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RPG The Ripper Program

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Eclair's night was not restful, nor was it even close to peaceful. Her last image of Edward continued to plague her mind as she slept. The feeling of Vincent's hand going limp in hers returned, and the only thing she could hear was the last thing each one of them said to her. Edwards "I love you." and Vincents "As my last gift to you my love, I give you freedom.", both of these last replies were painful in their own way.

Eclair awoke before the sun, and she refused to go back to sleep. Instead she made here way down to the front parlor and again took a seat upon the couch. Much to her surprise Nathan was only moments behind her. He took a few steps into the room, stopping in the center. There was a long moment of silence between them, sucha pause that Eclair thought that reality would never pick back up.

"I am sorry this has happened to you Eclair." His voice was quiet, almost to himself it seemed.

"Nathan you need not apologize for anything, you are not at fault in any of this." Eclair replied giving an attempt of a smile.

"No, I do feel the pain of guilt, more than you know." He stated not able look up to face Eclair.

"Nathan, what do you mean?" Eclair asked confusion touching her voice.

"For years I have watched you Eclair, even when Vincent was still simply courting you. Every time he or Edward made you smile, I watched and I wanted. I never thought my want for you would drive any one to death." Tears formed in Nathans eyes and nothing could stop them from falling.

[I]'I'm so sorry, I never wanted to see you in pain.'[/I] Nathans voice came Eclairs mind, it was obvious he didn't want to speak anymore.

[I]'There is no need for you to feel any guilt Nathan, their deaths were not because of you.'[/I] Eclair replied as she stood and approached Nathan. He stil could not bring his eyes to meet Eclair's. She brought her hand up to turn Nathan's face toward hers and he did not resist.

She was about to speak again but the all too familiar pain returned and before she could say what she wished Nathan to here she was once again unconcious in the officers arms. Nathan knelt down gently where he stood and held Eclair close, tears still falling occasionally.

"Why Eclair? Why are you in so much pain?" He whispered into the silence that now filled the room. "I know there are so many things that you are waiting to tell me, but every time you try..." Nathans voice faltered and he held Eclair tighter.

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Dante quietly shut the door behind him. He had bid goodnight to his hosts before departing to his room, to change his bloodstained clothes. Without a doubt, today had been what one would characterise as 'a bad day'.

To top it all off the social ton had been given ammunition. Ammunition which would surely re-surface Dante's reputation with his father.

"This is all I need" Dante whispered to himself as he changed his clothes.

Unfortunately, He knew that he could do nothing short of slaughtering the entire social ton to prevent the biddies from speculating. Dante resolved to ride it out with head held high.

Jabs about his father would not faze him again.

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The morning after Edward's funeral Rufus sent a personal invitation to Dante, asking him to join him for an early lunch. Rufus crossed his fingers hoping that Dante would accept, Dante was not exactly one to just join you for lunch on a whim.

Needless to say, Rufus and Ariana were both surprised when Dante actually showed. He was showed into the dining room by Walter; the Lancaster's head butler. Naturally Dante was not in the brightest of moods, especially since he was asked not to bring Geni.

"Dante, thank you for coming on such short notice." Rufus replied offering his hand, the other was still occupied with a cane.

"I must admit, this is a little unusual for you two to envite me without Geni." Dante replied quietly. He was still upset from the biddies the day before.

"Yes well there is no 'two' this time Dante, lunch will be just the two of us." Rufus stated smiling as Walter gestured for Dante to sit. Dante raised an eyebrow as Ariana left the room. He slowly took is seat as Rufus made his way over to his own chair.

"Enough of the stalling Rufus, why have you asked me to come here today?" Dante asked, his paitence was thinning. Rufus took his own seat and placed his cane beside him.

"Down to the point, I wouldn't expect any less from you Dante. I have asked for you to come here today so that we may have a little man to man talk." Rufus replied picking up his glass.

"And why aren't you having this man to man talk with Sir Nathan?"

"Because he hasn't possibly ruined Geni's social status!" Rufus rasied his voice with out thought. "You may not realize, but you have deeply injured Geni's position in all of this. You are going come out just fine on top of all of this, and without even thinking twice let alone once about how this is all affecting Geni." Rufus could see the anger building in Dante, but he would not let Dante storm away without him being able to make his point.

"You have no right to --" Dante started but Rufus did not allow him to finish.

"No my boy, YOU have no right to court Geni then put her in such a predicament. I know I'm not her father, and I'm certainly not yours but first and for most I am your friend. So therefore I am worried about the both of you. Those biddies are going to make Geni sound like London's newest tramp, do you want that Dante?" Rufus had lowered his volume, but the tone was still firm.

"No I don't." Dante stated sharply.

"Then youn must be very careful in the way you and her handle these things, you most of all. Did you not see the crushed look on the girls face at Edwards funeral. Have you even asked her if she is alright? Shes not like you, she needs comfort, and love." Rufus heaved a sigh, and brought his hand up to his eyes. "You don't have to stay Dante, I know your angry with me. I don't blame you, all I want you to know is that you are going to be walking on glass from here on out. Just.. be careful... and be there for Geni." There was a long pause before Rufus finally removed his hand and looked up to find that Dante had left.

"I hope he at least takes it to heart." He replied quietly.

:OOC: Please don't hate me Dante it was such a good sene to write!

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Geni rose late that morning, for the usual clamor of the household that awoke her each day was missing. She rang for her maid and began to prepare for the day curious at the quiet. Suprisingly, it was James who brought her the morning tray of toast and warm milk.

"Good morining, milady." He chimed in a soft and warm tone.

"Good morning." she answered. "Why is it so quiet today?"

"Well, your father had a meeting with his solicitors today, and young Lord Dante was invited to a late breakfast with Lord Rufus and Lady Ariana." was his reply.

"Oh. Well, I'm sorry I slept through their invitation." Her expression made it obvious that she wondered why she had not been awakened.

"The courtesy was extended particularly to Lord Dante." James said as way of explaination.

"Oh. Um - I hope he enjoys the visit." she said lamely.

"He informed me that he believed he would not be gone terribly long." James said in a gentle tone.

"Yes, thank you. Please ask Aribelle to come in. I think I would like to dress." Geni requested.

"Wouldn't you like to eat, first?" James questioned.

"No, I find I'm not very hungry."

Thirty minutes passage found her in the parlor, attempting to read a Jane Austen novel. Normally, she enjoyed such silliness, but today she just didn't have the heart for it. She heard the front bell ring, then the door open and close. She knew it wasn't Dante because he normally rang and then let himself in. This person had waited for James to open the door. A moment later the butler entered the parlor with a soft knock.

"Message for you, milady." He stepped to her, carrying a tray with a small envelope neatly resting on it. She took it and slid her tumbnail under the seal. The letter was simply a message from her dressmaker according to the embossing on the paper, rather than anything frightening from Jack. She scanned the message, then went over it again. Her face crumpled and tears filled her eyes, but did not fall.

"Milady?" James asked, alarmed.

"Oh - uh, the seamstress has had so many orders for tonight's ball that she will be unable to finish my dress in time." She tried to put on a happier expression but failed completely.

