From: "NiteMar" <NiteMar@w...>

Date: Mon Nov 6, 2000 8:58 pm

Subject: ADULT: Moving On

CONTENT WARNINGS: This story is an ADULT Nick & Nat story. It contains explicit sex (m/f), [Nick/Nat]. There are also sexual encounters (m/f), [Nick/Other] and [Nat/Other], but they are not explicit. In the early chapters there are also scenes briefly describing bloody physical injury. If such content would offend you, do NOT read and hit the DELETE key.

PERMISSION IS GRANTED to archive this story at FKFANFIC Archive, FKFTP site, N&NPACK MORTAL LOVE Archive, JADFE Archive, and DARK NICK & NAT Archives ONLY. Anyone else must ask for permission from me first. It will also be available at my fiction site at

DEDICATION: You can blame the posting of this story on the N&NNUTS on IRC and their encouragement/harassment. And a special thanks to my alpha/beta readers Nightlady, KnightOwl, and Heather-Anne!

DISCLAIMERS: The Forever Knight characters belong to Columbia Tri/Star. No copyright infringement is intended. The songs used in this story were 'How Am I Supposed to Live Without You' by Michael Bolton and Doug James from the Michael Bolton Greatest Hits CD and 'This Journey of the Heart' by Norman Kerner and Sandra Johnson from the Naked Songwriters Bare Emotions CD. No infringement is intended.

TIMELINE: This story begins in what would be the late 2nd season, but the timeline takes a different course after that. Events of the 3rd season never happen.

If you do not see "Continued in Part xx..." or "~Fin~" you did not receive entire part.


Moving On By NiteMar October 2000


Nick fidgeted in his seat after the seatbelt light went out and he had released the constraint. When he needed to travel, he often flew on the deBrabant Foundation's jet instead of commercial airlines, but that jet was occupied on the other side of the world now. He couldn't wait a moment longer, so he had booked a redeye commercial flight back to Toronto.

The flight attendant, noticing his restlessness and hoping to make him more comfortable, asked if he wanted a pillow or blanket.

Nick smiled and told her, "No thanks. I'm just not used to flying." At least not quite this way, he chuckled to himself.

"A drink perhaps?"

"No, I'm fine," he replied.

When she left to attend to the other first-class passengers, Nick found his thoughts drifting to the reason for his trip. He hoped he was making the right decision. It had to be. He wouldn't turn back, not now that he was determined to finally ask her. It was funny how it had come to him - the right thing to do, the only thing he could do. After all the months of uncertainty and indecision, a string of events occurring and leading to a single point in time, a time when he knew without a doubt he needed her in his life.

He thought over the past couple of years and what had led up to this point. He needed her back in his life more than anything he had ever needed in his 800 years. It had been a mistake leaving her, moving on without her. Yet, it wasn't entirely his fault, the way that it happened. Even so, they would be together today if only he had not...

He couldn't dwell on that. The past couldn't be undone. He knew that now. That's what this trip was all about, his plan to correct that mistake. He only hoped she still felt for him the way she used to when they were together.

Reaching his hand inside his jacket, he felt for the identity papers and passports just to assure himself that they were still there. They were the most important things he was carrying. Before he had left Portland, he had the two identities prepared, one for himself and the other for her. Just in case she said yes. Hopefully she would say yes, would still want him. If she said no, he'd have to move on to his next life without her...if he could find a way to live without her. He couldn't think of that possibility now.

He sighed as he reflected on why they had been separated. Moving on. It was something that vampires always lived with, especially those who exposed themselves to the mortal world like he did. His lack of aging would be noticed more quickly because of the mortal associations he kept. Occasionally other things were noticed, such as never getting sick, not eating, not being able to go in the sun, or getting caught flying or whammying.

It was a tricky dance for a vampire to live among mortals. Often a vampire's differences could be covered up, yet on rare occasions, some things couldn't be explained away or covered no matter what one desired. It was then that moving on became a necessity. It was abrupt, unplanned, and painful.

Nick rested his head back against the cushioned seat and recalled where it had begun, the event that had started it all as he stared out the plane's window. The lights dotting the landscape far below slowly merged into a memory of the harsh, flashing lights of a crime scene. The murmurs of low whispers in the seats nearby mingled as they distorted into the intruding sounds of that fateful night.

************************************************** Toronto: Two years ago, an alley near Dundas Street

Nick stooped down to examine the bloodied glove before Schanke placed it in the bag. The alley was now blocked from the spectators that had gathered, uniforms standing guard at the barricaded entrance to the alley at Dundas. The gruesome murder had attracted many thrill seekers when the body was found. It was these types of murders, the particularly bloody ones, which were always difficult for him. They caused the beast to lurk barely beneath the surface. He looked back to where Nat was already examining the body.

Nat stooped by the faceless body, collecting what evidence she could at the scene. The weapon used had been powerful enough to shatter the victim's face beyond any recognition. They would have to use dental records to positively identify the man. Horrid murders like this deeply disturbed her. How could someone do such a vile thing to another human being? What evil it represented. She sighed befor e continuing to protect the evidence until she could get a closer look back at the morgue. She glanced up and saw Nick staring at her. She knew this one must be hard for him, noticing the struggle in his eyes, and very slightly shook her head side to side. She didn't want him to come near.

Nick suddenly cocked his head in the opposite direction as he heard muffled voices. There was no one from the investigation in that direction. Nick stood and looked at Schanke, whispering, "Did you hear that?"

Schanke wrinkled his brow and said, "What? Over there? Come on, Nick. Nothing's over there." Nick never ceased to amaze him the way he was so easily distracted. He wished Nick would just stay with the program here so they could get done and away from this horrible scene.

Nick looked around at the police and those working at the scene. No one else seemed to have heard it. Just then, Nick heard it again. He snapped his head back towards the direction of the sound. Laughter.

"Nick!" Schanke shouted after his partner as Nick suddenly took off towards the back of the alley. It was already too late to stop him, as Nick had already rounded the corner of the alley and disappeared. Where was he off to now? They needed to finish here and talk to the witnesses, not wander off chasing imaginary sounds in the night. Schanke slowly started to follow Nick down the alley.

Nat glanced up when she heard Schanke yelling after Nick. She suddenly had a sick feeling in her stomach as she watched Schanke near the corner where Nick had gone. She shook with a jolt when she heard the loud blast. Nat dropped her notes as she slipped from her stooped position, falling backwards as blurs of running officers went past.

Immediately, at the sound of the blast, the cops at the site pulled their guns and ran further into the alley, while some circled to the next street to approach over the fence from the back. Only a few remained at the barricade to keep the spectators out.

Natalie, hearing loud shouts and outcries coming from around the bend in the alley, stood and in a panic, broke into a run, shouting, "NICK!!" As she turned the bend, she saw the officers clustered near the wall, blocking her view of what they were staring at.

Hearing Nat run towards them, Schanke immediately rushed to her, pushing her back. Tears ran down his anguished face as he tried to save Nat from the ghastly sight. "No, Natalie. You don't want to see..." his voice cracked.

Nat looked at Schanke's pained face and back at the officers and what she knew lay beyond them. "Don't try to stop me. Let me through, Schanke," she shouted desperately as she frantically continued to try and push through.

Schanke held her tightly, even as he grew weak from the realization that Nick was gone. He knew that Nat mustn't be allowed to see this. Even if she and Nick were only just friends, and Schanke suspected they were much more than that, what lay beyond, just out of view, would haunt her for the rest of her life. "Please, Natalie. Don't," he begged.

Nat was persistent and finally broke through his arms. She pushed through with such suddenness that she lost her balance and fell forward to the ground where the officers stood. She didn't know where the energy and strength came from, but she had to get to Nick.

Along with half a dozen cops and Schanke, Natalie gazed at the faceless body lying on the ground. His features were a bloody smear of flesh and bone, his face framed by blood-soaked blond hair.

She cried out, "NICK!!" and sobbing, buried her face in her shaking hands. Natalie stared out the car window as Officer Rollins drove her home. Another ME had been called to the scene and arrangements were made to get Nat away from there. The young rookie had been given the privilege of escorting the Doctor home. The horrible scene replayed itself in her mind. Oh God, Nick's face was gone! Tears streaked down her face relentlessly.

She looked down at her hands in her lap, examining the burn she'd gotten on her palm from sliding against the concrete when she broke through the huddled officers. It stung. Yet she hadn't even felt it until now, when she had time alone with her thoughts. She looked up suddenly as realization struck her. Why hadn't she thought of it before?

Nick wasn't dead! He was a vampire. He would wake up. When he did, he would need blood and lots of it, in order to heal. Turning to her driver, she said firmly, "Take me to the morgue. I need to go there first."

Officer Rollins glanced over at the distraught doctor and resisted. "I was told to take you right home, Doctor Lambert. I don't think..."

Trying another less desperate approach, Nat lowered her voice. "Larry, please. I just remembered that I left something important there. I really need to go there first."

He glanced back at her and saw that she seemed calmer, more in control. She had been as white as a ghost earlier. He hesitated before giving in to her request. "All right, Doctor Lambert. But I'm waiting for you so I can drive you home after you get what you need."

"Larry, it's Natalie. Call me Natalie," she said, unable to hide her smile at realizing Nick was alive. "Thanks."

As they drove to the Coroner's Building, Natalie quietly thought about what she would need to do. When Nick woke, he would need blood, and she needed to make sure no one else saw anything. She had to figure out what to do about his body disappearing from the morgue, too. Oh, God. All those witnesses! There were so many who had seen him 'dead', with his face destroyed. How could he explain growing back his face? He couldn't. She knew what that meant. His life here in Toronto was definitely over. There was no covering up something like this.

She realized that she couldn't have Officer Rollins waiting for her. They were almost at the morgue and she had to think of something. "Larry," she started as he pulled up to the building. "I think you should go on and not wait. I will be a little while. I need to take care of something while I'm inside. Who knows when they'll let me come back."

Larry looked at her out of the corner of his eye and sighed. "I knew I shouldn't have listened to you. You're gonna get me in trouble now. The Captain will kill me."

She opened the door and was halfway out when she turned back and promised, "No you won't. I'll make sure of it. I'll talk to the Captain."

After waiting to make sure she was in the building safely, the officer pulled away from the curb and returned to the scene.

Natalie quickly ran into the building and down the hall to her office. It would probably take time for his body to heal properly. She needed to give him that time, but then what?

Moving on. She knew it would happen one day because he never aged. But suddenly, because of a death that couldn't be explained any other way? She never expected it to happen so quickly.

She turned the key in the lock and entered her office. She stepped inside and was startled to be facing Nick's master, LaCroix.

"My, we have a predicament tonight," he declared in a low, smug voice, as he took a step towards her. He held her gaze as he stepped forward, Natalie holding her ground despite her fear. He admired her ability to fight the inner fear he smelled so readily and continue to face him.

Natalie turned to her desk away from LaCroix, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her to him. Admiration had quickly led to annoyance.

"Just what do you...." Nat harshly rebuked at his rough grasp on her arm.

He placed his cold finger firmly to her lips. "Shh, my dear. Listen carefully. We must act fast."

She calmed. He was here to help. Still, she couldn't help but think that he would be instrumental in taking Nick away from her, from Toronto. She knew Nick probably had to leave, but LaCroix would try to make it a permanent move away from her.

"Where is his body? I still don't sense it in this building." he demanded coldly.

"They brought me back early and called another ME. Because of our relationship," Nat explained. Biting her lower lip, she continued, "Too many people saw him, LaCroix. His face was shattered by the gun."

"Messy, I know," LaCroix intoned as he released her arms from his firm grasp. Thoughtfully he reasoned, turning from her, "Yes, that would be the thing to do..." He turned back to her, gazing over her with his piercing steel eyes, and taunted her with her own words, "...considering your relationship."

Natalie held her breath at his words, hiding her fear in any outward appearance, but she couldn't control her heartbeat, the rush of adrenaline. She knew LaCroix despised Nick's friendship with her and tried to thwart it in any way possible. If he knew how she really felt about him...

Satisfied at his ability to produce such effects in the formidable doctor, he finally asked in a slow and deliberate manner, "If they were so concerned for your emotional state, why didn't they take you home? Why did they bring you here?"

"They wanted to take me home, but I need to be here to help. Nick will need someone to cover..."

"No, Doctor. You need to go home," LaCroix said insistently, taking a step closer to her. Taking a deep breath and resting his hands on her shoulders, he continued slowly, "Remember, you have just lost a dear friend. What would be said if you stayed here at work?"

She started to pull away in protest.

His fingers dug into her shoulders, tightening his hold on her. With his impatience barely under control, he spat at her, "They must all think you have lost a dear friend. I can take care of things when the body arrives. He will be safe from discovery. You must be in mourning."

As much as she hated to admit it, LaCroix was right. Whatever happened, she couldn't endanger Nick's secret. The secret of who he was, what he was. She needed to play along for now.

Natalie sleepily slapped her hand in the general direction of her alarm clock, mumbling how she should have turned it off last night before falling asleep. She hadn't been able to sleep and was hours trying to drift off. Damn, the stupid alarm was still buzzing. She pushed herself onto her elbow as she focused her eyes on the clock: 9:00 a.m. The sound blared again, and Natalie turned to the phone as it rang again.

"Doctor, we need your assistance," was the greeting.

Natalie quickly snapped awake, all remaining thoughts of sleep gone. Something must really be wrong for LaCroix to be calling her. "LaCroix?"

"Come to the Raven and bring whatever it is you need to transfuse blood." He was staying at the Raven, watching after things at the club while Janette was away on her extended shopping trip in Europe. Easy access to the club's supplies had seemed to be the perfect place for Nicholas to begin healing, but alas, he was not even responding. After hearing no response from Natalie, LaCroix queried, "Doctor?"

Natalie promptly responded, "Yes. I'll be there."

She was already jumping from the bed as she hung up the phone. She quickly pulled her nightshirt over her head as she grabbed some clothes and dressed as quickly as she could. After a quick brushing, she pulled her hair back in a scrunchy. Rushing into the kitchen, she grabbed some blood packs she kept in the refrigerator and tossed them into her black bag she kept handy for emergencies.

The door of the Raven opened eerily when she knocked with no one visible inside. Natalie stepped into the dark club, the entry lit by the beam of the day's sunlight streaming in through the opened door.

"Doctor," the familiar voice came from behind the door.

Adjusting to the darkened interior, Natalie turned to LaCroix as he closed the door tightly behind her.

"You are needed in the back. Follow me."

Natalie fell in step behind LaCroix and followed him to an apartment in the rear of the club. Natalie held her breath as she approached the figure lying still on the bed. Pushing the emotion to the back of her mind, she went into her detached professional mode.

She set the bag on the edge of the bed, and grabbing a blood bag and the equipment, she quickly began to set things up. Just as she was about to insert the needle into Nick's flesh, LaCroix firmly grasped her arm.

"Doctor, I think it is admirable that you are providing my son with human blood, but he needs something stronger to start healing," he said mockingly.

Natalie looked up at Nick's master, questioning, "What is stronger than human blood?"

LaCroix released her arm and stepped closer. "Vampire. My blood. A master's blood is particularly healing to a vampire," he informed her. He looked down at his son and brushed some stray hairs away from his bloodied face. "I tried to drip my blood down his throat, but he isn't responding. I think the damage..." he said as his voice trailed off, not removing his gaze from his son.

Natalie had never seen this tender, caring side to LaCroix. In his own way, LaCroix really did care about him. Yet, his controlling nature and obsession with Nick's lifestyle was unbearable to Nick.

LaCroix looked up to Natalie. "Can you transfuse my blood directly into him?" he asked, knowing that she could.

Natalie surveyed the room and walked over to the overstuffed chair. She noticed LaCroix had quickly joined her and took the chair, easily moving it to the side of the bed.

"Is this where you want it, Natalie?"

Surprised at his use of her name, she stuttered, "Ye-yes, that will be fine."

LaCroix grabbed a couple bottles from the crate in the corner, knowing he would need them, and then sat in the chair, placing the bottles on the floor within easy reach. After LaCroix was seated, Natalie busily set up the transfusion between them.

Nick immediately responded to the flow of his father's blood into his system. His face started to heal and rebuild itself slowly. Natalie watched him heal, the two vampires directly connected. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Natalie pushed Nick's stray curls aside as she watched him.

LaCroix noticed the tenderness she expressed from his chair and grabbed the first bottle from the floor, taking a long drink of the replenishing fluid.

After hours had passed, Nick started to stir to a semi-conscious state. As Nick seemed to strengthen, LaCroix pulled the needle from his body and stood to lean over him. "Nicholas," he called, as he watched him awaken and open his eyes.

Natalie, surprised at LaCroix's abrupt action, carefully pulled the needle from Nick and gathered the equipment together. LaCroix was apparently done using her transfer method. She glanced over to watch Nick. His face was still in bad shape, but his mouth moved to speak. Only an incoherent mumble escaped.

"Don't try to talk yet, Nicholas," he commanded softly before biting into his own wrist. He dripped the blood into his son's mouth as Nick looked up at his master.

As Nick tasted the healing fluid flow down his throat, he grabbed LaCroix's arm, increasing the suckling pressure against his cool flesh.

"That's the way, Nicholas. Drink," he soothed, as he sat down on the edge of the bed. While Nick hungrily drank, LaCroix spoke to Natalie while keeping his gaze on his son. "I think that is all we need, Doctor."

"But he needs..." she said, standing by the bed.

LaCroix snapped his head in her direction with red-streaked golden eyes as a warning to her.

She quickly finished collecting her things and backed away. "If you need anything else..." she started.

"Yes, I know...but we won't."

Nick relaxed in the large, overstuffed chair as he sipped from the goblet, thinking over the past few days' events. His outward appearance had healed after the first 24 hours, but the internal damage continued to repair itself. Though he was now conscious during this last leg of the healing process, he was still weak and unable to do very much. That was probably for the best since he didn't know what he would do anyway. He couldn't even leave the backrooms when the club was open for fear he would be spotted by mortals. He couldn't go anywhere in Toronto. He was dead.

Once he had finally regained the strength to sit and have a coherent conversation, LaCroix had told him what he had done at the morgue. After whammying the ME in charge, LaCroix had been able to exchange bodies with a similar-looking homeless man, with injuries he had inflicted to match. When Nick asked about Natalie, LaCroix informed him that she had been sent home from the scene and was on leave. Since Nick had looked concerned, LaCroix explained she needed to play the part of grieving, distraught friend.

LaCroix had removed the phone from the back quarters, and the nearest phone was in the main room of the Raven on the back wall. LaCroix had said the temptation to call would be too great and a huge mistake. Nick mulled over his resulting argument with LaCroix.

"You must move on, Nicholas. It is essential that you move to another life. I will contact Aristotle and have arrangements made," he informed his son.


"Nicholas! There is no other way."

After some thought, Nick continued, "Maybe there isn't, but I will make my own arrangements." Nick appreciated his father's help in saving his life, in his fast healing, but he was being subjected to greater and greater control with each passing day. Whenever LaCroix seized hold of his life, he took increasingly more until Nick was smothered under his guidance and care.

With Nicholas' insistence, LaCroix sighed, realizing his son had indeed healed. His usual rebellion had awakened, and soon Nicholas would pull away again.

Nick swirled the remaining thick, crimson liquid, moving the goblet in a circular motion, LaCroix's words weighing heavily upon him. He hadn't planned to move on so soon. He had a few more years before mortals would have grown suspicious and start asking too many questions. Now it was being forced upon him. He wasn't ready to leave her. He didn't know if he could ever really leave her, for the more he grew to know her, the more he knew he wanted to be with her. It was then he realized he would ask her to come with him.

Nick set the goblet on the small table and stood. Before retiring this morning, LaCroix had told him that Nick Knight's memorial service and burial was to take place that day. Nick slowly walked across the room, thinking of the words he would use to ask her. He knew she loved him, as he loved her, but it would be a difficult life for a mortal, leaving family and friends to start from scratch again.


Attending Nick's memorial service that morning, Natalie had to face the fact that Nick was dead to the mortal world. Natalie dreaded the pretense of having to act like that among her friends and co-workers, knowing he was truly alive. Yet, with the worry and pain of what was to come, her true pain was easily misconstrued as grieving for a friend taken too quickly from this world.

In a way, he was taken from this world, this life here in Toronto. The life of Nick Knight, homicide cop. The life of her friend, the man she loved. Maybe he was already gone. It had been days since she left the Raven, and she'd not been able to find out anything further about his condition. Her previous attempts to find out any news had been thwarted by LaCroix's vague answers and short replies, but she had to know what was happening. Nick must be completely healed by now, and she worried that he had already disappeared from the city. She would call the Raven again at nightfall.

Nat sighed as her phone rang again. She had taken the rest of the day off, hoping to avoid more well-meaning friends offering their support on the loss of her close friend. She would have done better to have gone in to the office and stayed busy. It must be another call of sympathy, more of the energy-draining need for deceit. She slowly reached for the phone.

"Nat," his voice whispered.

Nat shouted with excitement, "NICK!"

"It's so good to hear your voice again," Nick whispered. "I haven't been able to call you."

"LaCroix?" she asked.


"How are you?" Nat asked.

"I'm okay now. I knew you must be worried," Nick suggested.

"I was worried, but I knew you would heal after I transfused LaCroix's blood directly to you," she said.

"You were here?" Nick asked, startled.

"He didn't tell you?" Nat asked. After thinking a moment, she added, "No, of course not. He called me to help when you weren't accepting his blood. I don't think you could swallow properly. I hooked you two up so his blood flowed directly into you. I was there until well past nightfall."

Nick leaned back against the wall as LaCroix's treachery sank in. "I didn't know, Nat." He was more determined than ever to take her with him now. "Are you okay, Nat?"

"I'm okay now, hearing your voice," she sighed. "I hadn't heard anything since I left the Raven. LaCroix has brushed me off whenever I called to check on you."

"Nat, the reason I called...I knew you'd be worried. Not because of healing, but worried that I would leave without saying a word. I promise I won't leave like that. I want you to know that."

"But Nick, won't you still need to move on?"

"Yes," he said sadly. "But I won't disappear without seeing you at the very least. And if things work out, maybe..."

"Maybe what might work out, Nick?"

He hesitated to speak his wishes over the phone. "Nat, I'd rather talk over those options privately. Okay?"

Nat held her breath, and then answered, "Sure, Nick." What could he be thinking? Would he ask her to join him? Could he possibly, finally ask? What did she have to lose now? He would soon be moving on, no matter what. She dared to suggest, "Take me with you."

Nick paused. "We'll talk later."

"Can I see you?"

"No, not yet. I'll come to you, I promise. I just wanted you to know I won't just disappear," he assured her quietly.

As Nick gently hung up the phone to avoid making any more noise, he turned to find LaCroix appraising him from the hallway. Nick had hoped not to rouse anyone this early in the afternoon.

"Foolishness, Nicholas! You are supposed to be DEAD!" his master growled.

"It was only Nat, LaCroix," Nick muttered casually, turning away.

"No matter. You have no need to speak with her. You need to be preparing to move on. Break the ties here," he said forcefully. LaCroix remembered the tenderness he had witnessed as Nat helped transfer the blood between them. It was essential that he use this opportunity to keep them apart.

Nick spun around to face LaCroix, yelling, "Is that why you kept her part in my recovery from me?"

"I kept nothing from you that you needed to know. This life, and Dr. Lambert, are your past," LaCroix sneered.

Nick slowly walked away, tired of his master's games.

LaCroix followed, taunting him, "Yes, I know what you've been thinking, Nicholas. She cannot go with you. You know the danger of mortals moving with us, of even knowing our new identities. It doesn't work. It is for the best and you know it."

Nick turned back to him, staring at him harshly.

LaCroix asked the deciding question coldly. "Are you prepared to bring her across?"

"No," Nick admitted after a slight pause, bowing his head.

"Then let her go. She needs to move on with her life as well."


Nick struggled with LaCroix's words about mortals moving on. He was not willing to bring her across, to condemn her to this darkness. Even if it meant he would have to move on without her. Maybe moving on with Nat would not draw the Enforcer's attention that LaCroix insisted it would. Nat was different. She already had involved herself in the vampire world. Why would moving on with him cause any more of a threat to the community? But LaCroix would fight it all the way. He had to think of some way around him.

When Nick approached LaCroix, he had it all planned. It was early in the evening, as the Raven was being prepared for opening. LaCroix sat at a secluded table in the rear of the Raven. Nick approached the table and asked, "Can we talk?"

LaCroix looked up from his goblet and nodded for Nicholas to take the seat across from him, watching him intently.

"I've been thinking about what you said, mortals moving on," he started, as he looked down at the table, unable to make eye contact. "I don't want to leave her," he admitted, looking up into his master's eyes.

LaCroix was surprised that Nicholas had approached him on the subject since their last conversation. "You know that you must."

"I will agree to leave without her if you promise me a few things. A bargain," Nick offered in a low and serious tone.

LaCroix cocked his head in amusement, curious about what Nicholas would offer.

"If you promise to stay out of my life from now on and release me from our original bargain, the one made over Fleur." Nick worded the bargain so that he could still get what he wanted.

Who did he think he was talking to? LaCroix was not ignorant; he knew what was happening. Cautiously, he held his emotions in check as Nicholas mentioned Fleur. This was not the time for expressed anger.

He drank the remaining contents of his glass and set it on the table slowly, contemplating his next move. Looking up again at Nicholas, he offered an amendment. "I will agree to this if you give up this quest for mortality. You will stop searching for the cure. You will not provide samples for medical research in this quest any longer."

Nick's brow furrowed in anguish at LaCroix's suggestion, and biting his lower lip, he waited to respond. Leaving without her didn't mean they couldn't stay in touch or he couldn't send for her later. But giving up the cure? What hope was there for them?

LaCroix knew what Nicholas was thinking. He intended to leave without her now, but to meet up with her later. By making him give up his search for mortality and accept the vampire life, Nicholas' connection with Natalie would quickly deteriorate. He knew his son only too well and was certain he would never bring her across. If Nicholas agreed to stop his foolish quest, he would be in control of his son's direction once more. Nicholas' own guilt would keep him from ruining her life with hope of their love, eventually letting her go as they drifted apart.

"You must promise to not harm Natalie, or send others to harm her," Nick added. He needed to be sure she would be safe until he could send for her.

"You will give up this quest?" LaCroix repeated. "Not seek out anything having to do with gaining mortality, or providing others with anything to find the cure for you?" Could he actually get his son to give up his search with Natalie as leverage?

Nick closed his eyes and painfully took a deep breath. Opening his eyes and looking at his master, he replied, "Yes. You agree to stay out of my life from now on. And release me from my debt from our original bargain. And not harm Nat in any way." He repeated the conditions to be certain.

"Agreed," confirmed LaCroix, as his mouth curved ever so slightly into a smug smile.

Natalie stepped from the bathroom in her nightshirt as she towel dried her thick hair. She sat on the edge of her bed, rubbing the moisture from her hair. It had been another long day, and it felt good to finally be getting ready for bed. After soaking most of the dampness from her hair, she walked over to stand in front of her dresser and started brushing out the tangles while appraising herself in the mirror. She bit her lower lip as she wondered when she would hear from Nick again.

As if on cue, she saw a figure in the mirror behind her advance from the shadows. Nat spun around, clutching the brush to her chest. The familiar face appeared from the shadows and Nat smiled, breaking into a muffled laugh of joy. "Nick!"

"I hope I didn't scare you, Nat. I didn't think I should come through the building," he apologized, moving towards her.

Nat ran into his arms, throwing her arms around him, relishing the feel of his strong body, all healed and well. "You didn't scare me, Nick," she mumbled against his chest.

The feel of her arms encircling him was heaven. He held her tight against him and sighed, dreading what he had to tell her.

She pulled back and reached her hands up along his face and he smiled at her caress. Her fingers traced over his features as she assured herself he was okay.

"Didn't you believe me when I said I was okay, Nat?" Nick whispered, smiling.

"I needed's just..."

Nick pulled her close and placed a comforting kiss on her forehead. "It's okay, Nat," he cooed as he swayed with her in his arms.

After minutes of a healing embrace, Nick stated quietly against her hair, "We need to talk, Nat. Let's sit down." He led her to the edge of her bed and they sat, turning to face each other. Nick held her hands in his.

"I need to move on, you know," he stated.

Nat nodded her head. She had known it was inevitable. They had even talked about that on the phone earlier.

"I told you I would at least say goodbye before leaving," he said, tears already welling in his eyes.

"But you said that there was something else...if things worked out..." she said hopefully.

