After our dip in the stream, Teren and I took our time, walking back to the ranch at a regular pace. We stopped to look over at some cattle munching nearby, none of the docile beasts seemingly worried in the least about the mythical monsters just a few feet away from them. We held hands while we strolled along, enjoying the quiet of just being together, of just being husband and wife for a minute and shutting off that portion of our minds that were constantly in parent-mode.
By the time the gleaming red tiles of the ranch came back into view, our wet hair was mostly dry, mine just a little damp at the ends. Our toddlers rushed out to see us, Alanna watching them from a shaded corner of the building. Since our children had our level of limitations, or lack thereof, they could enjoy the sunshine like any human. Alanna hadn't ended up so lucky in that department, and while she could be in the sun for short doses, it bothered her after awhile, and she had to find cover.
When our children reconnected with us, jumping into our arms, she waved and headed back into the house. She had a small, knowing smile on her lips and I was pretty sure that she knew exactly what we'd been doing during our extended absence. I tried to not be too embarrassed about it, since she knew what we were going through, having had a superfast, super-hearing toddler herself. Plus, Alanna would never make me feel uncomfortable about all of the things she saw or heard, which was unfortunately quite a bit, since she'd been present for the beginning of the creator-createe bond. She was very gracious in that respect. I adored her all the more for it.
Dinner was at dusk, when Imogen could freely and painlessly join us. Light conversations and warm laughter filled the spacious dining room and it seemed a little miraculous to me that there had ever been a time when tension and turmoil had filled this room, back when Teren and the others had been desperately searching for a way to save me and the children from an unpredictable fate.
As everyone but Jack enjoyed a little plasma refresher, my happy and healthy children ducked out into the ski lodge-like living room to play.
Leaning back in our chairs, I felt an odd tension start to build. Looking at Teren's parents, my enhanced sight saw a slight furrow in each brow line. "What is it?" I asked hesitantly.
Imogen sighed and I shifted my attention over to her. "We need to prepare you, both of you, for something that will be happening soon."
Knowing how quickly life could shift on you, I instantly felt ice flood through my veins. Hearing my own heartbeat pick up, I looked between all of the loved ones seated around the table.
Furrowing his own brow, Teren put an arm around my shoulders, silently comforting me. "Is it time...already?" he asked quietly.
Alanna and Jack gazed at each other for a moment before Alanna swung her eyes over to her son. "Another year, maybe two, but there are preparations to make, as you know."
Teren nodded, then looked down. Confused, and a little annoyed at what they all knew that I didn't, I felt a pout form on my lips. Knowing I was probably a mirror image of my daughter, I shook my head. "What are you talking about?"
Teren looked up and squeezed my shoulder. "They need to leave this ranch."
My mouth dropped open as my gaze flicked around the room, taking in the beauty of it. I'd gotten so used to them being here that a part of me couldn't imagine them gone. But I also knew that as a part of their never-ending charade to pass as human, they had to move around, so the girls' unchanging appearance was never questioned.
Even as secluded as they were, people talked, and Alanna and her siblings, as they were being sold to the world, would attract attention soon for their seemingly unending youth. This group tried to avoid attracting attention, and Jack moved with his "new" bride to one of several similar ranches they had around the country. Teren was still young enough that his appearance wasn't an issue with him...yet.
"Oh," I whispered. "Where...will you go?" I also couldn't imagine this group being far from me. I was too used to them being a short drive away.
Alanna smiled at me, maybe sharing my thoughts. "The next ranch in rotation is in Utah."
I nodded and looked down. I felt Teren squeeze me tighter as a moment of strained silence fell around the table. They were all so close, it was a little difficult to imagine them breaking apart. But, all families eventually had to, I supposed.
Jack sighed and reached over to pat my arm. "Don't worry about it yet, Emma. We're not going anywhere for awhile. We just have to start preparing the new home and shifting some of the herd. It takes time to move a working ranch. We just wanted to let you know."
