Salutations.

So this is a slight break from my usual blog posts, but recently on my Facebook page, my novel page for Dead Night has received over 100 likes! To celebrate this milestone, I let readers vote on a full chapter to be released from the new version of the book. The winner was Chapter 3, “A Curious Request”.

Just a little disclaimer before I get on with it, this is not the final version of the chapter. It has just gone through my main edit phase, which is just before I send it away to beta readers. The final version may have slight differences, and I apologise if there are any lingering flaws that we haven’t dealt with yet. In fact, if you spot any, feel free to let me know with a friendly comment, it all helps me to make Dead Night a better book! 🙂

Thank you to everyone who voted, everyone who liked the page and all who have supported my crazy literary habits thus far, you are all brilliant!

So, the story so far:

Cybelle DeHamphir, Vampire and Assassin, has just returned to the Assassin’s Guild after an extended period of enforced leave. The death of her close friend and colleague, Theo VanKastle still weighs heavily on her shoulders, but things seem to be getting slowly better now that she can keep busy…though the rest of the guild have a cautious eye on her. Things start to take a strange turn as she happens across someone unusual in Fleet Street, wealthy aristocrat Ava Chimera, and she appears to be troubled…or running from something. She refuses to give any information though, so Cybelle is forced to let her go empty handed.

Not long later, she finds out that her good friend and colleague Avangelene has been looking for her, and by a note left on her doorstep, with good reason. It’s unusual to be summoned back to the Guild so early in the day, and that can only mean trouble…

So without further delay: Dead Night, Chapter 3

“A Curious Request”

Where I didn’t believe in jumping to conclusions, Avangelene’s note was enough to convince me that I wouldn’t like what I would find when I got back to the Guild. I was even sure her being absent from the place was on purpose. So, I decided I was always better safe than sorry, and went to retrieve my most prized swords from upstairs.

The katanas had come into my possession during the brief years I had been running amok in Japan. I liked to call them Scylla and Charybdis, after the legend, since we have this silly tradition about naming our weapons. The two evils, one to kill Vampires, one for Shifters…for when the rapier was just a little too mundane.

They were a little more difficult to hide, but with a longer cape and my specially designed holster, I managed it just fine, and went on my way.

I tried in vain not to let the huge gates clang loudly as I shut them carefully behind me. I had to remove a great deal of the tangled sheet of ivy, in order to get a firm grip on the iron bars.

I caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window as I turned, perfectly disguised.

The streets were still buzzing with life as always, and they would be far after the carriages had reached all their destinations, the pedestrians safe in their houses for afternoon tea. The sky would be darkening soon with the early winter night, and the old lamplighter would emerge from his little house on the corner of the street, and begin to light the gaslights that dotted the twists and turns of the London landscape. I could just spot him actually, locking his door, adjusting the battered hat upon his head, about to make a very early start on immense amount work which lay before him as every night passed.

I slipped unnoticed into the crowd, something I’d had good practice in. I walked the route I had trodden a million times before, although more often at night than in such light. The crowd thinned out gradually as I walked further, soon enough coming to a small, narrow alley that most people were too cautious to go down if they knew it existed; excluding of course, a few desperate beggars, a couple of brave or dim-witted drunks and the odd prostitute. I however feared nothing at all of what may be found at the other end.

Not far from here was my second home, and my little secret, though admittedly not my darkest. I always had to be discreet; slipping around the corner when nobody was looking in my direction. But a shadow, just as things should be.

I was little more than a few minutes’ walk from my destination when a man in ragged clothes approached cautiously, shuffling or limping slightly as if an injury had been inflicted to his left foot, which was neither surprising nor reassuring.

He held out a battered hat hopefully to me as our paths crossed. “Ye looks like a wealthy young lady. Pretty face.” He spoke with less fear than I’d first anticipated, and I could smell the stale, potent stench of ale mixed with tobacco on his breath, even from this distance.

I glanced at his tell-tale eyes and braced myself. Every teacher who had ever taught me to fight had said the same thing: the sword will lie but the eyes cannot. Besides that, from my own extensive experience, I had found that one could never trust a man who smelled of ale.

“Couldn’t spare a little change for a humble old man like meself?” He added after a brief moment, seemingly gaining foolish courage by the second.

Yes…I knew his sort very well, and as much of an annoyance as he was, the combat exercise wouldn’t be unwelcome. He was less a worthy opponent than a pitiful insect in my path, but all the same.