"They didn't," Nick sadly informed her. "He wouldn't have let it happen."

"LaCroix? What happened, Nick?"

"I had to make a bargain with him," Nick started.

"NO, Nick! You didn't," she panicked.

"I had to, Nat," he insisted.

"Tell me then."

Nick took a deep breath and, squeezing her hands, began to explain the bargain. "I had to promise to leave without you, and he promised to stay out of my life from now on. I also made him promise to not harm you." He didn't want to tell her about giving up mortality. He couldn't dump that all on her at once.

"But, Nick!" Her tears flowed over her cheeks. How could she go on without him? Didn't he know how she loved him? Did he love her? Were they truly just close friends to him, nothing more? Had she misread too much into their relationship?

Nick pulled her to him as he mumbled, "I'm sorry it has to be this way. I'll miss you." He couldn't give her false hopes for their future. He didn't want to cause her further heartache by promising his love, promises he couldn't be sure to keep.

Could he possibly love her someday? Natalie cried, "I want to come with you, Nick. I can still help you with the research. I could meet you somewhere. I could..."

Nick flinched as she mentioned the research. Nick grasped her face between his palms, wiping tears away with his thumbs. "No, Nat. He would know. He would follow. I promise, I will contact you."

She could see the pain in his eyes and held back any further display of her own pain. "You promise?" When he nodded, she decided to endure the wait for now. If he really was going to contact her, it could keep for another time. Besides, if she disappeared now, it would be too suspicious.

They embraced once more, both unable to let go for a long time. "I need to go now, Nat," Nick finally said after the long silence.

She didn't want him to go, not yet. But Nat held back her tears and nodded, knowing he was right. Nick reluctantly rose, leaving her on the bed and left the way he had come, but not before glancing back one last time. After he had left her bedroom, Natalie quietly whispered towards the window, "I love you, Nick."

Nick inhaled sharply as he heard those soft words from outside and knew he had to stop. He listened nearby as she fell asleep crying, unable to tear himself away. When he heard her breathing patterns change, indicating a sound sleep, he quietly returned to her bedroom.

He stood over her, watching her sleep. Salty streaks dried on her cheeks, the only evidence of the crying he had heard. Softly pushing some hair aside, he leaned over and kissed her tenderly on the lips, lingering a moment longer to commit the sensation to memory. He hadn't wanted to kiss her lips before for fear of making her hope for some future. He had to leave her with the chance for her own life now, just in case his plans didn't work out. He whispered in her ear before leaving, "I love you, Nat. We'll be together someday if things work out."

He couldn't leave. He gazed down at her and lightly trailed his fingers down her hair, deep in thought. Coming to a decision, he unbuttoned his shirt, letting it slide to the floor. He slipped his shoes off, unclasped his belt and stepped out of his jeans, pushing them onto the floor with his shirt. Sitting on the bed's edge in his boxers, he removed his socks, adding them to the pile of discarded clothing before leaning over to kiss her again.

Maybe he was being selfish, wanting Nat like this on the eve of moving on, but he couldn't leave without loving her just once. There was nothing LaCroix could do now. He was leaving tonight, and LaCroix had made sure they would be apart. Nick lifted the comforter and slid under it behind her sleeping form.

Nick snuggled against her and wrapped his arm around her from behind. Holding her close against his body, he gently caressed her abdomen. He nuzzled against the hair covering her neck, breathing in her scent deeply as he moaned softly.

Nat stirred and moved against his caress. As she woke and realized the sensations were real, she startled, turning quickly to face him.

Nick quickly pressed his finger to her mouth. "Shh, Nat. Don't scream. It's me." For a split second, he thought she would still scream, but she didn't.

Her eyes were heavy with tears of joy as she grabbed him in an embrace. "Oh, Nick..." He quickly captured her lips. Nat pulled back and asked, "Are you just here to tease me, cause I can't take it, Nick."

"No. I want to love you," he said softly. "I don't know how soon we'll see each other again, if ever. I can't make any promises, Nat. But I need you...if you'll have me." He pushed a strand of hair away from her face, smiling at her.

"You're really here?" She ran her hand tenderly across his chest, sliding her fingers through the soft hairs. Her earlier doubts about how he really felt dissipated.

He closed his eyes at her touch and murmured, "Yes, I'm really here."

She reached around his back, lowering her hands to cup his rear and pull him closer to her. "You're not a dream?"

He groaned as she had pulled him against her warm body and his growing bulge pressed into her. "If I am, I hope you never wake up." He captured her lips in a searing kiss.

When he finally released her lips, Nat asked in a soft whisper against his lips, "Why did you come back?"

"I couldn't leave like that," Nick tried to explain. "Not without... Oh, how I love you, Nat. I need you to know that. Maybe I'm being selfish, but..."

"No, you're not," she interrupted him. "Make love to me, Nick."

He smiled seductively. "You don't have to ask me again." Pushing the comforter aside, he reached for the bottom of her gown and started lifting it up as she wiggled out of it. He looked in awe at her beauty, as she lay naked beside him, the moonlight casting its light across her curves.

Nat started to feel embarrassed at his penetrating gaze and reached her arms up to cover herself.

He gently grabbed her arms and pulled them aside. "No, don't cover yourself. You're beautiful. I want to look at you."

As he covered her with his aching body, he leaned to kiss her lips again and slowly trailed kisses down her chin and neck to her breasts. He cupped her breasts and flicked at her nipples. With his hand massaging one breast, his lips covered the other breast's nipple and his tongue twirled the hardened nub. As Nick teased the nipple gently with his teeth, he looked up to her face with gold eyes, smiling.

Nat whimpered at his touch and slipped her fingers into his blonde locks, holding him near. She moaned as he teased her nipples with his mouth, sensations spreading to her core. Breathlessly, Nat smiled unafraid, back at his rich, golden gaze.

His hand drifted lower to cup her heated center, and he slipped a finger between the curls. She gasped at his intimate touch as he watched her reaction. Her eyes, dark with desire, stared down at him as she felt his finger slide to encircle her nub. Sliding another finger inside, he plunged deep into her, drawing out her creamy moisture and again circled her now engorged nub. "Mmmm, Nat. You feel so good," he said huskily.

With the feel of her slick wetness and the music of her moans, Nick's cock throbbed and strained against the boxers. He shifted and pulled the boxers down and kicked them off. He nudged her legs apart and she offered no resistance as he pressed the tip of his cock against her moist heat.

Nat reached to pull him close, murmuring, "I need you, Nick."

Nick slowly pushed into her until he filled her completely. He closed his eyes, relishing the sensation of her warmth surround him. When he opened his eyes and stared down at her, they were now streaked with red. He pressed his lips to hers, slipping his tongue inside her mouth in its passionate caress.

The redness in his eyes had caused her some alarm. The only time she had seen his eyes red before was when the vampire was in total control. Nick could feel the tension in her, yet she said nothing, pulling him into her embrace even tighter.

He whispered against her lips, "It's ok, Nat. I love you. I won't let the vampire hurt you." He gazed at her again, his eyes unchanged, yet she had relaxed at his words. He started to pull his cock out, but before he had slid all the way out, he again plunged deep inside her. He quickened the pace of his thrusts as he watched Nat's face. "I love you, " Nick said, not taking his eyes from her.

Nat wrapped her legs around him, pulling him deeper. She pushed against his thrusts and her orgasm built quickly as he pounded into her. Waves of pleasure poured through her, exploding along her nerves as she screamed in her ecstasy. Ripples of spasms flushed through her, tightening and stroking Nick's cock.

Nick quickly sank his fangs into her shoulder, and with a final thrust, spilled his seed into her. Her love immediately enveloped him as he drank her warm life's blood. Her passion for him permeated his entire being. Suddenly, he felt her pain and the suffering she had endured during this unforeseen catastrophe. In her panic at the scene, she had first thought him truly dead. After that, she had to deal with LaCroix in saving his life, putting up with LaCroix's coldness towards her for his sake. He reached into the link, soothing her, comforting her in his love.

As her body shuddered with her release, she felt Nick bite into her shoulder. She held onto him and was surprised when it didn't hurt as much as she thought it would. In fact, after the initial prick into her flesh, the warmth of the sensation was pleasant. She felt the strength of his love for her, and she was overwhelmed at all he had never said. She had never known any experience like it. She had needed him so badly after all that had happened. She felt him reach deep inside, comforting her in the hidden recesses of her soul, soothing the agony she had suffered.

Nick carefully withdrew his fangs as Nat moaned at the loss of contact. He slowly licked over the wounds to savor the remaining droplets and to help the healing process begin. Nick started to shift to her side so she wouldn't be uncomfortable, but she held him tight.

"No, stay there. I like you there," she whispered.

"Are you sure?" Nick asked, relenting as she nodded.

As Nick rested against her and their breathing became normal, Nat said, "I love you too, Nick."

He brushed his hand against the side of her face and kissed her lips. "I know."

She had held in her feelings about him leaving, but with the emotion of making love, it was too much. The tears started to flow again, and she cried against his chest.

Nick felt the rush of emotion through their link, and he felt her sorrow. He pulled his arms around her tighter and planted soft kisses across her face. It was a new pain that he sensed, not the agony of him leaving he had just tasted. It was their lovemaking, the expression of his love for her that was causing the pain. It had aggravated her grief about him leaving, making her feel his loss even worse. How stupid had he been? How selfish he had been? He had caused her more pain than before.

"Shhh, Nat. Don't cry." He couldn't leave her like this. Nick's own weakness had caused her additional anguish. He hadn't intended to cause more pain by loving her. He gazed at her and said, "Nat, look at me." She looked into his blue eyes as he gently held her face with his palms. He reached out to capture her beating heart and concentrated. "I came here to say goodbye tonight," he said.

"Nick, I..." she said, resisting his touch on her mind.

Nick reached out into the newly formed link he had with her, concentrating stronger on her heart's beat. "To say goodbye."

With Nick's new influence, Natalie's resistance was gone and she repeated in monotone, "To say goodbye."

Nick hated what he was doing, but he had to. He concentrated and pushed his emotions to the back for now. "I promised I would contact you. I made no other promises."

"You promised to contact me," she again repeated.

"When I left, you cried yourself to sleep. I did not return to your bedroom," he forced himself to say, as tears welled in his eyes.

"I cried. You didn't return."

Wanting to give her some peace, he added, "You will sleep soundly now and not wake until morning." Besides, it would give him time to clean up evidence of his presence here without waking her.

"Sleep," she mumbled as her eyelids grew heavy.

Nick slowly backed away, tracing the outline of her face as he stood away from the bed. He collected his clothes and put them back on. Spotting her nightshirt on the floor, he picked it up. He sat on the edge of the bed and carefully pulled back the comforter to put it back on her. That's when he realized he'd have to do more if he wanted the whammy to take hold.

After covering her back up, he went to the bathroom to get a washcloth and towel. He picked the softest one he could find and moistened the washcloth with warm water from the faucet. When he returned to the bed, he again pulled the comforter back and gently washed the soft flesh still glistening from their lovemaking. He watched her closely for signs of waking as he carefully cleaned any signs he had been in her bed.

After he was done, he slowly dressed her back in the nightshirt, smoothed it over her body, and covered her once again. He looked down at her peaceful expression, tears welling in his eyes. He hadn't wanted his moment of weakness to make her suffer more.

He made sure that it was he that suffered, not his lovely Natalie. His perfect vampire memory would torment him as he remembered each moment, each touch of their lovemaking. He brushed her hair aside as he stood over her, ready to leave. As Nick leaned to press his lips to hers, he could still feel the link between them, her love for him as she slept.

"Goodbye, Natalie."

Grace reached across the table, placing her hand over Nat's in response to her sorrow. "Nat, it takes time. Just take it one day at a time right now."

Nat glanced up at her friend. Grace was always there for her, especially now that Nick was gone, um, dead. It was so difficult to remember that he was supposed to be dead to the mortal world. Nick was very much alive, even though the life of Nick Knight was truly dead. He continued to live somewhere, and she was not there to share even a small part of his life. She felt so empty except for the constant knot in her stomach.

Her feelings of loss, missing him in her daily life, the torture of waiting for him to contact her as he promised was easily misread by those around her as grieving for the dead Nick Knight. It was a convenient transference of feelings, people assuming her sorrow was due to his death. She did have to be careful of a few things, such as voicing her wish that he would call soon. That one would definitely get her locked away in the loony bin.

"Thanks, Grace," she said, acknowledging her friend's efforts with a smile. Taking a deep breath she suggested, "Maybe we should get back to work now. Thanks so much for this birthday dinner, Grace."

Grace nodded, and after taking care of the tab, they left for the office. Grace had known she would particularly miss Nick today and had thought of taking her out to dinner at the last minute. Grace observed how Natalie stopped denying her feelings for the deceased Nick Knight, now that he was gone. Nat had all but admitted that they were truly more than friends, as Grace had always suspected.

On the ride back, Nat's mood became more depressed as she wondered if Nick ever loved her. She thought over the many conflicting messages through the years they had known each other. Even after his so-called death, there was his phone call that gave her such hope. When he came to say goodbye, he didn't even kiss her. Instead, he'd spoken of LaCroix, blaming the elder vampire for making it impossible to take Nat with him. Nat wondered if that were truly the reason. Staring out the window for several minutes, she finally stated, "He never said 'I love you'." She turned to Grace and said, "I don't know how he really felt about me, if he loved me."

Grace quickly glanced over at Nat as she pulled into the parking spot and shut off the engine. Her friend was in agony and more melancholy, worse than when Nick had first died. Maybe the loss she felt was just now sinking in, and even more, the fact that they had never expressed their true feelings for each other before the tragedy. All she knew was the agony she saw in Nat's expression.

"Hon, of course he loved you," Grace assured her. "I don't know why he never told you, really I don't. But you have to believe he did. We all saw it in the way he was with you. It was so obvious."

Nat sighed at her words. Yet, Nat wondered about Nick's promise to contact her. Why hadn't he yet? Maybe he was having second thoughts after settling into his new life. Did he even think of her as he started a new life away from her? Maybe he would still contact her. What was time to a vampire, where endless nights melted into years? It had only been 3 weeks since he left.


Nick awoke from another dream covered in a blood sweat and tangled in the sheets. He had dreamed about her again. Only it wasn't really a dream, but a memory. The memory of making love to Nat, the memory that had haunted and tormented him since he left. A memory she could not even recall.

He sat up as he chided himself again on his selfishness. He had been so self-centered to make love to her just once before leaving, and he was suffering for it now. Every time he had tried to call her, he couldn't follow through with it. What would he say? What could he say? He wanted to say that he loved her and missed her.

He missed her naked flesh against his, his cock sliding deep within her. Even more, he missed her sweet words of love, the taste of her blood, and glimpsing into her inner soul. He couldn't say any of those things, because she didn't remember. He pulled himself from bed and went to the shower to start another night without her.


Nick sat at a table in the rear of the club, watching the patrons mill about on the floor. He sipped at his goblet and stared at the mingling bodies on the dance floor. He had started coming here to not be so alone, to be among his kind. The Unrestrained was a club, not unlike the Raven in that it catered to vampires and mortals alike, but that was where the similarities ended. He had heard a couple, Mark and Christine, ran it. They seemed very nice and caring of their clientele, yet able to control things when they got too rowdy, vampire or mortal.

As Nick sat quietly sipping at his drink, he wondered what would be the right thing to do. He knew he would contact Nat, but he was uncertain of how he would do it. He had struggled with himself over what tone his contact should take, as it would determine how things went between them.

Only he could remember the love they had shared his last night in Toronto, but that didn't mean the feelings of love weren't there. He knew she loved him even with that memory gone, but she might be uncertain of his love for her.

Encouraging her by verifying his love for her in their communications when their future was so uncertain might only lead to more hurt. If things didn't work out, he knew it would cause more heartache than the torment that had led him to take her memory of their lovemaking, the memory that had haunted him in the weeks since that night. He woke from the dreams almost nightly, sometimes expecting her to be there in his arms. Sometimes he woke shouting her name, afraid of losing her forever.

Nick's thoughts were abruptly interrupted when Mark approached the secluded table where he sat.

Mark stood by the solemn vampire and asked, "Mind if I join you?"

Nick looked up, forced a smile, and swept out his hand to indicate the empty chair.

"You're the one who had steer ordered for the bar?" he asked in a quiet subdued voice.

Nick nodded. "I hope you don't mind. I really appreciate it."

"Of course not. It is just an odd request. Nick, isn't it?"

Nick extended his hand and confirmed. "Yes. Nick. And you're Mark? Isn't Christine your wife?" He didn't mention the steer again. He'd rather not spread word of his odd diet.

Mark smiled at the vampire as he mentioned his wife. "Yes." At once, Mark remembered the reason for approaching him and asked, "I've noticed you tend to keep to yourself and ignore the ladies' attentions. Do you have someone special?"

Nick's frown returned and he took a long drink from the goblet.

"I didn't mean to upset you. Did you lose her recently?"

Nick regarded the pleasant man, yet uncertain of his sincerity. Hesitating briefly, he began, "I am in love with a mortal woman. I had to move on. It couldn't be avoided or I would have been exposed."

"Ah, so you are new in town?" Mark inquired.


"Welcome to our city, Nick. I know how hard it is to move on and start again." Mark stood, sensing Nick's reluctance to discuss it further, despite his many questions. They would have to wait. "Enjoy the club. It's what we're here for," he added, smiling.

"Thanks, Mark. I will." Yes, this place was very different indeed.


The evening at work had been slow, making things worse. A few nights ago, they had tried to talk her into taking off for her birthday. Nat knew it would be a mistake to be alone on her birthday without any plans. She needed to be at work, where she had been when he first woke on her table. Somehow, she felt closer to him here.

Nat turned her attention back to the file she was trying to complete and was failing miserably. Tonight was her birthday, just like one several years ago when she had first met him. Nat knew Grace had meant well when she tried to cheer her up at dinner and Nat tried to cooperate, but her feelings weighed too heavily upon her.

The sudden ring of the phone interrupted the quietness of the early morning hours. Natalie jumped as it broke through her thoughts.

"Natalie's Bed and Breakfast," she answered, if only to lighten her own mood.

"When is breakfast being served?" the low voice asked.

Nat held her hand over her chest as if it would contain her pounding heart when she recognized the very familiar voice. "Nick!?"

"Hi, Nat. I'm sorry it took so long, but I had to get settled." He hated fibbing to her, but he couldn't admit the real reason. He couldn't tell her how he ached for her. How he struggled with what to say, wanting to say what he couldn't. Just hearing her voice again, the images of her whispering soft words against his lips flooded back.

"Nick, how are you?"

He smiled at her concern over him. "I'm fine. Are you ok?

"Yeah, it's difficult sometimes with the questions, but..."

"I'm sorry to put you through that," he offered. He hoped the memory stayed buried, not wanting to hurt her anymore. After a moment, he continued, "I meant what I said about staying in touch. Is that what you still want?" Nick held his breath awaiting her answer, hoping she would still want that, even without the memory he had taken.

"Of course. You know I do."

After releasing his breath, Nick said, "Take down this number." Nick gave her his phone number and email address, as well as the new name he was using and his mailing address at his new home in Oregon. He told her to feel free to use them anytime she wanted to. Daily if she wanted.


"Unless that interferes with your days too much?" he quickly added. Her life was separate from his. He had to remember he was no longer part of her daily life, and she had things to do.

"No, I just didn't expect... I mean with..." She was confused. Did he really want to stay in daily contact? It was more than she had hoped. But it had taken him so long to make this first call.

"Okay then, Nat. I really look forward to hearing from you a lot," he hinted. "And Nat...Happy Birthday."

Nat was stunned. "You remembered. Thanks, Nick. And Nick?" She thought to say she loved him, but decided it wasn't the right time.

"Yeah, Nat?"

"Nothing, Nick. It'll keep. Thanks again for remembering my birthday. It means a lot."

"I love you," he murmured to himself after he hung up the phone. He only wished he could say it that she could hear. Yet, he had to leave her with some of the feeling he carried with him, some part of what they had shared. He hoped she would read between the lines on the card and keep that hope alive.

She smiled as she hung up the phone. It was a relief to finally hear from him, and wishing her Happy Birthday was an extra treat. Just then, there was a knock at the door. A delivery boy entered with a beautiful bouquet of daisies. She took them from him and thanked him, as she opened the card.

She already had a strong suspicion whom they were from, aware that he knew how much she liked the simple, beautiful flower. She was relieved that she was alone when they were delivered, as it would have been difficult to explain the flowers to Grace or Schanke. Opening the card, she saw her suspicion was true. 'Happy Birthday, Love Nick'. Love. He signed the card with 'love'. Did this mean something? Many people signed things with 'love'. Good friends, family, those in casual relationships. Yet, this was a man that had once signed a birthday card to her 'With Affection'. Nat closed her eyes, holding the card tightly, and sighed. Maybe it would all work out after all.

Nick paced the floor of his apartment. He knew, from the moment he left Toronto, he would get in touch with her as he promised. Yet, he had not been able to make that first contact with her until tonight. He knew she would follow his lead, having seen that in her blood when they had made love. She wouldn't push the relationship, wanting whatever he had to give. He hoped conveying the slightest hope for them would not cause more pain. Having shared his love with her and seeing her love in return, he couldn't turn from that hope. He needed to convey that hope in his contact with her somehow. He couldn't pretend to just be good friends, but he couldn't tell her how strongly he felt either.

Nick picked up the framed picture on his desk, smiling at the memory it evoked. He had surprised Nat with a cake for her birthday one year. It was her birthday when they had first met. Today was another birthday passed. It only seemed appropriate that he first contact her then, too. After he had hung up the phone tonight, he knew it had started again. There was no going back. Staying in touch as friends was one thing, but sending the flowers, signed 'Love, Nick' was another. Was it giving her the hope for their future when there was none? Maybe LaCroix was right. Maybe he needed to let her go so she could move on too. He didn't know that he could do that, though.

He sat back down at the desk, returning to his books and trying to push her to the back of his mind. He needed to be ready for his first class tomorrow night. He had found a position teaching a semester in Archeology at the community college. If it worked out, maybe he would teach more there. The classes were scheduled in the evening, which made it perfect for him. He'd never have to explain his 'allergy'. Of all his lives, he loved it when he taught the most.

Except for Toronto. That was his favorite, because of her. Here he was thinking of her again, he thought as he sighed. He pushed the chair back and stood to stretch. Grabbing the opened bottle of cow blood, he poured more into the goblet. He promised to give up mortality, but he didn't have to resort to drinking human blood. He had continued with cow blood and had the local supplier stock it for him.


Natalie sat at her desk, staring at the email on her computer screen. It was her night off, and she had taken the time to work on it. She had spent hours on it, finally satisfied with it. She took a deep breath and clicked SEND on the email she had spent hours constructing.

She thanked him for the flowers and told him about recent research findings, hoping to make him feel optimistic. She conveyed her wish that things were going well in his new home. Even though he had signed his card 'Love Nick', she agonized on how to sign the email, but finally decided to sign it 'Love, Nat'. If she didn't sign with 'love', she would only be denying that he had signed the card with 'love'.

She wanted to follow his lead, as this was new territory for them. She didn't want to embarrass herself by assuming too much from their relationship. She loved him. He knew that. She thought he loved her too, but she'd accept whatever he had to give when he could. So it started. The thrill of downloading mail just to see his name, to share a glimpse into his night and new life. Hope for the future.


Nick followed his same routine upon waking by showering and starting up his laptop to download his mail. While it was connecting, he grabbed a bottle of steer from the refrigerator and a glass from the cabinet. He poured the red sustenance into his glass as he sat at the desk to read his mail. He grinned as he saw Nat's name appear for the first time on the list of messages downloaded. He tipped the glass, taking a long swallow before setting the glass down again.

Clicking on Nat's message, he ignored the others for now. He read the message eagerly, but then he frowned as he saw her mention the research. How could he tell her he had to give up his quest? To protect her from LaCroix and keep him out of his life? Was it worth it? He hoped so, thought so. If she knew about that part of the bargain, would she stop loving him? Would she cut all ties? If there wasn't any chance of him regaining mortality, would she even want him? He couldn't take that chance right now.

Besides, he figured she had enough samples to run tests for several months. She had just taken samples right before all this happened. He could postpone dealing with it until she wanted more samples. He couldn't help it that she was still doing research. LaCroix couldn't blame him for that or accuse him of still participating. He wasn't sure if he should respond to her research comments, though.


Natalie fingered the petals of one of the daisies on her desk. The flowers were wilting and it wouldn't be long before she'd have to throw them away. She hadn't yet received a reply to her email to Nick. He had suggested she could write daily, but without a response from him, her doubts started to return. Yet, she couldn't forget how the phone call had made her feel...and the flowers.

Her thoughts were interrupted as Grace walked into the office, files cradled in her arm. She paused when she saw her friend's expression. "Thinking about Nick again?"

Nat just sighed and smiled as Grace stepped closer and set the files on the edge of her desk.

"Hon, I..."

Nat grasped Grace's hand and squeezed. "I'll be okay, Grace. Just remembering."

Grace forced a smile for Nat. "That's the best thing you can do. Remember the good times you had together."

As Grace turned to leave, Nat thought to herself hopefully, 'And the good times that may yet to be.'


Having let the email sit a few days, Nick realized he needed to respond. He decided to not even mention her comments on the research and write about other things. He apologized for not responding right away and told her about his new home and job, implying that these new things in his life were an explanation for his tardiness. He told her how excited he was about teaching again, reminding her of when he told her about teaching in the 50's and showed her mementos from that time. He didn't tell her how it filled his lonely nights without her. He didn't tell her about the dreams he had almost every night and how perfectly he remembered their lovemaking on their last night together. He couldn't. He had taken that from her. He continued to sign 'Love, Nick'. Why break the pattern?


As the weeks continued, Nick grew into his new life and its patterns. Teaching again was a happy routine he loved. Often, stopping at the local club after classes, he started to meet the vampires in the community. Away from LaCroix, life was different. It reminded him of that short time period in Toronto after he thought he had killed his master and he was free from his control and influence.

He even started to enjoy some of the aspects of being a vampire again, without the pressure that he'd always felt when he was in LaCroix's presence. Being around his sire seemed to make Nick hate everything about his condition, making it an existence he loathed. Here in Portland away from LaCroix, he started to enjoy it again. He was flying for the enjoyment of it, not for emergency's sake. He was blending into the local community, enjoying the night again.

He was also starting to rediscover himself, enjoy himself and the things he loved like teaching and the students. He also continued to enjoy meeting and making friends among mortals and vampires, just as he had done in Toronto. Yet, it was so different now, without LaCroix's constant berating him about his friendships, whether in person, through their link, or over the radio in his disguised messages to the public.

Then there was Nat. As time passed, he did not forget her as LaCroix had said would happen, but his feelings for her had grown stronger, richer. He allowed himself to feel his love for Nat, what he had forbidden himself before. His early hesitation in writing to her had passed, daring to be more open in his expressions to her, unafraid to share his life with her.

After their first few email exchanges, they began to write of more of personal things. Besides telling each other of events in their lives, they wrote of their inner thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Nick would often comment on special moments he remembered of their years together in Toronto. He told her how he had been thinking of her when such and such happened or teasing her about this and that. He spoke of missing her.

At first, Nat was hesitant at Nick's growing personal notes, his expression of his thoughts and wishes. Nick had often been so closed off from her before, leaving her guessing about so much. He seemed much more relaxed now, more like after they had first become friends. She quickly threw caution to the wind and enjoyed his newfound openness, sharing her own thoughts and feelings, telling him of special memories in her heart.

She noticed something else, too. Nick seemed to be enjoying certain things he hid from before, more free about certain vampire abilities. She caught him in comments about flying and his time at the club. But the interest in his vampire life didn't seem to be a bad thing from what she could tell. He actually had a better attitude, one she had not witnessed in Toronto. It was his version of being a vampire, not LaCroix's, but what exactly did that mean for them?

Her questions were answered soon, or at least hinted at. He mentioned how things would change in the future, that they would see each other again. He reminded her that his promise to LaCroix was to leave without her, not that he wouldn't ever contact her. Yet, he wanted to be cautious, knowing LaCroix as he did.

Nick knew that they finally had a chance to be together, and he didn't want to ruin things. He wanted to wait for the right time. He knew that LaCroix would be watching her for a time and, after he was satisfied that they were indeed separate, he would tire of the game and go on with his life. Nick had ensured knowing when this happened by enlisting Miklos' aid before leaving Toronto. In spite of this, he didn't dare do more than hint at his plans to Nat. Maybe he had said too much already, giving her false hopes.

