Teren checked the flight times between Maine and California after we put the kids to bed. There was nothing direct, and with multiple layovers, and the hour or so flight from L.A. to San Francisco, the earliest she could show up was six or seven in the morning. But we really didn't know how long the vampire Gabriel sent would take to find her and compel her. And we didn't know if he'd told her to go home first and get some stuff, or if he'd just run into her on the street and told her to leave town. Hopefully the man was nice enough that he let her make some arrangements before she left. I'd feel horribly guilty if she lost her job because some vamp compelled her to haul up and abandon her responsibilities.
Teren wasn't happy that she'd been "forced" into making such an arduous trip, but I think the real reason for his snippiness as we lay in bed, was the fact that he was nervous about seeing her. While I'd briefly met her a few years ago, when I was pregnant, Teren hadn't seen her since high school. And the meeting was going to be an emotional one, I was pretty sure of that.
Sighing irritably, he snapped shut his computer and flung it on a chair. "It would be nice to know exactly what flight she was on, so we could meet her at the airport."
I rolled over on my side, placing a hand on his stomach; the muscles under his shirt were tense, even relaxing in bed. "It will be okay, Teren. Gabriel had her compelled to come all the way to you. She'll make it here."
He looked over at me, swallowing. "I'm sorry you have to go through this."
I blinked at him, sitting up on my elbow. The long strands of my hair curved around my arm and his fingers came up to stroke one; I could hear the silkiness sliding along his skin. "You're sorry for me? Why? This is going to be hard on you...not me."
He sighed softly, his eyes searching my face. I could see the guilt in his features and stroked my thumb over his cheek. "You are going to watch me reconnect with the first woman that I ever slept with, a woman that I accidentally got pregnant... I can't imagine that you're thrilled about it."
Pulling back a little, I twisted my lips. "Well, when you put it like that."
He exhaled heavily and turned his head from me, flopping the hand that had been stroking my hair over his eyes. I turned his face back to me, removing his arm. "I was joking. I know what this means for you, how difficult it is. I'm not going to let some petty jealousy stop me from being there to support you."
He shook his head, relaxing back into his pillows. "I'm still sorry. I should have taken care of this years ago."
My hand drifted from his face down his chest, lingering on his silent heart. "Yes, you should have." He frowned and I quickly added, "But I understand why you didn't." Sidling close to him, my other hand brushed the hair from his forehead. He smiled, slipping a cool arm around my waist. "You wanted someone important to you, to remember what you had together. That's very...human of you."
He smiled wider, pulling on my back. Knowing what he wanted, I lowered myself to his lips. Maybe it was his nerves, maybe it was the conversation, but he immediately shifted into I-want-sex mode and gently grabbed my head, angling me so our kiss was a deeply heated one. His other hand ran down over my backside, squeezing gently.
Grinning into his mouth, I wrapped my legs around his. He groaned as my hips pressed into his side, then shifted my body, pulling me on top of him. His breath heavier as we kissed, he muttered, "You're all I need, Emma. You're the only one I need to remember me."
I groaned as his hands pulled my ready body into his ready body. Hearing the breathy sounds of light slumber coming down the hall, my body ramped up its response. I wouldn't need to tone this down with our super-hearing children asleep. Grinding my hips into his, I mumbled, "I could never forget you, I will never forget you, husband."
Panting as we simulated what we were both yearning for, I heard a light whimper escape his lips. His hands started frantically pulling down the light sleep shorts I was wearing. "Emma, I need you. I just really need you."
Hearing the desperation in his voice, I helped his hands slide off my underwear. Not even bothering to shut off the light on his nightstand, we pulled off his pants and I settled myself over him. The word "please" passed his lips as his eyes closed in anticipation. Watching his face, I lowered myself onto him, groaning with relief as his coolness filled me. Even after all this time, it was still an incredible sensation.
As was my heat enclosed around him. His mouth fell open once we were connected. The desperation in his face relaxed, the rigidness in his muscles relaxing as well. I leaned over his body as we began moving together. His eyes still closed, his face euphoric, his hands clenched and released my hips at a steadily increasing pace. Understanding what he was silently requesting, I matched my hips with that rhythm, clenching him internally as I did.
His head dropped back as he made a noise that I prayed our sleeping children didn't hear. Attaching my lips to his neck, I whispered, "You like that, baby?" His only response was a quickly sucked in breath through his teeth. I let out my own groan that I prayed our little angels couldn't hear.
Feeling my husband's need beneath me made me feel even more connected to him. It nearly seemed that our bodies weren't separate forms, working together for a common goal. No, for that moment we seemed like one body. That feeling got especially intense when his hands came up my back and clutched me to him. I wrapped my arms and legs around him, holding him just as hard. Then we both buried our faces in the other's necks, crying out in unison as we came together.
