By Diana Garcia
Edited by Rhonda Collins

It was ten minutes to four in the morning and the city of New
York lay stagnant, hot and seeminly inert.  Even the traffic was
slow.  Most of its residents tossed in their beds;  there was no
breeze to lift the stifling effects of the hot and humid night. 
There was a quarter moon sending slips of silvery lights onto the
street below which shed an odd glare on the main business areas
and made hard shadows against the isolated closed stores, dimly
lit cafes and silent apartment buildings.  The steady throbbing
of the apartment building's air conditioners echoed over the
silence of the night and intermittently clashed with police and
emergency vehicle's sirens.

A lonely sentinel stood in the shadows.   Vincent saw the shadow
move forward:  Diana, her long red hair pulled back into a loose
ponytail was deep in thought, her gaze focused on another realm. 
She was  totally unconscious of the world around her.   She was
lovely in the pale light,  her body tall and statuesque despite
her baggy  tee shirt,  sweatpants and socks.  The only thing
marring her perfect innocent beauty  was the tension visible in 
her  stance and the coppery scent of blood as her hand cluched a
note so hard her nails broke the skin of her palm.
Hidden, engulfed in the dark shadows of her rooftop, Vincent
watched her....Diana drew him here more and more often, her 
friendship and beauty a beacon--a slight, bright candle in the
destitute existence of the upper world and the darkness that
filled the empiness of his heart.  Gently, Vincent called to 
her.  "Diana?"  When she didn't answer--obviously  so absorbed in
her own thoughts that she hadn't heard, Vincent's concern grew. 


Diana relaxed  under his touch, opening her hand to release the
crumpled, blood-stained note--letting it drift to the  rooftop.  
Gently, Vincent squeezed her hand, and  though Diana remained
silent, Vincent couldn't help wondering if she shared the peace
and wonder of the moment.  Her voice shattered  the Stepping
quietly out of the concealing  shadows, Vincent pulled his hood
back to expose himself more fully.  Only the slight tilt of her
head indicated he'd penetrated whatever nightmares occupied
Diana's thoughts.  

"Vincent?" Diana's voice seemed distant, slowly drifting back to

She seemed unsteady and Vincent quickly stepped behind her  to
place his arm around her waist.  That near, her scent and the
scent of blood were  very strong. He was surprised to find her
gently leaning back into him, relaxing under his  touch. 
Hesitantly, he took her slim hand, closing his own huge, clawed
one around it.  

Diana relaxed  under his touch, opening her hand to release the
crumpled, blood-stained note--letting it drift to the  rooftop.  
Gently, Vincent squeezed her hand, and  though Diana remained
silent, Vincent couldn't help wondering if she shared the peace
and wonder of the moment.  Her voice shattered  the magic.  

"He's back.  The Hunter." Diana's voice sounded stronger,  as
though she'd absorbed Vincent's strength.   He could physically
feel the undercurrent of that gathering.  Then, Diana pulled away
and he allowed his arm to fall away from her waist.  He released
her hand.  When she turned to face him, Vincent could see  the
flood of  crimson that  colored her face, and a flicker of
embarrassment over their embrace.   "Vincent, I'm sorry."  She
cast her eyes downward, then lifted them to his.  "What can I do
for you?"  

Now it was Vincent's turn to look away, reminded of  all that
Diana had already done for him. "I only wanted to see how you
were doing," he  explained.  "I care for you. It's more
appropriate if I ask you, I know...but I really don't have to, do
I, Diana?"  He knew his voice was challenging, almost accusatory. 
 He appraised Diana's face as she measured her response.  

"It's just work, Vincent.  Nothing else."  She managed a smile,
but her eyes betrayed her.  Vincent studied her, weighing every
nuance of Diana's  movements and words.  Before he spoke he
caught Diana's hand, and easing her clutched fingers open, he
exposed the bloody imprints of her nails.  

"Diana, how many times have you been there for me?  There were so 
many times when you helped...and without a touch, a word, or an
outward sign of what it cost you.  When my world shattered,
burying me in pain and madness, it was you who gave me back my
son, my father.  It was you who drew me back into the light and
brought me back from the madness that consumed me.  You gave me
hope when there was none.  I trust you utterly.  Let me share
your pain.  It's not a sign of weakness but strength.   Let me

Diana looked up at Vincent with such pain in her eyes.  He wished
he could read more than her emotions...know  what she was
thinking.  "Vincent...I trust you more then you'll ever know. 
But I've always worked alone.  I don't like getting close to
anyone."  Diana paused and took a deep breath."I don't want you
in harms' way."  Diana looked down at the crumpled note and
seemed to make a decision.  "About five years ago, a serial
killer who called himself 'the Hunter' tortured and killed
several innocent people.  Including my sister.  I tracked him
down.  He was just released from the state mental ward."  Diana's
voice cracked.  

