Plain Jane

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12: Jane Confronts Convel

Jane had been down to the Basement several times after Lilith had told her about the Clans, mostly so that Study could eagerly show off all of his very advanced computer equipment. Jane could easily say that Study was the younger brother she never had and that she adored him as much as she would have if he had been her younger brother. He was always very open and honest in his own shy way so that Jane had always felt that she could ask him anything.

Which was why Jane was walking down the halls as noiselessly as she could, making her way to the Basement. She had felt rather odd about asking the others about their powers and what vampire, werewolf and merpeople myths were actual reality. It would seem rude to ask anyone else, but Study always loved to share any information he had with her – or anyone he could get a hold of for one or six hours.

Jane stopped in the middle of a hallway on the ground floor. She turned to her left, facing a large tapestry. Jane pulled it aside and put her palm against the cold steel door before her. The nanochips Study had built into the door scanned her hand and sensed that she wasn’t a threat. Slowly, the door opened partially with a hissing sound.

Jane pulled the door open the rest of the way, carefully closing it behind her. She walked down a narrow set of concrete stairs, the only light a small glow from underneath a door at the bottom, and yet she could see as though it was daylight.

Finally reaching the bottom, Jane slowly grasped the stainless steel doorknob and turned it. She was greeted by the usual blinding lights of Study’s lab. The young man himself was sitting at his desk, hunched over a large text book of some kind.

“Study?”

“Aah!”

Study fell out of his chair, startled by Jane’s voice so suddenly breaking through the quiet he lived in.

He looked over at her from his place on the ground, his spectacles more than a little askew, and his lab coat hanging off his left shoulder. His hair seemed to stick up in the most hilarious places, and Jane had quite a hard time not bursting into laughter.

“Oh. Hello, Jane,” Study said with a pleasant smile, his hand coming up to his face to right his glasses.

“Sorry I startled you,” Jane said coming over to help him up.

“That’s perfectly alright,” Study replied, seeming to be genuinely pleased to see her in his lab, even if she had nearly put him under cardiac arrest. “I’m always happy to see you. Did you need something? Is there something I can do for you? I’ll be more than happy to help you if I can-”

“Yeah, actually,” she said nonchalantly. “I was hoping you’d tell me a little more about the Clans – their powers and such.”

Study’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. Jane knew that she wouldn’t find anyone as eager to share any and all details about the Clans with her as Study.

“Well, what do you want to know?” he asked eagerly. “I’ve kept a record of every known power manifestation that the Coven knows of. There are a lot of repeats and such between one coven and another. Each Clan though has specific traits that help define their peoples’ powers from the other Clans’. Merpeople, for example, can swim about three times as fast as any known sea creature. They also have the ability to sing someone into a trance or burst a person’s eardrums with their shrill screeching-“

“What about Lycanthropes?” Jane asked, trying to sound nothing more than mildly curious. “What are their powers like?”

“Well, like our kind, they have the ability to Flit – or run at a highly accelerated rate, their speeds reaching over two hundred miles per hour, and their senses are very heightened,” Study said, not at all suspicious. “Traits individual to their kind are their ability to see anything that they can hear, even if it’s over the telephone…” Well that explains a lot, Jane thought. “…and their ability to transform into a wolf. Then there is Dream Invasion and Manipulation-“

What?” Jane’s heart started pounding and she gave Study her full attention.

This is it, she thought. This is what Convel has been doing to me for the last fifteen years.

“Well, it’s a very rare power – certainly not something one would find in any Lycanthrope,” Study replied, furrowing his brow as he recalled facts pensively. “They would have to be very old and very powerful to have it, at least if my studies are sufficiently accurate. It’s very difficult to get information on-“

“How does it work?” Jane asked trying to hide her eagerness behind a calm exterior.

She must have succeeded because Study went on as though he hadn’t noticed a thing.

“Well, it’s difficult to say. I interviewed Conv-”

Study stopped short, looking at Jane sheepishly behind his spectacles. Jane got the message.

“It’s okay to say his name, Study. I’m not Lilith. It doesn’t bother me. Honestly, it doesn’t,” Jane said gently, placing a hand on his shoulder when he looked at her doubtfully.

“Well… I interviewed Convel O’Donnelly but with the shadow cast upon his character, it’s difficult to say how much of his account is accurate. He said that it’s really just mind over matter. Think you will enter someone’s dreams, and you will. Once in the dream, one can supposedly manipulate it to their fancy, communicating with the person whose dream one has entered. But as I said before, the talent is so terribly rare-“

“Did Convel tell you how he knew so much about Dream Invasion? Did he have it?”

Maybe if he has it then I do too. Maybe I can talk to him through a dream…

“Well… he didn’t really say now that I think on it. Jane…” he began cautiously. “… may I ask where all the sudden interest – and your very specific interest in Dream Invasion – have come from? It’s unlike you to be so… well, inquisitive.”

Study, it seemed, was finally catching on.

Jane’s mind scrambled for an answer that would suit him. It didn’t take her long to find something.

“Well, you know, with all this stuff about a prophecy Lilith keeps talking about, I just thought I should… prepare myself. I mean, if I am this prophecy girl or whatever, then I should know about this kind of thing, right?”

Study smiled at her, completely convinced of the truth of Jane’s reluctant lie.

She always hated lying. She hated it even more after she found out about Lilith’s and her parents’ lies.

“I’m glad you’ve decided to take the prophecy so seriously. I myself wasn’t convinced about the matter until your real parentage was exposed. Now I’m quite certain that you are exactly perfect for the part. You are going to do such great things, Jane.”

Jane’s heart sunk to her stomach. I am a terrible person…

“Thanks, Study. I really appreciate that, and all the information you gave me but I think that it’s time for me to turn in.”

Study’s face took on the look of a greatly disappointed lover who did not get to see his true love.

“But I have so much more to tell you! There are loads of things about the Clans that I haven’t lighted on yet! I-“

“I know. I’m really sorry. Maybe tomorrow, okay?”

The faintest glimmer of hope lit Study’s eyes and Jane felt guiltier still as she turned and walked out of the cold, steel door.

“Goodnight!” Jane called over her shoulder.

She faintly heard Study wish her the same.