Like most things with Teren, it was intense and emotional and made me feel like everything was going to be okay, because he had each other.
Softly panting into his friction-warmed body, I listened for any noise from down the hall. Not hearing any, I smiled and kissed his neck. Sliding over to his side, I left my legs wrapped around him. A content smile on his face, he peeked over at me. "Sorry, I just needed that."
I thumped his chest. "Are you seriously apologizing for amazing sex?"
Laughing lightly, he raised an eyebrow. "Amazing? I don't even feel like I did anything."
Feeling the lingering waves of bliss running through me, I smiled crookedly. "Maybe that's why it was amazing?"
He frowned at me, then laughed and shook his head, pulling me in for a tight hug. "I love you, thank you."
I pulled back again, kissing him softly. "You don't have to thank me for that, Teren."
He shook his head, his fingers tucking loose strands of my hair behind my ear. "I'm not. I'm thanking you for being so understanding...about Carrie." He sighed and shook his head again. "I don't think most women would be." He smiled softly, his earlier tension about her visit gone.
I sighed and kissed him again, loving how my enhanced senses could pinpoint the very flavor of his skin. "I just understand...you." He smiled, holding our faces together. I smiled at the peace I saw on his, then shrugged. "Besides, I haven't told you all of my skeletons."
He blinked and pulled back. "You have skeletons?" He grinned crookedly at me in a way that nearly made me want to crawl on top of him again.
Placing my lips against his, I murmured, "I have a myriad of secrets that you don't know about."
He chuckled against my mouth, rubbing our lips together. "I'm intrigued...do tell."
I smiled, then sighed. "Well, I never told you about the gang member that I dated briefly. Or the package that he had me take to a friend of his in Vegas, which I'm pretty sure held some illegal stuff in it." I twisted my lips and shrugged. Yeah, that relationship hadn't exactly been wise...or long lasted.
He pulled back further, his face a little surprised. "You were a drug runner?"
I chuckled at how he made it sound. "Only once. I broke up with him after that little trip."
He shook his head, pulling my body flush to his. "Interesting, anything else?"
Biting my lip, I looked down at his chest. "I actually did have a pregnancy scare once." His arms tightened and I looked back up at his perfectly emotionless face. I had to imagine that if he'd still had a heartbeat, it would be racing. I shook my head to reassure him. "I never was. I was just a lot later than usual."
I frowned as he relaxed in my arms. "The ass freaked out when I told him, told me I'd done it on purpose." Teren narrowed his eyes, obviously irritated at my jerk of an ex too. "I dumped him and my period started the next day...go figure." I laughed and he finally smiled at me.
Shaking his head, he shrugged a little. "You dated a lot more interesting people than I did. Mine mainly ran away screaming, once I told them the truth."
I raised my eyebrows. "Did you really tell them all?"
His face serious, he nodded. "After Carrie, I made sure that they all knew, as early as I felt I could tell them." Looking down, he sighed. "After that mess, I was scared off girls for awhile. I didn't date again until college." Peeking up at me, he smiled. "I think my family thought I didn't even like girls at that point."
I chuckled and ran a finger along the rough length of his jaw. "Who was the lucky girl who got you dating again?"
Smiling, he rested back on his pillows, his finger absentmindedly tracing random patterns in my skin. "Her name was Gwen. We met in the quad when she asked me directions to her class." He laughed lightly at his memory, staring up at our ceiling. "I had no idea where it was, but I faked it so I could talk to her."
I grinned, imagining a younger version of my husband trying to impress a girl. "Did you ever find her class?"
Swinging his eyes back to mine, he shook his head. "No, and we spent so long looking for it that she missed the class anyway." He shrugged. "We ended up having lunch instead."
Watching my charming husband smile at me, I thought that maybe Gwen had done that intentionally. I know I would have lied and blown off a class to spend an afternoon with him. "Cute. What happened with her?"
His smile faltered. "We dated for a few months...then she wanted to move into my dorm." He looked back up at the ceiling, the memory of that moment clearly not as pleasant as their first meeting. "I couldn't...without telling her first, so I did."
He pressed his lips into a firm line, his jaw tightening. "And?" I asked, my fingers running over the curve of his arm around me.
Twisting his head to me, he sighed softly. "She ran out crying...I never saw her again. I told Great-Gran it was over and she...handled it." He sighed again, his fingers coming up to tuck my hair behind my ear.
I frowned at the look on his face. "You really liked her, didn't you?"