I nodded and smiled at him, then pushed it to the back of my mind. They'd said a year or two. As I didn't want to spend that much time fretting over it, it was best to place it in a far corner of my brain, to be looked at and examined at a later date.
After pleasant conversations returned and our drinks were finished, we all retired to the living room to watch the children play tag - super speed tag. When their energy finally wore down, Teren and I got the yawning twins ready for bed. Nika wrapped her arms around her father's neck, laying her small head on his shoulder. "No, Daddy. Grammy Lina's coming."
I wrapped Julian around me, kissing his head as he sighed his agreement to his sister's statement. "We want to see her."
Teren and I exchanged glances. The sun had set hours ago and we could both feel Halina moving towards us. She was approaching fast, but she had driven a car and her speed was more a normal one, although I was sure she was driving at about twice the legal limit. She could have run the distance and gotten here faster, but it was exhausting to maintain the super speed for that long. It was much more effective in short bursts, especially for mixed like us. Full vampires could hold the burst longer, but it still came at a price. Halina tended to only run great distances if it were an emergency, say, Teren was out getting into trouble without her. She'd done a lot of running when he'd been searching for other mixed.
Teren sighed and kissed Nika's head. "Sorry, sweetheart, she's still far away."
She lifted her head, her eyes brimming with tears; Julian in my arms sniffled. "I want Grammy Lina." Seeing her lip start to tremble in the telltale sign of an exhausted breakdown, Teren shushed her, rubbing her back soothingly and encouraging her to lay her head back down on his shoulder.
I mimicked the action with Julian who was starting to share Nika's emotional reaction, as he felt her disappointment through their bond. Kissing his head, I told them, "She'll come in and see you when she gets here."
Nika looked over at me, a tiny tear dropping to her cheek. "Promise?"
I nodded, walking over to kiss away the moisture on her skin. "Yes...I promise."
Imogen, her long, black hair neatly pulled up into a bun at the nape of her neck, walked over to them and simultaneously rubbed both of their backs. "I'll make sure that she does."
The twins nodded, tiredly slumping against our bodies. "Goodnight, Grammy Immy," they muttered together.
Imogen shook her head, clear amazement and pride in her grandmotherly eyes. "Goodnight, my angels." She tilted her head as she watched their eyes start to close. "Sleep well." She clasped her hands in front of her and sighed contently.
Alanna stepped up as we shifted to head out of the living room. "Teren?" she asked quietly. He twisted back to his mother, a small smile on his lips. She glanced at the bundle of Nika in his arms, her breath low and even as she drifted in and out of consciousness on Teren's chest. Looking over at her husband, Alanna shrugged. "Can Jack and I put them to bed?"
Teren's father smiled widely at his son, his eyes on Nika as well. His hair was more silver now than when I'd first met him, his stomach maybe a little more padded, but the eyes were warm and alive, the mind behind them still young at heart, if not in body.
Stepping forward, Teren slightly extended his arms out to his father. "Of course."
Jack smiled as he gently took the huddled form of Nika from Teren. She stirred a little as she was separated from Teren's cool embrace. Blinking, she looked up at Jack enfolding her in his arms. "Hi, Grandpa," she muttered, twisting to cling to him as surely as she'd been attached to Teren.
The burly man sniffed back his emotion and kissed her head. Jack got a little uncomfortable, showing what he was feeling, but it was obvious to just about anyone that he adored his grandchildren. Rubbing her back, he nodded a goodnight to Teren and me and started to head out the glass double doors that led to the staircase.
I watched him leave with my daughter, then turned back to Alanna and handed her my son. Smiling warmly at him, her cool arms brushed against me. He looked up and yawned as she effortlessly shifted his weight over. Julian immediately closed his eyes and snuggled into her body. I smiled at the comfort and love between them.
Alanna closed her eyes, laying her cheek on his head. Her loose, dark hair washed over Julian's back, his dark hair blending seamlessly into the strands, and watching them, I instantly saw how Alanna must have looked cuddling with a young Teren. Since Julian was a carbon copy of my husband, and Alanna looked the same now as she did then, it was almost like I'd just been rewound into the past. It made me smile even wider; it also brought tears to my eyes.