"Diana."   Vincent understood why this sensitive woman  encased
herself in a protective barrier from the world.  But this was
more than anyone should have to endure.  "He called me 'the
Huntress'.   Said I was a worthy oppenent.  And he's out there
somewhere."  Diana added knowingly.  "Diana, you must be careful! 
Remember there's always a room for you in the tunnels.  Always a
light kept lit for you."  As he spoke, he edged closer to Diana. 
For the first time her vulnerabity was clear to him.  They stood
for several moments looking into each others eyes before Diana
broke the spell.  She bent and picked up the fallen note, then 
stood tall and proud.  He marveled at her strength.  Her courage. 
 But she confused him, too. This fragile-seeming woman who'd only
moments ago leaned into him seeking his warmth and strength had
now returned to her cocoon, put up her shield, and now showed
nothing but the abundant confidence in her own ability to meet
whatever challenges that were thrown at her.  He knew that
dedication to her work swept away any personnel or painful
obstacles as through they never existed.   Vincent knew
instinctively that Diana would track down every lead in a case
until she  solved it or the trail  was too cold for anyone to
follow...and no one  would dare question her while she was in the
process.   In amazement, Vincent watched Diana push her emotional
side away, and before he could say another word Diana turned and
walked back into the shadows.  He could hear the sound of her
bare feet and then the rooftop door closing softly behind her.   

Turning away, Vincent leaned on the low wall around the edge of
the rooftop, peering down at the city below him and made a silent
vow that he would not let any harm come to Diana, no matter what
the cost.  More and more often of late, he'd found himself drawn
to her loft.  Closing his eyes, he could still see her:  he
recalled the tilt of her chin, the warmth of her body, her scent,
and her eyes--always gazing tantalizingly, knowingly into his. 
He was shocked at the enormous loneliness that overwhelmed him
when he thought of life without her, and his growl of  pain was
all too familiar to him.  He'd just begun to realize how much
he'd come to care for Diana.  She'd understood him, fought for
and protected him from the  world around him when no one else
could.  When no one else could understand the beast, or the was Diana's hand  that had always reached out to

And now...she could be in trouble and there was no way he could
help if she wouldn't let him.  Vincent sighed deeply, musing over
the irony.  Recently, even hearing a female voice brought Diana
immediately to mind.  Seeing Mary holding the baby, it reminded 
him of  how Diana held Jacob, touching his cheek with soft
fingertips... and  how  when she lifted her face to look at him,
how intimate the experience deep the wordless
understanding.   He still loved Catherine--he always would--but
he knew the bond he was forging with Diana was of a stronger
substance than friendship.  It, too, was love.  


Diana and Vincent weren't the only ones out in the cover of
night.   A predatory killing machine stalked Diana's every move,
watching and waiting for his prey to  make a mistake.  To kill
her wasn't enough: he wanted to make her suffer, as he had,
confined all those years.  He'd learned over time how to tell 
them what they wanted to hear, and eventually they set him
free...supposedly no longer a danger to society.  The Hunter

He switched on the light in the small, darkroom he'd made out of
his tiny bathroom,  and roaches scurried for their hiding places. 
Every  inch of wall space was covered by photos of Diana
Bennett..all a part of the hunt.  But tonight he'd hit the
jackpot.   At first he couldn't believe his eyes, but eventually
he had to accept the evidence the photos showed:  Detective Diana
Bennett's  body resting--taking solace--from a beast.  A monster. 

Jack Warmer AKA the Hunter looked out his window onto the old
theater across the street.  The marquis read, "Beauty and the
Beast."  =How appropriate,= he thought with a smile.  =An true
test of my skills.=  The others had been too easy to take, to
skin and kill.  Jack reached over to his old 45 record and turned
on the phonograph.   "Oh please stay by me, Diana. Thrills I get
when you hold me close, oh my're the most,"  Jack
sang in time with the old record,  and half way through the song
he stopped in front of the picture of the beast standing alone on
Diana's roof.  THIS was going to be the test of his skills as a
hunter--not Diana.  He had other plans for her.  =Every good
hunter needs the right bait,=  he thought with a smile. 
Especially when the bait itself was a worthy apponent.  

