December 31, 2013 (Tuesday)
Brianna decides to keep a really low profile until Nerise’s party on the 31st. She asks Shawn if he would come down early a bit early. Brianna wants to get him up to date.
“So, you know about the deal that I had to make.”
“He’s asked me to do two things for him. Neither one was very awesome. No one got hurt doing the first one, but I got spotted. People are asking about me in the community and trying to figure out who I am. I was especially not fond of this last job, however. He wanted me to hurt someone. I worked it out with the other person involved and got away with following the letter of the law.”
“With this person’s cooperation?”
“That must have been a neat trick.”
“Well, I was willing to go to some pretty extreme measures to make sure that he didn’t get screwed. I think he saw that and decided to pay the piper, so to speak. Anyway, there was yelling involved, as sometimes happens with me. I told him that I did exactly what he asked for and now I’m afraid that he’s going to be a lot more specific with what he asks. That I’ll have a lot less wiggle room if he asks me to do something I don’t want to do.” She sighs. “I’m just trying to keep everyone out of the collateral damage. I don’t want things blowing back on my friends or my House. I’m trying to figure out ways to get around it with the resources that I have. Otherwise, I’m not sure who’s going to be standing at the end of a year and a day, but I’m afraid it won’t be me.” Brianna’s lips quirk slightly, “Although who would have known that I would have taken out a Red Court noble, so I guess anything is possible.”
“You’re never not surprising.”
“I wanted to let you know before we go to this party. Depending on how well connected Nerise is, it could come up tonight. I don’t want you to be taken unawares.”
“I appreciate it.”
Brianna meets Shawn’s gaze. “I should also let you know that I can be a bit … possessive. If I think someone’s getting too handsy with you, I’ll make sure that they stop.”
Shawn looks quizzical.
“It’s generally bad taste to feed on someone else’s date,” she explains.
The two spend some time getting ready for the event. Brianna pours herself into the white dress and heels that Nerise bought her. Loomis strikes a very handsome figure in his tux.
Brianna looks him up and down with an appreciative eye. “This was a much better model than I was promised. I’m impressed.”
When they emerge from her bedroom, Joey stares at Brianna. “Wow.”
“I will say this about Nerise. She knows how to pick out a dress.” She smiles at Joey. “Don’t wait up.”
Brianna drives them to Nirvana, snickering silently to herself as she turns her keys over to the valet. This is probably the crappiest looking car the man’s ever had to park. Brianna puts her arm in Shawn’s and they head up to the door. She hands over her invitation and is welcomed to the festivities. Right before the doors open, she takes a deep breath and releases it. She turns to Shawn. “Are you ready for this?”
“Well, I’ve faced Red Court Nobles, Fae Folk, Were Folk, and Mrs. Rooster, my fifth grade math teacher. I think I can handle it.”
“Well, Mrs. Rooster’s got nothing on this.” The door opens, washing them in a rush of lights and sound. Brianna silently reminds herself to look like she’s having fun. Then they enter Nirvana. A security crew wands them down. Shawn has to turn over his small .38 for the evening’s event.
Silver glittery confetti is everywhere. A D.J. is playing music near the central dance floor. The bars are open and crowded with excited people. Most of the women guests are wearing provocative evening-wear in similar styles to Brianna. The dancers, who are mingling with the crowd, are dressed in diaphanous flowing outfits that leave nothing to the imagination.
Brianna seeks out the dancers that she knows and sells hello, introducing Shawn. Occasionally, her hand tightens almost uncomfortably on Shawn’s arm as they move through the crowd. On a raised dais on the dance floor, a male and female dancer perform a very erotic number on poles. Up on a balcony terrace, Brianna spots Nerise and Clive watching the crowd. She leans in slightly to Shawn, carefully describing them without actually pointing at them.
After talking to all of the people she knows, she asks Shawn if he’d like to dance. He agrees, and she reminds him that most of the dancing she knows fits in at an angry mosh pit. “This may not be pretty, but I’d like to dance with you.” She smiles. “It’s the prom we never got to go to. But with more strippers. And naked people.”
