From: "DragonLady" <flubbs@f...>

Date: Mon Dec 31, 2001 4:24 pm

Subject: Adultus:Of Eternal Bonds

This story is a sequel to "Gentling the Beast" though it will stand on its own. Nick, Nat, and the other characters, especially LaCroix don't belong to me. I'm only borrowing them briefly and then returning them to that dusty shelf where TPTB have left them. Part 2 contains explicit relations between Nick and Natalie. If this offends, then please make liberal use of the delete key.

Permission to archive granted to Mel's FK Fanfic site, FKFanfic2, Nick & Nat Adult, JADFE and the RavenAwards. Anyone else is welcome to do so, just drop me a line so I can visit. Feedback is always welcome, flames will be passed off to LaCroix. Enjoy.


Of Eternal Bonds

Nick sighed contentedly as a pleasant warmth enveloped his back. He wiggled against it and sighed again. He was lying in bed, warm and comfortable. Startled, his eyes flew open as something flitted lightly down his chest to his belly. He carefully lifted the pink and white comforter and peered beneath it. His eyes widened as he sucked in a sharp breath. An arm was draped across his bare hip and slender fingers traced lazy circles around his navel. He dropped the comforter. Panic crashed through him like a tidal wave sweeping over a rocky shore and he froze realizing he wasn't in his own bed. He closed his eyes and willed his breathing to slow. He opened his eyes and turned slightly to look behind him. A gentle smile crept across his face as he gazed at the woman whose soft, warm body pressed tightly to his. 'Natalie', he thought as his memories of the night before began to surface. He tenderly brushed a few stray auburn curls away from her face, his fingertips tracing the curve of her cheek. Her sandalwood and roses scent surrounded him and he inhaled deeply. He kissed her forehead lightly, and then slipped out of bed.

He padded quietly to the bathroom and closed the door. He turned on the faucet and leaning over the sink splashed cool water on his face. He raised his head and stared into glowing silver-blue eyes. He leaned closer to the mirror, his mouth open in disbelief. "What the hell?" He felt a presence pressing down on him. He turned swiftly, his searching gaze scanning the room for the intruder. He pressed his palms against his eyes and shook his head. He spun around to stare again at his eerie reflection. "Who are you?" he whispered as he searched his mirror image for an answer. "What are you?" he questioned. The vampire within him surged forward. "No!" he croaked. He sunk back against the wall, his shoulders sagging. 'I'm going mad,' he thought as he stared woefully at his reflection. The vampire retreated. He could feel it lurking in the shadows of his mind, silently waiting. He closed his eyes and tried to look inside himself. He imagined himself warily approaching the vampire. 'Nat said not to push it away', he remembered. He hesitantly held out his hand and the vampire eyed it cautiously. He could feel fear, uncertainty and a brief flare of hope as the creature before him studied his offering. It reached out slowly, its fingers petting his palm and its golden eyes wide with wonder. Acceptance and contentment washed over him. It smiled slightly, the tips of its fangs barely visible as it took a step back, and then it vanished into the darkness.

Nick swayed slightly on his feet as he opened his eyes and found himself once again in Natalie's bathroom. He shook his head, the tension draining away as he watched his now blue-eyed reflection. He realized he was hungry as he ran his fingers through his unruly blond hair. Maybe this was all a hunger-induced delusion and he would feel better after he had fed. He squared his shoulders and stepped to the door. Glancing down as he reached for the doorknob it dawned on him that he wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing. Frowning, he reached for the pink terrycloth robe hanging on the back of the door. He shivered. 'No way,' he thought, 'I'll go naked first. ' He grabbed a towel hanging over the shower door and wrapped it around his waist. He opened the door and stepped into the bedroom. He glanced at the bed where Natalie was curled up on her side with the comforter pulled up to her chin. He could hear her steady breathing and the strong beat of her heart. He smiled as he went into the living room. He stopped suddenly when he saw the torn clothing scattered across the floor behind the sofa. More intense memories and images flashed through his mind. He picked up her blouse and skirt and his shirt. Sadly he draped them over the back of the sofa. He found his slacks and slid them on. Then he folded the towel and dropped it on the dining room table as he went into the kitchen. He searched the refrigerator for a blood pack and warmed it in the microwave, then filled a glass and retreated to the sofa. He sat silently, sipping the dark liquid as he tried to make sense of what had happened over the last 24 hours. 'It wasn't a dream,' he thought as his fingertips caressed the silky material of the ruined blouse. 'I really did it.' He frowned. 'No, *it* did it. And I couldn't protect her.' The heavy weight of guilt and self-loathing settled on his chest crushing his spirit. What had he done? He wanted her. He needed her. But the violence of their initial coupling revolted and frightened him. He hadn't thought he was capable of treating her that way. 'Obviously,' he thought bitterly, 'the vampire is quite capable of it.' And what of this silver-eyed creature he saw in the mirror? What was he becoming? Was it as dangerous as the vampire? Or was this new creature part vampire and part something else? He'd spent the day with Natalie and she'd lived through it. Could he trust himself with her now? He shook his head. That was a dangerous thought.

