From: ax1012@a...

Date: Wed Aug 2, 2000 1:27 am

Subject: Hearts Bound


DISCLAIMERS: Welcome to my latest FK story. Nick, Nat and the rest of

the FK universe belong to Sony/TriStar and TPTB, and no copyright

infringement is intended.

Permission granted to archive at NNAdult, and JADFE

WARNING--this is an ADULT story with explicit descriptions of a sexual

nature. If you are not an adult, please go away.

This story is a sequel to Captured Hearts and can be considered to take place

in the third season, after Last Knight. Captured Hearts can be found at

Many thanks to my betas, Heather Ann and Angi.


by Patty <ax1012@a...>

copyright 2000

Natalie singled out the house key from the large mass dangling noisily

off her key ring and slid it into the deadbolt lock on her apartment door.

Sydney's welcoming howl brought a soft smile to her lips. He barely gave the

door time to swing fully open before he was twining himself lovingly around

Nat's ankles. She had been at Nick's loft the past few days, and her cat was

obviously feeling lonesome.

"Poor baby." She bent over and scooped him up into her arms. "I didn't

mean to neglect you," she soothed, scratching and rubbing behind his ears.

His purr was gentle, vibrating up through the tips of her fingers rather than

being audible. He bumped his furry head against her hand, demanding more.

In Sydney's estimation, the only thing that came close to surpassing food was

a good scratch behind the ears. On a human scale, Nat mused, the space

between his two delicate, upright ears was practically an erogenous zone.

Her hands were loaded with mail and cat, so she kicked the door shut

behind her and

went over to the dining room table where she set down the stack of mail she

had retrieved on her way in. Having given the envelopes a cursory glance,

she knew there was nothing that couldn't wait. Sydney, on the other hand,

seemed to need a little attention right now.

Natalie's eyes did a quick sweep of the apartment, making sure everything

was in order. It was an almost unconscious safety precaution, acquired from

so many years living on her own. Other than the visible dent in the couch

cushion where Sydney had apparently just been lounging, everything was

exactly as she had left it. Exactly the same, yet, subtly different. The

colors and hues of her furniture were more alive; the fresh scent of clean

rooms, various potpourri jars, and assorted candles seemed somehow brighter.

Similar sensations had barraged her yesterday. Initially, she had passed it

off as the result of her ascent from the deep depression she had fallen into

since Nick disappeared. This afternoon, however, when she stepped outside

and immediately located the songbird, whose tune was lilting across the air a

full 200 feet away, the scientist in her finally recognized that these

changes she had been noticing were physical, not emotional as she had

originally suspected.

Since making love with Nick, everything in her world had become

enhanced. In fact, the changes had actually begun soon after she was

released from the hospital. Nick's return had merely intensified what was

already there. Tomorrow, Janette was coming to the loft, as promised.

Natalie hoped she could shed some light on the situation.

Checking Sydney's food and water, she was gratified to see that there was

still plenty of both left. Water she did not worry about, as her resourceful

cat actually seemed to prefer drinking out of the toilet, but this morning

she had begun to worry about poor Syd's food situation. He was smart, but he

had not quite graduated to opening up the pantry and selecting his own

dinner. She didn't bother to refill either dish as they both would be

leaving here this evening and would not be coming back.

Natalie had offered no resistance when Nick suggested that she move in

with him. They had briefly discussed living arrangements, deciding that

since his loft was so much larger, and already outfitted for his lifestyle,

she should move in there. The lease on this apartment was up for renewal

next month, so there was no problem with letting it go. Sydney soon grew

tired of her ministrations and jumped down to the floor, searching out his

food dish. Cats did not live by affection alone, and in his worry over his

mistress' extended absence, he had not eaten nearly enough these past few


Slipping out of the oversize jacket she had borrowed from Nick's

closet, really more of a fashion statement than anything else since he never

really needed the added warmth it provided, she draped it over a nearby

chair. Comfortable in a pair of borrowed sweats, she headed for the hall

closet and retrieved Sydney's travel cage and two suitcases stored on the top

shelf. Nick had suggested she bring Sydney back with her immediately so he

could become accustomed to his new home. Sydney was not an animal who

adapted well to change, and it was bound to take him awhile to adjust to his

new surroundings. Nat already had visions of him hiding out for the first

week or so under Nick's couch. She wasn't too concerned, though; Nick and

Syd basically liked each other. The only problem was that each seemed to

view the other as a rival for Natalie's attention. It was, she surmised, a

man thing. In a week or so Sydney would adapt to his new environment and

come to relish the interesting, new hidey-holes the loft provided, as well as

all that extra room to run around.

Relocating the cat was going to be much simpler than moving herself. She

had several years worth of belongings stored in this apartment, and now,

since Nick already had a fully functioning household, she was going to have

to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. It was going to be a huge job

and not one she was particularly looking forward to.

Tonight, all she had to do was pack a few essentials and wait for Nick to

arrive. She was driving his Caddie because the trunk was so much larger than

hers. He was going to make his own way over here after dark, and they would

return home together. She intended to spend the rest of the evening

unpacking and settling in. The bulk of her belongings would be arriving in a

week, via a team of professional movers hired to finish the job. They had

decided to just move everything to the first floor of the loft, which was

mainly used for the storage of Nick's own things. That way she could take

her time sorting through everything.

Natalie set Sydney's cage down on the floor so he could get used to it

before she had to lock him in for the trip. Sydney never left home except to

go to the vet, and that dreaded excursion was always managed inside this very

cage. He eyed the offending contraption with suspicion. "Don't worry, Syd,"

she spoke soothingly. "It will just be a short drive, and I promise, the

only doctor you will see on the way will be me."

Returning to the closet, she gathered up both suitcases and headed off to

her bedroom to begin the daunting task of deciding what must go now and what

could wait until later. For the time being all she needed was a basic

wardrobe and a few toiletries, only what she would use over the next week

until everything else was delivered.

Time passed quickly, and before she knew it, both suitcases were full.

The smaller of the two was going to require some serious elbow grease to

shut, so she set it on the couch to wait for Nick's help. The mere thought

of him had her glancing anxiously out the window to see if the sun's rays

were fading. Nick had promised to follow her over here as soon as it was

safe. He did not want her alone after dark until they worked out what to do

about LaCroix. She shared his trepidation. In spite of LaCroix's violent

reaction to her blood, Nick's master frightened her. So far, he had been

ominously silent. Even the connection Nick shared with him was gone.

Unfortunately, they knew, silence was no guarantee that LaCroix would leave

them in peace. Janette had also stayed away, ostensibly to give the two of

them some time alone. Finally, last night, she had contacted Nick and

arranged to visit tomorrow, informing them to expect her some time around


Janette--now there was a puzzle. Natalie was very unsure of herself when

it came to the other woman. The last time Nat had seen Janette, before her

timely arrival the other night, was after Robert, her mortal lover, had been

killed. She had still been human then. Now, returned to her vampire state

by Nick, Nat wasn't exactly sure how the she fit into the scheme of things.

