After a week, I felt okay enough to head back to my life. Besides, I didn't want to miss any more work. Not for unplanned absences, anyway. If I was going to get away from the office, it was going to be for that never-got-around-to vacation that Teren and I had vaguely planned together years ago. Preferably somewhere hot and muggy, since the temperature extreme would feel amazing on my cool skin.

I'd been a little nervous about what I'd chow on in the city, since cows weren't exactly walking around in most people's backyards, but I should have known better. Alanna sent me out the door with enough chilled or frozen packages of blood to last me practically until the next decade. And I was pretty sure that she'd be swinging by for the first few months to resupply me if I did get low. Alanna was just incapable of not nurturing people, and now that Teren's thirst level had tapered off, she was more than happy to make up for his independence with me.

Getting ready for work on my first Monday back from my "illness," Teren gave me some tips that he'd used when he'd gone back to work. Cocking an eyebrow at him as he dressed for work, I whispered, "Are you serious...the bathroom? You told me you never needed to eat at work."

Smiling as he buttoned up his dress shirt, hiding his glorious skin with each fastening, he shook his head. "Need, no, but it did...take the edge off. And yes, the bathroom. It's the most private place to do it, trust me."

I shook my head, my face incredulous at what he'd done, at what he was asking me to do. "So, when you got hungry at work, you took a small thermos of blood into the restroom and took a sip in a stall, where unpleasant stuff?"

Chuckling at me, his shirt completely fastened, but loose over his slacks, he sat beside where I was sprawled out on our bed. Leaning over, he brushed aside some hair from my forehead; I could smell the soap from his shower on his fingers. "It's more secluded than your car or an empty office. And people generally leave each other alone in long as you don't take too long."


He chuckled again and I sighed, not relishing the smells that would be mixing with my bloody lunch. Looking at the disgust in my face, he tapped my nose with his finger. "Don't think about it. Just do what you need to do to get through the day."

I sighed again, reaching my arms around his waist. "And you're sure the temperature thing won't be noticed?"

Shrugging, he lightly kissed me. "No one ever questioned my sudden change." Pulling back to look at me, he cupped my cheek. "The average human being isn't looking for a supernatural answer to life's little oddities. If you act completely normal, they will think you are completely normal." He smirked and shrugged. "As Great-Gran said, they're sort of like the cattle...easily herdable."

I pushed back on his chest as I grunted at him. "Please don't start quoting Halina."

Laughing softly, he kissed my head as he stood up. "I'll have my phone close all day, just text me if you're having any problems."

Exhaling nervously, I shook my head. "Yeah...okay."

He watched me lovingly as he tucked in his shirt. "You'll do great, Emma, like you always do."

I nodded and watched as he quickly finished. Giving me one last hug, he made to leave for work. Striding through the door, he suddenly stopped and looked back at me. Furrowing his brows, a serious expression washed over his face. "Most people will ignore it...but not all." His eyes flickering over my body, he shook his head. "Please try and be cautious of the not normal human beings."

I bit my lip and nodded. Yeah, the last thing Teren and I needed was another hunter on our tail.

Pulling into the lot after dropping off my kids at Mom's, I breathed in a deep, unneeded breath. I could do this. After all, I'd already handled dying, how bad could this be?

Walking in through the front doors, the smell hit me first. I'd never noticed it before, but a building full of warm-blooded humans, smelled like warm blood. It was everywhere, like it seeped from their pores.

Smiling, I listened to the thumping heartbeats around me. It was like walking through a chocolate factory - everyone just smelled so good. On the way to the elevator, I found myself lingering to talk to people that I usually didn't talk to on a regular basis. I just wanted to listen to their hearts. Recognizing that I was noticing people in a way that maybe I shouldn't, I forced myself to stop enjoying the flow of blood around me and concentrate on getting to my office.

Digging through my purse, I texted Teren as I stepped out of the elevator onto my floor. 'Everyone smells that normal? Am I okay to be here?'

I hadn't taken two steps before he responded. 'Yes, it's normal. You're more attuned to them now and you'll notice them in a way you didn't before. That will fade as you get used to it. You are still in control of your actions, though. Duck to the bathroom if you need...anything.'

