BloodlinesS. C. Stephens
Chapter 1 A New Life. . . or Two
Seven months. That was the last time my life was completely normal. So much can change in such a short amount of time. Back then, I'd been relatively content with my life - great friends, great family, great job. Okay, a promising potential for a great job. But an emptiness had been with me too. If I was going to be honest with myself, I was lonely, very lonely. Not that I'd never dated, I had, but I'd never felt connected with any of them. Not the investment banker, who would only talk about the changing stock market climate, not the yoga instructor, who tried to convert me to veganism daily, and definitely not the pretty-boy model, who, as I discovered one day when I walked in on him, wasn't aware of the definition of monogamy.
Yes, they were all normal and none of them for me. My knight in shining armor had ended up being a vampire, well, a little bit vampire, as he likes to put it. His great-grandmother had been turned into one while she was nine months pregnant. That change had brought on labor and she'd birthed her baby before the change completely affected the infant. His grandmother was born half-vampire. She had then gone on to marry a human and conceived and birthed a baby, before the vampirism had stopped her human heart and she became one of the walking dead. That baby, his mother, had also married a human and had a child, before her mortality was also claimed. That baby had grown up to be the man of my dreams, my partial vampire, who could walk around during the day in full sunshine and suck a cow dry at night - Teren Adams.
That man was now, unfortunately, part of the mysterious undead world as well. His "conversion" had just happened recently and it had been terrifying for both of us. We'd been abducted by some deranged lunatic who'd assumed that Teren was devoid of all humanity, just because he was partially a mythical creature, a mythical creature that had a reputation for being dangerous to humans - a reputation not completely undeserving. Vampires were dangerous and they did prey on humans. Full vampires were extremely dangerous - faster, stronger, and with extra abilities that the mixed breeds didn't have, like "trancing", a form of compulsion that could bend a human's will to their own. But taking a life was still a choice, even for full vampires, and Teren's family chose not to. Well, most of his family did. His grandmother had made a couple mistakes in her vampiric youth. . . and his great-grandmother, well, she killed because she wanted to. She killed people that most of society would deem as deserving of such a death, but still, it was one thing to think that, and quite another to know it was happening. . . and who was doing it.
Not that I had room to talk anymore. I'd taken a life. It had been the only way to get us both safely away from our abductor. It had been survival - us or him - but it haunted me nonetheless. And, being honest with myself again, I'd struck an incapacitated man, exposing his blood to the air so my near-death, starved vampire would eat. I'd made the choice between a madman and the love of my life. And while the act itself walked my nightmares, the choice did not. Given the same situation again, I'd choose to take the same actions. I'd choose Teren Adams every time. No contest.
And I had chosen him. . . for the rest of my mortal life. We were engaged. I was going to walk down the aisle and marry this amazing man, who no longer had a heartbeat. But that fact didn't bother me anymore. It was inconsequential. I didn't know where love came from, but it didn't come from that organ. Teren's may be still and lifeless, but his love for me truly knew no bounds. We'd do anything for each other. We already had. I'd killed and Teren had chosen not to - even though every part of his body had been screaming at him to take my blood, he'd chosen not to.
That was one quirky little side effect of his conversion. . . hunger. No, that just isn't a strong enough word to describe the level of thirst attacking his body. It wasn't just that he could use a little something to eat. No, it was a primal, animalistic need to devour - to consume everything in his path until he was satiated. And I'd been forced directly into his path. Yet somehow, somehow he'd resisted that life or death urge to drink my blood. He'd refused me. . . he'd even refused our attacker, instead choosing to die. Choosing death over taking the life of another. That was my man and that was why I had no fear of becoming his wife. . . and the mother of his children.
That was another obstacle that had been placed in our way. He could only give me a child while he was still human, still producing human hormones and nutrients that were vital to giving life, even on the male end of things. I'd resisted his family's pressure for us to conceive at first, and really, I don't think I could be blamed for that. They'd practically shoved the idea of a baby down my throat upon our first visit to their home, a sprawling ranch near the base of Mount Diablo, an "open air pantry" as Teren referred to it.
I'd been angry when I first heard their plan for us. Of course, the way I'd found out hadn't exactly been subtle or welcoming. The idea had practically been an ultimatum - do this or we'll find someone else who will. But Teren and I had only been together one month at the time and I may have been dating a vampire, but I wasn't crazy. I wasn't having a kid with a virtual stranger, just because some insistent, black-haired bloodsuckers told me to.
