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Midnight Rising (Chapter Thirty-three)

Sharon Alexander was making another pot of tea when a knock sounded on her twelfth-floor apartment door.

"It's open, baby," she called from the kitchen. "What'd you do, forget your key?"

"I never had one."

Sharon jolted at the unexpected boom of a deep male voice. She recognized the dark baritone, but hearing it in her apartment – unannounced, and after dark – was something of a shock.

"Oh. Hello, Gordon." She tugged self-consciously at her cardigan, wishing she'd put on something less lived-in, more appealing to a sophisticated man like Gordon Fasso. "I'm…well, my goodness…this is such an unexpected surprise."

He sent his cool gaze around the small, embarrassingly cluttered apartment. "Did I come at a bad time?"

"No, of course not." She smiled but he didn't return it. "I was just making some tea. Would you like some?"

"No. I can't stomach the stuff, actually." Now he did smile, but the slow spreading grin didn't make her feel any more comfortable. "I stopped by the hospital, but the nurse there told me you were released. I understand your daughter brought you home."

"Yes," Sharon replied, watching as he took a leisurely stroll around her living room. She smoothed her hair, hoping it wasn't a complete disaster. "I really enjoyed the chocolates you gave me. You didn't have to bring me anything, you know."

"Where is she?"

"Hmm?"

"Your daughter," he said tightly. "Where is Dylan?"

For a second, maternal instinct told Sharon to lie and say that Dylan wasn't around and wouldn't be coming back any time soon. But that was ridiculous, wasn't it?

She had no reason to fear Mr. Fasso. Gordon, she reminded herself, trying to see the charming gentleman he'd shown himself to be recently.

"I can smell her, Sharon."

The statement was so odd, it took her aback completely. "You can…what?"

"I know she's been here." He pinned her with an icy glare. "Where is she, and when is she coming back? These aren't difficult questions."

A bone-deep chill settled in her as she looked at this man she truly knew so little about. A word skated through her mind as he moved toward her…evil.

"I told you I wanted to meet the girl," he said, and as he spoke, something very strange was happening to his eyes. The icy color of them was changing, turning fiery with amber light. "I'm tired of waiting, Sharon. I need to see the bitch, and I need to see her now."

Sharon started mouthing a prayer. She backed up as he approached her, but she had few places to go. The walls would hem her in, and the slider in the living room opened onto a short balcony that overlooked a twelve-story drop to the street below. A warm breeze filtered in through the slider screen, and carrying with it the din of the rushing traffic out on busy Queens Boulevard.

"W-what do you want with Dylan?"

He smiled, and Sharon nearly fainted at the sight of his grotesquely long teeth.

No, she thought in near incomprehension. Not teeth at all.

Fangs.

"I need your daughter, Sharon. She's an unusual woman, who can help give birth to the future. My future."

"Oh, my God…you're crazy, aren't you? You're sick." Sharon inched farther away from him, panic hammering in her chest. "What the hell are you, really?"

He chuckled, low and menacing. "I'm your Master, Sharon. You just don't know it yet. Now I'm going to bleed you, and you're going to tell me everything I want to know. You're going to help me find Dylan. I'm going to turn you into my slave, and you're going to deliver your daughter right into my hands. And then I'm going to make her my whore."

He bared those huge, dripping fangs and hissed like a viper about to strike.

Sharon didn't know what possessed her, beyond the consuming terror of what this man – this terrible creature – could do to Dylan. She didn't doubt for a second that he could do precisely what he threatened. And it was that certainty that carried her feet toward the screen door.

Gordon Fasso laughed as she fumbled with the flimsy plastic sliding lock. She threw the screen open.

"What do you think you're going to do, Sharon?"

She backed out onto the balcony but he followed, the broad shoulders of his suitcoat filling the open space of the slider. Sharon felt the rail of the balcony press hard at her spine. Far, far below, horns blasted and engines screamed with the speeding rush of traffic.

"I won't let you use me to get to her," she told him, her breath rasping through her lips.

She didn't look over the edge. She kept her eyes trained on the glowing embers of the monster's gaze in front of her. And took some small measure of satisfaction when he roared and made a hasty grab for her…too late.

Sharon toppled backward over the railing, onto the dark pavement below.

Traffic on the street outside her mother's apartment building was backed up for two blocks. Up ahead in the dark, emergency lights flashed, and police were directing vehicles to an alternate access onto Queens Boulevard. Dylan tried to peer around the minivan in front of her, to what looked like a pretty active crime scene. Yellow tape cordoned off the street below her mom's building.

Dylan tapped the steering wheel, sliding a glance over at the takeout that was getting cold. She was later than she intended. The episode at the runaway shelter had put her back about an hour, and all the phone calls to her mother's apartment had gone to voice mail. She was probably resting, probably wondering what the hell had happened to their little dinner celebration.

She tried the apartment again and got the message service again. "Shit."

A couple of kids swaggered by on the sidewalk, coming from the direction of all the activity. Dylan slid the window down.

"Hey. What's going on up there? Are they going to start letting cars through?"

One of the boys shook his head. "Some old lady took a header off her balcony. Cops are up there trying to clean up the mess."

Dread settled in Dylan's stomach like a stone. "Do you know what building?"

"Nah. One of the high-rises on 108th Street."

Oh, fuck. Oh, holy Christ…

Dylan jumped out of the car without even killing the engine. She had her cell phone in hand, dialing her mother as she headed at a dead run up the sidewalk toward all the commotion near the intersection a couple blocks away. As she got closer, cutting into the gathered crowd, her feet slowed of their own accord.

She knew.

She just…knew.

Her mother was dead.

But then her cell phone went off like a bank alarm. She stared down at the display and saw her mother's cell number on the lighted screen.

"Mom!" she cried as she picked up the call.

There was silence on the other end.

"Mom? Mom, is that you?"

A heavy hand landed on her shoulder. She whipped her head around and found herself staring into the cruel eyes of a man she'd seen only recently in a photograph from her mother's office.

Gordon Fasso held her mother's pink cell phone in his other hand. He smiled, baring the tips of his fangs. When he spoke, Dylan heard his deep voice vibrate in her ears and in her palm, as his words carried through the speaker of her mother's phone into her own.

"Hello, Dylan. So good to finally meet you."

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