Til DeathS. C. Stephens
Chapter 1 My Family
My heart was racing. It was hammering in my chest like it was about to break free of my rib cage. My breath was fast through my parted lips and my body was on fire.
I was sprawled across the longest, softest leather couch you could possibly image, arms and legs tangled around the most incredibly handsome man you could possibly imagine. His body pressed against mine in a teasing, rhythmic pattern, reminding me that it had been quite awhile since more than just his rough denims had rubbed against me. His breath was equally fast in my mouth. And his heart, if it still had a beat, would have been racing as well, I was sure.
But it had been a long while since his heart had beaten its last beat. Almost five years to be exact. And while his skin was cool and his tongue was icy, he was masterful with both, and more than made up for the temperature difference.
The harsh roughness of his stubbled jaw brushed over mine and I contained a moan. I loved that. My overly sensitive skin could feel and hear each grain of course hair; it electrified me. His cool lips shifted to my neck, and fangs pricked against my skin. I almost begged him right then and there to do it, to pierce my flesh and taste my blood. He would have loved it, I would have loved it, but I resisted, instead only squirming with a growing desire.
A cool palm ran up one side of my body, up my hip and along my breast. His thumb circled over a nipple and my head dropped back as I contained another groan. I could feel his lips curve into a smile as he pressed them into the indentation of my collar bone. His hip lightly digging into my thigh made his readiness for me all too obvious, even if I'd only been a standard human.
But I wasn't a standard human, not anymore, and he had never been one to begin with. He was a vampire, or as he'd first told me, a little bit vampire. Born into the life, it was just the way he'd always been and always would be. Me? I'd been bitten by some jerk-off vampire with an attitude problem. The man currently running his nose up my jaw was the man who'd saved me. My husband. Teren Adams.
He'd given me his blood, only wanting to heal me. What he'd ended up doing was changing me, making me "a little bit vampire," just like him. It was an odd, complicated process that others far more knowledgeable about vampire anatomy understood, but for all intents and purposes, I was vampire and human, a mixed breed. I enjoyed sun, mochas and silver jewelry. I moved blindingly fast, had hearing that was nearly too good at times, and most of all, I loved blood. No, love is too insignificant a word. I wasn't out killing people for it or anything, but if I was forced to choose a last meal, that would be it.
But I had a heartbeat and I was still alive.
I also had fangs, just like my husband. Releasing the constant hold on them that I had to keep, I let them drop down into the position they always wanted to be in - drinking position. Shifting my head, I drug my teeth along Teren's neck. He loved that too.
He sucked in a quick breath and let out a small groan. "Stop that," I muttered. "We're being discreet, remember. "
"Sorry," he breathed in my ear.
One of his hands pinched my nipple and I bit back my own moan, stopping it just short of making a noise. He chuckled, lowering his lips to mine, where that marvelous tongue made it hard to remember why I couldn't shift his hips over just a smidge, so he was in a much more satisfying spot.
One of Teren's hands, the one not actively involved in caressing my body, was making a repetitious pattern through the air: lift, stop, pull back, extend. He did it over and over again. The move would seem pretty strange, if you didn't understand what he was doing. I contained a chuckle, thinking about what he was doing. To an oblivious set of toddlers, he was idly playing catch while at the same time making out with me. Multitasking at its finest.
His arm was coming up, his hand catching a sloppily tossed ball, and chucking it into the other room, where two sets of feet would shuffle off for it, giggling the entire time they raced to beat the family dog to the favored object. Teren used his super acute hearing to track the ball, and the sense in our blood, to tell him exactly where the children were. Since he didn't need his eyes, lips, and one of his hands for that, he was focusing those parts of his body on me.
We reveled in soft, heated kisses while I mentally tracked how many minutes were left until bedtime. More than a few, less than too many. Our two miracle children - miracle that we'd conceived them before Teren's aforementioned silent heart had stopped, and miracle that we had found a way to keep mine from stopping before they were born - were laughing as they played with Spike and Daddy.
Nika and Julian, the other two loves of my life. They were perfect, precocious three year olds.
Suddenly the children grew tired of their game with Daddy and decided to crawl up his legs. He broke off from kissing me and looked down at them. Laughing, he shifted his position, so that he was nestled in-between me and the couch. That signaled an end to the foreplay, for now, until we had a more private place to explore each other.
Reaching down for them, they giggled more and crawled up into our arms. Sighing contently, my passion faded and an overwhelming love swept in. Teren sighed in a matching way, one of his arms sliding under me while the other wrapped around Nika and Julian on my chest.
