To Tell the Truth

by Amy Denton

It was a very good Friday. A three-day weekend was just beginning and Caitlin was on her way to spend it with Julian. On arrival at the mansion, she was greeted by him and then whisked away to private dinner in Sausilito followed by a performance of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. After the performance, Julian took her backstage and introduced her to the conductor and several of the musicians.

It never failed to amaze Caitlin about the sheer number of people that Julian knew. No matter where they went, what function they were at, whose party they attended, he knew everyone.

“I do hope that after meeting you, you see fit to publish a suitable review in the paper.” Christoph Lockhart, the conductor of the Orchestra, said to her as he shook her hand.

“Well, I don’t control that section of the paper,” Caitlin replied, “but I’ll speak to Lifestyle editor and make sure something good goes in.”

“Good, good! Thank you very much. The performance tonight was especially difficult. The musicians worked very, very hard.”

“It was wonderful.”

“Having a good time?” Julian said, appearing at her elbow.

“Wonderful.” She replied. ”You are really spoiling me.”

“I hope so.”

“Mr. Luna? Is that you?” A slim young woman, with a halo of brunette hair and dressed in a jet black evening gown, came rushing up to Julian, throwing her arms around him. “I thought that was you in the audience but I couldn’t be sure.”

“Margaret.” Julian said, hugging the young woman. “I was just about to come looking for you.” He held her at arms length to get a better look at her. “Your solo was absolutely.... masterful.”

“Really? I m so glad you were here to hear it. I had no idea you were coming.”

“I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Yet another dream financed by the man standing next to her, Caitlin mused, as Margaret babbled to Julian about the performance.

“Caitlin,” Julian said, dragging her back to the present. “I would like you to meet Margaret Dubonnet, she played the violin solo in tonight's performance.

Margaret, this Caitlin Byrne, city editor of the Times.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Margaret said, shaking hands with Caitlin.

“Likewise. How long have you been playing?”

“Since I was six.”

“It shows. I m envious.”

Margaret just grinned. She disappeared a moment later as she spotted someone else she just *had* to talk to.

“Let me guess,” Caitlin said, as they walked toward an exit. “she was a prodigy, who just graduated from Julliard School of Music, courtesy of you.”

“Now, Caitlin, she is a prodigy but she had scholarship offers from everywhere.”

“Umm...hmm.” Caitlin said, not dissuaded in the least. “I’m sure your offer was the most generous.

Tell me, did you pay for the plane fare or did she?” Julian took Caitlin in his arms, stepping away from the crush of people backstage. “This may come as surprise to you but I am not responsible for every good deed you hear about.”

“I’m certain you’re right but not in her case.”

“You see right through me, don’t you?”

“Sometimes.”

They stepped out into the flow of people, heading for an exit and the mansion. At the exit, a booming voice from across the room stopped Caitlin in her tracks.

“Miss Byrne!! A moment of your time!”

All around them, people stopped and stared, first at Caitlin, then at the rotund man waddling over to her. She recognized the man and groaned. Councilman Cornelius Vandersteck was the last person she wanted to see that night.

Short and squat, Councilman Vandersteck was a wannabe Texan. From the top of his not-quite ten gallon hat to the tips of his cockroach killer boots, he oozed Texas. In his own mind, at least.

“Oh, no.” Caitlin muttered, looking furtively around. “Problem?” Julian asked.

“It would take too long to explain.” she replied. “We all have our crosses to bear and Councilman Vandersteck is mine.” She patted him on the shoulder, passed a smile on her face and turned just in time to greet the councilman.

“Councilman Vandersteck, what a pleasure!” Caitlin said, gripping his outstretched hand.

“Miss Byrne, the pleasure is all mine. What brings you out this evening? I did not think the Orchestra was your cup of tea.” Councilman Vandersteck leered at her before casting a glance at Julian.

“Nor I you. Did your lovely wife accompany you, it s been so long since I’ve seen her.”

“Ah...no, she had another event to attend this evening. Who is your date this evening?”

“You haven't met yet, have you?” Caitlin flashed a glance at Julian, certain he knew exactly who the councilman was. “Councilman Vandersteck, Julian > Luna.”

Councilman Vandersteck s eyes widened as he shook hands. “Luna, hmm...don’t you own that great big warehouse down on the dock?”

“One of them, yes.”

Councilman Vandersteck nodded before turning his attention back to Caitlin. “I stopped you because I need a rumor confirmed.”

“Councilman, it is the policy of the newspaper to neither confirm or deny rumors.”

"Oh, come on...you can tell me. Is there any truth to the rumor that you are working on a story on city hall bribery?”

“Good evening, Councilman.” Caitlin turned to go.

“Miss Byrne,” Councilman Vandersteck touched her arm. “I would caution you against printing such a story, lest you have ample evidence to back it up.” His accompanying smile held no warmth.

She looked at his hand before removing it. ‘Good evening, Councilman.” She repeated. “Let s go.” She said to Julian.

Julian let his gaze linger on the Councilman before following Caitlin out the door.


* * *

It was only after they were in the car, safely on their way to the mansion that Julian asked Caitlin about the councilman.

“Any truth to the rumor?” He asked.

“What rumor would that be?” Caitlin replied.

“That a certain city editor is hiding a story from her publisher.”

“Ah, well, you see, it is the policy of the paper to neither confirm or deny any rumors.”

“Really?” He snaked his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close.

“Really.” She leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder.

“You can tell me, I won't tell a soul.” He whispered in her ear.

“You say that now.

“Your lips are sealed?

“Absolutely.

He lowered his lips to hers, a gentle kiss that promised many, many things.

“I have ways of making you talk.” He whispered against her lips.

“I can’t wait to see you try.” She replied, pulling him down to meet her lips again.


* * *

Later that night, Julian slipped out of bed, leaving Caitlin to sleep, while he attended to Kindred business. It had become part of his routine, whether he was at the mansion or her house. Wait for her to drift off and then resume his duties as Prince. All he really needed was a cell phone. He was always back before she awoke, therefore, she never knew he was gone.

Or so he thought.

Early that morning, after Julian returned to bed, Caitlin left.

She had known about Julian s habit of conducting business while she slept since the second time she had stayed at the mansion. She did not sleep so soundly as to miss the creak of the bedsprings as he got up or the sound of the bedroom door clicking shut behind him.

She didn’t mind. Why should she? He had business to attend to and it didn’t disappear just because she was with him.

Such was also the case for Caitlin. The paper did not stop just because she was not there, as much as she hated to admit it. There were still columns to approve and page layouts to work on as well as her own story to work on.

Which is why she didn’t think he would mind if she stole a few hours while he slept. He was always so hard to wake in the mornings anyway. She slipped from the room dressed only in a robe, her laptop in one hand and made her way to the living room. Settling down, she promised to work only for a few hours, just long enough to finish.

Julian would never miss her.


* * *

An hour later, Julian stirred, seeking to readjust Caitlin against him but there was one problem. She was no longer there, her comforting weight was gone.

Instantly awake, he sat up in bed, his eyes roaming the room. He slid out of bed and padded toward the bathroom, listening for any sound. Nothing. She was not in the room, but her clothes were, he noticed. So, she hadn’t gone far.

He grinned, treasuring the challenge. Disappear on him, would she? Not for long.

It took him as long as it took to walk down the hallway to find her. He simply followed her scent.

He lounged in the doorway for a long moment, not wanting to disturb her just yet, enjoying the view her peach-colored robe afforded him as she sat at a table, bent over a laptop. After a moment, he moved to the table, leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.

She started, then smiled. “I didn’t think you would notice.” She murmured.

“Hmm...I did.” His teeth nibbled on her earlobe, his hands coming to rest on her shoulders, skimming across the surface of the robe.

Her eyes slid shut as they always did under his gentle caresses. “You have no problems leaving me. Turnabout is fair play.”

He did not answer, instead, he let his hands do his talking for him, sliding under her robe to caress her already sensitive skin.

“Julian...” She moaned. “I need to finish.”

“Finish what?” He asked.

She did not answer immediately.

“Well?” He asked, kissing the sensitive spot just behind her ear.

“It’s the story that Councilman Vandersteck was asking about.”

“The bribery story?” He asked, his hands coming to a stop.

She nodded. “I don’t know where he gets his information but he was right when he asked about it.”

He turned her around in her chair so he could see her. “How long have you been working on this story?”

“Close to a year.” she replied, feeling terribly self-conscious all of a sudden. “I wanted you to see the finished product, that s why I haven’t told you.”

“You’ve covered all the bases? There’s no way they can come back and cry slander or libel?“

“They can cry all they want but they won’t get very far. We’re covered.”

“That’s all I needed to hear.” He said. “Are you ready for what will come after?”

She nodded.

“I don’t suppose I could persuade you to come back to bed now, could I?”