Cringing and placing a hand over the conveniently sized thermos in my mammoth purse, I typed back a thank you.

Ignoring how the mailman was a little mouthwatering now, I kept my head down and hurried to my desk. It wasn't as if I suddenly wanted to chow down on my coworkers or anything, I definitely did not, but they were just about the yummiest things I could think of, all clumped together like...well, cattle.

Laughing a little, I nearly ran right into Tracey. I instinctually inhaled in surprise and her particular scent hit me. More familiar than my coworkers, since I'd spent a decent amount of time with her pre-death, it calmed me down some. Her placing her fingers on my upper arms did not. Wanting to pull away but knowing that Teren was right and casualness was the key to inconspicuousness, I remained where I was under her grasp. Her dull senses wouldn't be able to feel me under my blazer anyway.

Glancing between my eyes, she raised a pale eyebrow at me. "You alright? Back to human?"

My eyes widened at her implication, then I realized that she was referencing the flu I'd supposedly been getting over. "Yeah, much better, thank you." I coughed a little, hoping for space. It worked like a charm; she dropped her fingers and took a step back.

Grinning at me, she shook her head. "Well, glad you're better."

Merrily ducking into my old cubicle, she absentmindedly admired her engagement ring as she sat down. Murmuring at a level she wouldn't hear, I wryly let out, "Yeah, all back to normal."

Hearing Clarice grunt in disapproval as I stood outside our joint office talking to someone she considered a subordinate, I sighed and shook my head at Tracey. "Duty calls." Tracey blinked at me. She had a lot of things going for her - great job, great fiancee, amazing looks - but she didn't have my super hearing.

With no one else coming anywhere near as close to me as Tracey had earlier, my Monday morning went by pretty uneventfully. But around lunchtime I did start to feel a little peckish. My throat drying up and my stomach tightening, I figured it would be prudent to stay on top of this, less I cave and take a bite out of Clarice's pudgy, judgmental ass.

Waiting for Clarice to leave for her standard forty-three minute lunch break and faking that I was swamped with work when Tracey asked if I wanted a bite with her, I felt real hunger pangs by the time I carefully pulled the container out of my bag. Still not thrilled over drinking where people peed, I wished I could down the plasma treat right there in the office. But, it wasn't worth the risk of someone seeing me.

Sighing, I texted Teren a quick message. 'Going in, wish me luck.'

His reply was immediate. 'You'll be fine. Wash your hands afterwards...bathrooms are disgusting.'

Laughing, I put the phone away and tucked the warm mug under my blazer. It heated the side of me and I almost growled at just the thought of that warmth sliding down my starting-to-ache throat. I had more control than that though.

Walking down the hall with something that I knew would freak out every person in the building made my nerves spike. By the time I was in the bathroom, triple checking under every stall door, my hands were shaking. As I closed a stall door, I knew my alive heart would have been pounding. Even without it, my icy veins felt even icier. I nearly felt like I was doing something nefarious; spying or embezzling, or stealing office supplies.

Then I took the lid off my drink and inhaled. Unhindered by bone, flesh, skin and clothing, the direct smell of blood was nearly overwhelming. I let my fangs crash down to where they wanted to be and immediately tilted the cup back. Euphoria flooded through me. I had to put my hand against the door to steady myself, the taste was so amazing. Sweet, tangy, heady, it was better than any martini lunch I'd ever had; worth every damn germ in this place, not that germs really mattered to me now anyway.

Feeling proud of myself, I contained the satisfied growl that I wanted to make. I also saved half the drink. Having several more hours of sitting in a room with Clarice, I was pretty sure I'd need a pick-me-up later. Especially when her last comment to me before lunch had been to ask if I'd had all my shots for the rest of the year, like I was a dog or something.

Feeling full and warmed from the liquid in my belly, I nearly skipped back to my office. Excited to tell someone that I'd pulled it off, I texted Teren. 'That was so incredibly amazing! I should have been doing this ages ago. I'm so satisfied right now...'

