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Midnight Rising (Chapter Thirty-one)

It was damn hard to watch Dylan get showered and dressed that next morning, knowing that she was leaving.

But Rio didn't try to stop her. She was going somewhere he couldn't follow – into a daylight world that would probably keep her away from him longer than he wanted to admit. Maybe longer than he could actually bear.

The hours they had shared in his bed, forging a bond through mingling blood and promises that this wasn't really good-bye, had to be enough for him. At least for now.

He couldn't keep her from the life that waited her outside, as much as it killed him to walk her to the compound's elevator and ride the long distance up to the Order's fleet garage above.

They paused together as they stepped out of the elevator. Rio held out the keys to one of his cars. Not one of the sports coupes with the barely legal engines, but a nice, safe Volvo sedan. Hell, he would have put her in an armored tank if he had one to give her. He clicked the remote lock entry button and the Volvo five vehicles back responded with a little chirp.

"You call me every hour and let me know you're okay," he said, putting the keys and her cell phone in her hand. "The encrypted number I programmed into your phone comes directly to me. I want to hear from you every hour, just so I know everything's good."

"You want me to risk getting a ticket for operating a motor vehicle while talking on a cell phone?" She smiled and arched a brow at him. "Maybe you want to plug me with a GPS chip before I go too?"

"The car's already equipped with GPS," he said, glad she was keeping it light, especially since he was feeling anything but. "If you wait here for a second, I'm sure Gideon or Niko could come up with something for you as well."

Dylan's quiet laugh was a bit hollow. She reached up and smoothed her fingers into the hair at his nape. "It's killing me to leave you too, you know. I miss you already."

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. "I know. We'll figure this out, work it all out somehow. But I wasn't joking about having you call me every hour from the road. I want to know where you are, and that you make it back safely."

"I'll be fine." She shook her head and smiled up at him. "I'll call you when I get to the hospital."

"Okay," he said, knowing he was being unreasonable. Concerned over nothing. Just making one weak excuse after another to cover for the deep need he had to hold her close and keep her there. He released her and took a step back, shoving his hands into the pockets of his loose jeans. "Okay. Call me when you get there."

Dylan came up on her toes and kissed him again. When she tried to pull away, he couldn't resist wrapping his arms around her one more time.

"Ah, hell," he swore harshly under his breath. "Get out of here before I take you back to my quarters and shackle you to the bedpost."

"That could be interesting."

"Remind me later," he said, "when you come back."

She nodded. "I have to go."

"Yeah."

"I love you," she said, and pressed a tender kiss to his cheek. "I'll call you."

"I'll be waiting."

Rio stood there, fists thrust deep into his pockets as he watched her head for the car. She climbed in and started it up, then slowly rolled the car out of its parking space in the hangar. She gave him a little wave, too smart to slide the window down and give him more time to try to talk her out of leaving.

He hit the button on the hangar's automatic door, and had to shield his eyes from the light pink wash of dawn that filtered in through the estate's surrounding thicket of trees. Dylan drove out into the daylight. Rio wanted to wait until the taillights turned the bend in the property's long drive, but the glare of UV rays was too much for him to take, even for his late-generation Breed eyes.

He punched the keypad again and the wide door closed.

When he got off the elevator back down in the compound, Nikolai was coming up the corridor from the weapons range like hell on wheels. Rio could practically see steam pouring out of the vampire's ears, he was so furious.

"What's going on?" he asked, meeting the cold blue eyes.

"I just got fucked," Niko replied, and evidently not in a good way.

"By who?"

"Starkn," he hissed. "Turns out the Director of the region's Enforcement Agency was just blowing a lot of smoke up our asses. When Chase and I met with the guy last night and told him that we suspect these are targeted hits, he assured us he would put the word out to all the known Gen Ones in the population. Well, guess what he didn't do."

Rio scoffed. "Put the word out to all the known Gen Ones in the population."

"Right," Niko said. "My Gen One contact, Sergei Yakut, says he hasn't heard shit out of the Agency in Montreal where he's living now, and neither have any of the other first generation inpiduals he knows. To top it off, this morning we got word out of Denver of another killing. Another Gen One beheading, Rio. This shit is getting critical fast. Something big is going down."

"You think Starkn could have a hand in it somehow?"

Nikolai's shrewd blue eyes were icy with suspicion. "Yeah, I do. My gut is telling me the son of a bitch is dirty."

Rio nodded, glad for the distraction that could take him away from feeling sorry for himself over missing Dylan and put him back into the Order's business. His business, his world.

When Niko headed off for the tech lab, Rio fell in alongside him, just like old times.