“You could but I *really* need to finish this. I’m almost done.”

“How much more time do you need?

“An hour, maybe two.”

“You have an hour and a half. If you are not done by then...I know where you are.” He grinned, enjoying the image of carrying Caitlin back to bed.

“What makes you think I won’t move?” She asked, enjoying the give and take with him.

“What makes you think I won’t find you no matter where you are?” He replied.

“You enjoy being a caveman, don’t you?”

“An hour and a half.” He repeated, brushing her lips with his, then leaving her to her work.


* * *

Before the sun was fully in the sky, Julian returned to the mansion. He would have preferred to stay with Caitlin but she had to go to work and he had business of his own to attend.

His first stop was his study. A quick stop in there and then back upstairs to take a shower and get some more sleep. His hand was on the study’s doorknob when he heard his name and turned to see Cash, his bodyguard and Gangrel Primogen, standing by the stairs, looking pensive.

“Yes, Cash? What’s the problem?” Julian asked. Something terrible must be weighing on Cash’s mind for him to come see Julian unbidden.

“There’s a problem. Someone’s been Embraced against their will.”

“Come inside.” Julian said, pointing to his study. “Tell me everything.”

Inside the study, with the door shut, Julian took his customary seat behind his desk and waited. Cash dropped into a chair.

“Do you remember a couple of days ago when there was that attack by The Haven? That guy complained that some chick jumped him in the alley and bit him?”

Julian nodded. Lillie had not been pleased. In fact, she was still grumbling about it. Something about The Haven never getting any good publicity.

“I know who did it. At least, I think I know.”

“Go on.”

Cash hunched down in the chair. “About a week ago, a couple of the others found this girl wanderin’ through Golden Gate Park at 2 or 3 in the morning, lookin’ like she’d fallen off the back of a truck. They were just going to Feed on her and go on. Anyone wandering in the park that late at night, deserves what happens to them.”

While not sharing Cash s sentiment, Julian could the see the reasoning behind it.

“They got just close enough to find out she wasn’t mortal before she bolts. They caught her, of course, then blew half-an-hour getting her to calm down long enough to get a story from her.”

“Which was?” Julian could see where this story was heading and he did not like it. The last thing he needed was a repeat of Zane.

“Some guy at a bar asked her if she wanted to party.”

“She said yes and he Embraced her.

Cash nodded. “She had no clue. She’d been wandering around the city for two days before they found her. She almost got roasted twice.”

“What happened next?”

“They gave her to me.” Cash said. “They didn’t know what to do.”

“When was this?”

“The night after they found her.”

Julian took a deep breath, if only to calm himself. In a tone cold enough to freeze San Francisco Bay, he said “You have had a neophyte for almost a week and are just telling me now?”

“Yeah.”

Julian closed his eyes and counted to ten. When that didn’t work, he counted to thirty. If this had been anyone else, he would have throttled them by now. Because it was Cash coming to him, he couldn’t kill him just yet.

He opened his eyes, settling his gaze on Cash again. “Why did you wait?”

Cash shrugged. “She’s terrified. She’ll only just stay with me. If you came into the picture, she’d bolt. I have to get her to where she stops running first.”

Julian took another deep breath. He would deal with Cash later. “Are you certain this childe is one from the club?”

Cash nodded. “After they gave her to me, I took her to Josef. He just blew in from Detroit.”

Julian nodded, he had met Josef once, the burly Gangrel reminding him of Stevie.

“He’s about the same age as Stevie and he’s got other childer, so I thought...maybe he could help. I don’t have any childer and most of what Stevie told me, I don’t remember.”

“What does this have to do with the attack?”

“Josef and I were with her. She’s still working on how much is enough. She got that guy and couldn’t stop, she had to have been starving.”

“And?

“He took her and disappeared, I just blended in.”

Julian nodded again. The weight of the newly Embraced was heavy on his young bodyguards shoulder’s. That did not excuse his behavior, however.

“Had the attack not happened, when were you going to tell me?”

“After she was more settled into it. I didn’t want to embarrass her.”

Julian sighed. Anyone else would be dead by this point, with Cash, all he could do was shake his head. “You know the rules, Cash. I should’ve been informed immediately.”

“I realize that. I probably should have told you earlier but I didn’t want her running off. I know the rules.” Cash said.

“I’m so glad. Do you even know her name?”

“Gina, Gloria...Gloria.”

“Go to bed, Cash.” Julian said, feeling very old at that moment. “Get some rest. This evening, I want her brought to me. Is that clear? Pray Josef is keeping track of her.”

Cash nodded and turned to leave.

“And Cash? Julian asked.

“Yeah?

“If you ever hide another neophyte from me again, it will be the last thing you do.“

Cash nodded, Julian s meaning clear.

* * *

The city hall bribery scandal hit the streets Tuesday morning, headlining exclusively in the San Francisco Times. The lawsuits filed by each city council member named in the story, charging slander and defamation of character, were served on the Times by mid-morning.

Named in each suit were the newspaper, in general, Julian, as publisher and Caitlin, as city editor, specifically. Julian handed the papers to his attorney, called Caitlin and asked her out to lunch.

Caitlin agreed, not quite knowing what to do with the legal papers sitting on her desk.

The spot Julian chose was Ghiradelli's Restaurant in Ghiradelli Square, knowing that if anything could bring a smile to Caitlin's face, it was the smell of chocolate. Not that day. Caitlin only poked at her food instead of eating.

He reached across the table, took her hand in his and squeezed it. "You had to know this was coming. I know you are not that naive."

"I suppose I should've but I didn't. A lot of people have threatened to sue me before, but this is the first time they've actually followed up. Well, they can sue all they want. It's true and I have the proof."

"Well said. If it makes you feel any better, I was named, too. I should know by now to read anything you write before it goes into the paper."

She looked at him, shocked, before realizing that he was kidding her.

"I ought to slap you for that. This isn't funny."

"No, it's not but you're taking it far too seriously. Turn the papers over the legal staff and let them
earn their keep. That's what I did."

She mulled over what he said as he flagged down a waiter and paid the bill. He helped to her feet, handed her her coat and held the door open for her as they left, the perfect gentleman, but she did not notice, she was too deep in thought.

Outside, Julian motioned for Daniel, his driver, to follow as they walked down the hill to the bay. He tried to carry on conversation with her but she was just was not there. A wicked gleam came into his eyes as he snaked a hand under her jacket and blouse, tickling her rib cage. She shrieked, catching several odd glances from passerby. She turned to look at Julian only to get that infuriating innocent smile of his.

"Enjoy yourself?" she asked.

"Not nearly as much as when I get you out of those clothes." he replied.

"Pervert." She shot back, tucking her blouse in.

"Absolutely. I had to do something, you were in your own little world."

"I'm sorry. I was just thinking over what you said."

He took her in his arms and kissed her, wishing he could make all her problems go away as easily.

"Mmm...bold aren't you?" she said, against his lips.

"I have to sustain myself until you get off work.

Unless, you want to leave early." he replied, kissing her again.

Her reply was interrupted as news crew materialized in front of them.

"Mr. Luna," a male reporter asked "any comments on the lawsuits filed by the city council members?"

"No comment." Julian replied, steering Caitlin toward the car, the door already open for them.

"Miss Bryne, is there any truth to the rumor that this story is merely an attempt to increase readership?"

"No comment." Julian said, hustling her into the car.

"Go." He said to Daniel, shutting the door on the news crew. He flashed Caitlin a smile as they rounded the corner and reached for her hand, squeezing it.

Ah, the exciting life of a newspaper reporter.

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

"Jonathan, this is not what I pay your for." Julian barked into the phone as he paced about Caitlin's office.

Caitlin sat at her desk and watched the show, Julian's temper was legendary.

"It's ridiculous. I can't even take one of my editors to lunch without being set upon by Channel Seven Action News."

She couldn't tell, though, if he was truly agitated or just putting on a show for his attorney.

"I've already turned the lawsuit over to the paper's legal staff. This should not have happened."

She smiled, enjoying watching Julian in action.

"You do that. Go out and earn that obscene sum you charge me." Julian dropped the phone back into the cradle ending the conversation. "According to my attorney, it was an accident. They were there for a human interest story, we just happened along."

She did not reply, simply nodded her head.

"What?" he asked, seeing the amusement on her face.

"I thought you didn't think this was funny."

"I don't but somehow I doubt you are as irritated as you sounded on the phone."

"I'm plenty irritated. I'm trying to get you to leave work early and they wrecked it. Now, I'll never get you out of here." He affected an air of dejection.

She laughed.

"Gee, thanks. It's crystal clear now. And here, I thought you wanted me for mind."

He pulled her to her feet, pulling her close. "Of course, it's your mind I adore." He kissed her lightly. "But I adore the rest of you just as much."

"Always nice to be wanted."

"Now, about leaving early..."

