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Ghosts of the Past (1/10) K. Williams April 2000

Disclaimer: Nick and company belong to parties other than myself. I promise to return them when I'm done. I'll even give them a wash and wax! Shay, Allison and Megan are mine.

Feedback may be sent to searchgsd@prodigy.net

This is the second story in my Shay series. The first was Even in the Darkness There is Light. You should read it before you attempt this one or you'll come away thoroughly confused. Special thanks for all of the positive feedback on Even in the Darkness. Your comments have spurred me on to complete this story. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it!

****************

They surrounded her on all sides. Bodies pressing against one another, against her. Heartbeats pounding in her ears, the sound of blood rushing through their bodies. Three weeks ago, it would have been too much to bear. Too much of a temptation. She would have lost control, she was sure. Shay smiled to herself at the thought. She had survived the ordeal, with Nick's help. So much had happened the past few months. First Megan's death then her own, then finally Allison had been ripped from her life as well. Allison had brought her across so in a sense she was dead, or undead. Had Allison not been there she would have surely perished from the injuries she'd sustained in the same accident that had taken Megan. In fact to all those who knew her in Seattle she was truly dead. Those that had known her had mourned her untimely passing along with that of her beloved younger sister. But that was all in the past. Now she was mingling among the mortals of Toronto as they packed the city sidewalks.

Friday nights were always like this, Shay had discovered. People from every walk of life converged on the cities abundant establishments offering them a refuge from the day-to-day drudgery of their lives. The occasional vagrant trudged alongside wealthy businessmen still dressed in their Armani suits and power ties. They provided an amusing contrast to the teenagers dressed in outlandish garb on their way to the hottest club of the week. Shay did not dare to venture into these clubs packed with mortals. Though she was in control among them as they shuffled past her unaware of the danger she could be to them she did not yet trust her control packed inside with them. She had never liked the club atmosphere even before. She remembered a few of the clubs she had gone to at the insistence of her collage friends. She had been uncomfortable packed like one of many sardines on the dance floor. It had been overwhelming even when she'd been mortal. She trembled at the temptation she would surely face in that situation when all of those sweating gyrating bodies were tempting her their hearts pounding in her ears. No, a club like that was no place for a young fledgling vampire.

She strode along the sidewalk dodging the oncoming mortals with graceful ease as she approached her destination. The attendant was an elderly man with just a tuft of grey hair atop his head. He moved about behind the racks of magazines and newspapers collecting money from one customer while chatting with another. All the while, his eyes scanned the racks watching for any who dared to walk off with his stock without paying. Shay moved to the huge rack displaying newspapers from across the country. Scanning for a moment she located the one she wanted. She paid the attendant thanking him politely and disappeared into the crowds again. The crowd was too preoccupied with their own concerns to notice the slender raven-haired woman disappear down an alley. Nor did they notice when the same woman disappeared from the alley into the dark Toronto sky.

She waited until she got back to the loft before she even glanced at the paper. It simply wouldn't do to fly into a high-rise building and crash some poor unsuspecting soul's party, literally. Shay loved to fly. Even as a mortal she'd always loved to fly, planes, helicopters, hot air balloons. Now there was something incredible, a hot air balloon. The experience of floating high above the earth silently except for the occasional roar of the burner keeping the craft from the pull of gravity. She remembered with great fondness the early morning ride she and Megan had taken several years ago before the death of their mother. The unforgettable sight of the sun rising over the Seattle skyline, the mountain ranges in the distance was breathtaking. Shay sighed at the memory as she punched in the security code for the loft. That incredible sunrise was something she would never see again. She was glad for the opportunity she'd had to behold it in all of its glory years ago.

Her footsteps echoed through her apartment. Nick had converted an unused section of the building that held his loft into a small but comfortable apartment for Shay. She could still be close to him but still have her own privacy. The architects had designed everything to her specifications. The construction had taken several weeks during which time Shay had shared the loft with Nick. It had been a good arrangement for the first week or so but it hadn't taken long for the two to get on one another's nerves. Nick was kind and welcomed her into his home but like Shay, he needed his privacy.

At Nick's insistence, she had ordered all new top quality furnishings. Unfortunately, only a few pieces had arrived leaving the apartment nearly bare. The first piece to arrive had been an overstuffed leather sofa resembling the one Nick had in his loft above. Shay's pulled out into a bed where she slept during the day. She'd never been overly fond of leather before but she had quickly discovered that she loved the soft smooth feel. Leather and silk seemed to be the norm for most vampires. It was not surprising considering the increased tactile sensitivity that came along with being a vampire.

She took a near flying leap and landed heavily on the bed still pulled out from the sofa. Spreading the newspaper out on the floor she positioned herself across the mattress with her head and arms draped onto the floor. She wasn't sure what has possessed her to buy the paper. She guessed she was a little homesick. She had left Seattle nearly a month ago without looking back. So much tragedy had befallen her there. Little did she know at the time that tragedy would follow her on to Toronto. Would this newspaper from her home make her miss it more or would it satisfy her craving for those things familiar?

She glanced across the pages reading a few articles here and there, remembering the familiar places they spoke of. It all seemed to be something from another place, another time which in a way it was. She had almost decided that she was wasting her time; none of the things contained between the pages affected her anymore. When flipping through the local section something caught her eye. It was an article about a demonstration by a small number of local residents who opposed the demolition of an ancient warehouse to make way for a new shopping center. It was not the article that caught her attention but the photograph accompanying it showing a handful of the demonstrators. Shay looked closer. There between two young women stood a figure that caused Shay to gasp in shock. It was Megan. There was no doubt. Her long dark hair pulled into a ponytail; her large eyes were staring straight at the camera as if to look right at Shay. He mouth wide open yelling in support of her cause and one petite fist raised above her head. Shay stared at the picture for several long moments unable to take her eyes off it. Finally tearing her eyes away, she read the tiny print below the photograph identifying the demonstrators. Shay blinked once, then twice as she read the unmistakable name of her sister there - Megan Jenkins. How could this be? Megan had died in that terrible accident. Shay had been there. Her tiny body crushed between the seat and the steering wheel, her huge brown unseeing eyes staring ahead into nothingness, her face contorted in a silent scream of terror. No, Megan was dead. Shay looked again at the picture. Megan was still there staring back at her, full of life. How can this be she wondered again. Shay sat up on the bed, her stomach a knot of anxiety, her undead heart pounding in her chest and reached for her phone. With shaking fingers, she dialed Nick's cell number. He was as work which meant he could be almost anywhere in the city. She waited as it rang once, twice, three times. He wasn't answering. Damn. For a second she hesitated then grabbing the paper and tucking under her arm she headed out into the night.

