Patricia scowled at Justin across the desk. Through the heavy wooden door behind her, the faint music of a club could be heard. The odor of sweat and cigarette smoke, however, could not be denied entrance.

"So what the fuck do you want?" she asked gracelessly.

Justin smiled in that way that Patricia had always found irritating and sighed in mock tragedy. "Trisha, Trisha, Trisha. Don't you have any pleasantries for me this evening? No 'nice club, how's death?' that kind of thing?"

Trish immediately assumed a painfully fake expression of gaiety. "Oh, the club is lovely, Justin, I just adore the decor, I've got to steal your decorator for my place. Quasimodo, wasn't it?" She resumed scowling.

"Having a bad day, are we?" He was still smiling. "Kim run away?"

"Kim's tied up right now, thanks." she replied tartly. "And he's probably getting a little impatient. I do have other things to do than come running when you call."

"Then why do you always do it? Come running, I mean?" Justin had occasionally wondered. Trisha seemed to divide her time evenly between publicly debating the dubious pleasure of Justinís friendship, and falling over herself to help him in whatever scheme happened to be occupying him. He wondered if she truly believed in either point of view.

"It's either that or be compelled, right? Why be difficult, I figured?"

Justin's face fell. "I already apologized for that, Trish. Must you be so grumpy?"

"Since you asked, yes." she snapped. "I really don't like being fucked with, and unfortunately, I don't have dreadful abilities like Bootsie's with which to threaten retaliation."

"Well, if that's the way you feel." Justin shrugged. "I can't stop you." Trisha raised an eyebrow. "Don't say it." he added quickly. He was silent for a moment. "I just wanted to have a little talk, discuss business, perhaps."

"Whose business, yours or mine?" she grumbled, still annoyed.

"They're so closely related, Trish, who can tell where one ends and the other begins?"

"Spare me." Now Justin frowned.

"Trisha, it's going to be a little difficult to have a civilized conversation with you if you're going to be confrontational."

"This isn't confrontational, Justin, trust me." She snapped. "If you keep me here much longer, then I'll get confrontational."

"Where do you have to be that's so urgent?" he asked. "Going to explain to Gariano what happened to his favorite thug? Offer your condolences?" I shouldn't sink to her level, he reminded himself.

"Amongst other things." She replied. "I have to stop by the clinic." she added, not looking at him.

"Ah, that explains it. Got to help others help themselves, eh? Do your little bit of altruism for the night?"

Patricia glared at him and reminded herself that shouting at one of the most powerful kindred in the area would not be advisable. Not that he'd care, or even notice, she thought. I've always had a hard time trusting someone that cold. Michael was like that. She stopped that train of thought.

"Alright, I'll make this brief. Briefer. I want to keep you on retainer. You know, have you and your services available when I need them."

Patricia gave him a long look. "I assume you're not revealing to me some deep seated need to be abused."

"Correct."

"I thought you had knee breakers already. Why one more?"

"None with your elan, Trish. None with your reputation." he grinned.

Patricia laughed. "My reputation, I like that. What bullshit. What's in it for me?"

"What's in it for you?" Justin was surprised that she had asked. "What's always in it for you, Trish? You don't need the money."

Patricia thought for a long moment. Justin allowed her her privacy. And I donít want to look into a head like that unless I have to.

"What's the work load like?" she asked finally.

Got her. "I'll need you once or twice a month. Nothing too onerous."

Patricia giggled. "Onerous." she repeated. "Where do you get those words? Nothing to distract me from my hedonistic lifestyle right? No risk of losing time with my toyboy?" Her smile faded. "Gods, how did things go so far?"

"Oh please, no." Justin groaned. "Not another soliliquy in contemplation of your dreadful nature." Patricia looked at him sharply. "Youíre going to have to get used to it eventually, Trish." He felt himself becoming annoyed at what he perceived as her constant whining. "Youíre a vampire. Get used to it. You drink blood. Get used to it. You like to cause pain. Get used to it. We all do. Stop beating your breast decade after decade and troubling deaf heaven with your bootless cries. No one cares. Get used to it."

Trisha shrank back in her chair at his unexpected vehemenence, her eyes wide. Justin was a little surprised, himself. Itís been a long night when she gets to me. He told himself. I need to get out and party, take my mind off things.

"I canít say Iím sorry for that." he said after a few moments of silence. "The truth hurts sometimes, Trish, more than any fang."

"How bloody profound." she spat. "You should tell that to the wanna-beís in the club."

"Iíll leave the selling to you, youíre good at it." Patricia tried to laugh that off, but Justin noticed her tension. Oversensitive lunatic vampires. He sighed inwardly, what next? "Thatís all, Patricia. I just wanted to know if I could call on you occasionally."

"Of course you can, Justin." she replied in a honeyed voice. "You can always count on me."

"Now youíre angry at me again." Justin sighed in mock-tragedy. Why do I allow my time to be nibbled away by these things? Why should I care if sheís angry? He wondered. Because tonightís peeved whelp is tommorowís enraged elder, thatís why, a wiser voice replied.

Patricia shrugged wearily. "Not particularly. Whatís the point? I should have better things to do with my time than carry grudges."

My thoughts exactly, he didnít reply. "Thatís a sensible point of view."

"Of course youíd agree. He who could carry a grudge for centuries." Patricia was smiling now.

"And how would you know that?" Justinís eyes were wide with feigned innocence.

"Lucky guess." She stood up. "Iíve really got to run now. I am expected elsewhere."

"And Kimís bonds are chafing, no doubt." Justin commented.

"That was just a figure of speech and you know it. Iíve got to quieten that which will not be quieted."

"Ah." Justin nodded. A sudden thought occurred to him. "Trish, have you ever tried kicking your habit?"

"Which, the drugs or the blood drinking?" she replied quickly.

"You know what I mean."

"Actually, I donít. I tried kicking both. Michael wouldnít let me."

"Michael." Justin nodded. "Youíve mentioned the name before. Your sire?"

"If you must know." Trish nodded. "Michael Worthington was the closest thing to an absolute asshole if ever I met one, and Iíve met a lot, believe me."

"Is that so?" I learn something new every day.

"Yes. And now that Iíve divulged a potentially damaging bit of information about myself, Iíd like to go now."

"Iím not stopping you, Trish. I never have."

"That much is true." With that, she left, not looking behind her.

Whistling to himself, Justin turned on the PC on his desk and began to type.

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