"OUT! " She stepped back, pointing at the door. "I have work to do. Work that requires my mind."

"Can I watch?"

She started to laugh again. What was it about him that did this to her?

"Pervert."

"At your service. Since I can't convince you to leave, how about dinner?"

"Media-free?"

"I'll work on it. How does eight o'clock sound?"

"Good. I'll be here."

"Caitlin...."

"Julian..." she mocked his tone, "I wouldn't be here that late but I keep being sidetracked by a certain someone."

"Who I'm sure has excellent reasons for sidetracking you."

She eyed him.

He held up his hands in surrender. "All right, I'm going. I won't say another word." He kissed her on the cheek and left.

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

At 7:45 p.m., Caitlin made a quick trip to her car parked in the Times's underground parking, to grab a change of clothes. She had picked up a gorgeous robin's egg blue evening gown on sale the afternoon before and wanted to wear it to dinner.
At 7:50, she was attacked. Humming softly to herself, she popped the trunk and pulled the cream-colored gown from it, holding it before her for a moment. She never saw the figure slip up and grab her from behind. She froze, the dress falling from her hand back into the trunk.
"Miss Byrne," A voice hissed in her ear, as she felt a knife against her throat. "my employer has a message for you."
"What is it?" she rasped out, her throat dry with fear.
"Print a retraction to your story and an apology in tomorrow's paper or you'll regret it. Understand?"
She nodded.
"Such a pretty face, it'd be a shame to ruin it." the voice continued, "That's exactly what'll happen if you don't do as you're told."
She was shoved forward violently, hard enough to bounce into the open trunk. She stumbled backward and sat down, her eyes smarting from the whack on the head. She glanced around the garage as she climbed to her feet but whoever it was, was long gone. Shaking, she took two deep breathes and calmly closed the trunk of her car. She took out her cell phone and dialed 9-1-1, then she sat on the floor of the garage and tried not to get sick.
Tied up with work, again, Julian sent his car on ahead. A traffic jam delayed the car for almost 20 minutes and Daniel, Julian's driver, was worried. If there was so much as a scratch on Caitlin...he didn't finish the thought. Once he arrived at the building and saw the ambulance and the police car in front of the building, he didn't have to. Julian *would* kill him.
Taking a deep breath, he got out of the car and weaved his way through the crowds of people gathered around the scene, searching for her. Caitlin, standing off to one side of a discussion of what to do with her, saw him first and walked over to him.
"Hello, Daniel." she said, coming up behind him.
He turned and greeted her before seeing the ice pack in one hand and the bump on her head. He was a dead man. "Miss Byrne! What happened?"
She waved a hand. "Some loser didn't like what I wrote."
"Are you all right? Have you been checked out? Do they...?" He gestured at the ambulance.
"Yes. Poked, prodded, strongly suggested that I go to the hospital. *I* just want to leave."
"The car is over there. Mr. Luna was held up by a conference call to Singapore but he's waiting at the mansion. If you're going to be delayed, he'll want to know."
Before she could answer, the two policeman discussing her case noticed she wasn't there any longer and came looking.
"Miss Byrne," the taller of the two said "we would like you to come with us and give a description."
She shook her head, wincing. "I've already told you I never saw his face, only his hand. I'm tired, my head hurts and I am leaving." She held up a hand to forestall any comments. "If you want to continue this, you can call me tomorrow at my office. I don't mean to be rude but I'm going home." She turned to Daniel. "Where did you say the car was?"

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


At the mansion, Jeffrey escorted her from the car and saw her into the house. He said nothing about the bump on her head. Just inside the door Julian was waiting for her. He kissed and hugged her before noticing the lump over one eye, the smile sliding from his face. He took her chin in his hand, tilted her head so he could see better. He studied the lump as he reined his anger in, hoping Caitlin didn't see the gold in his eyes.

"What happened?" he asked, his voice deathly quiet.

"I banged my head on the trunk of my car." she replied. She had never seen him this upset before, even his eyes changed color.

"When?"

"Just before Daniel came and got me."

"Is that why you were twenty minutes late?

She nodded, wincing at the sudden pain.

"The police have been notified?

She nodded again.

He crossed his arms and forced himself to relax.

Come into my study. Tell me there.

~~~~~~

[PART 3 IS MISSING ... F-CK]

~~~~~~

"Next, Councilman Vandersteck called four times. He wants to speak with you regarding the bribery scandal.

He wish to seek a..." Megan Jones, Caitlin's assistant looked down at her notes. "He wishes to seek an amicable ending to this misunderstanding."

She handed Caitlin a small stack of messages. "I just bet he does." Cailtin muttered, rolling her eyes. "Tell the councilman the next time he calls that I will not be speaking to him without both his and the paper's lawyer present."

"Your speech to the AJA at Durand Hall is tomorrow at two, just after lunch." Megan said, making a note on her pad.

"Excellent. I love speaking to them. It always rankles the men when I speak of how far women have come in journalism, especially me." She added with a grin.

"They want to know how many people you will be bringing with you." Unbidden, Megan's eyes flicked to Caitlin's shadow, lounging in a chair in the corner.

"Megan," Caitlin said, gently, "he's not going to bite."

Megan quirked an eyebrow but said nothing. Whatever the boss wanted.

"Tell them two will be there. Anything else?"

"Not yet."

"All right then. What time is it?"

Megan looked at her watch. "4:15."


"Why don't you go home? We've had a light day. Go on."

"Are you sure? I mean, it's not even 4:30."
"Go on. It's not like I'm here by myself."

Megan glanced at the bodyguard and nodded. "Thanks.

I do have some errands to run."

After Megan left, Caitlin returned to the stacks of work in front of her, losing complete track of time.

Until her office door opened and Julian walked in.

"It's 6:30. The rest of the world has gone home."

He said, disapprovingly, his arms crossed.

She flushed. "I was...waiting for someone."

"I'm sure. Time to go." He signaled at the guard.

"You enjoy telling me what to do, don't you?" She said, standing and accepting her coat from the guard.

"We all have our hobbies. Mine appears to be keeping you out of trouble."

"You're cute when you act like a caveman. You know that?"

"Yes, I've been told it's one of my best attributes."

He replied, holding the door open for her.

After a quick dinner at Taddich's Grill, they returned to the mansion. Caitlin excused herself so she could take a shower and crawl into bed. The past couple of days had left her tired to the bone and with a lingering headache from the bump on her head.

Julian kissed her on the cheek and went to make some phone calls.

In his bedroom, she slipped out of her power suit and into her favorite robe, the opulence of his bedroom no longer quite so shocking to her as it once had. She walked from the bedroom to the bathroom, flipping on the hot water, waiting for it to reach the proper temperature. No waiting for hot water in this place.

Judging it right for her, she took off the robe and stepped in, gasping involuntarily as the hot water struck her skin. Belatedly, she pulled the shower curtain shut, no point in getting water over the floor.

She closed her eyes, slicking back her hair, letting the water run over her. Bracing herself against the shower wall, she leaned over, letting the water pound over her back; slowly, ever so slowly, the tensions from the day easing out of her, she began to relax.

Julian came upstairs to check on her, concerned that she wasn't feeling well. When he heard the water running, he couldn't help but smile at the image popping into his mind. It would be very easy to join her.

He shook his head. What she needed was sleep, not his wanton lust keeping her awake. What she needed, a little voice whispered to him, was to forget her problems, if only for a few hours. That, he could do.

As if to torture himself, he stepped into the bathroom, seeing first, her robe, then her silhouette through the shower curtain. He stood there for a moment, watching, then picked up her robe and inhaled her scent. There was nothing quite like it.

Reluctantly, he put the robe down and turned to leave.

