Next Knight
by C.T. Brennan


Three weeks and Lacroix was puzzled by his actions. "When does and
insane man realize he's going crazy?" Lacroix mumbled to himself
under his breath, "or does he?"

A throaty moan drew his attention to the bedroom door. His guest was
awake once again. "After a thousand years, I am beginning to
metamorphose into a pathetic creature just like Nicholas became" he
muttered to himself as he walked towards the moaning sound.

He opened the door silently so not disturb the figure rolling
restlessly in his bed. Of all the events he had witnessed in his life,
the eruption of Vesvious, the fall of the Roman empire, the rise in
its ashes of a third Reich.... would he have dreamed he would be in
this predicament.

"Nick?" Natalie's voice broke the silence.

Lacroix approached, "My dear, Nicholas is no longer with us. Seems
his faith has led him to a much warmer reality."

Natalie shook the cobwebs from her dazed mind. When she saw Lacroix
she could not control the fear which flashed through her or the quick
breath she sucked in and held unknowingly.

"What have you done with Nick?!"

Lacroix broke into a slow chuckle. "What have I done? You lay there,
my good doctor, and have the audacity to even think you are without
blame, or accountability for this matter?"

He practically spit the words out," Where will justice land in your
life, Natalie Lambert? Lacroix moved closer to the bed.

"Ahhh, the innocent image you manifest. Is it only I who sees the
scarlet letter burned into your soul, Doctor." Lacroix's temper was
rising but he held back, " Tell me you do not recall a single event
from Nicholas' loft?"

Natalie shook her head in a vain hope to shake the fur balls from her
brain. " I remember Nick saying we would be together forever...that
he would not leave me no matter what happened. Then, the images came
one after another." she stumbled, "It was Nick's soul, his life, his
death, his rebirth with you. I don't remember anything after that,
Lacroix." She looked up at him, " Tell me what happened... Please."

"It would give me great pleasure, my dear." Lacroix moved closer to
the bed. "I tried so hard to end Nicholas' inane search for humanity
in so many ways over the centuries. The final irony is overwhelming.
All I had to do is to just had to let him love you." Natalie cringed
at his words. " That love... That faith you both were so enamored
with three weeks ago, put an end to his quest."

Natalie's memory flashed before her. It was Lacroix and he was saying
to Nick about having time for a burial and then she saw Nick with
blood red tears in his eyes. " I saw you talking to Nick. You were
talking to him about life or something." her words trailed off.

It seemed painful even to a cold heart like Lacroix's. " You are
right Dr. Lambert. In fact I was telling Nick that Life is a gift,
sweeter than the freshest peach and more precious than a gilded jewel..."

"Don't trade a treasure for an empty box," Natalie interjected after
a flood of memories splashed in her mind, " I remember now, barely.
Then it is all black. What happened Lacroix? Where is Nick?"

Where was Nick indeed, thought Lacroix. "It was a matter of choice,
you see." He moved close enough to her so his words were clear, but
came out a whisper. " I had a choice to save my son or to save you.
It's quite simple,my dear. I chose you. "

How many countless others had Lacroix dispatched from this world? He
looked over at Natalie only to see she had passed out on the bed.
Yes, my dear doctor, I quite understand your reaction. I am at a loss
to explain the outcome of that night myself.

-----------

Joe Reese could not remember a more tragic day. Finding Nick Knight's
body impaled by a seven foot long stake had equaled his worst day in
Vietnam. Then, to discover that his Medical examiner, Natalie Lambert,
was missing. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves then pulled
the metallic drawer from the sterile wall.

"God Almighty..." he closed his eyes then slowly opened them again.
Who was the hack M.E. who took Lambert's job? They had not even
bothered to take the stake from Knight's chest. It looked like they
just sawed the ends off to make the body fit it in the drawer. Reese
took another deep breath. Nick had no family... no friends, except
maybe for Lambert and she was the number one suspect in Knight's
death.

