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What I Have To Do

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PROLOGUE

-Excerpt from the journal of Dr. Lauren Lewis-

It should never have come to this, but here I am. I have broken nearly every vow I swore to uphold. I have lied, I have cheated, I have stolen, I have played God and by my actions, sentenced someone to death - in every conceivable way, I have let myself sink to the very depths of what little humanity I have left. I deserted my friends, my family - I have done things for which I can never be forgiven, and I can never take them back. And now, the final straw - I have been overtaken by a powerful Fae, and forced to stand against my lover.

Worst of all, I have hurt Bo, and I'm about to do it again. She has the fate of the whole world in her hands, and I have been a dangerous distraction. And so, even though my heart is breaking, and though she may never forgive me for leaving her, I must break things off with her. Stopping Jack is too important, and I have clearly demonstrated that I am a weak link. I won't be the thing that causes her to fail. My dreams of forever with her are just that - dreams - and I must wake up and realize that there is no room in this world for a happily ever after. I cannot be Fae and keep myself - my real and human self - intact.

I will take the antidote that will restore my humanity, all my Fae conduit capabilities will cease, and then, I will tell Bo what must be. She won't forgive me, but she'll move on. I have seen her do this before - with me, with Hale, with Kenzi. She will set her broken heart aside to do what must be done to win the war. And I believe, above all else, that she will win. That's what she does - and who she is. She is a warrior. It's one of the many reasons why I love her.

I may find peace at some point in my life, though I cannot possibly atone for what I've done. I may even find companionship before I take my last breath, but I must say this.

My heart and soul will never love another the way I love Bo, though she can never be mine.

SEVERAL MONTHS AGO

Lauren stepped out of the cab after paying the driver, and stood alone on the sidewalk, heart in her throat. The driver quickly drove away, leaving Lauren alone at this late hour, standing before the monolithic building downtown in the heart of Dark Fae territory.

It had only been two days since she'd moved out of her old place in the Light Fae compound, but thanks to her legendary focus and her need to organize everything perfectly, she'd finished unpacking every box in her new loft. Ironically, her new flat in Dark Fae territory was only a handful of blocks from the Dal Riata.

After several hours of boredom - and loneliness, though she didn't want to admit it - she decided that perhaps the late hour was the perfect time to test her access to the Dark science and medical testing facilities. Her plan to help Bo was still forming, but she knew research would be the key, and since her home lab was limited, she needed to find out what kind of equipment would be available to her in the Dark Fae labs. So she'd quickly grabbed a jacket and the badge Evony, Morrigan of the Dark Fae, had given her, and before she could change her mind, called a cab to bring her here.

Now, she could either call another cab and pray they'd pick her up this late in this part of town, or grow a pair and walk into the belly of the beast. There were lights blazing out of the ground floor, and she could see half a dozen well-dressed guards - ogres by the looks of them - inside the building near the rotating glass door that was the only entrance. Lauren's heart rate tripled as one of them looked right at her, raised a hand to his ear and spoke into his wrist. Her courage evaporated, and she reached into her pocket to pull out her cell phone to call that cab, stat.

"Dr. Lewis?"

She jumped as a voice called her from only a few paces away, and she turned quickly to see another ogre, also squeezed into a dark suit, standing calmly nearby.

"May I escort you inside?"

Lauren took a deep breath before she screamed. Suck it up, Lewis. Jesus. "Inside?"

He frowned, but still made no move towards her. "Yes, Doctor. Are you going to your lab?"

I have a lab? She took another calming breath that seemed to clear the fog from her mind. Of course, Evony had arranged for a laboratory for her. "Yes," she cleared her throat, then spoke again with more certainty. "Yes, I'm going to my lab."

"I'd be happy to escort you. If you'll come with me?" He extended an arm towards the door, a gesture especially gracious in an ogre, and waited for her to move towards the door.

"Of course." Just another day at the office, Lewis. Play along.

The ogre maintained a respectful distance and accompanied her into the building, as if it were an common occurrence for a lone human to show up at Dark Fae headquarters in the middle of the night.

Lauren pulled herself together, and walked confidently into the belly of the beast. Now, there was no turning back.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

- JOURNAL EXCERPT -

I'm not certain how I'll achieve this mission I've set for myself of saving Bo from the Dark. The Morrigan can't be trusted and I must assume that she's watching me at all times. The Light Fae can't help me and will likely apprehend me and turn me over to the Una Mens at first sight unless Evony has made a deal already that I don't know about. The Dark Fae won't trust me right away, and anything I do out of the ordinary will cause suspicion.

Yet I have to try. Dyson was right - I can never leave the Fae and I will never again by truly free. But Bo…being unaligned is so much a part of who she is that I'm afraid of what she might become if she stays Dark. So Bo must be free, and I will make it so at all costs.