I had the element of surprise, so I decided to use it. I pulled my best disgusted scowl and began to stride off. As I had suspected, the vagrant quickly caught up with me and pressed a small, filthy looking blade to my neck, urging me not to go any further. I stopped abruptly, and strained not to raise an eyebrow in response. Is that really the best a robber can do nowadays? Not even the slightest bit of effort!

“That’s a pretty jewel yer wearing miss.” He commented, obviously admiring his own bravery at this point and clearly eyeing up the silver, tiger lily shaped pendant which hung around my neck. It was hardly something worth surrendering into the filthy hands of an amateur human footpad!

I had already calculated his weak point. Having tired of humouring the pitiful creature, I promptly kicked him in the shin with the heel of my boot, and twisted his wrist until it snapped and he dropped the knife. He staggered backwards, cursing and howling in pain, and I gave a final kick to the knee for good measure. One broken leg, one dislocated knee, one fractured wrist. He wasn’t going anywhere fast.

Drained of his former courage, my assailant scrambled backwards to the wall, almost crawling from his injuries, helpless as a sewer rat cornered by a cat. To drive home my point, I threw back my cloak and unsheathed one of the katanas with a satisfying metallic slide, and smiled as I held it to his own throat.

“If you’re quite finished admiring my jewellery.” I said calmly, and pressed the katana just enough to cause a thin trickle of blood to roll down his neck, “I would rather not soil this perfectly good blade on you, dear sir, so I believe it would be in your best interests to take advantage of the single chance I am about to give you.”

I removed the blade just enough for him to stagger off, not even hazarding a glance over his shoulder as he half ran, half crawled out of sight.

I could have killed him, this city would pay no mind to a fresh corpse in the Thames in the dead of night, but it really wasn’t worth my time. Not when the promises of a more interesting opponent lay in wait at the Guild.

Pathetic I thought, replacing the sword and brushing off my cloak, absolutely pathetic.

Putting my mind back on my destination, I walked purposefully down the now deserted street and towards the familiar, gigantic Guild house. I turned to the back entrance, deciding to check that the horse I had procured the previous night was making itself at home. Besides which, it was further from the foyer, whose bare windows looked out on the street, and as much as the Shield and Cloaker spells kept our secret safe, my mind was easily put on edge. Use of the room had been banned after a short conference on the matter, and Miss Bennett trying out her new explosive recipes in there last week, burning the contents to a crisp. We have had bigger fish to fry recently than redecorating.

To my surprise, I found Emmett by the stables tending to the horses. The mare I had brought home the previous night seemed to be getting acquainted with her new neighbours. Avangelene’s hot tempered Josephine appeared to be sizing her up whilst Lizzie’s pretty white mare, Margot was warming up to her, most likely because Emmett kept feeding them over the fence. Emma kept a handsome young stallion called Bo, who was currently ignoring the whole affair in favour of running length after length of the field with his usual endless energy.

Emmett spotted me after a minute or so and waved me over with a smile (at which point Margot took the opportunity to steal a carrot directly from his pocket). It was odd to see him this content, he had been either infuriating or troubled since my return…in fact, he had been a little off for some time before my departure. He even stopped spending time with the animals for a while, which was rather out of character.

“You left your friend.” He said smiling slightly and stroking the black horse’s nose, feeding her another carrot, “You didn’t tell me about her. She’s eating the others out of food; poor Josephine isn’t taking too kindly to it at all.”

I forgot my purposeful attitude for a moment and walked over to greet the new horse with a sugar cube, offering one to Margot when she appeared to get jealous of the attention. Josephene crept closer at the introduction of sugar.

“I know, she seems to have stuck.” I admitted, “I did need a new mount though after…”

He gave an understanding nod but didn’t pursue that subject any further. “There’s room here at the Guild for her.” He said brightly, “And she’s certainly fit for your work. What’s her name?”

I hadn’t thought about that…my priorities had really been elsewhere. “Perhaps…Rosetta.” I decided after a few moments of thought. It was pretty, and reminded me of another unfortunate who had found themselves at the Assassin’s Guild.

Emmett smiled, giving her a last carrot and murmuring, “There’s a girl, Rosetta.” He turned and gestured to the door, “Anyway, I believe you and I have business to attend to. Shall we?”

“Ah, yes…that.” I realised that I had momentarily forgotten why I was even here, very unprofessional. “Avangelene left me a message that you were looking for me. May I ask what is so concerning that I am requested early?” I also wondered what had taken her so long, seeing as Emmett seemed to still be in one piece and oblivious of his irritated sister’s intentions for him.