"Forgive me." he snapped as he snatched the note fom her hands. It read:

[COLOR=Blue]Lady Genieve,

Due to the number of orders for gowns that I have received for tonight's ball from proper young ladies, I will be unable to finish your garment by the event.[/COLOR]

It was signed by the propriator without any hint of an apology. It was a social slap in the face. It meant that Geni would need to wear a gown she already had, a gown of a debutaunt, and since this was officially her second season, to do so would be a blunder of monumental proportions as far as the Ladies of Almack were concerned. They might not even let her into the ballroom.

Again, the front bell rang. Again, someone waited for the door to be opened. Not Dante, then. James excused himself, and answered the door. Lady Eclair's voice could be heard pleasantly greeting James. She may have sounded tired and a touch strained, but she was genuinely happy to be visiting.

The two voices, James and Eclair's conversed for a moment, and the door of the parlor burst open with a bang. Eclair stood in the doorway, anger evident in every fiber, note from the dressmaker in hand.

"This is rediculous!" the lady stormed. "Of all the petty, busybody, insular . . . " she ran out of descriptors.

"Eclair, don't distress yourself. I can wear what I have." Geni tried to placate her friend.

"Over my dead form you will!" Eclair was not to be soothed. "You will wear one of my French gowns that I purchased earlier this year. With the way you will look, every girl will envy you, every man fall in love with you, and every London dressmaker will bemoan the day they did not get your business." Eclair was still dressed in black, and looked as if that was to be her color of choice for the next while to come. But she saw no reason her friend could not take advantage of the ruffled and bustled glories that were simply gathering dust in her wardrobe.

"I couldn't, Elcair. You bought those gowns for yourself. Besides, you must be at least four inches taller than I." Geni dissembled.

"Pish, I insist. It is no hard task to take a dress up. Even I can do that." Eclair refuted.

"But I don't want every girl to envy me and every man to fall in love with me." Geni almost whined.

"It would almost serve Dante right to have a fellow fall madly in love with you tonight and sweep you off your feet. With what he's helped drag you through that young man could use a wake-up call."

"Stop it, Eclair!" Geni rose to her feet. "Dante is a good man. He's kind, generous, sweet and I love him."

Eclair's voice became calm and cold. "You may love him, but has that coward given you a ring yet? Has he even given you a hint that he might want to anytime before the turn of the century? I didn't think so. You may love him, but that young man is ruining you and any chance you have."

"Eclair . . ." Geni tried to cut in.

"I don't even know if you should marry him, even if he should ask." Eclair said brutally.

"I won't!" Geni cried, hot tears brimming over and falling down her cheeks. "I won't marry him if it's only to get the rumor-mongers to stop! I won't marry him if he asks me only to save my reputation with the ton! Only if he loves me! I'll only do it if he truly wants to and loves me. . . but he hasn't ever asked."

Geni turned and with her hands covering her tear-filled eyes, she raced through the open parlor door and ran head-long into Dante himself. He grabbed her shoulders to keep her on her feet, and stared at her crying face for only a moment before she ripped herself from his grasp and fled up the stairs to her rooms.

Dante stood unmoving for a moment, then gave Eclair the blackest of looks. "Later, we will have words." he growled a threat, then followed Geni up the stairs.

Eclair's cold face brightened into a grin as she looked to James, who had stood inconsipicous through the entire altercation. "So, how much did he hear? How long was he standing there listening?" She asked him.

"The entire conversation." James replied with a matching grin. "I saw the carriage approach from the window, so I opened the door before he rang the bell. He came in to you yelling something about your dead form, and stood quite attentively listening from that point on."

"I thought I saw the family carriage coming up the street when you let me in. Once you said that Geni was home and Dante was not, I took a gamble that it was him in the carriage and needled Geni much more cruelly than I ever normally would to see how she really felt - hoping that he could hear the truth, too." Eclair confided.

"Very brave, lady. Wish I could have done it." James agreed.

"Now it's in Dante's hands. Whatever happens now to deside Geni's future, it's up to him. God help us all." Eclair took a steadying breath. She had originally come to invite her friends to lunch with her and to relax a bit before the stresses of the night to come. But now she was definitely of the opinion that they needed a bit of time to themselves. "Please tell Lady Genieve that I await her at my home so we can select a gown for her tonight as soon as she emerges from above-stairs."

"Of course, milady." James nodded a brief bow, and Eclair took herself off back to her home to pull the most likely candidates from her wardrobe for her young friend.

OOC: I know I said my next post would be the attack, but Otori_Guy left me too good of an opening to pass up. I'll get to the ball and the attack as soon as we get a few more posts up. (Hint, hint!)

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The shock of what he had heard still rang in his ears as he ascended the stairs. Dante stopped before the door that Geni had half walked therough half collided with.

What damage a little walk could do.

Dante knocked on the door. Geni's weak voice, interrupted by choking sobs came quietly through.

"Go away, let me be" Despite the grave seriousness of the situation, dante couldn't help but smile.

"Geni, let me in. "

"No, Go away", came the choking reply. Dante's smile grew.

"Geni. you know locked doors couldn't stop me in the past. They certainly can't stop me now. Let me in"

"Just let me be Dante" The reply came, though the Racking sobs seemed to have dissapeared. Dante could almost detect a hint of laughter.

"now are you going to open the door for me, or do I have to do a magic trick for you again?" Dante's tone was lighter than before. A full minute passed as the sobbing behind the door quietened.

The latch on the door clicked, and then slowly opened inwards. A slash of light fell across Geni's tear-stained face. Dante stepped inside, and closed the door behind him.

Dante turned to face Geni, saying nothing as he pulled her into an embrace. Sobbing quietly into his shoulder, she said nothing for a full minute.

"So are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Dante said, trying to keep a jovial tone.

"Oh Dante..." was all Geni could manage before sobbing into his shoulder again, She handed him the Note from the seamstress.

"Father was right. The Ton are already beginning to make things difficult." She said as Dante read the note.

"Is this the same seamstress that I visited for you last time?" Dante said with quietly controlled fury, the note crushed in his fist. Geni only nodded.

"How can... I was... She did not seem to call either of our character into question on that occasion" Dante said, the controlled rage still evident in his voice.

"Yes well, we were following the Rules of social Decorum then" Geni said in a weak voice, her eyes brimming with tears.

Sensing that She was on the verge of uncontrollable sobbing again, Dante guided her to the edge of her bed, sat her down and put his arm around her soulders.

"Stop this, now. Geni. You're stronger than this, I know you are." He said, Giving her shoulders a gentle shake. "Come on. What happened to the Geni that could cut through five tatami mats in under two minutes?" Geni giggled softly, as she visibly relaxed under the weight of Dante's arm and Lighthearted comment. Gradually the tears dried up, and the last few sobs trailed off into nothingness.

"How much of the conversation did you hear?" Geni finally asked.

"Most of it" Was all Dante would say.

"Did you hear what E-"

"Yes. All of it. Including your reply." Dante cut across her.

"I'm sorry - " Geni Began. dante cut across her again

"Don't be"Dante said, Pulling her into another Embrace. "Oh what are we going to do with you, Geni?" dante half-sighed.

"I know Eclair thinks I'm a coward, I've suspected for a while actually" Dante began, "But I would never ask for your hand. Not untill you knew what kind of person I really am. What I am capable of." Dante let go of geni, Rising to his feet.

"What do you mean?" Geni asked tentatively. "You can trust me Dante. I love you, and want to help you with anything. Nomatter what kind of person you think you are, You are Dante. And that's good enough for me" A semblance of her usual cheer was beginning to seep its way back into her voice. Dante sighed inwardly.

