A few days later, we were packing up the kids and their things for a weekend at the ranch. We tried to go out there most weekends, especially when they were in-between busy times and the hired help wasn't around, so the toddlers could frolic and play uninhibited. There, safe at the ranch, we let the twins play to their full capacity. They loved it, loved the freedom of not having to rein in anything.

Personally, I loved it too. It was unbelievably frustrating to have to walk at a normal pace when you were in a hurry to get something. It was so hard to not blur down to the espresso stand on the corner and then blur back. I knew I could do it in the same amount of time it would have taken me to brew a pot in the break room, but I wasn't going to blow my cover for coffee...even really good coffee.

Pulling out my daughter's favorite fuzzy pink blanket and my son's must-have fire truck, I shoved both coveted items in an overnight bag for them. I followed that up with about six pairs of clothing changes; the kids got remarkably dirty playing out in the countryside.

Teren slipped his arms around my waist, kissing my neck. I shivered as his cool breath tickled me. "You know, we could always leave them overnight and go on a date."

I twisted to look back at him. "An overnight date?"

He smiled and nodded, holding me tighter. Cocking an eyebrow, he added, "You wouldn't have to worry about being quiet."


I flushed and smacked his chest, then thought about it. We hadn't spent a night apart from them since they'd been born. Sure, we'd gone on dates - a movie here, dinner there, drinks with Hot Ben and Tracey - but we kept it to a three or four hour maximum. Maybe it was because they were so young, maybe it was because I missed being with them for the bulk of the day while I was at work, or maybe it was just because I was a first time mom, but the thought of them being gone an entire night tightened my stomach.

I bit my lip and shook my head, tears even stinging my eyes at just the thought of not hearing them say goodnight to each other. Teren cupped my cheek as he watched the emotion flood my face. "Not yet...they're not ready. They're still too young."

He smiled crookedly, clearly knowing that I meant that I wasn't ready, but he didn't call me on it. Instead, he only kissed me softly. Our tender moment was interrupted by a set of giggles at the door. We both twisted to look at the children we both knew were there, watching.

Nika held her hand over her mouth as she laughed. Julian tilted his head, curious. Smiling at them, I asked, "Are you two ready to go?"

Julian dashed off to their bedroom, but Nika stayed, pouting. "Can we bring Spike, Mommy?"

I walked over to her, frowning. Explaining the situation to a toddler was tricky. Halina had a thing for dogs. I really didn't want to freak out my daughter by telling her that though. She loved Spike. She loved Halina. Just as I was about to tell her that Spike would want to stay home, Teren walked over and squatted in front of her. "Do you really want him to come?" he asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

She nodded, cupping her hands together in a prayer position. "Please, Daddy?"

I glanced over at the big bad vampire literally melting into putty for his daughter. He grinned, ruffling her hair. "I think we can do that."

She squealed and flung her arms around him. From down the hall I heard Julian hoot his agreement, exclaiming, "Thank you, Daddy." Nika repeated the sentiment and dashed off to join her brother, gathering the rest of their treasures.

As Teren stood, I put my hands on my hips, a playful smirk on my face. He looked over my expression and shrugged. "She did the hand thing. How am I supposed to say no to that?"

I shook my head at him, slinging my arms around his waist. "You are the biggest softy."

He leaned down and kissed me, grinning against my lips. "Quiet, you'll ruin my reputation."

I pulled back and cocked an eyebrow at him. He actually did have a reputation in the vampire community, one that, if it weren't for Gabriel and his influence, may have been an issue for us. He'd provoked and even...interrogated several nests of local vamps.

That sort of thing had repercussions. We'd even been approached by a pissed off vampire once. Luckily Halina had been with us at the time. She'd flung the vamp into a wall, warning him to get over himself. Not really wanting a fight, the man had run off and we hadn't heard from him again. I had the distinct feeling that Halina had gone to her boyfriend afterwards and the two of them had "taken care of it." I'm not sure how. I don't ask about stuff like that.