Nick had continued to ignore comments she made on her research for the cure, and Nat started to mention it less often. Nat wondered sometimes about his interest in the cure anymore, but she kept doing the tests with stored samples. She hopefully assumed Nick was just waiting for her to announce some real break-through.

Nick felt awkward whenever she mentioned the research, and even more at his silence about it. It was the only regret he had in their recent correspondence. He knew the research would need to be addressed and soon. Her samples would only last so long, and he would eventually have to face Nat about the bargain he had made and what it meant for them. He only hoped he wouldn't lose her when she found out.

Almost six months had passed since he left Toronto, since Nick Knight had died. He found himself thinking about their times together often, especially their last night together. Her soft whispers in his ear echoed in his mind. When Nick kept drifting into the past in class that night, he knew he had to do something.

Instead of going to the club after class that night, he went home. He had to hear her voice. After filling a goblet with some blood wine and sitting in his overstuffed chair, he dialed her apartment, hoping she might be at home tonight. He sipped at the goblet as the phone rang.

Nat grabbed the phone from her bed and she answered in a gravelly, dry voice, "Hello."

Nick sat the glass down on the table. "Nat? Is that you?" Her voice sounded odd, he thought.


Yes, it was her voice, but something was wrong. Nick sat forward in his chair, concerned. "Nat? Are you okay?"

"Not really. I'm off sick tonight." She rolled on her side, holding the phone against her ear.

"Oh, I'm sorry. What's wrong?"

"Oh, just some bug going around. But it's got me good. I'll be okay in a few days, though," she assured him. "Are you calling about something? You usually write. Is something wrong?"

"No, nothing's wrong. I just...I've been thinking about you a lot lately. I wanted to hear your voice." There, he admitted why he called. He hoped it didn't sound foolish.

Natalie let a gravelly, yet boisterous laugh escape, quickly developing into a hacking cough.

"Nat?" he asked, confused and hurt at her laughter and concerned at her coughing.

Gaining control of her cough, Nat quickly said, "I'm sorry, Nick. I'm not laughing at you. I'm laughing at myself. You calling to hear my voice, and all you get is this pathetic sound coming from my mouth."

Nick, quickly recovered and chuckled, "Well, it wasn't what I was expecting, but any sound from your lips is heaven to my ears."

"You're so sweet. Thanks. Tell me about what you've been up to, your teaching and such, and let me rest my throat. Let me listen to your voice," she suggested.

"I'd love that." Nick proceeded to tell her the latest about his class and the students he taught. She smiled as he excitedly talked about it. She was pleased that he was doing something he loved so much. She loved listening to his voice, especially when he was so happy. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine him being right there with her.


She stirred from the lull of his voice. "Umm?"

"You're tired. I think I've talked enough. You need to rest."

"Umm, yeah. I guess I am. Thanks for calling, Nick. I loved listening to all that's going on."

"I'm glad I called too. I hope you feel better soon. I love you." He hadn't meant to say it, hadn't planned to say it. It just rolled off his tongue as if it was the most natural thing in the world to say to her. He was tired of hiding it, being so ambiguous. Maybe he would regret it, but it was too late now.

Natalie held her breath at his words. Had he really said it? It wasn't just a note signed 'Love, Nick', but had he actually said 'I love you'? "I'll be well soon, don't worry...Nick?" There was no mistaking the words she had heard. "I love you, too," she responded.

"Goodnight, Nat," he whispered and hung up the phone.

Nat lay there, still holding the phone to her ear. What had just happened? Where was this going? Maybe she was just having a delirious dream with her illness and she would eventually wake up. She sat up in bed and hung up the phone.

She shuffled into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of orange juice from the fridge. Sitting at the table to drink the juice, she thought over the conversation she had just had. Would Nick send for her one day? He had implied in his emails that they would see each other again.

She wondered what Nick was wanting for them. He didn't seem interested in her research anymore. Was he giving up on that search? He seemed to be relishing his newfound freedom in being a vampire without LaCroix, the type of vampire he wants to be. Was that really so bad since the vampire he wanted to be was very different from LaCroix's vision of what a vampire should be? She knew he didn't believe in killing, and even when he didn't drink steer blood, he drank only donated blood. He still seemed to love being around mortals, using his powers only for helping them and his own convenience, not manipulation of the weak. One issue remained.

If they were to have a life together, and he had given up on the cure and was choosing to be his own kind of vampire, where did that leave her? Would he consider bringing her across to live as a vampire in his world? Did he still consider that such a curse? If so, did he want to try sharing his life with her when she remained mortal? So many questions. The future was becoming interesting and scary.


Nick tilted the goblet and finished gulping the blood wine as he mulled over what had just happened. Things had really changed for him without LaCroix's influence. He was finally living how he wanted to live, being with those he wanted to be with, without constant comment and insult by his master. Nick had lived apart from his master before, but this time it was different. Maybe it was the fact that he had LaCroix's promise to not interfere in his life long as Nick kept his part of the bargain.

The only thing that was not as it should be was that Nat should be with him. LaCroix was still watching her closely. Even though the bargain was that he leave without her, he knew LaCroix would have something to say if she joined him this soon. He had to time things right, and it was not yet.

Even so, his relationship with Nat had become more open, deeper. He talked more of what was on his mind, talking of memories in the past they had shared. He didn't leave her guessing like he did before. The only thing he hadn't said until tonight was that he loved her.

After rinsing his glass, he busied himself with some archeology research he was doing for awhile. He felt restless after talking with Nat tonight and left for the Unrestrained.

He sat at the bar, ordering the bar's label for tonight. He smiled at the bartender's raised eyebrow at his selection. Nick turned on the stool with the goblet in his hand and watched the people. He smiled as he thought of Nat and his confession to her tonight. LaCroix had predicted that if he left without her, he would forget her in time. He was so wrong. His feelings for her had grown stronger. He never felt for another woman the way he felt for her.

Mark tapped Nick on the shoulder. "Nick? It's good to see you again."

Nick smiled at the owner. "It's a good night, Mark." When he saw Mark's questioning look, Nick explained, "I told her I love her tonight."

Mark smiled at Nick's revelation. He had been trying to convince Nick to express himself more to her, to invite her here.

Nick, suddenly serious, commented, "My master said I would forget her." He looked sorrowfully into Mark's eyes and explained, "I couldn't forget her...I didn't want to."

Mark was quiet for a moment before responding, "Maybe you weren't supposed to forget her."

He absently whispered her name aloud, "Nat."

"Nat?" Christine repeated as she walked to stand next to her husband, sliding into his arms.

"Ah, my love, Nick here has been telling me about the mortal love he left behind," Mark told his wife before tenderly pressing his lips to hers.

Nick smiled at their tenderness towards each other. Sometimes he felt so envious watching them interact.

"So, Nick, her name is Nat?" Christine asked as she sat on the stool next to Nick.

Nick smiled at the sound of her name. He bowed his head and answered, "Yes. Natalie. I have been missing her terribly recently."

"Tell us about her, Nick," Mark asked.

Nick sighed and his eyes glazed over. "She is so beautiful and smart. So vibrant. She has a wonderful sense of humor, with a dark flavor," he said with a smile. "She kept me on my toes, didn't let me get away with anything. Yet, she is the most forgiving and loving person I have ever known. She brightened my nights when I lived in Toronto."

"Ahh, Toronto. You were in Toronto before coming here?"

"Yes, I worked as a cop. A detective. Nat is a coroner. That's how we met. I woke up on her table one night."

Puzzled, Mark asked, "But how was that explained? Was the injury in the line of duty?"

"Oh, no. I said that all backwards. I met Nat when I woke up on her table. I had no friends yet, or work. Later I got the job as a cop. I had also worked as a cop before in Chicago in the 60's."

"Ah, ok."

Christine asked, "A coroner? Is she the one I have heard about? That works to help the community hide suspicious deaths."

"You've heard about her out here?" Nick asked, shocked initially. "Yep. That's my Nat," Nick said smiling.

"Why didn't you bring her with you if you love her so much?"

Nick hung his head, answering, "I made a bargain with my master. He doesn't want her in my life, so I promised to leave without her if he stayed out of my life. But I love her."

Her hand softly touched his shoulder. "Nick, I can tell you are not a fledgling. Why does he control you so? Who is your master?"

Nick looked up. "LaCroix," left his lips as if an evil word.

Nick stared at the computer screen. So the time had finally come. Nat was asking for more samples, having found her supply almost gone, and she wanted him to ship more to her. Was it time to tell her about giving up the cure? Should he just ignore the email? Maybe she wouldn't ask again.

Despite his unspoken hope, she did. Nat expressed her doubts about his interest in a cure since he never commented on her results. She said what was on her mind. Did he expect anything less since they had been sharing so much, not hiding their feelings any longer?

He didn't have the nerve to tell her. Not like this, not in an email. So he stalled. He hit REPLY to her message and apologized for not answering her the first time. He explained how busy he was with his class and such. It was a feeble excuse. He had never been too busy for her before, but he needed to stall. He promised to try to send the samples soon, never addressing her concerns about his intentions. He didn't sign the message 'Love, Nick' either. He just hit SEND.

Nick had hated misleading her about the research all this time. He had been afraid to tell her the truth, that she would see it the wrong way and think it meant he didn't want her. Or worse, that she wouldn't want him if he had given up his quest. Shouldn't he have confidence in her love, after all they had shared in these months? Didn't he owe her that?

Instead, he pulled away from her. He stopped telling her so much about his life, his thoughts. The fewer emails he sent, the less chance that Nat would send emails that might also ask about the samples. Besides, if his excuse was that he was busy, he couldn't really email her too often or she would know he wasn't busy. He ached each time he had the urge to write her or call her. Something exciting in class, a breakthrough with a student, a new friend. He would start, but would always trash the message before completing it or hang up the phone as it started to ring.

He knew Nat had worked hard to help him find mortality. How could he tell her he had given it up as part of the bargain with LaCroix? He knew she hoped for his mortality so that they could be together. She loved the man that he was, that he had hoped to become again someday. She never really said that, but he saw it in her blood. Could she love him if she knew he was to stay a vampire? Would she love him if she knew how much he was enjoying the night again without LaCroix?


The samples never came. The emails were short and grew fewer. He didn't sign the messages anymore, not 'Love, Nick', not even 'Nick'. He didn't talk about missing her or his memories of their time together anymore. He shared only the most basic facts of his life. Another two months passed, and Nat asked again for the samples.

Again, Nick stalled. He was so busy. He would try. Nat was trying to understand, trying to accept his excuses, but it became harder each time he wrote how busy he was, every time he didn't respond to her messages. She hardly received anything from him anymore.

Nat looked up as the door opened, a welcome interruption from her dismal mood. She had been feeling blue over the change in Nick. She didn't know what was going on, why he didn't call anymore, why he sent so few emails, and why they seemed so cold and distant when they did arrive.

Schanke's familiar face poked inside. "Hey, Nat," he said, smiling. Stepping inside, he asked, "You got anything new on the Harris case?" Although some new information on the case would be nice, he was more concerned for Natalie lately. She had been very moody lately, and he was worried. She had seemed to be recovering from Nick's death, even enjoying life again, smiling and being with friends, but for the past few months, things seemed to have gone backwards. He didn't know if this was about Nick or something new.

"Nothing new, Schanke," she replied. She couldn't help the sadness in her voice despite trying. She didn't want him to pry, but looking at his expression of concern, she knew it was inevitable.

Schanke stepped closer to Natalie and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Natalie, what is it... does this have to do with Nick?" he asked softly.

Nat looked into his eyes, his own pain clearly visible. She couldn't contain her feelings any longer, and the tears welled up in her eyes. Turning away and burying her face in her hands, she sobbed aloud as tears dampened her hands. What had happened? Why was Nick being so cold? He had said he loved her, but now he was avoiding her. Was he tiring of her? Had Nick found someone new to share his nights with?

Schanke pulled her into his arms and soothingly rubbed her back to comfort her. "Shh, Nat. It'll be okay. It takes time, especially when it's someone you loved like that." He had always known there was more to their relationship than they had let on, but this was not what he wanted to add to the stockpile of proof.

"I miss him so much, Schanke," she blurted out between the sobs. She missed that he didn't call. She missed the increasingly personal messages he had been sending over the months. She missed his voice.

Nat sometimes wondered if it might have to do with her pushing the research. If he wasn't interested in it anymore, why didn't he just say so? She was wondering if his lack of interest in the cure was due to not wanting her anymore, but that didn't make sense. He had been searching for the cure before they had met. She was having real doubts about their relationship. Maybe he had corresponded with her only to satisfy her needs, knowing she loved him. If that was the case, why had he told her he loved her? Why create that kind of hope? He didn't have to do that.

Maybe he had found other things in his new life. Maybe he had even found someone to share those endless nights with. He did talk about going to the club there a lot. Maybe he had met someone there. What made her think she was all that special to an 800-year-old vampire? He apparently had become close to many women over the centuries. Wasn't she just another on the long list, one he would know for a period of time and then move on? The possibility prompted new tears to fall.


Nick sat at his piano, his fingers gliding across the keys, playing a melancholy ballad. What was he doing? He was walking away from the best thing that had ever happened to him and turning his back on the woman he loved. He had been stalling because he was afraid, afraid she wouldn't understand, that she wouldn't love him. Was he being too fearful? Was he being fair by not giving her a chance?

His hands paused over the keys and he sighed, closing his eyes. He reached for the goblet and tilted the contents to his lips, finishing the last of it. After several months of stalling, Nick had come to realize he had made a mistake leaving her. He should have never agreed to that bargain with LaCroix. He had promised to leave without her and give up mortality. What was he thinking? Now he was losing her by ignoring her, by stalling and lying.

Nick stood and walked into the kitchen to refill his goblet. He had only promised to leave without her, not stay away from her. He planned to send for her later, have her join him here in Portland. From Miklos' reports, Nick knew that LaCroix was continuing to monitor Nat's life. He should have known his master would never let him send for her. The time would never be right. Setting the glass on the counter, he poured the last of the bottle into the glass.

The part of the bargain he didn't tell her about, giving up his search for mortality, was keeping them apart. The strain in their communication lately was taking its toll, and he wasn't sure their relationship would survive it. If only he could tell her, but he couldn't do that by email, or even the phone, and the more time that passed, it became harder to hope she would ever understand.

Nick leaned back against the counter as he sipped at the thick, red liquid. Even if he could send for her in the near future, what would their lives be like? A vampire and a mortal? How could he ask her to give up everything she knew, take on a new identity and follow him?

Nick closed his eyes, recalling how LaCroix had summed it up in that one question. "Are you willing to bring her across?" Nick no longer viewed his life exactly as a curse, but how could he expect her to join him in this eternal darkness? How could he drain the life from her spirit, her soul?

He turned against the counter, setting the goblet down, suddenly feeling weak. Was there any answer to his dilemma? Would he be cursed forever to never be with his true love? He would seek out Mark. He had come to trust the couple running the Unrestrained, and they had been so far encouraging him in his relationship with Nat. Surely Mark would have some inspiration for him, assure him that it could work somehow. Or what would work for Nat and him.


"No, Grace! Don't."

"But Natalie, it's time. Just think of it as a break from work, a group outing," Grace begged. "I'm not pushing you to regularly date the man. Just get out a little."


Grace knew her friend needed to get out, needed to break from her routine. Schanke had been right. Her mood was worsening and she needed to get on with her life, even if it was slowly. She'd have to try another tactic and soon. This wasn't working. "Okay, Nat. But you'll be missing a great time," her friend teased before leaving.

Nat looked up to watch her friend exit the room. Maybe Grace was right. She needed to at least be around other people socially. If Nick was moving on with his life, she should be, too. He was apparently involved with others, not sitting sulking at home.


Nick sat at the bar as he finished telling Mark about his mixed feelings, his dilemma. He wanted to be with Nat, but couldn't accept bringing her across.

The pulsing sounds of the club melded into the background as Mark leaned forward towards Nick. "Let me tell you the story of how I met Christine," Mark started. "It was in the Carolinas at the seasonal ball. Her beauty struck me at first. As we danced and talked, I fell in love with her spirit, her intelligence. She made me feel so alive. She still does. I thought it was her mortality, but it was her."

Nick's eyes widened as he probed, "She was mortal? You brought her across? I didn't realize..."

"Becoming a vampire didn't change her personality, her spirit. It heightened who she always was," Mark explained.

Nick struggled with the words from Mark's mouth, and he tilted his glass to his lips. Setting the glass down, Nick looked at Mark and accused, "But how could you bring her into this darkness if you truly loved her?"

A warning growl emanated from Mark's chest at the accusation, but dissipated as he realized Nick only questioned his own heart. "I looked at it another way. Vampirism is definitely different from being mortal for some obvious reasons, but not that different. And there are advantages for a relationship as vampires."

Nick began to apologize for his words. "I didn't mean that...I just can't... Advantages?

Mark placed his hand on Nick's shoulder and whispered, "Think about it. No worries about illnesses, sudden death from accidents or murder. Which gives a couple the ability to live forever sharing their love, not cut short by those mortal concerns."

Images flashed in his mind's eye as he pictured centuries of loving Nat. He struggled with his conscience for even thinking of her as a vampire. "NOO!" Nick shouted, pulling his shoulder away from Mark's touch. Nick couldn't accept that, he wouldn't. He would be condemning her to live this eternal existence. Maybe he had found a way to live with it better than before, but he could never do that to her. "You are just like he is!" he accused, turning away from the bar.

"Nick?" Mark called after him, but he was already out the door and into the night. He hadn't meant to upset him. Just the opposite--he hoped to help him, hoped he could help him understand.

"Honey, is Nick okay?" his wife asked as she approached, concerned about their favorite visitor. "He looked upset, my love."

Mark slid his arm around his wife and kissed her forehead. "I told him how we met. That I brought you across."

Christine looked up at her husband, puzzled. "And?"

"He ran off after spouting how he could never do that to her, condemn her to this life. Imagine that, Christine," he smiled down at his lovely wife.

She leaned into her husband. "He'll be back. We can talk more to him later. He's stubborn, like you were. It will just take time."

Mark kissed his wife on her forehead and hugged her. "He said I was like 'him', whoever this 'him' is."


Nick flew over the city, his eyes stinging with tears. He now realized that he was truly cursed, destined to live this life, this eternity without her. He didn't know if he could bear it. A crimson tear blew across his temple in the wind.

Nick angrily pushed through his front door, throwing his jacket to the floor. How foolish he had been. Thinking he could ever be happy, thinking he could have her love, thinking he deserved her love. He could never have her. He was a vampire. He had been living in a fantasy. The anger rose up in him as he grabbed the empty bottle from earlier and smashed it to the floor. "NOO!!!" he screamed and fell to the floor sobbing. 'What in the world will I do? I love you so much, Nat. But I love you too much to be that selfish to ask you join me.'

Nick lay on the floor in his despair, drinking another bottle as he worked to convince himself that separation from her would be for her own good, and that this life could not be for her. It would be even easier to break ties now since the past few months his communications had been fewer. She would be better off to start a life away from him. Maybe she would even turn from him, frustrated at his aloofness. He would have to stop responding to her emails altogether and screen all of his calls.


As he lay awake in bed the next evening, without the motivation to even get out of bed, the phone rang. Nick shut his eyes, trying to block out the sounds as the recorder answered the call.

"Nick? It's Nat. Pick up the phone, please."

Nick flinched at the sound of her voice as she left a message. He could hear the hurt in her voice, and he hated himself for what he was doing. He curled up protectively on his bed as he heard her beg him to pick up the phone. He wanted to pick up that phone so badly; it took all his strength to keep from moving towards the phone.

"Nick, just talk to me. What is wrong? If you don't want...just tell me, Nick. Don't ignore me."

The recorder cut off and her voice was gone once again. Nick rolled over, burying his head in the pillow as his heart was torn from his chest.

Damn him! He's doing it all over again, Natalie thought angrily. Acting like he cares, like he loves me, then being so downright cold. It was so damn irritating with the different signals he gave out. Nick wasn't answering the phone, he wasn't replying to email, and wasn't initiating any of his own.

Natalie opened the file roughly as she tried to concentrate on the case. Grace entered the room, and Nat darted a warning look to her.

Stopping dead in her tracks, Grace dared to ask, "What is wrong with you tonight?"

"Don't start on me now, Grace. I'm liable to snap your head off."

"Too late," her friend quipped.

Nat shot another warning look to Grace.

Grace held up her hands in surrender. "Ok, ok. Later then." Grace backed out of the room, knowing she had to do something soon. Nat was getting grumpier every night. She needed to start going out, even if she took it slow. Enough was enough.

Nat rested her head in her hands. She hated the way she was being with people, especially with her friends. She had snapped at Grace, a friend who had seen her through so much, and this was how she repaid her friendship. She had to stop letting Nick control her moods, her behavior. She needed to take hold of her own life.


Nat finally received an email from him. A few days ago, she had emailed him about Grace's pressuring her to go out with her on a double date. She thought maybe she could provoke a reaction out of him if he still had feelings for her.

Instead, he encouraged her to take Grace up on her suggestion. He pointed out that they were no longer part of each other's daily lives, and that she needed to go on with her life. The only response out of him lately, and it was to encourage her to move on with her life.

With everything that had happened, she still had thought he loved her, that there was some explanation for his behavior lately. Damn him! All she wanted to do was love him and have him love her, but it was not to be. Nat was confused and heartbroken over the change in Nick. Could she be satisfied with a friendship? Not if she kept herself cloistered away like this. Maybe she did need to accept Grace's offer.


Nick finally pulled away from the college, having struggled through the class that night. Yesterday, he had finally responded to her email. He hadn't wanted to push her away like he did. He had wanted to tell her to not go out with the man, to wait for him, to love him instead, but he knew he couldn't do that to her. He had subjected her to this emotional yo-yo enough times. Reading between the lines, Nick could feel her pain, her frustration. As much as he wanted there to be, there was no hope for them and he needed to let her go.

As he stirred from his thoughts, Nick found himself parked outside the Unrestrained. He entered the club and made his way to the bar, ordering a quality human label.

As the blood wine was poured into his goblet, Christine watched him. She had seen her friend so moody lately. She worried about him as he struggled with his conscience.

Mark slipped behind her, grasping around her waist, and kissed her behind her ear. "What has you looking so intense, my love?"

Christine tilted her head towards Nick who was captivated by the bounty of the drink in his glass. "Our friend."

"Ahh, Nick is back again tonight."

As the couple watched, a sultry female vampire approached Nick, and flirted with him at the bar. Her sensual movements distracted Nick as he watched her quietly, the vampiress smiling seductively at his reaction to her.

Nick watched her as she brushed against him, enticing him. In the past, he had always pushed these women away, ignoring their allure. He was tired, not having the strength anymore, and he gave into the sensation of being aroused. He smiled suggestively back at her, as he grasped her hand and pulled her to the dance floor.

"Maybe I was wrong about him, Mark. Maybe he isn't like you. He seems to have given up on his Natalie," Christine observed sadly.

Mark pulled his wife closer into his arms and nuzzled against her neck. "No. He's just trying to hide from himself, his guilt. He's very much as I was."

Christine turned her head and smiled at her husband. "Then maybe we need to gently interfere," she suggested as she turned in Mark's arms. "Dance with me, my love."

Nick pressed his body tightly against the enticing vampiress in his arms. As he licked her neck, she moaned and tilted her head to allow him greater access to her flesh. She roughly caressed his back with splayed hands. Nick slowly guided her towards the opposite side of the floor and closer to the back. His lips plundered her full lips, pushing into her mouth and devouring her with his tongue.

"Oh, Nick, it's so good to see you here again," Christine said as she purposely bumped into him. "How is your sweet Natalie?"

Nick reluctantly released the woman's lips and looked over at Christine, eyes golden. "I think you have the wrong person," he growled.

"No, I don't. Many nights you have told me about your Natalie and your love for her," Christine stated, remaining firm.

The vampiress pulled away from Nick. "I have no desire to get in the middle of this," she stated. Smiling seductively, she traced her fingers along Nick's jaw and added teasingly, "As much fun as it has been." She lowered her eyes and walked back to the dance floor, quickly finding a new dance partner.

Nick glared at Christine and then at Mark. "You had no right to interfere," he growled.

Mark stepped close to his wife protectively and responded, "We are your friends, Nick. We care about you and Natalie."

"Stop talking about Natalie," Nick raged. "You don't interfere with the other patrons. Leave me alone," he demanded and angrily walked away and out the door.


"Don't you ever do that to me again," Nat warned Grace as she entered her office the next evening.

Grace slowly approached, feeling badly at how the evening had gone. "I'm so sorry, Nat. How was I to know he would go on and on like that? I just wanted you to get out some."

Nat's expression softened as she saw her friend struggling with her apology. "Well, just tell your boyfriend that I don't want any more that just had their divorce finalized the same week. Sheesh!"

Grace chuckled, "Will do!" She leaned forward over the desk and asked, "So you'll go out again?"

Nat rolled her eyes and agreed, "Yes. But only if the quality of men gets better."

Grace replied, "Gotcha. Nick Knight is a hard act to follow, you know." She realized her mistake as soon as she said the words and saw the rapid change in Nat's expression. "Oh, Hon, I am so sorry. Me and mouth, insert foot."

Nat smiled and soothed, "Don't worry about it, Grace." Natalie stood and sighed. "Well, we better get started on the Selter case."


Weeks had passed since he had received Nat's email about Grace's offer, and it drove him crazy when he hadn't heard anything further. The thought of another man holding Nat was too much to bear. He walked through the park in the dark of the night, trying to sort it all out. Tonight he again had left the club early and avoided going home.

Nick had been hurt, shocked at her words. She spoke of dating again, dates that Grace would set her up on. She asked what did he think? He thought he wanted to tear out the throat of the man that came close to her. His eyes lit with fiery anger, his chest released a growl, and he battled his beast, thinking about it.

He had to stop thinking that way. She wasn't his anymore. He was far away, and there was no hope for them. He had to let her go. His head hung low as he strolled under the trees. He had taken steps to push her away now, and he needed to follow it through, as much as it hurt. For her sake, for her happiness.

Nick stopped and leaned against a tree, weakened by the thoughts battling in his mind. How could he live without her, how could he go through with this? He loved her more than he had ever loved anyone, than he thought was possible to love another. He had to go through with it. For her happiness. He abruptly turned into the wind, wiping the stray tear, and continued walking towards his car.


What do you say to someone you love, but can't have? Someone who doesn't want you in his life? What do you say when you need to let go? Natalie sat and stared at the email she was trying to write. All she had managed so far was "Hi, Nick."

She wondered if she should tell him about what has happened in the passing weeks since he had first encouraged her to accept dates and go on with her life. Should she continue to try to get a jealous reaction out of him? But how do you get a jealous reaction out of someone who doesn't care, someone who doesn't love you? Did he love her and was he just hiding it, doing this for 'her sake'? In that case, would she just be hurting him more? Especially if she told him about Jonathan, the good-looking, successful businessman she went out with a few nights ago. She didn't want to hurt Nick. She just wanted him to love her.

Nat decided to go with humor, telling him of her first date fiasco. She was sure he would laugh at her story, yet if it was possible for him to be jealous regarding her, it could work that way as well. It could also break the ice for future conversations, she hoped.


That's exactly what it did. They continued to share emails back and forth, not as often as before and not with the same tone, but certainly friendship. They talked of events going on in their lives. Nick continued to encourage her social life, but she never told him about Jonathan. Nick knew she continued to date, but did not know that she had found one man to see exclusively.

Nat sometimes wondered why he encouraged her so much in that area. Was he seeing someone? Was she mortal or vampire? She could never ask and Nick never offered, although he did talk about the local club a lot, apparently going there nightly. So, it was probably a vampire lady, she reasoned.

She needed to stop thinking about it. There was no chance for them anymore. She had to accept that, to be content with their friendship and the memories of the times they shared in Toronto.

Nick plunged two fingers into her moist center, bathing his fingers with her juices. He drew out his fingers along her folds to her engorged nub as she moaned and writhed under his touch. His throbbing cock was driving him nearly insane as he rubbed against her thigh. The scent of her sex permeated the room and set his senses on fire.

He poised against her center before plunging into her core swiftly, her warmth enveloping him in a fire. He paused with his eyes closed and relished the feel of her surrounding him. The tightening of her legs around him pushed him even deeper into her, and he started to plunge with a frenzied urgency.

