.

She was reclining on a chaise in the front bedroom. He walked over to her and leaned down. “Selene,” he breathed into her ear. “Don’t open your eyes.” He knelt beside her.

“Open your mouth, love,” he whispered.


“Ssshhhhh…just do it.”

She obeyed and he bit the chocolate in half. He placed a piece on her tongue. Surprised, her eyes flew open.

“Close your eyes,” he said again. “Just let it sit on your tongue for a minute.”

He studied her face, watching her expression change from surprise to bliss.

“Don’t swallow.”

She tilted her head back and sighed. A glow spread across her cheeks. Presently, she opened her eyes. Michael held out his hand, “OK, you can spit it out now.”

She did so and asked, “Who taught you to do that?”

“No one, I just missed the taste of chocolate so much. It was worth a try, right?” he grinned and put the other half in his mouth. He held it on his tongue until the urge to swallow became overwhelming. He spit it into his palm and winked at Selene. “I’ll be right back,” he said.

He washed the chocolate away and returned. He swept Selene off of the chaise and carried her to the bed. She laughed and ran her hands up and down his back. As they tumbled amid the pillows, he purred into her ear. She combed her fingers through his hair, pulling it gently. He smiled down at her. His love was so great for this fierce, stubborn vampire that it hurt. He blinked away sudden tears and said, “I want to give you this.” He pulled something from his pocket.

“More chocolate?”

“No, hold out your hand.” With grave care, he slid a ring onto her finger. It was ornately carved and very warm from the heat of his body. “I found this in Budapest. It was made the century you were born,” he said softly. “I bought it when I realized about the baby.”


“Wait, let me say this. We might live a thousand years, or maybe a hundred.” He paused, looking down at Selene. “We may only last this year. I don’t know. However long we have…whatever becomes of us…I love you. It doesn’t matter anymore if you don’t marry me. I love you and I know you love me, Selene. Whatever happens, we will have made this baby, you and I.” It was the first time he had said anything about her pregnancy since they had arrived in Louisiana. He placed his fingers over the small mound. “And that means more than any ceremony ever could.”

Selene didn’t move or speak for a long, long moment. She pulled Michael to her with a sudden ferocity. She held him tightly, unable to utter a word. He rolled onto his back, taking Selene with him. The late afternoon sun slanted through the windows, making patterns on the hand blocked French wallpaper of the opposite wall. The shadows slowly lengthened, faded and darkness came. Michael slept, his chin resting against Selene’s hair. She lay with her head cradled on his chest, her eyes wide and unseeing. The ring on her finger had a strange, terrible weight to it. She knew she could not again ask Michael to abort their child. Not so long as she wore the ring he had given her.

She knew what Michael wanted…what his ring meant. Its symbolism left her unable to relax, unable to rest. She knew she was unequal to Michael’s need. To his dreams and his desires. She did not want the baby. She knew she never would. She also knew the hours Michael spent away from her were not only to hunt or bring her blood from the Ziodex subsidiary. She knew he was actively working with a lab on an antidote. He came home to her, the smell of antiseptic and strange compounds woven in the fabric of his clothes, clinging to his hair and skin. He wanted his child set free from a world that might seek to take its life or take its blood as a weapon. She knew he wanted nothing more than to return to his life as a healer. Or perhaps to become a different sort of healer altogether.

When at last sleep found her, she was gripped with visions of loss and grief.


Two days later, Michael drove Selene out to St. Charles Parish to the river levee. Long walks were the only thing that soothed the leg cramps that plagued her at night. They strolled beneath the span of the Luling Bridge, cars racing above their heads. The Mississippi River toiled by, on a muddy route to the Gulf of Mexico. Sunlight glinted off of its deep brown current. Blue jays, mockingbirds and crows taunted one another from the oak trees that ran alongside River Road. They walked the levee from Destrehan to St. Rose, Norco and back. Although it was November, the Louisiana weather was warm and sunny, unlike the days of sleet and frost beginning back in Budapest.