His response was quick, as usual. ''re turning me on.'

Giggling in my joy, my phone beeped at me before I could type back. 'I'm glad you got something to eat. I was a little worried.'

Shaking my head, I reassured him that I was great and that I loved him very much.

By the end of the week, I felt like I'd successfully adjusted to the undead life. Eventually the newness of being deceased wore off, and I truly began to enjoy how alive the world was to me. Colors, sounds, textures, everything was more distinct, clearer. It was like Teren had said once, the senses seemed to swap around with each other. I could hear color in music, I could feel silkiness in sound. It was something unexplainable that only other vampires understood. It was a world I wished I could have shared with my family, but it wasn't a fate I'd wish on them. The constant worry, the never-ending charade. There were sacrifices to being what I dealing with people eating food all the time.

I'd never realized how much eating and drinking is a part of our society until I'd been taken out of the part. It seemed like nearly everything humans did, centered around food somehow. Movies equaled popcorn. Baseball games equaled beer and hotdogs. Even walking through the park involved a stop at the churros stand. It was everywhere. It churned my stomach at first, the sight and smell of so much food, but after awhile the reaction faded. It was like watching people eat dog food. I had to forcefully make myself not cringe.

And I had to come up with ways to not eat myself. Being a girl, I had the "I'm on a diet" thing going for me, and it worked for most places where food wasn't the main attraction. But going out to eat was something else entirely. I avoided it with my friends, but my family and I still got together once a week for meals.

Thankfully I didn't have to hide from them, but the staff had known me for years and brought me my Panini sandwich without me even asking. I discretely gave pieces to my kids and made my sister eat the rest. Because she was the most awesome person in the world, she did, doggy bagging the half of her own meal that she couldn't finish.

While Teren's excuse that he was severely allergic had worked well enough for him that he could sit with nothing and our longtime waitress left him alone, I couldn't exactly develop the same rare problem that he'd suddenly developed. That would have just been weird. So with my family's help, I got through our weekly meals with a sham.

On the third week of faking it, my mom sighed and set her fork down. "This is ridiculous. Half of the table isn't eating?" She indicated where Teren and I were sitting, watching everyone else eat.

I shook my head, holding Teren's hand under the table. "It's fine, Mom. We'll eat later." Since I really didn't want her to think about how we ate, I usually left that topic pretty vague. Mom didn't ask about it either.

"Well, we could do something else when we all get together, something everyone would enjoy?" She tilted her head, looking between Teren, me, Ashley and the twins.

Nika grinned when Mom's eyes swept over her, a chunk of my sandwich hanging out of her mouth. Mom smiled, but then frowned when she looked back at me. "You guys shouldn't have to be bored, just sitting there."

I laughed, leaning into Teren's side. "We're not, Mom. We're here for the conversation...if not the food."

Mom shook her head, picking up her fork again. "Alright, well, if it's okay with you guys, who am I to complain, I guess?"

My sister giggled as she ate my sandwich for me. Glancing over at her, I could see creases in her scars that hadn't been there a few months ago, or maybe my poor form of vision before just hadn't noticed them. Either way, I noticed them now, and smiled at what they were - laugh lines. Crinkles of happiness. The skin so used to the act of smiling that the body had permanently etched the shape of that joy into her young skin. I instantly wondered what the source of her joy was.

Pulling apart the last remaining segments of the meal I didn't eat with my fingers, I tilted my head at her. "Ash?" She looked from Mom to me, her face curious. "What have you been up to lately, Sis?"

She flushed a little as she looked around the table. "Nothing much," she muttered, digging back into the food with a gusto.

Raising an eyebrow, I leaned in "Really? Because I know you're holding something back, I can smell it." I couldn't really, but Ash didn't know that. Her eyes widened as she looked me up and down.

Teren chuckled beside me, shaking his head. Ashley's eyes went to his face, then back to mine. "You cannot, Emma. " She rolled her eyes while I frowned at my fib-busting husband. He shrugged, laughing harder.