The taste of her blood, the blood that had called to him since they met, the sweet spicy taste of her, was sweeter than he ever imagined. Her love, her passion for him enveloped him, cradled him. After a short while, the pain started to leak through, her pain at losing him in death, knowing they would soon have to part.

The anguish of her pain woke him with a start. Sitting up in bed and wiping the blood sweat from his forehead, the full memory of that night fell upon him in total clarity. Her touch, the feel of her in his arms, and her pain and crying. Just then, he noticed the cool dampness on his pajamas and realized he had come in his sleep.

Growling in irritation, he pulled himself from bed and went to the bathroom to start his shower. He stripped out of the pajamas and stepped under the water, hoping it would rinse away the torture of his dream and the haunting memory he would never be able to forget. He recalled how he took her memory of making love, the agony of saying those words, making her believe those words. The anguish in the physical removal of proof of their lovemaking as he had gently washed her and cleaned away the evidence he had even been in her bed. His palms rested against the tile as the water streamed over his head, blending with the red-tinged tears dropping from his cheeks.

Nick was miserable. Even with the less frequent contact and how their relationship had changed, he still dreamed about their night together. He wondered if she ever missed the closeness they once shared. He didn't know how he could live without her, yet he couldn't make her what he was. He loved her.

As Nick stepped from the bathroom, Natalie was safely again in the back of his thoughts, his feelings pushed back and under control. As it had to be. Several months had passed since Nat started dating. They stayed in contact, but emails were not received or sent very often. Nick had told her about some new classes he had started teaching. Nat told of interesting cases she had, as well as updates on Schanke. It was friendly, yet distant, more distant than they were ever before. She was moving on with her life, as she should. He missed her so much.

Nat occasionally mentioned the dates, but only as funny anecdotes. He heard about the fiascos, the humorous accounts. He doubted he was really being told all that was happening. If she found someone she was interested in, he was sure she would feel awkward telling him that.


Nat grabbed more items from the shelf. This cleaning was long overdue, and her day off had proved to be a good time to undertake the project. So many things had been stuffed into her closet that she was running out of places to set things while she went through them to organize them.

As she grabbed the box from the floor and scooted it out into the room, she saw something on the floor behind it. A blue t-shirt in the corner. She picked it up from the floor and recognized it immediately. Bringing the shirt to her face, she breathed in the scent she had so far only held in her memory.

She backed up to the edge of her bed and sat, too weak to stand as the feelings rushing over her. She remembered how he had offered hi s shirt after she had spilled the wine on her blouse one night at the loft. Soaking the blouse in cold water had saved it from a horrible stain.

As she remembered that evening together, the t-shirt became damp with her tears. After a few minutes, she quickly pulled her shirt off, tossing it to the floor. She pulled Nick's shirt over her head and wrapped herself in it, as if wearing the shirt brought him closer to her.

Wrapping her arms tightly around herself, she lay back on the bed, turning to her side and pulling her legs up. It was only minutes before she was asleep, floating away into dreams.

Nat woke at the ringing of the phone. As she moved to answer it, she looked at the clock. She had slept for three hours. Oh well, there went the afternoon!

"Hi, Natalie!" a now familiar male voice said.

"Hi, Jon."

"Is something wrong? You sound funny."

Natalie gathered her strength and replied, "No, I had fallen asleep."

"Oh, I'm sorry I woke you...would you like to go out tonight? How about a movie?"

Nat hesitated. "I don't think so. I feel tired." She missed Nick. She didn't see how she could be with Jon tonight with Nick so fresh in the front of her thoughts, and be fair to Jon.

"Natalie, you just woke up. Why don't you take a refreshing shower to wake up? I'll pick you up at 7. We can do whatever you want."

Natalie sighed after he had hung up. She didn't feel like going out, but maybe she should. It would be the best way to get Nick off her mind. She had to get him off her mind or go crazy. He was not a part of her life anymore, not the way she had wanted, or dreamed of him being. She had to get beyond this. Nat realized that despite her fervent wishes and hopes, there would never be any romantic or sexual relationship with Nick. She thought that Nick had loved her once, but with his attitude about vampirism as a curse, he would never allow himself to love her, taking the relationship any further.

She pulled the t-shirt back over her head and dared a final sniff of his scent on the shirt, closing her eyes and committing it to her memory. She folded the t-shirt and placed it in the bottom drawer of her dresser. Nat realized that all they could be were friends.

With Nick, she reasoned, all the moving around as a mortal would be difficult anyway. A secluded life. For the past several years, she had had a very secluded life. Sure, she had a job and co-workers, but she buried herself in the research for Nick, her job, and was very lonely. She had to get a life, before she died from this loneliness.

Now she had a chance at a life with Jon, she told herself. She walked into the bathroom to get ready for the evening.


Nick found himself again at the Unrestrained. Ever since he had cut back his contact with Nat, he had been coming here nightly and staying to nearly dawn. Mark and Christine left him alone now, as he wallowed in his sorrow.

Being around others seemed less lonely, until he went home and she invaded his thoughts again. It had been almost two years since he left Toronto. He missed her more each day. He missed her smile, the feel of her cheek in his hand, the sound of her heartbeat and her sweet scent. He sipped the dark liquid from the goblet and tried to push her from his thoughts as he watched the bodies on the dance floor.

Nick had stopped refusing invitations from female vampires. To dance, to drink. He still felt guilty about it, much like he did in Toronto when he would go to Janette. He had used Janette for Nat's benefit, so he could be around Nat and enjoy her company without killing her. Now his attentions to the ladies were different. He had moved on, not making any promises to Nat, he told himself. What he was doing now was not for Nat's benefit, but his.


After finishing dinner, Jon couldn't help notice Natalie's distant preoccupation. Something was bothering her. He had been seeing her long enough to sense her moods, and he had not seen her this distant before.

He reached across the table and held her hand. When she looked up at his touch, Jon stated, "Natalie, something's on your mind."

Nat forced a smile. "Yeah, but I'm not sure I want to talk about it."

"Okay, Nat," he started.

She flinched at his use of 'Nat' as Nick had done. Not that others didn't call her by the short form of her name, but when Jon did, it made her shudder. She looked into Jon's eyes and saw that he had noticed her reaction. After a few moments, she said, "Jon, we need to talk." She had to tell him something, owing him at least that after all these months.

In the car, Jon rested his arm around her in silence. Natalie leaned into him in the familiar comfort she had grown to know these months as they rode silently back to her apartment.


"Oh, Nat," he soothed as he held her close. He felt her cringe again like before. He held her face between his palms and tilted her tear-stained face towards him. "Why didn't you tell me? God, why didn't Grace tell me?"

"Yeah, just what you want to hear on a first date. Oh, by the way, I was in love with a man who was brutally murdered at a crime scene as I was working there. I can't forget about him, and I can't stop loving him."

"It explains so much. Your moods, your distance at times." He pulled Nat back into his arms against his chest and asked, "I've noticed twice tonight your reaction when I say your name."

Before he could ask why, she answered, "Yes. He always called me Nat." She rose up to face him and added, "I know others do, too, but the way you said it tonight, it just..."

Jon smoothed the hairs framing her face and placed his finger on her lips, silencing her. "It's okay."

"Something happened this afternoon that brought my feelings for him all back to me."

Jon settled in for her to speak about it. He knew something had brought it on, but hadn't wanted to push her. He held her in his arms as he listened to Nat tell of finding his t-shirt in her closet. He watched the emotions play across her features as she told of wearing the t-shirt and memorizing his scent. It was before his time with her, but he couldn't help but feel a bit of jealousy at the love she felt for him, a love he hoped she would have for him someday.

It felt like a huge burden had lifted from her, telling him about Nick. Of course, she couldn't tell Jon everything. That was okay. What she had told him was enough. Jon was very empathetic to her pain at losing Nick suddenly in death. As he held her in his arms, some of the pain melted away from her, and for the first time since Nick left, she felt stirrings deep inside her. She slipped her fingers under his shirt and started to caress his chest.

Jon reluctantly pulled her hand away from his chest. "No, Nat. Not this way. I do want you, but not because you are feeling this way about Nick. If it's right for us, the time will come."

Nat buried her head into his chest, embarrassed at what she tried to do. "I..."

Jon ran his hands over her hair, soothing her. "I understand. Shhhh." He kissed the top of her head, trying to ignore the arousal he felt, and whispered, "I think I should go, before I am tempted to change my mind."

Nat looked up at him to see him smiling at her.

"Are you okay now?" he asked.

"Yes, I will be now."

They rose and walked to the door together, saying their goodnights verbally at first, and then Jon grabbed her in his arms and kissed her hard, as a reminder of how he wanted her despite pushing her away tonight.

After closing the door, Nat slowly walked back to the couch and sighed. She had finally allowed Jon into her life, and it felt good. She had felt so alone with Nick gone, and now she felt her relationship with Jon had grown a lot closer tonight.

Jon was right, though, about needing time. She couldn't drown out feelings for Nick by clinging to Jon, by loving Jon. It needed to develop more slowly. She smiled at the prospect of not being alone anymore, of being loved.

"Please, come to the back. I'm worried about him. He's alone and just sobbing in there. You have to talk to him," Christine begged her husband.

His wife had taken a special liking to the troubled vampire. He had remembered a time when she took a liking to a vampire not unlike Nick. He smiled at her and nodded, and setting his glass on the counter, he headed towards the back.

He found Nick curled on the bed naked, sobbing in the back room of club. Mark slowly entered the room to talk with him. "What's wrong, Nick? We have been so worried about you. Talk to us. Maybe we can help."

Nick sobbed. "No one can help. Natalie is gone. I love her and she is gone."

Sympathetically, he asked, "Did she die?"

"I let her go."

Mark sat in the chair near Nick's bed and asked, "Why did you do that? You two together were meant to be. We could tell from the way you spoke of her."

Nick stared at Mark, and admitted, "I can't bring her across. I can't do that to her. But I can't forget her either. Tonight, with Melanie, I called Natalie's name. I don't know what to do." He watched his friend, anxious for him to say something, anything, hoping that he could give him some glimmer of hope, something to ease the pain.

Mark flinched at his words, familiar words. Spotting the telltale scratches across Nick's cheek from an angry woman who had heard another's name in the heat of passion, Mark had a clear picture of what had happened here. He took a deep breath and asked, "Do you remember me telling you how I met Christine?"

"Mark, I just can't do that," he resisted.

"Christine hasn't told you her version, has she?" he asked. There were just some things he found hard to admit about what happened.


"Get dressed and I'll send her to talk with you," Mark suggested. "There are just some things you can't get from a man's point of view. No matter what you do, it would be good to hear her story, don't you think?"

Nick hesitated, but agreed to Mark's suggestion. As Mark left, Nick rose and pulled his clothes back on. Sitting in the chair, Nick waited for Christine to arrive. He dared to again think of Nat and contemplate what years of loving her would be like. He struggled with his conscience for even thinking of her in his world, absently whispering her name aloud, "Nat."

"Nat?" Christine repeated as she slowly peeked in the door.

Nick looked up at the door and managed a weak smile. "Christine, come in." As Christine entered the room and approached the empty chair near Nick, he added, "I apologize for my behavior earlier. I'm sorry." He hoped his feeble words were enough.

"You've no need to apologize to me, Nick. Many vampires use these rooms all the time. You've done nothing to hurt me."

Nick lowered his head in shame. He may not have done anything that any other vampire hadn't done, but in his heart he knew what he had done would hurt Nat. After a quiet moment, Nick mumbled, "Mark said you would tell me your version of how you met?"

Christine smiled at Nick. "Gladly. But Nick, first let me ask if I may, why did you let her go?" she asked as she sat in the chair across from Nick.

Nick looked at her and sighed. "So he told you." He bowed his head and answered, "It was best. I can't bring her across, condemn her to this life. But I miss her terribly. I just can't forget her."

Christine rolled her eyes at his words, words she had heard before. "So, Mark told you how we met?"

He looked up at her and explained, "Just that you fell in love when you were still mortal."

She chuckled, "I didn't think he told you the whole story." Christine went on to tell him what happened after their initial meeting. "At first, Mark had sought me out, but he denied any feelings for me. I knew different. You see, I always was very good at reading people. Some thought it uncanny how accurate I could be. I fell in love with him, and didn't understand his reluctance. Until I found out what he was. It was a shock at first. It's not everyday a woman comes face to face with something from legends, but I still loved him and he didn't understand that. He didn't want to hurt me, to damn me." She paused to let the words sink in.

Nick's eyes widened at her revelation about her and Mark's past. It seemed like they were talking about a different man than the one with whom he had just talked. It didn't make sense. "But Mark...he doesn't seem..."

"I know. He doesn't seem like that now, but he was very much like you, Nick. I guess that is why we like you so much, why we care. You see, I wanted to be with him, Nick. I loved him. He thought he could love me best by leaving me to my mortal world and not interfering in my life. He was making a choice about my life's direction without considering what I wanted," she continued. "But I finally convinced him of what I wanted, what I needed."

Nick's gut was tied in a knot as he asked, "How long have you been together as a couple?"

"It's going on 300 years now."

Nick gasped, remembering how he was with Janette for almost 100 years when they separated. He had often wondered if an eternity was too much for any love. Now, he realized it had to be the right love.

At that moment, Mark slipped back in the room. "Hope I'm not interrupting."

Nick smiled, motioning Mark into the room.

Mark walked to stand by his wife, slipping his arm around her shoulder. They briefly exchanged loving glances and a tender kiss on the lips before turning back to Nick. "Did my Christine tell you her side of the story, Nick?"

Nick smiled at them and nodded.

"We care about you, Nick, and your Natalie. If you ever need to talk about this further, please, we're here for you."

Nick just hung his head in thought. A long quietness grew between them.

In a more serious tone, Christine added, "Give her a choice, Nick. She deserves that much."

"How could she ever forgive me? Tonight...what I did..."

"Let her have the chance..."

Nat sipped at her coffee, taking a moment to relax at her desk. It had been a few months since she and Jon had become closer. She found she could talk with him, share more with him than anyone besides Nick. Jon could be so romantic and attentive, and she loved the affection. Nick had never given her such open displays of affection.

Jon was consistent. Nick had always kept changing in his expression of his feelings for her. Sometimes Nick would be so cold and withdrawn, and other times Nick showed a sweet and tender side. Nick's bouncing around was just too much to handle emotionally. She had never known where she stood with him, what was really going on inside of him.

Yet, she still couldn't totally let go of Nick. She still loved him, impossible as a relationship was with him, especially now. Nick still had her heart. She knew that if he called for her tomorrow, she would go to him immediately. How do you start over, start to love someone new, with those kind of intense feelings haunting you?

Grace interrupted her train of thought, bounding into the lab. "Guess what, Nat? I ran into Jon at the precinct. You'll never guess what he was doing there."

Natalie held her friend's look, irritated at her abrupt interruption. Jon was in real estate. What would he be doing at the precinct? "I have no idea, Grace. But my guess is that you are going to tell me."

Grace excitedly scurried over to Nat's desk and took her place in the chair next to it. Leaning forward, she whispered in a secret-tone, "He was talking to Schanke about his cabin, you know, if he could use it."


Grace's eyes grew big as saucers. "Nat, don't tell me you don't know the implications? The cabin. Away from civilization. Alone. Romantic fires. Of more than one kind," she teased.

"Maybe he wants to use it with some friends to go hunting or fishing," Nat said, dismissing Grace's comments.

Grace lightly slapped at Nat's arm in frustration. "No, silly. He wants to take you there. Let's see, what did he we can spend some time without interruptions...and you should have seen Schanke's expression. His chin dropped to his chest. Maybe he'll even propose, Nat," Grace teased.

Natalie tensed at the mention of a proposal. "No, I don't think he would do that, Grace," she stated firmly, "We are not that serious." Maybe he would plan a weekend away to coax her to open up more, to get closer, though.

Grace smiled deviously and replied, "I don't know, Nat. Maybe Jon is more serious than you think. Jon and Schanke were whispering quite a bit." Okay, so she was stretching the truth. Jon was at the precinct to see about a matter regarding a crime at a property he owned.

Schanke offered the cabin for his use, if he would like a weekend away, hinting for Natalie to join him. It took some prodding from Schanke, Jon being a bit hesitant that Nat was ready for something like that. Grace and Schanke knew Natalie needed a new relationship to get her mind off her grief for Nick, so they did a little fibbing to convince him otherwise. Jon was a good man, and good for Natalie. A little pushing didn't hurt any.

Natalie drank the last of the coffee in her mug and stood, returning to her workload. Walking across the room, trying to avoid Grace, she said, "Well, I'm not ready for any proposal." How could she be when she couldn't let go of Nick? How dare Jon plan a weekend like this to force the issue? She couldn't imagine him doing that.

Sensing Nat's discomfort, Grace backed down some. "Well, maybe that's not his plan. Maybe he just wants to get you away from the city to spend some quality time with you. I was just hoping for you. He's good for you, Nat."

Nat turned to face Grace with a forced smile, wanting to drop the conversation. "Yeah, maybe he is. Let's get back to work now."

Grace nodded at Nat, and went to work alongside her friend. It was time to get some things done. The plan could wait until later.


Nat set down her fork. "What did you say, Jon?" she demanded. She hoped that inviting Jon over for dinner would reveal the events at the precinct the previous night.

Jon looked up, puzzled at Nat's angry look. "Just that I didn't realize you'd be willing to go away on this trip together. Not yet, not with all you have been through."

Nat was confused. If Jon hadn't thought she'd go on a trip to the cabin, why did he talk to Schanke about using the cabin? She continued to stare at Jon as he explained.

"But your friend, Grace, insisted. When I resisted Schanke's offer, she pulled me aside and told me you had prompted Schanke to offer the cabin for our use. So I accepted his offer."

Nat felt the heat rise inside her. Grace! This time she had gone too far. Always trying to dabble in her love life, push and steer her in the direction she felt she should go. She wasn't ready, and there was no way she would be forced. Nat pushed away from the table and stormed into the living room, pacing and muttering to herself.

Jon followed and reached for her shoulder to soothe her. "You know, you don't have to suggest things that way, Nat. You could have told me you wanted to get away alone together. You don't need to use your friends to tell me."

Nat spun towards him with fire in her eyes. "How dare you! I have no intention of going to that cabin with you. Grace and her scheming plan did not work. You tell her that! I will not be told what to do. I will not have decisions about my life made by another."

Jon stepped back, shocked at her outrage. Apparently, something was going on here that he didn't know about. Something she needed to talk over with Grace. "Nat, I'm sorry if I overstepped my bounds. I only did what I thought you wanted. I think I should leave for the night and give you a chance to work this out with Grace." Jon grabbed his jacket and walked out the door, leaving Nat staring after him.

Nat covered her face with her hands as the tears fell. She wasn't mad at Jon. It was Grace and her games. Yet, she had driven him away in her anger. He must think her a mad woman. She roughly brushed aside her tears and turned.

Grace had been a friend for a long time, but always prying into her love life out of concern for her reclusiveness. Nick had been the reason for that before. She put up with it then, because she couldn't tell Grace the nature of her problems with Nick, but now, she was meddling too much.

Forgetting the food and dishes still sitting on the table, she sat at her desk and turned on her computer. She would not tolerate decisions about her life being made for her. She started a new email. "Dear Nick,"

She knew it had been awhile since she wrote to him, except in response to him or for something specific. Not about her feelings. Being so worked up, she had to write to him.

She told him about how angry she was at Grace, how Grace again tried to meddle in her life by making choices about her life and the direction it should be headed. She also told Nick about Jon in explaining the situation and how Grace was pushing her to a deeper involvement, forgetting she had not mentioned her relationship with Jon before.

Natalie leaned back in the chair, staring at the email. She had never been this mad at Grace before. Was what she did so terrible? Leaning forward again, she added that she didn't understand why she was so mad, just that she was.

"I hope you don't mind my electronic rant, Nick. But I had to do something. I miss being able to talk to you when something is bothering me. Just talking to you relaxes me, makes me feel better. Even if it's only email."

She signed it and clicked SEND before she chickened out. She sighed and leaned back in the chair, going over in her mind what had happened that evening. What was she mad about again? Grace always meddled, always pushed. It was her way. What's this thing about making decisions for her? That's not what she did, not really. She just tried to set up a situation. In a sneaky way, maybe, but still just setting up the situation. She was always doing that.

That's when she realized it was really Nick she was mad at. He was the one who had made a major decision about her life. Not Grace. It was Nick she wrote to. Damn him! Why did he pull away from her? Why did he abandon her? Turning off her computer, she went to bed feeling numb.


The rest of the week, Nick struggled with dreams every night. He thought about what was said that night with Mark and Christine, and he battled his feelings and convictions. Here was a couple that relished their nature, but not in an evil way like LaCroix. Could it really be possible to be satisfied with life as a vampire, still loving humanity for more than its blood?

Nick sat down at the table to download his messages on his laptop. A message from Nat caught his eye. She was in a foul mood and had needed to vent. He smiled that she thought of him, despite his avoidance of her. She had chosen him to pour out her heart.

She was angry with Grace and needed to tell someone that Grace had set up a romantic interlude with Jon, being somewhat deceitful in her arranging of it. Jon? Who was Jon? Suddenly, his gut tightened as he continued to read about her developing relationship with Jon. Nat continued to say how she hated it when people thought she was too weak and fragile to make her own decisions. Her last words were, before profusely apologizing for her electronic rant, "By doing that, she took away my choice in the matter. I deserve to make my own choice."

A tear slid down Nick's cheek as he realized what he had done. He had forced his own convictions upon her, convictions that were now clearly wavering. Loving each other was not in question. At least a year ago it wasn't. It was the question of how a vampire could love a mortal.

It took a few more days to admit, but he had made his decision that night reading her message. Ever since that night, he had been taking steps to remedy his mistake leaving her behind. He switched totally to human blood to gain his strength. He searched for some special real estate through his contacts, finding a secluded estate that he meant to make their first home together.

If she wanted a life with him. He wanted to have things ready, if she said yes. He had the home stocked and prepared for their arrival, and then made final plans to move on to the new location. He hadn't been here in Oregon very long, but it was a good time to move, and he needed to make it more difficult to lose LaCroix once he realized what had happened.

Nat picked up another shirt, holding it as if appraising it for an important party. Satisfied, she folded it and laid it in the bag. Just what do you pack on your first weekend away with someone? Casual, comfortable, sexy? Maybe a little of each?

She had said she wouldn't go, that Grace had no right to trick them into this. Besides, she hadn't thought she was ready for this yet. All Grace and Schanke really did was create the situation. Now that their plot was all out in the open, it was purely her decision to go or not. Jon was as much a victim of their little plot as she and had said he would accept whatever her wishes were.

After zipping her bag closed, she carried it to the living room, setting it on the floor. She walked into the kitchen as Sydney followed and emptied a can of Syd's favorite into his dish. Grace would be over to take care of him for the rest of the weekend.

She thought back on how angry she had been with Grace at first, and rolled her eyes as she recalled how she had shot off that email to Nick about it. She hadn't been thinking straight and had unintentionally revealed her relationship with Jon to Nick. Or was it intentional? Why did she send the message in the first place? She wasn't that mad at Grace. She was really mad at Nick. Nick was the one that had pulled away from her, the one who had decided what their future would be, that there was to be no intimate relationship between them.

Natalie had decided to finally move on. She was tired of the games. She couldn't force him into a relationship. She knew he had loved her, hadn't he? She had thought so, but although he was a long-distance friend, he gave no indication he loved her now. Love needed two participants, so she had to give up on Nick. She needed to have a life, too. She needed to try. Maybe it was time.

So, she was going away for the weekend with Jon. It would be fun to have the time together. It was time to let go of Nick and any hope she had for them. Jon was a good and kind man, patient and loving. Grace was right. He was good for her.

Nat turned as the doorbell rang. It was Jon to pick her up.


Nick boarded the late-night flight, determined to finally set things right. He had pushed all the doubts from his mind while he had been making preparations--changing his diet, finding the right property, preparing identity papers for them both. Ignoring the doubts had been a matter of necessity, knowing he had to or he wouldn't go through with it. As he slid into his seat in first class and sighed, he realized that he would be on his way in a few moments, and those doubts started to creep up on him again.

As the other passengers were seated, he replayed Nat's email in his mind once again, already having done so innumerable times. Her words had made him realize how he had treated her, making decisions that affected her life as well as his. Yet, he denied her a choice in the matter, just because he knew what was best, what he thought was best. Still, he didn't really know, even with the many years of existence he could claim. Mark and Christine had shown him another outlook on life as a vampire. He had made a mistake and hoped Nat could forgive him.

Even more than that, he hoped it wasn't too late for them. Even if she did forgive him his transgressions, there was Jon. In her rant, she had told him about the new man in her life. Her friends were pushing the two of them for a weekend alone at Schanke's cabin, his stomach knotting with feelings of panic as he thought of it. Were things that serious with this man? Had he been denying that Natalie could fall for another man? Nick turned his face away towards the window as his eyes misted with blood-tinted tears. He hoped he wasn't too late.

The plane lifted from the runway into the night. After the flight attendant turned to help others, Nick stared out the window at the darkness scattered with lights far below and concentrated on the events that had led up to where he was now. Tonight he was in a plane on his way back to the woman he loved more than his own existence.


Nat laughed as they walked through the building towards her apartment. They had a good time. Getting away from the city had been good for her. Jon carried her bag into the apartment and set it by the couch.

He reached around Nat's neck from behind and gently turned her to face him. "I hope you had a good time," he asked hopefully.

Smiling, Nat lightly pressed her lips to his. "Mmmm, it was nice."

Jon brushed some stray hair aside, and captured her mouth and pulled her close against his body. He moaned as Nat leaned into his embrace, and he reluctantly pulled back. "Gotta be back at the office in a few hours. I won't get there this way."

Nat smiled seductively at him as he pulled away. She leaned in for one more kiss, tracing her tongue along his lower lip. She watched as he slowly turned to leave, smiling to herself at the effect she had over him. She closed the door behind him and leaned against the wall, smiling at the wonderful weekend they had.

A few moments later, there was knocking at her door. That was weird. If he forgot something, why didn't he just open the door? She hadn't even had time to lock it.

She opened the door, smiling and ready for some lame excuse from Jon. What she saw was something she hadn't seen in a long time. Nick Knight. Her mouth hung open as she got her bearings, but she snapped out of it as she realized the danger of his presence. And Jon had just left.

Nick smiled sheepishly. "Hi, Nat."

Nat quickly grabbed his arm and roughly pulled him inside. "What the hell are you doing? Showing up here like that. Are you crazy?"

As Nat closed and locked the door behind him, he watched her, disappointed at her harsh reaction. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, surprising her like this. "I'm sorry, Nat. I should have called first. I just..."

Nat sighed as Nick apologized. Why didn't he ever think things through? Although she was most upset that he had just missed running into Jon, not that he showed up at her apartment door. Just moments ago she had been kissing another man and feeling aroused, hoping he would choose to be late for work. Oh, God, if he had stayed, what would have happened? Why was she feeling this way? Nick had made it perfectly clear he had no desire for a relationship with her. Why was he here, anyway?

Nat walked across the room and turned, asking with irritation evident in her voice, "Why are you here, Nick?"

Nick took a few steps forward. "I've missed you, Nat, missed our times together. Aren't you glad to see me?"

Nat crossed her arms across her chest and let out an "Umph." When she sensed Nick stepping closer, she turned and backed away. Anger bubbling to the surface, she blasted, "It's a bit late, Nick. You are the one who pushed me away. You are the one who started ignoring me. How can you say you missed me, and treat me the way you did? I needed to move on, too. I couldn't wait anymore."

Nick quietly watched as she shouted, wincing at her reminder of how he ignored her. His worst fears had come true. He was too late. His behavior had pushed her away. All of a sudden, he spotted her bag on the floor. She had just returned from a trip. The trip she mentioned about going away with Jon for the weekend? She must have just gotten back.

After eyeing the bag, he looked back at Nat, the hurt showing in his eyes. He never said a word. What would he say? He saw all he needed to see in her eyes before she finally turned away from him, knowing he couldn't ask what he had come to request of her now. He knew she didn't feel the same for him anymore.

Nat felt so guilty when Nick looked at her. He had seen the bag and knew exactly where she had been. She had told him in her email. Now he knew that she actually went on the weekend. It was over between Nick and her, so why did she feel guilty? He was always able to look directly to her soul with those eyes of his. He saw into her heart, saw that flicker of love in her heart, and she turned away.

Nick muttered, "I shouldn't have come," and he turned to leave.

Surprised at herself, Nat reached for his shoulder. "Wait."

Nick turned.

Shrugging her shoulder, Nat asked softly, "Maybe I can get a sample while you're here?

Nick sighed as the little hope left. There was no need for the pretense anymore as he explained, "That's something I need to tell you. I'm not looking to become mortal anymore. Don't work on the research anymore." He could see the hurt in her eyes when he glanced at her.

"Then you have been stalling all along," she accused.

"Yes, but..." Nick started to turn away.

Nat's voice grew angry again. "You've given up, Nick. There are no buts." You'd given up on me all along, she added in silence to herself. She knew he would never bring her across, so she knew it had been over all along.

This whole visit had been a huge mistake, with the way it turned out. The frustration had been building since Nat opened the door. He turned and snarled at her, "You don't understand. How could you understand?" Staring again at her bag on the floor, his eyes streaked with gold as his anger grew and the vampire started to take control. He advanced towards her, grabbing her by the shoulders and growled, "And you jump in the sack with the first man that comes along."

Outraged, Natalie spat at him. "How dare you!" Vampire or not, he was not going to talk to her like that. Not after what he had put her through.

Nick quickly released her and snapped his head away, regretful of his loss of control. There was nothing left to say. With Nat's angry face imprinted on his mind, he turned and left her apartment for the last time.

The bottle crashed against the wall, splattering the floor and wall with thick, red fluid. Nick fell to the floor screaming in agony, twisting into a fetal position. He had moved on again, as he had planned, but without her. He had pushed her away, and now it was too late. He had lost her.

Nick had left Toronto without even asking her to join him when he realized she had moved on with her life. He had continued on to Atlanta without her, settling into a condominium outside the city. He had decided against staying at the property he had purchased as their new home, a place he bought with Natalie in mind. It was a beautiful country estate laden with a rich, southern atmosphere. A vast refuge with tall trees, lush grasses and flora, and its own private lake, a place she could enjoy her first years in the night. He couldn't bear to live there alone now, with thoughts of her haunting him, surrounding himself with things meant for her enjoyment.

After a brief search, he had found this special type of condominium, where each unit was a separate building from each of the other units. At the end of the quiet street, his new home was surrounded by large trees, which provided enough privacy from the other buildings. Modern, unlike the country mansion he purchased, the condo had cathedral ceilings and all the modern conveniences.

The pain of his loss did not go away, even away from the estate. Tonight was especially painful. How could he go on without her? Times like tonight, he didn't think he could. He lay there, unable to move, not wanting to move, not wanting anything but her.

He turned his anger inward, berating himself for pushing her away, for waiting so long, being so stubborn to begin with. How could he have thought he'd be able to go on without her? How could he have not seen they could be together, what he saw so clearly now?

As he lay motionless on the floor, he drifted asleep, weakened and tired from his mental anguish. Images flashed in his mind, images from before he 'died'. Their life had been so much simpler then, the times they shared full of hope.

The images of flesh against flesh came, the sensations of caressing her soft skin, of her touch on his cold flesh. The one night they had together, the night he had chosen to love her before leaving, as if there would never be another chance. Now there wasn't.

Nick woke abruptly and sat up as the memory had aroused him from sleep. Realizing what the dream really was, his memory of that night, he leaned into his hands and sobbed. His greatest curse was his perfect vampire memory, the memory of loving Nat that one night. His perfect memory would always remind him of every detail, every touch on his skin, the feel of her warmth surrounding him. He would never forget it, even if he tried, and it was all he would ever have.


It had been a few weeks since Nick's strange visit. Why had he come there anyway? She never did find out after their conversation had deteriorated. Well, it didn't really matter now. That was what she had needed to make herself truly move on.

Even though she had gone away with Jon, there had still been a flicker in her heart for Nick. Nick finally admitted what she had suspected for a while now. He had given up his search for mortality, meaning he had given up on a life with her.

Why did he bother staying in touch? Was this just a final goodbye? Yet, he seemed surprised about her trip with Jon, hurt that she had gone. She knew she would never forget the look on his face when he saw her bag on the floor.

Nat stirred from her thoughts when the doorbell rang. She smiled when she opened the door, seeing Jon there. "I thought you had that meeting tonight?" she asked.

Jon stepped closer and closed the door behind him. He gently held her face in his palms and pressed his lips to hers. He removed his lips from hers slightly to whisper against them, "It was cancelled."

"Mmmm, what will we ever find to do on such short notice?"

Jon smiled, before again pressing his lips against hers. "I can think of a few things, my love." Jon scooped her up in his arms and carried her into the bedroom.

Nat finally felt free, free to love again. Since Nick's visit, Jon and she had grown closer and become intimate. She could see spending her life with this man.


"Tuesday. 9:30. Thanks. I really appreciate your time." Nick hung up the phone, with a slight smile.

From his experience in Portland, he knew he needed to do things to feel alive again, things that he enjoyed. The Community College offered evening courses, and he was able to get a position there.

The floor was no longer covered with broken glass shards or the walls splattered with blood. It was now furnished and the walls held favorite paintings. One of the paintings, one he had done of Natalie, hung on the wall overlooking the living room. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea displaying the painting where he would see it so much, but he still loved her and it provided a certain amount of comfort to see it.

Nick opened the refrigerator and grabbed the bottle. After uncorking the bottle and taking a long swallow, he sighed with relief. He had continued to drink human blood, even after the hope of his future with Nat had died. There was no reason to return to steer. He was a vampire and he liked it now, his only regret that Nat was not a part of his life.

His life was continuing, as it always would. Staring at the painting on the wall, all the times they had shared rushed through his mind. She had been his best friend, one who came to know him and his struggles, who supported him as well as kicked him in the ass when he needed it. She laughed with him and shared his accomplishments and joys, yelled and argued with him like old friends unafraid to say what was on their minds.

Friends. Would that be possible? To be friends? If she could forgive him, maybe she would stay in touch. Just maybe. Nick rushed to his desk and booted the computer. After popping up his mail program and starting a new email, Nick starting typing. "Dear Natalie,"

Nick stared at the computer screen for several minutes before he could write more. "I am so sorry for my behavior when I came to Toronto to see you. It was wrong for me to just show up unannounced, especially when we hadn't seen each other in such a long time. I should never have expected you to accept my sudden and surprise arrival in your home."

He paused before continuing. "I ask your forgiveness for showing up like that. For taking my frustrations out on you, saying such awful things to you. And for disappointing you about giving up my search for the cure. It was necessary for me to take that path for many reasons, which I can't explain right now. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, but if you don't, I will understand."

"I have been thinking about how we had been such good friends in the past, and how I miss talking to you. I trust you more than anyone. Despite what has happened between us, I was hoping you might be willing to try to remain in contact, at least through email. Let me be a friend."

"In hope of friendship, Nick"

Nick leaned back, staring at the screen, and sighed as he reread the email. Would she even respond? Could she forgive him? Did she even want to stay in contact? She had Jon now. Why did she need him as a friend? Nick clicked SEND before he lost his nerve. It was up to her now.


As Nat drove home, her thoughts kept drifting back to the email she'd received a few days ago from Nick. Was he just trying to drag things out longer? She couldn't do that anymore. In his email, he seemed to accept that her life didn't include him, that there was no hope for an intimate relationship. Just to be friends. If that were true, if they could be friends, why not? She could give it a try, couldn't she?

She pulled into her parking stall and went to her apartment. After feeding Syd, she flipped on her computer and thought about how to respond to Nick.

She sat at the desk and typed: "Dear Nick,

I was surprised to receive your email, and happy to receive it. You have been an important part of my life and mean a lot to me. I've been thinking about your offer to remain in contact as friends. I'm not so sure that will work, but I'm willing to give it a try. I miss talking to you, too.

In your email, you seem to accept that my life is now separate from yours. That I have moved on to my own life, and Jon is now a big part of that. I need you to accept that. That is the only way we can do this.

I don't understand what you meant by your need to give up the cure, but I won't ask again. I hope when you are ready to talk about it, you can tell me.

And yes, I forgive you.

Your friend, Natalie"

She hoped she was doing the right thing in her response. She worried that she was giving him false hope, but she reasoned that she had been clear enough in her response about what she expected. She was still confused about why he wanted to remain in contact with her despite giving up on the cure. He didn't need her research anymore, but he wanted to stay in touch for some reason. Was it as simple as the friendship he mentioned? She didn't know why she accepted his offer either, but she did anyway.


Nick was relieved that Nat was writing to him now, even if it had started out gradual and safe. They started writing slowly at first, testing the waters. Nick told her he had moved to Atlanta and again started an evening teaching job. Natalie told him about cases at the morgue and Schanke's antics. Neither of them again mentioned the horrible night that Nick showed up unannounced and what happened between them.

Her emails became friendlier, as did his, as they relaxed in the sharing of their lives with one another. She rarely mentioned Jon in her emails, although she had said Jon was a big part of her life now. He could only speculate by what she did say. Did she not say much because there wasn't much to say anymore? Or was she trying to keep it from him to save him from hurt feelings?

About a year had passed since they started emailing back and forth again. Their friendship had grown, the bitterness gone. Nick started to wonder if there couldn't be some hope for them, that maybe she just needed time to react to his renewed interest after pushing her away, that his sudden arrival in Toronto had just been too much too soon.

It was another class day and Nick padded down the stairs, barely awake. He flipped on the computer to download his mail. While it downloaded, he walked to the fridge and opened a bottle before walking back to the computer. He sat down, as he took a long gulp. There was an email from Nat.

"Dear Nick,

This is difficult news to tell you about. I have not talked much about Jon in my emails because I didn't want to hurt you anymore.

The purpose of this email is to let you know of my engagement to Jon. Even though I have not said much about him, I think I owe you that much.

I want to continue writing as friends, if you still do.

Still your friend, Natalie"

Nick stared at the screen, unable to move, unable to breathe.

For the past few days, Nick had taught class and gone about his normal routine in a daze. Nat's announcement had made him realize just how much he had held out some glimmer of hope for them. Part of him had hoped that someday his dream of being with her could come true.

He woke and jumped in the shower to get ready for another evening. Nick ran his fingers through his hair as the water streamed through his locks. Turning in the shower with eyes closed, images started to flash in his mind.

Natalie was in a sunlit meadow, running away from him. He ran and ran, out of breath, and she kept getting further away until he couldn't see her on the horizon anymore. It was his dream from last night.

Nick leaned against the tiled wall, sobbing for the first time since receiving her announcement. Nick sank to the bottom of the tub, crying in agony. He didn't know how he could survive this, as he felt his heart breaking. How could he go on without her? How could he continue to write her and not let his feelings seep into his emails?

He loved her, but he was happy that she had found someone to give her the life she deserved, someone she could love. Yet, he was selfish in wanting that person to be himself, and he knew it could never be now. He could not blame her for his broken heart, having kept up the friendship line, never allowing her to believe it could be more. Losing her was all his fault.

Nick finally pulled himself from the tub, dried off and dressed in slow motion, his heart aching so much. He had to see her one more time before she married. He had to see for himself that she was happy with the man that had become such a big part of her life now. Maybe after that, he could let her go. He decided to chance another trip to Toronto.


Why was he even here? Deep down he knew this visit would be a mistake, but he had to see with his own eyes, had to be certain she was happy. If Jon truly made her happy, that was all he could ask for with all he had put her through these past years. At least that's what he tried to tell himself.

He made his first stop at the morgue, in case she was working that night. He listened in the shadows, watching the people as he made his way to her office. He hadn't decided whether he should let her know he was there or just watch, especially since he hadn't warned her he was coming to town this time either.

He heard laughter nearby and then recognized the voices. Natalie's voice was like honey, and music to his ears. He closed his eyes at the pleasure he derived from her voice. Then he heard the other voice. Grace.

He listened as they talked excitedly about their plans for the next day. Shopping. Not just any shopping either, but shopping for wedding dresses, plans and more plans. Nick leaned back against the wall for support and bit down on his lip.

What did he expect? She told him she was engaged. Did he expect it to be a lie? No, but hearing the plans with his own ears, hearing the excitement, was somehow a shock. Was that enough to be certain she was happy? He had to see more.


After waking early the next evening, he made his way to Natalie's apartment and watched. He sensed her presence inside and was glad she had come back to the apartment after shopping with Grace and before going out again. Nick had heard her mention a dinner with Jon and his family the previous night. Carefully, he lurked in the shadows and waited.

When the car pulled up to the building, he knew it was Jon, even though he had never seen him before. His jealousy stirred observing the tall, handsome man getting out of the car. As Jon went into the building, Nick approached Natalie's window on the balcony for a closer view. He couldn't see much from his position, but he heard when Nat opened the door.

She sounded happy to see him, laughing with him about her day with Grace. Nick heard his strong, confident voice as he laughed and talked as well. They seemed comfortable with one another, like he had once been with her. Finally, he caught a glimpse of them through the window. His arms rested gently on her shoulders as he leaned in to kiss her. Nat leaned into his embrace, wrapping her arms around him.

Nick turned away as he fought the urge to rush in through the window, interrupting their private moment, a moment that he should not have seen. Still, Nick couldn't stop watching her.

Nick followed them to his family's house where they had dinner. Nat seemed to be meeting some of the family for the first time. Cheerfully, they talked about plans and got to know one another. From Nick's vantage point, Nat seemed to glow in the company of this family and especially Jon. She really seemed to have found herself a good life, one without him. He found what he came for, but he didn't stop following them as they went back to her place.

This time, he perched on the roof across the street to listen. He heard when they entered the apartment, but he heard only mumbles in between few words, even to his vampiric ears. When their silhouettes disappeared from the living room window several minutes later, Nick moved closer like he had earlier.

Nick's approach on the balcony was fast, but quiet. Peering through the window, he regretted even coming to Toronto. What he saw was a couple making love in all their naked glory. He saw a man tenderly caressing the woman he loved, whispering words of passion. He saw the woman in the ecstasy of a man's love, a man that was not he.

Hearing the moans and whispers of their love was more than he could bear, his Nat loving another man and being loved in return, being touched and touching. It should be him in her arms. He wanted to rip the man's throat out, he wanted to claim her and take her from him, possess her.

An aching knot grew in Nick's chest, and he quickly pulled himself away from the window, fangs descended and eyes glowing. Before it was too late, Nick soared into the night sky in no particular direction except to be as far away as possible. The pain that had been building in his chest released itself in a raw, beastly roar.

He finally landed on a rooftop far away on the other side of the city, far away from the sounds and images imprinted on his tortured mind. He collapsed as the growl turned into bitter crying on the distant rooftop.

What have I done? I have truly lost her. I have no right to her anymore. I had no right coming here. Still, he vowed to himself to love her forever. And he left.


LaCroix walked into the hidden rooms in the rear of the Raven, tilting the goblet back to finish the dark liquid. After setting the glass on the small table, he paced across the room, shaking his head in irritation.

Nicholas was such a fool! Why did he torture himself so? Didn't he warn him that time would move on, that his mortal pet would forget him and move on with a normal life? Yet, he couldn't accept it and returned to see for himself.

LaCroix sat in his chair, relaxing into the plush upholstery. Even after Nicholas saw them together in her apartment earlier that evening, he didn't stop. LaCroix had followed them through the evening, until he had enough sense to return to the Raven. He personally had had enough of his son's obsession.

LaCroix had been watching Natalie a long time. Ever since Nicholas left town, LaCroix had kept a close eye on her, ready to thwart any attempt to meet up with his son. She struggled a long time with her grief, and he worried that she might even seek him out, but she finally seemed to snap out of it.

When Nicholas came back to Toronto last year, LaCroix worried what would happen. He was concerned that her involvement with the mortal would be in jeopardy and was ready to interfere. It was good that he didn't. Nicholas created his own problem and left with an even greater rift between himself and Natalie. LaCroix smiled at Nicholas' blunder.

LaCroix sighed as he stood and walked over to his desk to examine his calendar. After he had returned to the Raven tonight, he had continued to feel Nicholas' tempest of emotions as his son continued to watch them. It was after he returned to the Raven that Nicholas experienced the worst of it. Damn him! Why couldn't he just leave things alone? Why did he always have to make it worse?

He had already made his decision, even before Nicholas had returned to Toronto, that he had watched long enough. Natalie had found a new life, a new love. She had learned to move on and forget her years with Nicholas. After tonight, he was certain that Nicholas was finished with any hope that may have existed. He felt it strongly through their link.

His son had finally given up on any future with Natalie, but not before Nicholas had managed to torture himself with sounds and images that would remain with him forever. Nicholas never learned. Nicholas could be so tiring to watch--the things he subjected himself to. It was finally time for LaCroix to move on, time to leave Nicholas and the people in his life. It was time to enjoy himself for a while without Nicholas dragging him down so.

Nick pushed the chair back as he stood up. What in the world could he say? Walking to the fridge, he was as puzzled how to handle this as he was an hour ago. He grabbed a new bottle from the shelf, bit into the cork and jerked it out. He spit the cork out and gulped some of the contents.

It had been days since his return from Toronto, and he still had not replied to her last email. He had to say something. He couldn't just ignore it, but he also couldn't let her know of his recent visit. Yet, saying congratulations seemed so awkward. He knew it was good she had been able to move on, finding a mortal to love. She deserved to have a happy, normal life, but something deep inside remained too possessive of her, something kept him from saying 'congratulations'.

Damn him, he was so selfish! He threw the bottle to the floor in anger, anger at himself. How could he deny her some happiness? She deserved better than he could ever give her. A life in the sun with a man who didn't have secrets she had to hide for him, a life with children, motherhood. He could never give that to her.

With purpose, he walked back to the desk and sat down.

"Congratulations on your engagement, Natalie. You deserve every happiness that life has to offer. I hope Jon knows what he has in you and treats you well. I wish you well in your new life. I would very much like to stay in contact as you suggested.

Your friend forever, Nick"

He sat back and looked at the email. He hoped none of his true pain shone through. A friendly congratulations, she deserved that. He clicked SEND with a sigh.


Nick attempted to busy himself with the classes and time at the local club. This seemed to be a recurring pattern in his life, he realized. On rare occasions, he would wake to be treated with an email from Nat. Just hearing from her made him smile all night long and maybe into the next night.

Somehow, telling Nick about her engagement allowed Natalie to express herself more easily. It was as if the announcement had lifted a heavy weight from her, removing the undercurrent of feelings from the past, and hope for any romantic involvement.

Nick was always cautious about his replies, following her lead. She never talked about Jon again or her upcoming wedding. He was glad she avoided the subject in a way. It would have made replying to her even harder. Yet, he never knew when the wedding date was or any plans of that nature. That was probably just as well, as it removed any temptation.

The strain of what had happened between them in the past few years had been too much for Natalie to bear. Being engaged removed that tension, making the friendship possible, and the distance between them made it more comfortable. Messages were generic at first with wishes for a good holiday or a happy birthday. Natalie was the first to start writing more about her day-to-day experiences, the other people in her life, but never mentioning the lost relationship that they almost had.

Nick initiated few emails himself, afraid his true feelings would show through and make her angry all over again. And he couldn't chance losing her friendship. He was just glad she had offered to stay in touch. So, he usually wrote on her birthday and holidays, and replied to her emails.

Even though Natalie felt better able to express herself to Nick, she never talked about Jon, their relationship, or the wedding. She suspected that her announcement had been hard on him. It had been over a week before he replied with that congratulatory note he sent.

After some time had passed, Nick assumed the wedding had occurred, but he never knew of it. After another while, maybe she had even become pregnant, but she never said anything about it. Nick never asked, as he was too afraid of losing contact with her altogether. He just hoped she had what she wanted with Jon and that she was happy now.


Groggily, Natalie woke, yet was unable to make things out in the room. Nat mumbled with her first attempts at speech, and she sensed someone moving closer. A man's hand grasped her arm.

"Natalie, thank God, you're awake," the friendly and familiar voice said.

"Schanke," she whispered her recognition. She squinted, hoping to make her vision clearer.

"Well, look who has decided to join us again," an unfamiliar voice said. She felt the touch of someone from her left. "Your vision will clear soon, Dr. Lambert. You've been unconscious for a while. I'll notify the doctor you are awake. Just relax."


Poking his head back in, Schanke asked, "Okay to come back in, Natalie?"

"Yeah, Schanke. Come on in."

When he walked back in, Natalie was propped up in a semi-reclining position and smiling. Schanke smiled in relief when she seemed much more alert than earlier.

Schanke strode over to the chair and sat down. "Boy, you don't know how happy we all are you're awake and better. You gave us quite a scare."

"Tell me what happened, Schank. How long was I unconscious?"

"You remember you were in the alley, right? The scene off of Church?"

Natalie bit her lip as she tried to remember. "Oh, yes. I was examining the body and...a gunshot," she said as she suddenly remembered. She looked directly at Schanke and asked, "How long was I out?"

"The Doc didn't tell you?"

"It didn't quite come up this time around. I was only semi-conscious during most of his visit."

"Three days, Nat."

Natalie's eyes grew large in shock at the news. Her hand reached up to feel the bandage at her temple. She could have died, or been in a coma for a long time. The first thing that crossed her mind was that no one would know to contact Nick. He would never know what happened to her unless he investigated why she stopped writing. Ever since Nick had made that surprise visit over five years ago, their writing had been sporadic. It may have been many months before he was worried about her.

Schanke saw Natalie's eyes water as she realized the seriousness of her injury. Wanting to lighten the mood, he teased, "But hey, how'd the sniper know they were up against our indestructible coroner?"

Natalie couldn't hold back the tears any longer and she started bawling. She had once teased Nick about how the criminals could never win going up against Toronto's indestructible detective. Schanke's similar comment had pushed her over the edge.

Schanke rushed to Natalie. "Oh, God, Natalie. I'm sorry. I was just trying'll be okay."

With reddened, puffy eyes, Natalie looked up at Schanke. "I called Nick Toronto's indestructible detective once. When you said..." she started to explain, but more tears flowed over her cheeks.

Schanke grasped her hand, squeezing his support. "I'm sorry, Nat. I never meant to bring back bad memories."

"It's not you, Schanke." She rubbed the tears away, and Schanke sat back in his chair again.

After a few moments, he asked softly, "You never have gotten over him, have you?"

Natalie looked at him, the pain showing on her face, unable to hide what she felt any longer.

Schanke squeezed her hand and mumbled, "I should have known better." At that moment, Schanke wished he had been wrong all those years ago when he insisted there was something more than friendship between the two, but he hadn't been wrong. There had been much more than friendship between them. The look in her eyes said it all.


He never really expected that Natalie would ever call him. In these past five years since he moved to Atlanta, she hadn't used the phone number he had given her to call if she had ever needed to. He almost fell over when he heard her voice on the other end.

"Nat! What... a surprise. How are you?" It was all he could think to say.

"Hi, Nick. I know I never called before, but I thought... well, I need to ask you something."

Stunned, Nick didn't say anything, waiting for her to continue.

"Nick? You there?"

Snapping out of it, he replied, "Oh, yeah. Sorry. You have a question?"

"Yeah, well, I'm going to be, mmm, in Atlanta next week," she started, stumbling with her words. "A convention I'm attending. I was wondering...maybe we could see each other? I mean, if it's okay with you..."

Nick interrupted, "Of course, Nat. I'd love to see you. Would dinner out be okay?"

"Oh, that would be wonderful, Nick. Are you sure? It's probably been a long time since you've had to pretend to eat."

"It's fine, Nat. How about I make plans and call you with the details?" he suggested.

"That would be great. I leave next Thursday. Nick?"


"I...nothing. I'll see you later. Bye."

Nick heard the click on the other end when she hung up. He cradled the phone in his hands a few moments as if trying to hold onto the phone call, make it last longer. After placing the phone back in its cradle, he started to worry about seeing her again. Would he be able to handle it after all these years of not seeing her? She was married now, probably with children. Could he listen to her tell him about her family? Or would he break down, exposing his true feelings?

After thinking about her call, Nick grew more afraid that she might be coming to say goodbye in person, not willing to do so over the phone, email, or letter. Would she cut all ties with him? Were the secrets she had been keeping from her husband too much to handle anymore? He couldn't stand that, having to cut all ties with her. Why did she want to see him after all this time?

Natalie closed another suitcase and set it by the door. Turning, she sighed as she looked at the nearly empty apartment. She had decided to donate her furniture, and they had picked it up earlier this morning, leaving only a few chairs. Hopefully she wouldn't need the furniture any more.

She sat on one of the chairs, glancing around the empty room. She felt as empty as it looked, alone and apart from the world. Even Sydney was gone. She hadn't wanted to leave Sydney behind, but there were too many unknowns ahead. She had said her good-byes with Grace last night. Grace had agreed to take him and give him a good home when she explained she couldn't take him where she was going. Grace didn't understand how she could leave Syd behind, but accepted her explanation. It was apparent that Natalie wasn't going to divulge the details.

Natalie had told her friends that she had taken a new position and was moving to Vancouver. She had quit her job and relinquished her apartment, packing clothes and certain personal items only. To close friends, she explained she never could get over Nick's death. Those who had worked with them understood. Denying the love they had for one another was weighing on Natalie with his sudden death, they reasoned.

The move and new job was all set up to cover her real plans. She intended to confront Nick about everything. There was no convention she was attending in Atlanta. The convention was her excuse, knowing he would never see her for the real reason she was visiting.

She thought back on what had brought her to this decision--the gunshot, the headaches, and the dreams. The memories had started to come back in pieces. By the end of the first week after her injury, she had remembered it all, or at least the key parts. First, came Valentine's Day. Ugly words were spoken at Azure. He must have messed with her memory that evening so she wouldn't remember his claim to be using her to get what he wanted, not really loving her. She cried herself to sleep that night.

She remembered the rest of what happened the next day. Nick had said those words for LaCroix's benefit. The memory of those ugly words was replaced by the most beautiful words she had ever heard after LaCroix left. With the memory of how he had held her against him, she knew those were the true words. He had said those words to LaCroix to protect her, to save her life. Now she understood so much about how Nick had acted towards her at times.

Natalie had almost called him then, to break down the walls between them, but that's when the monster headache kicked in. She tried everything to battle it. Medication, soothing showers, long, scent-filled baths--anything she could think of until she had finally fallen asleep on her bed, exhausted.

As she slept on the breezy spring night, a shadow entered her room. The dark figure inched toward her and slid under the sheets behind her. She stirred ever so slightly, not quite waking up but settling into the comfort of the man pressed against her back.

The soft kisses against her neck slowly brought her to consciousness, and she turned in his arms. The man who had been so afraid to love her, so afraid of hurting her, tenderly caressed her and made love to her. As her body quivered with the white-hot intensity of her release, the vampire took his share, biting her shoulder. The vampire's hold was released and the man captured her lips once again, holding her against him.

When he told her that he couldn't leave without letting her know how he loved her, Natalie startled and sat up. She had been dreaming. No, it wasn't a dream. It was a memory, a memory she had lost. She reached to touch her shoulder where she had been bitten. She didn't feel some remnant of his bite; there was no mark or scar. It had been years ago, but still she knew it had happened.

Tears fell down her cheek, as she remembered the night Nick had made love to her. A memory he took from her. Why did he take the memory? Did he regret that it happened? Is that why he wanted her to forget, to make her think it never happened? Did he not really love her? But her memory from Valentine's Day seemed to show otherwise. She had to know.

That's why she was going to see him. She had wasted seven years of her life on unknowns and uncertainties, angry about all the doubts she had endured over the years. Uncertainties that would not be there, had he not taken her memory of his love. She needed to know why he had taken her memory. Did he make her forget because he regretted what happened? Had he really loved her? Looking back on it now, she was so unsure. If there had been something mutual, was there anything left for them? Was it too late after all these years?

All she knew was that she couldn't continue in Toronto alone. The city held too many memories of Nick. If he didn't want her, she would move on to another city, another job, and try to find a new life without being haunted by his memories.


Natalie was finishing gathering the last of her things while waiting for her transportation to the airport. She heard a soft rapping at her door. It was time.

She opened the door to Schanke's friendly face. "Hi, Schanke. Thanks for offering to drive me to the airport."

"Hey, anything for you, Nat." He looked around the apartment with a certain sadness. Seeing it so empty made it that more real. She was really leaving for good.

She wished she could tell Schanke what she was really doing. Schanke was always such a good friend to Nick...and to her, but she couldn't tell him. She rested her hand on his shoulder. "I'll be okay, Schank. I just need to be in a different place. It...his death..."

He hung his head. "Somehow, I feel responsible."