Nika giggled, listening to my heart. "Mommy, you're loud. " I laughed and squeezed her tight, giving Teren a wry smile. He grinned, suppressing a laugh.
"I know, sweetheart. " I kissed the top of her head, the scent of baby shampoo filling me. "That's Mommy's heart. "
Julian peeked up at me. "How come Daddy doesn't have a heart?" I sighed, looking over at Teren. Our children had our senses. Just as they could hear that my heart was pounding, they could hear that his was not.
Teren stared down at his son, his finger coming over to brush a lock of hair out of his eyes. "I do have a heart, Julian. But. . . we are all vampires and when we get old enough, we don't need our hearts anymore. " Teren grinned, his blue eyes sparkling. "We're magic. " Then he brought his finger to his lips. "But you can't tell anyone. It's our secret, okay?"
Julian nodded, his little face serious. "Okay, Daddy. "
I shook my head a little and held them tight. It was sort of amazing how easy it could be to explain things to a child. They accepted everything so readily. If you told them the sky was blue because a paint can on the clouds had spilled over, then that was what they believed. And for now, it was best if their own could-be scary conversions were introduced to them as "magic. "
Nika frowned and sat up on her elbows. "Is Mommy not magic?" She pouted, like this was a tragedy to her.
Teren laughed lightly as I reached up to stroke a lock of silky hair. "Thanks to Grandpa Gabriel, Mommy, and maybe someday the two of you, gets to have her magic when she wants to. " I looked over at Teren and he smiled softly at me.
When I'd been close to death, on its doorstep as they say, Teren had done the only thing he could think of to save me. The result had shocked everybody. When I'd awoken, dazed and hurting, but my heart still beating away and the twins safe and sound, no one had known what that meant. None of them had ever tried to change someone. None of them were even sure if it was possible for their mixed blood to do it. The only thing we'd been pretty certain about was that a human body couldn't handle the strain of being pumped full of vampire juice for long, and mine was going to give out, it was just a matter of time. That had left us with two important questions. Would I come back as an undead vampire? Would I die before the twins were ready to be born?
Those questions had driven Teren right to the brink of madness. He'd become obsessed with finding more of his kind, in the hopes that they'd have an answer for him. Since he couldn't find mixed, he'd found purebloods. And he'd done anything he could to get them to talk - anything. His eventual poking
and prodding finally got the attention of Gabriel's group in Los Angeles. A prissy vampire named Starla had arrived on our doorstep one day and changed everything for us, once again.
She'd taken us to see her "father," a man who really wasn't related to anyone in the area, but was embraced as such because of his generosity to vampires in need. He'd amassed quite a following of loyal mixed and purebloods. It was almost cultish, and some of their practices were not desirable to me, like catching hunters and locking them up for bloodthirsty mixed vampires going through the conversion process to kill. Even though I understood the reasons why they did it, and even having done it myself for Teren, when I'd essentially fed him a hunter, I didn't like it.
But Teren and I kept our feelings to ourselves on the matter. Because Gabriel was also a genius and had concocted the drug that had kept me alive, was still keeping me alive. In fact, because of Gabriel, I was going to be having my thirtieth birthday in a couple weeks. A fact that most women don't celebrate, but as there was a time when I wasn't sure I'd live long enough to see twenty-six, much less thirty, I celebrated every birthday.
The twins both smiled and giggled, looking at each other. They had a soft spot for the ancient vampire, calling him Grandpa because he was around a lot, and was sort of. . . involved with Teren's Great-Grandmother, the only full vampire in the Adams clan. They'd started a romantic relationship back when we'd first met Gabriel. Halina tends to move fast if it pleases her, and Gabriel had definitely pleased her. But the surprising thing was that they were still together, and from what I'd heard, Halina was actually not sleeping with anyone else. That was sort of shocking to me.
But I had my reservations about Gabriel, as did Teren. I did genuinely like him. I mean, he saved the lives of my children, how could I not adore the man after that? But, he was also a scientist, and tended to look at my children with appraising eyes, rather than loving ones.
Twins were rare among mixed. The condition of our twins' birth was pretty rare too, what with me starting the pregnancy human, but ending it a mixed vampire. It also didn't help ease his curious nature when it had been discovered that our children were. . . special. Now, I know that every parent thinks their child is special, but for Teren and I, that was actually true. Aside from the traits that we all shared - fangs, speed, and super hearing - our children had an extra bond. A seventh sense, if you will, if the blood bond between us all, that allowed us to know each other's locations, could be considered the sixth.