"Are you sure?" He asked, quietly. Geni nodded her head without a word. Dante stood a little straigter, and removed his gloves.

"very well" He said. "I will show to you what I have shown to no other."

Dante sat back down, taking geni's hand as he opened the mental door to the flashbacks hidden behind it.

OOC: Wow. you cannot imagine how hard this was to write. Any problems let me know.

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Images flooded into Geni?s mind, memories that were not her own. Flashes of some, not fully remembered, while others she saw heartbeat by heartbeat. Dante took down the barriers he had constructed in his consciousness and let her see . . .

She saw an image of a boy, bored and alone, stuck in a sparsely furnished area that was supposed to be his playroom ? though it held nothing that could really be played with. The adults didn?t know what to do with him because he was still too young, legally, for formal training. So they left him to his own devices as long as he did nothing destructive. Then this sterile world was interrupted one day when the adults brought in a girl just a bit younger than himself. She was wide-eyed and lost looking, pale skin accentuating the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. [I]?Take care of her.? [/I] they had said. [I] ?She?s your responsibility,? [/I] and [I]?She may be important one day.? [/I] He had taken them seriously, and though she was often the biggest pain in the neck he could have ever imagined, he kept her safe.

Geni saw a memory of herself at around fourteen with Ariana and a few others in the cafeteria; but it was viewed from a table a short distance off. She saw herself laugh at something someone had said, then look up and met Keitaro?s eyes. She stood and walked over to him, still smiling.

?Come on, Keitaro. Sit with us. There?s lots of room at our table and you?re all alone here.? she begged as she grabbed his hand and tugged. There was murmuring from some of the friends about what a drag he was because he never knew how to have fun before Ariana shushed them.

?I don?t think the others want me around.? He muttered, trying to pull his hand out of her grasp.

?Well, I want you around. If any one else has a problem with that, they don?t have to sit with us.? Again she tugged on his hand till he finally gave in to her demands that he join the group. She dragged him across the room and rearranged the chairs so one more could fit, making room next to her own chair so he sat beside her where she could ?keep an eye on him.? She also saw the dark look that Keitaro had received from the person that had been displaced from Jeni?s side ? Bobby.

She saw flashes of training exercises and martial weapons practice. Nothing really coherent, just vague memories. Then the memory of a dark night where everyone was searching in a panic because Jeni had gone missing. She had entered the complex in a rush, then vanished. In the middle of the sea of confusion and worry, Keitaro had remained calm. He simply closed his eyes, took in a deep breath and concentrated on locating Jeni. In seconds his mind found the link and then he was there.

Geni recognized the scene in the barricaded room, although it was disconcerting to see it from another point of view. She felt his fury as she sobbed into his shoulder and watched as he transported her own sleeping form to the medical facilities.

The memories continued to flow into her mind. Dark, angry memories of watching Jeni try to get full movement back into the fingers of her left hand while she invented stories of how she was injured, cover stories that everyone accepted but no one believed. Brooding, furious memories of overhearing Bobby congratulating himself to his buddies on getting away from the freak in time.

And then the flash of the attack on Kinas. The savage seeking of punishment for those who had hurt Jeni ? and of redemption for his allowing her to be hurt while she was still his responsibility. He had let himself believe that she had found someone else, replaced him in the role of protector. And that protector had betrayed them both by causing her pain. Betrayal demanded retribution. She saw Keitaro nearly kill his target, then plant the evidence to frame Bobby. She felt his joy as the screens showed Bobby?s arrest and trial, though a pang of guilt over the stress Jeni showed over the whole matter did intrude often. She saw the verdict and the sentencing, the death and the aftermath and shuddered at the brutality.

And behind it all, an overlaying half-memory of a man, terrifying to behold. A man not Keitaro or Dante, but hovering in the background of everything. Geni could not get a clear idea or image of who or what he was, but she knew it was menacing in the shadows it kept to.

Geni returned to herself, still seated with Dante standing before her. He was lightly holding her hands in his in a way that told her he expected her to jerk them away from him at any second. His expression was sad but determined.

?Kinas ? Bobby. . . you set Bobby up.? she whispered.

?Yes, I did. And I?d do it again if I had the chance. That filth deserved everything he got.? Dante spoke in a harsh tone, not pulling any punches.

?Why?? was all she asked.

?Because he hurt you, betrayed you. Because there?s a darkness inside me that dealt out my own brand of justice. I am like a lycanthrope that becomes a monster when the circumstances are right. And that part of me will never change.? Dante felt her hands shiver, but she did not pull away. Instead, she stood up and slid her arms around him, resting her cheek on his lapel.

?No, that is not what I meant. Why did you try to bear this all alone?? Her arms tightened for a moment, holding him close. ?What you did to Kinas and Bobby frightens me. I would have to be a dunce for it not to. But you are a good man at heart.? Dante started in surprise and tried to pull her back so he could look into her face, but she held fast to him.

?My lies and stories to everyone about what had happened took away every avenue of open punishment from you. That part is my fault and I accept the blame.? Geni was still shaking in his arms, but she pressed on. ?The only options left to you were the one you took or just forgetting about it. You are too rash and filled with a sense of justice to let it go, so you did what you did. I?m frightened by that, by the idea that you are willing to kill someone because they hurt me. That?s a lot of responsibility to bear for my small shoulders.? She sighed and leaned into him. ?I won?t even ask you to promise that you will never do anything like that again, for I know you will make no such guarantee. No one knows what the next moment will hold. All I ask is that you don?t hold it all in anymore. Don?t bear such burdens alone. Talk to me and perhaps together we can find better solutions. Let me be by your side and be of some small service in your life. At least that way I can keep an eye on you.?

A smile crept to Geni?s lips as she felt a surprised small chuckle rumble in Dante?s chest. She didn?t want to make light of the situation, but she didn?t want him to think that she was scared of him, either. Far from it, in fact. To know that you were that protected, that watched over by someone was a marvel as well as a heavy responsibility. She would have to do everything in her power to make sure that similar circumstances never arose again.

?I love you, Dante.? She whispered, then stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.

Dante tipped her chin up with his fingers of one hand so he could see her face better. ?I am amazed that this creature of iron character is the same lady who was brought to hysterical sobs by a letter from a frock maker.?

?I can face down the devil himself for you.? She declared defiantly, ?Even the devil inside of you.?

?But London?s ton is different?? he asked.

?Yes, because you and the others are counting on me. If I get banned from social circles, I won?t be able to be there to help when Jack appears. And I would be letting my parents down. They have such high hopes for me.? Her defiance left her in a rush.

?We won?t let them have that power over any of us.? Dante growled.

?I don?t see as we have that choice, but I won?t give up if you refuse to.? Geni took heart in his gruff obstinance against giving in to society?s whims.

?There?s the girl I know.? Dante said approvingly. ?Now, you have an appointment with Eclair and an evening of chaos ahead. You had better be going. You?re father and I shall meet you at Eclair?s house before the ball.?

?What about you?? Geni asked.

?I have a few errands to attend to this afternoon.? He took out his handkerchief. ?Dry your eyes and go to your fitting.? Then a hint of anger flashed in his eyes. ?Do please remind Eclair that I would speak to her sometime soon.? He kissed her lightly on her lips to take the sting out of his words, since his anger was not directed at Geni, and pushed her softly from him and toward the door. ?Go. I will see you in your splendor this evening.?