Nat playfully chastised him. "Schanke! How could you? It's all me."

Schanke looked into her eyes. "I understand. Really I do. I can't even think what it would be like to lose the one you love, before you could admit it to them." As the words left his mouth, he regretted it. Rub it in, Don. Rub it in.

Natalie hugged him and cried on his shoulder. "You're right, Schank. You were right all along."

Schanke wished he had been wrong. The pain this sweet lady must have lived through and was still living through. He hoped she would be okay, alone in a new city.

Pulling back, he asked, "Are you going to be okay, Nat?" When she nodded in response, Schank grabbed at her bags. "Well, let's get going then." He grunted as he lifted her bags, "Sheesh, Nat. What do you have in these? The kitchen sink?"

Natalie chuckled, "Something like that." She grabbed her carry-on bag and purse, and followed him into the hallway, closing the door behind her.

Nick waited at the table as he sat fiddling with the utensils. He had chosen this restaurant to meet, supposedly one of the best in town. The food was exquisite, the service impeccable. As Nick looked over to the dance floor and watched the couples dance to the romantic music, he knew its reputation for atmosphere was accurate as well. The arrangement of the tables and décor was such that guests had privacy at each of the tables.

After so many years of infrequent communications, Nick had found it odd that Nat had asked to meet him, even if she was in town on business. Was it something important enough that she felt she could only do in person? What could it possibly be? She had been married now for about four years. Possibly, she even had children now. She had a life where others were important to her. He knew that he was just a secret from her past, and the secret had probably become a burden. Was she planning to cut the final ties with him, wanting to tell him in person? He hoped he was wrong.

He closed his eyes, making a final wish that she would not be saying goodbye. When he opened his eyes, he saw her as she approached the table. She was a dream as she floated towards him, the deep blue fabric of her dress glistening in the soft lighting. Nick held his breath as he gazed at her beauty. The neckline dipped to reveal the swell of her breasts. The lines of the dress accented her curves and flared out from her hips, swaying as she moved towards him. Her hair was in an upswept style with tendrils of auburn color softly highlighting her face and neck. If she was saying farewell, she had dressed to torment him. If she wasn't... He smiled at her as he stood and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. "You look beautiful, Nat," he whispered.

Nat blushed as he seated her. "I must look... it's been five years since I last saw you, Nick." She studied his features and saw that they had no lines of aging on them, just as she expected. His blonde hair had no streaks of gray, and she knew it wasn't because he colored his hair. She smiled as she observed his hair was the perfect length, just long enough to allow the curls and waves to show through, the length that begged her to run her fingers through it. He looked so good in the stylish gray suit he wore. "You look wonderful, Nick, and young as ever."

Nick reached to cover his hand over hers as he gazed at her. "You do look fantastic, Nat. These past years have treated you well."

Nat could see the look of longing in his eyes and quickly pulled her hand back. Mesmerized by his presence, she had almost forgotten why she had come here. She wasn't quite ready to confront him yet, so she changed to safe subjects. "This looks like a nice place, Nick. Where did you hear about it?" she asked, looking around the restaurant.

"I've heard a lot of talk about it. The food is supposed to be the best. I thought you would appreciate it. They also have this famous Chocolate Sensation for dessert," he said grinning. "I remember how you love chocolate."

She responded with a smile, as it was hard to remain mad at him. Her thoughts were interrupted as the waiter approached.


They fell into old, familiar patterns after the food arrived. Nat ate and Nick pushed the food around; she forked some food from his plate and he pretended to be eating and drinking.

After eating quietly for some time, Nat finally confronted him about the memories. "Nick, why did you take my memories?"

Nick had just tilted the wineglass to his lips when she had asked the question. Stunned at the question, he coughed on the wine that he had started to sip. He set the glass down and looked at the sadness in her eyes. "Memories? What memories, Nat?" He wanted to be sure what she meant before responding.

"The night you left, when we made love. Why did you take that memory from me? Did you regret that it happened?" she whispered.

He sighed heavily and started softly, "How could I regret loving you? I made love to you because I couldn't leave without letting you know...without loving you. When I saw that I had upset you even more, I just couldn't leave you like that. I never intended to cause you more pain by making love to you."

"Of course, I was upset. You were leaving. I didn't know when I'd ever see you again," Nat rebuked. "So you take away the one thing I could hold onto, the memory where I could remember you loving me?" she said angrily as tears welled in her eyes.

He reached for her hand and squeezed it tight. "Nat, don't be angry, please. I didn't know what else to do. Forgive me."

"I remember Valentine's Day, too," she stated harshly, pulling her hand free.

Nick looked at her hurt expression and hung his head low. This evening was going downhill fast, like waiting for the bomb to drop. He knew his fantasy of getting back with Nat was over, being only a matter of time before she said good-bye forever.

Anger had welled up in her, and she continued to attack with hurtful words. "Do you always make a habit of altering memories to suit your needs, to make you more comfortable, Nick? Can't you ever just let life happen as it unfolds and learn to deal with it?" The words flowed before she could stop them.

"I'm sorry, Nat," Nick said softly. Looking up at her, he repeated, "I'm so sorry."

She watched his forlorn expression and regretted having hurt him like that. She knew that Valentine's Day was to protect her from LaCroix, that he said those things because he loved her. She couldn't stay mad at him. She wasn't mad at him. She only wanted to know that he didn't regret loving her. Nat quickly softened her tone and added, "Don't do that ever again, Nick. Okay?"

He squeezed her hand again. "I won't. I promise." Suddenly he realized what she had said. 'Again'. Would there be another time? How? She was married. Did she divorce? With new hope, he asked, "Nat, will you dance with me?"

She smiled and answered, "I'd like that." They rose together and he led her to the dance floor as the end of a song was playing.

Nick moved to the dance floor and turned Nat to hold her firmly in his arms. It had been so long since he had held her. She might only be doing this to humor him, for one last dance together. Yet, maybe it was something more.

She relaxed into his arms as the next song started. It felt so good to be in his arms again. Her heart raced as the closeness from Nick holding her was almost more than she could handle.

<I could hardly believe it when I heard the news today I had to come and get it straight from you They said you were leaving, someone swept your heart away From the look upon your face I see it's true So tell me all about it, tell me 'bout the plans you're makin' Tell me one thing more before you go.>

Nick pulled her close in his arms. She might be married, but tonight she was dancing in his arms, maybe for the last time. He just hoped she wasn't going to break all contact with him after this visit, that this wasn't some farewell dance. He had to know. He cautiously asked, "I hope things are going well for you in your life, Nat. I want you to be happy."

"Actually, some pretty crazy things have been happening lately," Nat commented as she moved to the music.

<Tell me how am I supposed to live without you Now that I've been lovin' you so long How am I supposed to live without you And how am I supposed to carry on When all that I've been livin' for is gone.>

Nick pulled back to look at her, hoping to read her expression. That's when he saw it. A scar was hidden under a cascading auburn strand of hair. It appeared to be a recent injury. Reaching a hand to the side of her face, he pushed the auburn strand aside and softly touched the scar. He leaned in and pressed his lips to the spot, whispering, "Nat, what happened?"

< Didn't come here for cryin', didn't come here to break down It's just a dream of mine is comin' to an end How can I blame you when I built my world around The hope that one day we'd be so much more than friends.>

At first, Nat flinched when Nick touched the tender scar. Then she felt his lips brush a kiss there. How Nat loved the feel of his lips against her. She missed his touch. She sighed, "There was a sniper at a scene. My head got in the way."

Nick asked, "Why didn't you let me know?"

"I was unconscious for awhile. No one knew about you to call you, remember? By the time I was well enough to contact you I was mad at you," she explained.

< I don't wanna know the price I'm gonna pay for dreamin' I need you now, it's more than I can take.>

"Why were you mad?" he asked.

"This injury is what caused the memories to come back. I started getting these headaches, and the memories started to come back. I decided to come here instead of calling. That's why I had to see you," she continued to explain as he swayed with her to the music.

Nick pulled her close again, relishing the warmth of her mortal body. "I'm sorry, Nat," he whispered as he pressed his forehead to hers.

< Tell me how am I supposed to live without you Now that I've been lovin' you so long How am I supposed to live without you And how am I supposed to carry on When all that I've been livin' for is gone.>

Nat slid one hand around the back of his neck and slipped her fingers through the golden locks that had teased her all through dinner. She relished the feel of his soft locks.

They danced quietly for a moment before Nick asked, "There really isn't a convention, is there?"

"No," she mumbled against him.

< Now I don't wanna know the price I'm gonna pay for dreamin' Now that your dream has come true.>

"Is the convention the excuse you gave your husband to come here?" Nick asked, daring to mention the man that had stolen her heart.

"It's the excuse I gave you, Nick. I wasn't sure you'd see me if you knew I came to talk about the memories. I have no husband, Nick," she confessed.

< Tell me how am I supposed to live without you Now that I've been lovin' you so long How am I supposed to live without you And how am I supposed to carry on When all that I've been livin' for is gone.>

Nick stopped moving on the dance floor, his arms still around her. "You have no husband?" Nick repeated. "But how? You were engaged? Are you divorced?"

"No. I never married. Sometimes engagements are broken," she responded.

"He left you? He hurt you?"

Nat smiled. "No. I broke it off. I realized I couldn't marry him, Nick. He was a sweet man, a good man, but I didn't really love him. I couldn't ruin two lives."

With his arm around her, Nick guided her across the floor back towards the table as he thought over her revelation. He saw the dessert waiting and seated her again, deep in thought at the new information.

Nat sat nervously at the table, staring at the dessert. Eating the decadent dessert would seem so awkward now after their conversation.

Noticing her discomfort, he said, "Please, Nat, take a bite. It's one of the reasons I chose this place."

With Nick smiling at her like that, Nat couldn't refuse. Feeling more relaxed, she scooped some of the chocolate fluff to her mouth, closing her eyes at the rich taste.

Nick watched her pleasure at the dessert and grinned. "I'm glad you like it."

Nat opened her eyes and smiled. "I have never had anything like it, Nick. This is wonderful."

After a few more bites, Nick dared to ask what he had been thinking since they sat down. "Why did you really come here, Nat?" Nick held his breath as he waited for her response.

Nat set down the fork and bit her lower lip, admitting, "I came to see you." She looked up at him. "I love you, Nick."

Nick sighed at the hope she gave him. "Let's go back to my place, Nat. I think we need to talk."

As they rode back to his place, Nat wondered if Nick still loved her. After she had confessed her love for him, he had only said they needed to talk. Was there someone special in his life now? After all these years, it seemed probable. Especially after he thought she'd married. Why hadn't she told him that she broke it off? 'Oh, Nick, by the way, I didn't get married. So, I'm available. Ok?' she snorted to herself.

Nick reached his arm around her and she slid closer to him. She said that she loved him, more than he had hoped. Was it possible they had a chance? Could she possibly forgive him for all that had transpired?

Nick pulled into the garage and shut off the engine. He turned to open his door when he felt Nat's hand on his shoulder.

As Nick turned back to her, she asked softly, "Nick, is there someone else, someone special in your life? Did I just make a big fool out of myself back there?"

Nick glanced at her, puzzled at the question. It momentarily threw him off balance. How could she think... He hadn't even thought... He saw the anguish in her eyes and quickly scooped her in his arms, mumbling, "No, Nat. There is no one else but you." He pressed his lips to hers and kissed them tenderly. After a moment, he broke the kiss, whispering against her lips, "Let's go inside."

As they walked inside, Nat scrutinized the large first-floor design of open rooms much like the loft in a way, but with high cathedral ceilings in a contemporary design. Turning and taking in the atmosphere of the spacious area, she commented, "It's beautiful, Nick."

Nick smiled at her inspection of his home as he led her through the living room. He turned to her and started with a hopeful expectancy, "Nat." He grasped her hands, pulling her close, and asked, "Will you stay here with me while you are in Atlanta?"

She certainly wasn't expecting that after all her worries. She suddenly felt hopeful about their relationship, nodding in response to his question. Did he love her even in part as much as she loved him? Could he after all these years?

Nick noticed she seemed bewildered, so he asked, "When do you have to be back to work?"

She took a deep breath and admitted, "I don't. I quit my job. I've left Toronto."

Nick was puzzled. "Where are you going?"

"That depends." Seven years had passed and she couldn't forget Nick, even though she had tried. She had missed her friendship with him. When she had remembered their one night together, his words of love on Valentine's Day, she knew how much she missed his love. She only hoped he could still love her.

"On what?"

"You," she dared to say. She gazed up into his eyes and cupped a cheek in her palm. "I needed to see you, to see if there was anything left for us." She paused, afraid to say what was next. "I thought that maybe someday you'd even consider bringing me across?" she muttered quietly, only hoping to plant the seed. She knew he wouldn't accept it now, that being with him as they were would be enough right now.

Nick gazed at her as tears silently ran down his face. At the time lost and at the happiness he felt with her revelation.

Seeing his tears, Nat realized he wouldn't bring her across, that it was too much for him to accept. It was a mistake to bring it up. She started to back away; she had gone too far.

Nick quickly grabbed her shoulder, turning her to face him again. "No, wait. You don't understand, Nat." He led her to the couch and after they sat, he continued, "I never did tell you why I came to see you in Toronto, five years ago. I came to ask you to join me. As a vampire."

Nat was confused at his words. She hesitated, afraid that speaking the words would make him recant his wish for her to join him. "What happened, Nick? What made you willing to ask me to cross over? In the past you wouldn't even talk about it."

"Being away from your love and friendship," Nick feebly offered.

Nat glanced sideways at him and responded, "I'm not buying that, Nick. You always said you'd never bring me into your darkness, your eternal curse. I may kick myself for bringing this up, but something would have had to happen to shatter that conviction of yours. Or maybe you'll just take your offer back and decide you can't bring me across after all. I guess I'd rather find out now. I can't take you pushing me away after all this." She held her breath as she mentally chided herself for her big mouth.

Nick flinched as she repeated his own words back to him from before. His curse. His darkness. He sighed, "You're right. Something did happen. I met someone."

Nat gulped at his answer. She hadn't expected that answer at all. He had already said there was no one special. "Met someone?" It must be someone he was no longer with. Why should she be surprised? She had dated and been with others in her attempt to forget him. She had almost married. Why wouldn't Nick seek out others? She mumbled to herself, 'He was even with Janette when we were together in Toronto, if you could call it that. Together.'

Nick saw her frown and realized what she thought. "Oh, no, Nat. A couple." When Nick saw tears forming in her eyes, he realized he had goofed again. "A couple, Nat. As in two." When Nat pulled away, Nick felt desperate. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her back to face him. "Let me start over. I met a nice couple in Portland, Mark and Christine. They run a club there and we became friends."

Natalie calmed at his words and swiped her tear away. "I just... it sounded..."

"It was my fault, Nat. It came out all wrong. I'm sorry. There has been no one special in my life since I left Toronto. But I do need to tell you... I made some mistakes... indiscretions at the club. I..." Nick lowered his head in embarrassment at what he had done, afraid that Nat couldn't forgive him.

Nat leaned closer and softly held his head in her palms, resting her thumbs on his lips. Slowly she caressed his lips. "Shhh, it's okay." She had dated and almost married, but at least Nick had been faithful to the hope of their love. "I...I almost married, Nick."

Nick looked into her eyes. Overwhelmed with love for this woman he didn't deserve, Nick pulled her into an embrace. "I didn't even think I could ask for your forgiveness, but Christine told me to give you that chance, to let you make the choice." He squeezed her tight before pulling back. He looked at her as he continued, "It's because of this couple I met that my beliefs changed. Mark met Christine when she was still mortal and fell in love with her." Nick held Nat's hands on her lap and gazed into her eyes. "He brought her across 300 years ago."

Nat gasped at his words.

"I have never seen such a couple in love and in tune with one another," he said, squeezing Nat's hands. "We talked a lot at the club and became friends. At first, talking about how he brought her over bothered me. I couldn't imagine how he could do that and still truly love her."

"That can't be all, Nick. I know how strongly you felt about it. You refused to even talk to me about it in the past."

"You're right, Nat. I refused to talk to them about it, too. Around the same time, I received that email from you when you were angry at Grace, angry for making choices for you."

Nat remembered the email well. She had since realized that Nick was the one she was angry with. When she had written that livid email about Grace, she still had not been consciously aware that it was Nick she was really mad at.

He waited to let the words sink in before continuing, "I was wrong, Nat, to decide for you. LaCroix may have made me leave without you, but I should have come back and given you the choice later. I knew I was wrong when you sent me that email. I realized what I had done to you. I'm so sorry."

"Why didn't you ask me to join you when you came back to Toronto?"

"I planned to. I came back, but...nothing went as I planned," Nick told her. "My doubts returned, not about bringing you across, but of interfering in your life again. It looked like you had been able to start a new life without me. I didn't want to take away what you had built in your new life. You had a chance for a normal life with a mortal man, a chance for children. I could never give you that."

"But, Nick, isn't that choosing for me?"

Nick knew she was right and lowering his head, he mumbled, "Yes."

"You were wrong, Nick. I was just trying to survive, to keep from dying inside." She lifted his head to look at her, meeting his sparkling blue eyes and smiling. "Don't you see, a normal life, children...are nothing without you. I tried to go that route. I couldn't...I was miserable."

"I...should have," he started.

Nat clasped her hands behind his neck and pulled him to her lips. Nick followed her lead, wrapping his arms around her and gently kissing her lips. She sighed against his lips, and Nick pressed insistently against her. When Nat pulled back, she gazed into his eyes and asked, "Is it too late for us?"

"It's never too late for me to love you. I love you, Nat. Will you be with me forever?" he asked hopefully.

Nat was overwhelmed with emotion at his words. Not only did he love her, but also he had wanted her to join him as a vampire years ago. It was only his wish for her happiness that kept him from asking her, thinking that she had found a new life with Jon.

Nat pulled herself close to him again, capturing his lips in a searing kiss. Her hands caressed his shoulders and back as her tongue pushed into his willing mouth. She felt his embrace tighten around her as his tongue met hers in a dance.

Breathlessly, he pulled back and gazed at her, meeting her deep blue eyes. "Is that a yes?" he asked huskily.

"Yes. I will be with you forever. You will bring me across, Nick?" She had to ask what she had asked before, what he had denied her before.

He crushed her to his chest, closing his eyes with the intensity of it all. He mumbled, "Yes, Nat. I will bring you across." He held her tightly against him, as if letting her go would cause her to disappear into a puff of smoke.

When they had finally released each other, they decided they had many things to still discuss. Before settling on the couch to talk, Nat took the opportunity to use the bathroom while Nick went to the kitchen for some drinks. When Nat exited the bathroom, Nick walked from the kitchen with two goblets, one of blood wine and another of Merlot. He smiled as he handed her the goblet.

They continued to talk through the rest of the night, talking about all they had held back. They told each other what they had left out over the years and filled in the empty stories of the past.

Nick told her his intense feelings, his dreams, his desires, and his fears as he held her on the couch. He told her about his depression and binge when he was battling his convictions about bringing her across. He admitted his flings with female vampires at the club, not wanting to hide anything anymore.

Nat told him she knew she couldn't go on like this, and that she could think of nothing but being with him. Although it hurt hearing about his binge and the female vampires he had been with, she forgave him his indiscretions. How could she not, with what she had done?

Nick expressed concern that she had given up Sydney, knowing how much the cat meant to her. She admitted not wanting to leave him behind, but reasoned that she didn't know what to expect when she got here.

Nick held her as she leaned on his shoulder, so much like those nights in Toronto. "Do you remember how you would fall asleep watching a movie while I held you on the couch?"

She gazed up at him and smiled her answer.

"I would hold you in my arms and dream of holding you in my bed," he added, pulling her tighter against him as she snuggled against his chest. He lifted her face to his and captured her lips. "Oh, how I missed you, Nat. I'll never leave you again," he promised.

"That's all I ever wanted, Nick. To be with you." They sat holding each other tightly for a few moments.

It was well into the night, and Nick stated after much thought, "Nat, I don't think we should attempt anything tonight. A lot of things have happened here." He smiled and pulled her close into a tender kiss. "When we first met at the restaurant, I was afraid you had come to say goodbye, to cut your final ties with me."

Nat reached up and held the side of his face in her hand. The bristly texture of his beard growth rubbed roughly against her palm. She didn't realize the pain he had been through, the torment of his fears. "Nick," she sighed.

He smiled, and placing his hand over hers on his cheek, he said, "It's ok now, Nat. I'm just so glad it turned out this way. I never could have hoped for this."

"That I didn't want to cut ties with you?"

"Yes, and more. Not being married, loving me, wanting me to bring you across," he said, repeating the revelations that had passed between them tonight.

She pressed her lips to his and kissed him.

He tightened his arms around her and whispered, "I love you." After a long few minutes, he pulled back a bit, remembering what he had been saying before. Looking into her eyes, he continued, "That's why we shouldn't tonight. Too much emotion, too much chance for error and loss of control." Nick watched as Nat cupped her hand over her mouth and yawned. "And too tired," he added.

Nat chuckled softly, "I guess you're right," and snuggled back against his chest.

He slowly pushed her away, saying, "The sun will be up soon. We should get ready for bed. There is a shirt of mine in this bathroom," Nick said as he nodded towards the downstairs bathroom. "You can wear that tonight if you want. I'll use the upstairs bathroom."

She entered the bathroom to prepare for bed and put on Nick's shirt. Nat wondered if they would be sleeping together tonight or if she should sleep on the couch. He really hadn't said. He had talked about how he shouldn't bring her across tonight. Did he only mean crossing over, or did he mean sleeping together, as well? She really wanted to sleep in his arms.

She released the hair on top of her head and brushed her thick mane before leaving the bathroom, hoping that when she came out, he was waiting to escort her to his bed. She sighed when he wasn't waiting outside the door when she exited. Opening the closet, she hoped to find what she needed: pillows, sheets, and blankets. She grabbed the items, carried them to the couch, and started to make up her bedding.

Nick appeared suddenly at the top of the stairs. "What are you doing, Nat?"

She looked up at Nick in his familiar black pajamas.

He smiled at her. "You don't think that after all that has happened tonight, I'd let you sleep alone, do you? Get up here, before I have to come down there and drag you up here," he teased.

Nat dropped the sheet in her hand and teased back, "Is that a promise?"

Before she could draw another breath, he was standing in front of her by the couch. She had never seen him use his vampiric speed so openly before. She gasped in surprise, and a smile crept on her face. He was more comfortable with the vampire abilities, just as he had told her in his emails.

He reached one arm behind her legs, the other around her upper back, and effortlessly lifted her into his arms, smiling. He flew back up to the bedroom and laid her on the bed. He stretched on the bed next to her, holding her as she cuddled onto his chest. They both surrendered to sleep as the day started for the outside world.

Natalie settled into the comfort of Nick's arms. They had been apart so long, so long she had dreamt of being in his arms again. She snuggled close as sleep overcame her. The feel of his arms encircling her, pressing her against his chest, only encouraged her dreams.

Nick hugged her to him tightly as she snuggled close. The sensation of her body lying against his was more than any dream could produce. It had been seven long years since he had held her like this. His palm slid across her back in a soothing rub. Soon she would join him for all eternity. Images of their future drifted across his consciousness as he gave into a sweet slumber.

Natalie dreamt of the one night that they had shared together, the night recently remembered. She felt his cool touch on her neck and shoulder as his hand trailed downward under her nightclothes. His fingers fumbled with the nightshirt, finding access to her hidden breasts. She moaned and leaned into his hands as he fondled her breasts and flicked his thumbs across her nipples.

With the feel of her in his arms, the dreams came easily. Her upper leg slid over the top of his as she cuddled closer. Images flashed across his mind with the memory of her warm hands across his chest, teasing the hairs and nipples. He moaned as the warm trail of her fingers slid lower beneath his pajama bottoms. She grasped the length of his erect cock firmly in her hands and started to massage his thick shaft.

Nick woke abruptly, eyes wide, a blazing red. Growling, he quickly pushed away from her grasp and leapt to the opposite side of the room to put some distance between them. His cock throbbed beneath his pajamas as he turned into the wall, groaning and trying to concentrate for control.

Nat woke unexpectedly when Nick pushed away from her. She watched him against the wall as he fought the vampire. She had been dreaming of him, of loving him. It was as if the vampire had been stirred by her very dream as she slept. She slowly crept across the bed towards Nick, calling to him, "Nick?"

Without turning, Nick commanded in a deep raspy voice, "Stay away, Nat!" Nick struggled for control and suddenly spotted the half-empty bottle he had left on the dresser last night and reached for it. He gulped the thick, crimson liquid, his mind racing to figure out what had happened. His dream couldn't have caused such arousal, could it? Her warm touch still seemed imprinted on him. He glanced back at Nat as she backed up like he had asked, her expression one of confusion. She must have been dreaming, as well. She had touched him.

Nat backed up as he had asked, staring at him as tears streamed down her face. What was happening? Why had he lost control so badly? Had he secluded himself from mortals too much to be able to be with her? She knew he had worked with mortals, but had not been around them as much as he had been in Toronto. Would he push her away now? Not just tonight, but forever, claiming he didn't trust himself to not take too much? With her voice trembling, she asked, "Nick, what happened?"

After finishing the bottle, he sighed with a bit of relief. As the vampire started to recede, he watched Nat and saw her tears. He had scared her. "Can you get me another bottle, Nat? Please."

She ran through the door to get another bottle for him, whispering a quiet thanks that Nick had not told her to leave or go to the couch, separate from him. She opened the fridge and quickly grabbed the first full bottle from the shelf. Running back to the bedroom, she hoped everything would be okay. She hoped Nick wouldn't turn her away now.

Nick stood and steadied himself after Nat had raced out of the room in search of another bottle. Damn! He had scared her, made her cry. He hoped she wouldn't leave him now. Being apart so long, sleeping together, what had happened was inevitable. He just hadn't wanted to be separate from her. He sat on the edge of the bed and sighed into his hands, waiting for her return.

She quickly returned and found him sitting on the edge of the bed, running his hand through his hair. She quietly handed the bottle to him as he looked up to smile at her with blue eyes flecked with just a bit of gold. She watched as he drank from the bottle.

As his gulps slowed, he looked up at her and asked as he patted the bed next to him, "Sit next to me, Nat." He hoped she wasn't afraid of him.

Nat smiled and quickly sat by his side, happy he wasn't pushing her away. She turned, facing him, waiting for him.

After re-corking the bottle and setting it on the floor, he reached for her hand and squeezed. "I'm sorry, Nat. I'm sorry I scared you like that."

"What happened, Nick? There was no sign of the vampire all night," she asked, confused.

"Were you dreaming? Of me?" he asked softly, staring down at their entwined fingers. He looked up at her face and saw her blushing. He quickly wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. "I'm just guessing. You were touching me, stroking me. When I woke I...was deeply aroused, and I wasn't in control."

"Oh, God, Nick. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to..." she stuttered, as she pulled back, beet-red with embarrassment.

"Sorry for touching me like that? I hope not." He smiled suggestively at her. "I hope you'll touch me like that again."

She gasped at his unexpected comment.

Nick cupped her cheek in his palm. "I think I was dreaming, too. I think I was acting out, touching you during my dream." His eyes dropped down from her face to the front of the shirt she wore.

Nat followed his eyes and saw what he was looking at. A couple of buttons appeared to have been torn off and the shirt gaped open, exposing her breasts. In the panic of what had happened, she never noticed. She gasped and pulled the shirt closed.

"Nat, I'm sorry I lost control and scared you. It happened because I was asleep, and because it has been so long...since we shared a bed. It roused the vampire and I was unprepared," he explained, as he tried to reason how he lost control.

Loosening her grasp on the torn shirt, Nat admitted, "You didn't scare me, Nick. I mean, yeah, a bit. But I knew you wouldn't hurt me. I was afraid you'd push me away, afraid you'd reconsider bringing me across."

He wrapped his arms around her. "Nat, I won't push you away. Why would I reconsider bringing you across? If you were already a vampire, I wouldn't be able to hurt you during sex. I wouldn't have feared for your safety and thrown myself away from you." He kissed her on the lips. "I wasn't prepared for your touch." He took her hand and placed it back on the still hardened bulge under the pajamas.

Nat looked down at her hand there and then into his face, his eyes filled with desire. She licked her lips and started to massage him through the pajamas.

At the feel of her stroking, Nick tilted his head back and moaned. When he opened his eyes again, they were gold. Nat stopped but didn't remove her hand. "It's ok, Nat," he said huskily and pulled her close in a searing kiss as he throbbed against her hand.