I am a terrible person. I deserve to rot in Hell for that…

Later on Jane wouldn’t even remember walking up the concrete steps or down the hall or up the other two flights of stairs. All she would remember was all the thinking she did – the focusing, the effort into trying to invade Convel’s dreams. Her attempts were exhausting and the moment Jane’s head hit the pillow on her bed, she was fast asleep.

***

Fog surrounded Jane as her feet sunk into the usual grittiness of the sand with each step she took.

Jane walked toward the bright flashing light that she now knew was a lighthouse.

“Father?” she called.

“Ye have been trying to contact me, lass? What did you need, me bonnie Janet? Are ye in some kind of trouble?”

Convel stepped out of the fog, his pace quickened by his obvious concern for her.

“I’m fine,” Jane said stiffly.

Her tone stopped him in his tracks a few feet away from her.

“What’s wrong then? Have I done something to upset ye?”

Jane took a deep calming breath, inhaling the sea air, wet from the waves crashing upon the shore.

“You tell me. Why did you send two lycanthropes to my parents’ house last night?”

To Jane’s surprise, Convel’s lips stretched out into a charming smile. He looked quite handsome at that moment and Jane could see exactly why Lilith had fallen for him.

“Oh, is that all. I thought that yer mother might have told ye something about me that upset ye.”

“What exactly could Lilith say about you that would upset me? If there’s something about you that I ought to know, then I think it would be better for everyone if it came from you. I want answers, and I want them now.”

Jane’s tone was pure steel. Unbendable, unbreakable, unyielding, and very cold.

“Very well, me darlin’. But not ’ere.”

“But-“

“Meet me at the island. I’ll be waiting for ye, me bonnie Janet.”

And with that, the man who would call himself her father walked off into the fog.

The world around Jane became blurry and she slowly realized that her body was regaining consciousness.

***

Jane’s eyes fluttered open, hot anger coursing through her veins. He didn’t even try to deny it! He sent those lycans! Lilith was right about everything… Wasn’t she? He said that he could explain everything, but how can I trust him?

Jane let out a frustrated sigh, roughly running her hand through her hair.

I don’t even know how to find this stupid lighthouse…

Jane looked around her new room for the first time since she had entered it. The shutters of the balcony were left open to allow the room to air out for when Jane slept there. Jane had been told some time ago that a room was set aside for her – “just in case,” Lilith had said.

Moonlight poured across the large space, illuminating the crisp white of the wardrobe, the oil paintings of ships at sea and lighthouses, and the light blue paint that decorated the walls.

It also illuminated Jane’s laptop case, which she had mistakenly left on the kitchen table earlier that day. Jane’s mind suddenly lighted on an idea, and she got out of bed as quietly as possible, tiptoeing over to the laptop case. She pulled her laptop out, opened it and turned it on, all the while silently praying that she would find what she was looking for and that no one was awake to stop her from achieving success in her self-imposed mission.

Once her laptop was booted up, she turned on the wireless internet access and typed words into the Google search bar. Jane’s heart raced as she slowly typed, “lighthouses in or near Lysander, Maine.”

Only one listing came up.

It was a tourist site of all the most haunted places in the United States. A lighthouse forty miles outside of Lysander was one of the listed places. Jane used the finger pad to scroll over the listing, and, taking a deep, calming breath, she left-clicked it.

Oh my word Jane thought shakily, borrowing Sofiya’s favored expression.

A picture of the lighthouse from Jane’s dreams was now on the screen, and beside it was the history of it.

“This historic lighthouse was built in 1918 to help freighter ships reach the port town of Merytonburg safely. It is located on an island three miles from the Merytonburg Dock, and has been out of use since the late 1940’s due to numerous mysterious accidents occurring on the island. The lighthouse is supposedly haunted by one of the lighthouse keepers, Ray Stalls-

Jane’s heart stopped as she read the name.

Ray Stalls? But how…?

Jane read on eagerly:

“…supposedly haunted by one of the lighthouse keepers, Ray Stalls. Stalls took the post of lighthouse keeper in 1923, not long after his twenty-fourth birthday according to Merytonburg City Hall’s Book of Records. He held that position until 1925, when he tragically committed suicide with his lover. It had been rumored that he held a secret affection for one Tracy Bloom, the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate, and that she returned the young man’s feelings. The rumors also incurred that permission for their marriage was sought from the father but refused.

“A note was left at the top level of the lighthouse, telling of the lovers’ suicide pact. They had written that they would ‘dash themselves upon the rocks and be together for eternity if they could not be together in life.’ The note had many lines scratched out, suggesting that the pair could not agree on what to write at first. Altogether, it is one of the most tragic stories I have in my personal experience heard of. No lighthouse keeper has every stayed at the lighthouse for long, all telling tales of a ghostly couple walking the stairwells, arguing about what they should write in their suicide note.”

Jane wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Of course, Tracy and Ray obviously didn’t die, and not agreeing on what to write in their suicide note sounded just like them, but that they had resort to suicide in the first place because Tracy’s father couldn’t accept someone different for her than what he had planned hit a little too close to home on how unyielding and not accepting her parents were.

Not that I have to worry about that now that Dad’s kicked me out of the house… Stop it! Stop feeling sorry for yourself! You have things to do, including finding Convel.

Jane dug through her laptop case and took out the pen and notepad she always kept in it, and wrote down the directions to the lighthouse. Jane noted the time on the laptop clock. 4:03.

I have to hurry, Jane thought. Some of the guests woke up as early as 4:30, leaving Jane less than half an hour to get what she needed and get out.

Jane grabbed her favorite grey sweater and threw it on as quickly as she could.

As quietly and quickly as possible, Jane opened her door, peeking out into the hallway to make sure no one was up yet, and crept over to Lukan’s door. She put her ear to it and could hear the distinct sound of snoring inside. Jane’s lips curled into an amused smile.

I am so using that as blackmail material later…

Slowly, careful to be as noiseless as possible, Jane turned the handle to Lukan’s door and tiptoed inside, closing the door behind her. Lukan was laying on his back, one arm across his chest, the other stretched above his head.

He looked so beautiful with strands of black hair falling into his eyes.