“I did ask after you.” He began, taking a moment to consider how was best to word it, “The good news is that we have a job. Under what circumstances though, I don’t know.” He paused at this, and with a wary glance at the door lowered his voice before continuing, “I don’t trust this client if I’m honest with you, something about him just doesn’t sit right.”

Admittedly, his level of concern threw me, but I calmly raised one eyebrow at him with my best sceptical glance and muttered, “When does it ever?”

He only frowned back, seeming unconvinced, but opened the door and let me inside. He immediately proceeded to bolt it behind us in the usual overly defensive fashion.

I walked to the grand hall and glanced around, expecting to see the not uncommon sight of a shady looking figure waiting for us. I was greeted with something else entirely.

“Cybelle!” Called a voice, instantly recognisable.

“Verity?” I replied, smiling a little when I noticed her emerge from the kitchens, the almost always present cup of tea in her hand. Verity was a tall, sharp woman, plenty older than any of the Guild but with the physical appearance of one who had not aged a day over forty five. She always presented herself pristinely, her jet black hair pulled back into a severe bun, not a crease in her dark silk mourning gowns. In fact she had barely any colour to her but for a pair of piercing blue eyes.

Even to one without knowledge of her power, Verity could easily be a very intimidating presence. Older Witches, especially Fey Witches, had that way about them, but Verity was particularly imposing in the wrong company. I, however, could only ever be glad to see her, though I was used to her, she had raised me after all.

She sipped delicately at her tea and gave a rare smile, “I’m glad to see you feeling better, my dear.” She said, “I have not seen you in so long.”

I felt a small pang of guilt at that, though it had been a conscious decision. Verity was busy, and in a business more dangerous than my own; she had enough to worry about with her work in the London Senate and Joint Night Council. Besides, I could hardly bear to have let her see me in such a state…

“Thank you.” I replied, “Though I’m just glad to see things back to normal again…almost.”

For a moment, Verity’s eyes drifted from mine, glancing in the vague direction of a portrait on the wall. It was one of the Guild around two years ago. “Yes…” She murmured thoughtfully, “One must move with the times, as they say. The past is the past.”

“Of course.” I agreed, and shrugged it off.

“Anyway, as I said, we have business to deal with.” Emmett piped up eventually, sensing the awkward pause.

“Yes, yes, of course.” Verity nodded and gestured to the main office. It occurred to me all of a sudden that there was something troubled about her expression. She was a master of hiding it, but I knew her well enough to recognise the slight wariness in her eyes, the way she tapped one long fingernail against the china teacup with a steady rhythm.

As Emmett entered the office, I turned back and frowned at her, but she promptly stopped tapping and looked calmly back, simply waiting for me to follow my colleague.

Something was certainly afoot, and it was not going to be good. Not if it had Verity on edge.

As I walked into the Guild’s office, messy as usual and strewn with used teacups and unimportant documents, a figure rose from his seat and gave a small bow of his head in greeting. He was a very…striking gentleman, pale, clean shaven, slicked back black hair as dark as mine or Verity’s. He had that confident stature, icy eyes and silent way about him that immediately struck me as a Vampire, and a noble one at that, judging by his fine tailored suit and red silk waistcoat. A gold double albert watch chain glinted under his jacket.

In some strange way, he looked almost familiar, but I did not think much of it. I had met many Vampires in my time, and did not care to remember many names or faces.

It wasn’t hard to put two and two together. He was a Senate member, one of Verity’s colleagues. Probably her superior, going by her nerves and the fact that she had personally escorted him here.

“Lord Pierce Hale.” Verity introduced him calmly, “This is Emmett Wright, co-founder of the Assassin’s Guild, and Miss Cybelle DeHamphir, First Class Assassin.”

“Ahh, quite the pleasure.” Lord Hale replied with a smile and shaking Emmett’s hand, making him look extremely uneasy. He had this calm, smooth voice, that was slightly unnerving.

I didn’t like him.

He turned to me next and had the audacity to kiss my hand. The cheek! “You must be the adopted daughter Lady Harman was telling me about. She speaks very highly of you, Miss DeHamphir.”

I certainly didn’t like him.

“Well, I have had a great many things said about me, Sir.” I grumbled in response, and pulled my hand back to fold my arms.

I must have been frowning a little more prominently than I had intended, because Verity was shooting me a look. In hindsight, I probably looked as if I were gazing at a rather slimy toad.

