Every time he closed his eyes, he saw them together. Unbidden, the pictures were there. Flashing like the jungles and the Cong. Shell shock. Except it was images of pale arms and legs entangled. Of Madaleine baring her throat to sharp fangs and a contorted, beastly, face. Of her belly swelling with a vampire's child. Of her holding a sleeping baby. . .a beautiful tableau of Madonna & child.
He curled his fingers into the glass, stared down through the tinted panes and saw nothing on the floor below. She'd lied to him. To *him*. For almost a decade, her child had been under this roof and she'd said nothing. And Section had been fighting vampires even longer. Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus had been in the data banks since Section's inception. And she'd said nothing. He'd held her in his arms night after night, accepting all that she would give him, loving her above all reason. . . and she'd said nothing.
Paul shuddered, caught in the throes of a war worse than Vietnam. He could see his reflection in the window. Count every gray hair. Every line on his face. Every year that had aged him. Spike's face was forever young. . .hair whitened by choice. A perfect monster. Birkhoff's father. It should have been *him*. Madaleine's lover, her would-be husband. The privilege of fathering that brilliant, naive boy should've been *his*. But no. . .it belonged to a cold, dead, arrogant being whose eyes and hands had marked the Slayer as his newest possession. Just as they had marked Madaleine. Just as they would mark Birkhoff if--no--*when* Section found him.
Operations was a position that demanded professionalism. That demanded he be in complete control. But Paul was panicked. Was insanely jealous. Was terrified of losing his family a second time. Corinne. . .Alyssa. . . Steven. They were gone. Two ex-wives and a son he would never touch or see again. He was damned if he was going to give up Maddy and her boy. Not to *any* vampire, good *or* evil.
But she'd still betrayed him.
And he didn't deal well with betrayal. It twisted him inside. Froze him to anything rational. Made him bark cancelation orders and demote operatives and shut out anyone who dared object.
Any minute now, Madaleine would walk into this office. She would try to bridge the chasm that had separated them. Her head would be high, her eyes and voice steady, but her soul would be screaming for reunion. And he knew he wouldn't yield. He couldn't. Not when the hurt was so fresh.
Paul stared through the glass and saw nothing but the uncertainty of the next few hours. And a life stripped bare by napalm.