As though drawn by a magnet, Jane stepped toward him. Another step… another… a fourth. And then she was beside him, staring at his peaceful face, her breaths coming short and ragged.

He could wake up any second. You’re crazy. Just grab the keys and go already. You’ve lost your mind. Jane leaned down. This is insanity. She leaned closer, so close now her ragged breaths moved the hair laying across his closed lids. He’ll wake up.

Softly, Jane pressed her lips against his. It was only the slightest of kisses – just a peck really, but it gave her the courage she needed to go through with her plan.

Jane pulled back to find Lukan’s lips curled into a sleepy smile.

Jane…” he said breathily.

Oh, you’ve done it now… Stupid, careless girl!

But no other words escaped his lips. He was still asleep.

Jane let out the breath that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

Jane…” Lukan breathed again, moving his head to the side, his smile widening. “I love you…

Jane’s heart jumped to her throat and her eyes widened, a mixture of hope and joy sparking into a tiny flame in her heart.

He loves me? No. No, that’s ridiculous. He doesn’t… Does he?

All the things Lukan had done for her came back to her in flashes.

His change of heart on her job at The Haven… His fury and animalistic rage when McDuffie had tried to kill her… The way he had killed McDuffie for her, showing no mercy… The looks of concern… Pretending to be her boyfriend… Saving her hide in Biology class… The way he defended her from that flirty waiter… Kicking that jock off the phone for her… That afternoon in the rain… The way he had held her… His anger toward her family on her behalf… All those kisses…

Those breathtaking, beautiful kisses…

He loved her.

It all fit and the words had come out of his own mouth, even if not deliberately. Tears sprung to Jane’s eyes.

He loves me… she thought, overwhelmed by a sense of unadulterated joy.

The bright red glare of Lukan’s alarm clock drew Jane’s attention.

4:27. You don’t have time for this right now. You can analyze your relationship with Lukan later. Right now, you have to get to that island.

Hesitating only a moment, Jane grabbed Lukan’s set of keys off of his nightstand and dashed over to the glass paned balcony doors. Throwing them open, Jane looked back at Lukan’s sleeping form, now even more illuminated from the fading moonlight pouring into the room.

I love you too, Lukan, Jane thought with every fiber of her being.

Jane walked out onto the balcony and climbed down an old oak whose leaves overhung on the white-marble balcony. After reaching the ground, Jane dashed to the back of the house where the garage was. Jane manually opened the large garage door, entered, and pulled the cover off Lukan’s Porsche.

Jane closed her eyes and sent up a silent prayer. She knew very little about driving. Only the basics, and she certainly didn’t have her license yet – her parents had made certain of that. Jane could only hope she didn’t crash.

Just stay between the lines… How hard can that be?

***

I love you too, Lukan…

The words hung heavily in the air, and they reverberated in Lukan’s awakening mind. Jane’s voice was a soft, comfortable awakening, yet Lukan couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. He had often dreamed of Jane since their first meeting, and had often heard those words from her lips in the safety of his slumber, but this was different – it felt different. It was as though he had really heard her say it.

And there was the oddest chill in the room…

Lukan opened his eyes and looked around the room. The balcony doors were open.

Didn’t I shut those? I remember shutting them…

Lazily shoving the covers off of his body, Lukan rose and walked over to the balcony in nothing but his boxer-briefs. It was still mostly dark as he looked out on the expanse of the front yard, but Lukan could see the golden leaves on the old tree just as well as he could in daylight.

A lovely, familiar scent registered in the back of his mind but the fogginess of his previous dream kept him from realizing that the scent came from the room and balcony rather than from his mind. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks.

Jane had been in his room.

She had been on the balcony too; he could smell where her hand had touched the railing.

He laid his hand on the railing where Jane’s hand had been. If he tried very hard, he could almost feel the warmth left behind from her touch. She couldn’t have been there more than twenty minutes ago.

But why? Lukan asked himself. Why would she come to my room and stand on my balcony? She has her own to look out on…

A niggling feeling at the base of Lukan’s neck urged him to check his side table where he had left his keys. She couldn’t have… She doesn’t even know how to drive…

Almost against his will, Lukan’s feet walked back inside the room and his eyes fell on where his car keys should be.

But they were gone.

Panic settled in Lukan’s gut. Something was very wrong. What possible reason could she have for taking my keys?

Lukan quickly strode to the door leading to the hallway, nearly tearing it open in his rush to get out. Once in the hallway he Flitted to Jane’s door, and without even bothering to knock he opened it.

Her bed was empty and still made even if a bit messily – as though she had slept on top of the covers rather than under them.

A laptop Lukan had seen her using before laid open on the messy coverlet. Lukan quickly exited the room, storming down the halls as he shouted at the top of his lungs.

“LILITH!!!”

The coven started Flitting out into the hallway, most yawning tiredly with murmured questions of what was going on.

Finally, after what seemed ages Lilith appeared in her white silk robe, hair sticking out wildly and a bemused expression playing across her half-awake features.

“Lukan, what in the world-“

“She’s gone, Lilith. Jane is gone,” Lukan blurted out in an unusually panicked manner. “She took my keys, Lilith.”

Lukan could see his words register in Lilith’s mind as the expression on her face changed from sleepy to wide-eyed fear. Lilith knew that Jane didn’t know how to work a car properly, and even though it was unlikely that she could be hurt in a car accident, if she were injured she would be vulnerable to anyone who crossed her path, human or otherwise.

They could lose her forever.

“Jane’s gone?” Sofiya asked coming up behind Lukan. “But… But why? She was happy here. Why would she leave? She was happy, wasn’t she? She seemed happy and-“

“Jane did not run away, Sofiya,” Lilith said, cutting off the girl’s hysterics. “She was happy here, and even if she had not been she had no place else to go…”

Horror etched itself across Lilith’s features as she realized that Jane did have somewhere else to go to – or more accurately, someone to go to.

Lilith and Lukan exchanged a look – they both knew.

Convel

The name hung heavily in the air as people began to realize the dilemma at hand.

If Jane had gone to see her father this wouldn’t be a simple search for Jane, it would be a battle for her. Convel wanted her and he was a man who could be counted on to fight the Devil himself to get what he wanted – that was a well known fact.