"Nick?" her soft voice called from behind him.

"Nat!" he turned quickly nearly spilling his glass. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

She smiled warmly at him. "I woke up and you weren't there. I thought you might have left."

"No," he said quietly. "I was just . . ." he hesitated then raised his glass slightly, "a little hungry." He stared down into the glass unable to meet her eyes.

She walked over to the sofa and sat beside him. "Nick?" She gingerly placed her hand on his thigh. "What is it, Sweetheart?"

He shook his head forcing a smile to his lips. "Nothing," he replied, his smile not quite reaching his eyes.

"Don't give me that 'nothing' crap, Nicholas B. Knight. I'm not going to let you shut me out. Not now so out with it," she said sternly.

"Nat, I said there's nothing wrong. Just drop it ok?" he snapped back as he turned and set his glass down on the end table.

She stiffened at his heated response. "Ok, then let me guess. You regret last night don't you," she said without inflection, her clinical persona taking control. "You don't love me and you wish nothing had happened. Fine. Not a problem." She started to rise from the sofa, her disappointment plainly etched across her face.

He grabbed her arm and roughly pulled her back down to sit beside him. "No!" he said harshly. "That's not . . . I mean . . ." his voice faded as he stared at his hand tightly gripping her arm. He released her arm suddenly as if a white-hot flame had seared his hand.

"Then what?" she spat at him.

He reached behind him and pulled the torn clothing from the back of the sofa into his lap. Slowly he held it out to her as he searched her face. "I . . . I forced myself on you last night. I hurt you," his voice like sandpaper scraping rough wood. "I've been guilty of a lot of things in my life, Nat, but I've never been guilty of . . . rape, until now." He tried to swallow the lump that formed in his throat. "I'm so sorry. Please," he whispered hoarsely, "forgive me. I never wanted to hurt you."

Her anger deflated as her eyes filled with tears. "Nick," she whispered taking his hand in hers. "Is that what you think happened? That's what you remember?"

He dropped his gaze shyly. "No, that's not all but I wasn't exactly in control. Most of it seems like a dream." He shrugged his shoulders. "Some of it is really fuzzy. But I do know I hurt you. Of that I'm certain." He turned away as he tried to pull his hand from hers.

"Nick, look at me," she commanded holding tightly to his hand. "Look at me," she repeated more urgently.

He raised his head and met her rock-hard gaze with his own stony stare.

"Nick, you didn't hurt me." Her voice dropped lower, "It's just been a while since I've . . ." she hesitated, searching for the right words, "been that close to someone." She laid her hand gently against his cheek. "And you didn't do anything to me that I didn't want you to do," she said firmly. "What happened between us was as much my choice as yours." She grinned at him. "I wouldn't let you leave."

"Nat . . ." he shook his head resolutely.

"Nick! Stop it."

He stared at her uncertainly.

She leaned forward and placed a warm, soft kiss on his lips. She pulled back slightly and smiled up into his confused blue eyes. Leaning forward she kissed him harder, her fingers lacing through the blond curls behind his head.