He shrugged. "At the time, yeah. But she wasn't for me. I knew I couldn't be with someone who couldn't accept what I was, and she was only the first in a long line of girls who couldn't handle the truth." Pulling me tight, his mood lightened. "Only you handled it well." He smiled wryly. "I definitely never got to have sex with any of them afterwards."
I flushed and smacked his chest, remembering the evening that he'd first told me what he was. I may have been a little...eager to be with him. Well, he was the most attractive person I'd ever seen...inside and out. "Was I the only one you told by piercing my tongue with your teeth?"
He closed his eyes and shook his head. "God, that was embarrassing. I thought it was too soon to tell you the truth. I had no idea what to tell you. I was so frazzled, I couldn't even pull my teeth back up in time." I laughed at the memory and he peeked his eyes open.
Cupping my cheek, the cool metal of his wedding band rubbed against me, caressing me. "Yes. You were the only one that so absorbed me, I couldn't even concentrate on the one thing that was as natural to me as breathing. I couldn't pretend with you. That's how much you affect me."
I swallowed, feeling my face heat. Smiling at the color he saw there, he nestled his head in my hair. "Well...since we're having the exes discussion, I should probably tell you that I did date a vampire once."
I pushed him away from me, instantly remembering a conversation with Alanna about a couple of visiting female vampires. "I knew it! You so let that woman bite you!" Hearing my children stir in their beds, I quieted my voice. "Didn't you?"
His eyes widened as he stared at me. "You...know about that?"
I smirked and narrowed my eyes. "Yes, your mother mentioned it once."
He closed his eyes, then started to chuckle. "Ugh, God, I bet most men don't have to worry about their families discussing their sex lives." Peeking over at my twisted lips and narrowed eyes, he shrugged. "Just once...a tiny, tiny bite." I narrowed my eyes even more and he grimaced. "I was curious, surely you can understand that?"
I sighed, my lips curving into a small smile at the look on his face. We'd been through too much together for me to feel any jealousy over his past experiences. Besides, being a vampire now, and understanding the thrill of biting, I could see how he'd be curious about what being bitten felt like. I probably would have done the same thing if I'd been in his position. Raising an eyebrow, I calmly asked, "Did you bite her? Was she better tasting than me?"
My lips twitched as I tried to contain my amusement; I already knew that I was his first. Seeing the humor in my face, he pushed me to my back and hovered over me. "No one could possibly taste better than you." His eyes drifted down my body and I had the distinct feeling that he wasn't talking about my blood anymore. A different sort of flush washed over me. He smiled, sensing it.
As his fingers slid up my ribs, pushing up my shirt, I closed my eyes. "And no, you are the only woman I've ever penetrated. The only one I ever will penetrate." He huskily said that directly in my ear.
My breath picking up pace, I ran my hands up his back, taking off his shirt. "Did you like her teeth in you?" I asked, equally as huskily, only curious if he enjoyed the sensation as much as I did.
Settling himself on me, his lips started trailing down my body. Peeking down at him as he glanced up at me, I watched the desire building in the pale depth of his eyes. Shaking his head, he whispered, "No, I didn't really care for it...until you. I definitely never asked for it before you."
I groaned and he smiled cockily, his fangs sliding out. Groaning again, I muttered his name. Then I shut the light off and forgot all about our exes, vampiric or otherwise.
The next morning, I kissed Teren goodbye as I left for work. He'd decided to stay home with the kids, just in case Carrie showed up at the house. I hoped for his sake that she arrived later, so Halina could be on hand to instantly wipe her. And, later, so I could be there too. I really didn't relish the idea of him entertaining his ex all day long.
I pushed it out of my head when I got to work though. He would be a perfect gentlemen to Carrie if she did show up before I got home. And I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would be faithful to me. Unlike with some marriages, the question of either one of us straying wasn't an issue. We were eternal, bonded through blood. No one on this earth could break that connection. But I did want to be there, for support, if nothing else.
Wishing I could make time blur as quickly as I could, I nearly bumped into Tracey. The perky blonde excitedly grabbed my shoulders. "Get a babysitter for Saturday night. Ben and I are taking you out for your birthday."
I contained my groan. "Oh, really, I don't feel like making a fuss over this one. I just want a relaxing weekend with Teren and the kids."
She raised an eyebrow at me, her perfect lips frowning. "That is no way to celebrate turning thirty." She shook her head, crossing her arms over her chest. "Ben and I are taking you to a club and getting you sweaty and drunk." She smiled and tilted her head, a blonde curl swinging over her shoulder. "That is how you ring in a new decade."