He thought of Diana, entombed with the decaying bones and
moldering flesh of his prior victims.  So  many they hadn't
found....    That was suitable as her punishment.   But suddenly
she didn't interest him any longer as a  test of his skill: she
was still only a woman.  Like her sister... like  all the others. 
The beast, on the other hand, intrigued him.   Lying back on
filthy bedsheets  Warner closed his eyes and made his plans,
because for tomorrow the games would begin.  Maybe he'd kill a
policeman first just to get the edge off,  then  toy with Diana.  
He'd let her play hunter for a few days, then take her...trap her
to bring the beast.   A more enraged and dangerous prey Warmer
couldn't imagine.   

Glad now, that he'd watched his red-haired huntress  so far into
the night,  Warmer closed his eyes and  fell into delicious
dreams of blood and death.  


As soon as Diana turned her back and walked away from Vincent,
she felt empty.   How could she tell him or even admit to herself
that she needed something more from him than just words.  The
hard length of his body pressed against hers had awakened the
need for more physical contact--a need to forget the past and
dwell instead  in his love.   She constantly tried to push the
feelings growing inside her out of her mind, but each step away
from him only became  more difficult.   An aching desire and the
need to lose herself in him was overwhelming.  But she knew he
still loved Catherine.  =I have to concentrate on my work and not
on outraged hormones,= she told herself sternly.   =Not on
fantasies that can't ever belong to me.=  

She slept uneasily that night, then the following day  she began
her work.  Booting up her computer, she  pulled up the files on
Jack Warmer....why, she didn't know:  she knew them by
heart--every entry.   Her young  sister, Jenny's,  death...all
the horrid details.  Flashes of unbearable pain hit Diana with
the impact of a bullet...and  richocheted  throughout her entire
body.   She felt the pain of each victim--not just  Jenny's...
heard the Hunter's insane laughter as he was led away...a deadly
promise of the future in his eyes.    

Enough!=   Diana leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes. 
Stiff with pain from sitting too long, she hobbled over to the
small kitchen and made herself some hot coffee and  drank it
slowly as she made her way back to the computer.  

She peered past the steam from the cup to see the wall
clock...astonished at the time.  "Oh, shit...." she murmured to
herself.   It was already past 5:00pm.   She hurriedly gulped
down the hot coffee and ran into the bedroom to start pushing
things aside.  Grabbing her grey sweater and white tennis shoes,
she dug in the sweater's pocket and touched the familiar leather
of her wallet and keyring.    

It didn't take Diana long to hail a cab. She went immediately to
the state institution that had freed Jack Warmer.  The
institution for the criminally insane was a stark grey building
surrounded by an imposing wire fence.    

"Are you sure this is where you want me to leave you off lady?" 
the cabby questioned her. "Yeah.  Can you wait for me, though?"
Diana asked. "Why not?" the cabbie commented.   "The meter's
running, though, lady" he reminded her in a  yell as she dashed
up the steps.    

The interior of the building was white, and interns mixed freely
with the guards...and past them were rows of offices.  Diana
flashed her ID at one of the guards.  "I'm looking for Dr.
Collins office.  I believed he handled the Jack Warmer case?"   

"Sure lady.  His office is the second door on the left."  he
answered as he directed Diana down the hallway.  

"Thanks ."Diana murmured gratefully.  She'd expected more
questions.  She didn't bother to knock as she slammed the door 
open only to the surprise of the young man behind the desk.  

"What's the meaning of this!" the young doctor demanded loudly,
his voice bolstered by official authority.  

"Business.  Jack Warmer."  Diana stated, tossing her ID on his
desk in front of him.  

"Oh."  He said, momentarily taken aback.  Then he snapped
defensively, "That was the boards' decision, not mine.  He still
harbors anti-social behavioral problems.  It was my opinion that
he didn't belong back out there."  

"Then why =is= he out? "Diana's voice was as cold as ice. "He
skinned people alive."  

"He was tried on only one murder, you know.  Listen... basically
we needed the space.  Sometimes--no--in this case, it was more a
prescription and a prayer, not a decision of choice."  Dr.
Collins sounded defeated.  "The board concluded that with his
meds he was safe to let back into society."  

