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Just Missed Her

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The grease dripped off the doughnut a woman bit into, spilling on her shirt, not that the woman paid any attention.

It wasn’t the right woman. Not the one Kate Lockey was looking for.

She gazed up at the Vorshlag tower, standing in the middle of the square.

Her mystery woman had been here, striding through the crowd, through the glass doors countless times.

She wasn’t here now. The dark-haired green eyed woman from her dreams was somewhere else, riding on her motorcycle.

Kate closed her eyes, felt the cold metal kiss her wrist, only she willed it not to overwhelm her thoughts. To let her think with a clear head.

Ever since the dream in L.A. where Aras, the green-eyed woman’s doppelganger grabbed her, tried to pull the bracelet off her wrist, Kate Lockley had been acting on instinct. She didn’t stop to question her gut reaction to it all.

Get out. Get out of your apartment, out of L.A. Start running.

She could have gone to Angel. She could have asked for his help. He and his little team specialized in things that went bump in the night, grabbing you from your nightmares.

Only Kate Lockley’s instincts were screaming to get out.

Aras was in that city, along with the nightmare vision of an alley where Aras held a girl, what had her name been?

Karen.

Aras had held her by the wrist while Karen kicked and flailed, trying to free herself from her grip. That had just been the beginning.

If Kate stayed in L.A., bad things would have happened to that girl. She was sure of it, sensed it with a gut instinct she’d always relied upon as a cop. An instinct which was growing stronger.

Not that Kate wanted to remain in a city which no longer wanted her. She’d lost her badge, her right to protect L.A. The city had Angel and his team to protect it.

It felt like giving up, going to them. Not to mention the very notion depressed her. To walk into Angel Investigations's hotel lobby and listen to Wesley Wyndam-Price yammer about monsters as if they were simply part of a textbook exercise. To hear Cordelia Chase fire off sardonic commentary on Wesley’s chatter with an easy familiarity Kate wasn’t sure she’d ever had with her fellow officers. To feel Gunn’s cold, suspicious stare, measuring her, evaluating her. All the while Angel would watch her, exuding silent concern over the fragile mortal who’d cracked.

No, Kate Lockley wasn’t about to share her problems with them. She wasn’t part of their family. These dreams, these visions involving the bracelet and the green-eyed woman were private. What’s more, they were hers. Not Angel’s, no matter how much they might worry him.

Only Kate wasn’t sure where she was going or what she was doing. She’d stopped at Niagara Falls before heading for New York City, lured by happy childhood memories from a more innocent time when monsters weren’t real.

Only monsters were real. Joanne, her childhood friend and first love might have been one of them. She gazed up at the tower in front of her, reflecting light.

“She had so few friends. I found her common, base, a pretender to matters she shouldn’t touch.”

Kate spun around to face a dark-haired man with a billowy black coat, hiding a sensitive mouth behind a goatee gazing at her with large dark eyes, shining with a complex mix of emotions. So like and yet unlike Angel.

“How is Angel?” The man smiled a little as if she’d spoken aloud. “It’s been years since I met him.”

“You know Angel?” Kate backed up a step, feeling for a weapon she no longer had. Once again she could feel the metal encircling her wrist. “Who are you?”

“Ian Nottingham.” He made her a courtly bow. “I know many people, including the woman you seek.” He lifted the corner of his mouth, turning his smile into an ironic twist. “Both women.”

“Really.” All of Kate’s inner alarms, warning her of danger were ringing. “Whom might they be?”

“One of them has long-dark hair, green eyes, and rides a motorcycle. Like you, she is a cop. Like you, she is driven by destiny.” The man’s gaze turned inward, his dark eyes moist. “Her name is Sara. Sara Pezzini.”

“Sara Pezzini.” Kate whispered the name, tasted it, feeling it ring within her mind. “Cathain.”

“Yes.” Ian’s eyes brightened, flickered over her from head to toe. “You’ve very much like her. Perhaps this is why you were given to cops as children, she to James Pezzini and you to Trevor Lockley.”

“Tell me what you know.” Kate gazed at this man, twice her size, and she had no gun, but she could feel strength blazing on her wrist, demanding to me acknowledged. “Everything.”

“I know very little. Not like my father and Lazar.” He pressed a hand to his breast with a little boy’s earnestness. “I know your name, discovered you existed in spite of Lazar’s attempts to hide you.”

He reached out to grab Kate’s hand. Kate tried to pull away but he had her fast. The stone upon her wrist blazed.

“This should be impossible. That you should wear the Witchblade at the same time as Sara should not be.” Nottingham pressed her hand to his cheek. “Destiny is no longer content with what should be. It’s seldom been content with a single vessel.”

“Poetic and cryptic.” Kate wrenched her hand free from Nottingham’s. “You must drive my sister crazy.”

My sister. Yes. There was a strange exuberant triumph in claiming Sara as her sister, even though Kate had yet to see her in person.

“I drive many people crazy. Not Christina Wales.” Nottingham dropped his head. “For all I called her common, base, a peasant, my insults only amused her.”

“Christina…you mean Joanne.” Kate shook her head. “You knew her, too.”

“I knew Christina. Not Joanne. Perhaps she was a better person when she was Joanne.” Once more Nottingham’s gaze flickered over Kate. “If someone like you cared for her, she must have been.”