Sulking at him destroying my ploy, I dropped his fingers, playing with my meal scraps with both hands. Rolling up a piece of my bread, I handed it to Julian. "Then what's going on? Really?"

Mom looked over at her, eyes curious now too. Ashley looked between us, then sighed. "Okay, but you can't say anything." I smiled and nodded; secrets were sort of my specialty.

Looking around, Ashley leaned in. "Some of the doctors that I know have been doing a lot of work with cultured skin." I gave her a blank look and she smiled. "Skin that's been grown in a lab. Anyway, they've been letting me assist them in my free time, and I just watched them successfully grow skin with hair follicles." Her eyes widened as her face lit up. "It had sebaceous glands and everything! Do you know what that means, Emma?"

I shook my head. "Not really. They grew hairy skin? It sounds kind of creepy."

My sister giggled and shook her head. "It means that they could potentially do skin graphs for patients on areas of the body that grow hair." She pointed to her bare head, as if to emphasize what had just been made startlingly clear to me. "Baldness, burns, cancer? It's a breakthrough."

Growing skin in labs had been too new of a thing to help Ashley, but she'd told me once before that it was being practiced more and more as the science was perfected. Since her accident, numerous patients had avoided having healthy skin sliced off their own bodies and painfully relocated to cover damaged areas. Ashley had had more than a few of those kinds of surgeries. Now she was telling me that they were on the cusp of graphs that could help patients regain their natural head of hair. My eyes watered at just the thought.

Ashley's did too. "Can you imagine what this could do for people? The normalcy, the hope?" Her eyes got dangerously close to overflowing as her smile widened as far as it could go.

My mom threw an arm around her as Teren placed his hand over hers. They each offered support and praise but my senses focused on my sister. Everything about her defied the odds. Her living through the blaze that took our father. Her fighting through the painful battle of recovery. Her ability to ignore the taunts and jabs directed her way, to be able to walk proudly in her own skin. Her desire to turn her setbacks into inspiration, to help others like herself. And even now, hearing of a treatment that could potentially help her too one day, her first thought was how it could help others. Once again, I wanted to be my sister when I grew up.

Sniffling, I could only nod, amazed beyond words.

I was still thinking of my sister's revelation the next day. Sipping my bathroom beverage, trying to ignore the toilet flushing going on around me, I contemplated what her life could be like if her mentors were successful. Having a full set of hair wouldn't make her completely normal looking, but it would cut back the instant stares she received. If just that small thing could be changed, she, and others like her, wouldn't be the instant elephant in the room. Something everyone notices, but most try to ignore talking about.

I wanted that for her, but I'd come to realize that my sister wanted life on her own terms, and hiding her disfigurement had never been something she'd desired. If it were just a matter of hiding herself, she'd have purchased a wig years ago. But she hadn't. While gracious and patient with most people, she sort of had an 'I'm here, deal with it,' approach. Sort of like Halina actually, just on a much, much nicer level.

Teren was all smiles when he greeted me in our driveway when I got home. I felt the lingering joy of our connection completing as he squeezed me into a hug, but I didn't think that was really the cause of his smile. Pulling back to look over his features, I tilted my head. "Something up? Besides being happy to see me?"

Nodding, he pulled my hand. "I have a surprise for you."

Now I was grinning ear to ear. Teren's surprises were usually pretty good. Simultaneously greeting our pet and children, as all three greeted me at the door, I looked around for a big box with a shiny bow or something. Not seeing anything, I frowned.

Teren laughed at my face and started tugging on my hand to get me to follow him, but two excited little bodies were holding me in place. Jumping up and down, they were both animatedly repeating, "It's quiet, Mommy!"

Scrunching my brows at them, I glanced up at Teren. Sighing, he pointed up to our room. "Secret's out, I guess. Gabriel was here, he finished the room."

I blinked at and then smiled. Our sex room was complete. Okay, that wasn't entirely the reason for the soundproofing but still, it was definitely a perk. Teren grinned at seeing my response, then successfully yanked me away from the kids.

All of us laughing a little, we walked upstairs and to the end of the hall, where our bedroom was. Running past us, Julian and Nika darted into the room and started screeching at the top of their lungs. It was loud, I cringed. Then Teren closed the door.

