AUTHOR'S NOTE: I can spend paragraphs and paragraphs apologizing here and groveling for forgiveness or I can get on with the first update in well over a year. It's not that you all don't deserve my explanation (and groveling). You absolutely do. But I'm fairly sure you'd rather I get on with the story. There's an explanation up at my Yahoo! Group (link available on my profile), and I will also post it to my profile when I can. But until then, please enjoy the update and let me know what you think when you get a chance!

Charlene looked down at her second new slave with satisfaction and thrilled at the new power she felt coursing through her. Now she could lob an even stronger attack upon her ancient brother. Eric would be helpless when she finally got her hands on David. And she would make him watch her as she drained the little redhead of all of his energy before she broke him … and then go on to take over the world. She smirked to herself as she drew herself up from the empty woman lying prone upon the floor.

"Clean her," she ordered Sally, not even bothering to look her way. "Then you both will lie with each other … and perform for my amusement."

"Yes, mistress," Sally replied, moving from her kneeling position in the darkened corner toward her former roommate.

Charlene smirked again as she watched them. There truly was no better use for the two women. And who said she shouldn't be entertained while she plotted her next move? Sally toweled off the woman, Felicia, Charlene believed her name was, though she didn't wait long enough to dwell on it before taking the cute little thing. She'd been tasty, too.

Going after Annie at this point was probably what Eric was expecting. He'd had her for a while now. She was bound to awaken at some point, though her locating spell would eventually find the blonde. And Charlene absolutely intended to get her and break that mind. It will be glorious, too. But she decided she would send out another location spell as well, just in case he was keeping Annie behind closed doors. He wouldn't be able to stay there himself, after all. Her previous spell would render him too sick of her to stay with her. And locating him would lead her to David, the one she needed to fulfill her plans.

She smiled as she watched Sally finish her task and begin to bear down upon Felicia. She could get her supplies for her spells in a while, she decided, settling in for the show.

"So she allowed you to live separately from her?" David asked, his chin resting upon steepled fingers as he watched Annie. "She didn't lock you up?"

Eric could see that he was trying to ease the woman's fears. Annie hadn't recovered from the rage she'd felt when David had stared accusingly at her for daring to date Eric. And David apparently gave off a dangerous air now that the wizard within him had been woken. He was seriously focused, too. But then, Eric supposed anyone would be if they'd been locked in a battle with their long-lost, half-demon, witchly half-sister. Man, no wonder Charlene looked like she spent a lifetime sucking on lemons. Only instead of lemons, she was sucking the life out of people. Eric shuddered and returned his attention to the room.

"I had family connections," Annie replied softly. "Lots of them. She said it would have brought too much unwanted attention if she took me. She didn't want to raise anyone's awareness, as she put it."

"But she still used you?" Eric wondered aloud.

"I guess I was the best she could do." Annie shrugged her delicate shoulders, looking down. "She hooked up with me at a bar one night. It wasn't like I was hard to find."

"No," David shook his head. "You weren't chosen in a desperate moment." He leaned forward as if to be sure his point was emphasized sufficiently. "You were, and have the potential to become again, a very powerful conduit for her."

"Huh?" the blonde asked, cocking her head to the side.

"You have a distinctly strong mind," he clarified. "You were too promising for her to pass up. She knew she would be able to feed off you for an extended period of time while she looked for us."


"Yeah. You don't know how rare it is to come across someone like that," he continued. "She must have sensed it right away. There's no other reason she would have taken a risk on someone with so many family ties. What she does demands absolute secrecy until she's ready to launch her attack."

"Not that hard to find," Annie lamented wearily. "She found Deirdre so quickly."

"Not that quickly, I would expect." David sat back against the couch again, satisfied that he'd accomplished his mission of putting Annie at ease. "She probably started looking for a replacement long before she found one, no matter what she told you. You provided a long-term supply and she needed another like you before she could break you."

Annie bristled at that. "Yeah, well, she must be confident in her skills if she decided to risk doing that. My family would have noticed anything that changed me."

"I'm sorry but it's unlikely they would have," David said gently. "She simply would have programmed you, so to speak, on how to react around them so that you didn't arouse their suspicions. But she needed a new powerbase before she could do that."

Eric shook his head, looking away. Such a disgusting fate would have awaited Annie had he and David not moved quickly to get her away from the evil witch. And just how strong a mind was he, if Charlene was ultimately after him to fuel her plans to take over the world? It felt very weird. He'd never imagined himself as anything special. And yet here he was, the alluring prize between two powerful beings.

"How's she able to conceal this dungeon of hers?" he suddenly asked David, locking eyes with his even more powerful mate. "It's not like houses around here come outfitted with one. Can she use her special powers to build something like that?"

"Not on her own," David admitted distractedly. "Her powers are more based in mind control and manipulation. She channels all of her energy into her spells. Physically, she can't do much more than overpower her female victims, but even then she needs a certain amount of mind control to subdue them."

"So then, do you think she used mind power shit to make a bunch of construction guys work for her?" Eric wrinkled his brow, trying to picture the petite sourpuss ordering around a bunch of burly construction workers with a handful of blueprints for her dungeon. "Cause from what Annie described the dungeon sounds big, fully equipped and sound-proofed. It has to be sound-proofed from what she does to these women." He slanted Annie an apologetic look. "Sorry about that."

"No, it's all right," she nodded in resignation. "I can understand why you mention it. I know what I was to her."

"A dungeon like that would be very difficult for a bunch of humans to construct," David mused to himself. "That kind of construction would be impossible to hide, too. There would be questions no matter how many people she manipulated. No. She has an alternate means."

Gwendolyn returned to the room at that moment. She'd been trying to continue giving her regulars their readings in between monitoring the situation going on in her living room, careful to keep the door leading out to her office closed to keep the blocking spells in place. She looked tired … like she had the weight of several worlds on her shoulders; which Eric knew that she did. Between her spirit guides lurking about in God only knows what realm and the one they all inhabited, the woman looked like she needed a really long vacation with a tropical drink in both hands.

"My spirit guides have shared with me some disturbing news," she murmured quietly to Eric. She looked warily over at David then back to Eric, as if she knew what she was about to reveal would not be well received.

"I think I know what it is," David replied before anyone else could speak. "It has to do with the whereabouts of a certain amulet," he turned to face her with an inscrutable expression. "Does it not?"

Gwendolyn looked away guiltily. "I'm sorry," she said. "I trust that they have their reasons for keeping things from us like this until now."

"I trust they do, too," David smiled grimly. "Especially since they're my parents."

"What!?" Eric shrieked, jumping from his chair.

"Her guides," David replied calmly, turning to him. "They're my parents. And the other murdered wizards. How else do you think they know about my half-sister?"

"Oh my," Annie muttered.

"Shit!" Eric exploded, rounding on his mate. "Any other shocking news I don't know about?"

"Just that they're very sorry," David shrugged. "My mom regrets asking my father not to make her get rid of the baby."

"Yeah, don't we all," Eric grunted, throwing himself back down to the chair. "Well now what do we do?"

David picked at a scar in the coffee table in front of him. "Now we figure out how we get my amulet back from an evil witch hell-bent on destroying the world."