I'd broken up with Teren after that. The news, combined with the fact that he was slated to die within the year, had just been too much for my sensible head. I couldn't process it and I'd left him. That hadn't lasted long though. The pull I'd felt to him was entirely too great, and I hadn't even made it a week before I was rushing back to his arms. It had taken a couple months after that, but I'd eventually agreed to have his child. And boy, once we had agreed to it, we attempted to make it happen with zealotry. Of course, being under the proverbial gun will do that to you. We'd only had a few months until he'd be incapable of making a baby, and we didn't waste any precious time trying.
Even still, we'd thought we'd failed. I hadn't believed I was pregnant when the cruel man who'd absconded with us had injected Teren with some strange liquid he'd created, a liquid that had forced Teren to change. At that moment, I thought I'd lost Teren, and any chance of having his baby. But through some miracle, or maybe fate, I had been pregnant and just not realized it yet. It was weeks later when Teren had been the first of us to realize it. In a moment of intimacy, he'd heard the tiny, fast and fluttery heartbeat with those amazingly perceptive ears of his. He hadn't understood at first and the beats had been odd to him, until he'd understood why. He hadn't been hearing one heartbeat. . . he'd been hearing two. My amazing man had not only managed to knock me up in time, he'd knocked me up twice.
So here I was - a twenty-five year old human girl, hopelessly in love with a twenty-six year old dead vampire, a fact that no one besides my sister knew, and getting married within the month to him, so that I was his wife in every sense of the word before our vampiric twins arrived - a fact that absolutely no one outside of his family knew about.
Should be interesting.
"Teren?" I loudly called over my shoulder, pushing aside my sudden flood of memories.
He instantly breezed into the room, a toothbrush in hand and a disgruntled expression on his face. "You don't need to yell, Emma. "
I smiled at his irritated look, realizing that he was right. If I needed to speak with him, I really didn't have to put much more effort into it other than just talking as if he were in the room right beside me, and not where he had been, in the opulent bathroom adjoining his parents' "guest" bedroom. Super ears. One of his many vampiric traits and one that made living in a house full of vampires feel sort of like we all shared one communal bedroom. Not exactly an aphrodisiac.
"Sorry," I whispered.
He shook his head and smiled at me. "What is it?" he asked, before sticking the toothbrush back in his mouth and continuing to brush those pearly, pointy whites. I watched him for a second, amused that even the undead cared a
bout oral hygiene, and wondering if he flicked out his super long canines when he brushed. I'd never seen him do it, but that didn't mean he didn't.
Remembering what I wanted to talk to him about, I frowned. "Are you sure about this?" I sat on the edge of the most luxurious king-sized bed known to man and put my hands back on the satiny sheets. We'd just gotten up from a recent tumble on those sheets and hadn't gotten around to making the bed yet. As Teren's athletic body walked around the edge of the bed to sit beside mine, I briefly considered dragging him down for another tumble on those sheets, super ears be damned.
He sat down beside me, removing his toothbrush and setting it on the nightstand. Putting a hand on my knee he turned back to me with a furrowed brow. "What do you mean?" His hand went to my stomach and his incredible, pale blue eyes followed the movement. His fingers traced a wide oval over the top of my t-shirt and I smiled at the look of peace on his face.
Since we'd found out I was pregnant a week ago, on Teren's birthday, he'd started touching me like this often. He looked almost reverent whenever he did it. He'd resisted the idea of having children, of bringing more partial vampires into the world, but now, I think he was more in love with the idea than I was. And I was pretty in love. As my eyes dropped to watch his fingers lovingly caress my soon-to-be expanded stomach, I started to wonder what our children would look like. Would they have my wavy, brown hair and light brown eyes, or would they stick to the Adams genes and have pitch-black hair and startling blue eyes. As I considered that every child born into Teren's family had inherited the dark hair/light eyes combo (along with pointy teeth and a hunger for plasma), I started to think that the odds were pretty good that they'd look exactly like Teren. I was completely fine with that.
His calm eyes looked up and swept over my face. "Do you mean having children. . . or getting married?" He cocked an eyebrow and grinned crookedly. "Because, it's a little late for both. Or so I've been told. "
I grinned at the reference to the sort-of ultimatum I'd given him when I'd found out I was pregnant. In not so many words, I'd basically told him if I was having his kids, he was putting a ring on my finger. He'd been fine with that, as I knew he would be. I lightly smacked his shoulder. He laughed and I frowned, remembering, yet again, my real question. "No, going back to San Francisco, going back to work and people and. . . life. "
He leaned back and blinked. "Yeah. . . why wouldn't I want to go back?"
I cocked my head at him, giving him an incredulous look. "Um. . . because you died?"