“Forgive me, but Lady Harman tells me that you are a Vampire.” He began…oh, bloody hell, I knew where this was going, “But now that we meet in person, it seems that there is something a little more to you than meets the eye.”

I stopped myself from rolling my eyes and tried to smile (for Verity’s sake). “You are new to us, Lord Hale.” I began to explain, “The Guild is made up of as many hybrids as ordinary Night Walking people. Having a range of abilities makes us extremely efficient Assassins.”

Hale watched me as I spoke, something about his eyes seemed…searching. It was rather an intrusive look. “I understand.” He said thoughtfully, “It’s just that I have not often seen a Sirith Mage. Such a rare specimen you are, my dear.”

I narrowed my eyes at that. As far as I was concerned, I was nobody’s ‘dear’ and I didn’t appreciate this fancy old Vampire making comments about my colourful ancestry. Having the blood of all the different Night races did not make me different from any other hybrid. Half of them were so distant I couldn’t even access their abilities anyway.

It occurred to me that if he knew what a Sirith Mage was by name, Hale must be extremely old, even for a Vampire…

Verity was now giving me a severe warning look. She was right though, a conversation on this matter could easily become dangerous.

“I believe we have strayed far from our intended subject.” I pointed out, “You came here because you have a job for us?”

“Ah, yes.” Hale uttered as if he had momentarily forgotten himself, “I have come to make a request, it is of dire importance to our society as we know it-”

“No.” Emmett cut him off, earning him a glare from Verity and a sharp elbow from me. As much as this Lord Hale made me think some very unladylike words with his direct manner of speaking, I knew better than to disrespect an Aristocrat, particularly a Senate member.

“You did not let me finish, Mr Wright.” Hale replied calmly, a note of his voice sounding somewhat taken aback.

Emmett, who was now sat at the large oak desk, clasped his hands and leaned forward, “We do not run petty errands. You were about to ask us to take a pack of hunters or a gang or something of the like. You nobles always play it up to be some matter of great importance so that we are obligated to take the job. If Lord Rosencrans himself can’t make the order, then it’s obviously not of enough importance for us.”

I was going to kill him later.

“Emmett.” Verity growled.

“Speak for yourself.” I mumbled, “Some of us appreciate the work.”

“The lady has spirit.” Hale said with a smile, but it was brief before he returned to a sullen, serious frown, “I assure you, I was not about to send you on a fool’s errand.”

“Then pray, elaborate.” Emmett replied impatiently.

“This is a personal request, with the interests of our society at heart.” Pierce explained, “I am talking about one Hunter in particular, which you of all people, Mr Wright, will know makes all the difference.”

I bit back a sea of rude replies. That had been extremely below the belt for so many reasons.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Emmett replied through gritted teeth. To his credit I was surprised at his boldness, it was just a very bad time.

After a moment to calm myself, I decided I had best take over before this got any worse. “Then what is so special about this particular Hunter?” I demanded, “This city is crawling with them.”

“Largely she made an attempt on my life.” Hale explained bluntly, “She appears to be targeting higher and higher families. Gods forbid she could be planning to bring down our entire structure.” With this, he met my eyes, giving what he must have hoped was a sincere, concerned expression, “Her targets could range anywhere from the head of the council himself to your very life, Miss DeHamphir. I am sure you understand my concern.”

Concern my arse, I thought. He was obviously only feigning it to look after his own hide, as his class so often do.

Still, if it had nothing to do with Night politics, or the sad excuse we had for it, it was good enough for me.

“And I presume your concern has a number?” I raised an eyebrow.

“Whatever your services cost. Money is of little object to me, it will be worth the end result.” He assured us.

Emmett looked disgruntled, but seemed to realise that we had no valid reason to decline the job. We weren’t exactly a moral organisation after all, and we both knew that where Hale was on reasonable terms with us right now, he had plenty influence. If we crossed him, he could rain hell upon the Guild without even lifting a finger. I hated to admit it myself, but it was not worth the trouble.

“Fine, I’ll add you to the books.” Emmett agreed finally, “But first we need specifics. You know the exact identity of our target and where we might find them?”

Hale nodded, “Here in our fine city of London. She is a lady of nobility such as Miss DeHamphir here.”

I scoffed quietly. I hated flattery, especially from a snake.

“Her name is Miss Ava Chimera.” Hale confirmed.

There was a long pause in which Verity, Emmett and I looked at each other in confusion. Verity was tapping her teacup again in the silence.