Michael joined a group of children playing basketball at the small playground where he had parked the car. He handed Selene his sunglasses and keys. “Let me show you how it’s done, gentlemen” he said as they tossed him the ball. He gave Selene a lopsided grin and whispered, “I’ll go easy on them, no mad lycan speed.” For over an hour, he gave in to his love of the game. An enthusiastic mentor, he taught even the youngest among them some of his skill. In a dramatic end to the match, he deliberately missed his final lay-up and fell to his knees, slapping the ground in agony. He walked away amid shouts of ‘old man.’ He chuckled off and on all the way back into the city. He made Selene smile with his outrageously off-key and obscene accompaniment to the radio. The more she smiled, the more inventive and explicit his improvisations became.

When he turned the car onto St. Charles Avenue, he said very lightly, “You look tired, why don’t I take you home?”

Selene cut her eyes over to him, instantly on guard. She started to open her mouth, but then reconsidered. She didn’t say anything when he stopped in front of the house and leaned across her to open the car door. She still didn’t say anything when he casually invented an errand that needed his attention. She stood on the sidewalk, his lie still ringing in her ears as he drove away. When his car turned back toward the streetcar line, her shoulders sagged and she sighed. She went into the house and shut the door.

Many hours later, a noise woke her from a thin and troubled sleep. She sat up in the darkness, pushed her hair out of her face. The mantle clock ticked loudly into the silence. She took a deep breath and wondered why she’d fallen asleep in the parlor yet again. At the same time she wondered why she was alone…yet again. She heard the noise a second time. Something was struggling in the back garden. She couldn’t quite identify the sound. She rose and walked down the hall, through the kitchen and straight out onto the back porch. A brisk wind was stirring the banana trees that grew along the back edge of the property, against the brick fence. Someone was crouched there, heaving and retching. She gasped when she realized it was Michael.
She flew down the steps and knelt beside him. “Good God,” she cried. “What’s happened to you?”

She took his arm as he struggled to stand, pushing her hands away. He jerked away from her, as if he did not know who she was. He was vomiting a green liquid, which had a strangely sweet, metallic smell. His pupils were large and unfocused. He stumbled and fell into the banana trees.

“Michael!” she gasped. “What is wrong? What’s happening to you?” He rolled to his side and then did the most unexpected thing. He started laughing, a harsh and bitter sound. He shook his head weakly and gagged one last time. Then he lay still, too tired to move. He blinked several times and then focused on Selene.

“Well,” he said. “That was a complete failure.”

“What was?” Selene sat down in the grass beside him. Ignoring the vomit, she smoothed his hair back from his face.

Michael sighed. “The cure.”

“If you can’t find a way out of this, what are you going to do?” Selene demanded. “Why is this so important to you?”

“I’m not doing it for me or for you,” he quietly answered. He pulled himself to his feet, rocking unsteadily. He stepped around Selene and walked into the house.


It was in the last days of her pregnancy that an idea began to germinate in the back of her mind. It was a plan of desperation, her way of taking a stand and finally doing what needed to be done.
As her time drew near, Michael had become increasingly solicitous, which drove Selene mad. Never one to coddle or be coddled, she didn’t know how to react to his tender ministrations. Over and over she reminded herself not to rebuff him. Realistically, she knew a time would never come when she would welcome or encourage loving gestures, whether from Michael or any other. It simply was not her nature. She struggled not to feel guilty that her temperament was so remote. In the quietness of her heart, she could admit she loved Michael. She could admit that she would give up the last six hundred years…hand those long, long years back to the infinite universe if she could start over…if she could have walked another path.

If…if…there were so many ifs, so many desires to have been someone other than the warrior who pulled Michael back from the brink of death nearly two years ago. Perhaps if he had evolved into a fierce soldier such as she was. But no, that was not his temperament. She could no more expect him to be someone other than who he was then she could suddenly wake to find herself different. If she were honest, it was because of his openness, because of his tenderness that she had ever wanted him at all. He was not pretentious, had no hidden agenda and until he became entangled in her life, he knew nothing of warfare. He was the polar opposite of all that she was. And if she could admit this was what drew her to him, why was his gentle nature also the thing driving them apart?