He gave me a cocky, lopsided grin and I resisted the urge to pull him on top of me. "It will be fine, Emma. " He laughed and shook his head. "No one will know my heart isn't what is keeping me upright. "
I frowned as I considered that, wondering what exactly in his vampire blood was animating him, but then shoved that thought aside. It didn't matter. Something was keeping him here with me and that's all I needed to know. I sighed and hoped rejoining the world was as seamless as he made it sound.
His hand left my stomach and came around to my hip, squeezing me softly. "You're stressing. . . it will be fine. " I sighed again, knowing he could read my body without me even having to say a word. My pulse, my sweat, my smell, everything about me gave me away, especially now, since his already sensitive senses were heightened. He'd only changed over a few weeks ago, but he'd already gotten good at honing into my moods, memorizing what the different indicators meant when combined together. That helped to skip a few steps when I was ready for some. . . loving, but it could be a little annoying when I wanted to stress without him bugging me about it.
He sighed and brought his hand to my cheek. As always, his cool skin gave me a slight shiver before I adapted to it. "What do you see when you look at me, Emma?"
My lips twisted into a wry grin. "A sexy, baby daddy corpse. "
He rolled his eyes and shook his head, his hand on my cheek moving to run back through my hair. "If you didn't know about the walking dead part. "
I laughed and bit my lip as I studied the attractive man beside me. Finally, I sighed and ran a hand down his chest, his skin cold to the touch, even through his t-shirt. "I see a smart, successful, funny, attractive, twenty-something year old man, who nearly glows with life and vitality. " I cocked my head at him. "You're quite a catch. "
He chuckled and leaned into me, placing his lips gently on mine. "You are too," he whispered, his cool lips brushing against my warm ones. My heart started beating faster and he smiled wider at hearing it. He pulled away, looking satisfied. "It will be fine. "
I frowned, both at the nagging doubt in my head and the absence of his lips. "But. . . what are you going to do at work?"
Teren worked for Gate magazine, as a writer in the life and style section. Several San Franciscoans were learning how to enjoy day-to-day living in the beautiful City by the Bay from a dead man. I loved the irony in that. He appeared to love it too as an amused smile lit his face. "Well, I'm going to write fascinating and entertaining articles about daily life in beautiful San Fran. "
Funny. Teren had a bit of a smartass streak in him, one that I generally found amusing, but as I was sort of trying to have an earnest conversation, was currently starting to irritate me. He cocked his head and twisted his lips, reading the emotion on my face. "Everything will be just like it was before we left, Emma. " He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, that's not entirely true. I may tell everyone that I'm engaged. . . and about to be a dad. "
I straightened on the bed and grabbed his hand, squeezing it tight. "No, don't do that. "
He frowned at me and pulled away to look over my rigid posture. "Why not?" He leaned in, a devilish smile on his face. "Embarrassed?"
A small laugh escaped me against my will and relaxing, I lightly smacked his chest. "No. " I sighed and laid my head on his shoulder. "But, they'll want to shake your hand or something, to congratulate you. " My hand still enclosed in his tightened even more. I really didn't want anyone feeling that cool skin and getting suspicious.
Not sharing my concerns, Teren laughed and I sat up straight to glare at him. He grinned and shook his head. "So. . . "
I frowned at his still smiling face. "Well, you're not exactly room temperature. People are going to notice that. "
He frowned too. "I'm not going to be lovingly caressing my coworkers, Emma. It's mainly just me alone in an office all day, writing or researching. "
I frowned deeper at another smartass comment interrupting my semi-serious conversation. "What if they want to do that guy hug thing?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Guy hug thing?" I smacked his shoulder at the amusement on his face and he continued, ignoring my physicality. "It's still winter, I can explain the coldness away with the weather. " I opened my mouth to object and he raised a hand, stopping me. "I know, we live in California, it gets warm here, but, Emma, some people are just naturally cold. It will raise less suspicion than you think. "
I shook my head. "Still, even for a regular human, you're a cold man. "
He smirked at me and tilted his head at me. "Only on the outside. "
I sighed, remembering how his relaxed attitude about his secret had gotten us nearly killed before. He looked over my face and sighed too. "I know, Emma. I'll be careful. I won't touch people more than necessary. I'll fake breathing. I'll act completely human, just like I've always tried to. " His hand came back up to my cheek as my eyes started to water. His getting exposed again scared me more than I ever thought it was possible to be scared. "I will be careful. " He shook his head. "But I need this. . . I need to feel normal. " He squatted down to look me directly in the eye. "You know this. "
I sniffed, but a tear ran down my cheek anyway. I still had nightmares of that terrifying man who'd taken us, and what I'd done to escape him. A part of me never wanted to go back home. A part of me wanted to stay here, at his parents' ranch, safely surrounded by vampires that would die to protect me, and the children inside of me. And a part of me,
wanted to be stronger than the scared little girl that I was starting to sound like.