He relaxed into her kiss, his arms encircling her and pulling her to his chest. He broke the kiss and cupped her chin in his hand. "I'm not entirely sure of what happened last night," he whispered, "but I don't regret being with you. I love you, with all my heart."

She smiled up at him. "Well, I'm glad we've finally got that settled," she said lightly.

"Yeah, me too," he said, relieved that she wasn't upset with him.

Her smile grew broader. "If I remember correctly you promised me a shopping trip."

He chuckled. "Did I?" he grinned slyly. "I don't remember that."

She slapped his arm playfully. "You better remember that, buster," she said dropping the torn blouse and skirt back in his lap.

"Oh, yeah." He looked at the ruined clothing sheepishly. "I guess this means you want to go shopping."

"You betcha. Got a credit card handy?"

"Will platinum do?"

"Of course!" she replied enthusiastically.

"Alright then." He stood up, pulled his shirt from the back of the sofa and slipped into it. "I'll take a run back to the loft, shower and pick you up in an hour. Ok?"

She stood up and started buttoning the few buttons left on his shirt, her fingers dancing lightly over his chest. "You could just shower here." She wiggled her eyebrows at him.

He laughed. "I could but where would I get a change of clothes?"

"Oh," she frowned. "Hadn't thought of that," she muttered. She buttoned the last button and patted his chest. "Well, maybe we should shop for you too."

He looked puzzled then shook his head. "Whatever milady wishes." He smiled and kissed her forehead. "I'll be back in a hour." He moved toward the patio door and slid it open.

"Ah, Nick?" she called out. "The door is that way." She pointed to the front door.

He smiled broadly. "I know, but this is faster." He slid the door closed and lifted silently into the night sky.

She rolled her eyes. 'Life with Nick is anything but dull', she thought as she went to take her own shower.

Nick hummed quietly to himself as he toweled his hair dry. Natalie wasn't hurt, she wasn't angry with him and to his surprise and relief she seemed genuinely happy about last night. Maybe things would be ok after all. His beast hadn't hurt her. He'd actually satisfied her! He grinned broadly in the mirror. He was immensely pleased with himself even if he wasn't sure how he did it. If he could only do it again . . . maybe this silver-eyed creature made it possible. He was changing; he could feel it. He had always thought of the vampire as a separate part of himself. An evil creature his master created inside of him when he was brought across. Maybe it was always a part of him, even when he was mortal. Maybe coming across separated him from that part of his psyche and gave it a life of it's own. His mind raced with possibilities and insights as he saw himself in a new light. Could he accept his dark half and become whole again? Perhaps evolution wasn't stagnant for vampires after all. He mind reeled at the possibility of becoming a "human" vampire. His smile quickly faded as he felt an all too familiar and unwelcome presence invade his home. He quickly finished dressing and left his bedroom.

"LaCroix," he said flatly as he descended the stairs. "What are you doing here?"

Lucien LaCroix looked up startled. He hid his discomfiture with a raised eyebrow. "Ah, Nicholas, there you are. I thought it was perhaps time I dropped by for a little visit. I haven't seen you in a while and I wondered if you were tiring of these dreary mortal pursuits you cling to so tenaciously." He feigned a smile like a barracuda circling an unwary victim as Nick crossed the room and approached him.

"I doubt you really have any interest in my "mortal pursuits", LaCroix. What do you really want?" Nick questioned acidly.

"My my, where are your manners? I'm sure I taught you better than that. You could at least be a good host and offer me something to drink." He tilted his head and studied his son, his ice-blue eyes as cold as arctic frost.

"In case you've forgotten, I don't stock your brand," Nick quipped.

"Oh yes," he drawled, "How very disappointing. You really should make an effort to be better prepared for company. There's no excuse for being a poor host."

"I don't want company, LaCroix."

"Ah, yes, so you've said before." He stepped closer to Nick. "Well, to get to the point . . . "

"Yes, please do," Nick responded sarcastically.

LaCroix cocked an eyebrow at his protégé's insolence. "I want to know what happened to you today," he stared pointedly at Nick.