“Are you absolutely sure about that?” I spoke up eventually, “If the Guild get this wrong, we can lose a great deal of reputation, not to mention privileges. And our weapons expert would be most displeased at that.”

It was the truth, if a veiled warning, Emma would be livid.

“Yes, I am sure. I saw with my own eyes.” Hale assured us, “As I mentioned, I narrowly escaped her attempt on my life. One tends to remember such a face…I am sure you know well, Miss DeHamphir, that not all is what it seems.”

“Quite…” I grumbled.

I may have been sceptical, but the encounter with Miss Chimera earlier that day was still fresh in my mind. I didn’t know for sure exactly what it was, but she was up to something, and after Hale’s request, I could be sure that it was nothing good. I must say, I didn’t have her down as a Hunter, but I had seen worse covers.

Still, something definitely stank, and for once in the history of the Guild (no, actually the history of England) it was not Emmett’s feet…

“Well then.” I decided, “If Mr Wright here has no further protests, then I shall be sure to inform the team. I will leave you two gentlemen to negotiate the matter of payment.”

“Thank you, Miss DeHamphir.” Hale said with a smile. I didn’t like that smile, he looked too much like a cat waiting outside a mouse hole.

“A pleasure.” I said flatly, before turning on my heel and walking out of the office. It was perhaps cruel of me to leave him with Emmett, but I wasn’t going to forget that Emmett had been the one to try Hale’s patience in the first place.

I had to admit, something still struck me as off about whatever Ava Chimera had gotten involved in, but then, I was an Assassin, I couldn’t exactly claim the moral high ground.

I decided I didn’t care, and put it all to the back of my mind. Just another job.

I had been about to go upstairs to the training room, but I heard the purposeful click of sensible slightly heeled boots on the hallway tiles behind me. I turned around to see Verity had emerged from the office, leaving Emmett alone with Lord Hale.

Curious.

“Cybelle, might I have a word?” She asked calmly, but she still looked strangely troubled.

“…Of course. Is something wrong?” I replied, suspicious.

“No, no, of course not.” She said with a meaningful look, “However, I think we ought to step into my office for a moment.”

Perhaps to anybody else that might not sound too serious, but for one, this was Verity, and for another, her office had so many spells on it, it must be the second safest room in the Guild.

Was she trying to get away from Hale?

I nodded and glanced back at the Guild office, “Lead the way.”

We continued upstairs, but not a word more was said until we were inside Verity’s personal office and the door was firmly shut. She kept an extremely sophisticated Shield and Cloaker on the room, so that when the door closed, a thin golden light traced its outline. Then, just as the door had been there one moment, the next it disappeared into seamless floral wallpaper.

Verity’s own office was much more well-kept than ours downstairs, probably because Emmett wasn’t allowed in it for a start. There were huge bookshelves along the back wall containing ancient, dusty old tomes and a spotless mahogany writing desk sat in the middle, spell books and boxes of potion ingredients piled neatly upon it. A small cauldron hung in the fireplace and around it sat three red leather chairs.

Verity snapped her fingers and the fireplace roared into golden flames as we sat down on the chairs. Without even an introduction, Verity looked me in the eye and said, “Cybelle, I want you to promise me that you are going to be extremely, extremely careful.”

I was rather taken aback, and it took me a moment or two before I could conjure a response. “Why do you say that?”

She shook her head, seeming to realise how the situation must look, “I do not trust Lord Hale. In fact, that is the very reason I insisted on escorting him to the Guild personally, and why I do not have a great deal of time to explain this to you.”

“I understand he must be high ranking, and he looks perfectly suspicious to me, but….” I frowned, “Verity, what do you know that I don’t?”

She averted her eyes, “For a start, Lord Hale is extremely high ranking, he is a personal councillor to Lord Rosencrans himself. The devil in his ear if you ask me.” At this she grimaced, “The Head of the Council, of course trusts him, despite my consistent warnings otherwise. I know the man from a long time ago and I fear he always had ulterior motives. After all, one can’t often teach an old dog new tricks.”

“But your hands are tied.” I guessed, unfortunately all too familiar with the restriction and delicate nature of Verity’s position, “But what makes you so sure?”

“He did some unspeakable things in the Night Wars.” She said simply, her voice lowering dangerously as she seemed to restrain herself from looking too angry.

“I see…” I replied, deciding that it was best not to elaborate on such a tentative subject, “But surely the Guild are simply on the side-lines of all this. If anybody should be careful, it should be you and Lord Rosencrans.”