It had taken Teren and me over a year to spot it. Really, until they'd started talking, we didn't notice, or we'd brushed it off as a "twin" connection, but it wasn't. It was so much more. See, some human twins claim that they can sense what the other is feeling. For instance, cases have been made of one twin feeling ill or pained, and the other, thousands of miles away, will have been suffering from a sudden case of appendicitis, or something. Our children had that, but to the tenth degree.
Our children, literally, felt what the other was feeling. Not that they felt it for themselves, if one was happy, the other could still be sad, but they were. . . aware. Julian knew exactly how Nika felt about watching butterflies in the pastures, because he felt it. Nika knew exactly how much balloons terrified Julian, because she felt it. If he stubbed his toe or fell down and bonked his head, she'd cry. Not because she was hurt, but because she felt his pain. If Teren tickled her into a giddy ball of laughter, Julian would laugh too, because he felt her joy.
It was like they were empaths. . . but only with each other.
Gabriel had never seen anything like it, and aside from his fondness for Halina, I think it was a large part of why he came around so often.
Spike barking distracted the twins from their conversation and they hopped off our bodies to go ruffle the patient collie's fur. Holding the prized ball in his mouth, he wagged his tail as he stared at Teren, eager for his master to throw it again. The kids attached to his sides, Nika burying her face in the fluff around his neck.
Luckily for us, Spike adored the children. He'd even tolerated the months of being yanked and pulled and poked without ever yelping or biting. Sometimes, when the twins had been infants, he'd made a sound that I could have sworn was a sigh, and then he'd look up at me with those large, tired, puppy dog eyes. I'd had to laugh at the poor canine. Sure, dogs couldn't emote, but at those times it was obvious that he'd been wishing for the tactile stage of the kids' development to end.
Teren sat up, shifting my body so my legs were over his lap, and ruffled his dog's fur. "Hungry, boy?"
Spike thumped his tail against the floor as he sat down. The kids giggled as they adjusted to the floor with him. Dropping the ball, he barked again. Teren smiled. "Alright, let's get you something to eat. "
He looked back at me on the couch. "I could use something too, how about you?" He smiled warmly at me and I took a second to appreciate the beauty of him before answering.
Eyes the color of a perfect spring morning gazed at me; they were the warmest eyes you'd ever see on a person. Whoever created this image of vampires as soulless, bloodthirsty creatures, had clearly never met one. They were people, same as any people, and while some were bad, as wicked, sick, and twisted as any human could be, some were good, exceptionally good. Teren. . . was exceptional.
"I would love some, thank you. "
Knowing my husband only tolerated an all plasma diet, I knew he meant blood when he spoke of food. Dead vampires couldn't handle anything else. It wasn't just that their bodies couldn't digest it. No, eating wasn't something they could do for show then cough up later. Their vampiric bodies rejected food like it was poison. It was extremely painful and uncomfortable for them. I'd seen Teren do it once. . . I never wanted to see him do it again.
He nodded at me, his black-as-night hair shining in the fading rays of the sun. Bringing his attention back to Nika and Julian, who were now showering Spike in kisses, he leaned forward, so he was closer to their level. "What about you two? Who wants some blood?"
As a young person, the thought of what you'll be like as a parent occasionally crosses your mind. It certainly had for me when I'd been plowing through my job, wondering who I'd eventually marry, and fantasizing about how many of the imaginary man's kids I'd have one day. But what I'd never envisioned, ever, was hearing myself or my husband ask those delightful little beings if they wanted a steaming glass of cow's blood. Those are just words you never expect to hear spoken to a child. But then, when you marry a vampire and have vampiric children, it just sort of comes with the territory. Besides, it was the best meal on the planet, and what parent would deny their child the most delicious thing on earth?
They both agreed too, loving and craving the nutrient as much as any vampire I'd met. Although, for them, it wasn't as high on the list of snacks as it was for us. Truly, they got more excited about getting cotton candy at the fair. But. . . it was right up there.
Jumping up and down, they both started saying, "Me, me, me!"
Teren laughed, extraditing himself from my body so he could prepare meals for everyone. He loved to take care of people. It made him a pretty fabulous companion since, from the very beginning of our relationship, he'd spoiled me with homemade dinners; he usually even cleaned up too. That was just his way. And he was equally attentive to the kids, even going so far as to cut their sandwiches into fun little shapes. He was sort of, well, Mr. Mommish. I was a very lucky girl.