After that moment, no other vamps bothered us. Gabriel had only said that at Halina's request, he'd put the word out that we were untouchable. The word gave me pause. Untouchable? It made him seem like some vampiric crime lord. But, regardless, he was a good person, so I tried to ignore the power he held. And his power stuck; we hadn't been bothered again.

Shaking my head, I changed the channel of my thoughts. "Are you sure about bringing Spike? What about Halina?" I whispered that, even though the kids could hear me anyway.

He looked down the hall towards their room, but they were busy laughing and picking out way more toys than we had room for in their bags. Looking back to me, he whispered, "She won't do anything that would make those two cry. She won't touch Spike."

I smirked, not able to help the thought that Spike was also...untouchable.

Sighing, I shrugged and tossed my arms around him. "You're right."

He kissed my nose. "Aren't I always?"

I laughed genuinely at his comment and he frowned; I laughed harder. He pulled away from me when the tears started stinging my eyes. "It wasn't that funny."

The giggles overtook me at the look on his face. I couldn't help it. There were so many times when he had been so incredibly wrong...it was just funny to me now. Holding my stomach, I watched him cross his arms over his chest, his face looking not amused in the slightest.

I tried to control my giddiness, but I'd entered into that everything-is-funny stage and his expression was only making it worse. As his hands went to his waist and he actually started tapping his foot, I had to double over, the reaction was so strong. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I was quickly joined by two tiny, laughing faces looking up at me. They laughed right along with me, not really understanding what was so funny, and Teren sighed exasperatedly.

Knowing that I was pushing the limits of even his tolerance, I scooped up the kids in each arm. "Let's go get Spike." I told their excited faces.

We hurried out of the room, Teren shaking his head with his lips pursed when I looked back at him. Still chuckling softly as I walked down the stairs, I tossed a "sorry" over my shoulder.

The only sound that answered me was something similar to, "uh-huh." I smiled and shook my head. I could make it up to him another time.

Later, as the car made its way around the last turn in the Adams' super-long driveway, I inhaled a deep breath. The midmorning sun glinted off of the red Spanish tile, a visual reminder of the one thing that coming here afforded a family of vampires. Blood. Very, very fresh blood. And practically as much as we wanted, since they kept the "open-air" pantry pretty full.

The kids squealed upon seeing the house, announcing our arrival verbally, since our approach had already been felt. I laughed and leaned my head back on the seat, enjoying the way my enhanced eyes saw the beauty of this ranch.

The sharp points of the white stucco walls were easily apparent to me. The seamless wall of flat river rocks encrusted into that stucco finish along the bottom of the home, seemed even more impressive. My eyes could see the mortar holding each stone in place, could see the way they lined up perfectly. I could even see faint cracks in the rocks that I'd never noticed before.

And that was from the parking lot-sized driveway.

The rest of the home was no less impressive. Flat, clean glass windows shifted colors in the sunlight, showing me the rainbow gleam of freshly applied cleaner. The ancient logs, both structural and decorative, released a scent in the air that reminded me of summer camp, even through the confines of the car.

As Teren opened the door to get out, the other smell that was abundant at this place hit me. Cattle. Lots of cattle. Even to human noses that smell wasn't always a welcome one, but as I opened my door and stood up, I inhaled, savoring it. Somewhere in all that mess of animal was the tang of a wounded one. It smelled incredible.

Looking over at Teren as I opened Julian's door, I noticed his brows furrowing as he scanned the fields of long, waving tan grass. He smelled it too.

"Everything alright?" I asked, unbuckling Julian from his restraints.

Teren glanced down at me, then moved to open Nika's door. He nodded and shrugged. "Yeah, probably. That's just a weird place for the smell of blood to come from, and there's a lot of it." He shook his head. "We've had cougar attacks down there before." Tilting his head, he indicated a stream running between two low hills.

Unbuckling Nika's seat, he pulled her out, her tiny arms closing around his neck. "There may have been an attack last night. I should let my dad know." He shook his head and frowned.

I frowned too. The cattle were important to the Adams for more reasons than just the vampire's survival. They were also the primary source of the family's wealth. Although, they seemed affluent, even for successful ranchers.