His thumb brushed away my tear and I exhaled slowly. I nodded and he leaned in to kiss me again. As he pulled away, one final objection poured from my mouth, "What if you need to eat?" That was one thing he definitely couldn't do around humans.
He grinned and shook his head. "I can get food, Emma. And I don't need to eat at work. I can wait until I'm home," his hand came down to rub my stomach again, "with you. "
I bit my lip at the thought of moving in with him as soon as we got back. That definitely made leaving here a bonus, but yet another thought struck me and I let it out, knowing it was better to have my fears verbalized than bottled up inside me. "What if you have to eat. . . with humans? A business lunch or something?"
He frowned and turned his head away from me. Maybe he hadn't thought about that yet. He didn't exactly have a functioning digestive tract anymore. He couldn't scarf down the bloody steaks he used to enjoy before his conversion. He stood and ran a hand through his hair. "Well. . . " He twisted to look at me still on the bed, watching him. He gave me a tired smile. "I'll think of something. "
I sighed, but let it drop. I couldn't expect him to have all the answers, but I did expect him to think of all of the questions. My hand drifted to my stomach, wishing I could hear their heartbeats like Teren sometimes could, wishing I could feel them move already, so I'd know they were okay. We had so much more to lose now, we both needed to be careful.
I stood and wrapped my arms around his trim waist. He sighed contently and pulled me in closer. I had to imagine that to him, I was sort of a heat source. I probably felt pretty good wrapped around him. That's what I liked to think, anyway. I closed my eyes and laid my head on his silent chest, happy that I could still do that, happy we were still together, despite all the odds.
I leaned up to kiss him, torn yet again on staying here a little longer (and tossing him down on that impressive bed) or getting back to the real world. I exhaled lightly as our lips moved together, the light stubble that he preferred to keep along his jaw line, wonderfully scratchy against my sensitive skin. It really wasn't much of a choice. We had to go back. For one, my "vacation" time was over. I'd exhausted every amount of paid time off I had, coming out to the ranch to help Teren through the scary process of converting. I needed to be back at work tomorrow morning.
That will be weird to go back to. I've been gone for over six weeks, just over seven really. From what my friend Tracey had told me over the phone, my boss had been going through temps like Kleenex. The most successful one had only made it a week. While it made me happy that my job at the accounting firm I worked at had missed me, I was also not looking forward to the mound of work I'd need to catch up on. I had a feeling I'd need another vacation soon.
Oh well, at least I had a wedding to look forward to planning. An impromptu wedding. A few weeks away from now wedding. We'd decided to get married the week before Christmas. . . which meant I had just about a month to get everything ready. But, since I did have a household of eager vampires waiting to help out, I was pretty sure it would go smoothly. Well, the planning anyway, I was still a little unsure of the actual ceremony. My family and a few close friends would be staying at the ranch for the wedding weekend. The ranch of mixed-vampires and that one impertinent full vampire. She was the one I was most worried about. Halina.
As Teren's kiss intensified, his cool hands slipping under my shirt and running up my bare back, I worried about the eldest vampire being in proximity to people close to me. I wasn't worried that she would hurt them, I was pretty sure she'd be on a tight leash, well, as tight a leash as you can keep on a vampire, but I was fairly certain she'd get a huge kick out of scaring the crap out of all of them. She immensely enjoyed intimidating people, and she sure intimidated the heck out of me.
And how would the vampires eat while my family was here? They usually sat at the table with Teren's human father, Jack, and drank blood from a carafe that kept it warm. They couldn't exactly do that with my mom and friends in the room. Especially since the tiniest amount of blood on their tongues made their fangs drop down. That was kind of a clue that even my mom would pick up on.
So, if eating at the table was out, I guess they'd be roaming the countryside for food, picking off some of their cattle in the farthest away fields. I felt a little bad about making them have to do that, although, it probably wasn't too big a deal for them. Even if Teren liked to deny it, all the vamps had an instinct to hunt, buried deep inside them. I'd seen them all do it, the night of Teren's conversion. Sure, they'd been hunting stupid cattle that hadn't even moved, but the look on their faces as they circled and attacked, well, it had been terrifying and exhilarating to watch.