"Can I see his room?"  Diana asked, trying to disguise the
disgust she felt at the system.  

"I don't see why not." he anwered with a shrug.  "I'll show it to
you myself."  The young doctor tossed the papers he'd been
shuffling to the side and escorted Diana up to the third floor
and the High Risk ward.  They passed two armed guards stationed
at the locked doors, and the interns and nurses in lock down had
a grim determination about them.  "You probably won't find much,"
the doctor told her.  "The room was cleaned out after he left." 
He opened the door and showed  Diana a room with a small single
bed, a writing table and a toilet.    

The guard, who had accompanied them, added: "Warmer spent most of
his time in here."  

"Thanks Mike," the doctor commented, dismissing the guard. 
"That's all we need.  I'll call you when we're done."  When the
guard left, Dr. Collins glanced  curiously at Diana.  "I don't
know what you hope to find in here."  

"Maybe nothing."  Diana admitted, trying to close off everything
as with her mind's eye she tried to see through Jack Warmers
point of view.  She went over to the desk and examined the
surface.  There, etched in the wooden desktop was a cage.  Diana
started to whisper to herself.  "You're caged.   You're the
hunter--you're not to be caged--only your prey is.  You're not
the hunter anymore."  Diana straightened, blinking quickly...the
room came back into focus as the startling information gathered
in her mind.  "Doctor, is there an address for Warmer?  When he
left here, did you have a record of where he'd be?"  

"I can check that for you, if you don't mind waiting here a

"Sure," she said with a smile.  "I'll be fine."  

After a few minutes Dr Collins returned with an address and
handed it to Diana.  "I hope this helps you, Detective Bennet. 
I'm sorry about your sister,"  he added softly.  

Diana brushed past him, not allowing him to see the her pain. 
She knew she was being rude, but she couldn't help herself. 
After taking a few steps, she turned back, nodded, and said
quietly, "Thanks."  

The cabby was outside in his taxi, smoking, as she came down the
steps.   Stamping out his cigarette, he commented, "I'm glad
we're leaving here.  This place gives me the creeps.  Where to,
now?" he asked quickly.  

"401 Lane Ave," Diana said absently.  She wasn't going to find
anything at that address: she already knew that.  But if Warmer
picked that area--which was different from the killing spots--it
was because he have some kind of connection to it.  She figured
that perhaps if she checked the neighborhood drug stores and
mental clinics, where he had to go for  his meds, she might just
track him down.  =Assuming  he's even still taking them,= she
thought.   As she stared out the window at the passing city, she
thought, =He'll kill again.  But this time, I'll be there to stop

As the taxi pulled up to the address, Diana paid the driver and 
got out.  As he drove away,  she scanned the street to see if
there was a drug store nearby.  Sweetie's drug store was just up
the street.   Diana glanced at her watch.  =Damn!= she thought. 
=I hadn't intended to be out here this late.=  It was  10:35pm. 
The sun was down, and most of the streets where alive with both
the homeless and the predators that hunted the streets after
dark.  Diana began walking, scanning her surroundings.  She
wasn't tired, and all she could think about was her sister...and
how she had to find someplace... something to connect to Warmer.
=Just a little longer. One drug store, then home,= she thought. 
=I'll pick it up tomorrow in the daylight.=  


Jack Warner stared in surprise at Diana as she walked down Lane
Ave.   He smiled in delight.  She'd come to  him, tracked =him=. 
He'd only been awake some twenty-five minutes.  Nght was his
stalking time.  He'd been making plans to set out and find his
prey...he'd  planned on killing a  police officer tonight, but as
any good hunter knows, plans change.   He watched Diana closely. 
If she continued in the  same direction,  she'd be very close to
the alley, and  if all went well, she'd be his.   

Heading down the back stairs and into the alley, Jack kept to the
shadows.  A couple of turns down the dimly lit back alley brought 
him directly into Diana's path--right where he wanted to be.  He
could see from her wary look that she knew she was being watched. 
Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out his hunting knife.  He
knew through  long experience where to hit his victim.  Diana was
drawing ever closer to him.  He waited in the shadows in the
corner of the alley between two huge apartment buildings.    

Diana was almost within reach of him when she  stopped dead in
her tracks, her chin lifted as she tested the air, reminding Jack
of a deer who had scented a wolf.  She seemed to shiver, drawing
her sweater closer as though she were cold.  She stepped a bit
closer and Jack struck....  