"Nick I hate to disturb you, but I need that piece of wood for
evidence." Who was he talking to for Christ sake? "I always thought
you were a good cop, not very grounded in reality, but a good cop."
With a firm grip, Joe Reese yanked the stake out in one fluid motion.
" Reese said to the empty room. First Vetter, now Knight. If it kept
up like this, he'd be writing parking tickets the rest of his career.

-----

She was awake again, but Natalie could not bear to open her eyes. God
Nick, what did I do to you? Damnit! You said we'd be together...
forever.

Sobs racked her body again. Faith...We never factored in evil, Nick.
We never considered Lacroix has the evil puppeteer at the end did we?
She opened her eyes listlessly. "I am sorry, Nick ... wherever you
are."

"Such emotionalism. The very thing I despise in mortals. Somehow,
though, it is ...quite touching on you , Natalie." Lacroix said as he
pushed open the door.

" It's been some time since I looked in my pantry, but I assure you
this soup will be quite surprising. I got the recipe from Catherine
de Medici." Lacroix place the bowl at her side. " It was the
Renaissance...we were all cooking then."

She was hungry, even for food from this monster, but she had
questions to ask, " Lacroix," she began, "why did you choose me? You
did not bring me across. You kept me mortal ... you let Nick die."
There, she had finally said it aloud. Nick was dead.

"That is, what you mortals call the $64,000 question, my dear. I can
only say this...I have grown quite attached to you." He made a bitter
face. "In so many way, you repulse me, but I see a beauty in you that
reminds me of another." Lacroix's eyes shaded over as he thought of
Fleur.

"Lacroix, as soon as I am able, I will be joining Nick. You can not
break my faith. I am not afraid of you." Natalie pulled at the night
shirt that must have been Lacroix's. It ripped open exposing her neck
to him, " You will help me be with Nick."

Lacroix looked at the gaping hole in his favorite shirt. A hint of
her left nipple stubbornly poked through. He could hear the blood
rushing in her veins. He licked his lips as he stared uncontrollably
at the smooth skin on her neck. He was hungry, famished was a better
word for it actually, but something held him back.

"Natalie, I have spent the better half of the past month bringing you
back to a reasonable facsimile of health. I have no intention of
taking your life from you now or ever."

Even as he spoke, Lacroix could not believe his words, "Even now I
am just understanding ,Natalie, this predicament I have created.
Apparently, I love you more than I loved Nicholas, or Divia or even
Fleur. That is why I chose you over them all." Lacroix spun on his
heels and left Natalie alone in the room to digest his words.
-----------

As Nick opened his eyes. He saw through a sea of gold and red. The
need for blood was more than he could stand.Where the hell was he? A
coffin? Forcing himself to calm down, he realized he was surrounded
by metal. He spied two channels of light streaming through a crack at
his feet. With his last remaining ounce of strength, Nick kicked out
the wall at his feet and scurried out into the morgue.

"Good. I can get some blood from Nat's office." he said to himself.

He smelled the mortals before they even rounded the corner. God, he
needed too feed desperately. "

"I saw Lambert's college picture on TV last night. Man, I wish I
could have laid her before she took off ", the young male voice said.

"Me too, man. I would have loved to pop her right here amongst the
stiffs, but then I would have ended up like Knight... wearing a wood
stake to bed." the even younger male voice chuckled.

" She must be one cold bitch to leave him there for Capt. Reese, of
all people, to find..."

Nick felt dizzy with from the conversation. How long had he been in
the morgue? His eyes teared up as he remembered Nat on the floor of
his loft. He still felt the slicing pain from Lacroix's aim with the
stake. Then what? What happened? Nick moved through the halls and
found Nat's office. He could barely smell her here. There was an
overwhelming smell of Aqua Velvet that reminded him of Schanke.
Luckily there was a cooler of blood samples on the desk which Nick
liberated quite easily.

-----------

Natalie was used to the unexpected and unexplained after six years of
being involved with Nick, but she damned sure could not believe her
ears now. She managed to pull herself up and out of the bed. She was
light-headed and sick to her stomach, but she made it to the living
room where Lacroix sat quite casually on his couch.