Eyes still closed, she followed the path her husband had taken with Nika. I watched them leave, my heart expanding even more. Teren put his arms around my waist, pulling my focus back to him.
"Aren't you supposed to be less emotional now, since you're no longer pregnant?" He smiled wryly at me, then tilted his head. "You're not pregnant again, are you?"
I laughed and smacked him in the chest. "No, your sperm is good, but not that good." He chuckled and held me tighter. Imogen laughed lightly at us, then left us to our privacy. I heard Alanna laughing a little upstairs and felt my cheeks heat a bit. Even though I could hear so much better now, sometimes I forgot just how good their hearing was.
Teren's thumb came out to stroke my flushed cheek. "Yeah, sometimes I wish we could have more."
He shrugged, then sighed. I sighed too. We hadn't been sure whether or not Teren's body would be able to produce viable baby-makers, now that he was dead. A candid conversation with our vampiric scientist had confirmed what we'd been afraid of - he couldn't. That life-giving part of himself was over with. But that was okay. We had our two miracles, and that was enough.
Smiling, I said, "That's because you didn't have to carry and birth them. You'd feel differently about having more if you'd been the one to shove bodies the size of watermelons out of an opening about half that size."
Every single vampire laughed heartily at my statement, my husband included. Shaking his head, he held me tight. "You have a point."
I wrapped my arms around him, lying my head on his heartbeatless chest, his laughter echoing in my ear. As I heard Jack ask his wife what was so funny, and my children yawn and mutter, "Quiet," I sighed.
"Yeah, sometimes I wish that too." I looked up at Teren, his handsome stubbled face slightly orange from the light of the fireplace. "But I have you and I have them. It would be selfish to ask for more, when I already have everything."
He smiled wider and kissed my nose. "Agreed," he whispered.
I felt Halina return to the property awhile later, when Teren and I were kissing in the hot tub. Busy straddling my husband's lap in the near boiling water, I only half listened to the roar of her sports car peeling into the drive. Teren chuckled tiredly beneath me, his warm hands sliding up and down my back. Being exposed to this temperature for so long warmed every part of him, and for the next several hours, he'd be just as toasty to the touch as me.
"She's back," he muttered, his lips moving to my ear.
I made some sort of noncommittal agreeance as I sucked on his neck. Chuckling a little more, his hands firmly grasped my hips and pulled me into his body. A light groan escaped me at the feel of him so close to me under the scant material of our swimsuits. I regretted that groan about ten seconds later when Halina breezed out to us.
"God, don't you two ever stop procreating? It's a little pointless now."
Not expecting her to immediately rush out to us, I startled and slid off of Teren's lap, slipping into the deeper section of the hot water for a second. She chuckled at me while Teren scooped me up and set me on the rim of the hot tub, sitting down beside me once I was back on dry ground. As steam lifted off of my skin, I glared at the teenage vampire in front of me; she only laughed harder.
"You're one to talk, Halina," I muttered under my breath.
Halina, having the best ears of all of us, and that was saying a lot, cocked an eyebrow at me. I generally avoided back-talking to the pureblood vampire, but she'd sort of scared the crap out of me; I could even still hear my heart racing. Besides, I did have a good point. Aside from Teren and me, she was the most sexually active vampire I knew.
Perhaps amused by the fact that I'd talk like that to her, she ignored my comment, her pale, slightly glowing eyes shifting to Teren. "I have another batch of vials for you in the car; about three month's worth."
Teren smiled, glancing at me, like he was listening to my surging heart. "Thank you, Great-Gran," he said politely, looking back up at her.
She shrugged, like it was no big deal to her either way. And I supposed that to her it wasn't. Whether or not I kept aging, whether or not my heart kept beating, my overall fate was the same as any other mixed vampire's. She probably didn't see the point in prolonging it. Sometimes I didn't either, but waking up and thinking - today is a good day to die - never actually happens. It's human nature to want to live, and I was still very human.