I sighed and thought to argue with her, but I could hear my boss mutter something about a report that was missing from a file. Knowing I needed to take care of that, I shrugged at Tracey. "Whatever, Trace. We'll talk about it later, okay?"
She giggled and spun on her heel and I mentally sighed, knowing I was most likely going to a club for my birthday and not leaving that club until I was smashed.
Throughout the day I checked on Teren, texting him right in front of Clarice, since she could no longer bitch about those sorts of things to me. Every time, Teren responded instantly, telling me that she hadn't shown yet. By lunch, he started getting anxious about her safety. I did my best to reassure him that she was fine, but I wasn't really sure of that. We didn't know this vampire that Gabriel had sent to collect her and, trustworthy or not, something easily could have gone wrong.
By the end of my work day, when she still hadn't shown, I imagined that I could sense my husband pacing. I couldn't, the distance between us kept his location to me more generalized. I knew he was over in that direction, but until we reconnected, it wouldn't be distinct enough for me to feel the pacing. And I was pretty sure that's what I would be feeling when I got home - endless pacing.
That was all but confirmed for me when I pulled into the drive. His form blurred from upstairs to downstairs and back again. I frowned that he was using so much of his super-speed around our children. We generally tried to lead them by example. In fact, I could feel them starting and stopping with their own phasing movement as they copied him.
Slamming shut my door, so he'd break out of his cycle and realize that I was home, I muttered, "Stop that...calm down." I felt his presence pause downstairs, two little beings pausing with him.
Over the mutual giggle of our children, who were apparently enjoying their game with Daddy, I heard him sigh and sheepishly mutter, "Sorry...I just needed to burn off some energy."
I smiled as I walked to the front door, inhaling deep as the sense of homecoming I'd started to feel once I began heading in his direction crashed over me. Hoping the euphoria that I was feeling would farther calm my husband, I opened the door. He was standing right there, smiling at me so warmly, that I knew he'd finally let our bond distract him from his worry.
Amid the joint shouts of, "Mommy!" he walked over to me, exhaling with relief as his arms wrapped around me. As a twin each grabbed a leg, I wrapped my arms around him, my sigh equally content. Into my hair he muttered, "I love it when you come home."
Pulling back to look at him, I was glad that I could give him such comfort, just by approaching him. Cupping his cheek, I stroked the coarseness of his jaw with my thumb. "And I love coming home to you." I took about five more seconds to relish the completion of the bond with my husband, then my children pretty much demanded my attention.
Laughing as I scooped up the tiny beings trying to literally crawl up my legs, I heard Teren start to close the door behind me, then pause. The breathing that he mimicked so seamlessly that it almost made you forget that he didn't have to do it anymore, completely stopped. Hugging and kissing my children, I twisted to look at him. He was frozen at the door, staring outside, one hand still on the frame, like he'd been struck immobile halfway through the process of shutting it.
"Teren, you okay?" I asked, concerned. Then I heard the sound that was disturbing him and my breath stopped. Walking over to the door, I watched a yellow and black checked taxi cab approach our house. Even though it wasn't, the car seemed to be driving in slow motion.
Forcing an exhale from my body, I set down our kids and told them they could watch a movie in Mommy and Daddy's room. They gleefully took off to go jump on our bed with Spike. Turning back to Teren, still watching the painstakingly slow cab, I put a hand on his back. He jumped a little bit, then finally looked over at me. "You okay?" I asked quietly.
Swallowing, he nodded. Watching his wider-than-normal eyes, I again imagined his silent heart would be beating much faster if it still worked. Lacing our hands together as I stood in the door with him, I felt mine increasing. There was just a lot of tension in the air.
Looking back to the driveway, we both watched the cab crunch to a stop behind my cheery, yellow car. The brakes squealed and I flinched at the loud sound in my sensitive ears. Teren didn't move a muscle and I began to wonder if he'd even be able to do this. I squeezed his hand tighter in encouragement as the sound of a Disney movie started trickling down to me from upstairs.
We heard a woman's voice thank the gruff taxi driver, then the back door creaked open. A light, flower scent caught the air just as an averagely pretty woman stepped out of the cab. She looked over to us immediately and I felt myself tighten and my eyes narrow. I couldn't tell if she was still under the vampire's compulsion or not. When she smiled at us, I wondered if she even knew what she was doing here.
Teren let out a long, low exhale as he raised his hand from the door and waved at her. She merrily waved back, her girl-next-door face happier than I remembered seeing it the last time. Of course, the last time I'd seen her, she'd been crying...over Teren, over the loss they'd shared together.