"Don't lecture me about scarlet letters of the soul when you haven't
had a soul in two thousand years, Lacroix." She leaned heavily
against a kitchen counter. " I doubt you ever had one. What's worse,
you pride yourself for it. You hold it up as a trophy for all to see
and admire. I pity you. You can not even comprehend love for anyone
other than yourself." Natalie was feeling breathless and weak.

" I am so sorry you feel that way Natalie. However, It will ease my
burden of what follows next. You will not be with Nick for sometime,
my dear. That scarlet letter will grow quite cumbersome over the next
30 years or so..." Lacroix's words were cut short by the crash from
his apartment door as Joe Reese and ten uniformed officers bullied
their way in. "unless ,of course, you they give you the death penalty.
" He could not control the smile that engulfed his face as Natalie's
face grew ashen.
------

"Doctor Natalie Lambert, you are under arrest for the murder of
police detective Nicholas Knight. Officer Bates, read Dr. Lambert her
Miranda rights." Joe Reese mouthed the words but could not believe
he was arresting Natalie.

" Mr. Lacroix, how odd you should be at the center of yet another
murder investigation. If you would be so kind as to accompany me down
to headquarters. I have a few questions to ask you regarding Doctor
Lambert and the deceased Dect. Knight..."

Natalie felt the numbness rise. "You think I killed Nick? Captain,
you don't think this do you?"

This caught Reese off guard, "Uh, well... Dr. Lambert I advise you to
obtain an attorney as soon as you can. The Crown has a considerably
strong case against you..." Reese did not know what else to say. The
look in Natalie's eyes brought about a split second of doubt to his
consciousness, "For starters Natalie, where the HELL have you been
for three weeks? You can not tell me you did not see the TV spots
we've been running trying to locate you? And, how did your pocket
book end up on Nick's couch, or how did your skin end up under his
finger nails, or how did your blood on his shirt? For crying outloud,
Natalie, You are in forensics, how do you explain your finger prints
being all over the stake?"

Stake? What stake. It dawned on Natalie that she never had asked
Lacroix exactly how Nick had died. She did not remember a stake even
being at Nick's loft, but, then again, his loft was like a museum. It
was crammed full of items he had collected over the past eight
centuries. Natalie turned to face Lacroix who appeared entirely too
amused by this for her comfort, "Please help me, Lacroix. I will do
whatever you want."

As if he was waiting for his cue, Lacroix stepped forward, " Captain
Reese, we will be glad to assist you in anyway." Lacroix placed his
arm around Natalie's shoulders, " I was with my fianci the night
Nicholas was murdered. And for the past three weeks, we have been
celebrating our engagement in Bermuda. We only learned of his death
just hours ago."

Reese started speaking with a puzzled look on his face, "Fianci'?"

"Yes, Captain Reese. Dr. Lambert has granted me the great honor of
becoming my wife. We were quite indisposed at the time of Nicholas'
tragic death, I assure you." Lacroix leaned into Natalie and placed a
kiss on her cheek.

" Don't worry, darling. I will take care of everything ...and soon
you will call me husband." Natalie's knees gave away beneath her, but
Lacroix held her up as she was handcuffed and led out into the
hallway. Yes, a nice Fall wedding would in order. A formal midnight
wedding with Natalie beneath piles and piles of white silk. Then, of
course, the honeymoon... Lacroix could hardly contain himself.
-------
After five pints of plasma , Nick was beginning to feel more like
himself, but he still felt a little weak. The name plate on the desk
read "Marty Frank, MD." Just how long had he been in that morgue
drawer anyway? He fished an orange peel-covered, newspaper out of
the trash can. "What the hell?" Nick said to himself.

"Largest Manhunt in Toronto History for Killer Coroner." the headline
blared. He needed to get help, but from whom? It would not go over
very well for him to prance into Reese's office. After all, he was
dead. More importantly what happened to Nat? She must have left his
loft somehow, although she was too weak to have lived much longer
after he fed off her. Lacroix was the only answer. Now how was he
going to get out of this building without being recognized?

