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So smooth. Her neck lay exposed to his touch, and he traced the contours of her vulnerable neck slowly with a finger, surprised that she did not even stir.

Just a little pressure; and it would all be over.

He found his hands around her neck...

Her eyes shot open in surprise.

"What are you doing?" she cried out, reaching for his hands.

He tightened his grip.

Lilah gasped in shock. Then she began to writhe in his grasp, gasping for breath. Her eyes pleaded for him to stop, but he couldn't -- he could only see her eyes stare at his in terror; the capillaries in them bursting, spilling red into the whites of her eyes-

Wesley awoke with a strangled gasp. He looked around fearfully at the strange surroundings, and then at the figure sprawled beside him on the bed.

For a frightening moment, he thought he had done it; he had strangled Lilah Morgan to death.

But he saw her chest rise and fall slowly, and sighed in relief.

How ironic. I am glad she is alive.

He threw the bedcovers aside and reached for his jeans, which he had thrown on the dressing table. Then he put on his rumpled shirt and began buttoning it, all the while watching Lilah as she slept.

Last night was better than their first together. It was pure mindlessness, and he had not allowed himself to think this time. He did not feel the sinking feeling he had felt before.

Could he be so ill? To enjoy having sex with a twisted lawyer that had made life hell for AI for so long?

He tucked his shirt in slowly, recalling their frantic attempts to get at each other's clothes and how he had literally ripped the clothes off her.

Like a beast. Like an animal.

But he had felt something. Feeling something was good.

Wesley reached for his car keys and headed for the exit.


When the door slammed shut, Lilah allowed her eyes to open.

Last night was ... harsh.

She lifted herself on her elbows, watching him head towards his car through the partially obscured window. When he finally drove away, she allowed herself to groan from the aches and pains of yesterday.

"Wesley, you're just different now, aren't you?" she rasped, massaging her aching arm. She looked at her bruised shoulder, remembering how paranormally strong his grip had been.

"You did something didn't you? Increased strength does not happen overnight," she murmured to herself. She wondered what it was -- or why he did it. Perhaps the man was just loosing it; madmen do have above average strength when driven to it.

But she wasn't going to just sit here and do nothing and be surprised in the end. Bending over the side of the bed, she rummaged through her fallen handbag and found her cell phone.

It was late evening. Had he been with Lilah that long? The thought sickened him. He wrapped the long coat tighter around him, wishing he could get the feel of her hands off him.

*Don't be a prissy, Wesley. You were the one that initiated it. Like the last time.*

What had he become? That he could casually use a woman -- even if she was a heartless bitch -- for his pleasure and discard her like a sack of trash? It wasn't in him.

Oh really? He heard a voice mock him. Strangely, it was Ryan -- the boy who nearly drove a cross through his neck two years ago.

Remember Billy? He just brought what was in there to the surface. You're just like father anyway -- no matter how many times he locked you under the stairs, you still never learn-

"Shut up!" he growled.

A wino looked up from his corner in the alley, wine bottle in mid air. He stared at Wesley as if he was about to do something bad to him.

He looked away and continued to walk. He had left his car at Bob?s diner because he had too much restless energy and needed to work it off with a long walk.

*Scratch. Scratch.*

Something was behind him. It added extra footsteps in the empty alley.

*Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.*

A scuffle of a foot. Then-

"Hey. You look all lonesome here tonight."

The figure was hidden by the shadows, but he didn't have to do much guessing to figure out what he was facing. For goodness sakes, couldn't a man have a walk without being bothered by creatures of the night?

"I'm not up for a meal right now. Especially if I'm the main course," he said in a low voice.

"Ooh, and you have a fancy accent too."

"It's British, you ignorant Yank!" he snapped, his patience at an all time low.

"You heard that Roy? He dissed me!" the figure said, amused.

He felt someone behind him. Before he could react, he felt strong hands grip his shoulders and turn him around.

He faced one of the ugliest vampires he had ever seen. The ridge brows were especially pronounced in this one, and his yellow eyes were mere slits as they glared at him. The vampire had a row of sharp teeth that looked unnaturally large for his small mouth and-

"-your breath stinks!" he declared, scrunching up his nose.

"Mavin. This guy dissed me too," Roy was as amazed as Mavin was. "I thought prey was supposed to yell, kick and scream."

Wesley glared at Roy. "You don't want to do this now. I'm in a very bad mood, and I really don't think I'll be especially kind to your kind tonight." A pause. "Not that I ever was."

"And he just gave me a speech!" Roy laughed, just as Wesley gave Roy a powerful right hook to his chin.