“What was Christina like?” Kate found herself leaning closer, hungry for any information Nottingham might give her, even if it might cause her pain.

“Ambitious. Empty. Delighting in pain, death, and power, wanting more than she could ever possess.” Nottingham dropped his gaze. “She was like Aras, only she lacked the claim by blood Aras had to such things.”

He reached out for Kate’s hand, stroked her wrist. A flash of images bombarded Kate’s mind. Joanne smiling, delighting in a girl on her knees, crying in front of her. Joanne hitting a man, grabbing the pizza box from him, snatching a piece from it. Joanne standing over a grave where she’d left the man to die. Joanne being dragged across a table by a man’s belt, assessing his anger, his need to dominate, to have revenge…no, not Joanne. Christina. Joanne writhing in that man’s grasp, who looked at Kate with cold eyes. “I see you.”

Kate wrenched her hand away again. “Enough.”

“I am sorry, but there’s no point of hunting for the ghost of Christina, all the places she haunted in this city.” Nottingham gazed at her with grave assurance. “Others need you more.”

“Others?” Kate opened her eyes, imagining Sara on the motorcycle, riding away from her. “Who?”

“Use the Witchblade, Kate. It’s decided to help you. To help you help Sara.” Ian bowed and backed away. “Don’t waste any more time here.”

Kate opened her mouth, only to have a barrage of images flood into her mind. Monsters, human and otherwise roaming the streets. Some of the other creatures out there. A little wax lion speaking, Kate was certain it had been making cryptic remarks to that girl, Jaye, back in Niagara Falls. What had it said?

A lone wolf needs her sisters.

Yes, the vision she’d had in the store of Cathain returned with such vividness she could smell the moss on the nearby stone, feel the cold bite of the night air, and the warmth of the woman’s skin against hers as she held her.

She hadn’t been Sara or Aras. No, she’d been Cathain. And she hadn’t been Kate Lockley, not in that time, not in that place. She’d been Deirdre.

“Deirdre.” Fingers cupped her chin, strong and certain. She looked up into the face of her king, her sister’s beloved.

“We must convince her to return to us. Only we need your help.” Sorrow glinted in Conchobar’s eyes. He wore sorrow on his face in lines telling a story of loss and sacrifice. “Will you help us? Will you save us all with your sacrifice?”

Just what was he asking? What had she agreed to?

Kate opened her eyes to the square in New York City in front of the Vorslag tower. Only Ian Nottingham was gone. He’d disappeared in the crowds of people, vanishing as quickly and quietly as Angel often did.

“I wonder if he taught you that trick,” Kate muttered, glancing around. Another man stood by a hot dog stand, regarding with grave eyes.

Kate nearly jumped. It was her king, dressed in modern denim and a flannel shirt, yet the face, his expression was the same. Troubled with care.

Kate shook her head, looked again and he was gone.

None of this could be real, only what was real any more? Kate Lockley had to stop and question the very nature of reality itself. Monsters were real. Wax lions could talk. Sisters could live parallel lives in different parts of the country. Only now they were searching for each other, only to find themselves on a different path, in a different place. Maybe that, too, was part of destiny.

“A lone wolf needs her sisters.” Sisters, plural. Meaning there was more than one sister. It wasn’t just Sara, herself, and this Karen Bronte.

Jaye Tyler’s face bloomed in Kate’s mind, her bright blue eyes, her sweet smile, her quirky comments about destiny. Maybe Kate shouldn’t have left the Wonderfalls store so quickly.

Only she wanted to find Sara, the one who’d haunted her dreams, whom she kept seeing again and again on her motorcyle. She was a cop, like Kate had been. She’d been given to a cop to raise as Kate had, if you believed Ian Nottingham.

Only this wasn’t true. Kate Lockley hadn’t been adopted! She’d been her mother’s image with the same hair and eyes, something which drove her father away after her mother’s death. She knew who she was!

Didn’t she?

Kate lifted her hands to her head and pressed her fingers against her temples. She couldn’t stay here, not in front of this corporation. Her wrist itched, her sight blurred with images of the man who’d been with Christina. This had been his place, his center of power, where he cast a shadow which lingered over everything. Nor was he the only thing coming.

“Katie-Kat.” Aras stood where Christina had, her arm wrapped around Ian Nottingham, gazing down at her from an upper floor. “I see you.”

Kate backed away from the tower. No, Aras was in Los Angeles. She was sure of it. Was she?

The image returned of Aras holding a girl by the arm, only it was no longer Karen and it wasn’t in a dark alley. It was Jaye Tyler, struggling against Aras within the Wonderfalls store.

“You can’t run forever, Katie-Kat.” Aras looked up from her prisoner to meet Kate’s eyes. “Sooner or later I’ll catch you. Sooner or later I’ll catch you all.” She turned to press her lips against Jaye’s temples.

“Not if I catch up with Sara first,” Kate growled at the vision, summoning a different one. Sara on the road, Sara riding towards a destination, wait, was that the Needle? Pike’s Market?

Seattle. Kate groaned. She’d come all the way to the east coast, only to discover Sara was heading toward the west coast. The very direction Kate had come from.

So much for visions.