Diana was suddenly intensely aware of danger and was about to
turn to head back the way she'd come.  She wasn't armed, and
hadn't anticipated being caught out like this.  But despite her
sense of danger, despite  her caution, she wasn't quick enough. 
She staggered as a searing pain struck her: her shoulder felt as
if it were on fire!   Lurching sideways, she steadied herself as
her assailant approached  her again,  and when he came close
enough, she recognized him.  Taking aim, she kicked, sending him
flying backward into the brick wall.  With her shoulder virtually
useless, she knew she was at a disadvantage.  Frantically she
looked around, trying to judge her  options.  She decided the
apartment buildings were her best chance, and she sprinted in a
lurching run toward them, praying the door was unlocked.  Jack
was on his knees behind her, cursing at her as she reached the
door and yanked it open.  She didn't stop, but forced herself up
the stairs.  Her mouth tasted of copper and bile--blood and fear. 
=Damn!=  she thought, =I should have been prepared...I should've
waited 'til daylight, should've...=  All her thoughts of =should
have= faded away as she tried each door until one finally an empty apartment. Empty!  She didn't deserve such
luck, but she knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. 
Her shoulder throbbed, and a wave of dizziness reminded her of
her need for haste.  There was a  broken lamp on the floor, and
she sat it upright, then groaned as she removed her sweater,
digging for her wallet and keys.  Picking the lamp up, she tossed
the cord over the door.  She found a hanger and draped her
sweater over it and hung it on the lamp.  Then, tying the  cord
onto another hanger, in the dark, it could look like someone just
her height hiding in the closet.  She could hear Jack banging on
the apartment doors, now, and she opened the window and climbed
out onto the fire escape...closed the window carefullly and
headed down to the street.  


Jack tried each apartment as he went, frustrated and furious. 
One door finally opened to his attempt, and he could see a figure
in the dark...and knew it had to be Diana.  Fury and madness
driving him, he lunged for the figure, which came apart and fell
to pieces in  his hand.  With a roar of frustrated rage at being
duped, Jack plunged knife repeatedly into the blood-soaked
sweater.  Then, lunging for the window, he yanked it open, but
the darkness below revealed nothing to him...only the flashes of
the flourescent lights of the bar across the street.  The
Huntress had escaped him for now.  

Jack focused on the blood soaked sweater and he smiled, humming 
the words, "Stay by me Diana."  Jack knew Diana could have gone
anywhere--he'd deliberately only wounded her shoulder...he hadn't
meant to kill, but to incapacitate...he'd only wanted to slow her
down.  Frighten her.  But Diana wasn't like his other victims. 
She didn't freeze when frightened or become dazed and confused
when wounded: she was a hunter herself.  But Warmer knew if he
wanted the Beast he had only to think of Beauty as the lure.  =I
may not know where the Huntress will be,= he thought gleefully. 
=But I know where the Beast will be very soon.=  Still smiling,
Jack strolled steadily down Lane Ave., still carrying Diana's
blood-soaked sweater.    


"Vincent are you going back out tonight?"  Father asked as he
watched Vincent sling his cloak over his shoulders.     

"Yes, Father.  I've had some of the helpers check to see if Diana
was home, and she's been gone all day. It's getting late,and that
man...the "Hunter" he calls himself, is out there watching her. 
I need to see if I can help...if I can find her."  Vincent was
frustrated and anxious...and in a hurry to leave.  

Father placed a hand softly on Vincent's arm.   "And if she's not
there?  If you =can't= find her?  What then, Vincent?"    

Pain and fury warred in Vincent. "Then I'll go back tomorrow
night and the next and the next until I find her! Don't you
understand, Father?  After Catherine, I thought I'd never be able
to love or care for anyone again.  I told you once that Catherine
was each beat of my heart,but Diana is the stillness between each
beat,every breath.  She's brought back everything I loved.  You,
my son...and my heart. I  cannot simply =forget her=, Father. 
It's her strength, her intelligence and her love for me that
brought me back from death itself.  When I lost Catherine, =I=
was lost as well.  Diana found me.  Can I not love such a gift

Looking away, Father finally said quietly, "Yes, I suppose you
must go to her,and I pray that you find her.  But Vincent...."    
Vincent touched Father's shoulder, then met his eyes when he
looked up. "Thank you, Father.  I'll be careful...try not to