Julian hopped out of his seat and darted off to the massive oak overhang covering the front door. Nika squirmed as she watched him run, so Teren set her down; she was instantly on her brother's tail. Spike, having fallen asleep between his two favorite people, woke up and chased after them.

As I watched the trio approach the massive double doors that led into the warmest home I'd ever been to, I watched those doors open at just the right moment to let them all rush inside. Spike barked and sniffed everything while Nika and Julian leapt into the awaiting arms of their grandmother.

As she hugged them tight, kneeling in front of the door, her sky blue eyes looked over to her son.

Teren's mother was like all of the vampires in the family. Well, all except Nika. Alanna had the straight, jet-black hair and crystal clear blue eyes, all in a face and body that belied her true age. She looked no older than Teren. She looked a bit younger than me. That made calling her "mom" feel a little odd, but I did it, to please her.

"Good morning, my lovelies," she said warmly, kissing a grandchild on each head.

Teren and I waved our greetings then grabbed the various bags that accumulated whenever you went anywhere with kids. It wasn't as if the ranch didn't have every toy or luxury they could have asked for, but try telling that to a three-year-old who needed to bring his set of army men or her plastic ponies. It was a good thing for Teren and me that we had super strength.

We walked to the house, fully loaded down, as the kids broke off from Alanna to go say hi to their great-grandma, Grandma Immy, as they called her. I watched them flee up the impressive duel staircase that lead to Imogen's rooms, Julian tripping halfway up and Nika pausing to help him.

Smiling as Imogen greeted them through the walls, I dropped my bags and engulfed the woman who had brought my husband into the world. "Hi, Mom," I said warmly as I patted her chilly back.

"Hello, Daughter," she replied just as warmly. When we separated, she naturally drifted over to Teren, squeezing his waist tight.

He laughed and tried to hug her back around his armful of bags. "Morning, Mom. Does dad know about-?"

Alanna straightened and shook her head, cutting him off. "Yes, I told him about the cows when I woke up and smelled it. He's out examining them now." She stepped away from her son, folding her arms over her chest. "We don't usually have a predator problem, but with Grandma gone..." She shrugged.

I let my senses pinpoint the location of the one vampire not with us. It being daylight, I knew that the pureblood vampire was sleeping, but Halina wasn't at the ranch. She wasn't even in the city. She was down south, way down south in L.A., visiting with her sort of boyfriend. Her location had been down in that direction all week. Since she was a night owl, she'd naturally kept the property pretty clear of threats, being the biggest one herself. Her absence had let a little bit of bravery seep into those hungry creatures.

Teren looked over at where we'd smelled the blood, then back to me. "I should give him a hand cleaning up."

I smiled and nodded, loving how Teren turned into rancher-Teren, anytime he came here. It was sexy on him.

He smiled crookedly, as if he were aware of my thoughts, then he grabbed the bags I'd dropped on the floor and blurred away upstairs. Once back down, he paused briefly to kiss my cheek, then he darted out to help his father. I watched the effortless streaking, feeling him in my head as the distance between us lengthened.

Alanna laughed and shook her head. "For someone who refuses to seclude himself here...he sure does love it." She grinned wryly at her son's opposing attitudes about his life, and I joined her.

She had a point. Teren lived in the city so he could feel a part of society. The vamps here mostly stayed to themselves, keeping contact with the outside world minimal. Teren enjoyed feeling as normal as he could and refused to hide away. Of course, he also had the least amount of side effects from his condition, so he could do that pretty easily, so long as he didn't have to eat in front of anyone and no one lovingly rested their head against his silent chest. No one but me, that is.

But when he got out here, you had to wonder why he went through all the effort. This was a place he obviously loved, a lifestyle that was completely natural on him. But for his stubbornness, he could easily stay and run this place with his dad...and be perfectly content doing it.

Spike sat at the floor near my feet, thumping his tail on the cool marble entryway. Alanna reached down to ruffle his fur, not bothered in the least by his presence. "Would you like something to eat, boy," she cooed, just like she would have for the children. He thumped his tail more and her ice eyes flashed up to me. "What about you? Hungry, dear?"