Abruptly Teren pulled away from my mouth, his cool tongue breaking apart from mine. At the absence of his caress, my head snapped back to what we were currently doing. He twisted his lips and cocked an eyebrow at me. "Am I. . . bothering you?" he asked, annoyance and amusement in his voice.
I laughed and pulled him tighter, shaking my head. "No, I'm sorry. Just. . . being reflective today. "
He sighed as he looked me over; the crystal-clear blueness of his eyes in stark contrast to the darkness of his hair. "You're really still worried? Don't you want to be home?"
He looked down at the floor, to where I'm assuming his mother was, and then across the hall, to where I knew his grandmother was hiding out the daylight. Another vamp trait, or maybe it was just an Adams trait - they could all sense each other. It was more profound the closer they got, and while he stayed in the same house as them, he always knew exactly what rooms they were in. It came in handy sometimes, like when I needed to know where he was on this massive ranch - I only had to find the closest vamp and they could point me in the right direction. It also came in handy if say, we were kidnapped and driven to the middle of nowhere and I needed to drive us back to this ranch, only I had no clue where it was. Yeah, unfortunately, it also came in handy that way too.
Teren's eyes came back to mine. "Wouldn't you like to be somewhere. . . more private?"
My arms around his waist tightened and I sighed contentedly this time. "Yes, I would. I know. . . I'm stressing. It will be fine. "
He kissed my nose. "Yes, it will be. " He released me and grabbed our bags, tossing them on the bed and starting the process of packing. . . and it was a process, I'd brought a lot of stuff with me. Over his shoulder he tossed, "Besides, it's not like I'm going to be letting the guys at work lovingly rest their heads against my chest. " He turned and grinned back at me.
I smirked. "Funny. You better not let any of the women at work do that either. " I raised an eyebrow at him and then playfully walked up and smacked his ass.
He fully turned to me, his fangs dropping down as he did. "Careful, human. " His eyes flicked up and down me in a way that made my flesh heat, even standing a foot apart like we were. He cocked his head, listening to my heart start to beat faster. He looked so strong and powerful and just plain sexy, all vamped out like that, and I couldn't help but get a little turned on watching him. Of course, the pregnancy hormones flooding through my body may have had something to do with that too. He closed his eyes and inhaled. "Oh, Emma. . . we really should get going. "
He opened his eyes and I could clearly see the passion in them, it made my breath quicker. "Maybe you should go wait downstairs with my mom. I'm sure she'd love to make you something to eat. "
I smiled at his reaction to my reaction; we were both feeding each other's desires. "Maybe I'm not hungry for food just yet. Are you?" I stepped up to him, pressing my entire body along the length of his. He sucked in a quick (and unnecessary) breath as our parts lined up.
Slowly, and with a level of seductiveness that would have made any stripper proud, I pulled down the loose neckline of my shirt. It was stretchy enough that I successfully pulled it off my shoulder. I was talented enough that I grabbed my bra strap with it. Teren eyed
my bare shoulder with a passion derived from two instincts - the need to eat and the need to have sex. I lifted my shoulder to him, encouraging both.
A low growl came from deep in his chest, sending an ache straight through me. His eyes flicked to mine and he bared his teeth slightly, the edge of his lips curling into a self-assured smile. I felt the heat flood through me and I was pretty sure if he didn't put his hands on me soon, I might explode. Finally, one came around to my backside, pulling me even tighter to his oh-so-ready body. The other, came to the corner of my shirt, pulling it back farther. Then his lips lowered to my skin. Then his teeth pierced the flesh. Then he groaned deep and sucked hard, his hands pulling me against him. That was when I groaned and decided every thought in my head could wait until later. . . much later.
When our second tumble for the day on those sheets was finished, and I was spent and satisfied, I laid my head on his chest, hearing the echo of my still surging heartbeat through his skin. As his skin was slightly warmer after so much prolonged contact with mine, it was almost like he was alive again. I smiled as I listened to the reverberation. He sighed and stroked my hair, equally spent, but having no physical sign of exhaustion with him. I peeked up at his face, memorizing the soft, satisfied smile as he lay with his eyes closed. I rubbed a trace amount of blood off his lip, noting and immediately disregarding the slight ache in my shoulder. So worth it.
He smiled wider at my touch and kissed my fingers before they pulled away. I traced a lazy circular pattern in his chest as I debated getting up and getting ready for the day. . . again. I stretched in the silky sheets and debated staying in this bed. . . forever. Eventually he opened his eyes and stirred, seemingly torn as well.
I grinned and propped my elbows on his chest, holding him down, symbolically, if not physically. Physically, I had been no match for his strength before his changeover. Now, my gesture was as meaningless as a fly trying to hold down a horse. He stayed on his back and smiled up at me however, willing to play the role of captive, if only for me.