Diana was feeling dazed and sleepy...a bit as though she were
running on remote control...traveling by instinct.  People stared
at her, like eyes of the  night.  She vaguely remembered someone
handing or placing an old coat over her, then walking away. 
=Home,= she thought groggily.  =Thats where I gotta go...gotta
plan my next move.=  As she walked, deliberately putting one foot
in front of the other, there was one constant thought in the back
of her mind: she'd been lucky tonight.  Her thoughts turned to
Vincent.  She could feel his presence in her mind, almost feel
the solid muscles and soft fur under her hands...sense his light
touch on her skin.  He needed her: she could feel that need need
calling to her.  =I'm coming,= she thought as she dream-walked
toward home.  


Vincent was startled to find Diana's lights on when he reached
her loft.  His heart swelled with joy and relief and his his need
to be with her--to see her and know her to be well--was almost
physical pain.  

When he reached the door to the apartment, he found it  open, and
as he went inside, he was assaulted by the coppery smell of
blood.  Every nerve in his body tensed.  His mind swam in a red
haze of rage as his eyes found the source of the smell: Diana's
grey sweater--soaked in her blood.  A roar of pure pain tore
through him as he read the note pinned to the sweater:      


   Is your beauty still alive or is her skin hanging on a tree?   
   Or will she scream in pleasure at my knife,so like her lovers  
   claws caressing her naked flesh? 
   Come to central park where the oak tree
   bends, and the stream is called the falcon.                    

   the HUNTER  

Vincent ripped the note from Diana's sweater and let it fall to
the floor, just as Diana had only the night before.  He held the
soft sweater to his face, drawing in Diana's scent...and the
smell of her blood...and suddenly he knew that death was
preferable to losing love yet again.  With a low, furious growl,
he began his descent to the street....  


Diana found herself standing in the debris of her life.  Her
apartment had been ransacked: papers were tossed across the
floor, furniture upset, her computer lying in pieces on the
floor...her couch had been sliced and torn, the stuffing pulled
through the rent fabric.  Even the window was broken.    

More dazed than before, Diana fell back onto the couch, and
watched the tiny particles of fluff from the stuffing fill the
air around her. She'd managed to keep going so far, but shock and
blood loss was beginning to take their toll on her. Distantly,
she could feel Vincent's rage and drew on it to give her
strength.  Forcing herself to her feet, she managed to get to the
bathroom and pull off her blouse. Using an elastic bandage and
some gauze, she managed to bandage her shoulder and give it some
support, the pulled on a tee shirt.    

Diana took one look at her phone--which had been ripped from the
wall--and decided that calling Joe was a lost  cause.  Then she
saw the knife standing upright in her mattress, and pinning the
note in place:  

     Beauty and the Beast, one lives, one dies.   
     You're next, Huntress.  Then we'll know who's the best.      

Diana backed away from the bed, slowly glancing nervously around
her room.  =Beauty and the Beast--Vincent!=  The Hunter knew
about Vincent. "Oh God...No!"  Diana flew to her closet and tore
through it for her gun.  The pain of her shoulder and her
weakness was forgotten in the rush of adrenaline and fear.  Diana
checked her .38 and placed it in the waistband of her pants.  =If
I were the Hunter,= she  thought, =where would I go?  I'd go
someplace quiet, so no one could hear.  Someplace no
one would hear the screams, or if they did, they  wouldn't care. 
Where?  The park.     

As Diana headed for the park, she only had room for one thought
in her dazed mind: finding the Hunter and stopping him before he
found Vincent.


When Vincent reached the park and found the place the Hunter had
mentioned, he was relieved to see that Diana wasn't there.  But
he knew the Hunter was.    

From behind him, the Hunter's voice taunted: "So,you've come.  I
figured you would, though you seem to have missed Diana."   

Vincent spun quickly, almost catching Jack, but the man was ready
for him and had already moved back, and Vincent was staring down
the barrel of a shotgun.  Vincent's low growl became more
menacing as he warily eyed the man.  He could smell Diana's blood
on the Hunter and was having difficulty keeping the beast in.  

The Hunter smiled and said with a laugh: "Anyone can get a gun
here. Don't you love America."  

With a snarl, Vincent told him, "Evil men are never unarmed."  He
took a step toward Jack.  