The precinct was bustling with activity as Shay made her way towards Nick's desk. He wasn't there. Shay stood for a moment, unsure what to do next. Where was he? Why wouldn't he answer his cell phone?

"Looking for Nick?" a voice came from behind her. Shay spun around startled by the voice and came face to face with an older balding man. She recognized him...what was his name? She searched her memory. Larry, that was it. She smiled at him in a poor attempt to hide her near panic.

"Yeah, Larry. Do you know where I can find him?" Shay remembered now. She had met him on her first visit to the precinct with Nick. She come her a few times just to get out of the loft. Nick's co-workers had welcomed her with open arms when they explained that she was a cousin of his relocating in Toronto. It had been an easy way to explain her sudden appearance. They had gone as far as to explain that she shared the same allergy to sunlight as Nick and that it was a hereditary disorder.

"No, I haven't seen him in a couple of hours." Larry was becoming concerned. "Can I do somethin' for you?"

Shay took a deep breath to calm herself before she answered. "No, Larry. That's ok. If you see him will you tell him I'm looking for him?"

"Sure will."

"Thanks." Shay turned and left the building before she pulled out her own cell phone, provided graciously by Nick and tried to reach him again. Still no answer.

"Where can he be?" She asked aloud. The answer was simple, he could be anywhere. Then it hit her, the morgue. He might just be there and if he wasn't, at least she could talk to Natalie. She desperately needed someone else to look at that ghastly photograph and the name printed below it to prove that she wasn't seeing things.

Shay breezed past the security guards and through the long hallways deep into the bowels of the building to the morgue. She ran into an assistant, almost literally and asked where she could find Dr. Lambert. He pointed her to one of the rooms where autopsies were performed. It struck her suddenly that she hadn't fed before she left the apartment. She took a deep breath to steady herself before she entered knowing she would likely be faced with a corpse and the overwhelming smell of blood that would accompany it. She opened the door and peeked in tentatively. Natalie turned at the sound of the door.

"Shay, come on in. I was just finishing up the paperwork on one of my customers."

Shay breathed a sigh of relief. There were no bodies to be seen and the smell of blood was tolerable.

"Natalie, do you know where Nick is?"

Natalie noticed the anxious look on her face. "No...why? What's wrong?" she asked concerned.

"It's Megan." Shay answered nearly on the verge of tears. Natalie moved to stand before her placing her hands on Shay's shoulders.

"Shay, when was the last time you fed?"

Shay ran her hand through her raven hair. "A few hours ago, I guess."

"Come on." Natalie took Shay's arm and led her back to her office. Locking the door, she retrieved a couple of blood packs and handed them to Shay.

Shay took them sheepishly and drained both without hesitation before handing the empty bags back to Natalie.

"Now, sit down and tell me what's wrong." Natalie motioned to a chair near her desk as she moved to unlock the door. Shay pulled out the paper and turned to the article.

"Tell me what that says." Shay pointed to the names printed under the photograph.

Natalie leaned in close, "Amanda Phillips, Kelly Shelton, Megan Jenkins and Shelly Ross." she read the names aloud.

Shay squinted her eyes closed. "So, I'm not delusional."

"Megan Jenkins, that was your sister's name, right?" Natalie was starting to understand but neither first or last name was an uncommon one and she told Shay so.

Shay pointed to the young dark haired girl in the photograph. "Natalie, that's Megan."

"Are you sure?" Natalie asked in astonishment.

Shay merely looked at her.

"Yeah, I guess you are." Natalie mumbled under her breath still staring at the photograph.

Shay turned her head too look at the door just seconds before it opened. Natalie spun around startled by the sound of Nick's voice.

"Shay? What's wrong?" He approached his daughter not even glancing at Natalie. Natalie felt a stab of jealousy.

Shay said nothing but pointed to the photograph. Nick leaned in to get a closer look. Confused he looked at Shay. "What about it, Shay? What's got you so worked up?"

"It's Megan. There. She's alive," she pointed out the dark haired girl in the photograph. "It even identifies her by name."

Nick looked closer. It did indeed list Megan Jenkins as one of those in the photograph. Nick checked the date on the newspaper only to discover that it was indeed today's issue.

"Shay, it must be an old photo." Nick told her without taking his eyes off the paper.

Before Shay could respond, Tracy burst into the room. "What is going on, Nick?" She stared at him accusingly, her hands planted firmly on her hips.

"I..." Nick stammered trying to come up with a suitable explanation.

Tracy didn't give him a chance to finish. "You drive over here like a madman without saying a word, then you run in here faster than you ought to be able to. You'd better be glad no on was there to see you!" She turned to Natalie, "How do you put up with him?"

It was all Natalie could do to keep from laughing. The furious look on Tracy's face and the exasperated look on Nick's was nothing less that a Kodak moment.

"I'm sorry, Trace." Nick looked at his partner silently pleading for her forgiveness and understanding.

Tracy shook her head in dismay. Vampire or not some things never changed. "So, what's going on?" she asked noticing the despondent expression on Shay's face. Tracy had met Shay a few times and she knew Shay was a vampire but she was still unclear about her relationship to Nick. Whatever the case Shay looked genuinely upset about something.