Natalie knew that Janette was far more than just a sibling/child to

Nick. She was well aware that they had lived as husband and wife for many

years after Nick was brought across and that he had visited her often during

his relationship with Natalie. The knowledge had caused her more than a

moment's consternation. Natalie had always sensed that Janette disliked her,

despite the fact that she was never anything but cooly polite. Whether it

was jealousy of Nick and Nat's relationship, or disapproval of Natalie's

project to cure Nick, the animosity had been clear. Now, however, something

about Janette was different. Nothing overt--she was still the same person,

but there were subtle changes that Natalie had picked up on the other night.

Having always found the other woman to be somewhat cold, Natalie had been

surprised to see a new softness about the ancient vampiress. There was also

a lurking sadness in her eyes that anyone who knew the old Janette could

never have conceived of.

Nat had often wondered about Janette's true feelings for her mortal

lover. At the time of his death, Janette's grief seemed palpable. Natalie

had always considered herself to be a good judge of people. In her opinion,

Janette felt the loss of Robert every bit as deeply as Natalie herself had

felt Nick's absence. It would be interesting to see if she was correct.

Maybe, Natalie thought, they could become friends. If not, at least they no

longer appeared to be enemies, otherwise, Natalie surmised silently, Janette

would not be as willing to help them as she seemed to be. With luck, she

might even be able to explain LaCroix's extreme reaction to Natalie's blood

and the many other changes taking place.

Nat turned towards the door seconds before she heard the solid rapping

from the other side. She didn't bother to look through the peephole she had

always relied upon in the past. She knew, without a doubt, that Nick was on

the other side. She could feel his presence. As he strode into the small

apartment, Sydney growled with disapproval. He had just gotten his mistress

back and was not at all happy with the idea of sharing her again so soon.

'Poor Sydney,' Nat thought. 'Are you in for a big surprise!'

Her pulse involuntarily skipped as his tall frame filled the small room.

His usually immaculate, wavy, blond hair was in disarray from the windy

conditions outside. Out of habit, she tamped down the urge to reach out and

smooth the silky mass, then realized that she finally had the right to touch

him any way she pleased. Giving in to the desire, she reached out and

ordered the silky locks with a trembling hand. He felt so good...she

breathed him in...smelled so good. God, how she loved this man.

"Just about set?" Nick asked, sweeping her into his embrace as if he

hadn't seen her in weeks. "I missed you."

"I missed you too." She tilted her head back, welcoming the warmth of

his lips against her own, all thoughts of Janette lost the moment he enfolded

her in his arms. It never ceased to amaze her how this one man's presence

could erase all rational thought from her mind. She had never experienced

such a thing before. She saw the wicked glint in his eye as he began slowly

backing her towards the bedroom. Natalie struggled with the placement of her

feet as she walked in reverse. "Nick...if we keep this up...we'll never get

me moved! This is why I came here by myself today." Her protest was

half-hearted and breathless, between lingering kisses.

"The night is young, woman. There is nowhere else we have to be, not a

single thing we have to do." They were both enjoying this time together

before the inevitable happened and they had to go public. Some time

yesterday, in between passionate encounters, they had come to the conclusion

that they would tell everyone Nick had been held captive, tied and

blindfolded, but that he had absolutely no idea who was responsible. It was

pretty lame, but with the help of his hypnotic ability, they should be able

to bring the whole thing off. He was going to explain that three days ago

his captors had loaded him into the back of a panel van, driven to downtown

Toronto, and dumped him out on the street with no explanation. Weak, and

slightly disoriented, he had found his way to Nat's apartment, and she had

been taking care of him since. If necessary, he would make a limited

disclosure of his involvement in the DeBrabant foundation to his superiors,

citing it as a possible cause for his kidnaping.

Nick's lips were traveling down the long column of her neck, nibbling

their way towards the pulse point throbbing invitingly just below her skin.

He loved nuzzling her there, where the siren's song of her blood whispered

evocatively to him from just beneath the surface. Natalie had been surprised

to discover that particular spot was one of her own erogenous zones. The

lightest stroke of his tongue across that sensitive flesh caused her to spin

mindlessly out of control.

More than once, over the past few days, Natalie had actually been amazed

by the force of what they created between them. Long ago, she had come to

the conclusion that passionate interludes, while enjoyable, were either

highly over-rated, or something meant for women other than herself. The

absence of a lover had never had much impact on her. Over the past few

years, since the advent of Nick in to her life, she had pushed away almost

every other man that had attempted to date her, even when she was certain

that the possibility of a relationship with Nick was out of the question.

Now, here she was, unable to go more than a couple of hours before her body

began to physically crave the closeness they shared. It was the most

incredible sensation, almost as if she would die if she did not have him.

She smiled secretly--she was enjoying this immensely.


Since their second, magnificent coupling at the loft, lovemaking had been

much less intense, though no less wonderful. They had discussed what

happened that night, and Nick had warned her that the vampire would always be

there. He could feel it lurking in the background, jealously awaiting its

opportunity. They had spent a long time analyzing Nat's difficulty with such

total surrender and Nick's feelings of guilt after. Nat understood that her

vulnerability heightened Nick's pleasure all of the time, not just when the

vampire was present. He was, after all, a man from a different time who was

raised with very different ideas of what happened between men and women. She

accepted that his somewhat outdated notions bled over into their love life.

She actually found the tender, gentle way he treated her to be very arousing.

Men today often forgot that just because a woman worked and made her own way

in the world, she was still very much a woman.

When the vampire gained control, he could not resist the urge for

complete dominance, and it embarrassed him. It was as though he did not want

to accept that part of himself. Together, they reached the conclusion that

they were just going to have to live with that particular aspect of their

relationship if they were going to move forward. She was just not sure he

believed it. She had reassured him that, while it had been an extremely

difficult thing for her to do, the depth of her love for him was such that

she would do it over and over again. The situation had not yet arisen, and

she knew he was forcibly quelling the need to let that part of himself free.

It was beginning to worry her, but as Nick did not want to discuss it

further, there was little she could do about it.

In the many hours they had spent in each other's arms, the deep intimacy

of that time had not been achieved again, and she found herself privately

looking forward to it. While it had not been easy, the entire experience

had been extremely erotic. It was possibly the most intimate thing they

would ever share together, and though she did not mention it to Nick, she was

anticipating another such interlude with a kind of frightened eagerness that

was enhanced by the awareness that the vampire was gaining strength. She

could feel it growing in power every time they made love. It was simply a

matter of time.

Nat felt the mattress bump the back of her legs, then Nick was lowering

her gently down. He came over her, straddling her, while his hands busily

divested her of her clothing. She reached up to unbutton his shirt, needing

to touch tensile male flesh. She could feel the heat radiating from him as

his arousal increased. Nat had noticed that, while in all other

circumstances, Nick's body temperature remained markedly lower than normal,

lovemaking drove his temperature almost as high as her own. He had no

explanation for the phenomenon. Before Natalie, he had not had intercourse,

in the mortal sense, in over 700 years without killing his partner, and he

could not recall any other vampire commenting on the phenomenon.

The sharp tug of his teeth at her nipple had her abandoning her train of

thought and focusing all her attention on the man above her. She felt the

rapid buildup of sexual tension until she was aroused to such a fever pitch

that she forcibly dragged him down, flipped him over, and mounted him.

Knees set firmly in the mattress on either side of his hips, she impaled

herself deeply, then began a provocative game of advance and retreat until

they were both panting with the need for completion. She drove him to the

edge of orgasm, then slowed her pace, gently bringing him down a little

before beginning again. Natalie found that she enjoyed being the aggressor.

He, too, seemed delighted when she took charge occasionally. Nick allowed

her complete freedom to set the pace to the point where he could stand no

more. His hands locked around her hips, directing her movements, drawing her

down heavily on him until finally, they climaxed in unison. She collapsed,

unable to support her own weight any longer, and pleasantly exhausted, they

both drifted off into contented sleep, innocently unaware that their privacy

was about to be breached.

Grace had been trying to contact Dr. Lambert for two days. She had left

numerous messages on her answering machine and had paged repeatedly, to no

avail. Finally, worried sick, she had contacted Joe Reese. With the key

Grace kept for emergencies, they let themselves inside, fearing the worst.

Neither had mentioned the word suicide on the short drive over here, but the

idea hung ominously unspoken between them. Everyone knew how depressed

Natalie had been, and no one seemed capable of drawing her back to a life

without Nick in it. They entered the apartment, immediately noticing the

suitcases laid out in the living room. Joe's questioning look was answered

by Grace's confused shrug.

Grace called out, "Dr. Lambert?...Natalie, are you here?" When she

received no response, she moved through the living room into the kitchen.

Nothing. Joe was right on her heels when she pushed open the door to

Natalie's darkened bedroom. Reaching in, she flipped on the overhead light,

and both she and Joe stood agog, flabbergasted by the sight before them. Not

sure whether to be embarrassed, shocked, or relieved, neither was capable of

any immediate movement. They simply stood there, wide-eyed, taking in the

intimate panorama.

A man lay spread-eagled beneath Natalie. His head was turned away,

concealing his facial features. Nat was sprawled easily on top of him, her

own head nestled beneath his chin, her thick, auburn hair sweeping across his

face as if he had buried himself in its silky veil, inhaling her scent as he

nodded off to sleep. A soft down comforter was draped casually across her

slim hips as if the need for warmth had been merely an afterthought. It was

glaringly obvious that what had recently taken place in that bed had

generated a considerable amount of heat. Respect for Natalie's privacy

demanded that they turn away, but there was something about the couple that

held them transfixed. Perhaps it was the tender manner in which the man's

strong arms wrapped protectively around the woman, sheltering her even in

sleep. Or possibly the completely relaxed sprawl of the woman, as if this

man was a comfortable, long-time lover who had her absolute trust. It was

actually a beautiful sight, two halves of a whole locked together in a

perfect fit.

Grace sniffed. No matter how well paired Natalie and this unknown male

seemed, she was genuinely shocked. The last time she had spoken to Dr.

Lambert, her grief over Nick's disappearance had been consuming her. She

wasn't eating or sleeping properly, and she certainly was not socializing at

all. She knew Natalie better than anyone got to know the reserved coroner,

and the prospect of Natalie in bed with any other man was one she would not

have entertained for even a moment if she was not witnessing it for herself.

Natalie never even dated! Grace couldn't help the bitter disappointment she

felt at Natalie's sudden betrayal of Nick's memory. She had always held to

the romantic fantasy that the two would somehow wind up together. After all,

no one even knew for sure that Nick was dead. Grace had expected Natalie to

at least wait for the outcome of that investigation before moving on with her

life. In spite of the fact that she had advised the fragile coroner to do

exactly that less than a week ago, she had never expected Natalie to take her

words to heart in quite this manner.

Joe cleared his throat loudly a few times, causing the couple to stir.

The man tightened his hold on Natalie before he turned towards them, and they

received the second shock in as many minutes. Time was momentarily suspended

as two pairs of sleepy blue eyes slowly opened. It took a few seconds before

they simultaneously widened in surprise as realization of their predicament

set in.

"NICK?" Joe's voice belied his amazement. "Ummm...I'm sorry...excuse

us...!" He retreated swiftly, dragging Grace, whose mouth was now actually

gaping, out of the room.

"Joe, wait..." Nick pulled the blanket up over Natalie's bare back to

her shoulders as she turned her face into his neck, completely mortified.

"Will you both please wait in the other room? I will be out in a minute. We

need to talk." With stunned nods, Joe and Grace removed themselves as

quickly as their feet would take them.

Nick groaned, "I'm sorry, Nat. I was so sound asleep I didn't hear them

come in." Nat was shuddering, and at first Nick thought she was crying, then

as she pulled away, he saw the sparkle of mischief lighting her eyes. She

rolled off him onto her side, her hand pressed over her mouth to muffle her


"Oh God, Nick...did you see the looks on their faces? Grace is usually

so unflappable. I wish I had a camera to capture the moment!" She dissolved

into a heap, clutching her stomach. "It was priceless." Nick joined her,

his own chuckles a combination of humor and relief that Natalie was taking

this so well. She had always been such a private person he wasn't sure of

her reaction to being discovered naked, still intimately joined, in bed with

him. He was gratified to know that she was comfortable with the fact that

other people knew they were now lovers. "We...we have to go out there and

face them..." She stuttered the words out before dissolving once again into

gales of merriment, while Nick untangled himself from the bedclothes and

began hurriedly tossing his clothes on.

"You stay here. I'll send Grace in while I deal with Joe." He was

still buttoning his shirt as he turned to leave the room. "We have a lot of

explaining to do here, Nat." She waved him away, still snickering softly.

Nat did feel bad that she had forgotten to call anyone and let them know she

was all right, but she knew that once things were explained, Grace would

understand. She was a good friend, and besides, no one wanted to see Nick

and Nat together more than Grace!

Natalie was belting her pink bathrobe closed when she heard a light tap

on her bedroom door. "Come in, Grace," she called out. The door swung

inward, and Natalie's dearest friend stepped in the room. There were tears

in her eyes, no anger. Happy tears that spilled over when she took in

Natalie's radiant expression.

"Oh, Nat, I am so happy for you!" Grace opened her arms for a hug, and

Natalie stepped into the warm circle of her friend's embrace.

"Gracie, I'm sorry I forgot to call you. I worried you needlessly, but

everything happened so fast...and I just didn't stop to think of anything but

Nick." Grace hugged her tightly, letting her know without words that she was


"It's ok, Natalie. Believe me, I completely understand...but what


Natalie explained things to Grace exactly how she and Nick had rehearsed.

By the time she finished, both women were sitting on the side of the bed.

Grace still had one arm around Nat's shoulder, clasping her hand in the


"What are your plans now?" Grace asked.

"For the time being, I think we need to take things day at a

time." Natalie sighed. "First, we need some time together to straighten out

things between us. Nick has only been back a few days, and we haven't spent

much time talking." Nat blushed slightly, before going on. "Then we have to

worry about letting everyone know Nick is back. After that is all settled,

we can think about returning to work."

"Well, you know you can count on me for any help you need. I noticed

suitcases in the other room. Are you moving in with Nick?" Grace inquired

with an approving grin.

" seems silly, me keeping this place, when I'm going to be over

at his loft most of the time anyway. The only reason we were here today is

that I came to pick up a few things, and he came later to pick me up. I

don't seem to accomplish very much when Nick is around." Nat flushed again

and the older woman beamed her approval.

"It's about time, if you ask me!" Grace endorsed the decision. "Well, I

think we had better be going and leave the two of you on your own." Grace

hugged Natalie tightly once more, before standing up to go. Turning, she met

Nat's eyes. "I'm truly happy for you, Natalie. You guys waited long enough

to find each other. Don't waste a single moment from now on."

"We won't, Grace. I can promise you that I will never take another

moment with Nick for granted." The last part was said more to herself than

Grace as she exited the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Natalie sat on the edge of the bed, staring off into space, for quite a

while, her mind going over and over the events of the last few days. She was

glad that others knew that Nick was back because it was one hurdle behind

them. Yet, there was a part of her that resented the intrusion. Both of

them had demanding lives, and while Natalie knew she wouldn't last long

without the outlet working provided, she also hated the fact that soon this

precious time alone with Nick was going to end and real life would intrude

with all its problems.

The door opened and Nick returned, finding her staring off into the

distance, a faraway expression on her face. He sat down beside her, the dip

of the mattress startling her out of her reverie. "Penny for your thoughts?"

he asked.

"I was just wishing that the outside world could stay away a little while


Nick wrapped her tightly in his arms, just holding her and rocking

slightly to and fro. "We can keep it at bay for as long as we want, Nat. I

know I have a lot of vacation time that I have never used. I am sure you

have just as much, since I have never known you to take time off. We can use

it to spend some time together."

"I know, but there is a selfish part of me that wants to keep you all to

myself forever!" Nat hugged him fiercely.

"I will always be yours, Nat. No matter what life brings, we will come

home to each other from now on...but for the moment, you do have me

completely to yourself. What are you going to do about it?" he teased.

With a wicked grin, Natalie drew him with her onto the soft bed, her

fingers already working on the buttons of his shirt. "Oh, I'm sure I can

come up with something."

It was several hours later before they got around to closing the overstuffed

suitcase on her couch and set out for home. Her purse over one shoulder, and

a disgruntled Sydney in the opposite hand, Natalie turned for one final look

at the place that had been her refuge for so many years. She expected to

feel at least a little bit sad about leaving. Nothing, not even a twinge.

While this was a great apartment, home was with Nick now, and she knew she

could never again be happy any place else. She pulled the door firmly shut

behind her and turned towards the man waiting halfway down the stairs. Her

lover. Her soul mate. He reached out for her free hand, and twining her

fingers with his, she took the first step towards their new life together.

Back at the loft, having consumed a healthy portion of the Chinese

take-out they picked up on the way, Nat went about settling in. After

telling her to 'make herself at home,' Nick had disappeared downstairs,

leaving her with the bedroom to herself. It felt so right, placing her

toothbrush next to his, hanging her clothes alongside his own in the roomy

closet, yet, she couldn't help but wonder if he was having second thoughts.

Nick's mood had shifted in the car, and she wasn't sure what the cause

was. The carefree happiness of the past few days had dissolved into a

distracted melancholy reminiscent of the Nick she had first met. It was

possible that he, too, was resenting the intrusion of reality into the

passion-soaked days and nights they had been sharing, but Natalie didn't

think so. She sensed him studying her intently, but she wasn't sure just

what he was searching for. By the time they arrived back at the loft, he had

become distant, preoccupied, participating in the conversation only when

necessary. While she washed up her dinner dishes, she had actually felt his

penetrating gaze boring twin holes into her back, yet when she turned, his

attention was elsewhere. It was not uncommon for Nick to drift off into

memories of the past, but this was something different, Nat was sure of it.

Was he rethinking his decision to have her move in with him? Nick had, after

all, been on his own for centuries.

The chore of unpacking completed, Natalie took a quick shower, then

pulled on one of her own night shirts for the first time in days. It felt

strange. They had spent most of their time together gloriously naked, and

when she had been presented with a reason to cover herself, she had favored

wearing one of his silky pajama tops and nothing else. Tonight, there was a

new distance between them, and she felt compelled to wear her own totally

unsexy sleep wear. Feeling hurt and raw, she decided to go down and face

him, rather than heading for bed, depressed and alone. She was hoping to

discover that she was totally wrong in the direction her thoughts were taking.

Descending the stairs, she found the loft in near total darkness. The

only illumination was from a fire crackling and spitting in the grate.

Straining her eyes in the gloominess, she located Nick. He was sprawled

comfortably in a plush armchair, his gaze riveted on the deep crimson liquid

he was swirling absently in a wineglass before him.

She padded silently across the room on bare feet, but she knew he was

aware of her presence. He just made no move to acknowledge it. He simply

sat there, lost in the spinning vortex of the blood wine mixture. She was

standing next to him before she finally spoke, unable to keep the shaky,

emotional hitch out of her voice. He always greeted her with such eagerness

when she entered a room, reaching out for her as if he needed physical

contact to reassure him that this was all not just a dream. Now he was

ignoring her arrival.

"Nick...what's the matter?" she queried hesitantly.

He turned towards the sound of her voice, but didn't reply. He simply

studied her, his penetrating gaze making her want to run for the nearest

cover. It was almost impersonal, the way he took in her casual pajamas. He

spoke not a word for many minutes, but she could read his disapproval in his

scowl. 'What the hell is going on here?' she thought.

Finally when he did speak, the words sliced sharply through the tense,

overlong silence. "Take that off, Natalie." His voice resonated as if it

came from a cavern deep underground. It didn't sound like Nick at all, and

while part of her wanted to reach out and soothe away whatever was bothering

him, another bigger part of her was put off by his tone. She backed up a

step in retreat and was turning away when her wrist was captured in his

vice-like grip.

"I said, take that off." He sounded almost angry. She shivered, chilled to

the bone by this aspect of Nick. It was then that she saw his eyes: two

bright, ruby points gleaming in the darkness. The way they reflected the

flames gave them a surreal, frightening quality she hadn't noticed before

because of the low lighting. Natalie's breathing intensified, and her body

reacted instantaneously to the sexual message they were transmitting. Her

nipples immediately tightened into rigid points in instinctive response,

their outline clearly visible against the worn cotton of her night-shirt.

The moment she had feared and anticipated was at hand, and she wasn't

sure how to proceed. The modern woman that was Natalie Lambert resented the

way he was treating her. The sensuous creature that he had awakened within

her hungered for his magical touch. It had been so easy to talk about this

situation in an analytical sense, but now that it was here, she found the

prospect of what was to come more frightening than she cared to admit.

Jerking free, she swept her arms up, hugging them tightly, protectively over

her swollen breasts. His eyebrow rose slightly, mockingly implying that he

was fully aware of her body's primitive response.

This was a test. Nat was sure of it. Nick had warned her that the time

would come when the vampire would rear its ugly head and once again demand

its due. Memories of the last time barraged her; a relentless series of

vivid, still pictures flashed through her brain like an erotic, high-speed

slide show, causing her body to flush with a combination of sexual

anticipation edged with terror. In retrospect, it had been an experience

beyond anything she had ever imagined lovemaking could be. It had been so

painfully, frighteningly intimate that she truly feared repeating the

experience. At the same time, a portion of her had secretly craved this

moment for days. The muscles of her abdomen quivered, and the tell-tale rush

of moisture between her legs signaled her body's eager willingness to accept

what lay ahead. She faced the fact that, in spite of everything, her entire

being was inflamed by the prospect of repeating that night.

Natalie considered her options. She could refuse him, but then, that was

really out of the question. She loved Nick, and to turn the vampire away

would be to inflict pain on the man, and she was incapable of that.

For the first time ever, Natalie recognized that she was treating the

vampire as if it were a separate entity from Nick, when that was not at all

the case. It was simply another dimension of the complex, many-faceted man

she had fallen head over heels in love with. Reality was that it was not

Nick she feared, but the possibility of being violated, humiliated. It

wasn't surprising, really, since Nick himself was the one who treated the

entire episode as if it had been something awful for her to endure. She had

allowed his prejudices to color her perspective. Again she replayed the

events of that night in her mind. It had not been a violation in any sense

of the word. What it had been was the total communion of two souls. Two

separate people, joined body, heart and mind. It was delivery on the promise

that was always there between them in lesser degrees every time they made

love. The best of the limited link that flared up when they were joined and

he tasted her blood. Yes, it had been difficult to completely surrender

herself, but the union achieved with her total capitulation had been more

than worth the effort.

It helped to know that it was grueling for him, as well. Nick had spent

so long hating that part of himself that was vampire that he had tremendous

difficulty relinquishing control to it. He went through such great pains to

conceal his dark traits from her that allowing her to witness him consumed by

the savage side of his dual nature was almost impossible. Knowing that the

surrender was mutual made her decision a simple one. There was no part of

Nick that she did not want, and there was no portion of herself that she

wasn't willing to yield to him.

She relaxed her arms, grasping the oversized shirt by its frayed hem, and

pulled it off, tossing it carelessly aside. She stood before him, naked and

proud, her pale skin glistening in the unsteady light of the fire, all

woman...his woman. He simply sat there, immobile, taking her in, too

astonished by her easy surrender to do anything more for the moment. He was

humbled. Nat made no move to cover herself--she knew full well the effect

her naked body had on him, vampire or not--and actually felt the surge of

possessive desire leap electrically through him via the tiny link that

existed between them always. She revelled in her feminine power. She met

his gaze evenly, challenging him with a slight Mona Lisa smile, daring him to

finish this.

He collected himself, then set his glass down on the mahogany table next

to his chair. Reaching forward with both hands, he massaged her breasts,

squeezing gently, teasing the pointed tips with his thumbs. His touch felt

like coming home. This was her Nick, her vampire. He loved her and would

never do anything to harm her. Tonight they would be united again as no

other two people on Earth could be. The sexual conflagration that they

created would bind her more deeply to this part of him he tried so hard to

shield her from.

Smiling, he relaxed down into the chair, simultaneously reaching for her

hand and drawing her astride his knees. She moved to sit, but he silently

indicated that she should remain standing. Leaning sideways, he picked up

his glass of blood wine and sipped, needing the fortification it provided.

If this was going to last more than a moment, he would have to exert

tremendous control over both the man and the beast. Already, he could hear

the darker side of himself keening wildly for the sweet taste of Natalie's

precious blood. His eyes, burning only slightly golden now, journeyed over

the feast she had laid bare before him, savoring it. The beast inside him

surged once, coveting total possession, heart, soul and body, but was hastily

checked by the man.

Setting the drink down once more, he reached up and cupped her shoulders

with his palms, giving them a gentle, reassuring squeeze, then eased down her

arms to where her hands had unconsciously fisted. He drew them to his lips,

alternately dropping kisses on the knuckles of each until she relaxed. He

drew her right hand to his mouth and traced a wet, lingering path across its

center, then repeated the gesture on her left. He was going slowly, gentling

her. Nick was in control, whether he realized it or not. Dropping her

hands, he began a lazy exploration of her body. He ran palms down her legs

then back up; he rubbed her belly gently then reached behind her to cup her

firm, rounded buttocks. He was a tall man, and easily managed the stretch

without having to relinquish his position on the chair.

Gently, he feathered his fingertips up her back to her shoulder blades,

aware of the extreme sensitivity she developed there when aroused. Despite

the heat roaring from the fire, she shivered. He explored every inch of her,

carefully avoiding only those places that were clamoring for attention. Her

breathing became ragged and torn, and her heart pounded with a fierce, uneven

rhythm. Then, abruptly, his hands were withdrawn, leaving her bereft body

arching vainly into empty space, demanding more. Before she could react, a

glass of her favorite red wine was pressed gently against her lips. She

took a sip, then at his silent urging, a deep swallow. She was surprised by

his choice of refreshment for her. Wine relaxed her, but it also tended to

make her drowsy. He smiled, as if reading her thoughts. "You won't fall

asleep, Nat. I'll see to it." She did not doubt that he could be counted on

to keep his word.

Removing the glass, he set it down beside his own. In the muted light it was

impossible to differentiate one from the other. He resumed his exploration

of the planes and valleys of her flesh, circling closer and closer to the

places that yearned for contact, then retreating in a sensual tease that was

maddening...waiting, wanting and hoping he would take this one step further.