Roy yelped and hit a nearby wall hard, sliding slowly to the street with a befuddled expression on his face.

"It is rude to talk about a man when he is standing right before you," he growled.

Roy got up as Mavin stepped closer towards him. Wesley noted that he didn't look much better than Roy.

"That was some right hook," Roy muttered. Then frowned, increasing his general ugliness. "Hey. I'm not even supposed to feel that right hook." He gave Wesley a puzzled look. "But you're a guy..."

Wesley realized what he meant. "Oh, a Slayer? I wish I was one. At least my life would have been laid out before me -- kill vampires and demons and then die. But males aren't really afforded that choice, are we?"

"He talks too much," Mavin muttered. "Get him!"

Roy pounced on him before Wesley could react. The vampire slammed him against the wall and bared his fangs to take a bite out of his neck, but Wesley grabbed Roy's neck and pushed the vampire away from him. The vamp stumbled backwards and nearly collided with Mavin.

"You're really strong," Roy murmured when he regained his footing. He hunched low and hissed at him.

Wesley spotted a crate nearby and kicked it hard, sending it splintering into pieces against the wall. The two vamps flinched visibly at the sound then turned to glare at him.

Mavin wasted no time. He lunged forward, fangs ready --

Wesley picked a splinter of wood and kneeled; tripping a surprised Mavin.

The vampire went down.

"What the-"

That was the last thing Mavin said before Wesley plunged the improvised stake into his chest.

Mavin did not have the time to properly disintegrate when Roy attacked. He grabbed Wesley by the shoulders and threw him across the alley. Wesley fell to the dirty alley street heavily. Before he could get to his feet, Roy kicked him hard at the ribs.

Wesley gasped and doubled over in pain.

"You killed Roy! Sure, he smells -- but he's funny and an all-around evil guy. I'm pissed!" Roy snarled, and hauled Wesley up to his feet.

"This is for Roy. You stinkin' human!"

The punch sent Wesley flying. He crashed against a wall, but caught himself before he slid down the wall. Head ringing, he squinted at the figure before him, breathing heavily.

"You're not so tough are you? Huh. Poor Mavin. Taken by a puny-" his tirade broke off when Wesley reached out to clamp his hand around the vampire's throat. His strength surprised the vampire, who could only try vainly to pry Wesley's fingers off his throat.

Wesley stood up, slowly lifting Roy by the throat until he was inches off the floor.

"Wait ... ack! I ... ack ... okay, maybe ... (gasp) ... not puny ... maybe-"

"Shut up," Wesley growled.

Roy's eyes widened when he saw Wesley's eyes begin to glow. In his relatively short career as a blood sucking fiend (10 years of glorious havoc), he had never been afraid of a human. Humans were like cows; ready to be milked by the next vampire. But he was afraid now. Because this human wasn't really human.

"Okay ... sorry ... didn't know you were ... demon, so let's-"

Wesley tightened his grip. Roy's eyes bulged out from the pressure.

"I'm human," he hissed. "If I was a demon, I wouldn't have to live with the shit I have to live with now. And which part of shut up do you not understand?"

Roy was beginning to feel alarmed now. Smoke was hissing around them from some unseen heat source; and Roy had a pretty good idea where it was coming from. He struggled wildly in the man's grasp, but the man was paranormally strong -- maybe stronger than a Slayer. He couldn't get free! Then he saw a change in the man's eyes. They had stopped glowing, but there was a look of steely determination in them that didn't give Roy a good feeling. Roy knew he was in trouble now.

"Wait!" he protested.

Wesley didn't wait. He quickly brought his other hand to the vampire's throat and twisted sharply. The force of the motion decapitated the vampire.

"Oh Roy ... I knew him well," Wesley murmured, staring at the head in his hands. It burst into a shower of dust.

"But now he's no more..." he whispered, letting the dust fall from between his fingers.

He allowed himself to feel some satisfaction at the job well done. Killing vampires seem amazingly easy now; especially after having dispatched fifty of them yesterday.

"I feel better already," he murmured to himself. Wesley brushed the dust from his hands and wrapped his long coat more snugly around him. As he walked away from the two piles of dust in the alley, he whistled a little tune.

When the alley was finally dark and quiet, a figure emerged from behind the large trash bin at the corner. The form studied the departing figure intently before quietly following Wesley.

Night settled at the Hyperion. Midnight arrived, and the people from the nearby cafes began to dwindle in number. When the clock struck one, the Hyperion was alone -- without a living soul on the streets. Only a lone window at the Hyperion was lighted, but it was shut off soon after.