I smiled and shook my head. Alanna never stopped trying to do things for people. She was the mother I hoped to be one day. Patting Spike's back as he started walking to the kitchen, I debated when and if I'd see the full vampire. Maybe we hadn't had to worry about Spike's safety after all. "Is Halina gone to Gabriel's all weekend then?" I asked casually, mainly just curious if she'd be back, but also wondering how that pairing was doing.

Alanna looked back at me with a small smile as we walked down the hallway. "She's coming up tonight, she wants to see the kids." Her eyes flicked up to where they were playing in Imogen's room; leapfrog by the sound of it. Smiling wider, she brought her youthful face back to mine. "She wanted to leave last night, but I guess she got...distracted."

She shrugged and I knew exactly what had distracted her. There really was only one thing that would keep Halina away from a grandchild visit and he had a powerful demeanor and startlingly beautiful emerald eyes. I grinned and shook my head. "Well, the kids will be happy to feel her closer."

That was one question we'd had to endure all week. "When is Grammy Lina gonna move?" We told them repeatedly that she was with Grandpa Gabriel, but, really, that didn't stop the questioning, it only added, "Is Grandpa Gabby gonna be there?" Even though we visited nearly every weekend, it was always quite the event to our kids, nearly rivaling Christmas.

Entering the kitchen, I watched Alanna open one of the deep mahogany cabinets and pull out a can of dog food, the good kind too. I smiled. Alanna was prepared for everything, even random visits from grand-pups. Taking in the tidy opulence of the master-chef quality kitchen, I asked, "Is Gabriel coming back with her? I'm sure the kids would love to see him too."

I frowned after my question, not displeased if he showed, but not entirely pleased either. I always felt like we should all be sitting under a bright light with a giant magnifying glass over our heads whenever he visited.

Alanna popped the gooey dog food out, the mush making a sucking noise as it released from the can. The smell was atrocious, but Spike attacked it like she'd just poured a liter of blood into his bowl.

Looking back up at me, she shrugged. "I don't know." Shaking her head, she sighed a little. "It's hard to tell sometimes, what's going on with those two."

I leaned back against the counter opposite her, the granite cool under my fingertips. "Do you think she actually loves him?" I raised an eyebrow. It seemed such a foreign word when you put it together with the seductive Halina.

Alanna cocked her head, thinking. While she debated, we both heard Imogen say from upstairs, "I think Mother does love him...not that she'll ever admit it. She plays it off as just a physical relationship, but I've seen things."

I cringed a little bit at how open the mother and daughter were with each other, but, in the beginning, all they'd had was each other. I suppose that had bonded them in a way that was much closer than the average family.

I nodded, then shook my head. "Halina in love...what is the world coming to?"

Both vampire women laughed, my children joining along, even though they didn't understand what we were laughing at.

A few hours later, after running through every room in the massive spread that the Adams lived in, my breathless children ran up to me in the living room. Relaxing with a glass of wine and rustling my feet in Spike's fur as he stretched out in front of the enormous, artistic fireplace, I lazily smiled at them as they crawled all over me.

Julian sat in my lap while Nika grabbed my face. "Mommy, can we go see Daddy?"

Feeling that Teren was no longer near the place where the "incident" with the cows had happened, I nodded at them. Julian squealed and then they took off, running out the backdoor to where they could sense him. Spike lifted his head as they darted between Alanna's legs, but then rested back down, too comfortable to chase after them. I felt the same way.

Alanna smiled at my contentment, patting my shoulder, then when on about maintaining the luxurious home that they lived in. I closed my eyes, offering to help, and heard her chuckle and tell me to relax as she slipped out of the main building to one of the other side buildings.

The ranch had three buildings in all, the main two-story dwelling being where the family stayed, with Halina's room being underground. The side buildings held various rooms along with several guest rooms. And all the buildings formed a U shape around a huge swimming pool in the back yard. Coming here was like coming to a resort. Getting married here had been idyllic.