------

Natalie had never been on this side of the jail's walls before. It
was strange how she never noticed just how small these cells actually
were. Given the events over the past three weeks, most rooms felt
like they were closing in on her lately. With Nick gone... Natalie
fought back the tears at the thought... she really did not care what
happened to her anymore. She had not made up her mind whether she
would follow through with her promise to marry Lacroix or whether she
would confess to Nick's murder in order to avoid the marriage. The
confession would not be far from the truth. She did kill Nick. After
six years of trying to change him into something he was not, and
forcing him into a disastrous attempt to bring her across, she may
not have staked him, but she was responsible. Again the tears welled
up, but she did not stop them this time. "Sorry Nick. I never wanted
the last thing you ever remembered to be that you had taken too much..."

"Oh how the mighty have fallen." Natalie did not have to turn to
realize Lacroix was there. " I am sure Nicholas would be touched by
your sentiments, Natalie. Unfortunately, If there is an afterlife,
Nicholas will never hear your pleas over the screams of the tortured
souls around him. I brought him life eternal, but you gave him an
afterlife of pain and anguish. Surely, now, you must see that your
only recourse is to pray there is no life beyond the pale... that
faith is only a five letter word mortals wrap themselves up in at
night to keep the boogie man away. I know what you are thinking, my
dear. Should I live or die now that Nick is gone? Perhaps you should
consider what Nick would want for you. Should you spend eternity with
Lucifer or live out your days in my care?"

" I don't think there would be much difference between the two
choices?" Natalie replied bitterly.

She let out a sigh as a signal of her surrender. "Lacroix, I promised
I would do whatever you wanted if you helped me and I intend to
uphold my part of the agreement. Even if it means selling my soul to
you for 30 pieces of silver."

Natalie crossed the cell to face him. "My mortal life is yours and
as for what happens after, that is for someone who is far greater
than you to decide. Just remember this Lacroix. My body may be yours
but my heart will always belong to Nick. I only hope he forgives me
for what I must do to save myself."

" I am glad you agree that I am the best possible choice for you. Now,
I have something for you." Natalie saw a flash of light emerge from
Lacroix's jacket pocket. She gasped as she recognized the object for
what it was. A engagement ring which had an obscenely big diamond
embedded in it. " This makes it official, Natalie. Will you marry me?"

Tears began to rain down Natalie's already tear streaked face. "Yes...
" Lacroix placed the ring on Natalie's left ring finger.

"I only wish Nicholas was here to see this. He was the closest thing
I had to family. Of course there is always Janette..."

Reese could not believe the sloppy work of his detectives. Lacroix
had provided the names of several restaurant employees who placed Lambert
at the "Mitzpah" during the time of Nick's murder. Reese absentmindedly
fingered the vacation photos, plane tickets and hotel bills from
Bermuda which Lacroix had eagerly turned over to him an hour earlier.
Still it did not explain the physical evidence found at the murder
scene though.

"Here she is Captain." the officer voice brought Reese out of his
train of thought. Natalie's face was puffy from what must have been
hours of crying. Hell, his own eyes had been anything but dry lately.

"Natalie, please have a seat. I just wanted to have an informal talk
with you if that is okay. It is strictly off the record."

Natalie could not help but feel the bitterness rise in her throat."
Does this mean I am no longer under arrest? That I am no longer a
suspect? I am sure that my attorney would consider this conversation
to be coercion at best."

" I know I probably deserved that ," he began, " In the past 12 hours,
my gut has been telling me you did not kill Nick. I just need to
find the proof to clear you."

"What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I have worked
here for over 6 years." Natalie's eyes were filled with anger. " I
gave everything I had to this department. Only now, I see things a
lot clearer. You aren't looking for killers and crooks, Captain. You
are looking to assign blame to the first person who remotely fits the
profile."