They start to dance and Brianna continues to make snarky comments to make them both laugh. It help keeps her mind off things. When the dance ends, one of the staff dancers she doesn’t know approaches and says brightly, “Welcome to Nirvana! Are you aware of the private room option.”
“Yes. I’m very aware of the private room option.” Brianna’s voice is as dry as the desert.
Shawn interjects with a broad grin, “I’m not. What’s the private room option?”
Brianna’s fingers dig into his arm and her smile is a lot more strained around the edges.
The dancer doesn’t appear to notice. “Yes, we have private rooms for assignations as it were,” he says in a conspiratorial tone, “where we can bring you cocktails of various delights and we also provide private dancers.”
“Private dancers?” Shawn prompts. Brianna’s expression turns murderous.
“Oh yes, private dancers. Only the best for our guests.”
“How much does such a service run?”
The man leans forward and whispers something in Shawn’s ear. Shawn’s eyes widen slightly. “Oh. My. Well, we’ll definitely keep that in mind.”
“Certainly keep us in mind!” the dancer smiles, then leaves.
“Don’t encourage them!” Brianna hisses when it’s just the two of them again.
“I wanted to hear about assignations.”
She punches him in the arm.
The two move off the dance floor towards a round bar area. In light of the possibly political situation that might be going on, Brianna keeps an eye out for anyone who looks like a dignitary or a person of power. She suddenly notices a stir about someone who just walked into Nirvana.
It’s Peregrine Raith.
“God-fucking-damn it.” Brianna growls. “Peregrine Raith.”
“Am I missing something?” Shawn asks quietly.
“The asshole who just walked in. The last time I saw him, I fucking hit him.”
“He’s still walking?”
Brianna’s voice turns tight, “He is Lord Raith’s nephew. He’s tied into some of the original reasons I was in Seattle with Alyssa and that business.” She narrows her eyes. “This may be our power play right here.”
They head to the bar. Brianna, uncharacteristically, refuses to drink anything. Shawn sips on a beer. She watches who Perry talks to and what he does.
Perry moves onto the dance floor, picking out a woman seemingly at random to dance with. Almost immediately, she’s all over him.
Shawn mutters, “Damn.”
“Yep. That’s another reason why we don’t get along very well.” Her tone is icy. “He tried that shit on me.”
“Oh, really?” Shawn’s tone is incredulous, but also tinged with anger.
“That’s why hit got hit.” Her voice goes deadly quiet. “No one feeds on me.”
Brianna goes back to watching the crowd. She sees Nerise and Clive moving down the balcony. It’s about 11:00 p.m. Nerise begins mingling with people, shaking hands and kissing cheeks.
The music starts to intensify as does the vibe in the air. Shawn leans over. “Is that the Raith equivalent of mood lighting?”
“Yeah. It’s just going to pick up from here. The last party I left was nearly a full-blown orgy.”
The two remain at the bar, chatting. Brianna sees Nerise moving her way and stands. Shawn gets to his feet as well.
“Brianna, I’m so glad you could make it.”
“Nerise, I was so glad to get an invitation this year.” She gestures to herself, “Thank you. Your taste in dresses is stunning.”
“I saw it and thought of you.”
“Then I’m flattered.”
The White Court vampire turns her eyes towards Shawn. “I see you’ve brought a guest.”
“Yes. Nerise Patel, this is Shawn Loomis, my date.”
Nerise offers her hand, which Shawn takes. “Brianna has told me so much about you.”
Nerise laughs lightly, “Not too much, I hope. A woman likes to keep some mystery.”
Shawn looks a bit at a loss for words, so Brianna interjects, “It looks like this year’s event is going to be as magnificent as last year’s. I see you have visiting dignitaries.”
“Yes.” Even Brianna can pick up on the pique in Nerise’s tone.
“Is he staying long?”
“I do not know Perry’s plans.”
“I hope you have a fine evening. Go out and dance. Show off that dress.”
“Of course, I would love to. If you need to call on me at any time this evening, please do so.”