When his fingertips finally brushed lightly against rock-hard nipples, she

whimpered. Prolonged anticipation heightened the sensation to such a degree,

it made his touch almost, but not quite, painful.

"You like that!" It was a statement, not a question. Abandoning her

burgeoning breasts, his fingers danced down the length of her arms. He

grasped her wrists firmly and lifted, splaying her fingers. He used her

hands, guided by his own, to resume the caress. She stiffened slightly,

uncomfortable with this alteration in foreplay. He kept at it until she

calmed, her eyes drifted shut and her head dropped back in ecstasy. She

grew bolder, pulling at her nipples, then pressing, repeating the moves he so

often used to arouse her, until she realized she was no longer being

assisted. Chagrined, she self-consciously let her hands drop, shocked by

her own behavior.

He chuckled, "Later, my sweet Natalie, you will touch yourself willingly

for me, wherever I ask." She shuddered and blushed . The prospect of

pleasuring herself while he looked on was an exciting fantasy, but she

doubted she could ever allow anyone that particular intimacy, not even Nick.

Finally, he combed his fingers lightly through the damp, curly mat of

hair nestled at the vee of her thighs. Straddling him, as she was, left her

open and vulnerable, his knees preventing her from drawing her thighs

together. Slipping lower, he separated the plump folds of her womanhood,

revealing the hidden heart of her pleasure. The air of the room was itself

a soft, hot caress against the throbbing button of flesh that was the key to

her release. He studied her intently, hunching forward to get a better look.

She was stunned. In all her life, no one had ever taken such a liberty as

this! Well, maybe her gynaecologist, but he didn't look quite so...hard.

She could actually feel his probing eyes on her sensitized flesh. It was

more personal than if he had actually touched her, and it was sexy as hell,

as if he were committing to memory every curve and line. Still, she could

have curled up and died of humiliation when her hips thrust forward of their

own volition, demanding a more substantial contact.

"Don't be ashamed, Nat" he soothed, once again reading her thoughts.

"Your response is beautiful. Everything about you is beautiful...especially

here." He shifted his thumbs, opening her further, exposing the core of her

need completely. Leaning forward, he drew his tongue, stiffly pointed,

slowly across the tingling throbbing center of sensual delight he had bared.

Just once. She came. Not an explosive, all-encompassing orgasm as she had

become accustomed to experiencing with him. This was an easy release of

pressure she had not even been aware was building. A wave of pleasure that

originated at that sensitive point between her legs surged gently outward,

enveloping her entire body. Her knees buckled, and he had to support her,

cupping her hips, or she would have collapsed forward.

"Oh God, Nick!" she moaned, struggling for breath, while her hands

fluttered restlessly before settling on his broad shoulders, clenching and

unclenching spasmodically in time with the final tremors of her receding

orgasm. He felt the sting of her nails as they dug into his skin, branding

him with little crescent moons.

"You are so incredibly responsive, Nat." The deep, gravelly

rumble of his voice betrayed how much he was affected by what had happened.

He glanced up at her face which hid nothing. "Don't be shy, love!" He

smiled, showing glints of pearly, white fang beneath his upper lip.

She couldn't help herself. She hadn't even realized she was close!

"Have you any idea what an extraordinary gift you give when you allow me

to witness that?" he queried softly. She shook her head negatively, still

incapable of speech. He rested his head against her stomach. She felt the

vibration of his words against her. "No woman, in all my centuries, has ever

given herself so freely. I cherish it, and prize it above any possession I

own." His breath was cool against her heated flesh. Pressing inward, he

explored the shallow dent of her navel with his tongue.

Repositioning her, sitting astride his legs, his hands resumed their lazy

exploration, first soothing then reigniting the smoldering flame of passion

within her. Pushing his thighs apart, he spread her wide. Bringing his lips

into play, he began kissing a trail around her body. Every time Natalie

moved to touch him, he stopped her. This was to be his show, and he wanted

no interference. It went on and on, until she was writhing against him in

wanton desperation, her surging hips striving for that part of him that would

come inside her and fill the emptiness. She ground herself against his

denim-clad thigh, leaving a trace of wetness there, mute testimony to her

renewed state of readiness. She urged him on, not just with her body, but

with whispered words of encouragement. When that didn't work, she shifted

tactics and turned to erotic invitation, language meant to push him over the

edge, words she could hardly believe she was using, had never spoken to

another man but meant with all her heart.

Smiling, she saw that her bawdy, sensual talk was producing the desired

effect. His hooded eyes were burning, liquid crimson. His fangs were fully

extended. Beads of perspiration broke on his forehead and upper lip,

mingling with the sheen of sweat layering her body, shimmering in the

firelight. Still, he held back. Finally, in desperation, she switched to

words of love. Not love for Nick, but for the beast. She spoke to the

vampire from her heart, told him how much she had secretly desired his

re-emergence. She whispered of the depth of her desire for this part of him,

so often kept concealed, her willingness to give him anything, everything.

Her promises stilled him. He drew back and met her eyes with his own

questioning, ruby gaze.

"Anything, Natalie? You would do anything I ask of you?" She nodded her

agreement eagerly, unconcerned with anything but the need to fill the empty

void inside her.

He reached between them, and with trembling hands, clumsily undid the fly

of his trousers, releasing that part of him she longed for above all else.

Despite the blood roaring in her ears, she didn't miss his relieved sigh as

he set his straining penis free. He nudged his hips forward slightly until

the tip was nestled against her womanly opening, the slight contact sending a

shockwave of ecstacy rippling through her. He slipped inside, just a little,

maintaining a firm hold on her hips, preventing her from deepening the

penetration. With a mighty shudder, Natalie begged "Please..."

He withdrew, teasingly. "Anything I ask?"

"God... yes," she ground out the words, her voice little more than a

husky rasp in the darkness.

He captured her hands and brought them against the wet, hot place where

they were joined, just barely.

"Touch yourself," he commanded.

Natalie gasped, dismayed. She should have expected this. Her hands


"You said anything, Natalie. This is what I want. Make yourself fly for

me." His own voice was little more than a strangled rasp.

Her head fell forward; he felt the moisture of her hot tears against his

shoulder. Without warning, he thrust deep, filling her completely with his

masculine length. Helplessly she cried out, her spine arched, and her head

catapulted back, throwing her hair out in a wild auburn mane. Then, just as

quickly, he withdrew, leaving her empty. The expression on her face shifted

from ecstasy to agony in a single instant. With a tearful sigh, Natalie drew

her hands up to her heaving breasts, woodenly repeating the motion his own

fingers had taught her only minutes before. He stilled them.

"Not there, Natalie." Once again he drew her hands downward to the humid

dampness between their legs. "Here."