“We do not know that that is where she has gone,” Lilith said calmly, homing in on everyone’s fears. She turned to Lukan. “You and Sofiya go search her room for any sign of where she might have gone. Tracy and Ray, I want you over at the Parker residence. See if they know anything. Everyone else, search the local area. I am going to try to contact her mentally. I will be in my private study if anyone finds anything.”

Without hesitation, Lukan raced back to Jane’s room, Sofiya right behind him.

The first thing Lukan’s gaze fell on was Jane’s laptop, still lying open on her bed. He quickly sat on the bed and hit the space bar. The black screen became bright blue and then cleared to show her desktop picture of a forest and several folder-shortcuts.

Lukan double-clicked the internet icon, while Sofiya started opening drawers in the bureau. He scrolled over the history icon and clicked it. His eyes widened when he saw that the last site Jane had visited had been

MostHauntedPlacesInAmerica.com

Ghosts and goblins didn’t seem like something she would be interested in – then again, he wouldn’t have thought that she’d run off to heaven knows where without a word to him about it first – not that it wasn’t like Jane to run headfirst into trouble without thinking. Okay, so maybe it was, but still…

With a sigh, Lukan clicked on the link to the website. Immediately a picture of a very familiar lighthouse appeared on the screen.

Oh God… Please, no…

That lighthouse hadn’t just been the place where Lilith and Lukan had recruited Ray and Tracy, it was also the place where Lilith saw Convel again after their first parting. It had meaning to Convel and it would just suit his sense of irony to use that as a place to lure Jane.

“Sofiya,” Lukan said, his tone stopping the young woman in her hysteric tracks.

“What is it? Have you found anything? Do you know where she went? Lukan, for heaven’s sake say something-!

“I would if you stopped for breath to let me get a word in!” Lukan snapped impatiently. “She’s gone to the island just outside of Merytonburg – the one with the lighthouse. You know what that means, Sofiya.”

“She’s gone looking for him…” Sofiya said softly, voice breathless in fear as she spoke.

If Jane decided to join Convel, everything they knew would end. Convel’s vision of the enslavement of humanity and the rule of all the Clans would soon become a reality – and what was even worse – at least for Lukan – was that they would have to fight Jane.

“We need to tell Lilith,” Lukan said swiftly, rising from the bed and quickly Flitting from the room, Sofiya right behind him. “If we hurry we might be able to stop Jane before she does something… rash.”

They rushed down the third floor hallway to the stairs and took the steps four at a time until they reached the second floor landing. Without even meaning to they started Flitting so fast that things around them started to break, though it seemed ages to them before they reached the door to Lilith’s study. Lukan burst through the door, ripping it from its hinges. Lilith had been sitting in her chair, fingers pressed to her temples, concentrating on contacting Jane. Her head instantly snapped up though when Lukan broke down her door, Sofiya faithfully following behind.

Lukan’s words rang through the air between them.

“I know where she’s gone.”

***

The oars parted the water, forming small waves as Jane rowed the small boat toward the island. Jane had ‘borrowed’ the rowboat from a closed boat rental business on the docks of Merytonburg. Not knowing how to drive a motorboat, Jane had figured that the small wooden craft would have to suffice. She had thought that the work of the constant rowing would be tiring but surprisingly she found it easy, and she soon found herself within view of the lighthouse’s brightly shining beacon.

Somehow, Jane knew that Convel had ordered it just for her, to make him easier to find.

The closer each row brought Jane to the island, the more she wondered if she was doing the right thing. Convel had already proven himself dangerous to her, even if only indirectly. Some part of her tried to hold onto the belief that it hadn’t been on his order that those lycanthropes had invaded her home, yet the fact that he merely laughed at her when she asked him about it didn’t bode well with her. She knew him to hold the lives of humans cheaply, and he had particular reason to resent her parents – and they were her parents. Jane no longer referred to them as the Other Parents. They were her only parents. The Parkers, Lilith, and possibly Convel, had all lied to her, yet the Parkers were the ones who had raised her.

Out of the two sets of parents, they were already ahead so far, at least in Jane’s book.

She wasn’t even going to think on their treatment of her at the moment or the fact that her father had thrown her out of the house – that wasn’t part of the equation at the moment.

Jane continued to row the boat through the heavy fog surrounding her. She hit the sandy shore of the island with her boat before she saw it.

Jane drew the oars back inside the boat before stepping out into the water and sand, pulling the light weight boat ashore so that it wouldn’t be washed away in the tide. She stopped and looked around, trying to force her vision to pierce the heavy fog and allow her to see Convel’s form.

Not even her vampire-lycan enhanced sight could see through the cloud surrounding her.

Jane removed her shoes and socks, allowing her feet to sink into the sand. She felt the grittiness beneath her feet, and suddenly she felt as though she was no longer in the real world, but in that of her dreams where everything felt surreal.

Slowly, Jane walked inland, looking around through the fog, as though expecting Convel to sneak up on her at any moment. The further in she got the more rocks she stumbled over and the blinding light of the lighthouse seemed higher up now that she was so close to it.

“Convel!” Jane called out. “I’m here, Convel! It’s time for that explanation!”

“What? No ‘hullo’ to yer own father, Janet?”

Jane spun around to see Convel walking toward her through the fog.

“Don’t you ‘Janet’ me, you would-be murderer!” Jane said, pointing her finger accusingly at Convel as he came closer. “You tried to kill my family!”

Convel was now less than five feet away from Jane and her enhanced eyes caught the roll of his eyes.

“Ye, me dear, are as dramatic as your mother. And for the record, Janet, those… creatures…” he continued, unable or unwilling to hide the disgust in his voice. “…are not yer family. If anyone is a would-be murderer, it’s them. They’ve been slowly killin’ ye for the past fifteen years.”

“What are you talking about?” Jane asked in confusion.

“They’ve been killin’ yer spirit – who ye are, everything ye were ever meant to be. And despite the fact that I would have loved to be a part of the giving of any pain that befell yer worthless tormentors, I must tell ye that I was not the one who sent those lycans. If I had wanted the Parkers dead, don’t ye think they would be by now?”

Jane just stared at him for a moment, trying with all her might to see the sincerity she hoped was in his eyes. Yes, just there… she thought. I can see it.