Verity shook her head and paused, as if she was deciding whether to say the next thing out loud. At last she sighed and looked at me directly again, “Cybelle, my dear, there is no easy or quick way to say this, but Pierce requested to meet you specifically when I brought him to the Guild. I told Emmett to get that message to you on his behalf.”

That took me a moment to comprehend, though it put me back in mind of that strange, searching look Pierce had given me during our meeting. It made me feel horribly uncomfortable all of a sudden, that not only was I working for this shady, suspicious gentleman, but I was of interest to him.

“Why on earth would he want to meet me?” I spluttered, “I am of no interest to the Council or the Senate these days! I am a bloody Assassin, and that’s all.”

“I suppose he wanted to meet his brother’s daughter.” Verity answered, stunning me into silence.

I didn’t have anything to say to that. His brother’s daughter…Pierce Hale was my uncle!? All these years and I hadn’t known, though honestly I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I think I had preferred having no living family but Verity to being related to the only man I had ever seen make her twitch.

It was all typical of my luck though, I find I have a relative and he turns out to be this sinister, snake like Aristocrat whom nobody could trust. Leagues apart from my father, who had indeed been strong and somewhat stubborn, but also caring and protective…even honourable.

I must have looked in shock because Verity soon spoke up, “I am sorry I never told you sooner, Cybelle, but it was the gentler thing to do. He is not a man one would be proud to be associated with. And with everything that has happened recently, I doubted you needed anything else on your mind.”

It took me a few more moments to find my voice again. A part of me wasn’t sure if keeping it from me had been the right thing to do on Verity’s part, but I understood. She always had her reasons after all, and I trusted her far more than this so-called uncle of mine.

I clasped my hands to keep from any of my nervous habits, and looked back at her, “I didn’t know my father had a brother.”

She shook her head and I noticed that sad, distant look in her eye that she always wore when she talked about my parents. Her closest friends. “They were estranged, I am afraid. The moment Amdis proposed to your mother Pierce decided that he wanted nothing more to do with him. They had very different ideals, and frankly we were all glad to see him off. I presume after all these hundreds of years, curiosity got the better of him…I hope that is the case, anyway.”

I sighed, and attempted to gather my slightly thrown wits, “Well, if my father was glad to see the back of him, then so will I.” I decided, “We shall do his blasted job, and then he can leave us alone. And I promise you, Verity I will be careful…I hope you will be as well.”

She nodded and seemed relieved, “Agreed. Now, I had better rescue Emmett from our guest.”

I managed a slight smile to prove that I wasn’t too shaken, “I’m sure he’s learned his lesson by about now.”

“Don’t be wicked.” Verity warned me, but she was very slightly smiling as well, “Oh, and one more thing.”

“As long as it’s not another dubious relation.” I replied, getting to my feet.

“Nothing of the sort.” Verity confirmed, opening one of her desk drawers and removing a small envelope, “This arrived for you this morning. I had to prize it out of Miss Bennett’s hands, she was being her usual unwelcomingly curious self and trying to read it over a lamp. I caught her in time, don’t you worry.”

Somewhat surprised, I took the envelope from her outstretched hand and looked at it. My name was printed neatly on the reverse, and the handwriting was instantly recognisable.

“Addressed just to me.” I mused aloud, “Unusual.”

Verity smiled again and rolled her eyes, “You mustn’t sound so surprised, Cybelle.” She said in a tone of voice that I swear she was trying to tease me, “He wrote to everyone of course, but clearly he wished to contact you personally. Now, I have business to attend to, I shall see you soon.”

We said our goodbyes and I left for my room, where I could read the letter undisturbed.

I could not help smiling a little in anticipation, but I realised I must look a fool and wiped it off my face sharpish before exiting the stairwell on the first floor and walking swiftly to my room, closing the door behind me.

I read the letter twice, still biting my lip in attempt not to smile.

Dear Cybelle,

It has been far too long since I last wrote to you. This mission here in Venice has proven itself much larger than I first thought, however I think I may be on my way to finishing it. In fact, by the time this letter finds you, I should be well on my way home…I hope.

Despite its little Vampire problem, this place truly is a wonder to behold! You would love to take a gondola ride down the many canals, taking in the sights of the city at night. Next time, I shall have to take you with me.

The others tell me you are due back from your enforced leave, I’m glad to hear you are feeling better. I know that this time has been difficult, it has for both of us. However, when I am back, we shall have to honour his memory together. All for one, and one for all.

As I said, I shall be back within a day or two, dependant on whether tonight goes to plan.

Thinking of you always,

James.

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