****

The car looked completely out of place in the neighborhood. It stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. The driver fit in no better. It was no concern, however, to Sir Peter Rachels. He had not come here to fit in or socialize with the local riff-raff. Unfolding his tall frame out of the vehicle, he stood surveying the building. Little distinguished it from the surrounding buildings. At least from the outside. Inside, Rachels knew, was the key to one more aspect of his plan. He activated the alarm on his immaculate white Jaguar. Then straightening his tie and smoothing down his expensive suit he strode confidently into the building.

A short while later, Rachels exited the building with a smug smile on his face. Everything had been taken care of. It was truly amazing what a little money could buy. His trap had been set and the bait was dangling in front of his quarry's eyes at that very moment. Rachels slipped into the drivers seat checking his reflection in the rear view mirror he smoothed back his salt and pepper hair. Now all he had to do was wait. Patience he had discovered over the years was indeed a virtue.

****

"Thank you for calling the Seattle Post. Please choose from the following options..." the female voice greeted Nick on the second ring. He punched various buttons patiently navigating his way through the electronic maze. He had nearly given up when he was finally rewarded with the sound of a human voice. He explained to a young woman who listened impatiently what he needed before he was thrown again into the electronic maze. Finally, he reached the voice mail of Frank Bailey who had been listed as the reporter that had covered the story featuring the photograph of Megan Jenkins. Frustrated that despite all of his patience and persistence that he'd only reached a voice mail, Nick left a message for the reporter.

He had promised Shay that he would check with the paper and find out where they had gotten the photograph. He had sent Shay home with strict orders not to attempt any of her own investigating after she let it slip that she was thinking of calling some of her and Megan's friends back in Seattle. Shay was dead to them. Allison had arranged it to look as if she had been killed in the same car accident as her sister.

Nick replaced the receiver and shook his head. There was bound to be a simple explanation. He tried to convince Shay of that as well as himself but in truth, there was still something bothering him about the whole incident.

"Nick, have you got the file on the Mullins case over there?" Tracy asked from across her desk.

Nick looked up at her with a blank expression. "I'm sorry, Tracy, what was that?"

"The Mullins case?" she nodded toward the stack of files on his desk. At least he was pretending to do some of the paperwork; it was more than she usually got him to do.

Locating the file he started to hand it across the desk to Tracy as the phone rang. Nick tossed the file with a little more vigor than necessary towards Tracy in his rush. The file flew past her onto the floor.

"Knight." Nick answered anxiously.

"This is Frank Bailey with the Seattle Post. What can I do for you?" a gruff voice asked.

Nick explained what he needed though he didn't offer any explanation as to why he needed the information and Bailey didn't ask.

A few minutes later Nick had what he needed and it was just as he'd suspected. Bailey explained that he had stumbled across the story two days ago. An amateur photographer had been photographing the demonstration and Bailey had told him that if he'd drop the photos by the newspaper they would see about using them. Sure enough, the photographer had brought the photos along with the names of the demonstrators and the paper had used one of the photos. Bailey had interviewed one of the demonstrators but had gotten only a name, no address or phone number. When Nick asked him if he remembered any of the other women in the photograph he had apologized and told Nick that he did not speak with any of them. He hadn't considered the story worthy of much of his time therefore he hadn't followed up on it very closely. Nick got the name of the photographer and thanked Bailey for his time.

The answer seemed obvious. An amateur photographer eager to get his work published had provided the paper with a suitable photograph of a demonstration. For what ever reason it was obviously a photograph taken at some earlier demonstration attended by Megan. It was a simple coincidence.

Tracy agreed with Nick's conclusion. Still, Nick felt something wasn't quite right. He shrugged it off attributing it to the strong emotions filtering down the link from Shay. He picked up the phone and dialed her apartment to let her know what he'd found.

Nick's news left Shay with mixed emotions. Part of her was relieved yet another part was disappointed. What would she have done if by some miracle Megan had been alive? She couldn't go back to Seattle. Megan could never know what had become of her big sister. Still Shay told herself that she would have watched over her baby sister, made sure she was safe and that she had everything she needed. She would have been Megan's guardian angel, just as she always had been.

***

Nick went to work the following night again leaving Shay alone. Shay went out for her nightly walk as had become her habit of late. Finding herself at the same newspaper stand she'd visited the previous night she purchased the latest Seattle Post and headed back home. She wasn't sure what has possessed her to buy the paper this time she had simply found herself there with the paper in her hands. She sat cross-legged on the floor of her apartment turning one page after another. She realized that she was searching in vain for something that might prove Nick wrong.

She desperately wanted Megan to be alive and the paper was the only link she had to Seattle. It was a one in a million chance but she found she couldn't bring herself to turn away. Page after page she scanned but still she found nothing. By the time she reached the classified section, she had resigned herself to simply pursuing the paper without looking for the image of her sister in every photograph. She glanced idly through the employment section hoping to get an idea of what she could do here in Toronto but it was an ad in the apartment section that caught her attention. There, in the Roommates Wanted column she read the words:

Female roommate wanted to share a two-bedroom apartment on Ellis Street. Reasonable rate and half of utilities. Contact Megan at 555-9346.

Shay re-read the ad again. Ellis Street was where she and Megan had lived in Allison's building and the phone number - that was her phone number in Seattle! The chances of someone named Megan needing a roommate in an apartment on Ellis Street with her old phone number were astronomical. She was staring at the ad in disbelief when the phone rang startling her out of her stupor. It was Nick, she knew it. She could feel his questioning concern with just a hint of irritation through the link they shared.

"Shay? What's wrong?" Nick asked when she answered.

Shay found herself unable to form the words. Instead, she found herself sobbing uncontrollably as Nick spoke soothing word to her.

Nick had stopped by the morgue to check in with Natalie. He'd been so focused on Shay the previous night that he'd barely said a word to her. He wasn't trying to ignore Natalie or to put Shay before her and he needed to make sure she understood that. Unfortunately, Shay had terrible timing. Nick was assaulted by the strong emotions from Shay. It had caught him off guard and he'd immediately pulled out his cell phone and dialed her number. Natalie simply stood and listened as Nick tried to comfort Shay.