Geni nodded and smiled a departure, then left to order up the carriage to take her and Aribelle to her friend?s home. There would be much chaos ahead. Geni only prayed there was now a little less chaos in Dante?s heart.

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It had been several hours since Dante had walked in on the conversation. Disbelief still loomed in his mind, over what he had heard, and what he had shown to Geni. Things he had shown to no other before.

Standing before the closed Seamstress' store, gripping a sheathed Tsuruko tightly in hand, dante watched on as a light blazed from a first floor window. For an eterninty; it seemed, He stood there. The origin of the Letter that had inflamed the situation with the Social ton.

He had come with murderous intent. Had come to make sure that such letters would not be making circulation again. Flashes of the Kinas incident hurled themselves through his mind.

Dante turned, hung his head, and dissapeared into the night.

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By the time Geni had arrived Eclair had chosen 3 dresses from her wardrobe which she had purchased earlier that year.

"Now my dear I want you to be completely honest in your pickings. These are the finest Pairs could offer, and I want you look stuning in which ever you choose." Eclair replied as she opened her bedroom door to reveal the three most brilliant dresses.

The dress on the left was the same color as the bluest lake under a clear spring summer sky. The center gown was an intriguing crimson that would look quiet lovely despite Geni's red ringlets. The thrid dress however was by far the most magnificent, this dress was the color of the most amazing emerald. It shimmered even here the low light of the approching evening.

Geni's eyes could not believe the splendor of these three gowns, she owned her own lovely pieces herself, but with color as vibrant as these before her. She scanned over them mutiple times, inspecting each of them carefully treating each of them as delicate art. Then as Eclair had hoped Geni rested her eyes upon the emerald gown.

"I was hoping that you would fancy this one, this shade will bering out those gorgeous eyes yours like gems on a bare necklace." Eclair motioned for Clohe's assistance. "Now my dear we haven't a moment to loose."

"Eclair... about earlier."

"You have no need to worry about the words that were spoken earlier my girl. Just don't forget what either of us said and that will be good enough for me." With that last reply of their conversation from earlier that day, the women began the altering of Eclair's dress to create Geni's.

:OOC: Woohoo filler to get us closer to the ball. Lets do it!

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Ariana and Rufus spent most the day in preparation for that evenings ball, they were both suffering from heavy anticipation. Everyone figured that the next attack would most likely be tonight. Jack made an apperance at Almacks once, why not again, after all the bigger the crowd the better the kill it seemed.

Ariana had recieved a new dress from Vincent as a gift only a couple months, and she had been saving it for this particular event. The gown glittered as a garnet would under the sun of a spring day, every individual fold in the fabric glistened with every move. Rufus would be wearing the usual black three-piece, only his vest and over coat would be a deep crimson to match Ariana's brilliance.

"Can you believe it's been a year already?" Ariana asked durring lunch.

"It certainly went by quickly, no to mention eventfully. Although dear..." Rufus took a sip at his tea.

"Although what?" Ariana asked raising an eyebrow.

"I don't think my dancing skills are going to be up to par with last years." He replied nodding at his cane only a few feet away. A warm smile came to Ariana's lips as she fought back tears, the mere memory of almost loosing Rufus still made her teary.

"You could be the worst dancer in the world and I would still love you and think you to be the best." She replied happily.

:OOC: Yipee!

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Eclair, Clohe and Ariabella fussed and flounced, tugged and tightened till Geni was near ready to scream. They twittered over her, discussing the best options like she wasn?t even there. When she tried to express her opinion, she was told to shush, sit still and be patient. They wouldn?t even let her look in the mirror to see the final effect. Eclair said that she would be able to tell how wonderful she looked in the eyes of the people who gazed upon her. It didn?t make much sense to Geni, but in for a penny, in for a pound. She had given herself up to her friend, and now she had to take Eclair?s word for everything.

The front bell rang and Geni suddenly grew nervous. The evening had arrived, and though she looked ready on the outside ? she hoped, she definitely did not feel ready on the inside. On top of the merciless ton to face and Dante?s expectations to meet, there was a potential attack they needed to stop at all costs. Too many lives had been lost all ready.

Geni could hear male voices conversing downstairs and Eclair snickered. ?Nathan has been cooling his heels in the back parlor for nearly and hour. He likes to be early to things. I?m having a hard time convincing him of the notion to be ?fashionably late.? I bet he?s bemoaning the eternal tardiness of women to your father right now.?

Eclair gave her young friend a final once-over. ?You?re finished. My masterpiece.?

?Eclair, how can I ever repay you for all this?? Geni asked in a whisper.

?No repayment necessary. This is my way of being festive for the occasion. You gave me the opportunity to forget my troubles for a time. For that, I should be thanking you.? Eclair answered gently. ?Now, I know a few men who are awaiting our pleasure, and you should never keep a man waiting too long ? only long enough.?

Eclair made her entrance first, her black silk gown dramatically setting off her moon-pale skin. Her hair was done up in a chignon with small diamonds pinned into it to give a touch of sparkle. She moved with thoughtless grace and smiled a welcome to the men waiting at the bottom of her staircase. Nathan?s jaw had dropped slightly, but he recovered himself in moments and crossed to the base of the stairs and offered his hand to her to help the lady descend the last few steps.

Peeking out, Geni saw that she could stall no longer. She took as deep a breath as the tight French corset would allow and stepped into view of the waiting party. She blushed prettily as all the attention turned to her. It was at that moment that she understood what Eclair had meant. Dante had too much decorum to drop his jaw like Nathan had, but the stunned appreciation she saw in his eyes made the whole afternoon of being poked and prodded worth it.

Geni was radiant in her borrowed emerald green gown. The dress fit her like a finely made glove and highlighted all her best physical features. The top skirt swept back to a bow in the small of her back, resting on top of the bustle made up a tiers of matching green lace. The base skirt just brushed the floor in ripples of extravagant silk that caught the light and made Geni?s skin seem incandescent as the moon. Her eyes, fringed with long black lashes, were the same shade as emeralds and glistened just like the gems. The strawberry curls had been pulled up and then allowed to fall in a cascade down her back with a tiny tiara set just in front of the mass as her only jeweled adornment. The front of the dress was lower that Geni normally wore, but not so low that she was afraid of falling out. Eclair had said that the cut was all the rage with the non-debutantes, but Geni had never bothered to notice before. Again, she would have to take Eclair?s word for it.

Her father nudged Dante forward and the young gentleman also offered his hand up. He was dressed in a long black frock coat that concealed, Geni had no doubt, a blade or two. The rest of his tux was pristine and he looked amazing in his own right. He held his brushed silk top hat in his other hand as he guided Geni down the bottom steps and tucked her hand into his arm. Clohe handed her mistress and Geni their evening wraps and the five of them made their way out the front door and into the carriages.

?You look lovely.? Dante whispered in Geni?s ear as the horses lurched the conveyance forward. The smile she returned the compliment with glowed brighter than the street lamps that lined the lane.

?Thank you.? she lowered her eyes to look at her gloved hands. ?You are without equal, yourself.?

?I?d say Lady Eclair?s efforts were a success, judging from the fact that it took more than four minutes for this young lord to locate his voice after viewing you.? Lord David said with a smirk.

?Father, please don?t tease.? Geni begged.

