Every day that Carrie's accident passed behind us, my husband came back a little more to what he'd been before. Once the shock and guilt stopped stinging so much, his face slowly resumed its genuine cheeriness, the faked, forced smile leaving him. He dealt with it in his own way, writing an article on wildfire prevention for the magazine he worked for, making a sizeable donation to the United States Forest Service, and even sending anonymous condolence flowers to where Carrie had worked. But after all that was done, he seemed to let her go.
Watching him with our kids, you'd certainly never know that he'd recently lost an old friend. Smiling, I watched him wrestle around with them on the living room floor. Lying on his stomach, he was laughing while Nika bounced on his back. Julian sat behind her, facing the other way while he bounced on Teren's lower spine. The two kids were alternating their jumps so Teren was getting constantly bombarded; a normal human would have had trouble breathing.
Not needing the air to breathe, he was having a little trouble getting enough to laugh. Teren didn't stop them though, letting the hop-on-pop continue. Chuckling softly, I watched them from the safety of the couch. Teren twisted his head to look at me, groaning as a kid kicked him in the ribs. "A little help?" he asked pitifully.
Shaking my head, I twisted my lip at him. "You look like you've got it under control."
Nika stood up and practically body slammed him as she sat back down, making him groan again. We may be nearly indestructible, but we still felt pain. Laughing at the look on his face, I raised an eyebrow at my daughter. "Gentle, Nika. Don't break Daddy."
Both Nika and Julian thought that was funny and hit him just a little bit harder. Spike wagged his tail, barking as he looked about to jump on his master too. Teren grunted at the abuse, frowning a bit at me. "Thanks."
Grinning, I shrugged. "Just trying to help out the big, bad vampire."
Narrowing his eyes at me, he lifted himself to his hands and knees. Nika giggled as she rolled off his back. Julian held onto his jean pockets, Laughing as he rode Daddy backwards. Careful to not knock our son off, Teren slinked his way over to me. I tilted my head at the look in his eye; it was mischievously playful. While I preferred that look to his forlorn face a couple of weeks ago, I was beginning to wonder just what he was up to.
When he got close enough, he removed Julian, setting him beside our giggling daughter. His full attention on me now, I narrowed my eyes and pulled my legs farther up the couch. "Teren, what are you doing?"
Still on his hands and knees directly in front of me, his impish grin turned devilish. "Nothing."
Pulling back from him, I had a warning ready on my tongue. I never got a chance to say it though. Faster than humanly possible, he grabbed my legs and yanked me off the couch. Within seconds he had me trapped on the floor, his body pressing me down. While we were fairly similar strength-wise now, Teren had more mass than me. And more importantly, he currently had better leverage.
Holding me down tight, he glanced over at the kids. "Okay, guys, get her!"
My eyes widened as his plan instantly became clear to me. Teren pulled away right as they attacked. Julian flopped on my chest while Nika sat on my stomach. And as if that wasn't bad enough, Teren started tickling me.
With tears trickling down my face, I gasped in breaths so I could laugh. Teren chuckled at me as I tried to smack him without hitting our children. It really wasn't very fair. He was using our kids as a natural buffer so he could torment me freely.
Nika and Julian eventually grew weary and crawled up to rest their heads in my shoulders; their heat cascaded around me, like soothing hot water bottles. I exhaled in relief when Teren stopped tickling me. As my kids slung their arms around my neck, he hovered over me. Smiling down at me, he softly cupped my cheek.
"Thank you," he whispered.
I shook my head. "For what?"
He smiled wider. "For...being you." He smiled wider for a second, then his grin faded. "Thank you for helping me through," he glanced at the kids snuggled in my arms, before looking back to me, "...stuff. Thank you for giving me space. Thank you for your comfort. Thank you...for being here."
Stubborn tears pricking my eyes, I shook my head. "I'm your wife. Where else would I be?"
Sighing contently, he lowered his lips to mine. The twins giggled while he kissed between them, until their arms reached out for Daddy and pulled his hovering body down. Chuckling, Teren shifted Julian around so he could lie in the crook of my arm with Julian on top of us. Slinking his arm under me, he shifted all of us so we were laying on him.
All four of us exhaled contently. One happy, vampiric family.