"Shay, just calm down. I'll be there as soon as I can," he assured her before clicking the phone off. Natalie watched his face as he tried to block out the strong emotions he was receiving from his new daughter. He closed his eyes in deep concentration leaning heavily against Natalie's desk.

Natalie felt a sharp pang of jealousy. It had become an all too familiar feeling as of late. She had tried to understand the bond Nick shared with Shay but in truth, she envied her close connection with Nick. It was almost too much to bear. Natalie turned her back to him and tried to appear busy with some files across the room.

Nick saw her turn away. He did not need to see her face to know what was on her mind. Silently he moved up behind her and encircled her waist with his strong arms. Natalie sighed and leaned back into his cool embrace laying her hands atop his as he pressed his face into the fragrant curls.

"Are you ok?" he asked her softly.

"I'm better now," she admitted melting in his embrace.

Nick reached up and moved her hair to expose the delicate column of her neck. "I love you, Nat.," he whispered as he pressed kiss after kiss against her warm skin.

"I love you, too, Nick." She told him as she reluctantly pulled away from his embrace. His cool lips had felt so good against her heated flesh. It would have been so easy to encourage him to continue, so easy to beg him not to stop, so easy to return his caresses. Would he have resisted? Would she? Natalie sighed, her office was not the time or place to find out. She looked into his pleading eyes seeing the passion burning there. A passion threatening to consume them both and oh, how she wanted it, how she wanted him. Pushing back these thoughts the leaned in and kissed him gently. "Go see to Shay," she told him. He simply nodded and disappeared through the door.

"Shay?" Nick walked into Shay's still bare apartment. She was sitting on the sofa staring at a newspaper. She looked up at Nick as he entered, her face streaked with red tears.

"Nick, I'm sorry," she told him between sobs. "I know I'm being a pain. You didn't have to come. Really."

Nick sat down beside her placing a comforting arm around her shoulders. She leaned into his embrace resting her head on his shoulder. "Look." She told him pointing to the paper.

Nick looked closely at the advertisement she pointed to. This was getting stranger by the minute. "This is today's edition?" he asked knowing the answer.

"Yeah. Ellis Street is the street Megan and I lived on and that was our phone number. Nick, what do you think the chances of someone named Megan living on Ellis Street would have gotten our old phone number?"

Nick considered for a minute. Shay was right, the chances of this being a coincidence were slim.

"I think you may be right, Shay. Something strange is going on." Nick stood and paced back and forth lost in deep thought. He turned back to her suddenly. "I can't get involved in this officially which means that some of the channels normally used in investigations like this are off limits." He watched as Shay's expression changed from hopeful to despondent. He moved to sit back beside her on the couch.

"But, there are some things we can do." He smiled at her, "I'll see if Nat can get the reports on Megan's death from the Medical Examiner. Tracy and I will see what we can dig up as far as a paper trail."

"Nick, what can I do?"

Nick shook his head vigorously. "Nothing. I don't want you involved. Remember you're dead in Seattle. Let us take care of it, Shay."

"Nick, I can't just sit around and wait! Let me go to Seattle. I wouldn't even have to talk to anyone just wait outside the apartment until she comes home and-"

Nick interrupted her, "Seattle is out of the question, Shay. If anybody ends up going to Seattle it will be me, not you," his words were cold.

Shay's emotions were out of control. She had gone from depressed to hopeful to despondent to furiously angry in less than an hour. "You can't keep me here!" she ground the words out from between clenched teeth.

Nick was shocked and enraged by her tone. He did not try to force back the beast when his eyes began to glow in anger. "You will NOT go to Seattle, Shay!" he spat the words out with grave deliberation.

Shay fought keep her own eyes from turning gold with her anger but she lost the battle. How dare he tell her what she could do! She was about to further voice her objections when Nick's cell phone rang.

"Knight!" he growled. Shay felt for the poor soul on the other end. He listened for a minute before responding. His voice still edged with anger. "I'm on my way." He snapped the cover of the phone shut with more force than necessary and turned to Shay. "I've got a homicide to deal with." He took a step towards Shay but seemed to her fear of him when Shay instinctively cowered down before him.

"Stay here, Shay. I'll let you know as soon as I find anything." His voice had nearly returned to normal his anger at Shay slowly subsiding.

Shay nodded and watched as he turned and left the apartment. She stood and watched out the window as the Caddy pulled away. He was right from his point of view but Shay wasn't seeing things from his point of view. She flopped down on the leather sofa and surveyed the apartment. It was still mostly bare. Her new furnishings were due to arrive first thing tomorrow morning. Nick had done so much for her. Providing her with a place to stay, new expensive furniture, new clothes, everything she needed. Everything that is but his permission to go to Seattle. Shay shook her head, no, she did not need to even consider going against his orders. His orders. Yes, that was what they were. He hadn't asked her not to go he had ordered her not to go. The very idea grated on her nerves. She had been an independent person since childhood. She had made her own decisions, her own choices. Who was he to tell her what she could or couldn't do? Shay's brow wrinkled and her mouth was pinched tight with anger. The more she thought about it the angrier she became. What right did he have to try to control her? Somewhere from the back of her mind came the answer, he is your master. She rebelled against that intruding thought. No, she was her own master. She glanced at the watch on her wrist. It was not even midnight. Without thinking, she reached for the telephone. The flight to Seattle only took two hours. If she left soon enough she could be there well before sunrise.

***

Nick knelt beside Natalie as she studied the body of a young man.

"Single gunshot wound to the head. Makes the cause of death pretty easy to determine." She told Nick without even blinking. "TOD about 2 hours ago. How's Shay?"

Nick stood and surveyed the crime scene. From the looks of it, the victim walked in on a burglary but there was more work to do before they could be sure. Tracy was questioning the victim's girlfriend who had made the grizzly discovery.

"She found something an ad in today's edition of the Seattle paper. Either Megan really is alive or something very odd is going on."

Natalie stood to face Nick. "Are you serious? You don't think she's overreacting?"

"Maybe." Nick admitted. "But it's worth a closer look. Can you do something for me?"