Yet, he couldn't leave, captured, as always by...her.
His mind lost a short battle with his lust as he undressed and pulled back the shower curtain just enough.
"Mind if I join you?" he asked, stepping in, the shower spray instantly soaking him.
"I can use someone to scrub my back." she replied, eyes dancing. Despite her fatigue, she could still spar with him, lest he forget.
"Tough job." he replied, taking her in his arms.
"You can do it, I'm sure." She relaxed in his familiar embrace, her head on his shoulder, the water pounding against her, lulling her into a stupor.
"Don't go to sleep on me." He said, tipping her head back to look at her. "You've been doing that to me a lot lately."
"You're part of the problem." she replied, gazing into those incredible brown/black eyes of his.
"You're insatiable."
"That's what happens when I'm around beautiful women." He lowered his mouth to hers, cutting off her reply. His kiss gentle but demanding. He tasted the water from the shower and the coffee she had had at dinner and he tasted her, wanting more, always wanting more.
She sighed and moaned under his lips, the first tendrils of desire sneaking up on her as the kiss deepened. She wrapped her fingers in his hair, her eyes closing even as the kiss ended, knowing that he could have her right there in the shower and she would not care.
He looked down at her, the peace on her face warring against the desire raging in him and could not continue. He was desperate to have her but he wanted her awake to enjoy it. In one move, he shut the water off and pulled back the shower curtain. He scooped her up and sat her on a stool in the bathroom while he reached for a towel. Caitlin stirred as the colder air of the bathroom prevailed, blinking her leaden eyelids as he dried her off.
"Julian, what? What about...?"
"You need your rest. Although, I wish it were otherwise." He finished drying her off and took her bed.
She was asleep even before he pulled the covers over her.
He dressed quickly and left before he could change his mind. It would be so easy to wake her, just a kiss or a nibble or a pat and she would be awake and they would make love, until she collapsed from exhaustion, again. No, she needed to sleep and he would give her that much. It was only 10:30, they had the whole evening together.
Downstairs,Jeffrey approached him with a list of items needing his attention, uppermost on it, a box that had just arrived from The Haven.
"This arrived for you about an hour ago but you had gone upstairs, so I kept it down here."
Julian nodded, taking the box from him. Jeffrey was worth his weight in gold. "Is Cash on the grounds?"
"Yes. His *company* is here as well. Do you wish to see them?"
"As soon as possible."
Jeffrey nodded, checking his list before walking away. Julian left him and went into his office. If he was lucky, he could conclude the majority of his business, returning to his bedroom before Caitlin awoke.
He sat down at his desk, a list Jeremy had prepared for him, waiting on his desk. He could make a couple of phone calls while waiting for Cash and the rest of them after they left. He had only two audiences and one 'intervention', so called because the Kindred involved was given a chance to explain their transgression before being punished. It was a rare, quiet evening which suited him just fine.
He had just finished the third phone call when Jeffrey knocked and entered. "Cash and his company are here."
"Send them in."
Jeffrey nodded and withdrew. Julian stood and came around to the front of his desk, leaning on it, his arms crossed. Cash came in first, followed by Gloria with Josef at the end.
"I have some clothes for you." Julian said, handing Gloria the box. "I'm still working on the shoes. What size do you wear?"
"7 1/2." She replied.
"It's not much but it's a start. The bathroom is just down the hall, you can leave your other clothes there." He waited until she left before speaking again. "No comments this time?"
"I think it's finally dawned on her what she is."
Josef said. "It changes a person."
"She tried to go out this afternoon and got a nasty surprise." Cash added. "Burned herself real good. She's fine now."
"Any more information on her Sire?" Julian asked, filing away their comments for later.
Cash shook his head. "Nope. Same as before. I think she really doesn't know."
"Wonderful. That will make finding him all the harder." Julian replied, shaking his head. "I want him found. NOW. Have your Gangrels keep an eye out."
Cash nodded.
Gloria's reappearance, in faded jeans and a t-shirt, kept Julian from saying more.
"They fit?" He asked.
"Yes, thank you." She brushed a strand of hair from her face.
"Cash tells me that you went outside this afternoon."
"Yes," she nodded, "I wanted....I don't know what I wanted." She looked down at her arm, healed from the burns of the afternoon. "I guess I have a lot more to learn." Her gaze moved to Julian's face, confusion and terror spreading across hers. "I never believed in ghosts or spooks or vam...Kindred. I never even watched 'The X-Files' and now, I am one."
He put his hands on her shoulders. There was a time to be cold and heartless and a time to be kind and gentle. "This world is still new to you but you will learn your way around it in time. Pay attention to everything Cash and Josef say, they know what they're saying. If you have any problems, they'll be able to help."
"Thank you."
"I am not completely heartless, remember. You can go now, I don't want to keep you any longer. Cash, remember what I said?"
He nodded, following the others out the door.
The time flew by and, when next he looked at the mantelplace clock, it was 6:06 a.m. The clock only confirming what he already felt in his bones. Sunrise was just a half-hour away. He rose, tidying up the office and shutting the curtains before leaving. He might want to work during the day and he needed no surprises because he forgot.
Caitlin might be awake by now but probably not. He had checked on her several times during the night and each time, she was fast asleep. Once, as he returned to his office, he met Lillie coming back from The Haven.
"Thank you for the clothes." he said, pausing on the stairs. "How was business?"
"You're welcome and it could have been better." A catty smile crept across her face. "You've finally worn her out?"
He only smiled and continued into his office, leaving her to walk up the stairs alone.
In his bedroom, the first thing he did was close the curtains, the ever-lightening sky becoming painfully bright to his eyes. He undressed and joined Caitlin in bed. She had hardly moved since he left her almost eight hours ago, one arm under the pillow, one arm stretched out.
*She sleeps like she makes love,* he mused, *with total abandon.* Instinctively, she reached out for him, draping one arm over his chest. He took her fingers and kissed them, drawing a smile from her.
That was all he would do until she woke up. It would be soon, she rose with the sun.
Carefully, he ran a hand through her hair and down her arm, his arm curving protectively around her. She murmured in her sleep, snuggling closer. The dark circles under her eyes not quite disappearing as sleep smoothed out her face, dispatching the worries of the day.
He had his own worries about her. Worries that sleep would not get rid of. She worked too hard. The paper and the lawsuit, draining the life from her, taking the sparkle from her eyes, the blush from her cheeks. Not that she would ever tell him that, that wasn't her style. Nor would she ever slow down even if it did kill her. Which is exactly what would happen if she didn't slow down. One day she would just... He couldn't bear the thought of that happening to her.
He stroked her hair, softly, absently, his mind twisting around the problem. A smile appeared as a solution took shape, she would not be happy with him for 'interfering' but she would have no choice.
Shortly after he joined her, she woke, yawning and stretching.
"Good morning." He said, quietly, his face inches from hers.
"It is, isn't?" She replied, dropping a sleepy kiss on his shoulder. "You're spoiling me, you know."
"I certainly hope so."
She pillowed her head on his shoulders, running her fingers over his chest, recommitting each dip and hollow to memory. He breathed out and shut his eyes.
Her lips followed her fingers, dropping kisses down his shoulder, across his chest, down his stomach.
"I could get used to this." she said, draping herself across him.
He opened his eyes. "It's my winning personality, isn't it?"
She laughed, her lips nibbling on his when she finished. "It's something." she murmured. "You know, last night, I was just going to take a shower and go to bed."
"You did take a shower and go to bed, unfortunately."
He replied.
"Sorry about that. I have this boyfriend that can't keep his hands to himself." She kissed him. "Wears me out."
"Running around on me, huh?" His hands skimmed up her back, sending feathers of desire running through her.
"Never." She straddled him, gripping his shoulders, her eyes darkening with passion. "I can't replace what you do to me or for me." She lowered her lips, catching him in a passionate kiss. His hands came around her, holding her close, deeping the kiss.
"You've turned me into some kind of creature." she said with a laugh, running her fingers through his hair.
"What do you mean?" he asked, his own eyes smoldering with desire.
"I could lie in bed with you all day. And you dare accuse me of being a workaholic?"
His hand slid down her back. "If it weren't for me, you'd be at work now."
"Speaking of which, what time is it? I do have to go in today."
His hands roamed down to her buttocks. "It's 4:06."
The lie rolled off his tongue, easily. She would never know. "Are you really needed today?"
Her eyes closed as his hands roamed over her sensitive flesh, a shudder rippling though her. "Yes, I am needed today. I have..." She gasped, his hands making her intentions evaporate.
He moved her hips to match his, sliding in, watching her face come alive, her body arching to take him in all the way, her eyes fluttering shut as he began.
There were more important things than work at that moment.

~~~~~~~~

Caitlin awoke, one piece at a time, stretching and wincing as her muscles protested her latest lovemaking with Julian. Still sprawled across him, she blearily peered at the clock on the bedside table, shaking her head when the numbers refused to make sense. It couldn't possibly be 11:30. He wouldn't do that to her.
Of course he would.
"You jerk!" she snapped, slugging him in the shoulder. "You let me oversleep! I should have been at the paper hours ago." She slid to the edge of the bed, already plotting the fastest route to get there.
Julian came awake, sat up and grabbed her. He
wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her back down with him.
"Julian! Let me go! I have to go to work." She said.
He let her struggle for a few moments until she realized it was futile and stopped.
"You are not going in today." He whispered. "You need a break."
"Says who?" Her struggling over, she plotted revenge against him.
"Says I." He replied. "The paper is going to be printed whether you are there or not."
"That's not the point." she said.
"That's completely the point." He replied, tightening his grip. "You're working too hard. You never take a day off, you never take a vacation. You don't even like to leave work early. You've got to slow down."
She elbowed him in the side, hoping to break free. He grunted but did not let go.
"Keep struggling, Caitlin. You can't avoid the truth."
"You promoted me because I work hard. Or was that just a story you made up?"
"I did promote you because you work hard, but you're working too hard now. You go in early, you leave late. Yes, I know all about it. You think you're the only person who stays there after five? You don't go to bed until after midnight most nights. When you do sleep, you toss and turn." His voice softened to a whisper. "I'm worried that the city's youngest editor is going to be the city's youngest dead editor. I know what burnout looks like, that's where you're headed."
"I relax." She protested. "I slow down. You slow me down, you relax me."
He laughed, the resulting vibration quaking through Caitlin. "You relax me too." He said. "But I know when to stop and back off. When was the last time you took a day off?"
"Last week." she answered smugly, remembering the dentist's appointment.