Somewhere behind his disgust and revulsion for the Parkers there was a hint of sincerity.

“All right then, if you didn’t send them, then why did they come to my house and attack my family?” Jane asked, ignoring his previous statement about the Parkers not being her family.

“They were members of me coven who decided to take matters into their own hands. They believed that they could win me favor by destroyin’ people they knew to be bothersome to me. They were… rewarded accordingly,” Convel said with obvious distaste.

“Oh, so you didn’t send them, you just taught them that it was perfectly alright to ‘destroy’ perfectly defenseless, albeit ‘bothersome’, humans? No, that’s not your fault at all, is it?” Jane asked sarcastically, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at the man-wolf before her. “And what do you mean they ‘were’ members of your coven? Did you throw them out for what happened?”

“I made an example of ’em. They acted without orders and were treated accordin’ly. They won’t be a threat to anyone anymore, Janet. I promise ye that,” Convel said, his anger and disgust for the two lycanthropes spoken of more than obvious.

Jane’s eyes widened in horror as she realized what her would-be father meant.

“No, you didn’t… You couldn’t have…”

“Janet, ye have to understand,” Convel said pleadingly. “I can’t allow anyone in me coven to usurp me authority. I have to be a leader, and leaders sometimes have to do unpleasant things…”

“You mean like executing members of your own coven because they followed your teachings, your beliefs? What is wrong with you?” Jane asked in utter disbelief, tears welling in her eyes. “What kind of man are you?”

“Janet-” Convel began with slight impatience in his voice.

“My name isn’t ‘Janet O’Donnelly,’” Jane interrupted, her voice so cold that Convel visibly shivered. “It’s ’Jane Anne Parker.’ My parents are George and Margaret Parker. They may not be perfect but they raised me, and I love them unconditionally. You’re not my father. I already have a father, and there isn’t anything you can say or do to change that.”

Jane took a small step back and then very slowly turned around. She had nothing left to say to this man. He wasn’t who she thought he was. He was just another disappointment in her life, and she had too many things to look forward to now to waste her time wishing things were different – wishing he was a better man and the father she had always wanted.

“Do ye really think those monsters are going to ever accept ye for who you are? Do ye think that they can help ye be all that ye were meant to be? It will catch up to ye, Janet. If ye go back there they will do everythin’ in their power to suppress who ye are and what ye were meant to do, and in the end ye will know that.”

The desperation in Convel’s voice halted Jane’s progress back to the row boat.

Jane’s body was tense with irritation as she whirled around to face Convel, the fog so thick that it nearly blocked her view of him.

“‘What I’m meant to do?’” Jane demanded, her voice waspish. “What exactly is it that you think I’m ‘meant to do,’ Convel?”

Jane’s voice was snappy and harsh. She was so incredibly sick of this – everyone telling her what she was ’meant to be’ and ’meant to do.’ It was crap, and Jane was sick of it.

Convel took a step forward, his eagerness to explain his point of view pathetically obvious.

“Do ye really think that we were given these powers to lurk in dark alleyways, waitin’ for someone – our next meal – to cross our paths?” he asked sincerely. “That we deserve nothin’ more than a place in popular fiction? Holy water and crucifixes? Silver bullets? Wooden stakes Garlic? Do ye really believe that humans deserve to walk in daylight while we, a naturally superior race, are forced to skulk in darkness? No, Jane! We were meant to take our rightful place as rulers of mankind. That is our true purpose! Lovely, but misguided people like yer mother have twisted the truth in their compassion toward a lesser race. Surely ye must see that?”

Convel’s eyes were wide and eager, his accent more pronounced due to his excitement.

It hit Jane like a ton of bricks that he believed every word he said.

“You’re insane,” Jane whispered in horror, taking an unconscious step backwards. “Completely and totally insane.”

“I’m sorry ye feel that way, Janet,” Convel said, his voice and eyes becoming hard and cold, his body tense and upright.

Jane’s blood turned cold at the change in him and she felt the ice running though her veins and pumping in and out of her heart.

“I had hoped that we could share my vision and lead our race into a brighter future… together,” he said darkly.

“‘A brighter future?’” Jane said in disbelief, anger overriding the warning her instincts were telling her.

Get out of there, Jane, the warning seemed to say. Get out of there now…

“What brighter future? The one where you enslave all of mankind? You mean that future? Have you never even heard of The Ten Commandments? The movie where God sends Moses to free all the slaves because slavery is – you know – bad?

“Janet, ye are young – far too young to understand all that is about to take place. I hope that one day we will stand side by side as father and daughter, fightin’ for the future of our kind. But know that what I do now, I do for yer sake as much as for the sake of all our kind,” Convel said, his voice heavy with regret.

“And what exactly is it that you’re going to do?” Jane asked, folding her arms and glaring at Convel.

Convel motioned to his left and a flank of lycans emerged from the fog from his left side. He repeated the motion on his right side and another flank appeared on his right side.

Seeing that she was outnumbered, Jane turned around to leave but lycans began emerging from all around, coming out of the fog like phantoms in some terrifying horror story.

Jane was soon surrounded by well-trained, fierce-looking lycanthropes.

Aw, crap

***

Lukan was driving twice the posted speed limit on the highway to Merytonburg, but he didn’t care. He wouldn’t be stopping for any police sirens or anything else. He would run down anything in his way to get to Jane. He had to find her and he didn’t care about anything else.

When Lukan had quickly filled Lilith in on what they had found, Lilith – who had failed in being able to contact Jane due to high levels of stress and anxiety that Jane was feeling – had paled. She knew the island well.

After she and Lukan had turned Tracy and Ray, and they were on their way off the island Convel had shown himself, asking for another chance with Lilith and claiming that his opinions and views of humans had changed. Lukan and Lilith both knew that the only reason Jane would have to go to that island would be because Convel had asked her to.

Lilith had quickly told Lukan and Sofiya to start calling in the Coven and tell them to meet them at the island. Lukan, Lilith and Sofiya would go ahead of them.

They had no time to lose.