"Thank you, Halina," I said modestly, my cheeks heating a bit as her ancient eyes swept over my bikini-clad body.
She shrugged again. "It gives me a good excuse to see Gabriel, at any rate."
An odd expression crossed her face, almost...grief, if I didn't know any better. But Halina, while not exactly happy with the hand that fate had dealt her, was rarely sad about it. I'd only seen her emotional a few times, and that was generally over the loss of her husband, the human husband that she had inadvertently killed after her conversion.
The youthful face turned away from us, the youthful body starting to turn away as well. She was wrapped in a dress so tight that a human wouldn't have been able to breathe in it, and I was pretty sure it was leather. It matched the thigh high boots she preferred to wear. But the evocatively dressed vixen that she usually played so effortlessly seemed cracked to me as she slowly moved back towards the house.
Actually feeling concern for her, I called out her name. "Halina?"
She stopped and looked back at me, her ageless eyes tired, her black-as-night hair billowing around her in the slight breeze. "Emma?" She raised her lip in a smirk after she said my name, almost daring me to call her on her mood.
As Halina could still intimidate me, even after all these years, I shook my head and motioned upstairs. Completely changing what I had been going to say, I sputtered, "We promised the kids you'd see them when you got in." Smiling softly, I added, "They've missed you."
A genuine smile broke over her face as she looked up to where they were. "I've missed them too," she muttered, then she streaked away.
I blinked at the afterimage of her glowing eyes still in my vision. She was fast, faster than everyone. Teren's arm came around my shoulders, delightfully still warm. I sighed contently, and cuddled into his side. Dangling our feet in the steamy water, we listened to Halina greeting our children in Russian. They instantly awoke at hearing her voice and laughter and the sound of soft kisses filtered down to us.
I shook my head, a little marveled at the various sides of Halina. She could be a cold, ruthless killer, a sexed-up male fantasy, or, as she was being now, a devoted mother and grandmother, cooing and coddling our children like they were her own. A part of me now understood why she amused Teren so much. The majority of me was careful to never piss her off. Unless she really, really loved you, you probably wouldn't survive it.
When our children's laughter turned into quiet yawns, Halina started singing them a lullaby. It was naturally in her native language and was remarkably beautiful. But as I leaned against my husband, I heard the melancholy in her timbre, the sadness in her words. Looking up at Teren, I quietly asked, "Is she okay?"
He furrowed his brow, like he didn't know who I meant. I flicked my eyes up at where she was singing to our kids, not wanting to get her attention by saying her name. Teren looked up at the window that was the twins' bedroom here and then back down to me. "Sure, she seems fine to me."
I pursed my lips and lightly shook my head. As perceptive as Teren could be at times, he was still a man, and the male species sometimes had to be hit over the head with things, since they tended to lack the ability to pick up on subtleties. He furrowed his brow at me. "What?"
I shook my head again and rolled my eyes. He hadn't seen the emotion in Halina, but I had, and it did concern me. "She just seemed...off."
He kissed my head. "I'm sure it's nothing. Maybe she's just thinking about the upcoming move too." He pulled back and raised an eyebrow at me. "It will put her that much farther from Gabriel."
He shrugged and I dropped my mouth at him. I hadn't thought of that. Of course that would be upsetting to her. I shook my head again. And just when I thought my husband was oblivious. He furrowed his brows again. "What?"
He laughed a little at the look on my face and I joined him, leaning up to kiss him. "Nothing, you just...amaze me."
He laughed a little more while we kissed, then he pulled back. "I should go put those vials in the car." His eyes flicked down my body and I felt the unasked question in them - how much longer are you going to use them? I only smiled and nodded, not answering his unasked question. I didn't have an answer yet anyway. I wasn't sure.