Time heals all wounds they say, and a couple of weeks later our family seemed a shining example of that. I'd adjusted to dying. Teren had adjusted to grieving. And the twins had adjusted to the realization that they were never going to get that pony. Our lives quietly fell back to the routine we'd become accustomed to - trying to balance work and kids and time for each other. It was a tricky multi-level scale, but we did the best we could. We even managed to spend some time with our friends.
Dropping the kids off at my mom's, we met up with Hot Ben and Tracey for a movie. Flicking a glance at my husband in the car, once we were stopped in the brightly lit parking lot, I asked, "Are you sure you're up for this?"
He smiled back at me as he shut the electric engine off. "To watch them butcher a perfectly good, classic horror film?" Shrugging playfully, he sighed. "Not really, but I'll live."
Rolling my eyes, I thumped him over the chest. "No...smartass. Being out socializing after...what happened."
He sighed again, seriously this time. "I can't stop living my life because of bad things that happen." Looking down, he chuckled once. "If that were the case, I'd never get to have a life."
He peeked up at me and I cupped his cheek. Resting my head against his, I sighed too. Yeah, if there was one thing our relationship seemed to have in abundance, besides a great deal of love, it was bad things happening.
Giving my nose a light kiss, he cracked his door. "Come on, they're here."
He indicated behind me and I turned to see Ben's SUV in the lot. A sudden vision of Teren and I within the front seat of that SUV suddenly struck me. If I still could have, my cheeks would have flushed.
Walking around to my side, Teren helped me out of the car. I smelled the air instinctually when I got out. There was something in it besides the overwhelming stench of popcorn. Looking around, I sniffed. Teren watched me, then looked around too. The odor was familiar, but foreign.
Teren grabbed my arm, squeezing me gently. "Over there." I turned my head and looked over to the edge of the movie theater that he was pointing to. Standing at the corner, leaning against it, was a man clearly watching us. Ice flooded my veins as Teren moved me slightly behind him. Meeting up with strange people usually didn't end well for us. His scent was light on the breeze, but it had the distinct zing of vampire to it. Full or mixed, I didn't know.
A low warning growl burrowing up from Teren's chest cut through the empty space around us. I knew I was more resilient now than the last time I'd met up with a strange vamp, but that didn't mean I wanted to test out my healing abilities tonight.
The vampire across the way smiled wryly at the display, slightly shaking his head. Shrugging, he lifted his hands up as if to show he didn't mean us any harm. Teren stopped growling, but made no move to head towards the man.
He smiled wider at our reluctance. He seemed mid-twenties to me, not that that was any real indication of his lineage. His hair under the lot lights was sort of an orange shade, but I was pretty sure it would be a dirty brown in daylight, assuming it ever saw daylight. Skinny for a guy, he had a homely look about him, like he hadn't lived in one spot long enough to repair the rip in his jacket or replace the denims that were badly frayed at the knees. While not unattractive, there was a layer of dirt that permeated him and his clothes. Human eyes probably wouldn't notice, but mine could easily pick it up. All and all, he looked...worn.
Holding up a finger, he reached inside his jacket pocket. Actually thinking he was going to pull out a gun and shoot us, I pulled Teren back a step. The man sniggered at my reaction, pulling out what looked like an envelope.
Bunching my brows, I watched him set it on a nearby garbage can lid. Then he made a gesture like he was tipping his hat. It was old-fashioned and a little odd, since he wasn't even wearing a hat. After that display, he blurred away.
Teren and I were at a standstill, staring at that piece of paper like it was going to explode at any moment. Finally, Teren exhaled in a rush. "It's just paper," he muttered. Looking back at me, his blue eyes stern, he pointed to the ground. "Stay here...please?"
I twisted my lips, but nodded. I didn't smell the vamp in the air anyway and really, if he'd wanted to harm us, he wouldn't have made such a show of staying away. Obviously, harm wasn't his intention. Obviously, he wanted us to retrieve that letter.
Holding my breath, I watched Teren thrust his hands deep in his jacket and casually walk over to the corner of the building. The anticipation was killing me. I wanted to yell at him to go supersonic, but I had enough sense to know that I couldn't do that. We were smack dab in the middle of a parking lot and while not crowded, a few people were coming and going. Teren even nodded at a couple as he passed by them.