Wading through a sea of eager toddlers and a hungry dog, he laughed as he walked out of the living room into the kitchen. I stayed where I was on the couch, smiling as I listened to a family that I could hear, but no longer see. With my blood sense though, I knew exactly where they were. That was such a comfort to me, knowing exactly where my children were. I couldn't imagine not knowing their location at every point of my day. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving their sight and not knowing, with every fiber of who I was, where they were. I think I would worry myself into insanity if that were the case.
Honestly, I didn't know how human mothers did it. They sort of amazed me.
Listening to my husband pop open the fridge, I heard my children start to play with the magnets on it. As Teren grabbed the pitcher of plasma in there, he helped them start to spell words, calling out different letters so they could arrange the shapes into the words that they used most often - mom, dad, dog. . . blood.
I smiled and shook my head when he spelled out that one for them. That probably wouldn't be in a normal three-year-olds vocabulary, but it was one of the first words they'd said, right after Dadda, actually. They could even say it in Russian, along with a few other simple phrases. Teren was teaching them as they grew, so I was starting to finally pick up a few things too. I liked that soon I'd be privy to the private conversations he sometimes had with his family. I hated being kept in the dark, even if it was unintentional.
As he warmed it in the microwave, he sped away to get the dog some food. He was back before the fifteen seconds had gone off on the timer. Nika giggled at the display. "Again, Daddy. " Teren chuckled, and I heard him place a kiss on her. The kids loved the blurred visual of us moving fast. They could do it too, in very short bursts, but it generally led to one or both injuring themselves, so Teren and I tried to dissuade them from doing it. Plus, that was something they could absolutely not do around humans. We drilled that into them constantly.
In fact, just after I thought it, Teren reminded them that that was something that only happened at home with family. They both automatically replied with, "Okay, Daddy," as Teren set the blood for another warming cycle.
Smelling the warmth of that blood drifting out to me, I inhaled it deeply, my smile a satisfied one. My stomach, less satisfied, even after the chicken and vegetables the kids and I had eaten earlier, rumbled loudly. Everyone in the kitchen laughed, clearly having heard it.
"Mommy's noisy," Julian gigged.
Sighing at my super hearing family, I stood and shuffled off to the kitchen, stretching languidly with each step. Teren smiled at me as I stepped through the archway into the room. "Yes, Julian, she sure is. "
He raised his eyebrows suggestively, and I bit my lip, knowing he was not talking about what Julian thought he was talking about. Being that there were impressionable little vampires in the room, I couldn't even smack him for his dirty talk. Flushing slightly, I settled with discreetly pinching his butt.
"Am not," I muttered as I kissed his neck.
The kids clamored around our legs as Teren tested the blood then poured some into two sippy cups. "Are too," he muttered back, adding, "and it drives me crazy. "
Blushing even more, I pinched him a little harder.
He chuckled but didn't act like I was hurting him in any way. Nika looked up at him, her dark brown eyes a mirror image of mine. "What's cr. . a. . zy?"
Teren laughed softly as he handed her a bright pink cup. "Nothing, sweetheart. Drink up, it's almost bedtime. "
She grabbed the cup and swished it back eagerly. Teren handed a light blue one to an also eager Julian and the both of them were silent for a moment as they enjoyed their dessert. Teren made tall glasses for us and we clinked romantically before tipping them back as well.
The smell hit me first - heavenly, heady, life-giving. Then the taste - sweeter than you'd think, like candy, but with an interesting tang to it. The vampire in me growled in contentment, a similar noise echoing from Teren. Pausing in my drink, I watched him. His fangs had dropped down and noticing me staring, he took a second to flick his tongue over one. It was unbelievably hot. I had to look away.
Glancing down at our kids, I watched their little fanged faces. Julian smiled around his cup as he looked up at me, his fangs tiny, little more than slightly elongated and sharpened canines.
Smiling, I looked over at the carbon copy of me. Her hair was still lighter than my current dark shade, but my mom assured me that Nika's sandy brown hair was exactly the color mine had been at her age. She smiled up at me too. Opening her mouth with a long "aw" sound, I could see the red of blood on her tongue and her small, dainty fangs.
It had surprised me, but their fangs had been the first teeth to come in, and they'd come in as a matched set, both breaking through the skin at the same time. For a couple of months, they'd both sort of looked like they had serpentine mouths. It had been pretty humorous and I'd often wished I'd been able to take a picture of it. But, until the other teeth had dropped down around them, it had just been too obvious what they were.