I blinked at it, disbelieving. I couldn't hear them, not a peep. I knew they were still making as much noise as they could, but even whispering, I should have been able to hear them. It was a little disorienting.

Teren opened the door after a second, the sound of screaming instantly filling my ears. Giggling, the twins took turns being the noisemaker and the door shutter. As the sound of Nika yelling her ABCs shifted in and out of my mind while Julian opened and closed the door, I turned to stare at Teren. "Wow, that really is amazing."

Nodding, he pointed to the seal around the door. It was different than before and even though I could hear it swishing across the carpet with each opening and shutting, no sound came past it once it was locked into place. "He installed the seals and changed the insulation in the walls." Chuckling, he added, "He even added several layers of Kevlar, so we're bulletproof now."

I smiled at him; we were already bulletproof.

Shaking my head as I stepped into the room with Julian, who had taken Nika's place as noise maker, I looked around. Everything was picture perfect, just as I'd left it this morning. You'd never know that the walls had been torn up and replaced. The toxic smell of paint was sharp to my sensitive nose, but really, that was the only clue that anything had happened in this room today.

Ushering Julian outside with his sister, Teren closed the door as he stepped in with me.

Their giggling was instantly silenced, along with every car horn, dog bark, screeching neighbor, and telephone conversation nearby. The quiet intruded on my brain, like a physical thing that could seep in and envelope me. All I heard for once was the sound of Teren and I breathing.

"It' quiet," I whispered, suddenly feeling like I was in a sacred place.

Teren came up to me, grabbing my hands. "I know. It's kind of nice isn't it?" He shut his eyes, his face relaxing. "Not having to block the world out, just so you can hear yourself think."

Smiling up at him, I laced my arms around his neck. "It feels like we're the only two people on earth."

He opened his eyes, his lips curving in a warm smile. "We could be, for just a little while."

His gaze flicked down my body and I instantly felt the heat of it. It was all mental of course, my body didn't actually heat up anymore, but the fire of wanting him was still within me, mentally if not physically. He leaned in to kiss me, backing me up to the bed in the process. As his fingers removed my blazer, mine threaded through his hair.

As I sat on the bed, his body forcing me to lie back on it, I kept a mental tack on the kids. Feeling that they were safely playing in their room, I indulged in not having to hold anything back for once. With sunlight streaming through the window, it gave me a little bit of a high to be with him like this, during waking hours.

My legs wrapped around him as his hands drifted up the lacey camisole he loved. Grabbing his back, I pulled him where I need him most. He groaned in my mouth. Smiling, I relished the sound, then his hand slid under my bra and I made a moan of my own.

Our breaths heavy in the quiet room, his lips traveled up to my ear. "That sounds so nice. I've missed hearing you let go." His hand coming down to unfasten my slacks, he whispered, "I want to hear you beg for me. I want to hear you scream."

My eyes rolled back as his words tumbled around the room. My hand came up to his cheek, forcing his mouth back to mine. "I want to hear you too," I muttered, our lips frantic as desire revved up the pace.

Getting lost in him, my fingers grasping the fabric of his shirt, I didn't notice something I really should have noticed. Pressing into me, his body as ready to go as mine was, Teren didn't notice either. We both noticed about five seconds later.

"Mommy, I hungry."

Teren immediately sat up, looking back at the door. Standing here, pure innocence in her eyes, my daughter watched us struggle to breathe calmly. Letting out a soft laugh, Teren looked down at me. "We do still need a lock on the door though."

Laughing, I covered my face. I couldn't believe we'd nearly been walked in on by our kids. Locking the door had been on our to-do list for awhile; I vowed to bump it to the top of that list. After setting the kids up with some graham crackers and chocolate milk, Teren was back in our room moments later. Shutting the door as he swished into the room, the noise of our young ones eating instantly cut off.

I sat up on my elbows as he grinned crookedly and crawled on top of me. "Now, where were we?"

While he nuzzled my neck, not bothered in the least by the disruption, I struggled to stay in cautious parent-mode. "Uh, the kids?"