A few long moments later he made it to the trash bin. Looking around, he sniffed the air a few times before he picked it up. Staring at it for a second, he started making his way back to me. Not able to stand it anymore, I met him halfway. He frowned when we connected. "I told you to stay put."
I frowned back. "You can ground me later. What does it say?"
He shrugged, holding up a plain, ordinary envelope. "I don't know."
Looking around again, he slowly opened it. Pulling out a tri-folded slip of paper, he frowned. I frowned too. The scent wafting from the parchment was unmistakable to a vampire. Whatever was written on that paper was written in blood...human blood.
I bit my lip as he unfolded it. Reading what was there, he exhaled slowly and deliberately. Pulling it over so I could see it clearly, I gasped and peeked up at him. "Teren?"
Twisting his lips, he looked back at where the creature had fled. "Yeah, I know."
I stared after him too, completely thrown. That lean, homeless looking vampire was the one person on this earth that Gabriel wanted to get his hands on, but couldn't seem to. The man that had been calmly standing against a movie theater, staring at us, was on just about every vampire's most wanted list. He was the one that had been indirectly responsible for my husband's death. He was the one that was, in a way, responsible for my own death. And he'd been right in front of us.
Glancing at the paper elegantly scrawled with some poor human's blood, I read it over and over again. It was a message to Gabriel. A message that was all too clear; it chilled my already chilled bones.
My dearest Gabriel,
I understand that you wish to see me. I have no wish to be seen. I've given you several warnings to stop hunting for me. This one will be my last. I believe I've already proven that you are not untouchable. I can harm you, and I will, if you leave me no other choice. Back off, or this will end in bloodshed.
Teren ran a hand down his face as I shook my head, reading it again. Bloodshed? That sounded a bit...drastic. Of course, I was fairly certain that Gabriel wasn't going to let him off with a stern warning to never do it again. This Malcolm person had been responsible for several mixed vampire's deaths. Children as well as adults. He may not have wielded the stakes, but he was responsible nonetheless. And he seemed well aware of the consequences that he was facing.
"He knows who we are, Teren. He knows that we know Gabriel." My hand clutched his arm as I dropped my hold on the letter.
Shaking his head, he sighed. "I know." Looking over at me, he frowned but said nothing else.
Just as I was about to tell him that we should call...someone, Tracey bounded out of the theater. Teren looked up at her and shoved the bloody note in his pocket as she waved at us. "Hey, you are here! Come on in, the movie's starting soon."
We looked at each other and he shrugged. "He won't do anything until we deliver his message." He nodded his head to the doors. "Let's go watch a movie with our friends, make Tracey believe that nothing is wrong, then we'll call Great-Gran."
I nodded as he smiled nonchalantly and waved back at Tracey. As we quickly walked to the building, I mentally tracked every member of my family. The pins were all exactly in the same space in my head; nobody had moved. Our kids were at my mom's. Alanna and the other girls were at the ranch. Feeling better that all the vampires in my life were stationary and still spouting life affirming GPS to me, I tried to match his effortless smile as we stepped up to Tracey.
Smiling widely, she grabbed my hand and pulled me to the ticket line. I halfheartedly followed her, not really wanting to watch a movie right now. Twisting to look at me as we approached the counter, she exclaimed, "Dang, you're cold." Smirking, her pale eyes glanced down my body. "Maybe you should put some of that baby weight back on you?"
Faking a scowl of displeasure, I subtly pulled my hand from hers. So used to being a warm blooded person, I sometimes forgot that I wasn't now. Especially since my husband didn't give me chills anymore. My little twin heat boxes were my only real reminder of my temperature.
As Teren and I got our tickets, Hot Ben walked into the lobby. Box of popcorn in one hand, his other ran through his bleach-blonde highlighted hair. "Hey, glad you made it." He stopped talking as he looked between the two of us, his brow furrowing to a point. Muttering below his breath, in a whisper that his fiance wouldn't hear, especially as she noisily munched from the popcorn in his bucket, he asked, "Something up? You two looked spooked."
I adjusted my causal smile as we grabbed our tickets and headed to theater five. Teren causally slung an arm around my waist while discretely handing Ben the note as we walked past him. As Tracey walked beside me, telling me that she hoped she didn't scream too loudly, I heard Ben behind us un-crumpling the paper.