I grabbed their cups as they finished them, rinsing them out and putting them in the dishwasher. Teren kissed my neck. His still extended fangs grazed the tender surface, making a shiver run down my spine that had nothing to do with the chill of his lips.
Giving him a warning glance to behave himself, I watched him chuckle at me and slip his teeth away. My exceedingly normal looking husband then scooped a child in each arm, plopping them over his shoulders. They laughed at first, then started to squirm in protest when they realized that he was getting them ready for bed. I kissed each pouting face before he shuffled off with them.
At the stairs I heard, "No, nigh-nigh, Daddy," from Nika, and, "I want Mommy," from Julian.
Calmly, Teren replied with, "If you two are really good, I'll tell you stories. "
They instantly quieted. "Mommy and Daddy stories?" Nika asked.
I heard Teren set them down upstairs, heard their soft feet scramble to find their pajamas. "Yep, Mommy and Daddy stories. "
I finished cleaning up the remnants of the day in the kitchen, then lickety-split cleaned up the rest of the house. Picking up broken crayons, missing puzzles pieces, and small piles of goldfish crackers was quick work when you could move at nearly the speed of light.
As I was putting the tricycle back outside for the hundredth time, I heard Teren trying to convince the kids that brushing their teeth was fun. Laughing at his attempt, I slowly made my way upstairs. By the time I got to the bathroom, he'd convinced Nika to give it a try. Julian had clamped his mouth shut though. They didn't like the brushes sweeping across their sensitive fangs. I understood. Even retracted, they were just more attuned to vibrations and movements than the teeth around them.
Shaking my head at Julian, I squatted in front of him. "I know it feels weird, honey, but it's important. " Raising an eyebrow, I very seriously added, "You wouldn't want your fangs to fall out, would you?"
His little eyes opening wide, his mouth soon followed suit. Teren gave me a wry smile as I scrubbed Julian's teeth to a pearly white.
As soon as we were done, they stormed off to their room. Since birth they'd shared one, at the far end of the hall from ours. We'd talked about splitting them up, but they preferred to be together for now and we let them. We were pretty sure that they would let us know when they were ready for their independence from each other. And surely, by puberty, they would want independence from each other.
Following them, we entered their jungle playland room. While I'd been recovering at the ranch after having them, Teren's mother and grandmother had snuck over here and decorated the place. And while I loathed painting, and had no artistic abilities whatsoever, those vampiric girls were quite incredible at it. They had painted the room like it was a work of art: light green rolling hills, blue sky with fluffy white clouds, huge trees with branches that extended from one corner to another. And living in the world they'd created, was just about every jungle animal you could imagine - elephants, tigers, and the kids' favorite, monkeys. It was perfect and amazing, and that was just the walls. They'd completed the look with toys, curtains, bedding, lamps, play rugs - everything you could ask for to give your child a dream bedroom.
I was seriously considering telling Alanna and Imogen to forsake the family business and go into interior decorating.
Teren settled on the floor with them as they begged for which tales they wanted to hear. Teren loved to tell them bedtime stories and he usually told them things that had actually hap
pened to us. Of course, he would turn our scarier stories into fairy tales, so they wouldn't give the children nightmares - the evil troll stealing the valiant prince and the brave princess, the jealous monster putting the princess into a deep sleep, and the prince awakening her with a kiss. But the family stories he told just as they'd happened. And the twins' favorite story was one that I sort of wished he'd never told them. It was kind of an embarrassing moment for me. But Teren had a thing for the memory, and repeated it often.
"Five years ago, on a beautiful, sunny spring day, I met the most beautiful creature on earth. She had the longest, prettiest, dark brown hair. It glowed in the sunshine, like she was an angel. Her beauty stole my breath. I'd never seen someone who looked so. . . perfect. Her eyes were a warm, deep brown and as our gazes locked on that busy sidewalk, it took me exactly one second to fall madly in love with her. "
He paused dramatically, and the twins, already knowing what was coming, started giggling. I contained a sigh. "Then. . . one second later, she smashed right into me, pouring her boiling hot coffee down the front of my shirt. "
A chorus of laughter went around the room and I rolled my eyes and shook my head at my husband. He laughed with the twins as they sat on either side of his lap, all of them thoroughly enjoying the story that he'd told them umpteen times before - the story of how we'd first met.
He glanced at me, leaning on the doorframe with my arms crossed over my chest, and smiled. It was one of those half-smiles that spoke volumes of how much he adored me, regardless of his never-ending teasing about our first encounter. I gave him a twisted smile, feigning displeasure. He grinned even wider, seeing right through it. He knew I loved the image of him sitting with our children, sharing our history with them. And with our sometimes terrifying history, my moment of clumsiness was a preferable thing for him to share with them. Some stories just couldn't be watered down into fairy tales.