Jack lifted the barrel of the gun and said quickly, "If you want
Diana back you'll do what I say."  

"What have you done to her!" Vincent roared.  "Where =is= she?" 
Vincent was about to lose control when, suddenly there was a
gossamer touch...the barest fleeting feeling:  Diana.  She was
alive.  The rage died and reason returned. Backing away a step,
Vincent smiled softly as he told the Hunter, "Diana is alive. 
She escaped you, didn't she?"  

Vincent's sudden change of tactics caught Jack off guard.  He'd
obviously hoped to have his opponent off balance with rage, but
now it was =him= who was off balance.  "So the bitch got away! 
But =you= won't!"  

The click of the shotgun trigger alerted Vincent and he threw
himself aside instinctively, missing the shot by a hair, and he
moved into the shadows.   

Jack also dodged and moved behind a tree.  "Tell me beast," Jack
asked in a raised, tense voice, "how was it to feel her soft skin
against you?  Feeling it part under your claws?" When Vincent
didn't react, Jack tried again. "I know her body felt delicious
and warm under my blade."  

Vincent was angry, but under control.  He knew Jack  was taunting
him with lies. Diana was alive, and knowing that, he could remain
rational. Jack was too intent upon Vincent to hear the movement
behind him, but Vincent did.  And at the same time, the sweet
song of Diana's presence surrounded him. Vincent knew he needed
to distract the man to allow Diana to do what she needed to do. 
"Somehow, I doubt that Diana would enjoy your attentions," he
told the Hunter dryly.   

Diana's level voice came from the darkness. "It was a great
hunt." The Hunter spun, aiming the shotgun with his final shell,
but Diana fired first.  Vincent reached Diana's side just as the
Hunter looked up at them.  Diana was shaking and obviously weak,
but she glared down at the dying man.  "But the Huntress wins." 
Jack Warmer gasped, and died, and Diana dropped her gun.  

The clouds that had been covering the moon parted and Vincent
gasped as Diana was illuminated by the silvery light.  Goddess of
the moon--Huntress of old--she turned to him and her eyes met
his. "Are you hurt?" she asked, her voice faint.  

It was then that Vincent saw the blood spreading down her
shirt...realized that the tremors that shook her were of
weakness, not reaction.  He lunged toward her and caught her as
she fell. "Diana?"  Her eyes opened, but when he took her pulse,
it was weak,  thready.   

Diana's voice was weak, but she smiled up at him.  "I love you
Vincent,"Diana murmured. Her eyes closed.  "Gotta tell you...."  
Vincent's throat was tight and tears blurred his vision, but he
refused to allow her to die.  "Diana,  hold on.  Don't leave me. 
I love you, too.  Stay with me...please.  I won't let anything
happen to you...."  

Diana managed to open her eyes.  She smiled again and muttered:
"Don't make promises...can't keep."  She closed her eyes again
and Vincent knew she'd lost consciousness.  Vincent picked up
Diana's gun, knowing she'd not want to leave it, then he picked
up her limp body and headed for the tunnels and Father.  


Vincent watched anxiously as Father and Mary worked over Diana.
He couldn't see what was being done, but he knew the wound was
serious.  Eventually, Father turned away and pulled off his mask. 
Sighing heavily, Father told him, "She'll be fine, Vincent...if
infection doesn't set in.  She needed stitches and she's lost a
considerable amount of blood, but she's strong.  Why don't you
move her into your chamber so you can watch her tonight--but be
careful--she's in pain."  

Relief flooded through Vincent as he looked down at her. Diana
moved ever so slightly and half opened her eyes. "Vincent?" she
murmured drowsily.  

"I'm here, Diana," he told her tenderly as he held her hand.  

She smiled weakly.  "Next time, we know...just go on
a date.  These meetings we've been havin' are so damned
=exhausting=.  She  closed her eyes and went back to sleep.  

Vincent smiled and chuckled a little as he ran his fingers down
Diana's cheek and through her hair.  Then he very carefully
picked her up and carried her to his chamber.

About the Author

Diana Garcia (Dee) is new to fandom, having found Beauty and the
Beast in syndication--and while they were running third season. 
She fell in love with the Vincent/Diana relationship and was very
sorry they never did anything more with it.  She's a nurse with
two cats, one dog, a husband and an in-house mother-in-law.  
This is her first venture into fan writing.  Dee would love your
comments!  E-mail her at: