Almost immediately upon feeling Teren leave the property, I felt Alanna dart after him. I suppose she had heard our entire argument and had some thoughts on the matter. Imogen confirmed that for me, by repeating over and over that she had no idea he'd resort to such extremes to get what he wanted. That she couldn't believe he was being so reckless and foolish. Like me, she was convinced that he'd only get himself killed. And also like me, she seemed to know nothing about Teren and Ben's method of "interviewing".

Feeling Teren and Alanna's lives zipping away from me, I sank to the floor of that room. It looked like an old office and smelled musty, like it hadn't been used in years. As I crouched onto my knees and started to sob, I oddly noticed that there were tons of maps in this room. Some were scrolled and tucked up in bookshelves. Others were tacked up on the walls, a large one of North America taking a place of prominence next to a wide, sunny window. That map had several pinpricks in it - the little pins, with red balls on the end. Tracker pins. As tears slid down my face, I absentmindedly thought that it was probably a map of everywhere the Adams vamps had lived or visited over the years. If Teren and I made it out of this mess in one piece, I wondered if I'd visit any of those pinpricks.

I sensed when Teren shifted his direction away from his mother, obviously not in the mood to talk. But I had to give it to the determined woman, she wasn't about to let him go, and she was fast, just a smidge quicker than he was. She gained on him inch by inch and finally, after what felt like an eternity to me, both of their presences stopped.

I held my breath, my hand covering my mouth and holding in my grief. I felt like I was going into shock. I couldn't move off the floor, couldn't run to my husband, couldn't beg for his forgiveness, or plead with him to stay. I couldn't even comfort Imogen, who was actively cursing the sun that was keeping her a prisoner in the house. I was immobile with pain. All I could do was wait on my knees on the floor, and pray that Alanna could do what I had failed so miserably at - talk some reason back into Teren.

My knees started to ache as I waited. My breathing came back in stuttered pulls and my body started to shake with tension. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to be able to hear Alanna's heartfelt pleading and I wanted to hear Teren agree with her. I wanted to feel the pull in my body of him returning. The desire to feel it ached worse than my stiff knees. But after what felt like an eternity to me, I eventually felt Alanna's presence returning to the house.

That was when I broke down in sobs. Because Teren did not return with her. He never even came back towards my direction. As Alanna shifted to me, he shifted away, off to madly chase after vampires with his human companion, who was probably picking him up at the very moment and driving him away from me.

Imogen lightly began to cry in her room too, as Teren got farther and farther away. As my head dropped to my hands and I felt each individual tear coolly splash onto my skin, I wondered if they'd still let me stay with them, if Teren got himself killed today because of me. That thought only made my sobs come out in a tortured wail.

Then Alanna's soothing arms were around me and she was picking me up. The woman was no bigger than me, and what with my pregnant girth, she was actually much smaller, size-wise, but she lifted me easily. She cradled me in her arms and I cried mercilessly on her shoulder.

My breath hitching through my words, I managed to get out, "You couldn't get him back?"

She swallowed, her eyes heavy with pink tears. Kissing my forehead, she muttered into my hair, "I needed to get out of the sun. I kept him from leaving, but I couldn't block him forever. He kept an arm's length from me and waited me out. He knew I only had so long to get him back." She rested her cheek on my hair and sighed brokenly. "The entire time we were talking, he kept telling me that he had to go, that he was running out of time. He just kept repeating it over and over again." She lifted her head and stared straight ahead, a pink tear dropping to her cheek. "I've never seen him look like that, Emma. He was almost...unhinged."

I clutched her as we walked through a covered breezeway, the difference in the air temperature blazingly apparent on my sensitive skin. Hiccupping as I sobbed, she walked me upstairs to Imogen's room. A second set of hands were on me then, and I was carefully laid out on Imogen's bed and tucked in like a child. With neither woman saying anything, they silently comforted me with tender arms strokes.

Eventually my grief ended enough that I was able to take in the young faces watching me. My enhanced eyes could more easily see the differences between them than my regular eyes did - Alanna's hair was a shade lighter, Imogen's eyes were a touch bluer. In the dark, candlelit room, all of our eyes glowed softly, and I noticed that even that phosphorescence was in slightly different shades. We were each our own persons, but we shared a common heartache - Teren.

I eyed his mother. She tried hard to keep serenity on her face, but her jaw was tight and her free hand clenched the edge of her jeans, twisting them in her tension. I shifted my gaze to her mother. She was turned away from me, staring through the walls of the home, towards the direction where I could feel Teren getting farther and farther away from us.

"Will he be okay?" I whispered.

Imogen looked back to me, her eyes red with unshed tears of almost pure blood, her cheeks stained with ones that had already fallen. She didn't say anything, only shrugged. A thick tear dropped to her cheek.

Alanna, on my other side, watched her mother and then started to cry. It only took a half-second for Imogen to switch positions, her body flashing to the other side of the bed as her arms went around her child comfortingly. I watched them, my tears resurfacing. I'd done this. This pain was all because of me. This was supposed to be the most joyous time of our lives, the impending birth of Teren's children, but instead, it had gotten twisted into something painful and dangerous and just plain...awful.

My sobs resurfacing, I managed to choke out, "I'm so sorry."

They both twisted back to me, shaking their heads and trying to convince me that it wasn't my fault. Looking desolate, Alanna muttered, "If anything, this is my fault. He's my child. I should have seen this coming." She looked back at me, tears dripping down her cheeks. "I just didn't realize the extent of what he and Ben have been up to. And lately, he's been asking mother and me to stay away, to help out here with researching all of the new leads, and with helping you. He asked to let him handle the meetings."

She shook her head, her long, black hair settling around her shoulders. Her face was a picture of frustration and regret. "I didn't think he was in a lot of danger. I mean, vampires aren't necessarily evil. Just like humans, they come with all kinds of personalities. He was only supposed to be politely asking them if they knew anything, and then leave if they didn't. That was our agreement when we started this."

Alanna sighed, looking back at her mother for a moment before twisting back to me. "I knew he was getting into some scuffles, but he always assured me that he was being careful, that the fights were nothing serious, just a couple of misinterpreted actions, he'd say. I had no idea he was starting to...go this far." She shrugged her shoulders, fresh tears falling to her cheeks. "I didn't think he'd ever start purposefully provoking them. And forcing information from them? Making them talk? I don't even know what that means." She hung her head and Imogen brought her hand to her shoulder.

Uselessly wiping my cheeks, I shook my head. "What about Halina? She'd never let him get away with this?"

Imogen sighed and looked down at the floor, to where I could feel Halina obliviously sleeping. "Mother told me that he's recently started conducting these meetings before full sunset, bursting in on still sluggish, quarantined-by-the-sun vampires. By the time she gets there, he's already...interviewing them, sometimes heatedly. She told me she broke up a pretty decent fight a couple of nights ago, one that left poor Ben black and blue. She assumed the vampires were angry at being intruded upon." She looked up at me, her eyes bloody. "I'm sure she didn't realize what he has really been up to."

Blinking back her tears, she sighed and rubbed her daughter's back. "I tried to talk to him about it, to convince him that running in uninvited on drowsy vampires was a dangerous game, and that he should always wait for mother." She shrugged. "But he said it was fine and the scuffles were blown out of proportion. When I told him I was coming next time, he sighed and said he'd wait for mother." She raised an eyebrow at me. "I should have taken that as a warning." She sighed and shook her head. "I knew he was getting desperate, but I never thought he'd do this..."

The room was silent for a moment as we all felt him drift even farther. "What did he say outside to you?" I asked Alanna weakly, still suffering from shock and sniffles.

She shook her head. "He was upset, angry, but he looked like he'd been crying too, after...your argument." I wanted to apologize again, but she spoke over my words. "He was rambling, Emma. I don't think he even knew what he was saying. He kept repeating that he didn't have a choice, that they were leaving, and he had to get to them before they did. Over and over he told me that they could be the ones, they could be the nest that knew about mixed vampires, and he couldn't risk them disappearing. The last thing he said to me, before I had to leave him, was that he wouldn't start a fight...but they would tell him what he wanted to know. As long as he got a name, nothing else mattered."

An ominous silence hung in the air after she said that. None of us really knew what that meant. None of us were sure how far a terrified-to-lose-me Teren would go, if he had to.

Alanna sighed drearily. "He's been getting so manic about this in the past week or so. We really should have gone with him anyway, to make sure he was okay." She looked back to me. "But...we had a reason to stay too..." She swallowed and looked over me in such a way that I knew she meant me. I suddenly understood the real reason why Alanna and Imogen rarely left my side. They were afraid I'd convert any day, any moment. And if I did, someone had to be here to help me when I woke up, assuming I did wake up. Conversions were the deadliest part of an undead vampire's life. I knew that from experience with Teren's. As Alanna's eyes drifted down to my stomach, I remembered asking Teren to take the twins from me. From the look in Alanna's eye, she was also sticking close by to honor that promise. If and when I keeled over, she was ready to take them, if Teren wasn't around to.

I felt horrid. In a way, I'd made them choose between their son and grandson, and me and the twins. But none of us could have anticipated just how far Teren would take this. But time was running out and Imogen was right, he was getting desperate. And knowing that his family would never approve of his methods, he'd found ways around them. Secretive and stubborn as always, if it meant protecting someone he loved. And ultimately, that is what he was trying to do...protect me, save me.

We all three stayed in that bed for most of the afternoon, alternating between bouts of crying and worrying. At times Imogen and Alanna both got up to run to him. Then one would convince the other that making the attempt in daylight was futile. It would be better to let Halina get him at nightfall. She was faster and stronger than both of them. Imogen accepted it more readily than Alanna, not having as much of a threshold from the pain as her diluted daughter. Alanna looked ready to charge out into the sun anyway, to bring her child back to the ranch. But she stayed, knowing that, just like before, she'd only make it so far before she'd have to find an enclosed place to hide.

And me? There was more than one occasion when they both had to hold me down from flying unimpeded by the sun to his side. But I'd already hurt him once today, and I was scared of what another showdown between us might bring. Especially if it happened in the middle of an agitated vampire nest. I was already scared that he was going to make a stupid, fatal mistake because of our argument. I didn't want to show up and have him be so thrown off by it, that someone got the drop on him. Especially with how distracting our bond would be to him. Especially if he was...unhinged.

Maybe sensing the heavy quiet in the house, Jack came in and found us all lying in bed. Alanna and Imogen solemnly told him what had happened. He closed his eyes and reopened them slowly to gaze at his wife. They shared a brief pain-filled hug, and then, discretely wiping his eyes, he walked back outside. I suppose, like us, Jack wanted to rush to him too, but it would do no good if he did. Teren was still moving, still on his way to the nest. By the time Jack drove to him, it would be too late; he'd be among the vampires. And if Alanna couldn't get her stressed son to stay, I didn't see how the comparatively weak Jack would, especially if Teren was in sight of what he wanted - possible answers.

We listened to the sounds of Jack puttering around outside, keeping his mind occupied with manual labor, probably so he didn't have to think about the possibility of losing his son. As my eyes were so dry I couldn't even blink them, my head throbbed in repeated patterns, and my stomach rumbled from lack of food, I thought maybe Jack's way of handling the stress was healthier, or at least, more productive. By early evening, when I figured Teren was just approaching the nest that he had traveled to, Halina woke up.

I heard her moving around downstairs, sighing and stirring, possibly dressing, and I looked at Alanna and Imogen. "When do we tell her?"

"Tell me what?" Halina automatically responded. I sighed, forgetting just how good their ears were.

I replayed the fight, and what I'd caught Teren doing, essentially packing for a battle. Imogen sighed and Alanna sniffled. Halina cursed and responded with what sounded like stone crashing through stone. I thought that she may have just punched a hole in the wall.

"Stupid child," she muttered, pacing her room, waiting for the last of the sun's rays to die. "I will skin him alive, if they don't," she muttered.

I sat up in bed, my head woozy from nearly nothing in my stomach. "What are you going to do Halina? He's too far away..." Wherever he'd gone, it had taken him a good chunk of the afternoon to get there before nightfall. She couldn't run that far, and return before sunup.

She growled and when she spoke, her voice warbled, like she was holding back her own tears. "I will dig a hole in the desert if I have to, but I'm not letting him continue this foolishness without me." I heard her resume pacing, all the whole muttering, "Supposed to wait...stupid...foolish...idiot...did I teach him"

I sighed and fell back to the pillows, exhausted. My stomach grumbled loudly and Alanna blurred to standing. "Oh, Emma. I'm so sorry," Her face couldn't have looked any more apologetic. "I forgot to make you and Jack something to eat. I'm so sorry."

She blurred from the room but I called after her. "It's okay, Alanna, you don't need to wait on me. Besides, I really couldn't have handled food today anyway."

I knew the second the sun set, and not because Imogen grabbed my hand and walked with me down the stairs to the kitchen. No, I knew because Halina hauled ass out of the house. She was gone so fast, I stumbled with my step. The sense of her blurring away that quickly was disorienting. She streaked towards where our senses pointed out Teren. And she was letting it out, running faster than I'd ever felt her move.

Feeling somewhat better, now that he had a more substantial backup on the way than Hot Ben, someone who could stop him from doing anything too stupid, and hopefully get there before anyone did anything to him, I relaxed my fear as I sat down to a huge, refreshing cup of plasma beside a huge plate of pasta. Well, I slightly relaxed. I didn't completely relax until the next morning.

I wasn't sure what time it was, but I knew it was early in the morning, a few hours after dawn maybe. I'd had trouble falling asleep last night and had stared at the ceiling, watching my eyes highlight strange shapes in the textures, and considering studying my glow in a mirror, to see if I could hypnotize myself into a mellow state. I'd passed out some time later, well after the witching hour.

I woke up with a start when I smelled him. It hit me so hard, that it shocked me instantly into awareness. I turned my head and sat up, looking at the door. He was standing in the open doorframe, gripping the sides of it, to stop himself from hurling himself on me. I'd slept through the buildup again and wasn't feeling the pull he was. But he was resisting, shaking with restraint as he gripped the wood.

I twisted around to face him, putting my feet on the floor and wanting to hurl myself on him. Not because of the pull, but because I'd missed him, because I'd been terrified, and now relief was washing through me, cleansing away every bad thought I'd had in the past several hours.

But he only continued to shake and stare at me from the doorway. I wondered if maybe he was still angry at me. I'd said some pretty nasty things before he left. I stood up slowly, not sure what to do. His eyes tracked my movement, his shaking increasing the closer I got to him. I tilted my head, holding a hand out for him. He looked down at it, biting his lip but still not moving or speaking.

Fighting tears, I took a deep breath, savoring the smell that was purely him, but registering the smell of other people on him, and the chalky smell of drywall dust mixed with the tangy smell of blood. There had been violence.

My eyes widened, my heartbeat increasing as I took another step towards him. I searched his clothes, but I didn't see anything that even remotely looked like fresh blood. There were some holes in his shirt and a snag in his jeans, but those could have been from a previous fight or from natural wear and tear. Teren had been letting things like new clothes, slip by the wayside lately.

Just as I was about to rush into his arms and beg him to forgive me, beg him to talk to me, he bit his lip, his shaking increasing. And when I say "bit his lip", I mean, he literally bit his lip. He clenched down so hard, he sliced right through the skin. A deep, dark trail of blood oozed from the wound and dripped off his chin.

He did nothing to wipe it away or stop it from falling, and it dripped right onto his shirt. The stain it caused was ominous and startling, and sent me right back into terror. I froze, my eyes wide, my heart pounding. I knew this wasn't good for me, my heart being so stressed, but I couldn't calm down, not when he was being so odd and still, his shaking his only real movement.

"Teren?" I said quietly, my voice trembling and echoing around the empty space between us.

My voice seemed to wreck him. His shaking increased and he released the doorframe, dropping to his knees right in front of me. The shaking, that I'd assumed was from his attempt to resist the pull, shifted to sobs as he dropped his head into his hands. Confused and alarmed, I carefully dropped to my knees in front of him. My hands slid over his cool shoulders, shaking from slight sobs now, as I pulled his head into my chest. "Teren, you're scaring me," I whispered.

I felt Alanna approaching, also woken from sleep by the return of her son. She stopped a few steps behind him in the hallway, watching us kneel together, just on the other side of the door. I held my hand up to her, wanting a minute with my distraught husband. She paused, waiting, her body tense with the desire to comfort her child, but her face resolved to give that responsibility over to another woman. I imagined that was a pretty hard thing for her to do.

Teren let a stuttered cry escape him and finally spoke to me. "Emma..." His arms slipped around my waist. "Oh, god..."

Terrified, I ran my fingers back through his hair. "What, baby? What happened? to me."

His body shifted, so that he was still kneeling before me, but his head was resting on my stomach. His hands come up to cup my belly and he began placing tender kisses along my stretched skin, the sleeping children inside only gently stirring at his caress. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." he repeated over and over.

The blood on his chin transferred to the white t-shirt I'd slept in, the contrast startling, even in the pale light of our glowing eyes.

I clutched his head to my stomach, not sure if he was apologizing for our fight or if something had happened. I reached out my senses, but Halina wasn't in the house. I could sense her, miles away, but she was nowhere near the property. A streak of terror flashed through me; maybe she hadn't made it, and I was sensing her corpse. Or maybe Ben...

"Teren...please, what happened? Are you okay? Is...everyone okay?"

He raised his head, his eyes wet and pained, his body still lightly shaking. His fingers cradled our children as he gazed at me, finally nodding. "Yes, we're fine."

I exhaled with relief and crawled into his lap. He laid his head in my shoulder as he pulled me as tight to his body as he could. Alanna behind him, exhaled softly, and nodding once at me, turned and left us alone. I had to imagine that her level of control right there, walking away from her stricken son, rivaled Teren's, when he'd been thirsting for blood and restrained himself from taking mine.

He started lightly crying as he held me and I stroked my fingers down his back, wanting to help him in some way, I just didn't know what was wrong. "Baby, is this because of what I said?" I pulled back to search his eyes, tears dripping off my own cheeks now. "Because, I didn't mean it. I was just mad...I'm so sorry." I sobbed a little after I said that, and he immediately began shaking his head and lightly kissing me.

"No, oh, no, baby. I know you were mad. I'm not...I'm okay." He sniffled, more tears falling as he struggled for control. My hands ran over his face, brushing the cool tears aside as I tried to understand.

"Then...?" I shrugged, emotion closing my throat.

He pulled back, exhaling a steadying breath. With renewed moisture in his eyes, he whispered, "You were right." He choked and swallowed roughly. "You were so right." He shook his head. "This isn't the way." He broke down, leaning his head against my shoulder again.

I rubbed his back, closing my eyes as the despair washing from him, washed into me. " to me."

He sniffled, controlling his emotions, but not lifting his head to look at me again. "I got...nothing. They told me...nothing."

I pulled back, grabbing his face in my hands. "It's okay, baby. You have other leads, right?" I kissed his cheeks, a little surprised that I wanted him to keep looking, keep digging. I guess I just didn't want to ever see this level of pain again.

He grabbed my wrists and pulled them away from his face. "No, I can't..." He shook his head, his eyes older than I'd ever seen them. "You were right. I'm turning into something...I don't even recognize. I'm obsessed," he whispered.

I shook my head, fighting against his grip to hold his face again. He held me tight though. "No, I was wrong, petty..."

He cut me off, his gaze and voice hollow. "I almost staked a woman tonight." I froze in his lap, my legs straddling his, stiffening with tension. He looked over my reaction, his voice so overflowing with emotion that it came out numb. "I almost plunged a rod of pure silver through her heart, because she wouldn't tell me what I wanted to know."

His grip on me hardened as he angrily shook his head, tears springing back to his eyes. "I can't even say it was self-defense." He shrugged. "It wasn't, she never even tried to touch me." His eyes searched my face. I couldn't even imagine what he saw there. "But...I knew she knew something - a name, a nest - something."

He sighed and looked away from me, his face looking disgusted with himself and his grip on me getting even harder. "She was the only one left in the nest when we found it. Ben and I kept her cornered for hours, but she still wouldn't tell me anything. Then I took a silver stake and drug it over her skin. She screamed..." He closed his eyes and bit his lip again, again piercing the flesh and causing a trail of blood to roll off him. His lip healed immediately, right before my eyes.

He opened his eyes, shaking his head. "I can still hear the screams..." He swallowed, a tear rolling off his cheek and dropping down his chin to follow the trail of blood. "I pierced her skin and told her I would shove it through her chest if she didn't tell me what I wanted to hear."

He dropped his tight grasp on my wrists and I inhaled a quick breath at the feeling of blood returning to my hands. He dropped his head into his. Between his fingers, he mumbled, "She still wouldn't tell me. She said she'd rather die, than give up...her mate."

He sobbed and I relaxed on his lap, my hands again going around his body, drawing him into me. I tried to shush him, but he shook his head and peeked up at me. "God, I almost killed her, Emma, and she was only trying to protect..." his eyes searched mine again, "well...her version of you." His hands came out to my face, cupping my cheeks as another sob broke him down. "She was protecting him...from another madman." He raised his eyebrows and shook his head. "Only this time, it was me."

I rested my head against his. "Baby..."

He shook his forehead against mine. "I don't know who I am anymore, Emma." He crumpled in my arms, his head going down to rest on my stomach as he cried. "I don't know what I'm capable of anymore...what lengths I'd go to, to protect you." He peered up at me. "If Great-Gran hadn't..." He swallowed and brought his hands around me, nestling his head into my abdomen. "Oh, god, Emma, I can't do this anymore. This isn't me. I'm not being me..."

He sobbed more, and I exhaled brokenly as tears coursed down my cheeks. I whispered his name and laid my head on his back, trying to be as comforting as I could.

He shifted and looked up at me, his face panicked. "I'm so scared, Emma. I don't know what to do. You're dying, they're dying, and I don't know what to do." His voice tore me and I swallowed back the grief welling in me. His hands came up to grasp my face again. "What do I do? Tell me what to do." His eyes searched mine, pleading.

Absorbing the smell of him, absorbing the sense of him, absorbing the undeniable love between us, I closed my eyes. Knowing this was no way to live, for either of us, I made a choice. It was the hardest choice of my life, but it was the only choice left to us. He couldn't continue on this path he'd started. He was right, that path would lead him to be the same sort of madman that had kidnapped and tortured us. I could see it - I could see pain and fear, leading him that way. He had to stop this madness. He had to accept that there was nothing we could do...but have faith.

I opened my eyes, placing my palms against his cheeks. "You stop, Teren. You stay here with me...and you stop."

He cocked his head, looking about to protest and I shook mine. "No, I know. I may die. They may die, but..." I bit my lip and shook my head. "I can't let you become...this, to try and save me." I lightly kissed him and whispered, "It's not worth it. I'm not worth it." He pulled back and sputtered and I shook my head again. "If this is all we get, Teren, then don't waste a second with me." I rested my head against his. "You promised me that you would spend every second we had, trying to make me happy." I indicated the emotional wreckage that was him. "This isn't making me happy. Spend every moment you can with me, with us, and then, if the fates decide my time is done...then you love me, and remember me with good memories, for the rest of your eternal life."

I pulled back, tears dropping to my cheeks. "That - that is what you can do."

He opened and closed his mouth several times. Then he closed it and stared at me. I felt his body calming as he did. I felt my body calming, my heart returning to its normal, steady beat. His eyes never leaving mine, he quietly whispered, "I love you. I'll always love you."

I nodded and hugged him tight.

We shucked off our clothes, me uselessly examining every square inch of him for injuries. I knew I wouldn't find any, and he knew I wouldn't find any, but I had to see for myself and he let me, standing still with his head down. His face was...glum, but once I had him slipped under the covers with me, I did my best to make him feel better, if only for a moment.

He fell asleep afterwards, his breath stopping, his face stilling, all emotion momentarily sliding away from him. I kissed his forehead, grateful that he could find peace somewhere, even if it was just in slumber. I watched him for hours, not wanting to fall into sleep or leave his side. Just wanting to be near him, to cherish every second we had.

My hand was gently rubbing his still back when I felt Alanna approaching. I knew from the strong rays seeping through the cracks in our heavy curtains, that it was well into morning and she was headed downstairs for her ritual of making human food for those who could eat it. I wasn't sure if I could today.

She paused at our door and I whispered that it was okay, that he was sleeping. I watched the brass knob on the recently repaired door twist, and then her dark head peeked into the room. Her eyes immediately went to her son's bare back. I rested my head on his arm, where he was stretched out to me, facing me.

Alanna's eyes searched his still face. "How is he?" she asked quietly.

I made myself not blush as I watched the concern flit over her face. She didn't care about the intimate moment we'd had, she cared about how upset he'd been when he first came home. Feeling tears in my eyes as I watched her step into the room and put a few fingers on his shoulder, I lightly shrugged and whispered, "I don't know." My eyes went back to his stone face. His mouth was just slightly parted and because I was looking for it, I saw the tip of a fang. He was right, they extended while we slept.

Brushing a knuckle over his cheek I said, "It's so hard for him, not knowing what to do. He tries so hard..."

I felt Alanna's fingers on my arm and looked up at her. "It's hard for all of us, dear." She smiled warmly and I returned it.

Putting my hand over his back and nestling into him, I whispered, "I think he'll be okay. If he stops...I think he'll be okay."

She stroked my hand on his back and nodded. Pulling back she asked, "Are you hungry, dear? I was just about to make breakfast."

I paused and my stomach rumbled. Looking torn, I didn't answer her. I didn't want to eat, I wanted to stay by his side, but my stomach had other plans. Seeing my indecision, she smiled and answered for me. "Stay with him. I'll bring you something."

I exhaled gratefully and nodded. It wasn't a hard decision, but I was tired of thinking, and having someone else do it for a moment, was a welcome relief. Alanna looked over the two of us, smiled, and then twisted to leave. Before she streaked away, I sat up on my elbow.

"Halina?" I asked hesitantly.

She turned back with her hand on the doorframe. "She's alright. Probably just holed up somewhere, until nightfall." She grinned and I could tell she was just humoring me, she didn't really know. "She's going to be very angry. She hates sleeping in the ground."

Before I could respond, she streaked away. "Thank you," I muttered, settling back down to Teren's cool skin. He didn't shift in his sleep like a human would. He was laid in the exact same position that he'd fallen asleep in and I knew from experience that he'd stay that way until he woke up. His rapidly self-flowing vampire blood didn't have the same circulatory problems human blood did. Teren's limbs didn't ever go numb.

"No, thank you, Emma," Alanna responded from downstairs.

I smiled and went back to Teren-watching.

He woke up at the same time that I heard a car pulling up the drive. I was listening to the crunch of tire on gravel and wasn't paying attention to him. We were still naked in bed, draped around each other under the covers. He was in the same position he'd fallen asleep in, but I'd twisted and turned, trying to get comfortable with the massive stomach that impeded me from resting in my favorite position - on my stomach. I was also getting an ache from where a child was repeatedly kicking my rib.

I was staring at the ceiling, listening and rubbing my side, when Teren's cool fingers pushed mine aside and rested where I was sore. I smiled and looked over at him. Alanna had opened the curtains for me and he was bathed in a warm, cheery light. His face was haggard, tired, but he smiled softly at me.

"Hey," he whispered.

I twisted to face him. "Hey," I whispered back, running a hand through his hair. He closed his eyes and inhaled, drinking me in. I smiled wider as he opened his eyes. His brow furrowed. "Who's here?"

I listened to a door opening, my head cocked. Then I stood up, blurringly fast, and stumbled a little. Teren shot up right after me, steadying me as I adjusted to the odd feeling of moving faster than your mind can follow. I started to say thanks, but I stared at his bare body and then my own. Looking back up at him, I cringed. "My mom's here."

He cocked his head, listening, and then hearing what I'd heard, my mom chatting merrily with Ashley as they walked to the front door, he nodded and swept me into his arms.

Confused, I actually struggled for a little bit, thinking he was going to try and fit in a super quickie before they walked in the house. But I stopped when I felt him walk me over to a wide walk-in closet, holding enough maternity clothing for about three pregnant women; Teren had emptied our closet at home, and Alanna and Imogen were always bringing me something new to wear. A little retail therapy.

I smiled at him and held him close when he set me down. Looking down at me adoringly, he ran a thumb over my cheek. His eyes watered as he looked at me, and I knew he was replaying our conversation from last night. I shook my head and grabbed his face. "Don't stress," I whispered, as the rarely used doorbell chimed throughout the house.

He smiled at hearing his oft-repeated phrase said back to him, then he sighed and gave me a soft kiss. While Alanna greeted my mom at the door, feigning surprise and apologies at taking a few moments to get to them, saying she'd been in the back and hadn't heard them (uh, huh), Teren and I quickly got dressed.

Alanna kept them busy for a few minutes downstairs while Teren and I "prepped" our room. He tucked me in bed and then zipped around upstairs, finding magazines, books, water, movies and candy. Everything a pregnant woman confined to a bed would need to entertain herself. As he left to go greet my mom, I started popping gummy bears. Might as well play the part.

As my group of visitor's started trudging up the staircase, I started to worry about the one vamp who wasn't safely tucked into the house with us. A little surprised that I was actually concerned for the vixen, I paused in my sugary treat and asked Teren, "Is Halina okay? Where is she?"

He was currently walking up the steps with my mother, her thanking him for offering his arm as her leg was starting to go out on her every once and while. To her, he said, "It's the least I can do for a beautiful woman." My mom tittered at that and told him he was a very sweet and I was a lucky girl. That I was.

To me, he imperceptibly whispered, "She's fine. The nest was empty when I left...she was going to stay there." He chuckled after he said that, laughing at Mom's comment, but his voice was tight to me. I wanted to ask him more, but Ashley asked him how I was doing, and he started filling her in. I decided to not interrupt his conversation. Besides, just knowing she was fine, relaxed me in such a way that the smile on my face was a genuine one when Mom finally came through the door.

Mom immediately smiled wide and flew around the bed to my side. She was holding a box of chocolates and a small bouquet of flowers. The combination of those smells and the scent of Spike on her, made me a little nauseous. I hadn't felt that way in while. For a moment, I actually would have preferred that she'd had a baggy of blood on her. Knowing that the twins were largely responsible for my hemoglobin cravings, I laughed and hugged my mom tight.

She sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing my arms before switching to rub my stomach. A twin kicked her and she giggled. Ashley sat on the other side, kicking off her shoes and coming under the covers to snuggle into my side. I threw an arm around the scarred woman, knowing that the two of them were probably planning on spending the afternoon with me.

Teren stared at the three of us on the bed, that realization on his face too. He bit his lip, carefully this time, and stared at the ground. He shifted back and forth, somewhat antsy, and I could tell he didn't want to be in the room. My mom was oblivious to his odd behavior, regaling me on the adventures of her grand-pup.

I smiled and nodded at her, watching Teren from the corner of my eye. He sighed and looked out the window, maybe mentally counting down the remaining hours of daylight. I knew what he wanted. He wanted to leave here and find vampires. He wanted to question them on what they knew of mixed breeds, and beat them into submission if they refused to answer his questions. He desperately wanted someone to have a clue where he could find somewhere like himself, all in the hopes that that rare person would have an answer for him on the huge question mark that was my fate. Was I set to die in a couple weeks? Would the twins die with me? I would just be hitting my thirtieth week. Would they be far enough along to survive without me?

His eyes flashed back to me and he sighed again. His eyes were moist. I knew this was killing him, I knew he, at the very least, wanted to be doing research, but I also knew he needed to stay. Nothing out there would help me, and he was turning into something...well, monstrous.

Turning my full attention to him, I held out my hand. He stared at it, torn between staying and leaving. "Teren, that's not the way," I mumbled under my breath.

He looked down and nodded while my mom asked me if I'd said something. Still focused on Teren, I said nothing to her. She eventually silenced, noticing the tension in the room. My sister straightened and I felt her staring at Teren too.

He looked up at me, his eyes dangerously close to shedding a tear. I didn't know how we'd explain that if he did. As it was, I could feel my mom's curiosity pouring out of her.

Finally, Teren smiled widely and strode over to the bed, sitting on the corner and taking my hand. The tension broke with his move and my mom shrugged and continued on with tales of her life. Ashley, more clued into our situation, looked between the two of us. She squeezed my leg under the covers and I knew that she was aware something was going on that she didn't know about, and she wanted to know about it.

But I couldn't tell her with mom in the room, so I smiled warmly at her and then focused back on Teren. He smiled at me, his jaw tight, his gaze unwavering. He was forcing himself to stay, forcing himself to not run out and try and save me, me and them. I loved him so much, for both staying, and wanting to leave.

I whispered that to him and he sighed and nodded. "You're right, that's not the way." He tilted his head at me, speaking under his breath while my mom continued jabbering. "We'll find another."

This time, I smiled warmly and nodded. Copyright 2016 - 2024