My enhanced sight could pick out the slight moisture in her blue-gray eyes, and the perfect straightness of her slim-curved body; while filled with life once, I was certain that those trim hips had never swelled out with a child. Remembering why she was here, remembering the grief that I'd seen in her eyes before, compassion filled me for her. A child was something that she'd seemed to want. Maybe her fear of losing that one, had made her too scared to try again? Yet another reason Teren should finally clear her.
I released my husband, so he could go and be the gentleman that I knew he was itching to be. Glancing at me briefly, he started walking towards her. I leaned against the doorframe as I watched them meet in the drive. With mixed feelings, I heard him greet her and heard her reply that he looked just the same. They hugged, very briefly, then Teren grabbed her bags out of the back of the cab. I smiled that the vamp had indeed let her pack some bags. I'd feel really horrible if all she had were the clothes on her back.
Teren indicated the front door to her and Carrie looked up at me, her bright eyes beaming. As the floral scent wafting from her strengthened with her approach, I fortified my stomach. I had nothing to fear from this woman.
She stepped up to me, her hand outstretched. Being so tall, I had to look up to meet her eye. "It was Emma, right?"
I nodded, then smiled genuinely. "Carrie. It's good to see you again." Curious, I couldn't help but add, "And a little surprising too. What are you doing in our neck of the woods?"
Teren gave me a warning glance, since we really didn't know what she'd been told, and I bit my lip. Well, really, did it matter if I spoiled the story, since we were just wiping her mind anyway? If I knew it, I could probably tell her who really shot JFK and it wouldn't matter.
Not bothered at all by my question, she walked into our home when I moved aside to let her pass. "Oh, it's just the oddest thing." Her gray eyes swept our home, brightening when she saw the piano in the adjoining room; a piano our kids loved to bang on ceaselessly. Meeting my eye as Teren set her bags down and closed the door, she explained further. "I was just getting into town for my two week vacation, when my phone rang."
She glanced over at Teren, who had an expertly warm smile on his face. To the human eye, that was. I could see the slight frown line in his forehead as he listened to what she'd been forced to believe. Smiling, she indicated him with her hand. "Teren calls out of the blue to invite me over the next time I was in town." She shook her head, like she was amazed by life's little coincidences. "I told him I just got in," she shrugged, "so he invited me over for dinner, and here I am!" She laughed on the end and shook her head again.
I laughed too and shook my head. Discretely watching Teren, I saw him glance at me and shake his head a little. He hadn't called her. I doubt he even knew her number. Slapping a warm smile on my face, even as a ball of ice formed in my stomach, I gave her a friendly hug. "Well, we're glad you're here."
A vampire had commanded her to find us, making her believe that she was on a previously planned vacation and Teren had just happened to call her when her plane landed. And she completely believed it. I was fairly certain that in her mind, the memory of every piece of that story was there. It was overwhelming, the power purebloods had. It was how they'd stayed hidden from the world for thousands of years. They controlled human beings like we were puppets on strings. I was immensely grateful that my children and I had vampire juice in us, and could never be controlled like that, and a little terrified for all of the people I knew that did not have that sort of protection.
Pulling apart from her, I kept all of those fears from my face. I had to keep in mind that being a vampire did not make you evil. There was no inherent gene in the blood that instantly turned a person into a murdering, soulless beast. That was still a personal choice that all vampires made on a one-on-one basis. And from what I'd seen, most were content to merely...nibble from humans.
Absentmindedly, I fixed the hair covering my scar. Most vampires...not all.
As I began showing Carrie our home, Teren quietly excused himself to make a phone call. I knew he'd spoken with his family last night and probably several times today. Halina had even wanted to stay here the night before, but Teren didn't have a lightproof enough area for her to hide in and she hated sleeping in the ground. He'd promised her that he'd call when Carrie showed up. As the sun was still out, I figured we had a few hours with Carrie until Halina whooshed in to swipe her mind.
When he was back a few moments later, we all headed upstairs. Visiting our bedroom last, I stood with Carrie in the doorway as she looked in on Teren's children. A light smile was on her lips as her hand drifted to her stomach. I watched the emotion fill her eyes as she stared at the miniature version of a man she'd once been very close to.
Stepping into the room, my kids tore their eyes from the TV to look up at me, then Carrie. Lying on their bellies, their feet clicking together in the air and their heads resting in their hands, they were the image of innocence. Spike lifted his head and barked once, finally noticing a stranger in the house. Guard dog, he was not.
The kids giggled and sat up as Carrie stepped up to the bed. Teren came up and put a cool arm around my waist. Grinning widely at his children, he extended a hand to them. "Carrie, these are our children, Nika and Julian. Kids, this is a...friend of Daddy's."
