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world swirled around. My vision was eaten away in greyness and white spots. I heard my own heartbeat
impossibly loud. The thudding chased me down into the darkness, then even that was lost.
I woke, staring up at the white drapes above Jean-Claude's bed. There was a damp washcloth folded
over my forehead and voices arguing. I lay there for a few seconds, just blinking. I couldn't remember
how I'd gotten here. I remembered the sensation of being cast out of Damian. I'd been cast out like an
intruder, something to be protected against. The force that touched me hadn't been evil. I'd felt evil
before, and that wasn't it. But it certainly hadn't been a beneficent force, either. More neutral, maybe.
The voices were Jean-Claude and Richard. The argument was about me. Big surprise.
"How can you let her die when you could save her?" Richard asked.
"I do not believe she is dying, but even if she was, without her permission, I will never again invade her
"Even if she was dying?"
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"Yes," Jean-Claude said.
"I don't understand that."
"You don't have to understand it, Richard. Anita would agree with me."
I brushed the rag from my head. I wanted to sit up, but it seemed too much effort.
Richard sat down on the bed, taking my hand. I wasn't sure I wanted him to, but I was still too weak to
stop him.
Jean-Claude stood behind him, watching me. His face was blank and perfect, a mask.
"How do you feel?" Richard asked.
I had to swallow before I could speak. "Not sure."
Dominic walked into view. He had, wisely, stayed out of the argument. Besides, he was already a
vampire's human servant. What was he going to say? That the mark was evil, or that it was no big deal.
Lies either way.
"I am very glad to see you awake."
"It thrust me out," I said.
He nodded. "Indeed."
"What thrust her out?" Richard asked.
Dominic looked at me.
I shrugged.
"When the power that animates the vampire returned and found Anita still inside the body, the power
cast her out."
Richard frowned. "Why?"
"I shouldn't have been there."
"Did the soul return as you touched it?" Jean-Claude asked.
"I've felt the brush of a soul before, that wasn't it."
Jean-Claude looked at me.
I looked back.
He was the one who looked away first.
Richard touched my hair where it had gotten wet from the rag. "I don't care if it was a soul or the
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bogeyman. I thought I'd lost you."
"I always seem to survive, Richard, no matter who else dies."
He frowned at that.
I let him. "Is Damian all right?" I asked.
"He seems to be," Jean-Claude said.
"What were you two arguing about?"
"Dominic, could you leave us now?" Jean-Claude asked.
Dominic smiled. "Gladly. I am eager to speak with Sabin. Tomorrow, you and Richard can raise him,
and you, Anita" -- he touched my face lightly -- "can heal him."
I didn't like him touching me, but there was almost a reverence in his face. It made it hard to yell at him.
"I'll do my best," I said.
"In all things, I think." With that, he bid us a good day and left.
When the door closed behind him, I repeated my question. "What were you two arguing about?"
Richard glanced behind at Jean-Claude, then back to me. "You stopped breathing for a few seconds.
No heartbeat, either. I thought you were dying."
I looked at Jean-Claude. "Tell me."
"Richard wanted me to give you the first mark again. I refused."
"Smart vampire," I said.
He shrugged. "You have made yourself very clear, ma petite . I will not be accused of forcing myself
upon you again. Not in any sense."
"Did someone do CPR?"
"You started breathing on your own," Richard said. He squeezed my hand. "You scared me."
I drew my hand out of his. "So you offered me to him as his human servant."
"I thought we'd agreed to be a triad of power. Maybe I don't understand what that means."
I wanted to sit up but still wasn't sure I could do it, so I had to be content with frowning up at him. "I'll
share power with you both, but I won't let Jean-Claude mark me. If he ever forces himself on me again,
I'll kill him."
Jean-Claude nodded. "You will try, ma petite . It is a dance I do not wish to begin."
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