"Downstairs, watching cartoons," he murmured, his lips wandering up to my neck as his hand resumed caressing my breast.

I closed my eyes as a soft moan left me. "A cartoon? Will they be alright, down there all alone?"

Nodding, he moved over the top of me. "Everything is locked up tight. There's nothing dangerous they can get into, they'll be fine." His hands slid down to my slacks, unzipping them. "Besides, in about twenty minutes, they'll come looking for us."

Feeling them safe and secure downstairs, I let go of worry and enjoyed the gift that my husband had arranged for me. Lickety-split we blurred out of our clothes, not wanting to waste what precious time we had with foreplay. As the tip of him pressed against my entrance, that body part as lukewarm as the rest of him, he paused, looking down on me with lust and love in his eyes.

Groaning at how close he was, how much closer I needed him, I watched the corner of his lip lift. Needing him so much I wouldn't have even cared if our room wasn't soundproof, I pulled at his hips. "Please, take me, Teren."

He closed his eyes as he pushed into me. I let out a cry that ordinarily would have had the kids huddled in a corner. As Teren took long, slow strokes, murmuring 'yes' in my shoulder, I let out every sound he made me feel. I contained nothing and it drove him into a near frenzy. His pace quickened dramatically with every sound I made.

Wrapping my legs around him, my fingers digging into his back, I begged, "I want to hear you too, don't hold back either."

His forehead rested against mine as he sucked in a quick breath then let out a sound that was beyond any erotic sound I'd ever heard. Somewhere between pain and pleasure, it ached with the need to release. I found myself muttering, 'yes' and 'more.'

Driving against each other, I felt the buildup in me but heard it more from him. He swore, dropping his head back to my shoulder as the intenseness of our connection rose. "Yes, oh...god, yes, Em."

Throwing my head back, I screamed out his name just as euphoria burst through my body. His hand came out to clench mine, his wedding ring digging into my skin as he cried out. The cool-warmth of his release flowed into me and I gasped at the sensation. My undead body felt everything more intensely, orgasms included.

Panting as we both came down, I took a second to locate our kids. They hadn't moved. Collapsing on top of me, Teren let out a deep groan in my skin. "I think I'm going to love this room."

Chuckling lightly, I smacked his shoulder. "I knew it. I knew this was more a present for you."

Lifting his head, he raised an eyebrow. "You didn't enjoy that?"

Grinning widely, I wrapped my legs tighter around him and rocked my hips. "Alright, maybe I did." As I continued moving my hips, he closed his eyes. Still inside me, I felt him responding again. Groaning at my husband's endurance level, I again let him know how much I appreciated his gift.

Thank goodness the children's cartoon was a long one.

Once we were as spent as we could be for one evening, Teren opened the door while I threw on some comfy clothes. The sounds of the world instantly encroached on me, spoiling the peaceful sanctuary we'd found. I smiled though, being able to hear my kids again. They were watching a cartoon that was asking them questions, diligently responding where they were supposed to.

Teren dressed in some lounge pants and came up to snuggle beside me on the bed. Throwing a leg and arm over me, he sighed contently. I kissed his head as I lightly stroked his back with my fingernails. His lips barely moving, he said, "We'll have to send Gabriel something as a thank you."

Smiling, I laid my cheek on his head. "I doubt there's anything he wants." Frowning, I considered how untrue that sentence was. I knew exactly what he'd love to have - full access to my kids.

Maybe feeling my body posture change, Teren lifted his head. His pale eyes searching mine, he shook his head. "He knows we won't ever let him test them. He wouldn't even ask."

Sighing, I nodded. "He stills studies them though. You notice how he watches them?"

Teren looked down. "Yeah, I've noticed." His eyes came back up to me. "But he's only observing, and mainly from a distance. It won't go any further...ever."

His lips firmed in a line, the factualness of his statement apparent in his features. No, Teren would never let Gabriel do anything other than watch. And really, he only got away with that because we couldn't do anything to stop it. But they were children, not experiments, and neither one of us were going to let him treat them as such.