"Hi," they said at the same time. Nika blew a stray light brown lock from her face, then smiled cheesily, like she was posing for a camera. Julian scratched his dark head, trying to watch the movie and look at the new person simultaneously.
Carrie laughed at them, her eyes filling immeasurably. "Well, hello there. You are both very lucky to have such wonderful parents." She looked back at me, her eyes sad and happy at the same time. It made me want to hug her again.
Nika immediately nodded. "I know! Daddy's magic."
I froze, knowing what Nika really meant. Carrie only thought she was being cute though. Laughing, she twisted to Teren, her finger swiping under her eye. "I'm sure he is."
Teren locked eyes with her for a moment, squeezing me tighter. Nodding and exhaling, he motioned back downstairs. "Shall I make us something to eat?" Leaning into his side, I looked up at my husband, just as my stomach stubbornly growled.
Carrie laughed as she looked over at me. "Oh, good, I'm not the only starving one." She shook her head. "I can't even remember the last time I ate."
I laughed nervously, wondering if she'd been "allowed" to eat on her trip here. Kissing my kids, I followed her and my husband downstairs.
We sat in the little used formal dining room, the kids laughing as they sat across from each other, trying to kick the other under the table. I tried stopping them, warning them under my breath, but they were having too much fun to really listen to me, and Teren was too busy talking with Carrie to notice.
As he set plates of roasted chicken and vegetables in front of everyone, they caught up on their many years apart from each other. Teren listened raptly to her tales of working for a small bakery in a tiny town in the very upper corner of Maine. She lived a pretty secluded life, but she liked it that way and she was happy. She even had a secret crush on her boss, which delighted me. A crush on her boss probably meant that she wasn't secretly pining for Teren.
Teren told her several details of his life, although nothing that included vampirism. He told her about awards that he'd won for his writing, camping trips we'd taken, and his parents' ranch. I watched them breezily converse, a feeling of familiarity evident between them, although, nothing romantic. They seemed to just have a natural friendship. One that became even more apparent when their conversation shifted to their mutual childhood.
As the kids finished up and raced back upstairs to watch another movie, they sat back in their chairs and began to reminiscence about funny friends or sweet moments that they'd shared. I cleaned up everyone's plates, Teren's empty, since he'd been secretly feeding the dog with his dinner under the table, and left them to what would be their very last conversation. It hurt my heart a little as I cleaned up in the kitchen, listening to them.
Teren laughed as they talked about old classmates and what that person was up to now. Carrie brought him nearly to tears when she repeated a story about a field trip that had gone horribly wrong. He talked with her in a way that I routinely talked to friends that I bumped into from high school. They talked about people and experiences that they'd both shared during that eventful time in their lives. For a moment, I wasn't hearing an ex-girlfriend, I was hearing a friend. A friend that had meant a great deal to him at one time and a friend that he was about to release...forever.
It brought tears to my eyes as I watched the sun start to set. Listening to his happiness, I nearly wished that we could call this off, that she could be allowed to remember him. I saw his point, about wanting someone to know that they knew you. It was something that we all took for granted, being alive in other people's memories. It was an intrinsic part of being human and Teren was, as he loved to tell me, mostly human.
It was a dilemma I was going to have to face one day, if we moved with his family.
As the sun set completely, I felt Halina start to streak towards us, probably anxious to get this over with. I sighed. Teren in the dining room sighed as well, feeling her streaking to our doorstep.
Walking back into the room, I watched him lower his head and I moved over to stand behind him. He looked up at me, just as Carrie asked, "Is everything okay?"
As I placed my hand on his shoulder supportively, he reached up to clasp my fingers, squeezing me back gratefully. With a soft sigh, he said, "I've done something to you, Carrie, that was...unforgivable of me."
I squeezed his fingers in mine as Carrie furrowed her brow and looked between us. She shook her head, her shoulder-length hair swishing around her neck; it brought a wave of that floral scent to me and I was pretty sure that I'd forever associate the smell with her. A moment of realization hit her face and she looked down to her lap.
"Oh, Teren, that was both of our faults, not just yours."
He sighed, his shoulders slumping under my fingertips. Reaching out for her hand, kitty-corner from him, he grabbed the tips of her fingers. "I'm not talking about the pregnancy, Carrie, although, that was pretty stupid of me too."
She looked up at him, confused again. "What do you mean then?"
He looked up at me, reluctance and maybe a little bit of fear in his eyes. It was a hard thing, telling someone that you deeply cared about, all of your deepest, darkest secrets. Moving around to sit beside him, I held one of his hands in both of mine; he clenched me like a lifeline.