Nika's little hands came up to clutch his face, bringing his attention back to her, where she preferred it. She was Daddy's little girl, down to the core, and she had him wrapped around her finger so tight, I didn't know how they'd ever separate. Her shoulder-length hair shifted around her as she leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the nose. "Then what, Daddy?"
Teren laughed and nuzzled his face in hers, the scruff of his stubble making her giggle and flinch away from him. On his other leg, Julian clapped his hands together. "More, Daddy!"
Teren looked over at his son, and in that instant as I watched them, it was like watching Teren look into a mirror. With pale blue eyes and thick, black hair, like the rest of the Adams group, Julian was so much like Teren that it hurt my heart sometimes. My eyes, being slightly more enhanced than the average human's, could see the miniscule variations that made Julian distinctly different from his father, but to everyone they met, they were near twins. Or would be one day, when Julian grew into a man.
But right now, he was his Daddy's little boy, and he and Teren shared a look that only a father and son can share. As he rubbed Julian's back, he continued with his tale. "Well, as my chest was burning, the most beautiful woman in the world began to try and clean up the mess with the one lone paper napkin that she had in her hand. It was much too small to do anything, but she had the most adorable look on her face as she tried, so I let her keep feeling like she was helping. It's always nice to let others feel helpful. "
He looked up at me and laughed a little. Julian and Nika looked up at me too, giggling. With a wry smile, Teren said, "The woman looked so upset that she'd lost her favorite treat. " He tilted his head at me as the twins giggled and cuddled into his side. Enfolding them both in a hug, he said, "And she looked horribly embarrassed that she'd run into me. "
Nika peeked up at him lovingly. "What happened next, Daddy?"
Teren smiled down at her and kissed her head. "You've heard this story so many times, you probably know it better than I do. What do you think happened?"
Nika sat up straight and clasped her hands together, holding them to her chest. "You kissed Mommy!" she exclaimed merrily, sighing a little. I couldn't help but laugh and shake my head at her. Just a few months shy of being four, and she was already a romantic.
Teren laughed too and was about to comment, but Julian across from her piped up. "No, Mommy ran away. " Julian smiled, looking happy that he'd remembered the story correctly.
I raised my eyebrows at Teren, who laughed at my face. "Well, I wouldn't say she ran away, but, yes, she left in a hurry. "
I shook my head and looked at the floor, remembering that day. So much had changed after that afternoon. I learned that vampires were real. I fell in love with one and decided to stay with him, regardless of the drawbacks, because he was worth every single one of them. I decided to try and have his children, before it was too late for him to create them. I stayed by his side as he prepared to changeover from a living vampire to a dead one. I even killed for him, to help him complete his conversion and to save us both.
Then things had settled. We'd had a dreamlike few months, where nearly everything was perfect. We discovered I was pregnant, with twins no less. We got married in an ideal ceremony at his parents' place, a ranch where the vampires could leave in peace, without fear of being discovered. Teren and I had anxiously been awaiting our new arrivals, when quite unexpectedly - as most tragedies are - I was attacked by that jerk vampire who'd felt slighted. He'd bitten me for no better reason than to hurt Teren, because he'd felt Teren had been inhospitable to him, by not allowing him to "hunt" wherever he wanted.
That vampire had changed my happy family irrevocably. But I suppose, in a way, since everything had worked out, that strange man had completed our family too, giving us the chance to spend the rest of our unnaturally long lives. . . together.
Nika, remembering how the story went now, looked over at me reminiscing by the door and clapped her hands. "Mommy had a magic card for Daddy. "
I smiled at my daughter's fanciful imagination and Teren laughed and grinned. "I suppose it was magic, because when I called her, and asked her if I could get her another treat, do you know what she said?"
Julian piped up, raising his hand in the air, and looking over at me, his pale eyes joyous that he knew the answer. Much like his father, Julian always liked to have the answer. "Yes!" he pronounced.
Nika giggled. "And, I love you. "
Teren laughed again and rustled her hair. "No, not yet, sweetheart. "
Leaning into her, he peeked up at me, his eyes overflowing with warmth and love. "The most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, agreed to meet with me, agreed to have dinner with me, and over time, agreed to marry me. " He smiled widely as he whispered that.
Nika and Julian, both recognizing the end of Teren's story, clapped their hands and squealed. "Again, Daddy!" they said at the same time.