Nick's eyes darted away from LaCroix's face. "Nothing happened to me," he answered a little too quickly. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I think you do. I can tell through our bond something occurred. I expect an answer, Nicholas," he snapped. He tried to push out into the ever-present link he shared with his son but the connection was silent, as if it never existed. He eyed Nick suspiciously.

"I've given you an answer."

"Very well. If you refuse to tell me perhaps your mortal pet, the good Doctor will be more cooperative," he intoned dangerously. "I'm sure she had a hand in it."

Nick stepped closer to LaCroix. "She's done nothing and if you touch her, LaCroix," he said, his eyes turning thundercloud gray, "I swear you'll never see another sunset."

"I don't take kindly to threats, Nicholas," his steely blue eyes bored into Nick's face.

Nick stiffened. "You can go to hell!" he hissed.

LaCroix lashed out backhanding Nick across the face. The force of the unexpected blow propelled him backward. He landed on the floor with a sickening crack as the back of his head smacked the corner of his coffee table. He lay sprawled on the floor next to the table. LaCroix reached down and pulled his head up by the hair. "Nicholas," he commanded as he shook him. When he received no response from his son he released him. He stared down at the unmoving body contemplating what to do next. "I will find out what you've done to yourself, Nicholas." He kicked Nick viciously in the side. "And if Doctor Lambert won't tell me what I want to know it will just be all the worse for her." He rose up to the skylight and flew out into the night.




 Natalie paced her living room restlessly. She glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time in the last hour. Nick was late, almost two hours late and she was worried. She wasn't completely sure she had convinced him she was ok with what happen between them earlier that day. Guilt was his constant companion and it didn't take much to push him into punishing himself for some imaginary wrong. She was ecstatic but she knew he had his doubts. She was determined not to let him dive into that personal chasm of depression and self-loathing he continually tried to plummet into. She glanced at her watch again. With an audible huff she grabbed her purse and keys from the table and hurried out the door.

Traffic seemed to move maddeningly slowly as she dodged cars in her haste to reach the loft. She cursed softly under her breath as another traffic light turned red. Finally she turned onto Gateway Lane and screeched to a halt in front of the old brick warehouse. She ran to the lift and punched in the alarm code. She tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the lift to descend. When it arrived she yanked the door open, then closed, and then stabbed at the up button. As the lift jerked to a halt she pulled the door open and stepped into the loft.

"Nick?" she shouted as her eyes darted around the dimly lit room. "Nick, are you. . ." She froze when she saw the body lying prone on the floor. "Oh my god, Nick!" She dropped her purse and keys and bolted across the room. She dropped to her knees beside him and turned his head to look at his face. She quickly pulled her hand away from his head when she felt something sticky coat her fingers. She stared momentarily at the blood on her hand then she got up and ran to the kitchen. She put some ice in a towel and soaked a washcloth in cold water. She ran back to where Nick still lay unmoving. Putting the ice filled towel on the floor she laid the cold washcloth across his forehead then moved it to his cheeks then back to his forehead. "Come on Nick, wake up honey," she murmured.

Nick groaned. He felt cold and wet. He bolted upright as consciousness returned. He moaned loudly as he rested his forehead in his hand and a wave of nausea rolled over him.

"Take it easy Nick," Natalie soothed as she supported his back. "Don't move so fast. You've got a head injury."

Nick raised his head and tried to focus on her face. He squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced. "Nat?" he groaned as he opened his eyes again. "Nat, what are you doing here?"

She frowned at him. "We were going shopping, remember? You were almost two hours late so I came over to see what was keeping you. What happened?" She moved the washcloth to the back of his head and dabbed gently at his healing scalp.

He winced and tried to touch the back of his head.

"Stop that." She gently slapped his hand away. "Now tell me what happened."

He tried to turn to look at her but was rewarded for his efforts with another wave of nausea. He took a deep breath and released it slowly. "I had a little visit from LaCroix."

Natalie swallowed nervously as she probed the back of his head. "LaCroix? What did he want? Or does he just get his kicks by beating the crap out of you?" she said disgustedly.

"Something like that," he muttered.

She picked up the makeshift ice pack and held it to the back of his head.

"Here, hold this," she said as she took his hand and placed it on the icy towel. She moved in front of him and lifted his left eyelid.