"Wrong. You came in for a few hours and then left.
The last time?"
How did he know that? Defeated, she said. "So, it's been a while."
"What about a vacation?"
She did not reply.
"That's what I thought. The strange thing is I think you know you're headed for a burnout but you're not doing anything about it."
"OK. Any suggestions, doctor?"
"Yes." He nibbled on her ear. "A week's worth of pampering should do the trick."
"A week!" She swallowed, sensations rippling through her.
"At least." He paused. "I don't want to come in some time and find you dead on the floor."
"You're overreacting."
"Am I? You fell asleep on me before we got to the restaurant and that was only two days ago. Last night, you were asleep by 10:30 and you slept until 6:30 and then you slept another five hours. What does that tell you?"
"That I could sell this story to the talk-show circuit. 'Man kidnaps girlfriend because she's a workaholic'." She grumbled.
"Don't forget to cut me in on the profit." His voice light before returning to his original topic. "I had a business partner, years ago, more of a workaholic than you, if you can believe that. He never took time off, he never left early, never took a vacation. Want to guess what happened to him?"
"He's the chairman of a Fortune 500 company worth billions of dollars?"
"You're funny when you're annoyed." His hands skimmed up to just below her breasts. "He dropped dead. His secretary came in one day and found him dead on the floor. He'd had a heart attack the night before."
"This guilt trip is not working."
"His secretary sobbed in my arms as the paramedics came and took him away. She felt so guilty for leaving him the night before. Maybe if she had stayed, maybe she could have gotten him to leave with her but she was tired and she left."
"Your point is?"
"Do you really want to do that to Megan? I don't think she deserves that."
"So nice of you to think of her."
"Somebody has to. You don't."
"Excuse me?!"
"You heard me. You have got to be the only one who doesn't hear the whispers around that office."
That stung.
"What are you talking about?"
"Did you know that there is an office pool betting on if you're going to take a vacation this year?"
No, she didn't. Was she really that blind to her own problems? "How do you know?"
"I have my sources. Honestly, what do you think is going to happen if you're not there?"
"What is my staff going to think?"
"That you're taking a well-deserved day-off. That and, somebody down in Legal is going to be very happy." His fingers grazed her breasts. "Let it go."
He whispered. "Let it go."
Her eyes drooped shut again as his fingers wandered across her, a shudder sweeping through her. It would be so easy.
"I can't." she moaned, wishing she could.
"Why not?" His lips were doing wondrous things to her earlobe.
She swallowed. "I have a speech to give at Durand Hall today. At two. It's for the AJA, their monthly meeting."
He frowned. "The what?"
"The AJA. American Journalism Association. I'm amazed you don't know." She bit back a gasp as his fingers traveled higher. "I can't cancel. They hardly ever...ask a woman editor to speak to them. I absolutely... can't cancel."
He paused. "All right. I'll let you go. On two conditions."
"What?"
"I'm going with you and you will return to the mansion with me after you are done."
"What?! You can not..." She stiffened, her body quivering under his fingers.
"That's the deal. I don't have to let you go. I could stay here all day." His lips grazed her earlobe and nibbled on her neck. "What about you?"
She shut her eyes and swallowed before nodding. How did he do this to her?
"All right. What choice do I have?"
"I am so glad you've seen things my way. Now, we have a little bit of time before we go..." He shifted her so she was under him. "I know just how to spend
it."


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

Despite her grumbling, Caitlin did not mind staying at the mansion, that much. She did not have to wait for the water to get hot when she took a shower, she never had to look for a fax machine, even at 2 a.m.,
her every whim was catered to and, best of all, Julian was there.
She was happy and comfortable and...
She missed her cozy, little house, she missed Lion, she missed being in control of her own life. As concerned and charming and gentle as he was was, Julian had a protective streak a mile long when it came to her.
If she was honest with herself, she would admit that she enjoyed being taken care of, sometimes. She was used to doing for herself and she did not like that having that control taken away from her, no matter how well-intentioned.
Early the next morning, Caitlin slipped out of bed and went in search of coffee, plus a little tv. From the start of her vacation, Julian had restricted her to only two cups of coffee and no tv whatsoever.
"You're acting like my mother." she grumbled.
"Your mother would be shocked at the way you live."
He returned. "Caffeine makes you jumpy and there's nothing but junk on tv anyway."
That's what he thought. Two could play his little game.
Feeling not unlike a sneak thief, she padded down the carpeted hallway, headed straight for the kitchen. If her luck held and no one using the kitchen, she could be done and back with Julian before he knew it.
Her luck held as far as the kitchen being empty but not in regards to coffee, a short hunt turning up coffee cups but no coffee. Undaunted, she searched a second time, picking the room apart with fervor that surprised even herself. Maybe, she did need to cut back. Maybe not.
Jackpot. The coffee had been carefully placed in the very back of the pantry just enough out of the way to be missed on a once over.
"Never underestimate the power of a caffeine addict."
she muttered, plucking her prize from its hiding place.
It look her longer than she liked. The coffee had to be brewed, not microwaved but finally it was ready.
With a sigh, she settled into a kitchen chair and took that all important first sip. She closed her eyes and savored it. Pure Heaven.
When she opened her eyes again, they fell on a tiny black and white tv tucked away against the wall, next to a row of containers. An evil smile danced across her face, she had missed television.
A flick of its switch and the set came to life. The early morning news on KHMX Channel Seven was just finishing and, as she settled back into her chair, the opening credits for San Francisco Today rolled across the screen. Coffee and television, the stuff of civilization.
Her back to the door, Caitlin did not realize that Julian had been standing there, watching her until he bent down to hug her. She started but relaxed almost immediately once she knew who it was.
"What did I tell you about caffeine?" he asked, wrapping his arms around her.
"That's not what made me jump." she replied, "You like sneaking up on me, admit it."
"I wouldn't have to, if you would stay in one place."
His lips traced a path down her neck to her collarbone. "You could tell me where you were going."
"You could be easier to wake." She relaxed into his arms, rolling her head to one side to give him more room.
"You just wanted to sneak off. Couldn't resist the pull of the coffee, could you?"
He came around and sat next to her. "No, wait, I've got it. I'm boring you, that's it, isn't it?"
"Absolutely not. You've been wonderful."
"And yet, you abandon me for a cup of coffee and San Francisco Today. I told you there was nothing but junk on television."
"I happen to like junk on tv. I don't have to think when I watch it."
He shook his head and affected a wounded manner. "I try so hard to introduce a little culture in your life and this is what I get."
"You do a very good job." She replied, patting his hand. "But a person can not live by opera alone."
"I hope not. You'd be bored stiff."
"I saw your name on San Francisco Today a couple of times before I went to interview you. In fact, that's why I wanted to interview you. I wanted to know the truth." She said, sipping her coffee.
"You're serious?"
She nodded.
"Caitlin, San Francisco Today is the National Enquirer of television. It's dreck. No one believes anything on it."
"Exactly. There was so much stuff out there about you that probably wasn't true, I wanted to find out what was true."
For once in his life, Julian was speechless. He had worked very hard to cultivate the image broadcast on television and in the newspapers and she had seen right through it.
"You don't have to look so shocked."
"But I am."
"Look, would you rather have the world base their opinion about you on garbage or on a well-researched, well-written article in a respected newspaper?"
Before he could answer, the television said Julian's name. Curious, they both looked at the set and the perfectly coiffed reporter.
"Millionaire industrialist Julian Luna has been spotted in company of San Francisco's youngest city editor."
Julian groaned. "Maybe you should reprint that article."
Caitlin's eyes popped open before covering her face with her hands. "Oh, no."
She watched through her fingers as a series of pictures of Julian and Caitlin, together, flashed across the screen, the reporter continuing with her report.
"At this point, it is unclear as to exactly what the relationship between the two is but if these pictures are any indication, perhaps love has finally found one of this cities most mysterious citizens."
A picture of Julian kissing Caitlin flashed across the screen.
"Apparently, Mr. Luna has no qualms about showing his affection in public and, curiously, the relationship between Mr. Luna and Miss Byrne appears to have begun *after* her promotion to city editor of the San Francisco Times. A paper, sources tell us, is owned by Mr. Luna."
Another groan from Caitlin.
"Did Mr. Luna have a hand in the promotion?
Possibly. What ever the case, he definitely, believes in promoting from within." The reporter disappeared from the screen, replaced by a commercial.
It was Julian, who switched off the television, plunging the kitchen into silence.
"Are you all right?" He asked.
Caitlin, her hands still covering her face, nodded.
She dropped her hands to her sides and said "I supposed I should have seen this coming. I hit them and they hit back. That's what I get for reporting the truth."
Julian only half-believed her brave words, especially after looking at her face and the unshed tears in her eyes. Caitlin identified herself through her job and if there was even the slightest hint that she had not earned her place as city editor... It displeased him to see her this upset.
For the second time in ten minutes, words failed him, then he said "You know none of that is true. They're just making stuff up."
"Are they? You did give me the job, didn't you?"
"Caitlin," Julian crossed his arms. "we have been through this before. I gave you nothing. I promoted you because you were the best person for the job. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
She did not reply.
"I will say that I found you intriguing."
"How so?"
"You were the first reporter that had ever dared to come and speak to me face to face. Every other newspaper, magazine and television show had been stonewalled by my staff and I'm sure you were too but it didn't stop you. You wouldn't take 'no' for an answer and, then, you wouldn't let me get away with anything."
"That's only because you wouldn't answer most of my questions."
"I have to keep some secrets. Seriously, this report will not be allowed to stand."
Caitlin looked deep into Julian's eyes and was a little afraid by what she saw. He could be so protective at times, it was frightening.
She took his hand in hers and said "As long as you stay on the correct side of the law, you may do whatever you want to get that story retracted."
"I'll remind of you that when it is." He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him. Neither said anything for a long moment until Jeffrey appeared in the doorway.
"There is a reporter from the Los Angles Times on the phone." Jeffrey said. " I believe that he is calling in regards to your supposed relationship with Miss Byrne. Any comments?"
Julian looked at him. "No comments to any media, especially the Times."
The Times was owned by Cyrus, Brujah Prince of Los Angles. He must be savoring this moment. Julian had wondered when the phone call from him would come.
"Come with me." He said, standing and taking Caitlin by the hand. "We have work to do."