He stood up, the beaded water running down his chest and dripping off his shorts. I bit my lip and studied the pleasing shape of him. He smiled and studied the pleasing shape of me. Raising an eyebrow, he softly said, "I'll be back for you in a minute."
I laughed and nodded, sinking back into the water. I felt him causally walk away from me, not in any rush, just enjoying the evening. Closing my eyes, I felt the heat of the tub. I could practically feel it entering my body, soothing my muscles, warming the very bones. The scent of chlorine was nearly overpowering, but it was worth it, for the comfort.
Listening to my children wish each other goodnight again, I felt Halina move away from them. Then I felt her presence lift higher into the air. Confused, I opened my eyes and looked up to where I felt her. Above the two-story main building, there was a belfry. Okay, it wasn't actually a belfry, but I preferred to think of that way, since the whole home kind of had a castle feel to it. What it really was though, was a raised section of the roof, like a covered patio.
I could see Halina standing up there, still and silent with her back to me as she looked out over the hills of Mount Diablo. I sat up and got out of the water, watching her appear to be deep in thought. Halina was different from the others, being pure, not mixed. Not looks-wise, she had the same dark hair and pale eyes, although her skin was snow white, no trace or hint of any sunlight ever having hit it. No, it was more her attitude that was different.
She had a presence about her, a lethalness under the surface. She struggled less with the ethics of being a natural born killer. She would do it, if she wanted to, although, she did still have some morality to her and only killed those that she felt deserved the death. But the reluctant vampire had admitted that she felt foreign, that she no longer felt human, and that foreignness was evident in her at times. She could, at first glance, seem cold and standoffish, but I'd seen her heart and I knew she still had one, beating or not.
My concern for her overriding my common sense, I wrapped a fluffy robe around my body and walked over to the edge of the building.
Wondering how the hell to get up there, I looked around for a ladder or something. There wasn't one. I sighed softly, realizing that this was a private place that the vampires went to, and vampires had no need for ladders. Hoping my enhanced body was enhanced enough, I took a few steps back and made a running leap for it.
I realized just how stupid my attempt was just as I caught the lip of the roof. For one, I hated heights. For another, as I was constantly telling Teren, I was mostly human and couldn't heal like the undead vamps around here. If I fell...well, it would suck.
"Shit," I muttered, my fingers starting to slip. Cool fingers wrapped around my wrists and deadweight lifted me into the air.
Holding me dangling over the edge, Halina cocked an eyebrow at me. "What are you doing, little heartbeater?"
At the same time that she asked that, I heard Teren's panicked voice calling my name. Looking down at just how far the patio cement was beneath me, I looked back up at Halina with wide eyes. "Put me down...please."
She smirked and set me down next to her. I closed my eyes, relieved at being back on solid ground. The stronger wind up here whipped around me, instantly chilling me, and holding my robe tighter, I answered Teren, who was worriedly asking me if I was alright. "I'm fine...just sightseeing with Halina."
He sighed while Halina's smirk widened. "Emma...good lord, you just about gave me a heart attack." I bit my lip to not nervously laugh. Teren couldn't have a heart attack anymore, but I'd nearly given myself one; my ticker was even still beating extra hard. I felt Teren's location shift back into the house. "I'll be in our room...when you come down." I heard him muttering about how maybe my worry-wortness could start including myself as he walked to our bedroom.
Halina crossed her arms over her chest as she listened to him. She was leaning back on one of the wooden beams holding up the raised roof section, not seeming to be worried in the slightest about the drop-off behind her. Tilting her head as I moved to stand in the center of the tiled square, she asked, "What are you doing up here?"
Wondering that myself, I shrugged. "You seemed...down. I thought you might want to..." I let that trail off, wondering just what I'd expected to happen up here with the generally closed-off person in front of me.
Instead of the biting remark that I expected from her, she shifted her gaze back to the view. The wind blew strands of dark hair across her cheek as she looked south, towards Los Angeles. She sniffed. "I smell death in the air...some cows were attacked while I was gone... " Looking back at me, she raised an eyebrow just like Teren did sometimes. "Weren't they?"