Nick jerked away from her. "What are you doing?" he asked petulantly.

She reached forward again. "Sit still," she said as she checked his right eye. "You've got a concussion." She started unbuttoning his shirt, her hands slipping inside to press against his chest.

He jumped when she pressed against his bruised ribs. He grabbed for her hands, the ice and towel falling to the floor. "Nat. I'm ok. I'll heal, don't worry."

"I'm not worried. And I know you'll heal. Just humor me, will you?" She reached up to touch his slightly swollen lip. She watched fascinated as the bruising diminished before her eyes. "Jeez, how many times did he hit you?" she asked gently.

He smiled at her. "It was only a slap. I just wasn't expecting it."

"A slap? As in one slap?" she asked incredulously. "And what about your bruised ribs?"

"I don't remember that," he admitted reluctantly.

"Why did he do this?" she asked in a hushed voice.

He looked into her eyes. "He wanted to know what happened to me today."

Natalie was silent. When she found her voice the words almost wouldn't come. "How could he know?"

"I don't think he actually knew about last night. He wanted to know what happened to me. He never mentioned you or us. His visit was strange right from the beginning," he continued as if talking to himself, "he didn't seem to know I was here. I felt him quite plainly but he was startled when I came downstairs, as if he were surprised to see me. That's never happened before."

"I don't understand," she said as she laid her hand against his cheek and her thumb trailed across his lips.

"I don't either," he whispered. He closed his eyes as his thoughts focused on her gentle caress. Her woodsy sandalwood scent blossomed across his heightened senses. "Ooohhh," he moaned and started to pull away.

"Nick?" she questioned as her hand slid to the back of his neck gently holding his head still.

"It's happening again," he groaned as he felt the vampire rush forward. In his mind he faced the vampire. He steeled himself for the battle of wills he always fought to protect Natalie from his inner demon. The vampire's glowing red eyes stared mournfully past him. The creature's sad gaze shifted to him silently begging for . . . what? He took a deep breath and extended his hand. Tentatively the beast reached out and took his cool hand with its cold fingers. It silently stepped up to Nick and leaned against his chest. As it did so Nick felt the creature push into him steadily. The image of a shadowy wraith passing into his body swept through his mind's eye. 'Home' echoed fleetingly in his thoughts and a feeling of contentment settled over him. Natalie's soft voice was whispering in his ear as he struggled to return to the real world.

"It's ok, Sweetheart," she murmured quietly in his ear as her soft lips brushed across his cheek. "Just let it happen. You're going to be ok." Her mind was racing as she watched the change possess him. Her lips traced a path to his and her tongue gently sought entrance to his cool mouth. She probed lightly, slowly tracing each descended fang and holding his head still as his body trembled. She released him and brushed his soft curls away from his forehead as she stared deeply into his silver flecked eyes. The glittering lights that swirled in the deep blue depths captivated her. It was so different from the glowing amber or the demonic red she was accustomed to seeing. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders and she gently caressed his back.

Nick sat dazed as he struggled to understand what had just happened. The man and the beast had merged in the shadowy realm of his subconscious. He felt his two selves twine around each other and flow together. The eight hundred year old war he had waged with the beast was over. The beast was a part of him, it always was. All this time he didn't want to believe he had a dark side and therefore he had shunned it, forced it to exist without the guidance his light side would have given it. Without that guidance, compassion and sense of right and wrong the creature acted out of frustration, fear and loneliness. Its isolation gave his master a firm grip on his life and allowed LaCroix to drive its heinous actions. Now he understood. He could be free if he embraced the vampire with compassion and accepted the creature as the darker side of the humanity he now knew he never really lost. A soft rumbling began in his chest as he felt Natalie's warm embrace. He relaxed as her hands traveled over his back sending light shivers up his spine. He lifted his head gazing steadily into her beautiful eyes. His lips curved into a sensuous smile as his eyes traveled from her face down past the smooth column of her throat to the soft swells of her breasts.

"Nick?" she asked softly, "Are you alright?" Her hands brushed over his shoulders and settled against his cheeks.