"That depends on what it is." She told him in a teasing voice.

"Can you get the reports from the coroner in Seattle on Megan's death?"

"Sure. I'll give them a call when I get back to the office and have them fax it over."

"I probably won't be done here for a while. Can you drop it by the loft later?" He looked at her mischievously.

"I'll see you then," she answered before she kneeled back down and continued her examination.

***

Shay stood nervously in the airport concourse waiting to board her flight. She'd been damn lucky to get a seat on a flight this late and she'd paid dearly for it. She'd tried sitting but she couldn't sit still. Finally she'd gotten up to move around but her pacing was obviously bothering the other passengers. So, she'd been forcing herself to stand still hidden in the shadows. She'd fed before she left the apartment so as not to be tempted by the multitude of mortals on the plane. Only now did she realize that her nervousness was doing plenty to quell her appetite.

'Nick is going to stake me,' She thought to herself. She felt a measure of guilt for disobeying him. She knew he had her best interest at heart but her overwhelming desire to find out once and for all if Megan was indeed alive spurred her onwards.

At last, the call to board was made for her flight. She shouldered the duffle bag containing a change of clothes and several bottles of blood and disappeared into the crowd.

***

Natalie stepped off the lift into the dark and silent loft.

"Nick?" She called out.

"Over here, Nat," Nick's voice answered from the sofa. Natalie made her way over to him. He way lying stretched across the length of the sofa. Still dressed in his work attire save for his shoes, which he'd left haphazardly on the floor.

"I got the reports from Seattle." Natalie announced as she approached the sofa. Nick didn't move to get up. Natalie removed her own shoes sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the sofa. Nick turned his head to look at her.

"She's gone," he told Natalie.

"Gone? What do you mean gone?"

Nick handed her a piece of paper he held in his hand. She took it and read the bold printed words aloud, "Gone to Seattle to find Megan. I only want to watch for her at the apartment. I promise I won't try to talk to her or anything. I just have to know if she really is alive. Don't worry, I'll be fine, Shay."

Natalie shook her head in disbelief.

Nick let out an exasperated sigh. "It gets worse. The photographer who provided the paper with the photo, his name sounded familiar but I couldn't place it. I finally remembered where I'd heard it before. His name is Peter Rachels. What are the chances he is the same Peter Rachels that William Taylor contacted?"

"William Taylor?" The name struck a chord with Natalie but she couldn't quite place it.

"William Taylor was the hunter that killed Allison. The same one that Tracy shot in the alley. At least that was the name on his ID. We never found any next of kin but we did find his cell phone. The last call he made was just after Allison's death. The call was to one Peter Rachels in Seattle."

Natalie's heart skipped a beat as she realized what this meant. "It's a set up. He's a hunter and he's trying to draw Shay out in the open."

Nick nodded solemnly. "I had a bad feeling about it from the start. It was just too strange." Nick slammed his fist on the sofa suddenly in anger. "She just wouldn't listen to me. Why wouldn't she listen to me, Nat?" he asked his voice laced with disappointment and guilt.

"Nick, this isn't your fault." She knew he'd find a way to blame himself, he always did.

He didn't respond. Instead, he pulled himself to his feet and disappeared into the kitchen. Natalie stared at the note Shay had left still in her hands. Shay had signed her name with her trademark cartoon beside it, a tiny likeness of a bat. Shay was one of a kind. She approached her vampire nature with a unique sense of humor but she was also stubborn and independent, in this case dangerously so.

Nick returned with a mug in his hands. He sipped the contents tentatively half expecting Natalie to comment purely out of habit all the while hoping she wouldn't.

Natalie remained seated on the floor and looked up at his towering figure above her. "What are you going to do, Nick?"

Nick glanced at the windows and the Toronto skyline beyond. The first fingers of light were just beginning to reach across the sky.

"There's nothing I can do until tonight. I think she's okay for now. I can still sense her through the link."

"Can you tell where she is? Can you warn her somehow?"

Nick shook his head. "No, distance weakens the link. I know she is safe for the moment but nothing more. If I try to warn her she would probably only interpret it as my anger." Nick glanced again at the windows as the blinds began to close against the coming day, the tiny motors humming echoed through the loft.

"I assume you're going to Seattle tonight." Natalie stood and faced him.

Nick upended his mug gulping the rest of the contents. He nodded. "I just hope I can find her before he does."

The plane had landed only an hour before dawn. Shay knew she couldn't make it to the apartment before the sun's deadly rays would force her into hiding. Already she was feeling the effects of the coming day. As a fledgling, she wouldn't be able to stay awake much longer. She had to find a safe place from the sun. She dismissed the idea of finding a hotel knowing that by the time she checked in she wouldn't have time to cover the windows enough to keep her safe. Fledglings were more sensitive to the effects of sunlight meaning that even the tiniest stream of sunlight was a danger. Wherever she would seek refuge would need to be completely dark, pitch black.

She had wandered through the airport until she finally found a service closet deep within the complex. She could only hope that no mortal maintenance worker would wander in and find her there. Hiding herself in a darkened corner, she had fed and curled up to await the safety of the night to descend upon the city.

***

Nick couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned between his silk sheets. Natalie had insisted on going to Seattle with him. He had resisted at first but he'd given in finally. She had crawled into bed with him to await the fall of darkness. He was far to distracted to do anything but hold her close. Eventually his tossing and turning had driven her downstairs where she slumbered peacefully on the couch.

Their flight left shortly after sunset. They would have to leave the loft before sunset to make it to the airport in time. He would ride in the trunk of the Caddy while Natalie drove. Natalie had the night off and Nick had feigned the flu and told the captain he would not be in that night. Tracy had called. "Vampires don't get sick," she told him matter-of-factly. "What are you up to?" Nick had explained the situation. Tracy had tried to convince him to let her come along but he'd refused saying that he'd gotten the last two seats on the flight for Natalie and himself. At last, Nick had drifted off into a fitful sleep.

***

Natalie drove carefully through the Toronto rush hour traffic. She grimaced when a car in front of her made a last minute turn causing her to slam on the breaks.