Shaking his head at her, he quietly said, "I've been a real bastard to you, letting this pain you've felt go on for so long." He looked down at our laced together hands. "I really am having a hard time forgiving myself for it."
Her look of confusion didn't ease any. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she leaned forward a little bit. "What are you talking about, Teren? What could you have possibly done about my pain?"
His eyes drifted over her face, perhaps studying the features that he'd never see again after tonight. "I could have taken it. You could have lived these past fifteen years obliviously happy...and it's my fault."
She blinked at that and sat back in her chair. "Who said I haven't been happy?" she whispered. Her eyes flashed upstairs though, and I clearly saw the pain in them as she looked up at where I could hear my children singing along to the musical playing.
Teren's enhanced sight saw the look as well. Exhaling in a long breath, he calmly said, "When we were younger, I couldn't tell you something...something about me." He shook his head, biting his lip and I squeezed his hand tighter. "I was so afraid that you'd run away from me, if you ever learned the truth. You meant so much to me and I didn't want to lose..."
He looked down, then over at me. "I learned over the years that I couldn't hide who I was from the person I was with." He looked back at her, conviction in his eyes. "I just couldn't spend the rest of my life living a lie." He raised his eyebrows and leaned in slightly. "Being with you taught me that," he whispered.
She shook her head, still confused, but he continued without letting her ask her questions. "Over time, I learned to open myself up to people. It was hard. It was painful. It was terrifying. But, because of what happened with us, I knew I couldn't be with someone who didn't know. Most couldn't handle it, couldn't accept me." He looked back at me, love and devotion clear in his eyes. "In fact, only Emma could."
As we gazed at each other for a second, Carrie popped up with her summation of his statement. "Are you...gay or something?"
He closed his eyes, a soft laugh escaping him. Looking back at her, he shook his head. "I wish it were that simple." The poor woman did not look any clearer on what he was talking about. I bit my lip, knowing she would soon. Very soon, as Halina was nearly at our door. Feeling her as well, Teren stumbled into his next sentence. "Before we go our separate ways, I needed you to know, I needed you to see...what I am."
He sadly shook his head as her confused face softened. "It might fill in some of the blanks for you...about why I never came looking for you when your parents pulled you, why I never attempted to contact you after all these years, why I may have, at times, seemed...distant from you when we were together."
Her shoulders relaxed as she shook her head. "Yeah...there were times..."
He nodded and I had to imagine that there had been several unexplained moments in their relationship. Knowing how secretive Teren could be with me, when I knew almost everything, I had to believe that he'd been a very closed-off person with her. She must have written it off as teenage hormones, but it was so much more than that with him.
He looked down and peeked up at her. "I want you to know that it was never you. You were warm and sweet, and taught me a lot about the person I wanted to be." He smiled softly at her. "You were just what every first love should be."
She smiled warmly, but shook her head, her brow furrowing again. "Teren...I don't..."
Feeling him tense and Halina nearly on our doorstep, I clenched his hand tight. He squeezed me back as he kept his eyes on Carrie. "Me, all of the women in my family, my children, and recently, my wife...are all vampires."
She stared at him blankly, her face expressionless. In the silence, my kids suddenly yelled out, "Grammy Lina!" and blurred downstairs to race to the door. Carrie had turned her head upon hearing them yell and had seen the blur of their movement through the archway. She stood up and pressed herself against the wall, her face draining of color.
Teren stood as well, his face apprehensive. "Carrie?" he said softly.
She started to look back at him, but Halina had walked through the door and her eyes widened even more at the pale white, dark beauty striding through it. Halina scooped up the children and strode with them into the dining room. Her face impassive, she eyed Carrie as she held the twins in a way that no human body her size could. They sat facing outwards in her arms, nestled on her biceps like they were sitting on swings; Julian was even kicking his legs back and forth.
Carrie's eyes widened even further at the physically impossible feat of strength before her. She looked back at Teren, panic clear on her face. "What?" She finally whispered.
He walked to her slowly, careful to not make her bolt. Opening his mouth, he extended his fangs to her. She screamed and our children covered their ears. Calmly, Halina said, "Stop that immediately." Carrie stopped immediately. Her body shaking lightly, she looked over at Halina. She seemed conscious of the fact that she hadn't willingly stopped screaming; she was even swallowing like she was trying to still make it happen.
Teren sighed and stepped in front of her. She shook as she watched him and he smiled around his fangs. "I won't hurt you, Carrie." He shrugged. "I'm still me."
Her shaking eased a bit as she ignored his fangs and stared into his eyes. Not removing herself from the wall, she shook her head. "Oh my God, Teren...that's not possible."