Settling back into the couch, I felt my family reunite. I smiled at the mental image of Teren and his dad greeting the kids. Teren's dad, Jack, was completely human, but obviously in the loop. He adored those kids, doting on them nearly as badly as the vampiric women. It would be a miracle if I could somehow raise those two without them getting spoiled to pieces.

Setting my empty glass on the coffee table, I drifted in and out of alertness, my hearing and smell drifting in and out as well. I could make out Imogen and Alanna talking to each other, even though they weren't anywhere near the other. I could smell the roast Alanna had broiling in the kitchen, along with the hint of fresh blood that was still wafting in the room from outside. I could hear and sense Spike's breathing, steady and slow, as he too started drifting off.

It was some time later when my eyes popped back open and my alertness slowly returned to me. I stretched out, Spike wrapped around my feet, groaning lightly as I moved him. Mentally rolling my eyes, I wondered why this ranch constantly wore me out, even if hadn't done anything. Maybe it was just so comfortable here that it lulled me into submission. I think I preferred that thought.

Sitting up, I yawned slightly. Glancing out back, to when I could still see bright rays of afternoon sun glinting off the water in the pool, I felt for the other vampires.

Imogen was in her room, waiting out the remnants of day, her knitting needles clacking away. Alanna and Jack were talking about the attack in the kitchen; apparently a mountain lion had taken down two cows, one with child. Both Alanna and Jack were upset about it. As Imogen offered to stay out nights when Halina was away, to spook off any would-be predators, I felt for my children.

Their presence always in the back of my mind, I felt them outside with Teren, still playing in the pastures. Standing, I listened to Alanna and Imogen work out a plan to watch-guard the property when their nocturnal predator was away with her boyfriend. I felt bad that I couldn't help. Seeing as how I could barely keep my eyes open here during the day, I knew I wouldn't be very helpful on guard duty. Plus, I knew they wouldn't let me do it. Not while I was alive. Not when I didn't have the super healing attributes that they all had as undead vampires. They'd keep me away from danger just as surely as I kept the kids out of danger.

Quietly leaving them to their conversations, I went to go find my darlings. As I stepped into the bright California sunshine, I heard Alanna address me. "Emma, tell the kids I have some fresh cow's blood for them."

I shook my head at her thoughtfulness. "Okay, thank you, Mom."

"You're welcome, dear."

As I heard the conversations shift back to the cows, I blurred across the fields to find the hearts that lingered outside of my body, beating or not. Streaking to the very east fields, I slowed to a normal pace.

As I walked into an empty pasture, to where I could sense Teren and my children, I came across a scene that made my heart surge. My husband was playing with them in the way that most men played with their offspring. He was laughing as he tossed them into the air. I was fine with that. Children, for some odd reason, loved being chucked around. What made my heart surge though was the fact that Teren was chucking them "vampire style."

He would toss one in a sideways arch, the child laughing and giggling as they flew through the air. Then he would blur to where they were going to land and catch them. It was like he was playing catch with himself...with my children.

The toddlers squealed and giggled, begging him for more, their little faces alive with love and joy and complete faith that their father would never let them get hurt. Their tiny growing minds probably didn't even comprehend the meaning of the word. Daddy had them. They were safe.

My mind had a little more understanding of just what could go wrong with Teren's little game. Blurring over to him, I grabbed his hand when he was about to fling our giggling daughter. "Teren Nathaniel Adams! That's enough of that!"

He looked over at me, a huge grin on his face as he swayed Nika back and forth in his arms, still prepping to launch her. "What? They love this. They've been asking me to do it all day." He turned to Julian sitting on the grass beside us. "Right, little man?"

Julian grinned and clapped his little hands, his fangs extended in his merriment. As I looked at Teren's miniature clearly enjoying himself, I sighed. Teren took my moment of indecision to chuck our daughter into the air. I gasped as I watched her tiny limbs flail about. He'd thrown her pretty far, and my heart started to race. He was already speeding over to her, but what if he missed? The ground wasn't exactly a soft cushion. She'd break something for sure and with her mixed blood, we couldn't take her to a doctor.