I cocked my head, my long hair brushing over his bare skin. "Do you feel different?"
He chuckled and tucked a piece of hair around my ear. "Yes. Now I feel tired. . . and very satisfied. " He practically purred those last words and a shiver went through me that had nothing to do with his other hand resting on the small of my back.
I playfully smacked his shoulder. "I wasn't talking about the sex, smartass. I was talking about your conversion. Do you feel different, now that you're dead?"
He chuckled at my reaction, knowing full well what I'd been talking about all along. Biting his lip, he looked up at the ceiling, his face more serious. "Actually, I do. " He lightly shook his head before bringing his eyes back to mine. "I wasn't expecting that, but, I feel. . . " he shrugged his shoulders, "more alive. "
My face scrunched into a confused look and he chuckled again. "I know, that sounds weird. But, it's true. I feel everything around me more intensely. " His eyes looked past me as he examined the world in a way I'd never really be able to. "I can differentiate every separate particle of the air. I can see colors I didn't even know existed before. I can hear sounds that have never been audible. " His eyes came back to mine. "And I can taste. . . " he inhaled and closed his eyes, "everything. " He opened them and gazed at me with a look of wonder on his face. "You wouldn't believe how beautiful the world is like this, Emma. "
He looked around the room again as I stroked his chest and tried to grasp how he saw the world, how he saw me. How odd that a being no longer living in the world, would feel more connected to it. I felt a little like old technology compared to him, like how a black and white TV must feel when it's placed beside an HD flat screen, if inanimate objects had feelings, of course.
He sighed and shook his head. "It's strange. It's like the senses swap around with each other. Like I can taste sound and hear color, and touch emotion. " His eyes came back to mine, wistfully. "I wish you could experience this. "
I sighed and sank my chin to his chest. Sometimes I wished that too, but there was just no guaranteed way to make me a partial vampire like him, and giving up all of my humanity, and having to live in shadows and darkness, just wasn't something I was willing to do. Plus, I couldn't right now anyway. Not with two lives inside of me, depending on my still beating heart to keep them alive and nourished.
I kissed his cooling skin, feeling the hard muscle encased beneath it. Laying my cheek down on that solid chest, I smiled up at him. "I'll just have to experience you. That's enough. " He smiled and kissed my forehead.
Eventually we did pick ourselves up and keep our hands off each other long enough to get all our stuff together. Hand in hand, we walked down an elaborate dual staircase, the kind of staircase that debutantes would be paraded down as they were announced to the world. The seemingly simple living vampires had a taste for the finer side of life. That made me smile, but I sort of understood it. In a way, Teren's family was kind of recluses, keeping to themselves and away from almost everyone else. If I never really left my home, I'd want it to be the best home money could buy too.
Smiling at each other, we walked into a sunny and bright with life dining room. Teren's father, Jack, was sipping his coffee at the table and reading a paper. He looked up at us when we entered the room. "Morning, kids. Just get up?"
I blushed faintly, knowing that Jack was the only one awake in the house not aware of how long Teren and I had been "up" and nodded in response. Teren chuckled and squeezed my hand, pulling out a chair for me with his other one.
Jack smiled at his son's gallantry and then went back to drinking his coffee, happily oblivious to our bedroom antics. I loved that about Jack and felt even closer to the man I considered a father figure in my life as well. He didn't look much like Teren, what with his brown but graying hair and warm brown eyes, but he was as warm and gentlemanly as his son, and Teren's manners were no great surprise after spending a little time around his role model.
Teren kissed my neck but didn't join me at the table. He usually didn't, not since he'd stopped eating. Being around food didn't bother him or anything, he just usually took the time while I was eating breakfast to visit with his mother or his grandmother, since just sitting there and watching me eat was a little boring.
I hadn't been seated for more than ten seconds before Teren's mother, Alanna, whisked out of the kitchen with a plate of food for me. She loved playing hostess and since she'd lost a human to feed when Teren died, I think she'd started making up for it by piling on the food for me. Even before she'd known I was expecting, she'd piled on the food, and now that she did know about it, that habit had gotten even worse and the plate before me was mammoth, loaded high with pancakes and a rich-looking molasses syrup. A mound of fresh fruit and about three sides of bacon made up the rest of the platter-sized plate. I knew better than to object though.
"Thank you, Al. . . Mom. " Alanna had insisted I treat her like family from day one. It was still an odd thing to do, but I was trying. I suppose it would feel more natural once we shared a common last name.