Although they had gone in Lilith’s royal purple Lamborghini, Lukan had insisted that he drive. He knew that even though Jane was Lilith’s daughter, she wouldn’t go more than five or six miles over the speed limit, and Sofiya very well might have crashed the car in the state of anxiety she was in over Jane. Lukan supposed that he wasn’t much better off than his best friend who was currently sobbing in the back seat, wailing over how it was all her fault and how she should’ve paid more attention. Lukan felt the same way and he could easily say that the only thing keeping him from sharing Sofiya’s condition was his desire – no, his need, his wild, driven, compelling, mind-numbing need to hold Jane safely in his arms again. Her powers hadn’t fully manifested yet, and there was no telling how badly she might be hurt if she had to fight off Convel and his hoard of miscreant lycanthropes.

Lukan felt the same overwhelming guilt that Sofiya did as far as not having paid enough attention to Jane’s need to be loved, which could be the only reason she would have to go in search of Convel.

And Lukan did love her – so much.

He couldn’t bear the thought that he had never gotten the chance to tell her how he felt, and may not ever if he was too late to save Jane.

I’m coming Jane. Just hold on. I’m coming for you…

***

Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap… was all Jane could think as she saw the lycanthropes surrounding her in their human form. Her heart thudded in her chest and she knew by the cruel smiles on their faces that they could hear it.

Pride stifled fear, and Jane forced her face into a cold but neutral expression. She slowly turned back around to face Convel.

“So, what? You’re just going to off me now so you can take over the world? And what kind of a cliché comic book villain are you anyway?” Jane asked, allowing her sarcastic nature to take over.

She needed something to keep her head cool if she was going to get out of this still breathing. Surely by now someone would have noticed that she was missing.

Jane couldn’t tell through all the fog, but she imagined that it was getting near six o’clock, and even Lukan woke up by six-thirty. If Jane could just buy some time, she was sure that they would be able to figure out where she’d gone and come save her.

Convel winced at her statement as though her words had actually inflicted physical pain.

“Have ye heard nothing I have said? I would sooner take me own life than part a single hair from yer head,” he said sounding decidedly hurt that she would think him capable of harming her.

“Well, it’s not my hair I’m particularly worried about right now, Daddy Dearest,” Jane said scathingly, looking around her for an opening in the circle the lycanthropes surrounding her.

“No harm shall come to ye. I swear it,” Convel said, the absolute picture of sincerity.

Jane scoffed.

“That would be much more comforting if you had more control over your little lapdogs.”

At this, Jane heard fierce, threatening growls from all around her.

Jane raised an eyebrow at Convel as though to tell him, I told you so. Convel swiped his hand through the air in a silencing motion. The growls ceased immediately.

Perhaps he has a bit more control over them than I thought…

The fog was beginning to clear and the sun was starting to rise, shining directly onto Jane as it cut through the fog, much as the beam of the lighthouse continued to do as it flashed around and around again.

The lycanthropes shrank back from the sunlight into the fog as much as they could as they didn’t seem to like the sunlight.

They’re blood-drinking lycanthropes. What a surprise Jane thought scathingly.

“Janet, I will give ye one more chance to be a dutiful daughter, and join me,” Convel said, ignoring the discomfort of his coven. “If ye refuse, I will have no other choice but to put ye into a holding cell until my plans are complete or until ye learn to understand what it is that I am doin’.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not your daughter! Now do me a favor and drop dead!” Jane snapped angrily, rebellion shining like fire in the silver flecks of her now midnight eyes.

Adrenaline pumped through Jane veins and she could hear her heartbeat speed up until it beat so fast that it became inaudible. Her body was preparing for the fight it sensed coming.

“Ye have yer mother’s spirit, Janet,” Convel said, smiling sadly, regret visible in his forest green eyes. “It is a great pity that ye inherited her misplaced sensibilities as well.”

And with that, Convel nodded his head to the lycanthropes behind him.

Even behind her Jane could sense the lycanthropes moving in on her. One lunged for her, taking on his grey-furred wolf form as he attacked.

Jane moved to dodge the wolf-creature, and before she realized what was happening she had cleared almost seven feet in half a second, the wolf landing on the ground gracefully.

Did I just Flit? Jane’s eyes widened in shock. Lilith said my powers would be manifesting bit by bit. Are they doing it now?

Jane had no idea how she was going to take on thirteen well-trained lycanthropes, powers or no powers, but she knew she didn’t have much of a choice.

Jane took several deep breaths, preparing for the next attack. The lycanthropes began transforming right and left, and the next attack came from behind, knocking Jane to the ground.

Oh God, no. No, it can’t end like this, Jane thought as she struggled to get the wolf off of her but more joined it, holding her down and soon Jane had seven or eight lycanthropes’ paws on her back, pushing her down.

She felt like she couldn’t breathe, and her breaths were forced and panicked, tears of fear forming in her eyes.

“Get off… of… ME!” Jane said, screaming the last word in desperate hysteria.

Suddenly Jane felt the back of her shirt rip, forced open from the inside, and then the wolves that had been holding her down were flying off of her in all directions.

Jane lifted her face from the dirt, catching a glimpse of silver in the sky, glinting from the beams of sunlight hitting whatever it was.

Jane pushed herself off of the ground and she heard a flapping sound, something sending a vibration of feeling down her spine at whatever motion had made the sound, and suddenly she was on her feet, an unknown force pulling her upright. Jane looked up and she saw silver wings extended in the sunlight, shining and glinting like a thousand stars in the night sky. My wings… Those are my wings… Jane’s heart did a little flip of pure joy.

They were beautiful wings too – unlike any of the others she had seen. They weren’t black and leathery, or bat-like in any way. They sparkled and shone, and looked as though they had been sprinkled with millions of tiny diamonds. The edges looked sharp and dangerous, like the blade of a guillotine.

For the first time since finding out about the Clans, Jane wasn’t afraid. Somehow, she knew she could beat them.

The lycanthropes around Jane, Convel included, looked at Jane with awe, wonder and fear. There was such a dangerous beauty about her, such a strange sense of undisturbed purity.

She was no longer the plain teenage girl that she had been before. She was a strange and exquisite creature – an exotic beauty, but so very dangerous with her sharp wings.

Remember yer orders!” Convel shouted at his coven, finally coming out of the almost trance-like state he’d been in.

His voice seemed to have a sobering effect on the lycanthropes, as they began moving in again.