She wanted to scream in frustration, rail against this unfair demand he

was making of her, but knew it would be useless. She might have refused his

request had she not chosen this exact moment to open her eyes. What she saw

in his face splintered her heart and crushed her resistance. He had the

expectant look of a child at Christmas, but the innocence that should have

been there was marred by the sad, cynical knowledge that the prize was beyond

his grasp, and would always remain so. He didn't believe she would do this

for him! It struck her that it wasn't her surrender he was seeking, but her

trust. This was not about sex, not about the vampire's need to dominate her.

It was about his belief that she could never fully trust him. She could see

it written plainly on his face. Did he realize, she wondered, that he was

deliberately setting the stakes so high as to make it easy for her to refuse?

He was asking the impossible.

Or was he? She had promised him anything. Sworn that she could handle

this no matter what it entailed. Would it really be so difficult? All he

was asking was for her to trust him with herself. Never mind that it was

with something so personal that it would never have been shared with another

human being. The reward for such trust would be that moment of union with

Nick that was so intense it was beyond the realm of the physical.

With a groan of defeat, she capitulated, closed her eyes, and stroked

herself, lubricating the tip of her finger with the liquid heat she found in

abundance at the juncture of her thighs. His fingers held her apart, her

swollen clitoris thrust outward in a silent plea for attention. Gently, then

more firmly, she drew her finger over that responsive bundle of nerve endings

until her embarrassment was swept away by the rising tide of passion. Her

body bucked in response to her own knowledgeable touch, inadvertently

partially swallowing his cock inside her. He pushed deeper, rewarding her

obedience by giving her his full length. Before long, Natalie was no longer

aware of the source of her pleasure, she just went with the powerful

sensations that were sizzling through her.

"See me, Nat." Her eyes were open, but her gaze was unfocused and

distant, as if she were seeing a place that existed beyond the scope of this


"Natalie." He took hold of her jaw, trying to bring her back to him.

Her pupils narrowed, and she focused on the man before her. "That's it, my

love. Let go for me once again." She knew what he wanted. He wanted to

watch her come apart in his arms and know it was only and always for him.

Matching his rhythm to her own, he inched her closer and closer to her


He was having difficulty holding himself in check. He was filled with

lust and need for this magnificent creature atop him. In all his years of

existence, he had never experienced anything like it. She was truly a fit

mate for a vampire. She possessed such a pure, unrestrained love for the

demon that he couldn't block an answering emotion within himself. It

coalesced into a painful knot in his chest, reviving a heart long thought

dead. It beat once, twice...a third time.

A storm of desire broke within him and caused his body to shudder

helplessly with its force. His hips were now surging relentlessly against

her, burying him as deeply as possible in her welcoming warmth, then

withdrawing almost all the way but not quite far enough to break contact.

"Fly for me," he pleaded, sensing that she was teetering on the brink. Once

again, she gave herself to him, and he was overwhelmed with pride that he was

the only one allowed to watch it happen for her. He knew through their blood

bond that she had done this for no other man, that she had loved no other

enough to place herself wholly into their care. He watched as her eyes went

wide, then blind while he felt her orgasm consume her from the inside out.

She was speaking, but the unfamiliar rush of his own blood pumping through

his veins overpowered the words. They would have eluded him completely but

she kept repeating the same thing over and over like a mantra, so he was able

to read the words on her full, passion-bruised lips: "I love you...I love


He wanted to pound himself against her until he achieved his own release,

but he held off, squeezed back the gnawing hunger for her blood so he could

witness this marvel that was Natalie. Any last lingering vestiges of shyness

had abandoned her. When he removed the fingers that were separating her so

that he could support her back, she immediately replaced them with her own,

lifting her swollen clitoris up so it could receive direct stimulation from

the shaft of his penis as he rocked against her. She was high on the crest

of the wave, shaking and trembling against him, around him, and it was


Finally, when he could endure the waiting no longer, he pierced the flesh

of her shoulder with razor-sharp fangs, propelling her into another climax

along with him. He was no longer conscious of anything but the wild emotions

coursing through him as his seed spurted deep in her slick warmth, bathing

her womb with his essence. He did not feel it when her hands left her own

flesh and tangled into his hair, drawing him closer, tighter in her desire to

deepen the mental link that flared up between them. Her orgasm intertwined

with his, and he could no longer differentiate the boundaries of their

separate bodies and feelings. The merging of their souls raised them up to

unimaginable heights of pleasure, intensifying the experience for both of

them. They flew together to that magical place that they created, where no

one and nothing else mattered except the two becoming one.

He saw himself through her eyes, and the vision made his heart clutch.

She accepted him, without fear or hesitation. She wanted him and needed him

with her, in her body and in her heart. Not only the crusader, or the

detective, not just the man. She desired communion with the beast. The

knowledge shattered him, consumed him, gave him power. He did not want to

lose it when he felt the tug of the man trying to push him back into that

dark realm where he existed in eternal loneliness. He fought it, hated it,

refused to succumb to it. Only the woman could send him back there. He

drank deeply of her, savoring her flavor, unwilling to give up the rare

delicacy that was her trust.

It was her sobbing cries that finally made him withdraw, gently licking

the wounds closed, reveling in those last few drops of the precious liquid

that was her soul. The beast under some degree of control once again, Nick

tried to speak but found himself incapable. He wanted to tell her that it

was over, that he would cause her no more pain this night. The sound of her

cries cut a painful swath through his gut. He was devoured by shame. His

hands rubbed her back again, this time comforting and soothing until he was

finally able to push his voice past the lump in his throat.

"I'm sorry, Nat. God, I'm so sorry." There were tears in his own

voice along with overwhelming self-loathing.

She was burrowing hard against him, pushing her body into his as if she

were trying to crawl inside him, away from what was happening. He could feel

her shivering uncontrollably. He hated that more than anything. He knew how

important control was to Natalie, in all things, and he had forced her to

surrender it a second time.

Finally, he had to draw her away by fisting a hand in her hair and

pulling gently back. What he saw in her face jolted him into stillness.

This was not a woman crying with shame or sorrow. This was a vibrant,

passionate woman still swept up in the throes of their powerful, mutual

orgasm. He had totally misread her reaction. She was still lost in her

pleasure, completely unaware of him as she rode the wave. The shock of it

made his entire body jerk, pushing his softening manhood deep inside her once

again. The movement sent her spiraling further up, an agonized groan torn

from deep within her breast. Her hips began thrusting urgently against him

once more, as she refilled herself with his growing maleness. He was

overtaken with wonder as his body hardened again in response to the renewed


In a swift, smooth motion, he rolled them both to the floor without

breaking their tight embrace. Natalie's arms fell limply up and outward, her

hips rode up high off the carpet, her back arching completely off the floor.