"Take it easy, Nat!" she heard Nick's muffled voice from the trunk.

"Sorry!" she called back. Not only would Nick kill her if she allowed his precious car to come to any harm but it would be awkward explaining why she had someone riding in the trunk. She laughed to herself at thought. She was certain that she was the only motorist in Toronto transporting a vampire in the trunk.

The sun had nearly set when Natalie maneuvered the whale of a vehicle into a suitable parking spot. Nick emerged from the trunk as soon as Natalie gave him the all clear and ran into the safety of the building to escape the last few rays of sunlight.

Nick slipped his arm loosely around Natalie's waist as they maneuvered through the airport. He carried a large bag draped over his shoulder containing several bottles wrapped in his spare clothing to protect them. He'd packed enough not only for himself but for Shay as well. He only hoped he found her in time for it to do her any good.

After a short but agonizing wait, Natalie followed Nick onto the plane. She never cared much for flying and doing it in the dark where she couldn't see the earth below her from the windows made it even more unpleasant. Nick sensed her anxiety and took her hand in his as they settled down in their respective seats.

"I've always preferred to fly under my own power." Nick leaned in close and whispered to her. Natalie turned and grinned at him.

"Well, I wouldn't know about that."

Nick looked at her mischievously, "That's right, I've never taken you flying, have I?"

Natalie shook her head. "Nope."

"We'll just have to do something about that once this is all over."

Once they were airborne Natalie felt a little more relaxed. She turned to Nick watching him stare out the window of the plane into the darkness. Leaning closer to him, she followed his gaze. "Can you see anything out there?"

"No, not really," he admitted. "My night vision is for hunting. Sort of like a cat's vision. I can see details and movement nearby even in the dark but it isn't much good for distances."

Natalie digested this tiny tidbit of information. Nick had been reluctant to share any details regarding vampire physiology that didn't relate to the search for a cure. Over the years she'd learned quite a bit about many aspects of these creatures but she was completely in the dark on so many other things.

"How do you see things in the light?" Natalie asked hoping to pry a little more out of him. He turned to her and smiled.

"Is this going to turn into a question and answer session?" he asked teasingly.

"Maybe. I've got enough questions to keep you busy for a while if you'll only give me the answers." Her voice was half teasing half serious.

Nick glanced around at the other passengers on the plane. Most of them were either napping or busy with their own concerns completely oblivious to conversation between vampire and mortal. Still, Nick was cautious. "I promised I wasn't going to keep anything from you but I don't think this is the best place to discuss this."

"You're probably right," Natalie agreed, "But I'm going to hold you to that later." She nudged him in the ribs causing him to squirm in his seat before his face became serious and sullen again.

"Natalie, I've got a favor to ask of you."

"Another one?" she asked in mock annoyance.

Nick nodded. "And this one is a big one."

"Okay." Natalie didn't care for the serious look on his face.

Nick stared up at the ceiling as if to gather his courage. "You know I normally would have insisted you stay in Toronto. This hunter is dangerous and I don't want you to get in his way."

Natalie nodded slowly. It had been surprisingly easy to talk Nick into letting her come along. She had expected him to put up a lot more resistance.

"Natalie, I don't want to be like LaCroix," he whispered after a moment.

"I'm glad, Nick. I don't want you to be like LaCroix either," she told him, a little confused. He was nothing like LaCroix, he never would be.

"To be honest, Nat, I'm a little afraid of loosing my temper with Shay." He tore his gaze from the ceiling above him and turned to Natalie. "I've seen enough domestic violence to know that children emulate their parents. Children who were abused are likely to abuse their own children whether they mean to or not. It's a hard cycle to break. I don't know if that applies to vampire families or not but the thing is LaCroix is the only example of a father I've ever had. I don't want to do to Shay the things he did to me."

His sincerity nearly made Natalie cry. She knew all about the cycle of abuse. She'd been a victim herself and yes, she had wondered how that would affect her if and when she ever had children of her own.

"Nick, I don't know what to tell you," she admitted reluctantly.

Nick twisted his body in the seat turning towards Natalie and stared at her intently. "Just don't let me hurt her, Natalie."

"Nick, we both know I can't physically stop you from doing anything. Can I give you a suggestion though?"

Nick nodded.

"Before you do anything just take a deep breath. Walk away if you need to, just don't take out your anger at LaCroix on Shay. She doesn't deserve that. I know as a...well, being what she is, she is very young but she's not a child. She may not be doing the right thing or the logical thing but she's following her heart. Wouldn't you have done the same thing in her shoes, what if it had been Fleur?"

Nick's face was etched with sorrow. Yes, he would have. There was no doubt about that but he really hadn't looked at it from Shay's point of view. "I guess you're right. I just have to remember that don't I?"

Natalie nodded taking his hand in hers patting in gently. "We'll find her Nick." Natalie wished she felt as confident as she tried to sound.

****

She had told herself she wasn't going to fall asleep. Falling asleep meant that she left herself vulnerable. Vampires slept soundly and fledglings even more so. Should someone wander into the small room she was hiding in the results could be catastrophic. If she did wake, she'd do so fully vamped out and likely attack the poor mortal before she even realized what she was doing. Even worse if she didn't wake up, well they'd probably think she was ill and she'd end up in a hospital. No, neither of those scenarios was acceptable. So she had curled up in the corner of the room behind a bank of electrical wires, breakers and such the purpose of which she could not even guess. The gentle humming of electricity coursing through the tangle of wires helped to drown out the sounds of mortal heartbeats as they passed unaware by the small room. For several hours, she'd managed to stay awake but in the end, she had been unable to fight it any longer and had closed her eyes. 'I'll just rest my eyes for a minute...' she had told herself but it was no use she simply could not stay awake a moment longer. Hours had passed as hundreds of mortals passed the door to the tiny room each consumed by the events of their own lives. Few even noticed the doorway marked 'Employees Only' and certainly none were aware of a vampire sleeping the sleep of the undead just on the other side of the door.