Even after all these years, there's so much Bo doesn't know about the world of the Fae. Back before her abduction to the Wanderer's train, if she'd made a mistake against the Light, she risked ostracism at best and a quick death at worst. Now that she's Dark, if she crosses the Morrigan...I've heard terrible stories of some of Evony's captives, tortured for years in the Dark dungeons, denied a quick but gruesome death at Evony's hands. Bo cannot end up like that. And it's just a matter of time before Bo does something Evony's twisted sense of allegiance will find unacceptable. Knowing the Morrigan, she would almost certainly make a horrid example out of Bo.

So I'm staying here, with the Dark. I saw the disappointment in Bo's eyes when I told her, and I'm touched that she and Dyson tried so hard to find me, but it changes nothing. Bo needs someone on the inside, even if she doesn't know what I'm doing. In fact, it's probably best that I not tell her. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and her emotions are always so clearly displayed that no one would ever believe that she wasn't in on it with me if I'm discovered.

I remember the first time I saw Bo. I thought it was posturing on her part, her arguing with the Ash. But as the Ash and the Morrigan debated over what to do with Bo, I watched only her, tied to her chair, fiercely defiant, surrounded by the most powerful Fae in the colony. It was obvious to me that she was terrifiedShe feared for her life, had absolutely no idea what was going on, but she was fighting as best as she could.

I had never seen a braver woman in my life.

Could that have been the moment that I fell in love with her? For weeks, I thought what I felt for her was purely a biological response to her succubus traits. In fact, I was impressed by how deeply her touch had affected me, and I was convinced that some cellular change had taken place, to make me want her the way I did.

I was foolish. I knew I was already in love with her when I used the Ash's permission to distract her as an excuse to get what I really wanted. I thought about her all the time. I could always sense when she walked into a room. I wanted to touch her, to feel her, to give everything of myself to her, even though - at the time - all of me wasn't mine to give. Between my commitment to Nadia and my enslavement to the Light, how much did I really have left to offer anyone?

- END EXCERPT -

The sharply dressed ogre, who had introduced himself as Dave, opened a door with a plaque displaying "Dr. Lauren Lewis, MD, PhD" and gestured for her to enter the room first. Automatic lights quickly brightened the large room, and while she had expected a dark, sinister workspace here at the Dark Fae headquarters, she was surprised to find the warm and welcoming decor in tones of cream and pale ocean blue.

"Here you are, Dr. Lewis," Dave said with a smile on his face. "Welcome to Team Dark." He walked out of the room then turned back in the hall. "If you need anything, there are instructions by the phone for dialing down to the front desk. One of us will come running." He left her alone without another word.

Lauren stood motionless for a few moments, hands tucked in her pockets, and then her eyes quickly appraised the room. It was a corner office, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the nearby city streets. She walked to the closest wall of windows, and looked below. From here on the third floor, she could clearly see the street - not that there was anyone on it at this hour.

She turned her back on the view and looked at the rest of the room. A sleek, modern glass desk with a large computer monitor was the focal point of the room - if one could ignore the view - and two pale leather chairs sat in front of the desk near the middle of the room. A large ergonomic chair completed the ensemble, and behind it stood a wall covered entirely by bookshelves, filled with books. Some were references she wasn't surprised to see, but there were several shelves filled with older, leather-bound books she didn't recognize at this distance.

Lauren moved closer and pulled one from the shelf. There were no markings on the outside, so she opened it and her mouth fell open in shock. She held the personal journal of one of the fathers of medical genetics, and another glance at the shelf showed that it was one of a series.

Evony knew how to make a girl feel welcome.

Lauren carefully grabbed several journals and sat down in the chair behind the - no, her desk. She went to lay them flat on a folder that sat in the center of the desk, but there was a surprising lump in her way. Stacking the journals to the side, she opened a folder that was labeled with her name.

Inside she found login information for the computer, a list of access codes for various laboratories and libraries, a map designating accessible and "restricted" areas, a badge with her photo (when had that been taken?) and the answer to the mystery of the lump.

Evidently, Team Dark came with a luxury Audi SUV.

Lauren sat back in the not-so-surprisingly comfortable chair, trying to re-orient herself to this new world tipping on its axis.

Six hours later, Lauren stopped her reading and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her eyes. Blinking away what felt like dry grit, she realized that it was light outside, though still before sunrise, and a glance at her watch revealed that it was almost 6am. She stood up to stretch and noticed that there was another door in her office, on the same wall as the one she where she'd entered. A stylish credenza sat between the two doors, and she saw a pitcher of obviously chilled water, judging by the accumulated condensation.

Lauren walked over and poured herself a glass of water, certain that if Evony wanted to poison her, she'd have found a grander way to do it. Looking down at the top of the credenza, she noticed a decanter half full of a golden-brown liquid. After setting down her water glass, she picked up the decanter, removed the stopper, and raised it to her nose.

Huh. Scotch. And damned fine scotch at that. She raised her eyebrows, then shrugged her shoulders and poured herself a splash to taste for herself. The smoky spirit lightly burned her esophagus and she smiled before guiltily catching herself. This isn't fun and games, Lewis. Don't get too attached to the amenities.