She snaked sensually beneath him, urging him to join her one more time in

that magical place of light and color that only they could share. Clasping

her hands above her head, he twined their fingers together, supporting

himself on his knees. His hips rocketed back and forth, meeting her stroke

for stroke, giving her all of himself, everything he knew she desired, until

finally she went limp beneath him, sated. One more agonized roll of his hips

and his release was ripped from him with a muffled shout of victory against

the flesh of her throat as he tasted her once more. The power of her love

devastated him, laying waste every preconceived notion he had ever

entertained about what he could expect from a relationship with her. There

were no limits to her feelings, nor to her belief in him, his goodness, his

redemption. She had absolute faith that the two of them together could

accomplish anything. He saw her desire to become as he was, to share

eternity with him. He also saw the hope for children and a life in the sun.

Her conviction was absolute that they could have it all and would, with love,

faith in each other and hope enough to face each new day and what it brought

them together. Exhausted, emotionally drained and spent beyond his limits, he

collapsed on top of her, his chest burning with the tremendous force

necessary just to draw breath as he fought to rein in his rampaging emotions.

It was many minutes before his vision cleared and his breathing eased. It

took his remaining strength to push off of her, afraid he might be crushing

her with his weight. He managed to fall sideways, pulling her with him,

drawing her close, not yet willing to relinquish the warm press of her body

against his own. Her head rested on his shoulder and one thigh was still

thrown across her legs while she lay beside him, recovering. Her breasts

heaved as her lungs worked to draw in oxygen. She had one arm, the one

closest to him, bent over her eyes, her other flung outward, palm upturned.

They lay that way until they both calmed, except for the occasional

shuddering aftershock that still rippled through them.

Nick finally regained his senses and realized that they were lying on the

cold floor, and while he might not notice the discomfort, she was sure to

feel it before too long. He gathered her up gently in his arms as if she

were as fragile as an egg, and, unable to summon the strength necessary for

flight, he staggered up the stairs to their bedroom. Pulling back the

covers, he settled her into the bed, then snuggled up beside her.

"Ok?" he asked quietly.

"Mmmhmm," she mumbled groggily. He couldn't help the purely masculine

pleasure that swept through him when he realized that she was on the verge of

sleep. He remembered a time when Schanke had resorted to reading women's

magazines for new ideas to spice up his and Myra's love life. He recalled a

passage that his partner had read to him indicating that the best of lovers

could put a woman straight to sleep. He smiled, as much at the silly memory

of his lost friend as with the knowledge that Natalie was fighting to stay


"What are you smiling about?" Her voice was slurred with exhaustion.

He flushed. "Come on, tell me," she demanded, now more awake.

He related his memory haltingly, embarrassed by his show of male ego.

Natalie chuckled softly. "Every time we are together is better than the time

before, Nick. You are all I could ask for in a lover."

"In spite of everything, Nat?" His eyes reflected fear.

Natalie sighed deeply, then reached up to smooth a lock of his damp hair

away from his forehead. "In spite of everything, Nick." For days she had

been afraid to tell him what was on her mind. Fearful of his reaction, but

now, seeing how this encounter was making him feel, she knew he needed to

hear it for his peace of mind. She knew him well enough to be sure that

within fifteen minutes he would be feeling guilty about what had taken place

downstairs. "Nick, I want you to listen to me now, because what I am going

to tell you is the absolute truth." She met his eyes and he nodded. "Since

the last time this happened, I have been longing for the part of you that is

vampire to reemerge." She saw his eyebrows shoot up in disbelief. "I swear

to God, Nick, this is the absolute truth. I know you believe that this is

some kind of terrible experience for me that I have resigned myself to

repeating for your sake. That is the only untruth here, Nick. I love all of

you, not just the parts you want me to see. What you try hardest to keep

from me is what I yearn for most of all. The vampire, Nick." Now he was

shaking his head in denial.

"Yes, Nick. I find the vampire to be extremely sexy. I wish you could

find it within yourself to set it free every time we make love. He is not a

separate person from you, Nick, one you keep caged up inside you. He is half

of you, and when you withhold him, you take something away from what we

share. I always feel the connection with you when we make love, but when it

is like tonight, it is so much deeper and stronger. I don't feel as if I am

missing out on something."

"What do you mean, missing out on something?"

"Most times, when we are intimate, I feel like there is something more,

something just beyond my grasp, but I can never reach, it no matter how hard

I try. What is it, Nick?" She pleaded for an answer.

He understood. He just didn't know how to explain to her that he wasn't

sure he could ever give her what she sought.

"Natalie," his voice was hesitant, "I'm not willingly holding anything

back from you. Just now, I gave you everything I could." He struggled for

the right words. He saw the tears fill her eyes and spill over sideways,

pulled by gravity into the wildly tangled mass of her hair.

"What I think you are feeling, that something which is missing, is not

coming from anything I am doing. I think it is coming from you. I felt it,

too, when I tasted your blood."

He went on. "When vampires are together like this, they share blood. I

know you are changing. I can feel it. I see it when some sound or smell

takes you by surprise because it is so much more than before. You are

becoming more vampire every time we make love, and I think you are craving

the blood sharing, and I am not sure I can give you that, Nat. For you to

take my blood would make you a full vampire. I know now that you actually

want that, to take that final step, but for me to bring you across goes

against everything I believe in. Do you understand?"

She saw the despair in him, the hopelessness of the situation from his

point of view. It wounded her, but at the same time she was relieved that he

was not deliberately holding himself back from her. "I'm sorry, Nick. I

thought you were doing it on purpose. I didn't think you trusted my love for


"Natalie, I can feel your love for me every time you look at me, every

time you speak to me or touch me... it makes me whole again. It gives me

peace...something I have not felt in a long, long time."

With a sigh she wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed herself into

him, not knowing what to say. This was an unexpected development that

neither one of them had counted on. His taking of her blood was creating

within her the need to do the same, and that was something he would never

allow. Not now. Natalie considered her own feelings about joining him in

the darkness. Really, it would be the best solution. As things stood, he

would stay forever the same, while she would grow old and die, leaving him

alone again. If he brought her across, time would no longer be the enemy.

They would have eternity to work out the problems.

They needed to discuss this further, but Natalie let it go for the time

being. After what had happened last time, she didn't think she could

convince Nick that trying again to bring her over was the right course of

action. She would need time to work on him. Time to convince him that his

dark existence was not as terrible as he made it out to be. She felt sleep

pulling her exhausted body down into oblivion. With a contented sigh, she

decided that it could wait for another day.

Nick felt her drift into slumber. He sat there, in the dark, holding her

close, tears streaming down his cheeks as he dealt with the ramifications of

what was happening. For the first time in a long time he offered up a

prayer, pleading for a solution that would keep them together. Finally, he,

too, slipped away into unconsciousness, the stains of his tears still marking

his pale flesh.


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