Quite clearly to me, but inaudible to anyone else but Teren, I heard him mutter, "Oh...man. This the vamp that stole that stuff that killed you?" Sniffing, Teren looked over his shoulder at Hot Ben and nodded. Ben sniffed in a disgruntled way that matched Teren. "We hunting?"
Forgetting that the three of us were having a silent conversation that Tracey wasn't aware of, I stopped in my tracks and looked back at Ben behind me. "No! Absolutely not." My already strained nerves added volume to my voice and Tracey clearly heard me. The person at the end of the hall probably heard me.
Tracey looked between Ben and me, completely confused about why I'd seemingly told him no for no apparent reason. The last thing she was aware of, was asking me if I'd share the popcorn with her; my reaction was a little strong for her question, but I hadn't considered Teren and Ben jumping into the middle of this.
Teren's hand around my waist moved to my arm. Glancing at Tracey, he muttered under his breath. "He killed me, Em."
Not caring how it looked to a clueless Tracey, both my hands clasped his arms. Managing to keep my voice nearly incoherent, I whispered, "No, Teren, no. Let Gabriel deal with this. It's his mess, remember?" Teren narrowed his eyes but looked down. I squatted to meet his eye. "Please? You have a family now."
Hot Ben, seeing a conversation he couldn't hear and guessing what I was saying, stepped forward and laid his hand on Teren's arm. "If he gave this to you, then he knows who you are, Teren. He could be a threat." Ben held up the offending note, like just that evidence was proof of ill intent towards us. "We should make sure that he's not."
Ben said all of that at a normal volume and Teren sighed that our private conversation was no longer private. Sticking her hands on her hips, Tracey asked, "What the hell are you guys talking about?"
Giving her just a second's glance, I turned my attention over to Ben. "Gabriel is handling it, Ben. I don't want the two of you involved." My heart would have been hammering if it still could. Just the thought of Teren picking up another stake made me feel ill, worse than the fumes of popcorn all around me. I didn't think I could handle that stress again. I squeezed his arms in my hands painfully tight. "I can't deal with you knocking on stranger's doors again. I can't. I won't."
Teren flinched under my grasp and moved to unclench me, right as Ben started in on his opinion. While he spouted that our families' safety came first, Tracey finally got sick of being left in the dark. She snatched the note right out of Hot Ben's hands.
We all three moved to snatch it back, but Tracey swirled around at the same time. So ingrained to never use our abilities in public, I couldn't grab it back quick enough. She stared at it, her blonde hair shaking back and forth as she tried to understand what it meant. Twisting back to us, her face was comically twisted in confusion. "Is this a joke?"
Hot Ben put a hand soothingly on her arms while Teren and I each took a step towards her. Her ice blue eyes darted between the three of us, like she suddenly didn't know any of us. My dead heart dropped at the confusion in her features. "What the hell is going on? Who is Malcolm? Who is Gabriel?"
Ben cupped her ghostly white cheek before running his hand back through her hair. "I can explain, babe."
I couldn't help but wonder what the heck he was going to say to explain all of this. Tracey seemed to wonder that too. She batted his hand away. "Bloodshed? You can explain bloodshed?"
Her voice rose and warbled as color filled her cheeks. Seeing a couple of people walking past staring, Teren grabbed her arm and pulled her into an empty theater. She struggled with him while Ben and I followed, but no human gets out of Teren's grasp unless he wants them to. Shutting the propped open door behind myself, I sighed wearily.
"Let me go, Teren. You let me go or I'll, I'll...I'll scream." She inhaled to create the sound and Teren slapped his hand over her mouth. Her eyes widened and she struggled more.
Teren held her close to his body while Ben and I each put a comforting hand on her shoulders. "I'm not going to hurt you, but I don't want you to scream right now."
She struggled more, inhaling and exhaling frantically as Teren held her in place against his chest. Hating this, I tried to turn her head toward me. She finally peeked at me out of the corner of her eye. "We're not going to hurt you, Trace, calm down."
She shook her head at me and clamped down around Teren's fingers with her teeth. I could see Teren flinch as she pierced his skin, but he didn't let her go. Ben, trying to rub her back around Teren's arms, sighed. "Trace, don't...just relax."