On the streets below, not a soul stirred.

But a demon did.

Disembodied yellow eyes were riveted to a window on the fourth floor of the former hotel. More yellow eyes appeared, and they watched the same window.

They watched 'til daylight.

Two Days Later
Baylor House

"Tell me why I shouldn't kill you right now."

Arnold Swanson gulped, and turned around slowly to face the man he had come to see. His bodyguards -- he should have them fired, the good the lot did protecting him -- stood around him, pointing their guns at Mr. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.

Logically, none of them should be threatened by Wyndham-Pryce's presence. He was of slighter build than his three bodyguards. They had guns. He had no weapon he could see of. Dressed in faded jeans and a rumpled shirt, the man looked about as dangerous as an annoyed librarian-

Swanson changed his mind when Wyndham-Pryce shifted his glare from his bodyguards to him. All he did was narrow his icy-blue eyes, but Swanson could almost feel the room growing a few degrees colder from the glare.

Wyndham-Pryce might look unassuming, but a man who took a mere day to kill a lair of vampires -- sixty, if his hired wizard was correct -- should not be underestimated.

"I am sorry we dropped in unannounced, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, but I was curious about you."


Swanson cleared his throat and rocked on his heels -- just to demonstrate that he was not nervous, despite the sweat that beaded on his brow and the nervous tick of his eyebrow.

"You cleaned the place up well," he said, gesturing in the general direction of the hall.

Again, silence.

"I used to own Baylor House. When I found out that someone bought it, I thought it was a joke. So imagine my surprise when I heard that the vampires that controlled this building were wiped out in a day."

A mere lift of an eyebrow.

Swanson played with his tie before continuing. "Okay, I'll cut to the chase. I want to hire you, Mr. Wyndham Pryce. You're obviously good at what you do. You see, my grandfather made some bad investments in property in Avarice. They got infested with vampires, as you know, and I really want to reclaim my family heritage."

A stare.

"And I'll pay you ... er, $5,000 for your efforts."

"Out," the word was spoken in a low hiss.

"Mr Wyndham-Pryce ... please reconsider-"

"I bought this dump for that amount, whoever you are. If you want to hire me, try better." The man gestured towards the door and said, "Out."

"$10,000," Swanson choked out.

"Not interested," Wyndham-Pryce grabbed his arm to lead him out. The bodyguards made an attempt to separate them, but Wyndham-Pryce only glared to send them backing away.

When they almost neared the door, Swanson struggled out of his grasp. "Okay!" he whispered harshly. "I'll pay you whatever it takes!"

This made Wesley pause. "You are desperate, aren't you?"

At this, Swanson reddened. "My family has been trying to get back the houses for almost a century. We almost bought it back ten years ago, then the vampires got it. It's very important to us," his voice ended on a pleading note.

Wesley's natural curiosity began to kick in at what Swanson said. Important? How important? Perhaps there's buried treasure, a dimensional portal -- maybe even an ancient relic in the building? But best not show his curiosity to the man. It would scare the man off -- and the idea of cash wasn't unappealing at all.

"So, er name your price," Swanson said bravely.

Wesley did.

Swanson reddened and composed himself. "Okay. Done -- the houses are nearby actually-"

"I want half the amount today. Cash. No cheques."

"W-What?" Swanson blubbered.

"What makes you think I believe you are who you claim you are? You could be someone masquerading as Mr. Arnold Swanson, with nary a penny to give me after I've done your dirty work," he said, remembering how Angel was once tricked this way.

Swanson gave him a nervous smile then laughed shortly. "Oh, you're crafty. Sure, sure," he snapped his fingers at one of the bodyguards. It was then that Wesley realized he carried a briefcase.

"We came prepared. But er ... we don't have the amount you requested. But it should be enough. $15,000."

He lifted an eyebrow at that. "And your starting offer was $5000?"

"I'm a businessman, Mr Wyndham-Pryce. We always try to look for bargains," he snickered -- then paled when he realized what he just said.

Wesley laughed sardonically and slung his arm around Swanson's round shoulders. "I like you, Swanson. There's a healthy sleaziness in you that you don't bother to hide. You're a breath of fresh air," he declared, slapping the man on the shoulder. Still holding Swanson, he gestured to the bodyguard holding the briefcase.

"Open it."

He did, and there was indeed money in it. He let go of Swanson and studied the money - none of it fake; the man was too desperate. And that usually meant a good mystery.

He tossed the money back into the case. "Alright, Swanson. I accept your offer. Now, tell me your story."


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