Just as my hands were going to my face, he caught her in a bucket scoop, twisting his body with the movement so the landing would be a gentle one for her. She laughed and threw her arms around his neck while he chuckled at her. "Again, Daddy!"

The vision of them together was heartwarming, but there was just no way I was letting this continue. My heart couldn't take it. Blurring over to him, I grabbed Nika, scooping her up and resting her on my hip. Julian had already blurred over to us, only tripping once halfway through the field, and I grabbed his hand before he reached Teren.

"Me, Daddy. My turn!"

Teren reached down for his son, but I pulled them both a step away from him. He glanced up at me and rolled his eyes, a slow grin spreading on his face. "I think Mommy's had enough of our fun for today," he said, his grin widening.

Clutching my children tightly, I twisted my lips at him. "I wish you'd keep in mind that they don't heal like you do. They're mostly human, you know."

He put his hands on his hips. "Do you really doubt my abilities? I wouldn't let them get hurt. Ever."

I sighed, knowing he meant well. I just also knew that things happened that were beyond our control. Our entire family was sort of proof of that. "I trust you with them, Teren." I shrugged and sighed again. "I just can't handle the what-ifs."

He tilted his head and then gently shook it. "Still the worry-wart."

I laughed in spite of myself. "One of us has to be."

The kids started complaining once they realized their vampiric games were over. "No, more, more, more." They started chanting that in unison, their little hands reaching out to Teren. Sometimes I cursed the fact that we'd ever taught them to speak. It was much easier to redirect an infant that couldn't talk back to you.

Turning to head toward the house, I pulled Julian's arm and held Nika tighter. Both were trying to escape me, to get back to Teren. "Nope, fun's over for now."

They started crying in earnest and Teren laughed, rustling Julian's hair before patting him on the back. "Go with Mom." Ducking down to Julian's height, he added, "We'll play again later."

Julian giggled, his small face identical to the grown man before him, right down to the devilish grin. I gave Teren a scathing glare as he stood, but he only laughed at my look and shrugged. "What?"

Groaning in frustration, I tugged Julian's arm. He willingly went with me, knowing Daddy had promised him more flying later. "Come on kids, Grandma has some blood for you and it's getting cold." That immediately got their attention, and squealing in delight, they both jerked away from me.

Setting Nika down and letting Julian go, I watched them streak off to the house. I completely understand their enthusiasm; I was getting a little thirsty myself.

Chuckling, Teren walked up to me and grabbed my hand. Sighing, I looked over at him. The sunlight bounced off his dark hair, creating a ring of light in it. It highlighted his pale eyes, showcased the sexy stubble. Even though I didn't want to, I found myself responding to just looking at him. He smiled wider as he sensed where my mood had shifted to. Grabbing my waist, he pulled me into him. "They're fine, but I'll stop if it really bothers you."

His hand started rubbing a circle into my hip. It made a jolt of desire flash through me. He leaned in, inhaling deeply. "Yes, please." I wasn't sure if I was responding to his statement, or the unasked question our bodies were starting to ask.

Alone time with children was a tricky thing. Especially when those children were super fast and had amazing hearing. Plus, they always knew where we were, thanks to the bond, and since we were their favorite people to be around, that usually meant...they were around. It had been awhile since Teren and I had been truly alone. And as they were preoccupied in the house with the other vampires, we had a bit of time.

A growl came out of Teren's chest as he pulled our hips so they were touching. I could feel his desire too. My breath came in sharper pulls as my arms laced around his neck, my fingers twirling in his hair. Our lips met, soft and searching. He sucked on my lower one, swishing his cool tongue over me. I groaned and grabbed his backside. Grinning, he adjusted his mouth to fully enclose mine.

As that miraculous man's cool mouth made every fiber of my body burn with the need for more, he reached down and picked me up, wrapping my legs around his waist. Within seconds we were flying, traveling farther away from where I could sense our kids. I wasn't worried though, Alanna was with them, probably feeding them and telling them childhood tales of Teren.