The sun had set and the hustle and bustle of the airport had been reduced to a trickle of passengers going about their way. Shay shifted her position as she began to wake causing the duffle bag she held in her lap to fall to the floor with a clatter. Instantly she was awake, eyes glowing and fangs protruding menacingly. For a split second, she was confused; unsure of her surroundings then it all came back to her washing over her on a great wave of anxiety.

She listened carefully with her vampiric hearing then detecting no human heartbeats close by she relaxed slightly before reaching into the duffle bag. The fall from her lap had fortunately not caused any of the bottles to break and for this she was thankful. She had brought several bottles of pure human blood along with her but she had underestimated how stressful this adventure would be. The excessive emotional turmoil and stress had resulted in her increased appetite. She pulled the cork from one of the bottles with her still distended fangs. She started to spit it across the room but thought better of it and simply tossed it in the duffle bag. Upending the bottle, she consumed the entire contents hoping that she could go the rest of the night without needing to feed again. Savoring the final drop, she returned the empty bottle to the duffle bag. It was time to go, time to find Megan.

Shay slipped out of the room silently and glanced around. The airport looked just like it had when she slipped into the tiny room at sunrise. Several waiting areas divided into small sections each designated for a different flight edged the central concourse. A scattering of people occupied a few of the seats. Some seemed lost in their own solitary thoughts other chatted with other passengers and still some seemed absorbed in reading newspapers or magazines. Glancing at the signs overhead Shay turned towards the exit of the massive complex.

Sir Peter Rachels peeked over the top edge of the newspaper he held in his hands at Shay's departing form. A smug smile crossed his aristocratic features as he refolded the paper neatly and slipped into his briefcase. The hunt was about to begin.

Shay walked confidently outside into the Seattle night. She rarely visited the airport; in fact, the last time she'd been here was when she'd left Seattle for good with Allison. The memory was bittersweet. She missed Allison, desperately sometimes. She missed Megan even more. The void left by Allison's death had been partially filled by Nick's comforting presence. Nick could never replace Allison but he had made her existence without Allison bearable. Megan was another story altogether. Her heart still ached when she though of Megan. She and Megan had clung to one another throughout the tragedies and hardships over the years. They had always been there for one another. Like all siblings, they fought on occasion but the fights were trivial and unimportant in the end. How she missed Megan's steadying presence in her life, how she needed her to make sense of things now.

Walking a short distance from the exit, she stopped and looked up into the night sky. This was her town, this was her home. She breathed deeply of the smells and sounds with which she was so familiar. Briefly, she considered taking to the air, speeding through the darkness reveling in the caress of the cool air against her skin. It was tempting but flying took a great deal of energy. If she flew, she would need to feed again and she was fearful of running short on supplies as it was. No, flying wasn't a good idea at all. She walked back the exit searching for a taxi.

Nearby sat a white Jaguar. The car was immaculate just like the man behind the wheel. His dark eyes followed Shay as she slipped into a taxi her ever-present duffle bag securely in her hands. He did not need to follow her, he knew where she would go and everything there was ready and waiting for her. He had made certain of this. He was an expert in his field. A skilled and knowledgable hunter not of any the senseless animals hunted for sport but a hunter of vampires. Creatures possessing, in his opinion, little more intelligence than the dumb animals hunted for meat and sport. This was not a game to him, this he did not do for sport. The survival of the human race depended on his continued success. He had started this quest twelve years ago shortly after he had been attacked by a young fledgling. Sir Peter Rachels had been a pillar of society. He had received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II herself in appreciation of his lifelong humanitarian efforts. He had been 42 at the time. The heir to a family fortune he had made it his goal to use his fortune to make the lives of his fellow human beings better. It was something he was still trying to do only now he got no recognition for his work but he did not seek recognition so it suited him just fine. He turned the key in the ignition and the Jaguar roared to life then settled down into a gentle purr as he pulled away into the night.

Shay stared out the window of the taxi at the passing sights. Everything looked oddly familiar yet different in the darkness. The coffee shop she had so often met her friends from college at to study. The tiny gift shop she so loved to browse through though she rarely bought anything was still there as it had been for as long as she could remember. The costume shop where she'd bought the fake fang teeth she'd teased Allison with before she'd been brought across. So many memories were woven into the fabric of this town. How hard it had been to leave it all behind.

The taxi came to a halt at last on the street corner a few blocks from Allison's old apartment building. Shay had wanted to walk the rest of the way to immerse herself in the sights and sounds of her old neighborhood. She paid the driver and sent him on his way. The night was still young and the streets were still safe. Shay pulled her leather jacket closer around her body and turned the collar up in an attempt to hide her face when she saw a group of college students. She recognized them though she didn't know their names. She doubted they would recognize her but she didn't want to take any chances it was simply easier to avoid them. She disappeared into an alcove as they passed listening to them complain about their professors and such. 'If only that were the worst of my problems.' She thought to herself as they walked away.

The apartment building was nothing out of the ordinary. A renovated old structure covered with dark red brick, three stories high, windows topped with sloping arches on each story. Cement steps edged with wrought iron rails freshly painted glossy black led from the city sidewalk to the single door painted to match the rails. Shay and Megan had spent many a day sitting on those stairs watching the people of Seattle go about their lives. Shay knew every crack in those steps. She felt as if she were walking in a dream. Everything around her seemed so unreal, so intangible.

She found herself standing before the door leading into the building and briefly wondered how she had gotten there. No matter she thought as she reached for the cool brass knob turning it ever so slowly. The old door creaked in protest as she pushed it open as it had always done. As she stepped into the foyer familiar sights and smells comforted her and drew her deeper into the building. She glanced at the door at the end of the foyer. It had once led to Allison's apartment. She wondered who lived there now. Did they find the spacious bedroom beneath the building without windows odd? Her eyes moved to the wooden stairway leading to the upper floors. She knew where to step to avoid the creaking and groaning. She knew where not to slide her fingers against the old wooden railing so as not to pick up any splinters. She felt herself moving up the stairs still as if in a dream. It was like watching an old home movie, reliving details from a long forgotten past.