After tossing back the rest of the scotch, and then finishing off the water, she turned to the newly discovered door. This one had a small keypad, so she retrieved the information from her desk, then entered the code, opened the door and stepped through to the room on the other side.

"Oh, good morning, Dr. Lewis!"

Lauren pulled up short at the exuberant greeting. "Hello?!" She sounded almost defensive. What the hell is he doing here this early?

A fit, olive-skinned man with a neatly trimmed mustache and beard decorating a bright smile walked quickly towards her with his hand outstretched. "I am so thrilled to meet you!" Lauren was almost taken aback by his enthusiasm. "My name is Sam, and I'm such a fan of your work."

"Oh?" Lauren said, uncomfortable at being so warmly greeted by a stranger. "Um, it's, well, uh - nice to meet you, Sam."

He finally let go of her hand after shaking it profusely. "I can't tell you how excited I am to have you here. I've followed your research on anomalies of human genetics for the last two years, and just finished your latest paper on the oxidative damage of free radicals. It's going to be absolutely awesome to work with you on our projects."

The last person who told me they'd read that paper tried to kill my family. She looked away from his eager smile and gazed around the room. Might as well see what they're up to.

"Well, Sam," she said, "Why don't you show me what you're working on?"

JOURNAL EXCERPT -

Since the attack on the Dal at Hale's failed inauguration, humans are in an even more precarious position here in the colony, and my name is at the top of a very short list of those not yet in custody. I suppose I owe the Morrigan for not turning me in, but I can't help but wonder what her plan is, since this witch-hunt was all her idea. Of course, now that the Una Mens have effectively taken over, I'm sure even Evony is on a short leash, but she is a dangerous woman used to immeasurable power and control. She'll do something terrible to regain the status she loves above all else.

And so, while I have been working in secret on a serum that permanently neutralizes all Fae powers (based on an extended analysis of various samples I've collected of their genus), I've decided that I must focus on Evony's species of Fae first. Something tells me that, some time in the near future, I'll need some insurance.

Above all else, I must protect Bo, and help her in any way I am capable.

- END EXCERPT -

"Hey, Dr. Lewis!"

Lauren had just logged out of her system and grabbed her keys to leave for the night when Sam poked his head in from the lab. "Yeah, Sam?"

"That new shipment is in the mailroom. You want me to go grab it?" he asked with a wry smile.

Lauren rolled her eyes. "No, I'll go get it. I'm the one who made a fuss, after all." One of the ogres who worked in the shipping department had been a tad too vigorous with a box of pipettes and coverslips, and she'd vehemently stated that she'd pick up her own deliveries in the future.

Sam's smile never faded. "Ok. Well, have a good night. See you tomorrow!" He disappeared behind the door.

Though she hadn't spent much time yet in her new life, she'd already established a routine. Every day, she woke up without an alarm - though that wasn't all that decadent since she always woke up around 5am. Next, she went to her new office and spent a few hours working in the Dark labs. Then, she'd take a run - rain or shine - before a lunch over her desk and before going back to work until six or seven in the evening.

She hadn't spoken to Bo in days and ached to hear her voice. Lauren's calls and voice mails were unanswered, and Bo's texts were terse and noncommittal. Lauren was starting to get the hint that Bo was still hurt that Lauren had chosen to stay with the Dark, but she wasn't about to let it affect her resolve. No matter how much it pained Lauren herself.

The mailroom was located in a sub-basement near the parking garage on the other side of the building. Lauren figured she could just store the box in the back of her SUV for the night and bring it up when she returned in the morning.

Ten minutes later, she walked into the mailroom and nearly bumped into what appeared to be a harried-looking middle-aged man. As always, Lauren immediately wondered what kind of Fae he was.

"Oh, excuse me, Dr. Lewis."

Does everyone know who I am? "Pardon me," she smiled politely. "I've come for a package that was delivered today for my lab."

"Yes, yes," he replied hurriedly. "It's right over here with today's arrivals. I called you as soon as it was delivered, but I've been too swamped to check it in yet." He started to walk towards it when a loud crashing sound from the attached storeroom grabbed his attention. A few shouts followed the sudden noise, and he ran towards the commotion. "If you could give me a moment..."

Lauren shrugged. "No need. I'll just grab it and be on my way."

The attendant waved at her without sparing her a look and disappeared into the storeroom.

She walked over to the stack of boxes and spied her shipment of positive-displacement pipettes on top. As she lifted her box off the stack, her eyes glanced across the box below it and froze. She saw Bo's confident and curvaceous script across the large label, addressing the box to Bo herself on the first line, and the Dark archives on the second, followed by the building's address.

What the hell? Lauren didn't know what to think, but a moment later, she suddenly knew what to do. If this stack of boxes hadn't been checked in yet, no one knew this box was here.

A brief glance around the room revealed that she was alone and there were no discernible surveillance cameras. She eyed the distance to the door, calmly picked up the second box, and quickly made her escape.

Lauren idly wondered if, this time, she'd gone too far.