Her eyes narrowed to fiery points at him. Letting out a frustrated grunt, Teren dropped down to look her in the eye. "If I let go, do you promise not to scream?"
She looked at the three of us, then nodded, reluctantly. Teren tentatively let go, his hand ready to slap back into place if she made the wrong move. As he gently released her, her breathing steadied. Her eyes locked on Teren, glancing down to his blood smeared fingers once. She couldn't tell, but I could clearly see that he was already healed from her chomp.
Glaring at all of us, she held up the note up again. "What the hell are you three involved in?"
I sighed wearily, not sure what to tell her. "It's...just a joke. You were right...April Fools," I tried weakly.
Her eyes narrowed at me. "It's May, Emma." Her gaze flicked between the boys. "Who's a threat to you? This Malcolm guy? Why, what did you do to him?"
Teren sighed, grabbing the note from her hand. "Nothing, Tracey, this means nothing."
Ben looked away, gritting his jaw like he disagreed but wouldn't openly contradict Teren's lie. Tracey didn't notice her fiance's face though. Her eyes were darting from Teren's fingers to the ink on the paper. Her own fingers flew to her mouth. "Oh my god, is that written in blood? Like, actual blood?"
Teren closed his eyes, then effortlessly smiled. "Of course not, Tracey. Why would we have a note written in blood?"
Tracey pointed a finger at him. "Exactly! Why?" Her brow furrowed as she tilted her head, her blonde curls spilling over her shoulder. "Is this some 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' thing? Did you guys kill someone, and this Gabriel guy knows and is hunting you down?"
I inadvertently giggled; I did that at odd moments sometimes. Biting my lip, I managed to say, "You watch too many movies, Trace."
She put her hands on her hips while Ben tried to approach her again. Backing off at her warning glance, she bit out, "No, something is off with you three. You're all hiding something." She pointed at Ben. "You are always so secretive about stuff." Her finger came to me. "And you never let me just pop over to visit."
Her finger finished its circle to Teren. "And you...you are...I don't know, you seem perfect." Teren blinked and Tracey raised her chin. "Too perfect." She gasped and took a step back. "You're the murderer, aren't you? You wrote this! You're Malcolm! It's always the nice, seemingly normal guy that ends up being the serial killer that stores body parts in the freezer! You did it, didn't you? You killed someone!"
Ben and I rolled our eyes at the exact same time but Teren flinched and looked down. He didn't mean to, but I saw the moment of guilt cross his face. While not what Tracey was accusing him of, he had killed someone before, viciously, and a small portion of him still carried around the guilt over doing it, self defense and self preservation or not.
As Teren didn't contradict her, she brought her hands to her mouth, stared at all of us in horror, and turned and ran. Watching her dash for the emergency exit, I knew I had plenty of time to catch her. Teren grabbed my arm though. "Let her go," he said to me and Ben, who was starting to run after her at his own speed. We both halted as she slammed open the door.
Placing my hand on his, I shook my head. "Teren, we can't just let her think you're a murderer." Even just saying the words, a small giggle came out of me. I just couldn't help it. Teren some psychopathic killer? Yeah, maybe to the bovine world. Although, Tracey was sort of right in one way...he did have blood in his freezer.
Sighing, he reached in his jacket and grabbed his cell phone. "Don't worry, she won't." Flicking it open I heard him press a speed dial button. Immediately upon connection, he sullenly muttered, "Hey, Mom, it's me. I need to talk to Great-Gran."
Luckily for us, Tracey didn't have the keys to Ben's SUV, and it was still parked in the same spot when the three of us finally made our way out of the empty theater. Ben looked around for Tracey while Teren and I smelled the air for her perfume. It was a heavy fragrance, to my sensitive nose at least, and lingered in the currents. I shifted to look down the main road that led out of the area, back towards Ben and Tracey's place.
Teren's healed finger lifted to point in the direction I was already looking. "She went that way, Ben."
Hot Ben sighed, following our direction. "She only had a couple bucks, she's probably walking home." Looking back at us, he exhaled heavily. "I'll go pick her up, take her home." Twisting his lips, he shook his head. "Meet us back there with Halina."