One with mud-colored fur jumped at Jane, giving a roar of attack. Jane’s wings lashed out of their own volition, slitting the creature’s throat open, blood gushing out of the open wound and hitting her face. The wolf landed on its side hard, hitting the sandy beach with a muted thud.

It would take the wolf a long time to heal from a wound that bad.

The other wolves seemed disheartened at how easily Jane had dispatched their comrade, but lycanthrope after lycanthrope came at her again and again. Each time, her wings struck out at them, wounding them badly.

Jane was almost frightened by how her wings seemed to have a mind of their own. The sensation was strange – unearthly. As she fought the wolves off it seemed to her as though she was only a spectator in her own body as animal instinct took over to ensure her survival.

Convel stood by and watched as the girl he would claim as his daughter dispatched the members of his coven one by one, unable or unwilling to participate in battle against her. The last lycanthrope fell to the ground, unconscious like all the others and Jane stood out against the quickly fading fog.

Jane breathed heavily as the world finally came back into focus. She saw the barely breathing forms of the twelve wolves lying around her, her eyes eventually wandering over to Convel. She felt her wings contract and grow back into the smooth skin of her back, as though they knew the danger had passed.

Jane could feel a draft at where her shirt remained ripped, but had other things on her mind – like why Convel wasn’t attacking.

“Aren’t you going to attack?” Jane asked in confusion.

Convel merely smiled.

“I could never raise me hand to you, Janet,” he said softly. “Surely, ye should know that by now.”

Jane scoffed.

“Oh, no, you could never fight your own daughter,” Jane said, sarcasm heavily lacing her voice. “Nope, instead you just stand by while twelve of your lackeys do your dirty work for you.”

“Ye will understand one day, Janet. When we stand side by side for the good of our kind and ye see the truth.”

“You are completely deluded,” Jane said with a roll of her eyes. “Aren’t you even angry that I screwed up your little kidnapping scheme?”

“We’ll be together again, Janet. Ye, yer mother and me will all be together again… as a family.”

“You don’t get it yet, do you?” Jane whispered, tears coming to her eyes. “We can never be a family as long as you pursue this stupid, psychotic, selfish plan of yours!”

“Janet…” Convel began softly, stepping forward.

No!” Jane shouted, outright crying now. “I’m not Janet, I’ll never be Janet!”

In rage and hurt, Jane took the winged wolf pendant from under her shirt and lifted over her head before throwing it on the ground at Convel’s feet. The hurt in his eyes almost made her say than she took it back, that she was sorry and hadn’t meant it.

But she didn’t, and she wouldn’t.

She couldn’t be what he wanted and she couldn’t ask him to be what she wanted – it wouldn’t be fair to either of them. They were at a stalemate. They couldn’t go forward or back. They were just stuck somewhere between father and daughter, villain and hero.

“I will never be your daughter,” she said coldly.

A look of pure hurt and pain came over Convel’s face but she remained firm in her resolve.

There was no going back.

“Yer wrong,” Convel choked out hoarsely, as though getting the words out of his throat was a struggle. “Yer so very wrong... Ye’ll see…”

He bent down and picked up the pendant.

The fog was starting to roll in again and the sun had taken shelter behind a cloud. Jane suddenly felt very cold.

The lycanthropes, relieved from the discomfort of sunlight, slowly began Healing and picking themselves up. Convel motioned for them to leave Jane be and retreat, though they seemed reluctant to do so.

They obeyed Convel’s silent order and disappeared into the fog.

Convel stood just within Jane’s visibility, staring at her, before reluctantly stepping into the fog, leaving her alone, possibly forever.

Jane stood there for what seemed a lifetime, staring at the place where Convel had just stood. She forced herself to choke back sob after sob, holding her hand to her mouth, never letting a sound of it escape her lips lest Convel hear it and come back. Jane didn’t know if she had the strength to tell him no again with the way she was feeling.

But she had burned that bridge and it had to stay burned if she was ever going to have a normal life, or at least some semblance of one.

Once Jane had overcome her feelings and felt more in control, she forced herself to wipe the tears from her eyes and walk back toward shore. The fog wasn’t quite as bad as it had been and seemed to be dissipating again, coming and going as though it couldn’t make up its mind, allowing Jane a clear view of where she had left her boat.

The lighthouse flashed, illuminating the sea before her. A glimmer in the water caught Jane’s attention. There was something silver underneath the surface just beyond the shallow part. Light hit it and it seemed to turn a rainbow of brilliant colors – and it seemed to be getting closer.

Finally, it broke the water’s surface.

As the shining creature – for Jane was certain that it moved of its own volition – rose up more and more, Jane realized that it was the shape of a human body.

A merman? It has to be but why show himself to me?

Jane’s thoughts raced as she beheld the beautiful man-creature. His body was completely scaled, and when the light hit him he turned more blues and greens and yellows and golds and reds than Jane could count, all of the colors changing and trading places with one another. His hair was silver and shined brilliantly in the dim morning light. His eyes seemed to be the grey-blue of the sea after a storm, but there were flecks of silver that reminded Jane of her own eyes. The merman wore a loincloth made of seaweed edged in pearls, and he wore a headpiece of white coral.

He was so beautiful and kingly that Jane nearly fell on her knees before him. It seemed like such a natural thing to do before a creature like the one in front of her, that it was purely shock that kept her standing. She knew how dreadful and plain she must have looked before such splendor, her hair still half-held up in a messy bun by two pencils and her black jeans with holes in the knees and her baggy hooded sweatshirt giving a shapeless look to her body.

The merman opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted when they both heard the distinct sound of a motorboat speeding through the water. The merman looked at Jane before retreating back into the water, silently but quickly.

“Wait!” Jane cried out, the noise breaking the silence between them.

The merman put a finger to his lips in a silencing gesture before his head disappeared beneath the water. Jane wasn’t sure if he had meant for her to be quiet or for her not to say anything about him, but she didn’t have much time to think on it as she heard the motorboat getting closer, its engine cutting and the sounds of people dismounting from the boat.

“Jane!” Sofiya’s voice called from beyond Jane’s view.

As the fog cleared more and more, Jane could faintly see Lilith’s, Sofiya’s, and Lukan’s outlines.

