Return of Victory, Reclaiming Honor Book VIII
By Justin Sloan & Michael Anderle
Valerie had never realized that being alone with her thoughts would be so cathartic, but sailing across the Atlantic by herself certainly provided that opportunity. After her coms device went on the fritz halfway across, she was left staring out at the darkness to the west. She just wished the airship would hurry the hell up so she could get to New York before war broke out.
A part of her still believed there would be a way to mitigate this fire that her friends had started, but the rest of her thought that a final war to end it all wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Pull out all the rats and cut off their heads, so that they and the disease they had brought upon the lands would be gone once and for all.
That wasn’t all she thought about, though, as she sailed. She thought about how she had almost returned to the military compound where she was raised, how she could have very easily touched down in Old Paris and visited her old haunts, searching out clues to her life before she was turned into a vampire. Now that those thoughts were in the past, she realized what a trap such actions would have been. Could she ever have escaped? Even if she had physically departed, she was certain she wouldn’t have left mentally.
It was time to accept that she was a new person, that she had moved on.
Michael’s Justice Enforcer wouldn’t meander about in her old life. She’d be on the front edge making a difference. For now, that meant defending New York for what she hoped was the final time. After that? She had no idea.
Two thoughts occurred to her, though, as she sailed back. The first was the question of how she would explain the whole situation with faking her own death in New York, if she had to do so. She supposed simply telling the truth would work. The second was about Robin and having left her up north in Toronto. She wasn’t regretting that, but she wondered about her, about how they had become romantically involved to begin with. Here she was, this super-powerful vampire, taking a younger, less-experience vampire under her wing, and they had become somewhat involved. Nothing too serious, though it had been glorious. She would never forget the way the woman had kissed her after taking down Slaver’s Peak, but they hadn’t even gone as far as her and Jackson, and even that wasn’t much. Still, had it been wrong of her?
She tried to put herself in Robin’s shoes, and wanted to hit herself. A powerful older vampire comes along and gives you oogly-eyes? It would be pretty damned hard to resist. Imagine if Michael, after helping her take down Donovan, had swept her up in his arms and pressed his lips against hers. There was no way she would’ve been able to refuse. In fact, she thought about it now, imagining the strength, how it would’ve felt, his tongue—NO! She laid back in the one-woman airship, closing her eyes and sighing.
Promise Number One to herself was never have thoughts like that again. He was with Bethany Anne, in a sense. Two vampires that, as far as Valerie knew, could read minds. Best to figure out how to picture Michael as her grandfather or something, so she didn’t get her head ripped off by a jealous lover. Ah, shit, best not to think of Bethany Anne as a jealous lover, either, Valerie thought. Another way to likely get her head torn off.
For a moment she pondered the idea of the infamous Bethany Anne, wondering if she really was the type to tear heads off or if Valerie was letting the old rumors of her vampire days with the Forsaken get the best of her.
Promise Number Two time. She swore to herself right then and there to not let romance stuff get in the way of her duty, and to not let herself get in a position where her power might influence someone to go for her.
Promise Number Three. She was going to kick so much ass here that no motherfuckers would ever consider attacking her, her people, or anyplace in this hemisphere ever again. The sound of her feet hitting asses would reverberate across the world, she decided, so that even those back in Europe, Asia, and everywhere else would think twice.
It seemed like she had been sailing for an eternity. But as a gust of wind rocked the ship, she thought she saw something in the distance. Land! She jumped up and whooped, unable to contain her excitement.
“Did you miss me?” she asked as the ‘something’ grew larger and she could make out the tall buildings and city lights of New York.
She was back, and ready for action.
The comm device buzzed at Sandra’s side and she leaped up, reaching for it, annoyed that Diego wasn’t there to grab it for her. They had agreed, however, that it was best to take turns at HQ, being ready and making plans for this war that was supposedly going to happen.
All they had so far was the threat Diego had returned with. An army of nomads, wackos, Forsaken and Weres was out there and had teamed up to declare war on New York. While Sandra and the other members of the New York Council were taking every possible precaution—including recalling Valerie and even reaching out to Colonel Walton—they didn’t really know how large a force they were up against.
“Valerie?” Sandra asked, having seen the name on the device but still too excited to really believe it.
“It’s me, yeah.”
“What the hell? I’ve been trying to get through to you.”
“No need, I’m here.”
Sandra held the comm device out and stared at it, then pulled it back and said, “Wait…here? You made it? Like, ‘in New York’ here?”
“As in ‘I flew straight back from Europe and am landing in New York as we speak,’ yes. That ‘here.’” Valerie laughed, which reminded Sandra how much she had missed that laugh. “Where do you need me?”
Sandra thought about this a moment, then said, “Meet me at HQ. We have to brief you on the situation.”
“Sure, but first—I don’t suppose you’ve seen Cammie and Royland?”
With a sigh, Sandra replied, “That’s part of the situation. I’ll tell you when you get there.”
“Yes, okay? She made it, but she’s not here now. She went out to…gather intel.”
“Gather intel?” Valerie asked.
“In a sense.”
“Sandra, so help me—”
“Okay, okay.” Sandra hadn’t wanted to tell Valerie and get her worked up, not until they were all in a room discussing it rationally. Too late. “The short version is, there’s a community out there, one of our new allies, and we think they’ll be hit first by the attack. Cammie and Royland had meant to go back to the island, but when they heard what was potentially happening, they volunteered to take a small force and go to the front lines, in a sense.”
“Oh my God, Sandra, and you let them?”
“Hey, I’ve tried talking Cammie out of things before. She’s as pig-headed as you are.”
“I’m going after them.”
“See?” Sandra chuckled despite herself. “Pig-headed. At least come by HQ first, get briefed. Then we can make decisions.”
“The decision’s made,” Valerie replied. “But sure, I want to see you first anyway. I’ll be there in ten. But if I am ten minutes too late to help them…”
“I can’t wait to see you too,” Sandra said and hung up, then rolled out of bed, hoping this stupid nausea would go away soon.