Teren nodded, grabbing my hand. In my head I could already feel the eldest vampire coming towards us. Once we got back to Teren's car, we gave Ben a few minutes to calm down Tracey enough to collect her, then started making our way to his place. Teren drove slowly, clutching the wheel. I bit my lip. Feeling us moving, Halina shifted her direction to follow.
I sighed that someone I knew was about to get erased, but there was really no way around it. We couldn't explain the note to any real satisfaction, and unlike with Ben, Tracey hadn't discovered the truth. No, she was convinced that Teren was a multiple murderer. Shaking my head, I rolled my eyes at her. I wanted to laugh again at the situation, but the note tucked away in Teren's pocket wasn't at all funny. It sort of put a damper on Tracey's fanciful imagination.
Pulling into the drive, Halina moments behind us, I twisted to Teren before he cracked open his door. Taking in the faint glow of his eyes as he watched me, I inhaled a deep breath. "Promise me that you and Ben won't go searching for this guy."
Teren looked away from me, his jaw clenching. "Ben's right, Em. He knows who I am."
Placing my hand on his arm, I shook my head. "Let Gabriel clean up his own mess, it doesn't involve us." He looked back at me and I saw the glint in his eye. I knew that Teren felt a little invested, since the vampire had prematurely ended him. Touching his cheek, I amended with, "It doesn't involve us anymore. You did your part already. You let Gabriel know what was going on. Give Malcolm's message to Halina, and then let's be done with this."
Teren sighed, then nodded. "Okay."
I raised my eyebrows. "Promise." Smiling softly, he shook his head. "I promise, Emma. I won't go looking for this guy."
Exhaling softly, I rested my head against his. "Thank you," I whispered, kissing him.
As we lightly kissed in the car, the window was rapped on. Teren and I broke apart, looking out the driver's side to see Halina standing with her hands on her hips, watching us. Having felt her approach, I wasn't startled by seeing her there and only smiled at her while Teren cracked open his door.
Frowning, Halina's slightly glowing eyes shifted to the home that I could hear panicked voices conversing in. Tilting her dark head, Halina worried her lip. "Do you think this will work?" she asked Teren, her voice and face oddly unconfident.
Slinging an arm around her shoulders, Teren nodded reassuringly. "Whatever...happened with Carrie was a fluke. Your abilities have never let us down before." Squatting, he met and held her eye. "And they won't fail us tonight."
Halina smiled slyly, her general air of "I'm-a-badass" returning. Twisting on her booted heel, she strutted right up to the front door, Teren and I a few steps behind her. From inside, I could hear Tracey screeching on about all the little mysteries she had about Ben. I hated that most, if not all, were directly because of my husband's secret. Hot Ben had been a lock box when it came to Teren, never fully explaining certain things. And never having satisfyingly explained the period of time when he'd been out doing reckless things with him, hunting vampires for instance. Tracey had a lot of questions over it now, feeling like that mysterious time had something to do with the letter.
Halina walked in without knocking, maybe figuring that she was going to wipe her anyway, so why bother with being polite. Teren and I glanced at each other, then followed her. Tracey and Hot Ben were renting a cute little one bedroom house near Golden Gate Park. They wanted something bigger someday, but for now, it worked for them. Bridal magazines and fabric samples were strewn everywhere as she prepared for her big day. Even though they hadn't picked out a date yet, Tracey had already finalized her flower choices and from what Ben had told Teren, she'd even already started getting them wedding cake samples.
Wading through the sea of Tracey's hope for her upcoming future with the love of her life, I hoped she was able to let Ben's oddities go. For one, I didn't want her to ever find out what Teren and I were. And secondly, I wanted my good friend to be happy, not always questioning whether her husband was a good man or not. He was. Aside from the secrets he was forced to keep, Ben was loyal and honest, entirely devoted to her.
Hearing the conversation emanating from the kitchen, our trio headed that way. Tracey was leaning back against the counter, a champagne bottle clenched in her hand. In between questions, she was chugging. Seeing three more bottles behind her, I figured she was also sampling wines for the nuptials.
Finally hearing us, she turned her head mid gulp. She didn't finish the process and wine sputtered everywhere. Coughing on the harsh liquid, her eyes widened drastically. "What are you guys doing here?"