"Natalie I am trying to help you. You have to believe me. We can call
your attorney if you want, but this whole conversation is off the
record. I swear it." Reuse did not want to lose her now or he would
have no choice but to continue to her arraignment. Natalie did not
move so he crossed his desk and closed his door. "Would you like to
have a seat?"

" I would like to have these handcuffs removed. I feel like a
criminal." That struck Natalie as funny the minute she said it. They
did think she was a criminal.

" Sorry I can't do that. After Vetter's death, we had to clamp down
on our policy. Please Natalie have a seat." Natalie sat down heavily.
She had never felt so tired in her life.

"Natalie, I have all kinds of physical evidence placing you at Nick's
loft. I know you and Knight were close and I always assumed you two
were involved, but your recent engagement makes me think I was wrong.
If there was a relationship between you two, it would explain how
some of the evidence may have gotten there prior to that night."

Natalie breathed a heavy sigh. It was not getting any easier to talk
about Nick. " We had a unique relationship, Captain. We were very
close and spent a great deal of time together. I would say I was
probably at his loft at least three times a week. That would explain
many of the finger prints you found."

"Did you ever touch the stake we found," Reese paused, "umm... in
Nick's chest?"

" Captain, I don't know what the stake looks like that you found
there. Nick's loft was like a museum. I have probably touched all
kinds of things there, I would have to see the stake to be sure."

"I am not sure how to ask the next question, Natalie, but I need to
know how your blood got onto his shirt and how your skin ended up
under his finger nails." Reese felt a blush rise to his face, " Did
you two have sex that night?"

Now it was Natalie's turn to blush. She was now thankful that Lacroix
had "prepped" her for this line of questioning.

"I went to visit Nick that night to tell him that I was engaged. My
relationship with Lacroix moved quite quickly and I wanted Nick to
hear it from me."

God, she only hoped her total disdain for Lacroix did not creep into
her voice. " Nick and I had never been sexually involved. Nick grew
up with some old fashioned values. When I told him about the
engagement he took it quite well actually. He said he was happy for
us, but that he always regretted not making love to me. Not to sound
clichi', Captain, but one thing led to another and before I knew it
we were having sex. It was an accident."

Natalie looked up wondering whether Reese believed any of her story.
" What happened after that?" Reese asked.

"When I realized what had happened, I was scared that Lacroix would
find out. Then, I realized I was late meeting Lacroix for dinner. I
begged Nick not to tell anyone what had happened then I left. That
was the last time I saw him."

Reese could see how uncomfortable Natalie was getting with his
questions but he had to get as much information from her as possible.
" Natalie, I just have a few more things to ask. Did you have any
scratches on you when you left?"

Natalie began to wonder if she would ever have to answer these
questions in a court of law while under oath. She never had been a
good liar.

" I don't remember any, but I can say that it was rather," Natalie's
voice cracked as she choked up again, "...rather intense sex, Captain.
It is entirely possible that there would have been some scratching
and biting involved." Natalie hung her head. She could not believe
this. She just wanted it to be over.

"Natalie, I am going to call the Crown office and have the charges
dropped against you. Your fianci' provided enough information to this
office to cast a reasonable doubt in my mind that you killed Nick.
I'll continue our investigation though and I will have to get your
statement on record." Reese felt 75 years old at this point. "
Natalie I am sorry."

"Sorry about the fact that you plastered my face all over town, or
that you tracked me down like a dog?" Natalie's face reddened.

"I will release a statement to the media stating you are no longer a
suspect. I meant to say I am sorry about Nick. I know you cared for
him."

"No, Captain, you are wrong. I didn't just care for him. I loved him.
" Natalie rose to her feet. " Now will you take these damn things
off and find someone to give me a ride home?"
-----
Nick was surprised as he entered the Raven. He could not believe how
quickly Lacroix had been able to clean the place up after Divia's
visit. Nick felt a little foolish with the Blue Jays cap on his head,
but it kept him from being recognized. All he needed was for someone
to get a good look at him and discover he was not as dead as he
supposed to be. It was early at the Raven. There were plenty of
mortals but not a vampire in sight. Nick downed a glass of a rather
fruity human vintage and settled back with his second when he picked
up some idle conversation just above him.