Teren laughed and began shifting children off his lap. "I've told you that story at least ten times this week. Aren't you sick of it?"
As he set Nika on the floor, she grabbed his hand, shaking her head. "Again, Daddy. "
Setting Julian beside her, Teren stood up. Julian grabbed his other hand. "Daddy, again!"
Teren looked up at me. Smiling at him, I walked into the room and placed a loving kiss upon each tiny head. Standing in front of Teren, who now had a child attached to each leg, I whispered, "Go ahead. I'll just be waiting for you. . . in bed. . . minus these. " I pulled at my clothes suggestively.
Teren groaned and eyed me up and down in a way that made my still beating heart race. He groaned again, hearing it. Shifting his attention to the miniature beings attached to his body, he lightly patted their backs. "Okay, one more and then it's bedtime. "
He looked up at me while they squealed and dashed to their side-by-side beds. "Mommy and Daddy need to snuggle. "
I chuckled at him and gave him a teasingly light kiss. He closed his eyes and his breath was faster when I pulled away. Smiling to myself, I turned my back on him, tucked my pajama
-clad children into their covers, washing them in kisses that had them squealing in delight, and then left him to his repeat story telling. I was fairly certain that this time he'd breeze through the story without letting them participate.
Teren's deep voice filled the room as I left it, and looking back at the trio, I smiled at Nika and Julian holding hands across the short distance between their beds. It wasn't unusual for them to fall asleep that way and on occasion, they were still like that when they woke up.
After giving myself my daily shot, a sting that I was completely used to now, I got ready for bed. Sliding under our cool covers, I kept my seductive promise and didn't bother with any pajamas. Teren and I didn't get to have "snuggle" time as often as I'd have preferred, but we tried to make it work. Having children with super hearing could put a damper on your love life. Now that they were more aware, we generally avoided doing anything while they were awake.
Especially after a particularly embarrassing time when they had heard us. . .
They had been about two and a half, and we hadn't thought much about plopping in a movie for them and disappearing into for bedroom for a little. . . reconnecting. We thought about it after the movie though, when Nika and Julian both had concerned and slightly scared looks on their faces. They'd run up to me after I'd gone in to check on them, and wouldn't let me go. It had taken some deciphering of their disjointed language, but I'd finally understood that they'd heard everything, and they'd thought I was in pain.
Yeah, that sort of killed the mood for me for a long time. Of course, Teren thought it was hilarious, and didn't see a problem with just explaining to them what we'd been doing. I. . . just could not do that yet.
We eventually came up with the compromise to at least hold off on being intimate until they were sleeping. And really, since their language skills had improved dramatically in the year since that encounter, I really didn't need them telling any of our family members that Mommy made funny noises in the bedroom with Daddy. Just the thought of them saying that to Halina made my cheeks heat.
A cool body blurred into bed with me, chilly arms wrapping around my waist as a stubbled jaw nestled in my throat. I sighed contently, twisting my legs up with his; he was just as bare as I was. Knowing where this was going, the anticipation of it started surging through me, but the two toddlers talking through the walls helped to contain my fire.
Teren's cool palms slid over my skin, sending a trail of goose bumps across my flesh. "We could try being quiet," he murmured in my ear, his voice low and husky.
I knew by "we," he meant me. I bit my lip and considered it. Silent lovemaking wasn't impossible, just really, really difficult, especially when the object of your affection was a super hot vampire. There was just something about that combination that evaporated any thought of holding back. Plus, I had my own vampiric impulses to consider. I didn't think I could keep a low growl from rumbling up my chest, and who knows what the kids would think about that.
Sighing, I pushed him back. "They'll fall asleep soon," I whispered, my hand cupping his cheek.
He grinned at me crookedly and shook his head. "While I wish we had more time together like this. . . I do love that you know you'll be uncontainable. " He raised his eyebrows. "Knowing that makes the wait worthwhile. "
I giggled and squeezed him tight, pressing my lips softly to his. . . softly and carefully. The boy was a fabulous kisser and I didn't want to get carried away with that just yet. "Well, I'll try not to fall asleep before they do," I murmured against his lips.
He chuckled in his throat, his hands running over my hips, teasingly refraining from pulling us together.
Sighing as his chest against mine started to warm, I pulled back to gaze at him. "Do you have to keep telling them that story?"