As we stopped, I looked around briefly. He'd taken me to one of his favorite spots here. It was a wide, slow moving creek winding its way through a low spot in the hills. Long tufts of grass lined the banks and under today's perfectly azure sky, the water sparkled like tiny diamonds. It wasn't a childhood haunt, since he hadn't grown up on this particular ranch, like I'd once imagined, but it was idyllic and lovely and I liked to imagine a young Teren here, lying out under the stars.

He knelt down by the edge of the creek, my legs still wrapped around him, and then he laid me back in the tall grass. We'd made love here before, what seemed a lifetime ago, when we'd been trying to conceive those little miracles he'd been tossing around earlier. The spot held a warm place in my heart. It wasn't the only spot on me that was currently warm.

Laying himself over me, his body along the length of mine, his tender kiss picked up intensity. My legs around him ran down his calves as my fingers tightened in his hair. God, it had been a long time since we'd let ourselves be consumed by each other. He groaned, his hands as eager as his mouth as he started unbuttoning my blouse. When he finished, he pulled back to gently take the shirt off of me. I wasn't so gentle as I sat up a little to strip the t-shirt off of him. My hands slid down his perfect chest as his eyes raked over mine.

Needing so much more, I reached behind myself and unclasped the bra. I chucked it over my shoulder somewhere and pulled his head to a breast. He pushed us both back down to the grass as his mouth worked over a nipple. I exalted in the chill of his breath, his tongue, his hands. Everywhere he touched me, ignited me.

As he worked one breast than the other, my fingers found his jeans. As deftly as I could, I popped them open and unzipped them. With as tightly as he were holding each other, I could just slip my hand inside the fabric. He hissed on my chest when my fingers wrapped around him. He was so hard, so ready. I was equally ready, wanting him so badly I lost control and my fangs extended.

He paused, his head resting on my chest. Breathing heavy, he murmured, "God, you feel so good around me. Your hand is so warm," he whispered.

I groaned at the clear desire in his voice. My other hand grabbed his cheek and pulled his face back to mine. Gently squeezing both of my hands, I kissed him hungrily. He ignored my fangs, returning my eager kiss. The smell of grass wrapped around us, followed by the scent of clean water and the faint smell of animals. Somewhere in there I smelled my own desire, and with the sun beating down on our bodies, I swear I could smell the rays too.

Smiling at how beautiful it all was, his words, his body, this peaceful location, I breathed, "I don't need any more, Teren. I'm ready for you, for us, I'm so ready for this." He pulled back to look at me, his eyes hooded with lust. "I just want you inside me," I whispered to him.

His eyes widened fractionally, then there was a flurry of movement as the rest of the barriers between us were stripped away. When he finally resettled himself between my awaiting thighs, he paused, the cool tip of him just barely pushing into me. Searching my face, he panted, "I love you."

I smiled, meaning to say it back, but then he pushed deep inside of me and the only thing that left my mouth was a stream of groaning, incoherent consonants. My body wrapped around his, his back slightly warmer with the sun heating it. With long, slow strokes, we both enjoyed our rare moment of togetherness. We tenderly and breathily kissed, his tongue occasionally flicking a fang, sending a jolt right through me.

As his groans deepened and his hips rocked faster, I could feel the buildup starting. I was torn, wanting that euphoric release, and never wanting this connection to end. Dropping his head to my shoulder, he started to grunt in a way that I knew meant he was close. I wondered if he was torn too, wanting to hold out as long as possible, since who knows when we'd get a chance to be this free with each other again.

As I started to moan louder, the approaching climax too much to contain, I felt his fangs prick my shoulder. I gasped and tilted my head, exposing my neck. "Yes, oh please, Teren, yes, bite me." I was a little mortified to beg, but really, I hadn't had that in awhile either.

He groaned, his cool lips coming to my neck, then shifting to my shoulder above my collar bone. As our hips continued our escalating rhythm, he licked the skin he was about to pierce. That almost ignited my orgasm. His next words nearly did too. "Bite me," he whispered, moving up his shoulder so I could sink my teeth into the same spot on him, just reversed. "Bite me, too."