It took about five hours to make the drive from Boston into Manhattan, which put Dylan at the hospital around one in the afternoon. She'd called Rio from the car as she waited for the parking attendant, assured him that she was safe and sound, then she headed into the lobby to grab an elevator to the cancer ward.

God, to think this could be one of the last days her mom might spend in this place. One of the last days she'd be sick. Dylan wanted that so badly, she was almost giddy with the thought as she stepped off at the tenth floor and walked through the swinging double doors that led to her mother's wing.

The nurses on duty were dealing with some kind of printer malfunction, so she just walked past the station without stopping to ask for an update or any news on the biopsy. Dylan paused outside her mom's room door, about to hit the hand sanitizer when she saw that a nurse was just coming out. The woman was carrying an armful of half-empty IV bags. When she saw Dylan, she gave a little nod and a rather sad-looking smile.

"What's going on?" Dylan asked as the nurse came out into the hallway.

"We're taking her off her meds and fluids. Shouldn't be more than another half hour or so before she's released."

"Released?" Dylan frowned, totally confused. "What happened? Did we get the biopsy results back or something?"

A mild nod. "We got them in this morning, yes."

And based on the flat tone, the results weren't good. Still, she had to ask, because she really didn't want to imagine the worst. "I'm not sure I understand. If you're taking her off fluids and medication, does that mean she's going to be all right?"

The nurse's expression fell a bit. "You haven't talked with her yet…"

Dylan glanced over her shoulder into the room. Her mother was sitting on the edge of her bed facing the window as she put on a sky blue cardigan sweater. She was fully dressed, hair combed and styled. Looking like she was ready to walk out of the hospital any minute.

"Why is my mother being released?"

The nurse cleared her throat. "I, um…I really think you need to talk with her about that, okay?"

As the woman left, Dylan scrubbed her hands with the alcohol gel and went inside.

"Mom?"

She pivoted on the bed and gave her a big, happy smile. "Oh! Dylan. I didn't expect to see you back so soon, baby. I would have called you later."

"Good thing I came when I did. I just heard they're letting you go home in a few minutes."

"Yes," she replied. "Yes, it's time. I don't want to stay here anymore."

Dylan didn't like the resignation in her mother's voice. It was too light, too accepting.

It sounded a lot like relief.

"Your nurse just told me the biopsy came back this morning."

"Let's not talk about that." She waved her hand dismissively and walked over to the table where the now opened box of chocolates sat. She picked up the candies and held them out to Dylan. "Try one of these truffles. They're delicious! Gordon brought them for me last night – in fact, he was here just minutes after you left. I wish you had waited so you could meet him. He wants to meet you, Dylan. He was very interested when I told him that you're going to need a new job – "

"Oh, Mom. You didn't," Dylan groaned. It was bad enough her mother had bragged to her boss about Dylan's story regarding the mountain cave, but to have her trying to find Dylan a job from her hospital bed was too much.

"Gordon has connections with a lot of important people in the city. He can help you, baby. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he could help you land something with one of the big news companies?"

"Mom," Dylan said, more forcefully now. "I don't want to talk about a job, or about Gordon Fasso, or anything else. All I want to talk about is what's going on with you. Obviously, the test results weren't good. So, why are you being released today?"

"Because that's what I want." She sighed, and walked over to Dylan. "I don't want to stay here anymore. I don't want any more tests, or tubes, or needles. I'm tired, and I just want to go home."

"What did the doctors say? Can we talk with them about the biopsy results?"

"There's nothing more they can do, sweetheart. Except prolong the inevitable, and only for a little while."

Dylan lowered her voice to just above a whisper. "What if I told you that I know someone who might be able to make you healthy?"

"I don't want any more treatments. I'm done – "

"This wouldn't be anything like that. It's a kind of…alternative healing. Something you can't get in a hospital. It's not a guarantee, but there is a chance that you could be cured completely. I think it might be a good chance, Mom. I think it might be the only one…"

Her mother smiled gently as she laid her cool fingers against Dylan's cheek. "I know how hard this is for you, baby. I do. But the choice is mine to make, on my own. I've had a full life. I'm not looking for miracles now."

"What about me?" Dylan's voice was thick. "Would you try it…for me?"

In the long silence that answered, Dylan tried desperately to hold back the sob that was rising up in her throat. Her heart was cracked in pieces, but she could see that her mother's mind was made up. It had probably been made up long before this moment. "Okay," she said finally. "Okay, then…tell me what you want me to do, Mom."

"Take me home. Let's have lunch together, and some tea, and let's just talk. That's what I'd really like right now, more than anything."

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