Alanna gave me a brilliant smile, her exact same shade of blue eyes as Teren, catching a shaft of morning light and sparkling in the rays. The sun didn't bother her, too much. She could be in it for short periods of time with no adverse consequences, unlike the other women. Teren's grandmother could tolerate being in a hazy with light room, but, although she wouldn't die from direct exposure, sunlight certainly hurt her. Halina, on the other hand, would fry to a crisp. She couldn't even be in a room with rays of light and stayed holed up in her underground lair until sundown. One of the downsides of vampirism. And one that faded with each mixed generation. It made me obscenely happy that our children would get to play in the park in the afternoons, just like all the other kids. I wanted to give them as normal a life as possible. I understood Teren's need to be like everyone else, so much better now.
Alanna swished over to her son's side, locking her arm around his.
Her long, black hair was free down her back except for two long strands in front that were pulled back from her face. Her black as night hair also perfectly matched her son's and as Teren smiled down at her, I could sense the deep connection they had. It was more than just a close mother/son bond. It was a species bond as well. Alanna completely understood her son, because she was exactly like him. She knew what it felt like to changeover. She understood his thirst. She shared his desire to keep their secret hidden. She saw the world in the same amazing way he did.
Their bond was so tight, I suppose it would make an ordinary wife-to-be jealous. I suppose I wasn't ordinary though. For me, it lightened my heart. I knew I wouldn't be a part of Teren's life forever, not with how long he could potentially live, and I wanted him to have strong bonds with other people, especially other people with an equally long lifespan. I didn't want him to be alone. . . ever.
Which meant I also had to be peacekeeper sometimes. For, as close as they were, Alanna and Teren were also a lot alike, and that meant they occasionally butted heads. Usually, it was because Alanna was trying to protect him, and he didn't feel like he needed to be. I tended to agree with Alanna; Teren could be a stubborn ass sometimes.
Looking up at him, Alanna spoke a phrase in another language. All the vampires could speak Russian, something Halina had taught them. She'd been born and raised there, having moved out here as a little girl. I guess it had pleased her to keep her native tongue alive, and she'd taught her daughter who had taught Alanna, who in turn taught Teren. Jack had told me he could pick out certain words and phrases, but foreign languages weren't as easy for him to grasp as it was for the vampires, and he'd never really felt the need to learn it. "Let them have their secret language," he'd jokingly told me once.
Not liking secrets, I was determined to be fluent in the complicated sounding language. I'd been picking up words and phrases as well, and from what I could tell, Alanna had just told her son "good morning" and then something that included the word "blood". I'd picked up that one early on, as they talked about blood a lot, for obvious reasons. He nodded at her and I figured she was just being a mom and letting him know there was food in the fridge, if he wanted some. Some things never change, regardless of species.
Turning back to my plate, suddenly ravenous, I picked up my fork and started, in a very unladylike way, shoving forkfuls of pancake into my mouth. Teren behind me chuckled and bent down to kiss my chipmunk-like full cheek. "You're hungry now, I see," he whispered in my ear.
I choked on my food, knowing his mom had just heard that. . . and knew exactly what he meant by it. I shot him a glare, my still full cheeks feeling hot. He gave me an innocent expression and I heard Alanna lightly laugh as she walked over to give Jack a kiss. Jack looked up at her laughter, but not understanding it, went back to reading his paper. I took the opportunity to smack Teren in the thigh.
He swiftly kissed my cheek again. "I'm going to get a little snack. " He gave me a not so innocent look. "I find myself completely drained this morning. "
I rolled my eyes and shook my head as he laughed again and turned to walk into the adjoining kitchen. I watched him leave, his body as lean, muscular and appealing in his worn-in jeans and long sleeve t-shirt, as it had been completely bare, and thought about him drinking in there. It didn't bother me like it used to. Obviously, since I let him do it from me, but, I did worry about him getting enough to eat when we went back home. I knew he'd never hurt anyone, his will power had been tested to the extremes a few weeks ago and he'd proven without a shadow of a doubt that he had an extraordinary level of control, but, I didn't want him to go hungry. I was a mom now too. Well, almost. But those instincts were there and I didn't want him to suffer. It's not like we'd be living on a ranch with plenty of opportunities for him to feed. He'd pretty much have to rely on buying small livestock at farmer's markets. He'd be eating a lot of chickens.
I focused back on my plate and tried not to worry about it. He could always run out here if he got really hungry. The ranch was about an hour from our home - in a car. On foot, Teren could probably make it in fifteen.