Pushing my concerns to the back of my head, I ran my fingers through the hair over his ear. "Speaking of Gabriel, how has he been doing with the multiple conversions?"

He smiled softly. "Good, he tells me they all made it safely through." Teren didn't specify what they'd eaten to make it through. I didn't ask either.

Stroking the stubble of his jaw with my thumb, I frowned. "Who do you think the vampire was who trashed Gabriel's lab? Why would he do that?"

Teren sighed, propping himself up on his elbow. "Gabriel won't really talk about the vampire who stole from him." He shrugged. "He just keeps saying it's a family matter. Even Great-Gran doesn't know a whole lot." He sat up, slinging his arms around his legs. "From what I've gathered, his name is Malcolm. He was apparently Gabriel's assistant, ages ago, when he'd first started developing the shots. After awhile, he took off on Gabriel, and he hasn't seen him since."

I sat up too, looping my arm through his. "Oh...and now that Gabriel knows what he did, he's tracking him?"

Teren nodded, his face a little grim. "Yeah, and they're getting close. I have a feeling that it won't be pleasant when Gabriel does find him." Sighing, he cupped my cheek. "But, that's Gabriel's problem, Gabriel's decision, not ours." He smiled slightly. "Our family has nothing to do with...any of that."

I sighed and leaned into his side. From downstairs, I heard the kids' show end. Thinking I should go down and make them something more substantial to eat than crackers, and maybe warm up something for Teren and me, I heard Nika say, "Press the button, Julie."

Giggling, I listened to the two of them rustling around with something. Then I heard channels being flipped on the television. Laughing softly as my kids tried to find something else to watch, I felt Teren pat my thigh.

"Ready to exit our love nest?" he asked playfully.

Looking up at him, I shook my head. "Not really...but alright." While flipping TV stations echoed through the background, Teren hopped off the bed, then pulled me to my feet. I stumbled a little as he pulled me all the way into his body, wrapping my arms around him. Tilting my head, I held his own arms behind his back. "Hungry?"

Nodding, his fangs slid out. He immediately brought them to my neck, like he was going to bite me right then and there. Letting him go, I smacked his chest and pushed him away from me. "Uh-uh." Smirking, I playfully said, "No vampiric candy before dinner."

He rolled his eyes at me as he grabbed my hand and led me to the open door. "You're no fun," he mumbled.

Laughing, I kissed his shoulder. "I just said no candy before dinner. I didn't say anything about afterwards."

Smiling adorably, he looked back at me as we entered the hallway. The television stopped downstairs as our kids found something on it that held their attention. As Teren shook his head at me, I heard Nika exclaim, "Ooh, pretty."

Cocking my head, I listened to what had enraptured them. Oddly enough, it sounded like the news. Shaking my head that my kids would find the news fun, I hoped whatever they were reporting on was innocent, a piece on adopting puppies or something. Shoving Teren so he'd move faster, I tuned into what the reporter was saying.

" sweeping over the hills has many Los Angeles residents fearing that they may have to evacuate..."

Teren looked back at me before blurring downstairs. I was right behind him. I didn't need our kids terrified over the fires that seemed to spread over the countryside yearly. The one going on that they were talking about had been blazing for awhile now, and showed no signs of stopping.

A pace ahead of me, he had the remote in hand just as the reporter said, "...the body was found among the debris and is believed to have been out hiking when they unfortunately got caught up in the disaster. Burned beyond recognition, dental records have confirmed the identity as..."

The television flashed a picture and I gasped, my hands flying to my face.

"No..." Teren muttered, dropping the remote. Staggering, he looked like he was going to sink right to the floor. His wide eyes swung to me just as the photograph of the person who had perished in the flames was identified.

"...thirty-one year old Carrie Davids. Hailing from a small town in northeast Maine, friends and coworkers have confirmed to us that Miss Davids made an impromptu decision to fly out to California back in April. Not leaving anyone with a clear idea of when she' be back, it would seem that Miss Davids had set across the Country to discover herself. A journey of self discovery that ultimately led to her tragic demise..."