?Who said I was teasing?? he rejoined.

The ride was not long, but the tension mounted with every horse step forward. The attacks seemed to increase in danger with each event, rather than decrease with practice. Geni wanted so badly for this evening to go well, prayed that no one would be injured or killed. The carriage rolled to a stop before the club and she winced. Dante squeezed her hand as he helped her down.

?Be brave.? he told her. She nodded, and with a hand on the arm of both her father and Dante, with Eclair and Nathan mere steps behind, she took a breath and headed into the building.

The crowd was overwhelming. Geni had to tighten her shields more than she ever had before, and it still didn?t keep all the din out. She mentally took courage in all of the work that had been done to her today, using her Parisian dress as a barrier from the censure she could feel around her. She pasted on what she hoped was a winning smile and braved the ballroom.

Without waiting to ask, Dante whisked her onto the dance floor for a brisk Venetian Waltz. The quick steps took her breath away, and Dante was light on his feet, so she had no need to fear her own. They spun around the room, the watching crowds all a blur. Geni felt a mental greeting from Arianna, but could not find her in the whirring masses. She sent back a quick hello, and then returned her focus to the fast moving dance.

When the music ended and the musicians appreciated, Dante escorted Geni to a rare vacant seat. Winded, she fanned herself with her hand. Dante took a quick glance around, and seeing Lord David not far off, he offered to bring her a drink. Breathless, she nodded her agreement.

Dante was no more than fifty feet away when another young gentleman, rotund and sweating profusely, approached her. ?You?d be Miss Geni, then?? he asked rudely.

?I am Lady Genieve, yes. As we have not been properly introduced, I beg you to leave me to my party.? she gave him a glacial look while trying to remain polite.

?None of your airs, now.? He chided, then belched loudly. The man was obviously drunk. ?I heard all about you. You may come be my pretty thing, now. I?ll give you a necklace to make you prettier to show you that I wouldn?t want you to wander too far.?

?I beg your pardon!? Geni was aghast at his offensive words and manner. ?Leave me at once and never burden me with your presence again!?

The drunk roared with laughter, then lightning quick, grabbed her out of chair and began to manhandle her toward the gardens. ?Come now, miss. We?ll have a bit of fun so I can try you out and see if you?re to my liking.?

Geni struggled as much as she could in the tight dress and the pressing crowd, but she could not free herself from his iron grip. [I]Dante! Arianna! Help me! Nathan! [/I] she braodcast as loud and desperately as she could manage. Still she was dragged further across the room, closer to the gardens and the thousands of places hidden from all view. [I]Dante![/I]

Abruptly the drunkard halted. Lord Rufus and Arianna blocked his path. ?Sir, you will unhand the lady at once.? the lord said in a deathly cold voice, his cane held in a slightly threatening manner.

?You are mistaken.? the fat man argued. ?This is miss Geni. You must have heard the rumors. I?m just going to test it myself to see how valid the gossip is.?

?This is a lady of honor decorum.? Nathan growled from behind, his and Eclair?s arrival going almost unnoted. ?And I am a detective on the police force. Unhand her or I will have you up on charges of assault.?

?Come now, I?m just going to have fun with her. I won?t hurt her, and I won?t be doing anything several other men haven?t done before.? The drunk was becoming angry, shaking Geni like a ragdoll. Then, with a resounding crack, he released her and fell into an unceremonious heap on the floor. Dante stood over him for a moment, then turned toward Geni, shaking his hand like it stung.

?Next time, I?ll aim for his nose instead of his teeth. More dramatic and painful for him and less painful for me.? he muttered. ?Are you all right? Did he hurt you?? He brushed a stray curl out of her face and back where it belonged.

?N-no, just scared me. I?m sorry to cause such a ruckus.? She stammered, but only a bit.

?There is no need to apologize, dear.? Arianna soothed. ?This was completely out of your control.?

Nathan grabbed a server who was stupidly staring at the form on the floor. ?This man is drunk and accosted one of the guests.? he barked, flashing his police identification. ?Remove him at once and make sure he is informed that the police will be investigating.?

?Come away.? Dante put a hand to her waist and drew her from the scene. Lord David arrived, having had to push his way through the gathered crowd of onlookers. He sighed with relief at the sight of his daughter, safe.

?This lady is blameless in the sight of the law.? Nathan announced to the room in general. ?And I as well as those gathered around me can attest to her propriety as a lady of society. There will be no repetitions of these offences tonight.? His declaration carried weight as the buzz of the room carried his words from one gossip to the next.

?Dante, I?m sorry.? Geni drooped as he lead her back to the seats.

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"Can you believe the nerve of that man, you can't even call him a man, he's more like a jackal than anything." Eclair could barely contain her frustration with the incident. Nathan had to speak up to calm her down.

"We'll just thank Dante for stepping in with a right hook, I can't imagine what the crowds reaction would have been if you had done the same." Nathan replied cheerfuly.

"I would have to if it had gone any farther." Eclair declared, though they all knew that Eclair would never dreaming of striking some one with her own fist let alone in public.

"You don't have to preach heroics to me Eclair." Nathan stated smiling.

"I must say Dante that was an impressive blow." Rufus joined into the conversation.

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"I haven't seen a man laid down that cleanly in quite some time." Rufus replied. Him and Ariana had slowly follwed the group over to Geni's seat. "And I must say dear Geni, you look stunning tonight. As do you miss Eclair." Rufus stated giving a small bow of his head.

"I'm sure none of us can compete with your own wifes beauty however." Eclair replied with a warm smile. Rufus' cheeks turned a slight shade of pink as he turned his gaze to Ariana.

"You've seen right through me Eclair, as beautiful as everyone here is. None can compare to me sweet Ariana. By the way Geni, if Dante hadn't shown up in the time that he did I was completely prepared to give that beast of a man a good smacking with my cane." Rufus exclaimed holding the cane tightly.

"But you didn't get the chance, because our brave Dante rushed in an saved the day as expected. I don't see anyone else bothering Geni the rest of the night, not after that display that was given." Ariana replied.

"Now if you'll excuse us friends, I owe my wife a dance. Nathan would you be a sir and hold this for me?" Rufus asked handing the cane off to Nathan.

"Of course." Nathan stated kindly accepting the cane.

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The dance that Rufus had decided to take Ariana out on the floor for was luckliy a slower paced waltz that even Rufus could still manage.

"Who do you you suppose the attack will happen on tonight?" Rufus whispered as they made rounds on the glistening floor.

"I have no idea I can't find the clue that normally indicates the target." Ariana replied worridly.

"Well try not to fret too much, you and our frineds have done a plenty good job of stopping these public murders." Rufus stated trying to lift his wifes spirits. Arianas eyes fell for a moment.

"I only wish that we could have stopped Edwards. For poor Eclair's sake, and his own." Ariana kept her voice down to a whisper as she spoke.

"Although considering what she has gone through, I believe she is faring quite decently. Don't you think?" Rufus asked giving his usual smile.

"Very true, the mere fact that she is here wearing a smile, is proof of that. But that Nathan better get a move on, or I'll..." Ariana stopped. "Forget it this is positively no time to be threathening him."

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Nathan and Eclair stood only feet away from where the young couple sat. They all watched as Rufus led as graceful a dance as possible with his permanently damaged leg. A small smile came to Nathan's lips as he watched the happy couple.