He lightly touched her arm. She flinched back from his cool touch, maybe now realizing why he was so cold. "I'm sorry...but it is." He removed his hand from her. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you this back then. I think if I had, and you'd left...I wouldn't have had a problem wiping your mind."
She relaxed against the wall as that word echoed in her brain. "Wiping my... What are you talking about? What are you going to do to me?" She started to inch away from him a little bit, but that brought her closer to Halina, so she stopped. "Are you going to hurt me?" she asked, looking back at him.
He tilted his head and I stood up to stand beside him, clenching his hand again. Carrie looked between our hands and his teeth, seemingly unsure how I could stand so close to him. Just as he was about to answer her question, Julian beat her to it. "Daddy's nice, Daddy don't hurt."
We all looked over to him, at his little brow scrunched in a frown. I wasn't sure what my children thought of Carrie's reaction, but it was obviously bothering Julian. Carrie seemed to realize this too and instantly slapped a smile on her face. "Oh, I know that, sweetheart. I was just...kidding around." She laughed lightly, but I could hear the nervousness behind it.
Walking over to my children, I picked them off of Halina's body. "If you two go upstairs and get ready for bed, you can sleep with Mommy and Daddy tonight, okay?" They both grinned and turned to run upstairs. "Remember to brush!" I called up after them.
Twisting around, Carrie was staring at me flabbergasted. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare them," she said quietly.
I smiled at her concern and shook my head. "We freaked you out, it's understandable."
Straightening, she looked back at Teren, his face sad, his fangs extended. "You're...a vampire?"
He nodded, looking over at me as I walked up to him and wrapped my arms around him. Meeting her eyes, I dropped my own fangs. "We all are...and we have no desire to hurt you."
Halina snorted derisively, but I ignored it. Luckily, Carrie ignored it too. "But, you are going to...wipe me?" She cocked her eyebrow and looked between the two sets of fangs before her.
Teren and I slipped our teeth up at the same time. Smiling sadly, he said, "I'm just going to fix a mistake. We don't let anyone remember us, and I never should have let you remember losing the baby. That was...selfish of me."
The scent of fear easing from her, she shook her head. "I won't remember you?" She looked back at Halina, her own tall form inches higher than the teenage vampire's. Swallowing at the blank look on the intimidating woman's face, she twisted back to Teren. "But not all of you is a bad memory." She smiled warmly, her body relaxing as she took a step forward. "Most of you is a good one." She flushed slightly as she glanced at me. "A very good one," she whispered.
I flushed too as I remembered Alanna commenting once that sex with a vampire was...unforgettable. I had to imagine that, even new at it, Teren had been...skilled. Forcefully shoving the idea of them tangled in a bed together from my mind, I firmly compressed my lips.
Teren smiled slightly and looked down, maybe remembering his mother say that as well. Peeking up at her, he softly said, "It will be easier for us both...if you don't."
She sighed, looking over his face. Shrugging her shoulders, she shook her head. "Will it hurt?"
Teren smiled widely, placing his hand on her arm. She didn't flinch away this time. "No, of course not." He laughed once, a hint of sadness in the sound. "And for the first time, I actually believe that this won't hurt me either." I squeezed his waist, resting my head on his silent, loving heart.
He looked down on me and then back to her. "You taught me so much about being careful, being cautious...about how dangerous my secret could be. Because of what we went through, I knew I had to take the chance and let Emma in. I had to let her love me, as me. And luckily for me, she did." He laughed lightly as I felt that flush come back. Teren sighed softly. "I thank you, for showing me that."
She smiled and nodded at Teren, then swallowed nervously when Halina took a step forward. Stepping up to Carrie's side, Halina tilted her head. Flicking a glance at Teren, she coolly said, "Did you tell anyone about Teren getting you pregnant?"
Carrie swallowed and shook her head, her gray eyes wide. "No, aside from my horribly rude conversation with Emma," her eyes swung back to mine, apologetic, "I don't talk about my miscarriage." She shrugged, still looking at me. "I mean, even before they passed away, I never told my parents who the father was." Her eyes glanced over at Teren. "It was...private."
Halina grabbed her arm, swinging Carrie's attention back to her. "Good, then this will be very easy for me."
Carrie started shaking again as Halina held her arm and her gaze. Stepping forward, Teren cupped her cheek. "Don't be afraid, you won't remember any of this."
She nodded, a tear filling her eye and dropping down her cheek. "I'll miss you."
Teren smiled sadly, his own eyes filling. "No...you won't be missing anything, Carrie." I sniffled back my own tears as Teren twisted to his great-grandmother. "Take it," he whispered, his tears finally falling. "Take it all."