“If I need you, I will call.” Nerise moves away, Clive following in her wake.
After she is gone, Brianna turns to Shawn. “Well, I think that was our cue to get back on the dance floor.”
“Okay with me.”
Brianna tries to stay away from Peregrine, who now has two women rubbing up against him much to her disgust.
As they dance, she whispers to Shawn. “Nerise never had a metal detector before.”
“She must be expecting trouble.”
“That could be another reason why she really wanted me here.”
As Brianna and Shawn dance, they each keep an eye out for anything odd or someone who looks like they want to cause trouble. Brianna can pick out several of Nerise’s guards. There are more than usual, about ten in total. Nerise appears to have finished mingling and is heading back to the balcony. On her way there, Nerise heads towards Perry, moving into his line of sight. She is clearly expecting him to acknowledge her presence, but Perry continues to dance with the two women.
“Fucking asshole,” Brianna mutters.
Nerise pauses for only a moment, then turns on her heel and walks away. Clive follows.
Brianna leans in very closely to whisper in Shawn’s ear. “He just snubbed her on the dance floor. He did not even acknowledge her presence.” Brianna starts slowly dancing closer to Perry, trying to not attract his attention. She’s convinced he’s going to do something stupid.
Shawn catches her attention. “See that guy?” Brianna looks. “He’s got a piece.” Brianna doesn’t recognize the man. He could be trouble. He could be someone undercover. The two dance start dancing that way in case there’s trouble.
The beat of the music starts to intensify. The dancing itself is starting to shift into something more sexual and primal. The air itself seems to thicken with lust and desire. Brianna manages to ignore it, however, she feels Shawn’s hand creeping over her ass, caressing her through the silky fabric of her gown. She turns, pulling Shawn to face her.
He seems to come to himself. “Oh, sorry.”
“Don’t apologize for grabbing my ass.” She smiles. “I just can’t think of that right now.”
“I shouldn’t be.” He shakes his head sharply. “I’ll be fine.”
They go back to dancing and observing the crowd. Brianna’s watching the guy with the gun. Shawn’s keeping an eye on Nerise. Close to midnight, a short, petite blond woman approaches Shawn and starts gyrating against him. He begins to respond in turn.
Brianna turns to the woman and hisses, her expression deadly. The woman’s silvery eyes widen and she backs quickly away. Shawn seems dazed. Brianna pulls him to her, digging her nails into his arms hard enough to hurt. “Shawn.”
“Uh. Yeah.” He blinks hard.
“Stay with me.”
“I’m here.” As the glaze looks disappears, Brianna can briefly see something else move behind his eyes. It almost looks like what happens when he changes.
“Are you sure you’re alright? Your eyes just went odd.”
“Yeah. I’m good.”
A huge glitter ball is starting to lower over the dance floor. Nerise leads the countdown.
Brianna looks towards the man with the gun. He seems to be paying less attention to the music, but is instead looking across the room at the dance floor.
“Eight. Seven. Six.”
She follows his gaze. The man is staring at one of Nerise’s guards.
Brianna steps in close, dropping any pretense of dancing.
“Three. Two. One.”
The man is starting to go for something underneath his jacket. Brianna grabs his arm, hard. “What are you fucking up to?”
Suddenly, sounds start erupting all around her. A series of strange weird popping noises, followed by actual gunfire. Then the panicked screaming starts.
Shawn’s hand is on her other arm. The man takes a swing at her, but misses.
Brianna tries to feed on him, but is also unable.
Another round of firing deafens the room. People are running, trying to avoid the danger.
The man misses her again, but Brianna lands a punch, bloodying his nose and feeding at the same time. He snarls at her, filled with rage. He can’t seem to hit her, but Brianna drops him with the next hit. “Loomis. Get his gun.” She’s in the moment now, looking for the next target.
Shawn picks it up, weighing the gun in his hand. “I’ve heard of these. It’s plastic.”
“Son of a bitch!” Brianna swears, realizing how they got past the security guards. “Come on, we’ve got to make sure Nerise is okay.”