"What are you smiling at so widely?" Eclair asked glancing at Nathan.

"You can tell you know." Nathan replied almost to himself.

"Tell what?" Eclair looked puzzled for only a moment.

"You can tell there's a love between them stronger than anything." Nathan stated warmly.

"You're being awfly sentimental this evening Nathan." Eclair smiled.

"Do you remember the first time we danced?" Nathan asked quietly.

"As a matter of fact I do. I remeber it was at a ball quite the same as this one. Almack's my very first I believe, Vincent required you to dance with me, because you didn't want to dance with anyone. But somthing tells me thats not true." Eclair replied jokingly.

Nathan turned to glance at Dante and Geni.

"Dante, hows your hand?" He asked.

"Theres a little pain, but deffinately worth it. Probably not as much pain as the oafs going to feel when he wakes up however." Dante gave a small smirk, but it couldn't hide the fact that he was still outraged.

Rufus and Ariana returned to the side where their friends awaited, Nathan handing him his cane.

"Thank you Nathan."

"Anytime Rufus."

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After the gossip buzz had died down (and Eclair had repaired the mussing of Geni's hair as best she could) the group resumed dancing. The rythms and fancy steps helped to calm Geni's frazzled nerves, but she couldn't help but notice that Dante was having a much harder time regaining his usual aplomb. She could still feel his anger simmering just beneath the surface. But it wasn't directed at her or their friends, so she let it be.

Not much later, the new debutaunts made their announced entranced as their formal introduction into society. This season, the "thing" was to have each girl accompanied by a male escourt -- usually a family member or elderly family friend. Geni even moticed one girl who was being 'led' by a man so old he looked to be on his deathbed, wheezing his breaths in and out so loud that everyone could hear it over the din of the gathered crowd. Geni immediatly felt pity for the poor girl.

The last two of the eight girls entered with younger men on their arms, one a cousin and the other an elder brother. Both young men looked quite distinguished, uncomfortable in the femine spotlight, and both glowed an aura of red.

[I]Ariana . . .[/I] Geni called mentally.

[I]Yes, I can see it too. But, which one is it?[/I] she responded.

[I]That's the question, isn't it? [/I] Dante chimed in. Geni was surprised that he could hear what they had said, since neither of them had addressed him directly, but she was holding his hand. That was probably how he had been able to 'overhear'.

[I]Has Jack not decided which one he wants? Is that why they both glow?[/I] Nathan added, letting Ariana and Geni know that he and Eclair had also seen the auras. The six of them had seperated during the dancing, and that almost seemed beneficial now. They were spread to different parts of the room, so now they were able to watch from all different angles for the attack. Ariana and Rufus were center, but a short ways back from the debs. Geni and Dante were closer, but off to the left, while Nathan and Eclair were to the right and just at the base of the steps.

As the introductions concluded, Eclair dragged Nathan forward so she could offer a formal welcome to the new young ladies -- at least that was her outward intention. But before she had gone more that three paces, she swooned into a faint. Taken by surprise, Nathan barely managed to catch her. Hands full of frills, ribbons, lace and lady, the officer didn't see the ratty dressed man sauntering down the stairs, following the path the debs had taken into the room. Nathan didn't see him, but the others did.

Ariana rushed forward with Rufus' walking cane in hand. Geni and Dante came in from the side. With nearly everyone's attention on Eclair, it wasn't difficult to push through the gathered people. Ariana raced up the stairs with amazing athleticism, considerining she was in a gown and heels, and reached one of the glowing young men just as the attacker leaped down from a few higher, blade in hand. She swang he husband's cane in an arc, chest high to the armed man, as hard as she could. The wood impacted into his ribs with a satisfying thwack, successfully throwing off is aim and sending him flying in a totally different direction than the one the assailant had originally intended. The man vanished before he even connected with the floor.

Ariana looked back at the masses and saw that not many had noticed her actions, not even the intended target or his young lady cousin. In fact, it appeared that Eclair had unintentionally kept the focus completely off the attack. The police wouldn't even need to be called for this one. She tapped the young lady on the shoulder and gave a friendly introduction to the deb and the man whose life she had just preserved, and wished her a happy first season in London. Looking down, she noticed the crack that now ran the length of her lord's cane. It didn't bother her too much. A cane was much easier to replace than a life.

[I]The other man![/I] Geni cried.

Looming behind the other young escort the attacker had reappeared. He lifted his blade, ready to plunge it into the man's heart from behind. Copying a move she had seen but recently, Geni balled up her right fist and swang with all her might up at the man's face from the side. She only hit hard enough to make him take a single step back, but blood covered his face. It also delayed him long enough for Dante to shove past the telepath, knocking her into the second target, and bring his sheathed short sword into play. He used the covered edge to smack the attacker's wrist, numbing the hand and forcing the blade from his fingers.

Mopping at his bleeding face, the man muttered "What is with the frills today?" and vanished once again, splattered blood and all.

"Please pardon me." Geni begged the escort. "I seemed to have turned my ankle a touch on the stair. Please forgive me for so rudely accosting you."

"Never fear, lady. No harm done, but are you quite allright?" he responded graciously. "Can I help you to a chair?"

"No, that is fine. I will see to her." Dante smiled for the escort's benefit. "Thank you for your kind offer, though." He tucked Geni's hand into his arm, then tried his luck at making conversation to see if maybe he could discern why this young man of the two had been chosen as a target. "Come to London often?"

"No, this is my sister's type of excitement. I much prefer hunting or studying in the Library at Cambridge." was the reply.

Everyone in the group who was able scanned the room, searching for any sign that another attack would come. All seemed as it should be, with no other glowing targets and no sense that the gathering had noticed anything out of the ordinary other than the lady Eclair, who was coming around of her own accord and attempting to laugh off her spell as too much excitement from seeing so many stylish gowns all in one place. She was able to make everyone smile and nod placatingly, then think nothing further.

Dante and Geni made their way to the chairs once again with Geni acting a slight false limp, all the while chatting with the young man whose name turned out to be Charles Trevelyan and his charming sister. They learned that Charles was a student of Cambridge, studying law. His father was a member of Parliament. He was eighteen years old and hoping he would not need to attend another social season for at least eighteen more. Dante noticed Ariana and Rufus speaking with the other intended victim, and thought they should compare notes later.

Geni sat gratefully. Her hand stung some, and her feet were more than ready to take a break. She wished the deb a happy season and smiled as her brother reluctantly took her onto the dance floor. Dante sank into the seat next to her with a sigh.

"I never did get you the drink I promised you." he laughed ironically.

"No, you didn't." she quirked a half-smile back at him. "But you were right. The nose makes a much better target."

"Not at all what I expected you to do, but it was marginally effective. Shoving him might have been better, for future referance." His instructor tone was back, but only for an instant, then he let it drop. "I liked the way no one was bothered by the maniac in the back. Typical of the ton. At least the police won't be called in this once."

[I]We can't take much more of this.[/I] Geni told him, her mental tone thin, stressed and soft. [I]I can't take much more of this.[/I]

[COLOR=Blue]Sorry this took so long to post. I wish it were better, but I've run out of time. Please forgive me![/COLOR]

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After fooling the masses into submission Eclair was finally able to make her way over the where Geni and Dante were sitting, Nathan at her side of course and Rufus and Ariana close behind them.

