DECISION



AUTHOR: Bonnie

CHALLENGE: Rebirth

MINI-SYNOPSIS: Dante offers Bethany a chance to join the Feranti.

RATING: [I have no idea how the American rating system works - but in any case, there is nothing offensive in the post *smile*]

ANYTHING ELSE: If you are interested, the trial referred to by both Bethany and Dante is detailed in an old post - http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Permanentmidnight/message/2217

He was lying.

He was lying with the calm, laid back assurance that came with years of practice. He sat comfortably in the chair without being overly casual, his face the perfect blend of confidence and openness. He was a handsome man, wearing a young face with a pair of wise, intelligent green eyes. His smile was impossibly disarming.

“I’m delighted we could meet on such short notice.” He paused to eat a mouthful of the salmon that was on the crystal white plate before him. “I hope you don’t find the surroundings too ostentatious.” He flashed that wicked smile again as he glanced around the restaurant. The tableware alone cost more than most families would earn in a year, and she didn’t want to imagine how much the meal itself would cost.

Bethany smiled politely and carefully cut a small piece of steak before popping it into her mouth. “Thank you for the invite, Dante.”

The man continued to smile. His green eyes followed Bethany’s wherever she looked. “Have you had time to consider the proposal?” His tone was conversational, almost as if the said proposal involved no more than money up front.

Bethany’s green eyes focused on the plate of food in front of her. “I have had the chance to take a look, yes.”

Dante took a sip of red wine, looking over the top of the glass with a fatherly expression. “And?”

Bethany didn’t answer immediately, instead taking a moment to chew a mouthful of steak. When she did speak, her tone was guarded. “I’m interested, but – “

Dante laughed, and extended a pale hand across the table to rest on Bethany’s. Her first instinct was to pull back but with an effort, she restrained herself. Dante’s green eyes were gleaming. “Bethany, you have had weeks to examine the proposal. We’ve gone over your concerns a dozen or more times by telephone.”

Bethany nodded, and Dante withdrew his hand, steepling his fingers over his plate. “You know that there is nothing left for you with the Talamasca. You’re openly reviled, and that sham court sentence will hang over you for this and the next dozen lifetimes.” There was a tone of indignation in Dante’s voice, almost as if the unjust decision hurt him more than Bethany. “All that lies ahead of you is lifetimes of wasted potential and lost talent.”

Bethany felt the bile of her anger in her throat. That damned court! She took calmly cut another piece of steak, masking her inner anger.

Dante continued, graceful with his words. “I’ve seen some of your research. It is phenomenal. Your charting of Gehenna alone is a masterwork.” His voice was silky, so easy to believe. “To suppress work of that nature is a simplistic response typical of the ignorant. You achieved incredible results alone, I can barely imagine the potential if you had the backing of others. I would hate to see your research crumble to dust because of a profoundly unjust ruling.”

Bethany made the mistake of looking up from her plate, and her own green eyes were drawn to Dante’s. He smiled that smoothing smile once more. “I would love to be involved in your work. I’d be willing to offer any support I could – finance, materials, staff – anything. Your talent is bright enough to light up any clan, and I want you to be at the heart of the Feranti.”

Bethany felt a smile cross her face, a small amount of colour filling her cheeks. Flattery was not something she was used to. “Thank you.” She said politely, somehow feeling it was inadequate statement in the face of the high praise.

“We will be holding an induction ceremony within the month, Bethany.” Dante’s tone was filled with sincerity. “I would dearly love to have you join as soon as possible.” His eyes offered a question.

Bethany dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. “I’m still uncomfortable…”

Dante did not let her finish. Again his hand rested gently upon hers. “The induction is a very simple formality. You will still be a Talamascan. This is not some sort of mock embrace as practiced by those barbaric kindred!” He laughed and smiled, and Bethany found herself smiling with him. “All that will change is that you will be part of a family that recognises the talent, intelligence, and – I hope you do not find me boorish for saying so, beauty of its members.” He paused for moment, placing both hands upon Bethany’s and allowing his fingers to gently stroke her wrist. His smile was irresistible.

Bethany smiled and took a sip of her wine with her free hand. “Thank you.”

“This an opportunity for your rebirth Bethany. I would dearly love to see you take it. Will you join us?”

He was lying. He was lying about everything, hiding it all beneath a cloak of half-truth and flattery. He had covered the path to damnation with rose petals. Bethany felt herself step onto that road and knew that it was all too late.

“I would be honoured to join the Feranti, Dante.” Bethany said, and in a single sentence she was lost.

“Excellent!” Exclaimed Dante. “I know this is a decision you will not regret!”

It was somehow fitting that he had saved the biggest lie until last.


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