" I can't believe the Nightcrawler is getting married. Such a doom
and gloom type guy would make the perfect match for my ex-wife." The
voice above said with an evil chuckle.

"I don't think I would want to unleash your ex-wife even on a guy
like him. She is a real bloodsucker!" his companion replied.

Nick smiled at the thought. Maybe the only one who could tame Lacroix
would be a wife. Nick focused back onto the voices above.

" You think my ex-wife is a bloodsucker? The Nightcrawler is marrying
the Coroner from Hell. I give him two weeks before he wakes up with a
stake in his chest." The first voice said.

" Now wait a minute. They did release Lambert for lack of evidence.
After seeing her picture on TV, even I'd run the risk waking up with
a stake in my chest just to give her my stake once a day. If you know
what I mean..." the reply was drowned out by laughing.

Nick knew he'd been out of it for three weeks, but this did not make
sense. At least he knew Natalie had been released and was probably at
her apartment. Nick chugged the last of the "wine" in his glass and
took off in a hurry.
-----

Natalie had never known a shower to feel so warm and comforting. She
felt as though she had not been clean in weeks and then realized it
was probably true. " well, now what Lambert?" she said to the shower
head. " Nick is gone, my job is gone, I am public enemy number one,
and I am engaged to marry a Roman general with a Hitler complex."

"I knew Adolph Hitler. He was a friend of mine, but I am no Adolph
Hitler, Natalie." Natalie jumped at Lacroix's voice. She looked up to
see him peering over the shower door at her.

"I find that to be of little comfort. Lacroix. However, I wonder who
it is you compare yourself .." Natalie was surprisingly not modest as
she continued to rinse the soap from her legs.

" I compare myself to no one." Lacroix said in a slightly angered
voice, " They compare themselves to me, and I have not met one who is
my equal..."

"You seem to feel that is something to be proud of, Lacroix. I do
not see it that way at all. When will you discover that life, real
life, is the true challenge you need to face." Natalie stepped out of
the shower carefully. " Would you please hand me the towel?"

Lacroix slowly turned to grab the towel by the sink. It had been at
least two centuries since he had seen a mortal female without her
clothes. Nick had always had the eye for women and Natalie was no
exception. She was beautiful. Her breasts were full and her stomach
flat. Her hips were round and smooth. They flowed into her thighs
like fresh poured cream. "Please , do not catch a chill, my dear. We
have a wedding to attend."
------

Nick tuned into CERK radio on the way over to Natalie's apartment
hoping to catch something from Lacroix about Natalie. However, they
were running a repeat show from the Nightcrawler Archives. Nick's
memory seemed to be coming back to him slowly and he was able to
piece together some of the recent past. Evidently, Lacroix had
granted his request and driven the stake into his chest three weeks
ago.Captain Reese must have come to the loft to check on him and
found him there. Lacroix was the only one who could have saved Nat.
Since he had seen pictures of Nat on TV outside the courthouse during
the day, it was obvious Lacroix did not bring Nat across. Now, that
Nat was released from jail, he should be able to catch up with her at
her apartment. He only hoped she would listen to him and understand
he could not bring her across that night. He would rather die than
condemn her to his hell. He hoped she would listen to him tonight and
forgive him. He just wanted to hold her and tell her she was right
about him. He did love her. He wanted to tell her over and over again. " I will
make love to you tonight, Natalie Lambert. I only hope you still love
me," Nick thought to himself.
----------------
Natalie always pictured her wedding day to perfect. An outdoor
wedding on a beautiful spring day, with the birds singing in the
background as she turned to her and uttered those words, "I do."
Natalie started laughing. She would have cried but her tear ducts had
long ago dried up.

" I am glad you are in such good spirits, " Lacroix spoke breaking
the silence in the limo. "For some reason I thought you would be less
animated at this point in time."