"Well noting that no one is dead or even injured at that matter, I'd say you all must have faired quite well. I do apologize for not being able to assist you, that truely came out of no where."

"There is no need for you to apologize for somthing that you can't prevent." Nathan replied before anyone had a chance to say anything.

"However that was a most inopertune moment for it to happen." Dante added no particular tone to his voice as he spoke. There was a short pause before anyone else said anything.

"Well I suggest that we continue to keep our guard up, and as we do so attempt to enjoy ourselves." Ariana chimed in cutting the akward silence between the all.

"Yes, good idea as always my dear." Rufus replied. He was holding the splintered cane, but it was obvious that it was out of commision.

"Eclair why don't you stay here with Geni while I go and get you somthing to drink." Nathan offered.

"That would be delightful, thank you Nathan." Eclair replied welcoming the chair. Nathan left in the direction of somthing to drink, but Eclair continued to hear his voice.

[I]'Was it the same?'[/I] He asked his concern was obvious.

[I]'Yes I'm afraid so.'[/I] Eclair replied.

[I]'We'll need to be more careful next time.'[/I] Nathan stated.

OOC: Woohoo it seems I've traded places with last years fainter! :animesigh

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"We were able to have a pleasant conversation with one of our victims. His name is David Lloyd George and well he's not really a usual here in the London scene." Ariana replied.

"Thats right he usually resides on Wales. Hes here for his wifes sake." Rufus added quickly.

"His wife? Then who was he escorting?" Nathan asked, he had returned and handed a glass to Eclair.

"That was his cousin." Ariana stated.

"On his motheres side to be precise." The two of them were speaking in low tones, but not obvious enough that people would try to listen in.

"Well what does he do that could possibly be of importance?" Dante asked.

"Well currently hes a preacher, but he does have a law degree." Rufus ended with that final note being his point. The young married couple looked quite pleased with the information.

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"We discovered much about the second target." Dante said. "And as near as I can tell, the only thing they have in common is the position of escort at this ball."

"Do [B]any[/B] of the intended victims have any ties to one another, I wonder?" Nathan speculated.

"Well, I for one, feel that we should celebrate the fact that we have survived another two attacks rather than just one, as well as the happy lack of police and upset needed this night. No offense meant toward the enforcement of the law, but they do tend to spoil the mood of a party when they arrive en masse." Eclair announced to the group with an apologetic smile for Nathan.

"No doubt about that." the detective agreed.

"So I propose we all enjoy the rest of the evening as best we can, and discuss this night's events somewhere less crowded and noisy tomorrow." Eclair gave each person a glare, daring them to defy her wish.

"Sounds like a grand idea." Rufus agreed. "Everyone has been functioning on the tauntest wires with pins and needles for the past weeks. It's high time we relaxed for a few moments and enjoyed being alive and together."

Ariana nodded her head, a soft smile warming her face. It had been a while since she had simply gloried in being alive. She was more than happy to follow Eclair and her lord's suggestions.

"Then it's decided!" Eclair announced before anyone else could voice an opinion. "How about we meet at Geni's home tomorrow for luncheon. . . that is, if Lord David and his staff do not mind me extending the invitation."

"No, father won't mind." Geni replied.

"Well, then. Sir Nathan, I would like to dance." Eclair smiled winningly and grabbed her gentleman's hand. She tugged him onto the dance floor. Ariana and Rufus gingerly made their way to the drinks, the stuffiness of the room and the close quarters were starting to effect Rufus's balance. Ariana thought a drink and a chair might fortify him. Geni remained seated, waiting to see what Dante wanted to do.

[I]You know, I have an envelope in my jacket pocket with a "J" enscribed in red on it. [/I] Nathan sent to his Lady dance partner.

"Yes, dear one. I saw you pick it up off the stairs after you helped me to my feet." she whispered in his ear.

[I]Shouldn't we tell the others about it now? They will want to know.[/I] He asked her opinion.

"Tomorrow. Bad news can keep overnight. Tonight is special. . . so let's let everyone enjoy it." With that, the subject was dropped and the music swept them away in the stylized steps of the dance.

[COLOR=Blue]OOC: Not a lot, but at least we know where the letter is. I hope all the characters enjoy the ball! (I think we all deserve a little fun once and a while.)[/COLOR]

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Nathan did as he was told and led Eclair in a graceful dance across the floor, not the first time of course that he had done so. And as many time as Eclair told him to enjoyb the rest of the evening, he couldn't help think about Eclair passing out durring the attack. He knew it had nothing to do with what she had told the masses, and it discomforted him greatly. That had never happened at a dire moment before, and his worry for her only increased.

"Nathan your thinking an awful lot, and not talking enoug." Eclair replied. With out evening notcing the dance had ended and Nathan had led Eclair to a seat on the side.

"I apologize, I was simply--"

"You were busy thinking about earlier weren't you? I told you, try to relax. Even Geni and Dante have managed to settle in to the eveing." She stated gesturing over the young pair. They seemed quite pleased with eachothers comapany as Dante led Geni on the dance floor.

"Its just that..." His voice faltered and he looked away. Eclair thought that she could see a hint of pink in his cheeks.

"What is it?" She asked, pushing for an answer.

"Its nothing, I'll tell you later." And with that the two of them joined the dance floor again.

OOC: Woohoo filler to keep us up top!

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As Dante gracefully twirled Geni across the floor in an ancient waltz, He noticed that Geni was trembling slightly.

[I]"Geni? what is it? what's wrong?"[/I] Dante said without speaking.

[I]"It's nothing Dante. I... I.. I just...."[/I] She waverd in speech without speaking.

[I]"Don't say it!"[/I] Dante yelled silently.

[I]" Dante? wha..."[/I] Dante cut across her.

[I]"Don't say it![/I] He reiterated, Glaring at Geni's wavering eyes [I]"I know what you're thinking. I know how you're feeling. Just forget about it, let go of fear and speculation. What-if's but-for's and might-have-been's have been the defeat of many a finer warrior than me, I can tell you. Just let it all go and Enjoy yourself. Loose yourself in the music,"[/I]

Dante and Geni talked no more, as they continued in the ancient and gracefull waltz.

OOC: wow. short and over two weeks late, and not my best work. still I got something up. ^^;;

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The evening progressed, and all seemed to have a good time, but Geni - despite Dante's words of encouragement - was having a hard time relaxing and enjoying the successful event. The drunk's advances on top of the actuall double attack still had her rattled deep down. She was beginning to wonder if her presance wasn't actually more of a hinderance than a help.

She had caused her friends to worry and had been the focus of a nasty public scene. Half of her wanted to crawl into a deep dark cave and hide for the next year or so, and the other half wanted to stand up defiantly to the crowds and declair that she couldn't have cared less what they thought of her. Instead, she drifted in limbo, neither retreating or advancing. . . simply remaining where she was.

Her anxiety increased as the night progressed. She wasn't sure where she stood, not in society, not in the group, not even with Dante for that matter. Was she truely more distress than damsel, as Jack had said. She tightened her mental shields to keep Dante from feeling her hurt and to attempt to keep the rest of the world out. It wasn't easy, and finally she had to beg her father and Dante to escort her home with a headache. She had messed something else up . . . she couldn't even enjoy an evening right.

Geni retired to her rooms with an uneasy heart and a depressed spirit.