Several of Nerise’s guards are firing at men wielding more of the plastic guns. Nerise and Clive are on the balcony, making their way to her office as Clive shields her with his body. Brianna identifies the closest shooter and uses her inhuman speed to rush him. She leaves her shoes behind on the dance floor.
She punches him, making enough contact to bloody his nose and feed. The man tries to shoot at her, but misses. She breaks his jaw with the next punch and feeds again. He drops.
A bullet misses her, barely, from a man by the circular bar. Brianna can tell that the shooting is dying down because most of Nerise’s guards have fallen. Peregrine’s voice can be heard over the din. “Everyone, calm down! There’s no need for theatrics.”
Brianna is furious. She ignores Perry and goes straight for the man by the bar. Her first punch misses. The man shoots her this time. It hurts, but Brianna can also tell that she’s been drugged. She misses him again. He shoots her at almost point blank range. Brianna is hurting badly, but also starting to feel groggy from the effects of whatever she’s being shot with.
She’s also vaguely aware that Shawn has managed to shoot the man with one of the stolen plastic guns. Using his own drugged state to her advantage, she finally manages to punch and feed from him. He shoots her again. Loomis shoots the man as well. Brianna snarls and smashes him with her full strength. The man drops.
Brianna’s Hunger surges in her, uncontrolled. Shawn reaches out a hand and pulls her behind him. “Don’t look now, but we’re surrounded.”
Four men stand in a circle around the two of them, guns leveled in their direction. Peregrine calls out in light warning, “Brianna, don’t do this.”
“Shut up, fucking Perry.” Her voice is ugly. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“What needs to be done.”
“That’s the biggest load of horseshit I’ve ever heard!” Brianna’s is shaking with rage.
“Come on out, Nerise.” Perry ignores Brianna, which pisses her off even more.
“You’re a viper, Perry.”
“No, I’m a Raith, and it’s about time one ran the operations here.”
“I’m going to fucking hit you again,” she warns.
“Now, now. We all know how you really feel.” His voice is knowing, oily.
Brianna’s vision goes red and she’s running at him, all of her focus on hitting him in his fucking smug face. His eyes widen and he dodges her fist. A round of shots go off and Brianna dimly feels her body jerk from the impact of two bullets.
Then she’s sliding to the floor and all goes dark.
Brianna doesn’t know how long it’s been when she starts to regain consciousness. She opens her eyes to find that she’s on the floor of Nirvana. A grizzly bear stands over her, roaring at several people who are keeping their distance.
Brianna slowly rises, her entire body shaking with an almost berserk rage. Her eyes are glowing bright silver and her hair dances as if being tossed by an invisible wind. All of the guests are gone. Some of the remaining staff huddle on the stage as the gunmen pace nearby still clearly wary of getting too close Shawn’s claws and fangs. Perry stands on the balcony, looking down at the scene.
Brianna cannot touch Shawn with so much Hunger coursing through her veins, but she stands next to him, fixing Peregrine Raith with her burning gaze.
“Call off your boyfriend, Karkana.”
“Good for her,” Brianna mutters. She turns to Shawn, who’s settled back a little bit now that she’s standing. She looks up at the balcony again. “How’s this playing out now, asshole?” There’s seven guns pointing at her.
“This is how this plays out. Nirvana and the Portland holdings for Raith are mine. I need you to acknowledge that.”
“Why does it matter if I acknowledge that?”
“Because if you don’t, you won’t be leaving here.”
“I will acknowledge that you took them by force, and I will acknowledge you have them for now.” Her voice is sub-arctic.
“That’s all I ask.” Perry’s voice is deceptively mild. “So, as the representative of Lord Raith in Portland, and you, being a member of the White Court, my will is that you leave these premises until I send for you. Do I make myself clear?”
“Good.” He nods. “And if you see our good friend Nerise again, let her know that she and that toady of hers are banished from Portland.”
In response, Brianna turns her back on him and starts looking for her shoes. She finds them among the debris.
Perry continues, “Now, you take your …” he pauses for dramatic effect. “Honestly, Karkana, even the Raiths don’t go in for bestiality.”