Teren was still in the kitchen, and I was halfway though my massive stack of cakes, when something weird happened to me. My stomach started to churn. I set my fork down and pressed a hand on my belly. A horrible, familiar sensation swept through me and I stood up. My head started to swim as well and I started to panic a little bit.
I knew the sensation rising in my stomach and throat - every person over the age of four recognizes it. My stomach was calling a halt to the act of eating, and was now going to "evacuate the pool", so to speak. I looked around, my hand coming up to my mouth to clasp it shut. My mind could only comprehend 'I don't feel good', and I couldn't think past that, to where the damn bathroom was in this massive home. Suddenly getting scared that I'd lose it on the expensive looking dining room table, I started backing up. . . and lightly crying.
Jack had just started to look up at me, when Teren instantly blurred into the room. His fangs were still out, his teeth slightly red from his breakfast, and his face extremely concerned. "Emma?" I knew he could sense my body's discomfort, but wouldn't know why. He looked a little terrified.
"Bathroom," I squeaked out under my hand. He heard and understood, picking me up and sweeping me down the hall to the other end of the house, where a bathroom fit for a queen was situated. I barely had time to note the stale air of a room that obviously was hardly ever used, before I dashed to the bowl and nosily launched my entire stomach contents into it.
Teren's cool hands came up to my back, feeling like heaven-sent icepacks on my suddenly overheated skin. He pulled aside my hair as I amazingly lost it again, and then he cupped my cheek, cleaning me off with a towel he'd grabbed at some point.
"Thanks," I muttered, as I leaned my face into his cool, wonderful skin.
"You alright?" The concern was thick in his voice and I opened my eyes to look at him. He sat on his knees beside me, looking like he wished he could do more for me. I understood feeling helpless, I had certainly felt that when he'd been horribly injured. Of course, that had been much more serious than morning sickness.
I smiled as my stomach settled and slung my arms around his cool neck, straddling his lap. His arms held me tight and I relaxed into the calming coolness. "Morning sickness," I whispered, loving those words and hating them at the same time. I didn't enjoy throwing up, but I did enjoy the reason I was throwing up. I looked up at him and grinned. "I don't think the kids like pancakes. "
He laughed and kissed my forehead, squeezing me a little tighter than he usually did. I must have looked pretty horrible, he still seemed pretty worried. "I'm fine, Teren. . . all normal pregnancy stuff. "
He rested his head against mine and nodded. "I know. . . I still worry about you though. "
I pulled back and put a hand on his cheek, understanding that as well. I constantly worried about him. "I know. "
He helped me stand and as we opened the elaborate door handle of the marble and gold leaf decorated room I'd just spewed in, Alanna stepped into the doorway with Teren's grandmother, Imogen, right behind her, cringing a bit in the too bright for her sunlight.
I smiled tiredly at their show of concern. "I'm fine," I immediately said, feeling a little stupid at everyone jumping up because I got sick. "Imogen, go rest upstairs, please. You shouldn't be down here. I'm fine, really. "
Imogen didn't look to buy my bravado. "Are you sure, dear? Is there anything we can do for you?" She wrung her hands as her face winced. The light in the hallway had been subdued with heavy curtains, most likely thanks to Alanna, but it was still causing the vampire pain.
To reassure her, and a nervous looking Alanna beside her, I quickly muttered that I was fine again and threw on a tired smile. With Teren supporting my elbow and helping me walk through the door, like I was partially invalid, I thought I probably looked pretty pathetic. Wanting them to feel okay about me, I straightened and stepped
away from him. He made to reach for me, but I gave him a warning glance. He understood and let me be, knowing I was no damsel in distress that needed my hand held because I'd gotten a little woozy.
Alanna and Imogen looked a little better as I walked as confidently from the room as I could, but I was feeling a little dehydrated and my hands shook a bit. They both followed me back to the dining room, Alanna darkening the room for her mom and Jack looking up at the assemblage parading me back to the table, most likely wondering what all the fuss was about. While I went from standing to sitting, Alanna swept away my plate and came back with a tall glass of water. I downed it, wishing they'd all stop worrying, but understanding why they were. What I carried was important, as important as a child was to anyone, but also important, because I carried the last of their line. Teren's dead body could no longer contribute to the making of new life, and these children would be the last I ever carried of his, the last I ever carried, period. If I lost them. . .
I couldn't even think about that.
After my water, my color came back and with reassuring pats and belly rubs, the vampire women finally left me alone. Teren squatted in front of me, his hands on my cheeks again as his sky blue eyes searched mine. "Let's go home," he whispered. I nodded into his hands, thinking that was the best plan I'd heard all morning.