As Nick's hand slid to her gaping shirt and fondled her breasts, Nat moaned at the sensation of his touch. She opened her eyes, gazing into his, dark with desire.

"Nat, I want to make love to you," Nick rasped, with a fiery hunger.

"You said we should wait," Nat whimpered half-heartedly.

"To bring you across, but I can make love to you. Like I did before," he explained, smiling seductively.

Was it the vampire talking? She didn't care. He had been able to make love to her before, she repeated to herself. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his lips in response to his offer. She pushed her tongue into his mouth and urged him back across the bed.

His eyes widened at her boldness, and then he surrendered to her, pulling her down on the bed with him. He kissed her with the ferocity of being apart too long.

Nat pulled her legs up on either side of him and sat straddling him. She gazed down at him, satisfied with her position on top of him, feeling his erection beneath her. With a wicked smile, she reached for his pajama top and pulled, buttons flying. Nat said seductively, "My turn to rip the buttons."

Nick gasped at her move, and then he smiled and lay back for her attentions. As she pushed the silk top aside and stroked his chest, Nick moaned at her touch. Nick yanked the remaining buttons from her shirt just in time to feel her flesh against his as she leaned forward to press her lips to his.

Nat teased her fingers through the soft hairs of his chest and she leaned forward, kissing him hard on the lips. Removing her mouth from his, she kissed a trail down to his chest, stopping to twirl a tongue around a nipple while pinching at the other. Nat's erect nipples teased him as they pressed against his cool flesh.

Nick grasped her thick hair and moaned at her touch, pushing his groin up against her, feeling her heat through her panties and her breasts against his chest. The touch of her warm body against him fired his desire, her heartbeat calling to his hunger.

She sat up again, staring at his golden eyes, and teasingly said, "I want to see all of you." She lifted her leg over to join the other on one side of his body. She slowly pulled the bottoms off as he lifted his hips for her.

Nick released his breath, unaware he had been holding it, and she pulled his pajamas off him. She lightly caressed his hips and skin near his groin, avoiding touching his cock. The sensation drove him wild as his cock throbbed for her touch. Finally, she gently touched his cock, sliding her fingers along its length. Stroking him more firmly, she followed by easing up on her touch again. The tease of her touch was driving him wild, almost more than he could stand.

Nat gazed at his perfect form for a moment before touching him. She loved studying his body. She reached to touch his rigid shaft and imagined it buried deep inside her, moaning at the sudden aching in her core. After stroking him a few moments, she leaned forward, twirling the tip of her tongue along his flared head, licking the red-tinged droplets cresting there. She flicked her tongue across the most sensitive part before sliding her tongue over his length.

Nick unconsciously grasped at her hair when the warmth of her moist tongue flicked across him, and she stroked his length with her tongue. He growled in pleasurable agony as she took him into her mouth and stroked his cock with her hot mouth.

She heard the growls vibrating in his chest as his cock filled her mouth and she pushed past her gag reflex. She felt his increased hold on her hair as she took him deeper into her throat.

"Nat..." he groaned. "Stop. Ohh...not like this. Stop," he pleaded, trying to pull her away from his throbbing member.

Natalie slowly slid her mouth off his cock and looked up at him, smiling. "Did you have something else in mind?" she teased.

More quickly than she could see him move, Nick had turned her over, ripped off her panties, and was now over her, his cock poised at her wet opening. He met her lips in a searing kiss as his hands tangled in her hair.

Nat moaned against his lips. She could feel his throbbing cockhead pressed against her. She ached for him to fill her. "Now, Nick. Please."

Nick released her lips and wickedly grinned at her request. When he moved the tip of his cock away from her, she whimpered. He slid down her body, trailing kisses and licks across her breasts and abdomen. When his lips touched her curls, he peeked up at her and smiled, eyes golden.

It was torture when he moved his cock away from her aching center, but quickly became pleasure, as his tongue and lips caressed downward over her body. She watched him smile at her before slipping his tongue between her folds. She squirmed at his intimate touch.

Nick flicked his tongue across her nub, and he quickly plunged a finger into her, bathing his finger in her flowing juices. Her body's response fired his desire. He slipped another finger into her as she pushed against his hand and tongue.

Nat's pleasure built as Nick lapped at her and continued to plunge his fingers into her. She tightened her fingers into his hair as her climax neared. He suckled at her engorged nub, and ripples of her pleasure peaked with burning intensity.

Nick felt her shudder with release, and he placed feathery kisses to her inner thigh, continuing to lightly massage her clit with his thumb. When his lips were over the vein in her thigh, he slid his fangs into her flesh and tasted her orgasm. It was so sweet, the blood near the source of her pleasure. The rush, the sweet spicy taste, was exquisite.

Nat felt the prick as his fangs slid into her leg. She hadn't expected him to bite her there. A warmth spread over her as he suckled on her leg, the warmth of his love trickling through her.

After licking the wounds, Nick crawled back up and kissed Nat's lips. His cock pressed against her dampness, and he slid inside her with a single thrust. He closed his eyes at the feel of her surrounding him. He felt her legs wrap around him, pushing him even deeper.

Natalie wrapped her legs around him, pulling him closer. She locked her eyes with his as he thrust into her with an increasing rhythm. She pushed up against him, matching his thrusts, as he pounded into her. Her climax neared for a second time.

Nick pressed his lips to hers and trailed kisses to her neck. As he thrust into her feminine core, Nick licked at the vein calling to him and plunged his fangs into her soft flesh, drinking of her essence. He had missed her sweet spicy taste these years. She was delectable. His bloody seed spilled into her on his next thrust and he tasted her orgasm again, this time mingling with his.

Nick knew he would see it in her blood, Nat loving another man. What he was surprised to see, though, was how she thought of him as another man touched her and made love to her. Nick also saw her forgiveness for the events at the club, where he lost control and was unfaithful to the hope of their love. He continued to drink more, tasting her unconditional love for him. While her heartbeat was still strong, he slowly removed his fangs, tenderly licking the wounds.

Nat knew she might see the events at the club that Nick felt so guilty about. She didn't know that it had led to his losing it at the club, led to doubting his own convictions about not bringing her across. She also had never known that Nick had come to Toronto a second time. She saw that he had come back after her engagement announcement, a time he didn't tell her about. She felt Nick's anguish when he overheard Nat making love with her fiancé, how he tore himself away into the sky as his heart broke. As her breathing slowed from her release, she thought about what she had seen, and tears flowed down her face.

After licking the wounds clean and kissing her neck, he pulled Nat to his chest. He could feel her grief at what she had seen, how he had heard them. Wiping her tears away, he whispered against her skin, "I never should have been watching you like that. I'm sorry."

She looked up into his blue eyes. "Nick, oh, God, I never meant to hurt you like that." Tears streamed down her face.

He pulled her tight to him, "How can you...after what I did? Besides, it's not your fault. I pushed you to follow that path. What else could you do when I ignored you like I did? I'm sorry, Nat. I never should have let it happen."

"But I chose to follow that path. I ... gave up."

Nick caressed her face as he looked lovingly at her. "No, you didn't. I'm the one that gave up. You came here to Atlanta. For me. We have another chance because of you." He added, "What matters is that you are here in my arms now."

Nat saw the love in his eyes and felt his unconditional love touch her mind. Overwhelmed with his love, her lips could only quiver.

Nick captured her lips and kissed her gently, tenderly, and Nat responded in return. Nick rolled on top of her, as his penis again grew erect.

Natalie woke to the feel of Nick's arms enfolding her, bringing a smile of contentment to her face. Nick had made love to her without hurting her. Granted, he had done it before, but taking her memory of that night away left it feeling like a dream, a fantasy, even though the memory had returned.

Upon seeing her waking, Nick pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head. "I love you," he told her. He held her tight, happier than he thought possible. She wanted to be with him for eternity, and she forgave him all the foolish mistakes he had made.

Nat cuddled against his body, wrapping her leg over his. As she dwelled on last night's events, she lightly moved her fingers across his chest. She pressed her lips against his chest, kissing him. "Nick?" she mumbled.

Stroking her hair, he muttered, "Mmmm..."

Raising her head, Nat gazed into his eyes and asked, "Why did you give up your search for mortality?"

Her question stunned him, the one thing he had been afraid to discuss in the past. He felt confused now that she was going to cross over and he asked, "Why does that matter now, Nat?"

Nat saw the tension in his expression as soon as she asked her question. Was he hiding something, something that she didn't see in the blood images? "I'm curious, Nick. I know it doesn't really matter now, I just..."

Nick relaxed at her assurance that it really didn't matter. She wasn't changing her mind, she was just curious. He needed to tell her everything. "Okay, love. But first, I have a surprise I want to show you. Let's get up and I'll tell you on the way there."

Agreeing to Nick's plan, Nat got up with him and prepared to leave for Nick's surprise, still curious about his promised explanation. Nick grabbed something from inside his dresser drawer and slipped it into his pocket before going downstairs.


Driving down the road in the cool night air, Nat grew frustrated about Nick's surprise. "What's the surprise, Nick?" she asked with the impatience of a child.

Nick wrapped his arm around her and grinned ear to ear. "You just have to wait."

Nat surrendered to her fate, relaxing against Nick's shoulder. "Tell me what you promised to tell me then," she said after some quiet moments.

After a slight hesitation, Nick began, "Do you remember when I told you of my bargain with LaCroix when I left Toronto?"

"That you leave without me?"

"There was more to it. I had to promise to give up searching for the cure, which meant I couldn't provide you with any more samples," Nick explained.

It finally all made sense, as she realized the truth of why Nick had been so distant towards her. "That's when you started acting differently towards me, when I asked for samples."

Nick nodded.

Her mind reeled with questions, confused. "But why didn't you just tell me, Nick? Did he make you keep that from me too?"

"No. I was just...I was afraid I'd lose you if you knew I no longer was looking for the cure," he confided.

"What? That doesn't make sense, Nick. Avoiding me like you did is what caused us to drift apart. Why did you think you'd lose me?"

"Giving up the cure meant I would never be mortal again, that we couldn't be together." Nick glanced over at Nat, continuing, "I wasn't willing to bring you across at that point, so I guess I wasn't sure you'd even want to continue any relationship with no hope." Turning back to the road, Nick realized how stupid his reasoning sounded now. It seemed ages ago now.

"I thought being mortal is what you were wanting, Nick," Nat insisted.

"I did once. But it became a hope to be with you, not to be mortal. I don't know when I realized it had changed. I thought I needed mortality to be with you. Then I discovered I didn't need mortality to be with you."

"Mark and Christine. I hope to meet them someday," Nat commented, aware of the effect they had had on Nick's new attitude.

"You will."

They had driven several hours and had already been driving on country roads now for some time. The scenery had been changing into expansive estates with large, century-old trees. After a long silence, Nick kissed her forehead and again told her how much he loved her. Nat cuddled next to him, as Nick tightened his arm around her. Nat grew tired and drifted asleep, drained from all that had happened in the past 24 hours.

Heavy with slumber, Nat laid her head by his lap. Nick enjoyed the feel of her closeness, caressing her hair and back, dreaming of their life together after so long.

Her arm draped gently across his leg at first, but her arm drifted closer, with her hand on his groin. Feeling her touch, Nick looked down to see her still in slumber. He chuckled to himself. 'This was what started things last night. Touching me in her sleep.' He left her hand where it was, enjoying the stirrings her stroking produced.

Nick turned down a tree-lined lane to an old southern mansion. In the moonlight, towering cypress trees and magnolias shimmered magically as they approached the magnificent manor home.

He pulled the car past the white-columned porch in front of the grand house and parked alongside the lake. His attentions turned to her as she lay there on his lap. His hand slipped under her shirt, and his burning need was heightened at the contact of her warm flesh against his hand. He softly caressed her side and abdomen as he studied her deep breathing.

She stirred against his lap as his caressing roused her. As she wakened, he murmured, "Hi there, beautiful." She smiled and then realized where she was and where her hand was. She started to move, but he gently pulled her hand back, requesting, "No. Don't move yet. I like this attention lately."

She relaxed into the feel of his nearness, realizing he wanted her there. She concentrated on the contact of her hand against the hardened bulge in his jeans, stroking him through the denim.

His eyes were dark with desire and need. "Do you know how many times over the years I have dreamed of this intimacy, of being this close to you? I bought this property years ago, right before I returned to Toronto to ask you to join me. This was going to be our home together. I have dreamed of being here with you since I bought this property."

His fingers continued to explore her flesh. His hand slid over her abdomen with light touches and gently cupped a lace-covered breast.

Sitting up against him, she held his head and pulled him close for a kiss, while her hand slid under his shirt to caress his chest. She kissed him hard as he moaned into her mouth.

Nick slid his arms around her neck and into her hair, giving into the kiss, and probing her mouth to deepen the contact.

Nick pulled away, breathing heavily, before he made love to her in the car. "I have things to show you," he explained, his breathing calming.

After helping Nat from the car, they walked along the moonlit lakeshore, enjoying the night together. Fingers entwined, they walked silently for a long while.

"Nat, does anyone know where you are? What did you tell people?" Nick asked unexpectedly.

"They think I'm in Vancouver. I told people I took a new job there," Nat told him.

"What about your transportation? Did you come straight here to Atlanta?" he continued to probe.

"No. I actually flew to Vancouver first. The next day I flew to DC, then took a train to Atlanta. I remember you telling me some things about covering your tracks. Did I do okay?"

"Pretty good," he replied, pulling her into an embrace. "I have covered my tracks as well. Hopefully, it will keep LaCroix away for a while. I don't want there to be links to this place." Pressing his lips to hers, he claimed her mouth under the full moon.

After releasing her lips, he gazed into her eyes. "Natalie, I know you have agreed to let me bring you across, but would you consider something else?"

Nat balked, nervous about what he was meaning. "But I thought..."

Nick pressed a finger to her lips to quiet her. "Please, let me continue."

She held her breath, waiting for his words in fear of what he was going to suggest.

"Natalie, I know you have agreed to come across, but I would also like to ask you to be my wife." Nick quickly knelt before her, and reaching into his pocket, Nick pulled a ring out and placed it halfway on her finger. Looking expectantly up at Nat, he asked, "Marry me, Natalie?"

"Yes," she burst out happily, slipping the ring all the way down her finger. She already would have Nick as a lover and master, but he still asked her to marry him.

Nick rose quickly and embraced her tightly. Pulling back and looking at her, he said, "You'll be my lover, my child, my best friend, and my wife."

Nat smiled as Nick captured her lips with his own and spun her around with the overwhelming joy of a dream come true.

Nat stood in the massive marbled foyer with the cascading stairway in front of her. This place was huge, with what seemed to be at least a dozen rooms. Glancing into some of the rooms, she noticed the windows each had automatic metal shutters installed. She glanced over at Nick and saw him grinning, watching her explorations.

"Come on, Nat. Let me show you the house," he said excitedly, grabbing her hand and pulling her into the first room.

Nat protested in awe, "House? Nick, this is a mansion." She followed where he led into the first room of many. Entering the room, she glanced around, studying the beauty of the room with the intricate woodwork and luxurious furnishings. She slowly walked through the room, touching the fabric, the wood, in appreciation. Then she spotted the fireplace. She walked up to the mantel and caressed the surface with her fingers. Smiling, she turned back to Nick. "You kept it."

Nick wandered over to her, asking, "Do you like it?"

"Nick, it's beautiful. Everything."

"Ready for the next room?" he asked playfully. He grabbed her hand and led her to the next room. This room had one piece, right in the center of the room--Nick's grand piano.

Nat turned and begged, "Play something for me, Nick."

"But there is so much more to see," Nick resisted, playfully.

"Just a little song, Nick," she pleaded.

Unable to resist her, Nick sat down and played a sweet melody he had written. He watched Nat sway to the music as she glided around the room. When the piece ended, she made her way behind him and hugged him, kissing his neck and whispering, "That was lovely."

Nick turned and pulled Nat onto his lap and pressed his lips to hers in a searing kiss. Nat responded as his tongue begged entrance, moaning at the rush she felt from his insistence.

Gasping for breath, Nat whispered against his lips, "What about the rest of the house?"

"The other rooms can be explored another time, my love. There's only one more room I want to show you tonight."

"Mmmm...what room is that?"

Nick stood up from the bench, holding Nat in his arms, and walked out into the foyer again. He levitated and flew up to the second floor and into a room, setting her gently on the floor.

They were in an elaborate bedroom with a beautiful, huge, cherry canopy bed and matching furniture. A sitting area was on the other side of the room by the large window. The window caught Nat's attention, and she walked over to it.

"Sunset and sunrise watching," Nick offered, following her. "See how the angle and position of the furniture protects it from direct sunlight, yet offers a fabulous view."

Nat looked at Nick questioningly. She had thought his fascination with the sun was related to his quest for mortality.

Nick stepped behind her and embraced her, kissing her neck. "I've always enjoyed sunsets and sunrises, Nat. When I was a boy, they were the best part of my day. I would watch and dream as the colors played across the sky." Turning her to face him, he admitted, "Although, I never dreamed I could be as happy as I am right now."

The soft beginnings of sunrise started to lighten the horizon. "Nat, look," he said, nodding towards the window.

Nat turned in his arms to face the window. With Nick's arms around her, they watched the lighting of the sky as the colors came to life from the black of night. Nick leaned his chin against Nat's shoulder as he watched, mesmerized by the beauty, finally interrupted by the closing of the automatic shutters.

After the breaking of the sun's trance, Nick implored her, "Come here. I have something to show you." Nick walked to the wide double doors and opened them, exposing a huge closet. Nat approached and stared at the abundance of sleeping gowns, dresses, and various other women's apparel. She briefly wondered if Nick had shared time here with someone, but he had said there had been no one else.

Nick, realizing what she was thinking, explained, "No one has been here except me, Nat. I had the house stocked with things we would need to start, back when I planned to bring you here." He walked up behind her, wrapping his arms around her, and planted a kiss on her neck. "Those clothes are for you," he whispered in her ear. "There has been no one but you, Nat. Not once have I been with anyone since I knew I wanted you to join me five years ago."

She smiled, turning to kiss him gently. "I'm sorry I doubted you," she said.

She saw the guilt on his face over what happened before he had made that decision. She gently held his head between her palms. "Don't, Nick. We both..."

Nick realized she was right. They needed to move forward, not dwell on what had happened. He stopped her words with a kiss, pulling her tightly against him. When he released her lips, he whispered, "I love you so much, Nat."

Nat smiled at him. He had changed for the better, being away from LaCroix. He may still guilt and angst, but he was able to push it aside now and not dwell on it incessantly. She stepped from his embrace towards the closet and reached for an exquisite gown that caught her eye. "These are all so beautiful, Nick," she said, turning back to him.

"I know some will be out of style now, but we can always shop for more," he said apologetically.

She held one soft, flowing, lilac nightgown against her and swayed with it. "Oh, Nick. Some of these are just perfect."

As Nick smiled and imagined the gown on her, he felt a stirring deep in his groin. "Put it on," he commanded, the words vibrating in his chest.

Nat gazed into his eyes, gasping at his intensity, and she shuddered deep inside. Holding the gown against her, she went into the adjoining bathroom to change.

The bathroom was as luxurious and well-equipped as the rest of the house. Changing into the gown, Nat found it fit perfectly. As she brushed her hair, she studied herself in the mirror. How she had aged since she first met Nick, where he hadn't changed at all. She brushed her fingers against her cheeks. She still looked damn good for someone her age, but still 12 years older than when they first met. She couldn't help but feel some doubts.

There was a soft knock on the door. "Can I come in, Nat?"

Nat turned the knob and opened the door to find Nick standing there in black silk boxers. He was so perfect, so gorgeous, she thought.

He reached for her hands and gently coaxed her out into the bedroom. Holding her at arm's length, he gazed at her in the gown, taking in each delicious inch.

The way he was scrutinizing her made her blush, almost making her forget her previous doubts. She knew he asked her to marry him and that he would bring her across. But would it be forever? Would he stay with her for an eternity?

Releasing her hands, Nick stepped closer, cupped her face between his palms, and tenderly kissed her lips. Whispering against her mouth, he answered, "For an eternity, Natalie."

She shuddered at his words, answering her thoughts.

"And you are very beautiful, Natalie." He stroked her cheek in a loving caress. He grasped her hand and firmly placed it against the rigid bulge through his boxers. "See what you do to me, Natalie?" he asked, before capturing her mouth in a searing kiss, a kiss of flaming desire.

Nat molded herself to his embrace as he devoured her mouth, inside and out. She felt consumed by passion as Nick slowly backed her up towards the bed. After lifting her to sit on the edge of the high bed, Nat gazed at her lover in anticipation of whatever he wanted next.

Nick guided Nat into a reclining position as he slid the front of her gown up to expose her warm, naked flesh. Nick stood between her legs and pressed against the edge of the bed, spreading them wide. He reached his hands upward along her torso to cup her breasts.

Nick didn't delay in what he wanted next. As he stepped between her legs, spreading them, she felt a tightening deep in her core. She tossed her head backward, moaning when he fondled her breasts, her nipples already erect with excitement. When his mouth covered her breast, she lifted her hips in invitation.

Nick's cock was aching to be buried deep inside of her, but tonight he needed to hold off. He wanted to show her just how beautiful she was, how desirable she was. He wanted to devour each inch of her body. After teasing her breasts with his tongue and lips, he caressed her body with trails of kisses and licks, slowly making his way down her body.

Nat was on fire, and there was no putting it out anytime soon. Not that she would want to. His lips and tongue covered her entire body, and every nerve seemed ready to explode.

Nick teased her by sliding his fingers along her folds. He plunged a finger inside of her and she arched her back, pushing against his hand. "You like that, Nat?" he teased.

Nat moaned something incoherent as she grasped onto his hair.

"How about this?" Pressing his face close between her legs, Nick inserted his tongue between her folds and licked up to her swollen clit.

Nat shuddered at the intimate caress. "Nick!"

Twirling his tongue around her clit, Nick mumbled, "Guess you like that, too." He slipped another finger inside of her, twisting inside her with the other. Sucking against her clit and alternately flicking his tongue around it, Nick continued to drive her insane.

The intensity of his touch was almost too much. Almost. She bucked against his hand and mouth involuntarily, as the tension built and finally cascaded in an orgasm like she had never felt before.

Nick could feel her release, not only in the contractions around his fingers, but bursting through their link. His caress of her clit slowed, and he kissed her inner folds as she rode out the long waves.

Nat rode out the exploding waves of her release, yet she ached still deep inside. "Nick, I need you. Please."

Nick needed no second invitation and slipped his boxers off, freeing his straining cock. Grasping Nat's hips, he thrust his cock into Nat's waiting body.

"OHNICK!!" she shouted as he thrust into her. "Oh, God, don't stop," she screamed, tossing her head. She reached out her arms to him, and he leaned to kiss her, building a rhythm of thrusting.

Nick stopped thrusting and pulled out, to Nat's dismay. Frustrated with the height of the bed, he turned Nat onto her stomach, and grabbing her by her hips, shifted her to the bed's edge in a few urgent tugs.

He slipped his fingers through her folds and guided the tip of his cock inside her again. His chest rumbled with a growl as he slid into her moist center, holding her hips for leverage. He leaned over her back, kissing and licking along her spine.

"Mmmm, it feels so good, Nick. So deep."

Nick quickly built up his rhythm again, thrusting relentlessly into her core until he could not hold off any longer. Sliding an arm under Nat, he pulled her up against his body and sank his fangs into her shoulder. His orgasm exploded in his blood and on the next thrust, his seed erupted deep inside her.

The intensity of his orgasm seemed to be as strong as hers had been. He continued to drink her blood, prolonging the intensity even more. When he felt her weaken slightly, he removed his fangs immediately.

He pulled his softening member out of her and turned her on her back. "NAT!" She was unconscious, and Nick was frantic. Climbing on the bed, he knelt by her, trying to awaken her.

Slowly, Nat started to move, and Nick was relieved. He scooped her into his arms, showering her with kisses, repeating, "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me, Nat."

"I'm okay, Nick. I feel a little weak, but..."

Nick rocked her against him, feeling guilty about what he had done. "I was too careless. I risked taking too much," he mumbled, finally slowing in his rocking.

"Nick, stop. It's okay. If you had, you could have just brought me across tonight."

Nick gently laid her down on the bed. "I want to wait to bring you across on our wedding night," he said as he lowered his head in guilt.

"But if you had taken too much, you would have brought me across, right? You wouldn't have let me die?" Nat asked, suddenly alarmed.

Nick looked at her, hurt by her words. "Of course not, Nat. I would have brought you across. I just feel so bad that I was so rough, so selfish to jeopardize it all."

Nat, feeling a bit stronger, sat up in front of him. "You weren't that rough, Nick. I liked it. You just took too much blood. And you weren't selfish. You were so...damn, what you did to me felt so good," she said, leaning in to kiss his lips. As she did, she lost her balance and started to fall to her side, but Nick caught her in his arms.


"Oh, wow. I'm dizzy. Guess I'm still weak."

After easing Nat down on the bed, Nick scooted off the bed and slipped on his boxers. He picked Nat up in his arms, smoothing her gown over her. He carried her out the door and flew downstairs.

Nick entered the kitchen and set Nat on a chair. Nick grabbed a glass from the cabinet, orange juice from the refrigerator, and poured a glass for Nat.

"How in the world..." Nat exclaimed as Nick walked back to the table with fresh orange juice.

"I made arrangements to have groceries delivered yesterday," he answ ered with a devilish grin.


"I called before we left the city," he answered, smiling. "Here, drink this."

He sat next to her, watching her drink the orange juice, thinking about the close call they had just before. He just had to be more careful until she crossed over. And with the blood she had lost, they shouldn't be intimate at all for a while.

Nat noticed his somber expression and set down the empty glass. She reached her hand across the table to squeeze his hand. "Nick?"

Nick glanced up at her, his thoughts temporarily interrupted.

"Don't worry about it so much, Nick. I'm okay now. And when I'm like you, we don't have to worry about taking too much."

Nick squeezed her hand in return. "I know, Nat. But I'm still sorry I took too much this time and caused all this." He lifted her hand and kissed her hand. Nick gazed at Nat, and a smile spread on his face. "So, you liked it a little rough, eh?"

Nat blushed as Nick repeated her own comment. Looking down and playing with the empty glass, she mumbled, "Yeah, I kinda liked it. Not always. Sometimes."

Nick scooted his chair closer, and placing a finger under her chin, pulled her face to look at him. "I like it sometimes, too," he said, smiling.

After Nick prepared Nat some more food to eat and he opened a bottle for himself, Nick grabbed some papers on the table. "Nat, these are for you," he said, sliding some of the papers towards her.

Nat picked up the passport and other papers. After looking them over, she glanced up at Nick again. "When did you do this?"

"About 5 years ago. Remember, I said I came to Toronto to ask you to join me?"

Nat looked back at the papers. "But, I didn't think..." she started and then looked back at Nick, continuing, "I didn't know you planned everything out like this. Nick, you did all this and then never asked me to come with you?"

"I didn't want to ruin your life more than I already had. At the time, I thought it was best."

"Do you see that is the same thing you did before? Deciding for me?" Nat accused.

"I do now, Nat." Biting his lip and looking away, he whispered, "I've really messed up things."

"No, you haven't, Nick. I'm here now. We have a future now," she insisted.

"Yeah," Nick said, smiling. "You know we can't have sex anymore for awhile. You lost too much blood."

Nat sighed, knowing he was right. After all these years, and now she was supposed to wait more. "Okay, so when do we get married? You said you wanted to bring me across on our wedding night, right?"

"Why don't you go take a nice bath, and I'll make some calls and see how fast I can arrange things?" he suggested, grinning.

"Sounds like a plan."

Nick rose from the table and carried the dishes to the sink before going to place his calls. After placing his calls, and getting dressed, they were both ready to get their plans in motion. First, they stopped at Nat's hotel and checked her out. After that, they went to the townhouse and worked at packing up Nick's things.

With things almost ready for the moving/storage people, Nat started down the stairs with a handful of the remaining clothes from the closet. She paused, staring at the scene in front of her. Bare floors were covered with stacks of boxes with an emptiness that made her shiver.

Nick approached the steps to help with her load, but upon taking the clothes from her, he sensed her uneasiness. Shifting the clothes to his left arm, he slipped his other arm around her. "Nat, what's wrong?"

After guiding her to the couch and laying the clothes aside, she mumbled, "I don't know...seeing all those boxes. It's so..."