I nodded, my brows furrowed that she'd be so upset over that. She frowned and shook her head, looking over the fields again. "I should have been here. My job is to protect the family, that includes protecting the food supply." She paused, and just when I thought to tell her that it wasn't her fault, she added, "I've been too distracted lately...with Gabriel." She bit her lip, then nodded. "I'm thinking of breaking things off with him."
My eyes widening, I took a step towards her. "Why? Because of a couple of cows?" While I didn't quite know what they had together, they both seemed happy. You didn't sacrifice true happiness over a few easily replaceable cattle. "This doesn't have anything to do with cows...does it?"
She looked back to me, tucking the hair across her cheek behind her ear. "No, not really." She shrugged in a casual way. "But Gabriel and I have run its course. Besides, I'm not used to being with just one man. It feels...restrictive." Her voice warbled and her eyes reddened before she looked away. I knew she was lying.
"Halina..." I said softly, walking up and putting a hand on her chilly arm. I made myself ignore the fact that nothing was behind her but open air; standoffish or not, she'd never let me fall.
When she looked back to me, her eyes were definitely moist with blood-red tears. "I enjoy the company of men...but I don't ever feel for them and I'm starting to feel...." She shook her head, a bloody tear dropping to her cheek. "I cannot fall for him. It's wrong."
Amazed at the depth of feeling she was showing me, I brushed off her tear. "Why not? Isn't falling in love a good thing?"
She cringed at the word love and shook her head, staring at the floor. "No...no, I can't. I'm...I'm betraying Nicolis...and I've already done so much to betray him."
She looked up at me and there was so much guilt in her face, my heart constricted for her. Nicolis was the husband she'd killed, the husband she still mourned. Swallowing the lump of emotion in my own throat, I stroked her arm. "Oh, Halina, no...he would want you to be happy."
She sighed sadly, looking over my shoulder. "Would he? He died because of me."
I stepped into her line of vision, bringing her glowing eyes back to mine. "What you did to him wasn't your fault, Halina." I shook my head at her as my other hand clasped her other arm. "You didn't ask for this, you didn't know what you were or what the urges you felt were. You couldn't possibly have stopped yourself." She started to look away but I held her gaze. "I watched Teren go through it, and even knowing what he was, he could barely stop himself."
Her eyes drifted over my face for a long moment, and just when I thought our bonding was over, she quietly said, "I almost killed Imogen too." She shrugged. "If my anger hadn't surfaced, I think I would have." Looking away from me, that anger became apparent in her features. "I've held onto that anger for so long. It's how I survive. It's how I get through...the day."
I sighed and started to lean in to hug her. She instantly looked back at me and I stopped, thinking maybe she wasn't ready for that. Sighing again, I moved aside a lock of hair in her eyes. "Nicolis would want you to release that anger. He would want you happy."
Her eyes narrowed as she locked gazes with me, the anger in the depths still apparent to my enhanced sight. "Would you? If Teren had killed you, would you wish him peace with someone else?"
My stomach tightened at the thought, but I instantly answered her. "Yes." A sudden chill running down my spine, I wrapped my arms around my body.
Watching me, she pushed away from the supportive beam. With long, languid steps, she walked around me, her eyes appraising. "So, when you agreed to a relationship with Teren, knowing full well his fate and your own, you didn't want him to mourn you for eternity in solitude?"
Shaking my head, I twisted to keep my body facing hers. "No, no I never wanted that." A little surprised that she'd think I'd wish that on a loved one, I whispered, "Did you think I wanted him to be alone? Crying over me every day?"
Just as I was feeling a little dizzy, she stopped her endless circling. "He openly admitted that he'd never love anyone else." She shook her head. "I didn't want my life for my grandchild," she whispered.