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Nathan nodded his head toward an empty chair where Geni had been sitting only minutes ago. Eclair turned her head to glance, then made a sweep of the dance floor. Geni and Dante were no where to be found.

"Where do you suppose they went?" Nathan asked quietly.

"Its been a long day, and I'm sure dear Geni's nerves are at their end. She most likely retired for the evening. Which is alright, we'll need all the relaxation we can get tonight before we open that letter tomorrow." Eclair replied softly as they continued to dance.

After a hand full of dances, Eclair and Nathan joined Ariana and Rufus who were sitting on the side chatting quietly to eachother.

"Did you notice Geni leave?" Ariana asked as they approached.

"Only just recently, though I'm not sure when they actually left." Eclair stated taking the seat next to Ariana.

OOC: Sorry its short filler! :animesigh

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[COLOR=RoyalBlue]OOC: Guess it's time to be moving on. . .[/COLOR]


Geni slept restlessly and was hardly awake when her maid announced that she had visitors downstairs. She was also informed that a package had arrived for her from Almack's early that morning. Doing her best to find cohearancy, she dressed as quickly as possible and headed down the stairs to the parlor where her friends waited.

Geni noticed the small white parcel with her name and address neatly penned on the top. She snatched it off the hallway side table and took it into the room with her. Ariana, Rufus, Eclair, Nathan and Dante all turned at her entrance with Nathan and Dante rising from their seats and Rufus giving her a polite nod in lew of standing.

"I am so terribly sorry. I had no idea of the time. Please excuse my tardiness." Geni begged the group.

"No worries, dear." Ariana spoke in a soothing tone. "It was a late night full of excitements. No wonder you slept late."

"Yes, no one here blames you." Eclair agreed. "Now, shall we get to the point of this meeting? Nathan, here, found a letter from Jack last night."

"What?!" Dante shouted, interrupting her. "And you didn't tell any of us?!"

"I thought it would be better if we could read it and confer in private, so there would be no worry of being overheard by the wrong parties." she refuted.

"I agree with your thinking." Rufus nodded his head. "Murderers and rumormongers abound at that club, it seems."

Nathan took the envelope from his jacket pocket and, after glancing at each person, he cracked the wax seal.

[COLOR=Red]Well Loves,

Did you enjoy my double suprise? I thought I'd add a little spice to the usual dull routine. I figured we started at Almack's -- our little friendship that is -- so why not have a anniversary treat. But again, you all seem to disagree with my way of thinking. That truely is sad, I must admit. I was hoping that after a season of convincing, you might warm up to me. But alas, you have prooved me wrong again. Well I do hope that you enjoy the rest of your evening, because I promise you... the next letter you recieve from me will not be as delightful.

Sincerely as always, your beloved friend


P.S. One last clue for one last crime: T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house, every creature was stirring, especially the mouse. Ladies stockings were worn to the party with care in hopes that Jack, my dears, soon would be there. . .[/COLOR]

"I think that man delights in obscurity." Eclair complained.

"Of course he does." Dante growled. "He's a murdering maniac with a pension for dramatics. Do you think he's going to spell his every move out for you." Geni could tell that Dante was not in the best of moods toward Eclair.

Nathan jumped into the conversation, hoping to turn minds to somthing more productive than bickering. "Well the clue is obvoiusly about the queen's Christmas Ball. Jack certainly enjoys dancing and public spectical, it seems."

"Now all we need are invitations." Ariana sighed. "Those are harder to get than a pass to Almack's."

"I'm sure a way will present itself." Rufus said, laying his hand over his wife's. "If there wasn't a possibility of our attending, Jack wouldn't have set his attack at such a place."

"True." She smiled at him and squeezed his hand in return. Silence fell upon the party as each person was lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Eclair broke the stillness.

"Geni, dear, what have you got in your box?" she asked.

"Oh! I had completely forgotten I was holding it. My maid said it was delivered from Almack's. Pehaps I dropped something there. It's terribly heavy for such a small parcel." Geni gingerly untied the string and opened the package. On top was a piece of vellum, folded in half. Geni lifted the thin sheet up, but before she could look at the letter, she spied what lay beneath. She let out a scream of horror, pushed the package off her lap, and turned sobbing into Dante's chest. Dante held her close, not knowing what had upset her so.

Nathan moved to the floor at Geni's feet. Beneath a pile of scattered white table salt was a severed human ear, still bloody from it's removal. Eclair and Ariana also recoiled in shock and dismay, but they managed to keep their voices under control.

Nathan removed the missive from Geni's shaking hand and read alloud:

[COLOR=Red]To my dearest friends:
The Lady Death and her consort Offical Calamity, The Lady Beauty and her disfigured Beast, and the Lady of Shalot waiting for her Lancelot to break her heart,

Greatings Loves,

Since I sent a gift to the newspapers, I simply had to send a similar one to my friends. Can't play favorites, you know. I hope you enjoyed my surprise.

Take care of yourselves till we meet again,

Stunned silence reigned supreme.

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Dante stared at the bloody ear lying on the floor. He didn't know why, but it repulsed him. He had seen his share of decapitated body parts in his time, but the sight of a deceased human ear in the otherwise plush drawing room of Geni's townhouse made him feel nausious. His gase rose from the bloody appendage, to meet Eclair's eyes.

[I]"Why did you and the watchdog hide this letter from us?"[/I] Dante venemously shot into her mind.

Eclair's eyes widened in shock as she heard Dante's mental Communikay. He shouldn't be able to communicate mentally, He was just a Teleporter. She was just being paranoid, and hearing things.

[I]"Why did you and the watchdog hide this letter from us?"[/I] dante said without speaking, louder this time, as his eyebrows drew together into his raptor glare.

She could do nothing but mumble. Twice she was not hearing things. How on earth was he communicating? The others must hear it too, only a telepath can shield a mental communication, she thought as she scanned the eyes of the others. The others betrayed no signs of having heard Dante's malicious question.

Her eyes widened. Something had happened to Dante.

OOC: up relatively soon for a change. Any problems let me know and I'll change it to suit.

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Eclair could not believe what she was hearing. Dante had never been able to do that before, and not only was he communicating as a telepath would, but he was directing his anger toward her.

[I]"Why did you hide the letter from us? Answer me!"[/I] His voice came again.

"Stop that!" Eclair's voice broke the silence. Everyone turned their attention to Eclair.

"Eclair whats the matter?" Nathan asked, concern quite clear in his voice.

"How are you doing that Dante? You've never been able to do that before." Her voice was more shaken and frustrated than anything.

"Eclair what are you talking about?" Ariana came into the conversation.

"Dante was speaking to me mind to mind like a telepath. Last I checked he didn't have that ability on his own. Surely one of you must had heard it? Nathan?" She turned her gaze to Nathan, he looked as puzzled as she felt.

"I'm sorry Eclair I didn't hear anything coming from Dante." Nathan stated apologeticly. Looking more and more frustrated with the situation Eclair turned back to face Dante.

"I told you why, I have no need to explain myself again to you." Her tone had gone cold as she almost glared at Dante. She Dante had his differences with her, but she believed that this was niether the time nor the place to deal with it. She began to speak again when the familiar pain returned, but Ecalir refused to give into it. She felt unsteady for only a moment, but it was long enough for Nathan to notice.

"Eclair are you alright?" Rufus asked, clearly he caught the moment as well as Nathan.

"I am fine." Her voice shook slightly.

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