It was late March, on the cusp of spring time in New Orleans. The shutters were open. Michael stepped up onto the brick porch and walked inside the house. It was his habit not to use the door, instead passing in and out of the ceiling to floor-length windows. A warm, steady rain was falling, dripping from the branches and leaves of the huge oaks. Not finding Selene in the house, he walked back out onto the side gallery. She was sitting in deep shadow and even deeper thought. Michael crouched beside her, first dropping a small kiss on the top of her head. He laid his hand on her belly and smiled when the baby responded to his touch with a nudge. He leaned forward and briefly rested his cheek against his child. Selene sighed and shifted uncomfortably as the baby’s feet pressed her ribcage. Together, they listened to the rainfall.

“This is such a beautiful place,” Michael said. “The leaves never even bother falling from the trees. It's green all year long.”

“Hummmmm,” Selene murmured in agreement.

“By this time next month, the baby will be here,” Michael mused.

“I know,” Selene quietly agreed. She pushed up from her chair clumsily. She detested the heavy weight bearing down on her. She hated the need for rest, hated the feelings of lassitude and weariness that frequently stole over her. She felt invaded, preyed upon by the child swimming within her. In nine months, she had never reconciled herself to her condition. All she wanted was for it to be over. She wanted her body back, dreamt of the day it would be hers alone. As she was entering the house, pain gripped her, leaving her breathless. She stood still, waiting for it to pass. She had been experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions for the past two weeks. This feeling was different, deeper.

“Are you alright?” Michael asked.

“Yes. I’m going to lie down for awhile.”

“OK. I’m going hunting across the lake,” he said as he stood and leapt off of the porch, all in one fluid motion.

“Michael,” she called his name as she reconsidered….despising herself for doing so. Despising herself for giving in, for showing weakness.

He turned back to her, his hand on the wrought-iron gate. “Yes?”

She took a deep breath through clenched teeth and said, “Please stay. I think I am going to need you.”

Hours later found Selene writhing upon a bed upstairs. She waved away Michael’s repeated suggestions of contacting Cylen. She did not want the presence of the man the New Orleans vampires called ‘their healer’. She wanted to give birth undisturbed. She turned inward, seeking strength and listening to her body’s instincts. The clock on the mantel ticked loudly as time seemed to grind down and stop. She gave herself over to pain that washed over her in rolling waves. She made no sound, except to gasp for air.

Michael took her hands and she pulled against him, struggling to bring their child into the world.
At last, in a rush of blood and water, the baby was born. Selene fell back against the pillows and wept. Her hair was plastered to her forehead with sweat. She pushed it back and put her hands over her eyes. She didn’t want to see…didn’t want to know.

Michael took the squalling baby into his arms, his hands shaking too badly to cut the cord that still connected it to its mother. He was crying, laughing, kissing the baby’s face. Filled with a perfect joy, he stood that way for nearly a minute. Then he carefully placed the baby on the bed and cut the umbilical cord. He wrapped the baby in a blanket and held it up for Selene to see. She slowly brought her knees back together, curled into a ball and turned away. She reached behind her, blindly patting across the bed for the sheet. Finding it, she pulled it over her body, covering her head. Michael’s joy turned to ice.

“I…” he began. He held the baby closer. “I’m going to examine her and clean her up a little.”

“Selene? Honey?”

She didn’t answer so he tried again. “Don’t you want to see your daughter?”

Under the sheet, she shook her head. The room was spinning. She had a brief glimpse of the first time she had ever seen Michael…of the first time they had made love…and then of the last.

“I’ll take a look at you in a minute, OK? The afterbirth…”

“I’m fine,” she said faintly. “Take care of the baby.”

He thought she might be in shock. In fact, he hoped she was, instead of something much more painful to contemplate. He took the baby into the next bedroom and sat down on the bed. He could scarcely believe he was holding his own child. He kissed her damp brow, his heart overflowing with love for her. In all of creation, he knew she was something the world had never before beheld. She was something he must nurture, something he must protect at all costs. He was filled with both excitement and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. He was torn between the sweet weight of her, cradled in his hands and the need be at the side of her mother.