Groaning, and cursing with the eroticism of it all, I shifted my head and body so I could bring my lips to him. A low growl coming from us both, we sank our teeth into each other simultaneously. I moaned as his cool blood poured into me - tangy, sweet, tasting of his scent - and combined with the fire in my body, pure bliss. I heard him groan as my blood poured into him. I had to imagine I tasted equally as good, just warmer.

The blood hitting my tongue, his teeth sinking into my skin, his manhood thrusting into me again and again - it was too much. I came hard, and clutched him tight as I sucked deep. I recognized the sound of him releasing and knew he was coming at the same time. We were so in sync right now, we may as well have been one person.

As our bodies slowed, Teren's teeth eventually pulled out of me. I could feel him start to lick the wounds closed, his tongue languidly sliding over my skin as a content rumble escaped his chest. Knowing his body could handle it, I left my teeth in him, taking a few last draws as the ripples of a great release washed through me.

Adjusting his body, he gently pulled out of me, shifting to my side. He chuckled and ran his fingers through my hair, letting me take his nourishment as long as I wanted. Feeling full and satisfied on every level, I finally retracted my teeth. I licked away the few red streaks on his skin, but the actual wounds closed right before my eyes.

He twisted to his back, pulling me into the crook of his arm. Sighing with a contentment that matched my own, I felt him kiss my head as the warm sun caressed our spent bodies. Propping myself up, I watched him smile and close his eyes. Knowing what that meant, I nudged him in the ribs. "No you don't. Don't you dare fall asleep on me."

Eyes still closed, he laughed and shook his head. "I'm not...just relaxing."

I snuggled into his side, enjoying the cool length of him under the getting warm sun. Clutching him was like having my very own ice pack. "Good, because I don't want to waste our free time unconscious."

He laughed again, peeking an eye open. "Did you have another idea?"

His eyes drifted down my body and even spent and satisfied, my body responded. His smile turning a little cocky as he sensed it, I pushed him away and stood up. He propped himself on his elbows, watching me look down on him. "Where are you going?" he asked, his cocky smile twisting to a frown.

Not answering him, I twisted and darted to the water, splashing in and then diving under the surface. When I resurfaced, I screamed. It was freaking cold, even for someone who was used to being wrapped in coldness.

Teren stood up and moved to the edge of the wide, slow river. Laughing and shaking his head at me, he managed to get out, "Makes me seem warm, doesn't it?"

I laughed through my shivers, then splashed him with the frigid water. "Get in here...warm me up." I smiled that his body actually would probably be warm in comparison.

He watched me in the water for a moment longer, his face holding an expression of pure love and devotion, then he blurred into the water with me. I giggled as his arms and legs wrapped around me. I stopped giggling when his weight pulled me under the water. He let me go instantly, since out of the two of us, I still needed air, then he slowly popped up beside me, his eyes playful. I smacked him as I grabbed a quick gulp of oxygen, then wrapped my freezing body around his freezing body.

Eventually I adjusted to his temperature and then the water's temperature. He held me still in the chest-deep stream, his fingers running up and down my back under the water. I smiled down at him, running my fingers though his even darker, wet hair.

Gazing at me adoringly, he muttered, "Forever?" I shook my head, not understanding. A small smile crept into his mouth, his face nearly reverent. "Do I really get you forever?"

I sighed, resting my head against his. "No."

He pulled back a little, his brows narrowed to a questioning point. I gave him a half smile, wrapping my arms around his neck. "We get forever," I clarified.

Smiling widely, he leaned up to kiss me. "Good. I won't settle for anything less now."

The water licked my shoulder blades, some splashing over my collar bone to run over the twin wounds, soothing the very slight ache. Smiling at my romantic husband, I laid my head on his shoulder, my cheek resting above the perfectly healed spot that I'd torn into. Clutching him tight, I watched the sun glint and shine off of the diamond ring encircling my finger, the blood-red rubies around it deepening in color as I shifted my hand.

The symbolic representation of eternity. The symbolic representation of our undying love for each other. Only for us, it wasn't symbolic. We really would get forever. This love and joy would last for so long that it was sort of incomprehensible to me. Closing my eyes, I felt that love physically wash over me.

Forever...I wouldn't settle for anything less either.