Shay shook herself out of her trance as she reached the door to the apartment she'd shared with Megan. She stared at it for what seemed like hours wondering what lay behind it. She remembered when she and Megan had moved in here. The memories of their mother's death had still been fresh and painful. She choked down a sob at the thought of her mother. It had been so long since she had thought of her it had simply been easier to forget, to deny the tragedy.

Tentatively she raised her hand and knocked softly on the door. What would she do if Megan opened the door? She should not be here, not like this! But somehow she could not help herself no matter how hard she tried she could not turn and walk away. She listened, unable even with her vampiric hearing to detect anyone inside the apartment. Still she knocked again.

Then, barely conscious of her own actions she reached into the pocket of her brown leather jacket and pulled out a set of keys. She looked down at them studying them for a moment. They were a mixture of her past and present. Keys to her car here in Seattle, the very car Megan had been driving that fateful night, keys to Nick's building in Toronto, his loft there as well as her own apartment, the key to Nick's '69 Mustang that he'd let her drive a couple of times and at last the key to the very apartment she stood before. She knew she shouldn't do it, it was not her home any longer but again she couldn't quite stop herself. She slid the key into the lock half expecting the lock to have been changed and the key not to fit. The key slid into place easily. Shay turned it in the lock her sensitive hearing confirming the tumblers falling to place. Effortlessly she pushed the door open and slipped inside closing the door behind her.

The apartment was engulfed in darkness but being a vampire, Shay was not hindered by lack of illumination. Instead, she felt comforted by it, soothed by the familiarity of it. Much like the city itself the apartment seemed familiar yet different. The furnishings were not those she and Megan had shared here. But then they shouldn't be, Allison had seen to that by either putting her things into storage, selling them or donating them to some needy charity. After all, she had no need for them any longer.

Shay moved about the apartment like a ghost touching nothing but seeing everything. Not a speck of dust was disturbed as she moved about silently. Who lived her now? Could it have been Megan? The style of furnishings did lean towards the styles she had favored. She noticed a stack of mail on the kitchen table. She gave it only a cursory glance at first but something drew her back. She pushed back the feelings of guilt welling up in her for intruding upon the occupant's privacy. Dropping her duffle bag onto the floor she picked up the stack of envelopes. She stared in disbelief at the name printed there: Megan Jenkins. In a panic, she scanned the apartment for something else, anything else to confirm what she'd seen. Still nothing looked familiar.

Turning her attention back to the mail Shay sifted through it carefully. Had she been mortal her heart would have skipped a beat when she discovered what appeared to be a paycheck stub. Examining it carefully, Shay saw Megan's name printed there along with last weeks date. Noting the address on the stub, she committed it to memory. It was a local address, a street only a few blocks away. Was Megan there working through the night to make ends meet? How could this be? She had seen Megan's fragile body crushed and mangled. Allison had confirmed her worst suspicions; she had been too far gone even to be brought across. Allison had made the funeral arrangements for Megan and for Shay as she too was presumed to have died in the accident. It was the way it had to be Allison had told her. She was dead to all of those who knew her just as Megan was dead. Yet she was alive, at least in a sense, was it possible that Megan too still lived? Shay let the mail in her hands fall to the floor and left the apartment at vampiric speed.

***

The closer they had gotten to Seattle the more unsettled Nick had become. The distance between himself and Shay closing caused their link to grow stronger. He sensed her confusion over the things she had discovered. He sensed her anxiety over his anger at her leaving after he had told not to do so.

She was grasping at straws and Nick suspected deep down inside she knew that. What she didn't know, however, was the danger she was putting herself in. He tried to send some sort of warning through the link to her but his skill in that area was greatly lacking. It was one thing that LaCroix had never taught him. LaCroix could shield himself from Nick yet Nick could never disguise his presence from his master. Nick rarely had an inkling of LaCroix's state of mind yet LaCroix was always aware of not only his state of mind but his physical state as well. The link he shared with LaCroix had always been a one-way street and he had no idea how to control any of it. He couldn't even block Shay's current emotional turmoil as it invaded his mind making it impossible to concentrate. He rubbed his temples in earnest as the plane made its final approach. Natalie noticed the strain on his face.

"Nick, are you okay?" she asked with concern.

"Shay doesn't have to ability or the skill to block her emotions from me and I can't keep it out either. I didn't think vampires could get headaches but I'm starting to wonder if I was wrong about that," he answered wearily.

"I could give you a pain reliever but I'm not sure how you'd react."

He shook his head. "Thanks Nat but it wouldn't help. It's not a physical thing, its...well it's hard to describe. The only thing that will help is for this to be over with."

The plane touched down with perfect precision and taxied into position for the passengers to disembark. Nick and Natalie made their way through the crowd with ease. Nick had arranged for a rental car to be waiting for them. True to their promise, an attendant stood by at the exit near an enormous black sports utility vehicle complete with blacked out windows. Nick spoke a few words with the young brown-headed boy before slipping him a few bills. Natalie watched the exchange with mounting suspicion. The attendant had not worn a uniform of any sort identifying him as an employee of a rental car company. The vehicle bared no identification of the like either and Nick had signed nothing. Natalie climbed into the passenger's side of the enormous vehicle that would make even the Caddy seem small. Nick loaded up the little luggage they'd brought along before climbing in and adjusting the seat to accommodate his tall frame.

"Nick, was he..." Natalie started as he turned the key in the ignition.

"A vampire?" Nick interrupted her before she could finish. "Yes he was. How could you tell?"

Natalie shrugged her shoulders. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "Something about the way he carried himself, the way he was watching the crowd, I don't know."

"So the fact that he seemed to recognize me even though we've never met, the fact that he didn't wear any sort of uniform and the fact that he never wanted to see my ID didn't tip you off?" Nick asked her teasingly.

"Well, yeah, that too."

Nick eased the monstrous vehicle into traffic and headed for the apartment Shay and Megan had shared less than two months ago. It wasn't much to go on but it was a start.

 

Continued...