Lily was dreaming she was in Paris, at her favorite bistro, nibbling pastries and drinking champagne. Her companion laughingly pulled off her her high heeled sandal and drank champagne by pouring it over the liner and drinking from the open toe. Lily laughed as he poured it on her toes and licked it off. It seemed he would never stop, and her feet were sooo ticklish! She awoke to the reality of Basil licking her toes ceaselessly. She pulled up her feet under the covers and Basil let out a squeak of dismay.

"Sorry boy, You're just not my idea of a great lover." How nice it was to nap without one of those dreams, to wake without one of those headaches. Her bedside clock read 12:05 pm. "No wonder you're licking my toes. It's time for lunch!" As if in agreement, Basil squeaked again and squoze his eyes shut. "C'mon, boy. Let's go!" She threw back the coverlet and leapt up to go feed him when she realized she was totally nude. "Whoops!"

She ruffled through her trunk again and came up with her black and white striped t-shirt dress. It was sleeveless with a full skirt, a cheap item to be sure, but comfy none the less. She had always enjoyed shopping and had bought millions of dollars worth of clothing in her lifetime and was bored with the whole thing. Shopping was still a past time, but these days, she really preferred something made for her. If only Lance were here. If only I'd had time. I'm so spoiled, she thought to her self. She and Basil made their way downstairs, only to find everyone else had retired to their own rooms for afternoon naps of their own. No problem, thought Lily. I can cook. I think I remember how. She dug about in the fridge and found some crab salad she didn't think she would eat, but Basil would like it, and he indeed was very appreciative, and licked the dish for several minutes after it appeared to be empty. Lily continued her search and came up with a container of tomato bisque, which she managed to heat in the microwave , sat in the kitchen on the counter, and devoured it.

She was just licking the last of it from the spoon when Dog came into the room. He seemed surprised to see her . "Hello, ...Dog." Lily gingerly tried his nickname. He looked down shyly before replying. "Hello." His voice was so quiet, Lily barely heard him. He looked younger than the nineteen K claimed. Lily sized him up quickly, noting his thinness, his lack of facial hair, his soft girlish voice. "You're not nineteen are you, Rupert?" She asked softly, choosing his real name. His brown eyes looked up at her nervously and before his trembling lips could form a word, Lily held up a hand to silence his response.

It's Al right, I won't tell. Anyone else know?" He shook his head quickly. "Not even K?" Again he shook his head. When he worked up the guts to look at her again with those big, brown eyes, she knew where his nickname came from. His eyes were soft and liquid appearing. Mournful, or soulful, or kicked. Probably kicked, Lily thought with pity, been there myself. "P-P-Please, I'm seventeen, and I don't want to leave. Before Katherine, I didn't know when I would eat, or if I would eat. I was on the street...." His silence spoke volumes. " My mom died when I was little, and my dad,....drank, and I never knew if he was coming home or not,....or if I wanted him too." Lily wanted to cry for him, for herself, to hold him and tell him it would all be okay, but she maintained her distance for a moment. He had closed his eyes against too many painful memories. As much as lily wondered, she wouldn't push him. She understood all too well and crossed the kitchen to hug the boy. He stiffened up at first, not sure of her intent or what she wanted from him, then he relaxed and let his arms encircle her and he held her tightly. Lily held him until he chose to break the embrace. The look on his face was a mixture of wonder with vague happiness and Lily was sure in her deducement that this "dog" had been kicked more than his share. She sniffled and held back tears in a brave front. "Okay. Here's the deal. You don't tell anyone I can fend for myself, and I won't tell anyone your secret, okay?"

"It's a deal!" His eyes glistened with feeling, but he surprised her by asking, "What's your favorite meal? We'll have it for lunch today!" "Lunch? Isn't it over?"

"Oh no, that was brunch earlier. Mistress K said to wake her at 1:30, and she expects a 2:30 lunch." Lily smiled,he may be young but he knows his business. She would talk to K about culinary school for this one. Hell, maybe she'd take this one to Paris to learn from the best . She would pay for it one way or another. He was looking at her expectantly, she realized. "Spaghetti and meatballs." She finally answered. Rupert looked relieved she didn't want anything complex or exotic. He grinned and bowed to her. "Your wish is my command." Lily sat on a high stool in the kitchen and sipped a diet coke through a straw while she watched him make lunch, asking him to add extra garlic. She entertained him with stories of Jewel heists under sultan's noses, and other close calls she'd had. She told him of her first Paris apartment she'd lived in that someone had broken into. Thankfully she didn't keep notes on anything at her house, but she felt as though her security was gone there. Like the thief she was, she had crept back and retrieved the personal items, then set a torch to the place to cover her tracks. She had gone to Australia for a time afterward, and regaled him with stories of kangaroo's and Koala bears. They were laughing about one of her stories when K and Aurora came in.

"There you are!" said Katherine.

"Here I am. You found me, where you looking? Oh, by the way, Rupert is mine now. Magnus may attend Aurora." K appeared troubled and Lily worried she had overstepped her bounds. Then K handed her a folded note. Opening it and quickly reading it, Lily looked at Katherine sharply and asked "Where did you get this?"

"It was taped to the front door." K answered.

"Did anyone see anyone? How about the security tape?"

