“Hypnotherapy? You’re joking.” Yvette couldn’t believe that Paul would suggest such a thing.

 

            “Not at all.” Paul shrugged easily, pushing a bottle of wine towards her across the table they shared in his kitchen. “Your memories are still inside your head,” he continued reasonably. “Just buried. Hypnotism is probably your best chance of unearthing them.”

 

            Yvette frowned as she poured herself another glass of sauvignon blanc and picked at the meal that Paul had cooked earlier. “I don’t know,” she replied hesitantly. “It sounds like it’s barely one step removed from witchcraft and vision quests.”

 

            “And those are both getting more respected.” Paul countered quickly.

 

            Yvette murmured a sound that could have been disagreement or assent and fiddled with her glass.

 

            How different she is… Paul thought. But with no memories and no real personality to call on, it’s to be expected. But beneath her insecurity and uncertainty, Paul was convinced that this young woman was the same Yvette Collier, born over ninety years ago and turned into a vampire less than thirty years after that. Curiosity was a driving force in Viersan’s life – and sometimes his bane. He had to know what had happened and how a thoroughly mortal Yvette had careened into his world.

 

From a happenstance meeting near a coffee shop in Denver, Paul had carefully built their tentative acquaintance into something sturdier. A woman with no past needed help to become reacquainted with society, and Paul had provided it. That had been followed by some background manipulation of his criminal acquaintances to send work – and therefore, money – Yvette’s way. Once Yvette had money to keep, Paul had offered his services as an accomplished money-launderer to keep her earnings safe from the Revenue Service.

 

It was the best way to keep contact with her, as well as monitor her activities.

 

Now, six months after their initial encounter, Yvette was a regular visitor to Paul’s home, and still utterly unaware of his true nature. Certainly, she knew he worked on the wrong side of the law and that he had a few secrets to keep, but that was all. His nocturnal hours meant nothing to her, as she was much given to night-work, herself – usually breaking and entering, with the occasional murder to shake up the routine. To his surprise, Yvette had not balked at violence, and this reassured him that, somewhere beneath the amnesia, Rachel DuNoir was locked within Yvette’s mind. Although, after six months, Paul had to admit that Yvette interested him more than any remnants of Rachel.

 

“Yvette, it’s been a long time. If your memories were going to come back on their own…” he noticed her grimace of disgust. “I know how hard it’s been for you, and I want to see it resolved, too.”

 

 Paul knew he could be damned persuasive, but he took care not to use the tricks he could call upon as a vampire. He wanted Yvette to choose her own course, entirely of her own free will – despite his own preferences. He had had enough of pulling her strings when she was Rachel. Now he was curious to see what course Yvette – an unsullied version of Rachel, to his mind – would take.

 

“You’re right.” Yvette muttered. “I saw Dr. Garvey last week and he said the same thing. If not by now, probably never…” She sighed and took a large sip of her wine.

 

That’s her third glass tonight, Paul noted in passing. I hope she isn’t drinking so much at home. I don’t need an incipient alcoholic on my hands.

 

“So why not try it?” Paul asked. “I did a little research and I’ve found someone who’s supposed to be very reliable.” Yvette glanced sharply at him, sharp enough for him to don an abashed expression, albeit a dishonest one. “I want to help.” He responded quickly, unable to hide the growing irritation in his tone. “It’s up to you if you want to do it.”

 

Yvette’s restless fingers were now tearing apart a piece of bread. “Choices, choices.” She mumbled. Paul had to bite his lip to smother an involuntary smile at that. Déjà vu has the worst timing, he chuckled internally.

 

“It’s up to you,” he repeated, swallowing another mouthful of steak and wondering how long he could keep it down.

 

Yvette slumped in her chair. “It wouldn’t do any harm, I suppose.” She murmured shrugging. And probably not much good, either, she didn’t add. She had become almost resigned to her state, although it still vexed her when she had to create a past for herself with in conversation with others – where she had lived, what she had liked and a thousand other tiny things that made a life.

 

Forcing herself to finish her meal – knowing that she needed a buffer against too much wine – Yvette spared a moment of gratitude to her benefactor. Paul had obtained identification papers when she had lacked even the bare minimum needed to obtain a driver’s license.

 

Yvette suspected that he had been behind a few other things, also, but she didn’t see the point in mentioning it to him. Why risk alienating my one ally?

 

Because of her inability to converse easily with strangers, Yvette had been forced to remain isolated, and had learned to prefer isolation to uneasy company. The type of people who needed Yvette’s talents would not be reassured by her condition. Or worse, they might try to exploit it. Yvette suppressed a shudder at that idea.

 

No, it was much better for her to stay alone, and with the one man she was learning to trust. A sense of knowing him had persisted the early weeks of their acquaintance, but it had finally been worn down and replaced by their current relationship. Still, Yvette occasionally saw him smiling strangely, as if at a private joke, and that unsettled her. She wondered if she was a part of that joke.

 

With a little shake of her head, she discarded the momentary bout of suspicion and drained her wineglass, already regretting the headache she would have in the morning. “Alright,” she conceded. “Call this therapist you found. I’ll give it a try.” Paul smiled in relief at her acquiescence, and not a shred of triumph showed. “But only if you’ll come with me,” she continued.

 

That’ll save some possible inconvenience, Paul thought, relieved. “Certainly, if you want me to. In fact, we may as well do it here. Or at your place if you prefer?”

 

Yvette shook her head. Even though Viersan knew where she lived, she was reluctant to have company there. “Fine,” Paul was confident he would breach that barrier sooner or later, and he was in no rush. “Then why don’t you come over tomorrow night?” The abashed expression returned. “I took the liberty of anticipating you, and I made an appointment.”

 

 “I should have realized.” Yvette smiled a weary, tipsy smile. “Fine, fine. I’ll do it. Usual time?”

 

Paul nodded. “Seven o’clock.” It was winter, and the nights were drawing in, finally.

 

Their thoughts, for a moment, were the same – This will be interesting. I wonder what will happen…?

 

***

 

Yvette regarded the stranger on Paul’s sofa and was reassured by his short hair, well-pressed jeans and apparent absence of a crystal-wearing habit. Even though she had agreed to Paul’s suggestion, and her own hasty research of hypnotherapy suggested that it might help, she still felt uncomfortable. What if something was found, and it was horrible?

Then again, she thought wryly, it can’t be much more horrible than what I already know about myself.

The stranger smiled at her, even as she hesitated at the room’s threshold, and he stood up to greet her. “I’m Albert Vedral,” his smile was friendly and apparently sincere. Yvette shook his hand and quickly sat down on an armchair adjacent to the sofa Vedral occupied.

“Paul has tried to tell me about your situation,” Albert glanced to where Paul was leaning against the wall, silently watching with a half-smile upon his face. “But I would prefer that you tell me, yourself.”

Yvette grimaced at having to tell her unlikely-sounding tale to a stranger, but she knew there wasn’t any other option. She had promised Paul that she would see this through, and she didn’t like to break her word to anyone. So she quickly recited her story of awakening in the suburbs of Denver six months ago, without any memories and, apparently, without any identity.

If Vedral was surprised, he hid it well as he took notes on a notepad balanced on his knee. Occasionally, he would interrupt her with questions – did she go to a doctor, did she think that she might be a victim of violence? – and jotted down her answers with in a small, neat hand.