~~~~~~

The third day of Caitlin's enforced vacation, Julian allowed her to leave the mansion. Not by herself, of course, but in the company of Marta Tremaine, wife of his brood brother, Alec. After the women had departed, Julian invited Alec into his study to seek his counsel on various problems, foremost, Caitlin and the attacks on her.
Julian poured both of them a cognac and, when they were comfortably settled, laid out the problem to Alec.
"This is beyond the pale, Alec. I'm used to being smeared in the press but now, they've dragged Caitlin into this."
"Of course they did. They want a retraction. You're too powerful. Caitlin is the weak link, or so they thought."
A touch of a smile graced Julian's face.
"They don't know her very well."
"Of course, there could be another reason."
Julian looked up. "Yes?"
"Someone could be trying to force you into doing something - less than legal. It might be an attempt to trap you."
Julian's face clouded. "I know. That's one of the reason's I insisted Caitlin move in here. There would be no chance of an altercation at her house with the neighbors watching. Not the first time I've been glad of these stone walls."
He waved the brandy bottle at Alec, who shook his head 'no' before pouring another snifter and returning to his chair. He did not speak further on the matter. The two men sat in companionable silence until Julian spoke, again.
"How long have you and Marta been together?" He asked.
Alec smiled slightly. "Almost as long as you've been Prince. We could never have married without your approval."
Julian nodded. "You wouldn't change a thing, would you?"
"No, why do you ask?"
"I want to know what to get you for your next anniversary."
"Just keep the city under your control. That's enough of a gift."
Julian grinned and tipped back his snifter to finish it.
Alec, wise to his brood brother's moods, waited for the other shoe to drop.
"What do you think the reaction would be, were I to marry Caitlin?"
Alec was not quite as surprised as he thought he would be. He had seen the looks between Julian and Caitlin, seen the touches, it was almost identical to what he and Marta had been like.
"I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not. Be very careful Julian. Caitlin will be in a different
position than Marta. You'll be her only protector among us."
Julian nodded. "I realize that but tell me how you see the clans reacting."
"The Brujah will be one of the biggest problems. If the Prince is violating the first rule of the Masquerade, then why should they be forced to follow the rules. Cameron will crucify you with it. The Gangrel would do what suits them best. However, since their Primogen is loyal to you, they would follow him.
The Nosferatu would abstain from such a discussion.
But you know that Daedalus would disapprove of this, don't you?"
Another nod from Julian.
"The Torreador would either be completely support you or throw in with the Brujah. I think that depends completely on Lillie's mood that day."
Julian chuckled and said, "You've said nothing about our clan."
"Clan Ventrue likes having Princely power; there is no one among us strong enough to take over from you.
They will accept it for that reason alone. To go against you would split the Clan and lose power. I will back you 100 percent but that may not be enough.
You must also take into account what the other Princes will think and what they will do. Is she that important to you?"
Julian turned in his chair and looked at Alec. "Is Marta that important to you?"
Alex nodded "Touche. Still, you have a problem.
Granted, the Prince is given leeway where the rest of us are not but I don't think it extends to this.
Julian, you will be violating the most important tenant of the Masquerade. If you don't follow the rules, why should anyone else?"
"It wouldn't be a violation if she didn't know."
Alec groaned, stood and said. "Do you honestly think if you married her you could keep her away from this? She must be told, Julian. She must understand the danger, all of it. Otherwise she won't survive."
"I'm afraid if I tell her, she'll leave."
There, he finally said it.
"Julian, you can't think of marrying her, if you don't trust her feelings." Alec stood and started to pace. "The only way the Clans will accept it will be if she chooses you *knowing* what you are. You have to tell her. If she reacts badly, wipe her memory of it and don't think of it again. For all our sakes."
Julian lounged in his chair, watching Alec prowl the study. "I don't know if I can do it. I really don't."
Alec sat down again. "You have to. If you want to keep her, you have to."
Julian nodded and said "What if I were to step down, would you be Prince?"
"Don't even suggest that. To anyone. If you marry her, you have to be the Prince. It's going to be the only way to protect her."
From out in the hallway came the sound of footsteps and women talking, the rustling of shopping bags accompanying their chatter.
Alec looked at his watch, then looked at Julian.
"They weren't gone long. Mustn't have been that much to keep their interest. Tell her now, before you lose your nerve. Just tell her."
He rose and went out into the hall to speak to the women, leaving Julian with his thoughts for a few moments. In the hallway, Marta and Caitlin were just handing their coats to Jeffrey, the shopping bags spread at their feet, silent testimony to shopping that had occurred.
"So, did you leave *any* money in the bank?" Alec asked the two women.
"A little." Marta replied with a laugh. "You should know better then to send two women into San Francisco with a credit card."
"You couldn't have done too much damage, you weren't gone that long." Alec replied, wrapping his arms around Marta, kissing her.
"We did enough." Marta said, returning the kiss.
"Did you and Julian finish what you needed too?"
Something in her husband's manor bothered her but she couldn't put her finger on it.
"Yes, he'll be out in just a moment. Did you have a good time?" He asked Caitlin.
"Of course. Not only did I get to shop with a clear conscience, I was also free, for a couple of hours anyway."
"I warned her that if she attempted to escape, she'll never reach the front door." Marta replied.
"I decided not to push my luck. I have the feeling that when Marta says something, she means it."
"You would be right on that." Alec said.
Behind him, the study doors opened and Julian walked out. He said hello to Marta, kissed her on the cheek, then walked over to Caitlin, kissed her and took her hand in his.
"We need to talk." He said, leading her into his study. Surprised, Caitlin followed without saying a word.
As the doors shut behind the two, Marta looked deep into Alec's eyes and said "What is going on?"
He cut right to the chase. "He wants to marry her.
He's going to tell her the truth and see how she reacts."
"And if it's badly?"
"We may want to stick around."