Nick pulled her close, rubbing her arm soothingly. He could feel her hesitation. "Final?" he finished her thought, searching her eyes.

Nat closed her eyes, nodding her head. She couldn't help how she felt. She knew she was doing the right thing, but she was still scared.

Nick continued to rub her arm as she laid her head against his chest, and he kissed her forehead. He was used to moving on, starting a new life. He was asking her to cut all ties with her life, to leave all that she had come to know in her life. She would start a new life with himself as the only connection to her past, needing to trust him with her future, her very existence.

"Do you trust me, Nat?" Nick murmured softly against her hair.

Nat lifted her head to look at Nick. "It's just scary for me. I didn't mean to make you think I didn't trust you, Nick. I do trust you, please know that," she explained.

Nick trailed his fingers over her hair, cupping her cheek. "I hope I live up to your trust, Nat."

Nat smiled back at him, and clasping her hands around his neck, kissed his lips. "You will," she whispered. Pulling back and jumping from the couch, she asked, "So, are we ready to go, then?"

Nick admired her courage and trust in him. He had been less able to let go of the past, his past, when he crossed over. Standing, he grabbed the clothes he set aside earlier and replied, "The car is all packed up except for this. The rest will be taken by the movers."

As they left, Nick looked back on the place he had called home for five years. He had done this so many times. Moving on. But this time was different. He turned, watching Nat as she walked to the car. This time she would be with him...forever. He closed the door behind him and followed Nat to the car.

Nat cuddled next to Nick as he drove through the starlit country, returning from their shopping trip. It was amazing the strings he could pull. Special arrangements had been made for their visit after hours. She had never been so catered to in her life. It was wonderful.

Nick kissed her temple and asked, "Do you like it, Nat? I hope it's what you want."

Nat lifted her head, replying, "Of course I like it, Nick. It's beautiful. It will be the perfect dress to wear for a wedding on the estate, under the stars by the lake."

"It's not traditional. You could have had anything you wanted."

"I have what I want," she assured him and kissed his cheek. "Besides, I don't think we are a traditional couple," she teased.

Nick glanced at her and smiled. Turning his eyes back on the road, he slowed as he approached the turnoff. He had planned the delivery for while they were away, to surprise Nat when they got back. He hoped that it was made with no problems.

As they approached the estate, something felt odd. He pulled up in front of the mansion and hopped out. Leaning at Nat's window, he warned, "Wait here. Someone's here."

As Nick started to walk up the steps, he noticed the sudden appearance of the two vampires. A grin widened across his face, and his arms opened wide to embrace Mark and Christine. "It's so good to see you again!"

Nat watched the couple return Nick's greeting, and she slowly ventured from the car, despite Nick's warning. Could this be the Mark and Christine that Nick had told her about?

The three noticed Nat cautiously inching her way towards them. Nick quickly ran down the steps and took her hand. "Nat, come meet my friends." With hands clasped, they walked up the steps to where the other couple stood smiling. "Mark, Christine, I want you to meet my fiancée, Natalie," he said proudly.

Christine stepped forward and said with a smile, "It's so great to finally meet you, Natalie. We were thrilled when Nick called to invite us to your wedding."

Nat shot a glance at Nick. "You called..." Of course, he did, she realized.

"I thought it would be a nice surprise, Nat," Nick reasoned.

Turning back to Christine, she said with a smile, "It is a nice surprise. I'm so glad you could come. Nick has told me so much about you."

Christine stole a glance at Nick before replying, "Nick was so much like Mark when I met him, that we took Nick under our wing. Nick talked about you a lot. I feel we already know you."

"Oh, what did you say, Nick?" she asked, looking at him.

Shrugging, he answered, "I just told them about us in Toronto, how I missed you."

Christine chirped in, repeating Nick's words, "I believe what you said was--She is so beautiful and smart. So vibrant. She has a wonderful sense of humor, with a dark flavor." Turning to her husband, she asked, "Isn't that it, dear?"

Mark slipped his arm around his wife and kissed her cheek before turning to Nick and his Natalie. "Yes, that's what our Nick said. He also said--She didn't let me get away with anything. Yet, she is the most forgiving and loving person I have ever known. She brightened my nights when I lived in Toronto."

Nick blushed as much as possible for a vampire. Standing beside Nat, he loosely wrapped an arm around her waist.

Meeting Mark and Christine, Nat had a peek into Nick's life while they were separate and what he went through, how he felt about her. She gently rested her hand on Christine's arm, and stated sincerely, "I want to thank you for giving Nick back to me. If you hadn't come into his life, I..." Nat choked.

Nick wrapped his arms around her, enveloping her from behind. "I would be as miserable as I have always been, I would be without my soul mate, and two very good friends," he said, smiling at his friends. "Thank you."



Nat spun around at the sound of the cat's cry. There on the top step was an animal crate. How did she not see it before? She ran to the box, calling, "Sydney!"

She opened the crate and pulled Sydney out into her arms, cradling him as he settled into a contented purring. Nat looked back at Nick, her eyes glistening with tears.

"Nick? How..."

Nick grinned as he watched how thrilled Nat was to see her beloved pet. "You sent for him, Nat. You missed him after you settled in. Remember?" he explained, tongue-in-cheek.

Nat stepped back to Nick, Sydney in her arms, and wrapped her free arm around him. She didn't think she could be any happier. She was happy that Syd was here, but that wasn't the reason she felt this way. Nick continued to surprise her with all that he did for her. She had never felt so loved.


It had been several days since they last made love, the time he had almost taken too much. They often fell asleep together, but sometimes Nick would get up frustrated, the vampire restless. Over the days prior to the wedding, he grew more worried that he would again fail to bring his wife across.

One evening Mark found Nick at the lake alone, deep in thought, almost depressed. He thought it odd with the wedding only a few days away. Approaching Nick, Mark commented, "Now, just what do you have to be sullen about?"

Sitting on the bench, cupping his chin in his hands, Nick responded, "Mark, I don't know if this is such a good idea."

Mark sat beside him, placing his arm around him. "What are you talking about, Nick? Your Natalie is all you said she is and much more. You'd be a fool to walk away from her."

Nick turned to face his friend, and Mark could see the terror in his eyes. "I married once before. I tried to bring her across, but I took too much on our wedding night," Nick confided.

Aware of the effect this must have had on Nick, Mark asked about it. "When was this? What happened?"

"It was about 500 years ago."

"That's a long time ago, Nick. Have you ever brought someone across successfully?" Mark probed further.

"I have brought others across, but I don't know how successfully. They hate what I did to them. Even so, I have not brought across someone I love, that I have strong feelings for," Nick answered with a sadness.

Nick stood and walked forward to the water's edge. "I thought I had learned control enough to bring Nat across, but the last few nights..." He turned to look at Mark, continuing, "The last time we made love, I took a little too much. She was unconscious for a while. We haven't made love for several days now, and I can't sleep. The vampire keeps wanting to take her."

Mark approached Nick and placed a hand on his shoulder, seeing the pain in his face. "You mean you have been sleeping with her and not making love at all? You have more control than most, my friend."

Nick pulled away. "But maybe it's not enough control to bring her across safely."

"She is still mortal and you are a vampire. You can't deny the physical nature of our being. You have tasted her lifeblood and the vampire is demanding more, being so close to her and not taking her. That's why you have been having trouble lately. You will be fine."

Nick turned back to Mark. "I'm still afraid."

Seeing the anguish in his friend's eyes, Mark suggested they sit again. He had an idea. Mark knew that Nick would do fine bringing Nat across, but he needed the confidence, especially with his so-called shortcomings the past few days.


Nat turned as she heard the bedroom door open. Christine smiled as she approached Nat and tightened the satin laces on the back of the dress' bodice for her. Natalie turned back to the window, staring out at the activity by the lake.

Nick had arranged for his musician friends from the club to play live music for them, and they were busy getting things set up. Some couples Nick had invited were also arriving.

"It's a beautiful night for a wedding, don't you think?" Christine commented.

Continuing to stare out the window in a daze, Natalie nodded. It was a beautiful, starlit night with magnolias drifting in the breeze. It couldn't have been a more romantic evening.

Yet, she suddenly felt scared and very alone. She didn't understand it. She loved Nick and he loved her. This is what she had wanted for so long. Why was she feeling this way? And Nick was acting odd at times. She understood why he would leave her while they slept at times, but every now and then, he seemed distant emotionally as well.

Christine laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Natalie?"

Natalie turned, her eyes obviously welling with tears. Upon seeing Christine's kind and caring face, she burst into tears, and Christine embraced her in a supportive hug.

"I don't know why I feel so scared," she blubbered. "I've wanted to be with him for so long. Nick sometimes seems so distant. Part of me wants to run the other way. I don't understand."

Christine pulled back from Nat and wiped a tear away from her face. "Even mortals have conflicting feelings before marrying each other. By marrying Nick, you are doing more than just marrying a man. You are saying goodbye to the mortal world. It is a much bigger step you take tonight than most."

Wiping her face free of the moist trails, Nat mumbled, "I guess you're right. I really do love him, Christine."

Christine smiled and responded, "I know you do. Your feelings don't mean you don't love him. And Nick loves you. Don't ever doubt that. Now come on, let's clean up your face. It's almost time to go out."

Nick stood outside the bedroom door as Christine helped Nat at the vanity. He had been ready to knock to tell Nat it was time to come downstairs. But upon hearing Nat crying, he stopped. He couldn't help listening.

Was he pushing her into this? Was this moving too fast for her? Or was she having second thoughts about coming across?

Would she go through with things just to please him or because she felt there was no way out? He didn't want her to feel forced in the situation. He turned to make his way outside where the band and others were. He didn't want her to have to deal with this.

Natalie moved slowly past the couples in attendance, her tea-length cream dress swaying with her hips. She felt the weight of the vampires' eyes on her exposed neck. She hadn't been thinking when she had chosen her dress, with the low cut, off-the-shoulders bodice. Avoiding tempting Nick's vampire friends just was not on her mind. Nor was it when she wore her hair in an upswept style, even further accentuating her slender neck.

Continuing past the watchful eyes, she approached Nick, past couples she didn't even know. She silently swallowed her fear and focused on the man she was to marry. He smiled reassuringly as he watched her come nearer, looking sharp in his classic, century-old tux.

When she finally stood at his side and he grasped her hand, she relaxed a bit and her fears subsided. That's how she knew it would be all right. She glanced at Nick to find him watching her lovingly. Nat smiled at him as she slightly squeezed his hand.

The officiator started speaking, and the wedding began.

Nick hadn't had a chance to speak to her about her earlier doubts, but she was here standing with him. In the past, he might have decided a course of action on his own, canceling the wedding, but he had stopped himself. He had promised not to decide things for her.

He had sensed her discomfort dissipate when he grabbed for her hand. It had been so hard for him not to do something about hearing her earlier conversation, especially with his own fears, but he had to allow her to make the choice for herself.

"Forever, I do love you. Forever, I belong to you," he responded to the vows, gazing into Nat's eyes. At the same time, he reached through their link, repeating his promise to her alone. 'I promise forever to stay by your side and never leave you.'

"Forever, I do love you. Forever, I belong to you," Nat replied to the vows. She also tried to push into their link, but couldn't. It had been over a week since he had bitten her last, and with the tension of the wedding, it was too difficult.

"You may kiss..."

Seeing Nat frown in her attempt to reach into the link, Nick slipped his arms around Nat and pressed his lips to hers, communicating to her his love.

Snickers among Nick's friends went unnoticed by the new couple.

"...the bride," the officiator added after the long pause, followed by louder laughter. Nick and Nat broke away to face his friends with embarrassed grins.

"Let me present to you Nicholas and Natalie DeBrabant." The attendees clapped and whistled to the announcement.


Couples danced to the band along the lakeshore for hours. But as the night wore on, many started to leave, and the lakeshore was nearly empty until only Mark and Christine were left with Nick and Nat.

Nick strolled with his wife near the water's edge, sharing a quiet moment while the band took a few minutes break. "Nat, I've been wanting to ask you...what were you afraid of earlier?"

Nat looked at him with a puzzled expression.

"Before the wedding, I went to the bedroom, but stopped when I heard you talking with Christine. It seemed like you had doubts about marrying me. I almost..."

Nat remembered. It had seemed like ages ago. She cupped Nick's cheek and lightly kissed his lips. "Not doubts about you, my love. Just scared, nervous. Talking with Christine, I realized I was really doing more than marrying you. I was giving up mortality, as well. And all your friends. I didn't know anyone, except Mark and Christine. I felt..."

Nick placed his hand over hers. "I should have known better. I should have given you some time to get to know my friends, to be more comfortable with my world."

"What did you almost do, Nick?" Nat asked, his earlier words just sinking in.

The music started up again after the short break, and Nick slipped his arms around Nat for another dance, avoiding her question.

<So many roads, I traveled alone So many lonely nights, I prayed for this moment And tonight, here I am holding you And now I know the truth You're the only one who can make my dream come true>

As they moved to the music, Nick whispered in her ear, "We have both been so alone, these years apart. Never again, I promise, Nat."

<And every day the flame will burn higher Like a fire out of control Forever our love will grow And this will be the night we'll remember We're gonna reach for a star As we begin this journey of the heart This journey of the heart>

"Nick? You almost did what? You're avoiding my question," Nat prodded.

Nick pulled her close, holding her tight, as he moved with her under the stars. Would she be mad that he almost sent the band and officiator away, canceling the wedding, feeling they needed to resolve things first?

<As I look in your eyes, I realize You will always be my very special someone We don't know where this road is gonna lead But baby, I believe We're together now for all eternity>

"I feel so guilty, Nat, that I almost did it again, deciding for you. I almost stopped the wedding, sending everyone home before you came out. When I heard you talking with Christine, my first thought was to stop everything so you didn't feel you had to marry me."

<And every day the flame will burn higher Like a fire out of control Forever our love will grow And this will be the night we'll remember We're gonna reach for a star As we begin this journey of the heart This journey of the heart>

Nat reached her hands to hold Nick's face and kissed him on the lips. "I love you, Nicholas DeBrabant."

Nick paused in his dancing and looked at her, puzzled. "I don't understand."

Smiling, she explained, "You almost stopped the wedding. You almost did what you thought was best, as you have done in the past. You almost made the choice for me. But you didn't."

<And tonight, here I am holding you And now I know the truth You're the only one who can make my dream come true>

"But I thought of making that choice for you. I almost did," Nick countered as his guilt started to crush him.

"Don't ever feel guilty about your thoughts, about your feelings, Nick," she softly reprimanded him. "It's what you do that counts. You promised you wouldn't make choices for me anymore, and you haven't. As hard as it was, you kept your promise."

<And every day the flame will burn higher Like a fire out of control Forever our love will grow And this will be the night we'll remember We're gonna reach for a star As we begin this journey of the heart This journey of the heart>

Nick again moved to the music, his bride moving in his arms with him. "From now on, we will meet life's adventures and heartaches together, always together," he promised.

Nick held his future in his arms. It was not the same future he had always hoped for, to live once again as a mortal. He had a new life in the night, with the woman he loved, and a different path to follow. "I should have known I couldn't live without you. I need you," he whispered, as his lips hovered near hers. He crushed his lips to hers with a passionate and hungry need.

After releasing Nat's lips, he lifted his bride into his arms and carried her into their home, while Mark and Christine continued to dance to the music alone.

Mark and Christine continued to dance for a while longer, the only couple left. Christine grew concerned over her husband's worried expression. "Mark?"

Mark closed his eyes and concentrated. 'Slow down. You have eternity, but only if you bring her across safely. If you want her forever, slow down.' Satisfied that his message had reached Nick, Mark kissed his wife's cheek. "Nick needed some help, darling." At her puzzled expression, Mark explained what Nick and he had agreed on to help with Nick's wedding night jitters.

"Do you think we could stay here at the estate a while, darling?" Mark asked after explaining about the plan. "Nat will be a fledgling, and Nick is inexperienced in bringing new ones across. He needs our support. I trust Charles with the club."

Christine smiled. "I was wondering when you were going to bring it up. I'd love to stay a while."


Nick flew his bride to their bedroom and set her on the floor next to the bed. Without a pause, he devoured her lips as his hands moved over the gown covering her body. The cut of the neckline and off-the-shoulder sleeves had teased him all night. His lips kissed a trail over her cheeks and chin, making their way along her neck.

Suddenly he felt a touch on his mind. 'Slow down. You have eternity, but only if you bring her across safely.' Breathing heavily, he tried to fight the intruder's meddling. 'If you want her forever, slow down.' Nick slowly pulled away from Nat, finally straining for control.

Nat grew concerned at Nick's behavior. "Nick?"

His breathing calmed, and he thanked Mark through their link. Opening his eyes, he saw Nat watching him, questioning with her eyes. "I'm sorry, Nat. I got carried away, I was losing control."

"I guessed that much. But..."

Nick pulled her close, kissing her lips. "I need to tell you something. Something Mark and I did."

Nat relaxed and waited for him to explain.

"I've had trouble with control, not being able to make love to you lately. I was afraid I would lose control tonight, so Mark agreed to help me."

"How's that?"

"We shared each other's blood. So tonight he could sense if I was losing control and help me through our link," Nick disclosed.

"A link like what you and I will have?"

"No. Nothing is as strong as that," Nick said with a smile. "There is no family connection between Mark and me. More like friends or lovers share. It's a choice to share. With master and child, family, it's a need to share."

Natalie bit her lower lip as she thought about what Nick was saying. "He can see your thoughts, feelings? About me?"

"Yes," Nick admitted. "He can see my desire for you. I hope you understand, Nat. I need his help tonight. I don't want to chance losing you." He hoped she wasn't offended by the intrusion on their wedding night.

Nat kissed her husband on the lips and pulled back, gazing into his eyes. "I trust your judgment about this, Nick. I'm glad you told me."

Nick grinned mischievously at Nat and kissed her lips, softly at first, and then harder, parting her lips with his tongue. His fingers worked at the lacing up the back of her dress, loosening and finally freeing the back of the dress.

Nat hungrily pulled Nick's shirt free from the back of his trousers and slipped her exploring hands under the shirt against his cool skin.

Reaching to the front of her dress, he loosened the lacing there, freeing her full breasts from the constraints. Through the loosened fabric, he fondled her breasts and rubbed her nipples with his thumbs, bringing them to hard points.

Nat moaned as Nick's touch set her ablaze, aching for more. It seemed it had been much longer than the week it had been since they last made love.

Slipping the loosened bodice off her shoulders, Nick pushed the gown off her body. He placed the gown over the chair and turned his attention back to her. The only items of clothing she now wore were lace panties, stockings, and her shoes.

Placing his hands on her waist, he lifted her up to sit on the edge of the bed. His hungry eyes trailed over her body, finally capturing her eyes as she observed him. Leaning between her legs, he kissed her lips and slid his hands to her breasts.

After fondling and teasing her breasts a few moments, he backed away and reached down to remove her shoes. Then he slowly started to roll down her stockings, exposing her beautiful legs. As the stockings were removed, he softly slid his hands up along her legs as she widened them for him.

He stepped back and she watched him strip the clothes off his own body. It was evident that his mortal desires were healthy and strong, his cock rock-hard, protruding and ready. As the last piece of clothing fell to the ground, Nick stepped between her legs again, gliding his hands along the inside of her thighs to cup the warm, lace-covered mound his cock craved.

Not wanting Nick to take her on the edge of the bed this time, Nat pushed herself back on the bed away from Nick, smiling coyly. She lay back against the array of pillows, waiting for Nick to follow.

Nick, slightly confused at her retreat, quickly climbed onto the bed, following her. He crawled between her legs on the bed, seeing that she was watching him and waiting. Nick stopped and knelt between her legs, smiling.

He reached forward, sliding his fingers under the edge of her panties and started sliding them down, enough to expose her mound. At that point, Nick grasped the thinnest part and pulled, tearing the panties away and tossing them to the floor.

Nick grasped her hips, positioning her as he lay down on the bed between her legs. He gazed up at her, watching her face as he licked the skin surrounding her pubic area, teasingly not touching her most sensitive parts.

Nat raised her hips, frustrated with Nick's teasing, wanting more. She moaned as he caressed her and licked her, getting closer, yet not close enough. She grasped her breasts, pinching the nipples. She bucked her hips wildly and screamed, "Nick, please!"

Nick lowered his mouth to her hot mound, sliding his tongue along her outer folds upward near her clit. Peeking up at her, he asked, "Is that better?"

He watched as she nodded her approval. He delved his tongue into her inner folds, circling her clit and flicking his tongue around the sensitive nub.

"Ohhh, much better," Nat moaned as she bucked up against his mouth.

Nick held her hips firmly as he attacked her with intensity. He slid one hand around, slipping a finger into her. Then slipping another finger in, he twisted them inside her, bathing his fingers with her creamy moisture.

Ripples of pleasure washed over her as his insistent tonguing and touch had quickly brought her to release, screaming his name again.

Nick slowed his caress as he felt her body shudder in her orgasm, as she rode out the waves of pleasure. As her body relaxed, Nick slowly kissed his way over her hips and abdomen as he knelt above her.

Nat gently slipped her fingers through his hair as Nick now teased her nipples with his tongue, alternating flicking the hard points and sucking on them.

Nick worked his way up Nat's neck, kissing and licking the tender, sensitive flesh. Reaching her mouth, he pressed his lips to hers, slipping his tongue between them. Nick shifted slightly as the head of his cock pressed against her warm, swollen vagina.

Nat responded to the deep thrust of his tongue, seeking out his mouth in return. As he devoured her mouth, she felt the vampire emerge. She slid her tongue over his fangs and quickly felt a growl from deep inside him as he sliced into her tongue.

He suckled the blood released in his mouth, providing a taste of the sweet elixir to come. He thrust into her core in one fast stroke, and Nat screamed out with the sudden motion. Holding his cock deep inside her for a moment, he stared down at her, eyes golden.

He leaned forward to kiss her tenderly on the lips. He whispered against her mouth, "Are you okay?"

Nat kissed him back in response.

Slowly Nick pulled his cock back and again plunged into her. The rhythm slowly increased momentum as Nat clutched to his back. Nick covered her face and neck in kisses as his release came nearer.

"I love you, Natalie DeBrabant," Nick said, looking at her through a reddened gaze. He licked and kissed along her neck, caressing the skin above the vein he sought. He suckled against the skin, so close to her sweet lifeblood. The lifeblood he would almost drain from her tonight, all except what would be needed to sustain her life to cross over to his world. The anticipation of taking possession of her blood excited and thrilled him, and the aching of the sanguine desire throbbed in his fangs.

Nick sank his fangs into her flesh, the warm blood gushing into his mouth. He drank the ecstasy of her soul, while plunging into her feminine core a final time, pouring his bloody seed deep inside her. He tasted Nat's unconditional love and trust as he fed on the blood she so freely offered.

He opened himself to her, allowing her to see everything he was, everything he hoped to be. When he sensed her loss of consciousness, he slipped his fangs from her neck, licking the twin wounds.

He gently laid Nat back against the pillows and fell to her side, removing his weight from her. He knew she was in a place where she had to make a choice, a choice to come back to him or die.

"Come back to me, Nat. Let me love you forever," he begged. He bit into his wrist and dripped his blood into her mouth, but she didn't swallow, and it ran from the sides of her mouth. He called to her repeatedly, growing more scared as each second passed.

As he started to panic, he felt Mark's reassurances on his mind. 'She'll come back. She loves you, my friend.'

Just at that moment, her lips moved, and she started to swallow the blood he was dripping into her mouth. Nat's eyes opened and she grasped Nick's wrist, greedy for his blood. She suckled against his open wound, drinking his blood hungrily.

"Welcome back, my love," Nick murmured.

Nat slowed her sucking and smiled up at him. "I'm a vampire now?"

Nick grinned and peered down at her grasp on his arm, blood on her mouth. "Did you drink blood before?"

Nat looked at the bloody wound in her grasp and pressed a hand to her mouth, feeling the thick blood against her fingers. She looked back at Nick, in shock.

Nick slipped his arm under her shoulders and kissed her forehead. "Don't worry, Nat. You just woke. That is how you cross over, drinking your master's blood. But you've had enough and you need to rest now. When you wake again, you will be very hungry. I won't leave your side, I promise."

Nick breathed a sigh of relief as Nat slipped into a deep sleep. She had come back to him and was now going through her transformation as he watched over her.

He watched for hours, lying next to her, sometimes sitting, and sometimes dozing. After a while, he opened one of the bottles in the crate set near the bed and sipped from it.

Setting the open bottle on the table, he finally curled behind Nat, draping his arm around her, and drifted to sleep.

He woke to feather kisses on his lips, and opened his eyes to see Nat smiling at him. Almost the very second he opened his eyes, Nat grimaced in pain and her eyes streaked golden.

Nick sat up and quickly grabbed the bottle on the table and turned back to Nat. Pulling her into a sitting position, he placed the mouth of the bottle to her lips and coaxed, "Drink."

The aroma of the thick fluid attacked Nat's nose and she upended the bottle, drinking the remaining blood. The pain started to subside after drinking a few more bottles and she started to slow down. She set down the last bottle, and looked around, confused.

"You just need to adjust, Nat. Your vision and hearing are more sensitive now. Soon it will be natural to you."

"What happens next, Nick?"

"Well, it is almost day, so there isn't much time right now. As a young vampire, you will need to sleep during the day, even if you are protected from the light. Tonight when we wake up, I'll start to teach you things."

"We go to sleep? I just woke up."

"Believe me, you won't be able to resist it when the sun comes up," Nick explained. "But what I said is that it is almost day, not day yet," Nick teased, "and I think I can find something to do until the sun shows up." Nick lightly trailed his fingers along her neck and between her breasts, as his groin tightened with arousal.

Nat's eyes grew a rich gold, and her fangs dropped at his suggestive teasing. Nick gently pushed Nat back against the pillows and kissed her lips, his body quickly responding to the emergence of the vampire in Nat. He worked his way along her cheek and ear, and neck.

A growl escaped Nat's chest at the intense sensations Nick was producing. She ached deep inside, but it was a different aching than she had ever felt.

Nick could feel her readiness as a new vampire, and he plunged his engorged cock into her, pumping into her with his fullness. Leaning close to her mouth, he turned his neck to her. With her arms around him, she cried out, the aching still unsatisfied.

"Bite me, Nat. It's what you crave. Bite where you smell my blood the strongest."

At Nick's instruction, Nat's fangs sliced into his neck, releasing his blood into her mouth. She drank as her body bucked against his. Then she felt Nick sink his teeth into her shoulder.

Their simultaneous orgasms rushed into each other, and the commingling of their blood was all-consuming as they drank without restraint. She reached into his very essence as she felt him reach into her, more as one than she ever imagined was possible.

Nick pulled his fangs from her shoulder and Nat followed his example, licking the remaining blood droplets. Nick rolled to his side, totally spent, pulling Nat with him.

Overwhelmed with the rush of their bond-enhanced orgasms, Nat murmured, "I never knew it could feel that wonderful, that I could feel you inside me, surrounding me. I never felt anything like it."

Kissing her lips, Nick whispered, "Sharing our blood makes that closeness possible, feeling each other's thoughts, emotions. We can make love as often as we want, and I never have to be afraid of hurting you." He pushed deeper into their link, caressing her with his love, allowing all he felt for her to flow through their link.

Flooded with the brand-new sensations, unable to fully convey what she felt, she could only whisper, "I love you."

"Tell me in here, Nat. Through our link." Nick placed her hand over his heart.

She hadn't even thought of expressing herself through their link, but it made perfect sense. At Nick's prompting, she reached through their link, letting all her love pour over him. She showed him how much she loved him, how happy she was to be in his world with him.

Nick smiled at her touch, finally seeing all she felt for him, despite all she knew about him. Her love enveloped him, as those three little words never could. He pulled her close, nuzzling her hair, and confided, "I've dreamed of this night for a long time, bringing you to my world, so I could share my love with you forever. So I could express my love to you completely with all that I am." Reaching through their bond, he told her, "Even an eternity does not seem like enough time to show you how much I love you."

The intimate pleasure of their bond was interrupted by the sound of the shutters engaging. He watched Nat as her eyes suddenly became heavy with sleep, struggling to keep her eyes open, not wanting to give in to slumber just yet.

"Don't fight it, Nat. Go to sleep. I'll be here with you," he soothed. Kissing her forehead, he watched her surrender to sleep in the comfort of his arms. Holding her safely in his arms, Nick thought of all that had brought them to this moment, together at last. He drifted asleep, content with the direction of his life for the first time in a very long while.


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