Jane! Where are you?

This time it was Lukan who called for her. Jane could see them all quite clearly now, and Lukan looked as good to her as ever.

“She’s over there! I can see her!” Sofiya shouted joyously jumping up and down. She Flitted toward Jane, Lilith not far behind but Lukan seemed frozen in place once he locked eyes with Jane.

Jane!” Sofiya cried as she flung her arms around her best friend’s neck. “Oh my word, Jane! We were so worried!

“I’m fine, Sofiya,” Jane said laughingly. “Now can you stop choking me?”

“Sorry,” Sofiya said sheepishly, loosening her death grip on Jane. “We were just so worried about you!”

“That we were,” Lilith said, looking painfully relieved and angry at the same time. “What were you thinking, child? You could have been seriously hurt-”

Lilith stopped short when she realized that Jane wasn’t looking at her, but beyond her.

“Jane, have you heard a word that I have said?” Lilith asked reproachfully.

“Oh, absolutely,” Jane mumbled, lightly pushing Sofiya’s arms off of her. “Whatever you say…”

Jane walked past Lilith, and then started to Flit.

When she jumped at Lukan his arms were wide open to catch her.

And then their lips were crashing together and a feeling flooded Jane’s body like nothing she’d ever felt before. It was the feeling of absolute and complete relief. She hadn’t known that she’d been craving to feel his arms around her and his lips against hers until that moment but she had been, more than she had thought possible.

It was like a part of her had been missing, but the moment he touched her she became whole again.

“Don’t you ever…” Lukan said in between kisses and gasps for air. “…scare me…” Kiss. “…like that …” Gasp, kiss. “…ever…” Long, wet kiss. “… again!” he finished with a final gasp, pulling Jane’s legs up to encircle his waist.

Ever!” he added for good measure before kissing Jane soundly, as though to get the point across.

I could so get used to this…

***

Lukan, Lilith, Sofiya and Todd looked on with wide eyes at Jane’s diamond-like wings. They had been back at The Haven for a while now after riding back to Merytonburg Dock in their stolen watercraft. Not even when the angry boat rental man had been screaming and shouting while Lilith paid him off handsomely for the unsolicited use of his boats had anyone or anything been able to separate Lukan and Jane from their semi-permanent lip-lock.

Ray and the others had just arrived at Merytonburg Dock when Lilith had finished up with the boat guy, and Ray had made the comment that it would take another World War and Jaws of Life put together to get Lukan and Jane apart.

Ray had very nearly been right, as it had been Jane’s explanation of what had happened back at the island that caused the temporary separation of Lukan’s hold on Jane, and the battle at the island had seemed very much like a World War to Jane at the time.

Everyone else had decided that they could use a few hours extra sleep to recover from the would-be search and rescue mission – except Todd, who had been furious that no one had woken him up to help find his sister, but he quickly forgot his anger when Jane began telling her tale.
It had taken a while to explain everything, and the fact that Jane had manifested wings and taken out twelve well-trained lycanthropes and had had an encounter with a merman had been met with doubt, disbelief, and even a little laughter at Jane’s expense – solely on Lukan’s part, of course – until Jane’s anger caused the wings to grow from her back again. She took great satisfaction in the way Lukan’s jaw dropped nearly to the floor at first seeing them, along with everyone else’s.

“I told you I had wings,” Jane said smugly. “Believe me now?”

Unfortunately, her triumph was shortened when her left wing lashed out at a vase on Lilith’s desk, slicing it in two with a single stroke.

“I’m still getting the hang of them,” Jane said, blushing with embarrassment.

“Jane, in all my thousands of years I have never seen wings like these,” Lilith said in awe, as she looked at the shining diamond-like appendages on Jane’s back. “Do you know what this means, child?”

“It means, I’m going back to bed,” Todd said hazily. “This is more than one man can take in less than twenty-four hours.”

Todd pushed up his glasses, which had managed to slide down his nose, and unsteadily he rose from the armchair he’d been sitting in.

“I’ll help him,” Sofiya volunteered, cheerful as ever. “He doesn’t look quite so steady on his feet.”

The statement was true enough, but anyone who knew Sofiya knew that her motives weren’t purely charitable.

Lilith, Lukan and Jane watched as Sofiya took Todd’s hands gleefully in her own and carefully guided him out of the room, and all the while Todd’s eyes seemed wide, vacant and unseeing.

“Well, no one can accuse her of wasting a good opportunity,” Jane remarked casually, folding her arms while one of her diamond wings scratched her head thoughtfully. Lukan exchanged a look with Lilith, and then shook his head in mock reproach, while trying very hard not to burst into laughter.

“Jane…” Lilith began seriously. “…about this merman…”

“Yes?” Jane said distractedly while she locked eyes with Lukan.

“Merpeople are very mysterious creatures – snobbish creatures – and they never show themselves to beings they believe are to beneath them unless for a very nefarious purpose. As one of our kind, a merman would deem you beneath him. Therefore, it worries me greatly that he would show himself to you so openly when…”

Lilith trailed off when she realized that Jane’s attention was fixed on Lukan and wouldn’t be unfixed from him for some time thereafter.

“Never mind,” Lilith said with a sigh. “We can discuss this when you are less… distracted, for lack of a better word.”

Lukan walked slowly up to Jane and took her hand very gently, leading her out of the room without ever breaking their soulful eye contact.

***

Lilith smiled after them warmly, glad that her daughter was finally back home. The smile faded though as she thought of her own lost love, and where he might be now.

Lilith closed the door and locked it before walking around her desk and sitting down in the chair behind it. Taking a slow, deep breath, she slowly opened the first drawer on the right.

The only thing in the drawer was a small, black-velvet ring box.

Lilith reached into the desk drawer and gently took it out, so careful that anyone watching would have thought her handling glass as thin as paper. She opened it slowly, revealing a small diamond ring. Words were inscribed on the inner rim in Gaelic:

Gra Go Deo.”

Love Forever,” Lilith translated softly, smiling as a single tear trailed down her cheek. She slipped the ring onto the fourth finger of her left hand.

Another tear fell as she folded her arms on her desk and laid her head against her arms.

Only then did she allow herself to weep, grieving over the loss of her lost beloved husband once more.

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