When he finished with the baby, he returned to Selene. He was walking on clouds. He found her sitting in a chair by the bed, her fists clenched at her sides. She didn’t look as if she had ever been pregnant, let alone given birth less than fifteen minutes before.

“I need to talk to you,” she said.

Still elated from the birth, Michael was grinning. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“I can fly back to Europe tomorrow.”

Stupidly, he stood still. His hands fell limp at his sides and he wondered if he’d heard her correctly. In many ways he’d been waiting for this from the second Kraven had shot him.

“Oh, Selene…” he said sadly. “No.”

Tears rolled down her face. “You know I can’t stay here, Michael.”

“For Christ’s sake, don’t do this!”

“No!” she yelled. She stood up. “Don’t you do this!” She stalked to the armoire and yanked out a suitcase. Haphazardly, she began shoving the contents of the double dresser into it. She scrubbed at her streaming eyes and kept stuffing clothes into the case. Michael roared and raced across the room. He pulled the suitcase from her hands and threw it into the wall. He tried to touch Selene and she pushed him away.

“It's over, Michael! I’m not pretending anymore.”

He shook his head stubbornly. “You don’t mean that.”

“Yes I do. Yes I do! I sat in the park today and watched women pushing babies in prams. I’m never going to be one of those women! I saw nannies pushing children in swings and I thought to myself, those are never going to be my children!”

“I don’t understand you! Why didn’t you worry about getting pregnant until it was too late to do anything about it? I mean, if you didn’t want children with me?”

“I didn’t think it was possible!”

“What? Why?”

She crossed her arms. “Because you weren’t a vampire.”

“So you were wrong. So it’s possible. Just like Sonja and Lucian. But it doesn’t have to happen again.” Michael hated his pleading, panicked tone.

She cut him off, “No, you listen to me! I’ve watched you since we came here. You spend hours with the vampires and lycans of this place. And what are you doing? You sit around planning soirées and fucking cotillions while our kind is being slaughtered across Europe! The coven here is a joke, if you can even call it a coven. I’m considered some kind of freak….or, or…some kind of anachronism because I’m a warrior! I don’t have a place or a purpose here. Well, I am done. Do you hear me? I am done! I’m going back home and I’m taking up the fight before there isn’t a single vampire left alive. I’m going to do what Viktor created me to do, to fight. And I’m going to fulfill Alexander Corvinus’ dream. I’m… ”

She stopped shouting and just stared at Michael. Her eyes were blazing with anger and misery. When he didn’t say anything she walked to the dresser, picked up his iPod and shook it in her fist. “You filled this thing full of music from your school days and you walk around here morning, noon and night with earphones stuffed in your ears, trying to hold onto your old life. I have news for you, Michael. You can’t go back and you can’t turn yourself into a human. When you aren’t with your new friends, you’re lying to me and we both know it. You’re sitting in a lab downtown, dreaming up ways to ‘cure’ our little problem. I read about the research on your computer last week. It isn’t going to work no matter how many magic potions you are willing to swallow and then heave back up. We can’t be turned into some little mortal family pushing a baby in a carriage. If that’s what you want, you need to find someone else. That isn’t me!”

“I know it isn’t,” Michael said. “I just thought…”

“You just thought that giving me a ring would make me into someone like Samantha.”

“Is that what this is about? A ring? Fucking throw it away, then!” he shouted.

“This isn’t about a piece of jewelry, Michael!”

“You don’t want the baby, is that it?” To Michael’s chagrin, a tear ran down his cheek and splashed onto his shirt.

“I’ve been saying that all along. In all kinds of ways. You just chose not to listen. Listen to me now…I do not want that baby. I am never going to be its mother. I am not going to choose a name for it or even look at its face. I don’t want any part of it. You need to let me go and find somebody else to make a family with.”

“I can’t believe this!” Michael cried.

“Believe it,” she hissed. “You can think what you want, believe what you want about me. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’m going back to Budapest.”

“Then we’ll come with you,” he tried to reason with her as she picked up the suitcase from the floor.

“No.” She didn’t turn around.

“I love you,” Michael whispered.

Selene stood still. “I know you do. That’s why I’m going. I’m leaving before you can learn to hate me.”