Her eyes flashed over to Halina, narrowing to points. Tracey had always thought the vixen had messed around with Ben. And it was sort of true, Halina had enjoyed messing with him, just not like how Tracey pictured. She'd once gotten a kick out of tormenting a terrified Ben, chiding him for a fear that she'd loved to provoke. That had ended the day he'd staked a vamp though.
Her eyes never leaving Halina, Tracey said to Ben, "What is she doing here?"
Halina smirked and stepped forward. Teren sighed and stepped forward too. Tracey's eyes immediately locked onto him, remembering that she believed that he was the true psychopath in the room. I had to bite my lip to not smile. Tracey's caution over Halina was way more on the mark than her analysis of Teren.
Tilting her head, Halina stepped in between her and Teren, breaking Tracey's connection with him. Hot Ben put a hand on Tracey's arm, but directed his comment to Halina. "Don't take too much," his brow furrowed attractively, "and let her think we all had a good time tonight."
Halina rolled her eyes as Tracey's face snapped to Ben's. "What the holy hell is going on around here?"
Halina's fingers snatched her chin, dragging Tracey's attention back to her. The blonde started shaking with the contact as she held gazes with the intimidating vampire. As I stepped forward, to offer whatever comfort I could, Halina began to speak.
Tracey instantly stopped shaking, turning into putty in Halina's hands. Halina's fingers ran back through her blonde hair, curling a long strand between them. In a soothing voice that she often used on the children, she told her, "Tonight, you went to a movie with your friends. You had a wonderful time, and then you came home to spend the remainder of your evening with Ben." Flicking a quick glance at him, she added, "He rocked your world for hours, giving you multiple satisfying releases."
Tracey smiled softly as Hot Ben turned bright red. Teren beside me dropped his head and shook it back and forth, a wry smile on his lips.
Halina continued while I tried not to laugh. "You will remember nothing of a note written in blood. You will not think your fiance and friends are hiding anything from you, and you will not believe that Teren is capable of murder." As Tracey stared silently at Halina, I whispered something to the vampire. Giving me a crooked grin, she twisted back to Tracey. "And you will choose the teal bridesmaid dresses over the obnoxious pink ones."
I smiled and Teren shook his head at me disapprovingly. I shrugged; he hadn't seen the god awful cotton candy color she'd been leaning towards.
After Halina was done with her, Tracey was calm, collected, and slightly dazed. Recognizing the same look of near hypnotic peace from when Halina had altered Carrie's memories, I figured it had worked. That and the fact that Tracey was no longer yelling at us. Hot Ben smiled and kissed her and Tracey virtually ignored the three of us. She quite possibly didn't even see us, since Halina had told her that she'd come home with Ben alone to...finish off their evening. As their kiss started deepening dramatically, I started to think that that part of their evening may not just be a suggested memory after all.
Teren and I physically pulled Halina away from the pair as Tracey starting lifting up Hot Ben's shirt. Once out of eyeshot of Ben's very nicely shaped body, Halina focused again on what really mattered to her - Gabriel.
Her expression tight, she held her hand out to Teren. "Show me."
Teren grabbed the note from his pocket, handing the distressed paper to her. Her eyes flicked over the page, her brows furrowing as her lips compressed. Her head snapped back up to Teren. "You saw him? He gave this to you?"
Teren nodded, then shrugged. "He never approached us, but he clearly left it for us to pick up."
Halina hissed then looked up at the sky. Feeling how much time was left before the sun reached her, she shifted her gaze down south. "I have to get this to Gabriel. I have to tell him what happened."
She made to immediately blur away, but Teren grabbed her arm. Her pale eyes swung back to him, fear there, buried under the bravado. "Be careful around him." Teren shrugged." I don't want you to find yourself... in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Halina nodded, but seemed torn. I could see that she wanted to stay near her family, stay safe for their sake. I could also see that she'd willing throw herself in front of a stake if it meant saving the man she loved. Having to choose was starting to make her face show its age, emotionally if not physically.
Placing a hand on Teren's arm and then my own, she looked between the two of us. "I don't see why he would bother you again, since he's gotten his message through loud and clear, but..." she bit her lip, "be careful."
Teren nodded and squeezed her tight. She hugged him, twisted to quickly hug me, then dashed out of sight, to the other house of vampires that she called home.