Brianna meets his gaze, her body entire body going still for one long moment. “Say one more word and I don’t fucking care how many guns you have on me. We are done.”
She looks at Shawn, turning her back on Perry again. “Are you ready to go?” The bear nods and starts padding towards the exit. At the door, Brianna finds Shawn’s .38 and discarded coat. They walk outside together, easily finding her car now that everyone has left.
Looking around for any witnesses, Shawn transforms back into a naked human. Brianna tosses him the coat. “Thank you.”
Brianna just nods. She can’t seem to stop shaking. The berserk hunger is roaring through her body, making it almost impossible to think straight.
“What do we need to do?” Loomis asks, his voice urgent.
“We need to find you some fucking pants.” Her voice is strained.
“Okay, but is that going to help you?”
“No.” She locks her arms around herself. “I need to get out of here.” She’s almost whispering.
“Let’s go.” Shawn says, heading for the front seat. It’s clear that Brianna’s in no shape to drive.
Inside the car, Brianna presses herself as far away from Shawn as she can. “I’m going to have to feed before it gets worse.”
“Tell me where to go.”
“I can’t even go into public like this. Take me home. I at least have to get sunglasses or something.” Her breath is coming in shudders.
Loomis drives quickly back to the apartment. She tells him to go up first, that she’ll be along in a minute. Brianna takes several moments to try and get herself under control, then heads inside.
Joey is incredulous at their appearance. “What the fuck happened? What do you need?”
“I need to feed. I need to change clothes.”
“Let’s load up then,” Joey says, gathering his stuff together.
Brianna looks at both men. “If I start going too deep, I need one of you to knock me out.”
“Alright,” Joey nods.
Brianna gets out of her ruined dress and throws on grungy workout clothes and a pair of sunglasses. They head back to her car, Brianna crawling into the backseat. She is completely silent as Joey drives. Shawn explains the evening’s events to Joey, who punctuates the story with occasional curses of “holy shit!”
He eventually pulls up in front of an old warehouse. “I’d heard about this place and thought we’d try it some time. I guess now’s a good of time as any.”
Brianna slowly gets out of the car and follows the two inside. It’s dark and dingy inside, the rave blasting music so loud that she can feel it in her bones. Brianna slowly blends into the crowd, Joey and Shawn staying close. When the opportunity presents itself, she reaches out and makes skin contact with one of the nameless ravers, feeding deeply on the rage she evokes. She manages to pull away before doing any permanent damage, but also sparking a small riot.
They quickly leave, heading back to the apartment. On the way back, Brianna takes off her sunglasses, exposing eyes that have somewhat returned to normal. She pulls out her phone and calls Clive.
Clive answers, his voice still smooth. “Not a good time, Miss Karkana.”
“Well, I figured if it was a fucking bad time, you’d just have let it go to voice mail,” she retorts. “Are you alright? Is Nerise alright?”
“Then call me when you can.”
“We will,” his voice warms slightly.
Brianna throws the phone down on the seat. “Well, in the many ways I thought this evening might have gotten fucked up, this was not one of them.”
“On the plus side, no Red Court.” Shawn offers.
“No. But I’ve got Peregrine fucking Raith.”
“I notice you didn’t deliver his message.”
“I didn’t even think about it.”
She picks up her phone and texts Perry’s warning to Clive’s number. A return text dings back. “We’ll see. NP”
Brianna smiles faintly, then texts back. “I will do everything I can to help. Be safe.” Then she leans back in the seat, thinking out loud. “Politics. It’s always politics. He couldn’t have made a move tonight if he didn’t have some backing. This was fairly well orchestrated.”
“Nerise certainly thought something was going down,” Shawn remarks.
Brianna asks Joey to drive them to their “regular” late-night diner. She needs coffee. When they pull up to the restaurant, Brianna takes Shawn’s arm and holds him back for a moment. “Thank you for having my back tonight.”
“I don’t know what have happened if you hadn’t been there.” She squeezes his arm and then they follow after Joey, together.