At last she turned. “And I’m leaving before I stop loving you. Please…just let me go.”

The insistent wails of a newborn drifted into the hall. For a moment, neither of them moved. Michael looked toward the door and back to Selene. He let out the breath he didn’t realize he was holding and walked out of the room. When he returned with the baby, Selene was gone. He caught a glint of something on the bedside table. His ring. Rain was blowing through an open window.


He sat on a bench, cradling his sleeping daughter. The sun shone through the dark green canopy of the oak trees that filled the park. Long tendrils of moss hung from their branches. Idly, he thought of Selene…how did she fill her days and nights? Had she returned to the military precision of her former life? Did she ever wake with his name on her lips? Had she, even once, wondered about her child?

“She doesn’t think of you,” said a woman walking by.

“What?” Michael looked up, frowned. “What did you say?”

“I said, she doesn’t think of either of you. She won’t allow it.”

Michael looked back down, studied his shoes. Willed the moment to pass, the roaring in his ears to subside. When the sun again returned to his horizon, he looked up. “How in the hell do you know that? And, I might ask, how did you know what I was thinking?”

The woman sat beside him, pushing her flaming hair behind her ears. “I can tell you the last words your father said the night he died. I can tell you what your great-great-great grandmother was dreaming of on the boat over to Amerika from Ukraine, and how she caught the eye of a boy fresh from the Carpathian Mountains. I can even describe for you the inside of your forefather’s castle, what treasures it held nearly seven hundred years ago, son of Corvinus.”

Michael sighed. “And next you will tell me that you are a witch or some kind of seer.”

She laughed, reached out and touched the toddler’s cheek. “Why? You’ve said it yourself already.”

“Ok, let’s suppose I believe you. What else can you tell me?”

“I know that you and that little girl on your lap aren’t any more human than I am. And I know that a day hasn’t gone by since she was born that you don’t mourn the loss of her mother. But, you need to let go. She isn’t coming back.”

“Is there anything that isn’t real?” he asked in a tired voice.

“Beg pardon?”

“Witches, fairytales…”

“Werewolves, vampires,” she added.

“Look,” Michael turned to her. “I can’t do this.”

“Do what?” she asked gently. “Sit in a park and talk?”

He glanced down at his daughter and then back at the woman beside him. “Yeah.”

“Well, then let me tell you other things I see when I look at you. Let me give you some peace.”

Michael made a dismissive sound. “Peace?” he muttered.

“You will be a doctor again; you will see a day in which you heal others. You will raise your daughter in this city. You will come to know great, great love and you will pass your capacity for that love on to your daughter. It will be your most precious gift to her.”

“And you see all that?”

“I understand that you don’t believe me and that’s OK. But to answer your question: yes, Dr. Corvin, I can ‘see all that’ as you put it.” She laid a hand on his arm and smiled warmly. Her eyes were the color of sea glass. Her hair was an absolute mutiny of red curls cascading down her back. Tentatively, Michael smiled at her.

Almost four years to that day in Audubon Park, Michael wrote to Selene’s attorneys, enclosing a letter to her.

‘I am writing to tell you that I think you of every day, he wrote. I watch our daughter grow and know I will never, never regret her or you. I’m not writing this to hurt you or anger you. But I have to say this, this one last time Selene. I have to tell you this. I love you. With everything that I am, I love you. I am also writing to tell you that I am doing what you asked of me. I am moving on. I am letting go of what I had with you. As I know you let the tie that bound us fall from your hands the night our baby was born. There have been times it has hurt so much that I felt I could not breathe or make sense of my life. But a strange thing has happened to me…it hurts less than it did…every day it hurts a little less. I feel you have a right to know what I must now say. I am sharing my life with someone. You have a right to know this because she is raising your child, the child we created together. It is foolish to say she has not tried to replace you, because you made it clear that you had no desire to ever become a mother. Just know I did not make this choice lightly. There are so many things I wish I could say to you, things I want you to know. So I give you this one thing, this one small thing that I know you said you never wanted. Eve. That is your daughter’s name. Her name is Eve.’
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