* * *

Inside the study, Julian led Caitlin to the chair Alec had been using, then sat back down in his chair.
He did not speak right away. He couldn't. He didn't know how to start. He couldn't just blurt it out, he had to think of a better way. It was only with Alec's goading that he had even contemplated telling her but now, with Caitlin sitting there, inches from him. He couldn't do it.
Caitlin waited, on the edge of her seat, vascilating between fear and curiosity. She had seen many of Julian's moods but had never seen him this....terrified. He was almost a completely different person.
"Julian?" She asked, reaching out to him. "Whatever it is, you can tell me."
He took her hand in his and squeezed it. "Do you remember when you told me that if I were hiding something from you, even for your own good, you wanted to know what it was."
Her brow wrinkled and she stared at him. "Yes?"
He swallowed. "I was born in New Orleans in 1830.
I've been Kindred since 1857. You would call me a vampire. Do you remember the family graves I showed you in Manzanita? The one with my name on it is empty."
She continued to stare at him. Was he serious?
He lowered his head for a moment and when he raised it, he allowed the human mask to slip just enough to let her see the creature beneath, the eyes, the fangs.
Her eyes popped open in surprise and she sucked in a breath to keep from screaming. The creature was gone as quickly as it came but it was enough.
Much like a record needle finding the groove on a record, images flooded into her mind. Men with knives, wolves, Julian bleeding to death....
She rose from her chair and stumbled backwards, the study suddenly too small for the both of them. The images kept coming. She pressed both hands to her head. "My head hurts. Why?"
"You're remembering what happened in Manzanita. We were attacked and I confessed everything to you because I thought I was dying. I almost did but you saved me. I had to protect you, so I pushed the memory out of your conscience mind. That's a power all Kindred have."
"Why are you telling me this?" Caitlin asked, careful to keep her distance from him.
"You need to know. You need to know everything about me. There can be no secrets."
"Why?"
"I'm in love with you, Caitlin. I can't hide this from you any more."
"So all the times you told me it was only a dream...it wasn't?" Her fear twisted into white-hot anger as she listened to him.
"It had to protect you." He said.
"You bastard...I save you and you make me forget?!"
Her voice barely a whisper.
Again, he shook his head. What else could he do? Her entire world turned upside down, she could only stare at the man she thought she knew. In the space of a few moments, everything she knew was...gone.
"Anything else to say?" She ground out.
He looked up into her face, the anger and fear radiating from her was like a physical slap to his face.
"Anything else?"
"I had no choice." His quiet manner did nothing to help her.
"There is *always* a choice, Julian. You just didn't look for it. May I leave now?"
"I have to have your promise first."
"What promise?"
"That you won't tell anyone about us. That our secret will be safe with you. And that you won't discuss this with anyone."
She started to laugh. "Do you think anyone would believe me?" she asked, then seeing the look on his face, added "What if I don't?"
"I'll have to wipe your memory again." As he spoke the words, a part of him died inside. "I'd rather not. I'd rather accept your word. I have risked everything for you, Caitlin. I have risked all the Kindred of the city. If other humans knew we existed, we would be hunted down and destroyed."
Caitlin was speechless. What could she say? How could he demand such a promise from her? She closed her eyes for a long moment, wishing everything to return to the way it was before but she knew that would not happen.
"Your people are safe, Julian." she said "But I need to be alone."
Julian nodded, desperate to pull her into his arms but that would not happen, not after what he just said. Trembling, Caitlin left the study and reached the front door, unshed tears almost blinding her. She never noticed Marta and Alec sitting in the hall.

~~~~~

She didn't know how she got home. She had no idea of the route she had taken. No clue of how she had managed not to get into a wreck. She wasn't even sure if she had shut the car door or the front door of the house. All she knew was that an all-encompasing pain started at her heart and spread outward. She stumbled up the stairs to her bedroom and fell onto the bed, hot tears finally escaping from her, the sobs wracking her body. How could he do this to her? She had finally trusted someone and...she cried for the trust that was gone. For the lover she thought she had found. For the lover she had become.

Why? Why did this happen to her? This was the second time she had been betrayed. Would she ever learn?

Lion appeared next to her, concerned, rubbing his head against hers but was all he could do as the tears flowed until she was finally spent, and then, too exhausted to even change clothes, she crawled under the sheets and slept.

* * *

The next day, Caitlin, groggy and emotionally hung-over from the previous day called in sick. She lay in bed, not bothering with the lights, the pain of Julian's betrayal refusing to die. Maybe if she left San Francisco, she could start somewhere else.

No, she had already done that once. She wasn't about to run from another city. She was an adult, she could handle it. A fresh cascade of tears broke lose in her at the thought of not seeing Julian again. Who was she kidding?

Her stomach growled to remind her that she hadn't eaten in at least twelve hours. Not that she could do anything about it. She didn't have any food in the house, she didn't think. Lion jumped up on the bed and stared at her.
"Lion, you could've said something." she said.

"Like, Caitlin, he's not what he seems. Hmmm? Why didn't you say anything?" She rubbed his head and petted his back. He purred and purred, then jumped down and left. He returned moments later and it dawned her that she hadn't fed him yet.

"All right, I'm coming. " She slid out of bed and changed clothes before walking downstairs.

"You're the only one who cares, Lion." she murmured as she ladled the food from a can into a dish labeled Cat From Hell. She had just put the dish on the floor when the front door bell rang.

"Caitlin? It's Marta Tremaine." A voice said through the door. "I need to talk to you."

Marta? Wasn't that Alec's wife? What was she.....?

Caitlin warily approached the door, the meaning of Marta visit dawning on her. Well, she wouldn't be here long. Caitlin was not in the mood to hear any explanations about anything.

"Caitlin?"

"I'm coming!" Caitlin shouted at the door. She opened the door just enough to talk to Marta. "Marta, you'll excuse me if I don't want to talk to anyone right now." She moved to shut the door but Marta put her foot in the way as well as her hand.

"We have to talk." Marta said. "He's in as much pain as you are."

With Marta's dark concerned-filled eyes resting on her, Caitlin didn't have the energy to slam the door in the other woman's face. She simply turned from the door and went back into the house. Marta followed, shutting the door behind her.

Caitlin dropped onto the couch and pulled her knees up to her chest. She knew she looked horrible and really didn't care. She didn't care about a lot at that moment.

Marta took the armchair closest to her and studied Caitlin before saying anything. Dark circles under her eyes, which were red from crying. Her usually neat hair a mess. Her whole attitude a mess. Marta had seen it all before. She had gone through it with Alec not too long ago.

Caitlin, desperate to be alone, tried to be as stoic as possible but it didn't work. Within moments of sitting down, she was in tears again. Marta did not disturb her. She simply waited for her to finish. At length, her sobs trailed off and she was able to compose herself, with the help of some tissues from Marta.

"I don't know how he could do it and never say anything." Caitlin said, her throat raw and dry from the crying.

"Do what, dear?"

"He went into my mind and made me forget things. He violated me. How does he expect me to ever trust him again?"

Marta frowned, unaware that Julian had erased parts of Caitlin's memory. "Caitlin, he had to protect you."

"That's what he said. Protect me from what?"

"From his kind, of course. You did hear the part about his being Kindred, didn't you?"

"Of course." Caitlin said, frowning. "And now, it all makes some weird kind of sense, I guess and I can accept that. I can accept almost anything. But, he violated me, he might as well have raped me. How am I to forgive that?"

"I can't answer that."

"He professes his undying love but he admits that he was in my head! He claims he hasn't done it in a very long time but how would I know?"

"You would know. Just like you knew tonight. The mind can only take so much tinkering before it rebels."

Caitlin frowned, another piece falling into place.

"Wait a minute, you just said 'the part about his being what? Kindred?' You know what he is?"

"Yes, of course."

"Are you one?" Caitlin stood up and stared suspiciously at Marta.

"No, I'm mortal, just like you."


Marta didn't think this was a good time to bring up the Garou. Only one supernatural creature at a time.

"Then how....?"

"Alec is one. He and Julian are, forgive me, blood brothers."

That brought a giggle from Caitlin, despite the seriousness of the situation. "He didn't tell me he had any relatives."

Marta shook her head. "Julian and Alec were turned into Kindred, vampires, by the same person."

Caitlin collapsed on the couch again and put her head in her hands. "I don't know what to do. I'm so furious with him right now. How can I ever talk to him again without wondering if he's going to make me forget what I just said."

"Julian would not make you forget unless he absolutely had to and, even then, he would hesitate. He does not want to hurt you, believe it or not."

Caitlin scrubbed at her face with the now-tattered tissue. "I'm not so sure about that. He threatened to wipe my mind again, if I told anyone what he was.
Like anyone would believe me. I would like to think that he wouldn't hurt me but I don't know. And...and how can I get past the fact that he violated with me. What am I supposed to do about that?"

"Let me ask you this. Do you love him? If you do, do you love him enough to get past this? I can guarantee that now that you know, he will probably never do it again, for the simple fact that he has no reason to."
Caitlin sighed. "I do love him, that's what scares me so much. I finally fall in love with a man and he's not a man, he's a vampire. God, I feel Iike I'm in some bad 'B'- movie and I'm just waiting for the
credits to roll."

Marta smiled and said "I understand. Believe it or not, I understand. If you truly love him, you will be able to get through this. He loves you Caitlin, he does. I know he has the reputation of a ladies man but those were just flings. It's the real deal with you. You would hurt him greatly if you left now."

Caitlin nodded but did not reply.

"If you truly love him, you'll get past this."

Caitlin nodded again.

"And, believe it or not, you have done what no one else has been able to do. You have brought Julian Luna to his knees. Many, many people would revel in such a sight. Whatever you are going to do, be quick about it. He doesn't deserve to suffer and neither do you."

The two women sat in silence for a long, long time.

Lion made a pass through to see if food was forthcoming but when none appeared, he disappeared back into the kitchen.

"Is Alec worth it?" Caitlin finally said.

"Oh, yes." Marta replied, without hesitation. "But you knew the answer to that already." She stood. "I should go now. I just didn't want you to think you were all alone. I'd be happy to talk or listen or whatever you need."

Caitlin nodded and the pain lessened a little bit.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

* * *

In his study, Julian sat in his chair, the fire having burned out almost twelve hours ago. He hadn't moved when Alec came to talk to him or when Jeffrey came to check on him. He simply sat there,
too...stunned to move. Any attempts to get him to move or Feed or do something were met with a frosty glare and finally, he was left alone.
He knew he shouldn't have told her but what choice did he have? Alec was right, how could he marry her when she knew next to nothing about him?
It was the pain that kept him rooted to the chair.

The pain in her eyes, the pain caused by his words.

He hadn't felt such pain since Evelyn's death. He snorted derisively. It seemed that his greatest loves caused him his greatest pain. Wouldn't the poets have a field day with that?
So deep in his mourning, he did not hear the knock on the door, nor did he hear the door open or the footfalls across the floor. It was only when he felt the touch on his arm that he bothered to look up into Caitlin's shocked face.
Caitlin was ready for almost anything. Anything, that is, except for the pain and utter desolation on Julian's normally handsome face. In the dim light of the study, Caitlin could just barely make out tear tracks on his cheeks.
Despite her anger toward him, she would have given anything to erase them.

"Caitlin?" Julian said, his voice raspy and dry.

"You came back. Why?"

She did not answer for a long time. When she did, it was without the anger she thought would never leave.

"You must realize that I can not forgive you right now. You violated me and I don't care what the reason was. It will take me a some time to trust you again."

"I understand." He replied. "Have you come to say good-bye?"

She shook her head, her anger cooling further still.

"I would like to stay, if you don't mind."

"No, not at all. It would be my pleasure if you stayed."

She squatted down before him and took him in her arms. "Just remember this, you ever try to get in my mind again, I'll stake you myself, understand?"

He laughed and said "Yes, yes, I do."
~~~~~~~