I stepped up to her, placing a hand on her arm. "Neither did I. I kept myself from thinking about it for the most part, but when I did...it killed me." I sighed and looked down at my bare feet on the tiled ground. "If my fate were a regular human's, I'd want him to move on. I would wish him love." I peeked back up at her, her youthful face seemingly torn by my words. "A life alone...is no life at all."
Surprisingly, she placed her hand on my shoulder, her anger seemingly diminished. "I never wanted him to fall for a human. I only ever wanted a receptacle for a grandchild. When it became apparent that he had deeply fallen for you, I may have resented you a little." She tilted her head and sighed. "I'm sorry, I just didn't want him to grieve you." She closed her eyes, another long tear dripping down her cheek. "I watched my daughter go through it, and Alanna will someday with Jack..."
Her words tearing my heart, she peeked up at me. In a whisper, she said, "But I couldn't take it with Teren. He looks so much like... He reminds me so much of..." She swallowed, another blood trail leaving her eye. "While I never would have wished vampirism for you, I am glad that Teren won't have to live without you."
I nodded and threw my arms around her, no longer caring if she was ready or not. I needed a hug after that. Darn emotional vampires. She awkwardly patted my back, her body nearly as chilly as the wind.
Sniffling, I pulled back and dried my own eyes. "You deserve that too. You have been alone for so long. Nicolis would wish you peace and I think Gabriel gives you that. Doesn't he make you happy?"
She looked down guilty, but nodded. "Yes," she whispered. "Although, we're complicated. He has his own nest, his own family. I won't leave mine, he won't leave his..." She shrugged.
Surprisingly, I found myself cupping her cheeks. "So your solution is nothing? Halina, he's over six hundred years old, you're just over one hundred. Think of how long he's been alone. Do you really want to end up like that? Do you really want to be alone for the next five hundred years?" I searched her eyes as she sighed forlornly, our joint glow lighting the space around us. "It's okay to be happy," I whispered.
She closed her eyes, then slowly nodded. I pulled her in for another hug. This time she returned it warmly. Then, almost as if a switch went off in her, she pulled back and narrowed her eyes at me. "Don't think we're suddenly best friends or anything." She released me, crossing her arms over her chest. "I won't be braiding your hair or exchanging recipes with you anytime soon."
Eyeing me up and down, she stepped to the edge of the raised platform. I smiled, shaking my head as I stepped up to her. "Don't worry, I never thought that would happen."
She twisted her lips into a wry smile, then blindingly fast grabbed me and hopped off the roof. I started to scream but the motion of my stomach lifting into my throat halted any noise I might have made. She chuckled as her feet lightly hit the ground of the parking lot. Setting me down, she adjusted her skintight dress. "Thank you for the...conversation, but I need to go kill something now."
My eyes opened wider at what that might mean, but she rolled hers and shook her head. "Relax, I don't feel like human tonight." Her body crouching down predatorily, she muttered, "I think I'll find our little cow killer."
Sighing that at least the murderer dying tonight wasn't my own species, I clapped her on the back. "Have fun."
She glanced at me from the corner of her glowing eyes, a devilish smile on her lips. "I always do." Then she streaked away, the rush of her leaving sending a shiver down my damp back.
Blown away by the complicated, forever teen vampire, I felt my earlier exhaustion hit me. Hearing only the sounds of sleeping humans or stone-still vampires, I figured I was the only one at the ranch still awake. Shuffling upstairs, I checked in on my angels. They shared one bed here and even though they were nestled around the huddled lump of Spike, they were still holding hands. Smiling, I silently closed their door and headed to my own. Yawning, I prepared for bed, sliding under the cool covers last.
Nestling my back into Teren's lukewarm-from-the-tub chest, I exhaled contently. As Halina's comments drifted through my mind, I was immensely glad that her fear for Teren's future wasn't happening. I didn't want him alone, but I really didn't like the thought of him moving on either. I wanted him like this, with me.
He sighed and clutched my body to him. "I love you, Emma. A life without you...is no life at all."
I smiled in the darkness, knowing that he'd heard that entire conversation with his great-grandmother.