"Lacroix, I was thinking of the wedding day I always thought I would
have. When I see how distorted this whole event is finally being
played out, I can't help but laugh. I only what to know one thing
from you, If I may ask." Natalie could not believe the boldness she
heard in her own voice.

"And what question is that?" Lacroix replied.

" Why? Why do you want to marry me when it is so apparent to both of
us that I do not want you. "

Lacroix turned to look out of the limo window at the Niagara Falls
wedding chapel. He had picked this spot because it was non-
denominational, thus, there were no crosses and holy water to make
him "uncomfortable."

"I have studied Nicholas quite closely over the past few years. I
could never understand his compulsion to be mortal or his drive to
live in a mortal world. I, lastly, could not stomach his attraction
to you." Lacroix closed his eyes. " I created Nicholas and tried to
mold him into my image, but he would not bend under my influence so I
gave him the space to be whatever he wanted to be. When I saw how
much he loved you, but how he would not, could not, be close to you,
I thought I had won. He was truly miserable and the longer you stayed
in his life, the more he became mine everyday. The more you
pressured him into being something he could not be, the greater the
tide became. Finally, at the end, he gave up and slowly sank. He
ended his misery by ending your life, or so he thought. And I ended
his. I could not stand his weakness."

Natalie thought it was impossible for her to cry again, but the tears
came again. "You blame me for taking Nick from you? And now as
punishment, you want me as your wife?"

"Not as punishment, Natalie, as a trade. You took my son from me and
I am claiming your life in forfeit. You will be my wife and I will
give you everything that Nick seemed so incapable of giving you, "
Lacroix faced her now. " I will give you Love, marriage and a family.
Nick was just too narrow-minded to see that this was something he
could have had at anytime with you. I will show you it can be done."

Natalie felt the nauseous feeling return to her stomach once again. "
You mean you knew of a way that Nick and I could have been together,
but you never told him?"

Lacroix opened the limo door, " I believe it is time for us to go,
Natalie. And to answer your question...yes. I would never have risked
losing him to you by telling him the answer. Quite a fitting end to
our little adventure, don't you think? How is your Faith holding up
now, Natalie?"
-------
Nick was puzzled. It was obvious that Natalie had been here minutes
before. Her lights were on in the apartment and there was still steam
in the bathroom from a shower she had taken. He also sensed Lacroix
had been here too and this filled him with dread. Nick looked down
and found a torn page from a phone book. " Niagara Love Chapel - Non
denominational." It was all he had to go on. Nick took flight at
vampire speed.
-------

It was a blur to Natalie. She barely remembered signing the marriage
license,or the picking of music.A cheap plastic bouquet of flowers
was thrust into her hands. What was the minister saying?

" Do you Natalie Lambert take Lucien Lacroix to be your lawful wedded
husband?"

This was crazy she thought. The jab to her ribs brought her back to
reality. She looked at Lacroix and saw a hint of his fangs protruding
from his lips. I have to do this or all these people will be killed
by this monster.

" I do." Natalie whispered.

" Do you Lucien Lacroix take Natalie Lambert to be your lawful wedded
wife?"

" I most certainly do." It had been a long time since Lacroix had
felt such a feeling of final victory.

" Is there anyone present who objects to the union of this man and
this woman, speak now or forever hold your peace." The minister held
the pause for dramatic effect. " With the powers vested in me by the
commonwealth of Ontario..." His words were cut short by a scream
such as he had never heard before.

"I object!" Nick could not control the anger in his voice. Nick's
eyes were bright red and his fangs were bared as he flung himself at
Lacroix. " Damn you to Hell, Lacroix."

" Nick, stop!" Natalie could not believe her eyes, Nick was alive!

He would not last long against Lacroix, though. Natalie grabbed Nick
by the shoulders. She knew she would not be able to pull him off
Lacroix, but she was hoping to get his attention. " Nick, it is not
his fault. I agreed to marry him."

The words hit Nick like a sledge hammer. "You are marrying him by
choice? That's not possible."