EPILOGUE

ONE MONTH LATER

The past six weeks had been the most turbulent of Caitlin's life. The city hall bribery story, the attacks on her, Julian's revelation to her of what he was. All of it had conspired to make her believe that she was losing her grip on reality.
Since Julian's confession that he was a vampire, she had been seeing them behind every tree. Everyone who looked even the tiniest bit off, she suspected of being a vampire.
As for Julian himself, well, that was a whole different matter. He had been very kind and solicitous in the past month. He had not pushed her into anything or forced to do anything she did not want to. He had released the bodyguard from her, even though she knew he hated doing it. She could come and go from the mansion as she pleased. She could stay at her own home as much as she wanted, although she had no desire to do so now. There was nothing waiting for her. Shortly after Julian's revelation to her, Lion had taken it upon himself to find a new home with Mrs. Henshaw, her next door neighbor; both were deeply in love with the other. It was like he knew what she should be with Julian.
She, herself, was slowly begining to trust him again.

After his confession, she had moved to another room in the house and now, she was ready to move back, if he would have her.
Why had she returned to the mansion instead of fleeing at the first chance? It was partly Marta and what she said but what had truly stuck in her soul was that look of utter desolation she had seen on his face. She couldn't leave him like that, no matter what he had done. If she had and he had done something to himself, she would always feel that she could have prevented it, if only she had been there and while that was probably not true, it made her feel better. It was a big house anyway and she could avoid him all day and all night if she wanted to.
A criminal case arising out of her bribery story was set to begin next week, her story, the key piece of evidence. Caitlin had been just as surprised as everyone at the speed with which the case had been put together. It was probably because it was an election year.
As the case began, the harassment against her came to a stop. It hadn't amounted to much after the story on 'San Francisco Today' but she was happy to see it come to an end.
She saw Marta two or three times a week and through her, gained a much needed understanding of the Kindred world, a world not so terrifying to her anymore.

Late one night, she knocked on the door to Julian's study and went in. He looked up from his work, genuinely pleased to see her. He had aged, somewhat, right in front of her eyes, now that he no longer had to hide what he was from her but he was still the most attractive 172 year old man she had even seen.

"Come to give me a break?" He asked, setting his pen down.

"I came to see what you were up to. I have finished for the evening." She replied, walking up to his desk.

"Mergers, acquisitions, affairs of state." He replied.

He was tired. She saw that now. He must not have been sleeping well. This whole mess had been as hard on him as it had been on her.

"Do you need a break?" She asked.

"I think I do." He smiled up at her, the easy give and take between them coming back.

"Let me see what I can't do." She replied, stepping behind his chair. "First off, loosen your tie, you're cutting off whatever circulation you might still have."
He did as he was told.
"Second, lean back."

Again, he did as he was told. Caitlin reached over the chair and began to massage his shoulders and his neck, lessons from various people over the years coming back to her.
He grunted in pleasure, surprised at how stiff and sore he was.

"Tell me, how does an undead person have sore muscles?"

"I don't know what to tell you there, I didn't think it was possible."

She worked on him for a few minutes, lulling him into a light sleep. "Good night, I'll see you later." She whispered into his ear.

She had made it as far as the door when Jeffrey knocked and walked in, Julian snapped wide awake at the noise. She made a face at Jeffrey but said nothing.

"Sir, Cash needs to see you." Jeffrey said.

Julian nodded and said "Send him in." To Caitlin, he said "We have not finished yet."

She only smiled and gestured at his tie.

Cash came in as he finished fixing it. "What's wrong?" Julian asked.

Cash looked at Caitlin and hesitated for a moment.

Fortunately, Julian would understand without details.

"Gloria is gone. Josef and I woke up this evening and she was gone."

"You've searched the grounds, of course?"

Cash nodded. "She's gone, but I'm not worried. She can take care of herself. But I thought you might like to know."

"Yes, I would. Thank you."

Cash nodded and left. Caitlin was about to follow his lead when Julian caught her at the door.

"You were going to put me to sleep and leave, weren't you?" He asked.

She nodded. "I'm not the only one who has had a hard time sleeping."

He smiled. "Have I told you how blessed I am to have you?"

"Not recently."

Without thinking, his lips descended on hers, craving her kiss like no other. It had been a long time since he had kissed her and they both had missed it.

"I do appreciate you." He whispered into her ear when he finished, his arms wrapped tight about her. "And I have missed you."

"I missed you." She replied, relaxing into the familiar embrace. She had missed him, the way he held her, the way he smelled, that little hollow in his collarbone. She had missed all of it.

"You don't know how sorry I am about what I did."

"Yes, I do." She said, into his jacket. "I do."

Another knock.

Julian released as he said, through the door, "Yes?"

It was Jeffrey. Again.

"Sir, there is something on the television you might want to see."

Curious, Julian opened the door. "See what?"

Wordlessly, Jeffrey walked to a small cabinet on the back wall and opened a door, revealing a small color television set. He turned it on and selected the proper channel, where a rebroadcast of the late local news was just coming on.

"And in a shocker today, Councilman Cornelius Vandersteck admits to terrorizing San Francisco Times City Editor Caitln Byrne in an attempt to get her to retract her story on the City Hall bribery scandal.

The Councilman already embroiled in the bribery scandal admitted late today that he hired people to mug and terrorize Miss Byrne. When that did not work,

he leaked a false story about her supposed relationship to the reclusive Julian Luna."

Video of Councilman Vandersteck flanked by his attorneys, leaving the courthouse, played across the screen as the report continued.

"In addition to bribery charges, the councilman now faces extortion and assault charges. More on this story as it becomes available."

The news switched to the weather and Caitlin *looked* at Julian.

He held up his hands. "I am completely innocent on this one. I haven't had a chance. I've been under your watch."

He was right, as much as she hated to admit it.

"Well, whoever it was," she said, "I thank them."

He smiled and said "As do I."

* * *

Across town, Alec watched the report finish and laughed to himself. It had been ridicously easy to get the councilman to confess to his misdeeds. It was the least he could do for the woman who had made Julian the happiest he had been in the last 50 years.

"What are you watching?" Marta asked, coming up behind him.

"Just the news." he replied.

She came around his chair and looked at him. "I don't want to know, do I?"


Alec smiled. Sometimes it was good *not* to be King.


END

This story was published in July 2000 at http://www.angelfire.com/ns/princejulian/truth.html.

Kindred: The Embraced and all characters are copyright © 1996 Spelling Television Inc.
Vampire: The Masquerade is © 1990-2007 White Wolf Publishing, a division of CCP North America. All rights reserved.