He smiled and relaxed back on the pillows. "It's a good story, they love it. "
I rolled my eyes. "It's embarrassing. "
He twisted back to me, a finger running through a long strand of my dark hair. "Nothing about you is embarrassing. " His eyes flicked down the silhouette of my body under the sheets, the phosphorescent glow of the whites of his eyes highlighting every contour of my body. It made my heart beat faster, made my skin ignite.
Hearing me, he brought those glowing orbs back to mine. He'd told me once that the vampiric glowing eyes were to help subdue prey, as if they needed the extra help, but staring into his, there was a calming, almost hypnotic aspect to them. Watching his face being highlighted by the glow of my own eyes, I wondered if he felt that too.
I'd been worried at first about the glow. It's not something you can shut off, and I'd inherited it along with my teeth, hearing and speed. But it was only evident in perfectly dark places, like our bedroom. In the outside world, it was masked by the light pollution in the sky. It was the only time, I'm sure, that pollution of any kind came in handy.
I smiled as I let his peace absorb into me. Hearing the children repeat Teren's tale with the own twists to the story, mainly a dog that could fly and a mailbox that talked, I considered the fact that their eyes hadn't shown any trace of a glow yet.
We'd tested them nearly instantly, walking them into the darkest room in the house. I'd felt like I was nine again, testing out my glow-in-the-dark t-shirt, but as we'd stared down at them with our own headlights, nothing had shown back. The women all assured me that Teren's was instant, and that the trait must not have carried over to them. They were all extremely excited to see an aspect of the vampirism fade in the lineage. It was what they were striving for - full humans. We knew that was a goal that would probably take several generations, but just the fact that my children's eyes were perfectly normal, made it seem like an obtainable one. But really, as a mother, I was just grateful that they had one less thing to worry about in their lives.
Cocking his head at me, Teren leaned in to restart the soft kissing. "You're beautiful, Emma. I want our kids to know how I see you. " His speech against my lips vibrated into my sensitive skin. I nearly tasted the words.
Running my hands through his hair, the sound of the sliding strands apparent, even under our quickening breaths, I murmured, "You amaze me, how you see me. "
Into my ear he breathed, "And I see better than almost everyone, Emma. "
I bit my lip as I contained a groan. Pushing him back so I could stare at his calm-inducing eyes again, I listened for the telltale sounds of sleep from down the hall - all I heard was a chorus of ABCs. Sighing, I ran my finger across his lips. "Well, I at least appreciate how romantic you make the story. " I smiled and shook my head. "It's not nearly that romantic in my memory. "
He sat back on his elbow, smiling over at me. "Nearly every memory I have of you is romantic, in some way. "
I laughed lightly, sitting back as well. "Even when I'm chucking things at you?"
He grinned and leaned in to kiss my collar bone. "Especially when you're chucking things at me. " He raised an eyebrow before trailing his lips up my neck. "You're hot when you're feisty. "
I exhaled in a way I shouldn't as his cool breath washed along the vein in my throat. "You make me feel like the most beautiful woman on earth," I whispered.
He stopped sucking on my earlobe to look at me. "Good, because you are. " I leaned over to kiss him, nearly not caring that my kids had moved on to practicing their numbers, but he spoke before I could make the connection. "Well, almost. "
I pulled back and cocked an eyebrow at him. He laughed at the look on my face and then shook his head. "I think our daughter may surpass even you one day. " He smiled warmly at the thought, a look of pride on his face.
A sudden rush of emotion hit me and I felt my eyes sting. "Not surprising. . . since she's half you. "
I swallowed back the sudden lump in my throat while he cupped my cheek. "I love you, Emma. . . for always. "
I could only nod and find his mouth, needing that connection to temper the overwhelming love that I felt for him. Some couples claimed that ha
ving children dampened the love they felt for their spouse, but it had had the opposite effect for Teren and I. If possible, I loved him even more now. So much so, that I couldn't believe I'd ever been okay with his one day living without me. Maybe it was selfish of me, but I didn't ever want him to be without me.
As I melted into his arms, I finally heard loud yawns coming from the twins' room. I smiled into Teren's skin, his body nearly lukewarm from so much exposure to mine. Yawning was the precursor to sleep for our children. And their sleep was the precursor to our awakening.
As Teren rolled me to my back, propping himself on top of me, I heard a sound that I heard every night. And every night, it made my heart expand in a way that seemed physically impossible, like surely that frail organ should have busted wide open from the level of warmth and tenderness that rushed into it on a daily basis.
From across the hall, my vampiric ears clearly heard my children saying goodbye to the day, saying goodbye to each other. As always, it brought tears to my eyes.
"Night, Nick, love you. "
"Night, Julie, love you too. "