"Nicholas, I have already killed you once this month. If you don't
want to repeat the experience, I suggest you leave before I cease to
take pity on you." Lacroix's eyes had returned to normal but the
fangs were still out.

" Lacroix, I need to talk to Nick ," Natalie felt very weak, "could
you give us a minute?"

Nick was stunned a second time to see Lacroix agree with the request
and silently leave the chapel.

" Nick, I am so glad that you are alive. I don't even want to know
how..."

"Are you going to marry him , Nat?" Nick practically whispered the
question.

" Nick, I agreed to marry him after he saved my life. I really don't
know of a way out of it. If I don't marry him, he will kill both of
us. I can't let that happen again. Nick, you were right. It is time
for you to move on. There is nothing left for you here." Natalie felt
the tears again.

" Natalie, I will leave only if you tell me that you do not love me.
Only then, will I know that there is nothing here for me." Nick
placed his hand on her chin and forced Natalie to look into his eyes.

" I can't do that Nick," Natalie closed her eyes. It was too painful
to look at him. Nick gently bent over and kissed each closed eye lid.
Slowly, he moved his lips down and kissed each cheek, finally his
lips met hers. It was a gentle kiss that Nick held until Natalie
pushed him away. " I have to do this, Nick. Please understand."

Nick pulled Natalie back into his arms. " Natalie, I love you. My
heart has been yours for sometime but for some damn reason I would
not allow myself to love you. I want to love you now, if you will
have me... tell me that you still love me, Natalie."

Natalie knew it would be impossible to lie to Nick. "It's my turn to
not allow myself to love you, Nick. Don't you see? This is Lacroix's
final act of revenge against you...against us. He has won. I will be
his wife and you will be here to watch it happen."

"Bravo." Lacroix clapped his hands in faux applause. " I haven't been
this touched in centuries, not since George abdicated his throne for
that Wallace woman." Lacroix walked down the isle and took a look
around the chapel.

" Oh dear, we seemed to have scared off the clergy. Nicholas, If I
recall you were ordained as a monk. Would you mind doing the honors?"
Lacroix waved his hands toward the front of the chapel.

Nick walked over to Lacroix. "Please do not do this, Lacroix. I can
feel your love for me even now as we stand here. You are my closest
friend, don't allow this to happen. "

Lacroix put his hand on Nick's shoulder. "I will let you have her,
Nicholas. But you must give me something in return. You must kill
again for me."

Nick shook his head in agreement. "When you ask, I will kill for you.
But you must leave Natalie alone."

Lacroix's gripped tightened and Nick flinched just a little. "Agreed.
Heed this warning, Nicholas. If you ever harm Natalie, in any way, at
anytime, I will bring such wrath upon you, it would shame even Divia."

" Lacroix, if I hurt her, I would invite the pain you would bring."
Nick pried his shoulder free and as he walked towards Natalie he felt
the rush of air as Lacroix took his leave.

Natalie could not hear what they were saying. She gasped when she saw
Lacroix leave. Was it over at last? Nick walked towards her with a
smile spreading across his face. " Dr. Lambert, tell me that you love
me so we can get the hell out of here." Nick once again wrapped his
arms around her. Natalie buried her head in his chest and was
astounded that her eyes could fill with tears yet again. This time
the tears did not burn.

It took a few minutes for Natalie to form the words under all the
emotion, " I love you Nicholas de Brabant. There's only one problem."

Nick was puzzled, "What is it?"

Natalie motioned to the window. " The sun is rising so it makes it
rather hard to get the hell out of here at the moment." Natalie
wrapped her hands around Nick's neck. " What will we ever find to do
for the next 12 hours, Nick?" She playfully brushed her lips to his.

" I have a few ideas, Natalie, but I don't think we should try them
in a church." Nick kissed the inside of her neck and was pleased to
hear a soft moan come from Natalie.

" Nick, I have faith that we will be forgiven..." She pressed up
against Nick and allowed herself to sink further into his arms.

The End