"We looked, but they must have been watching it's movement and ducked in and out quickly." Lily's nostrils flared, her posture was ramrod straight as she stalked from the room. Katherine and Aurora exchanged glances and followed Lily up the stairs. Once in her room, she pulled a small black case from her trunk that held a tiny lab kit. Lily carefully dusted the paper for prints and K's and Aurora's were the only ones on it. She tested a bit of the paper but that held no secrets. Plain old 50 pound bond copier type paper. The note was printed by a laser printer, Hewlett Packard type. Perfectly common. Growling, Lily jumped up to pace the room. "Everything about that note is common as dirt! No leading info at all!" She stopped pacing and looked at her friends, who were quietly watching her.

"Who wouldn't want me to attend the reunion? How do they know I'm coming? Well, I did RSVP, but, how did they know I was here? All my mail goes to PO boxes. Unless they trailed you home, K. K went a bit pale and zapped Michael to her side.

"Yes, Mistress."

"Michael, close all the gates, speed up the pan on the cameras, release the dogs, but do not feed them until later. "

"Yes Ma'am." he replied and hastened to carry out her commands. And he was off and running to carry these orders out, calling for Magnus and Dog to help him. K looked at Lily and said, "Maybe you shouldn't go...unescorted. " Lily thought grumpily to herself,'yeah, and who am I going to take?', before she said, "I don't want anyone to get hurt. I may need to make a quick exit and wont be able to look after anyone else. Don't look at me that way! I've taken care of myself plenty of times. but I also know you. I'll allow one man to hawk the party from outside, no interference. Do you understand? If anything should happen, tell them to get outta there, pronto! Don't wait for me, understand?"


"No but's, or you cant come at all." Lily's stern tone demanded obedience and K dropped her eyes to the floor in submission, although she was grumbling to herself.

"I mean it. I don't want you any more involved than you already are. You realize they may come here if I escape what ever trap it is they have set for me. Think about it. It may get very real . Anyway, enough of this, I must get prepared." This said, Lily turned and began to systematically unload her trunk, laying out the clothes for the event, and two small black bags to pack with needed items. One was an evening bag she intended to carry along, one a small backpack she intended to stow a few blocks from the school, in case. She put her lab kit back into the trunk and pulled out several small, individually wrapped bundles and laid them on the bed. Aurora slipped around to sit on the bed and reached for one of the bundles. Lily saw her and shouted, "NO!" Aurora jerked her hand back quickly, startled. "Sorry Aurora, " Lily apologized, "but they're loaded." The first bundle contained a .22 caliber, 2 shot derringer, which she fitted into a special bra strap holster. The second one she unwrapped revealed another derringer, but this one was a

9mm with a five round clip. This she tucked into a garter holster. The last bundle contained a Ruger .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol that held a clip of nine hollow point rounds. Nice neat entry hole, great big nasty exit hole. Very effective. Zapping Rupert to her side she asked "Do you drive? Legally?" "Yes, M'lady." Lily produced a set of car keys and tossed them to him. She quickly scribbled on a note pad some information he would need and brought this to him while instructing him as to his mission. "Go to the public storage facility over on Farnsworth Avenue, number 1069, inside you will find the car that goes with those keys. Go get it and park it at the address I gave you, got it?" He was nodding affirmatively. "And don't forget to lock it up, huh?" Rupert hurried off and Lily went back to her trunk and pulled out some leather pants and tall, soft, flat heeled boots of the same black leather.The next item out of the trunk looked like a cowl necked sweater but it clinked audibly as she tossed it on the bed. K came over to touch the strange garment. "Lily? What the hell is this?" Lily looked up to see K gingerly holding the shirt and she she smiled slowly and replied. "It's an armored shirt of sorts. It's a new experimental material, twenty percent Kevlar, ten percent aluminum, and seventy percent spider silk, very lightweight for a bulletproof item. The cowl can offer extra neck protection or be pulled over the head."

"Wow. I've never seen your gear before. I've never seen you like this before either. So focused, so sure, so...calculating." Lily looked at K's face and her expression was almost one of fear. Lily realized how gruff she had become suddenly and her manner softened some as she sat next to K on the bed. "I don't mean to frighten you. What I do is dangerous . I know a lot of very dangerous people. I make light of it so I can forget how stressful it is. I'm very worried about this note showing up. I'm worried something will happen, not to me, but to you or yours. I think you should start packing. I have plenty of safe houses anywhere you could want to go, no! I see you thinking no, I'm not going, but I want you to give it some serious thought. I am going to give you the number of my agent in Switzerland, call him, use the scrambler or your cell phone. Tell him where you want to go and he will handle the arrangements, okay?" K took the number and tucked it into her pocket. "Maybe you're right. Aurora, where shall we go?" Aurora looked excited by the prospect and piped up, "Hawaii?" Lily laughed and asked, "What island?" Aurora and K began chatting about various exotic ports while Lily packed her gear into the backpack. Besides the clothes and the gun, she added several small electronic devices, fifty feet of rope, and a few other small items. Closing it up tightly she clapped her hands and turned to her friends with a smile. "So! Who wants to paint my toenails?" K and Aurora gaped at lily for a moment before they all broke up laughing. K got up off the bed saying, "Only you could load up your weapons and then paint your toenails! " and laughingly went to retrieve the cotton balls.

end chapter

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