"Yes," he whispered. "Yes, I'm fine. I'm really fine." Silver-blue lights flashed like bright meteorites in his eyes. He reached for her but she caught his wrists and held him still. Confusion streaked across his handsome features. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing's wrong," she smiled at him. She pushed his arms to his sides then let her fingers dance up his arms to his shoulders.


She cupped his face in her hands and placed her thumbs over his lips. "Ssshhh."

He felt his stomach flip-flop as he wondered what she was going to do.

She leaned toward him and feathered light kisses across his jaw as her hands gently slid his shirt from his shoulders and down his arms. She held him back as he tried to lean into her. She spread her fingers and traced the smooth muscles of his chest. She moved back to his shoulders and began to massage his taut muscles. She watched him closely as the rumble in his chest grew into a soothing purr. She blew lightly in his ear then burned a fiery path to his throat with her moist tongue. She nibbled on his shoulder briefly, his sharp intake of breath encouraging her to continue. Her nimble fingers fluttered back to his chest and she traced small circles around his nipples, and then rolled them between her fingers.

Nick's breathing grew ragged as she toyed with him. He wanted to touch her, caress her, lose his fingers in her soft auburn curls but she had made it clear she didn't want to be touched. He was confused and a little hurt that she held him at bay. He slowly realized as her hands traveled over his bare shoulders that she was enjoying her exploration of his tense body and he willed himself to relax and let her play. Her light touch was like low voltage current knifing through his body shocking and delighting him. He shuddered as her teeth scraped across his throat and her hands roamed his chest. He lifted his arms and tried to wrap himself around her.

As he lifted his arms she firmly grasped his forearms and held them to his sides. His hurt look stabbed at her and she quickly brushed her lips against his to reassure him. "Relax, Sweetheart," she breathed into his open mouth. "I want you to lie back and relax." She pressed against his chest urging him to lie back on the floor. She grabbed a pillow from the leather sofa and slipped it under his head. While one hand kneaded the hard planes of his chest the other hand glided down to his waist and unbuckled his belt. She popped open the button of his jeans and slowly drew the zipper down.

His breath caught in his throat as her fingers glided over his chest and stomach. The vampire trilled its pleasure and excitement as he trembled beneath her gentle caresses. He watched her intently and for the first time he was certain she would come to no harm. He closed his eyes and abandoned himself to the sensual tremors that streaked through his tense muscles. He felt the soft fabric of his jeans slip away from his hips and down his thighs followed by his silk boxers. He growled softly as his stiff member was encased in Natalie's warm hand. He opened his eyes and stared at her, his eyes glowing brightly silver in the dim light. He traced his lower lip with his tongue in anticipation of her warm, rich blood flooding his mouth and satisfying his passionate needs.

She watched his face keenly as she began to lightly stroke his rigid member and rub her thumb across the tip of his erect shaft. She saw the tips of his fangs peeking out from beneath his sensuously curved lips. She licked her lips as his cock jerked involuntarily at the sensations lancing through his lower body and she massaged his tight sac as his hips rose slightly off the floor.

She giggled; delighted at the sweet torment she wrought on his keen senses. She pulled her skirt up to her hips and straddled his thighs. She leaned forward, her hands gliding up to his shoulders and her breasts pressing against his abdomen. Grasping his shoulders she slowly and deliberately pulled herself across his hypersensitive flesh. A soft moan escaped his parted lips as she nibbled along his collarbone. She wiggled against him until she felt him pressing against her moist entrance. Swiftly she thrust downward, impaling herself on his throbbing shaft. She groaned loudly as he filled her, penetrating deep inside her.

He inhaled sharply as she slid onto his rock-hard cock. Intense fingers of pleasure darted through his groin and cascaded through his belly. He pressed upward in response to the grinding movement of her hips. He felt her teeth scrape along his throat. With her heat encasing him he could no longer resist the siren call of the nectar that rushed through the vein in her throat. He sunk his fangs quickly into her supple flesh and sucked hard, her passion-laced blood triggering his release. Her love, like a luxuriously warm blanket, wrapped around his heart and snuggled blissfully into his soul.

She pounded down on him as the ache in her core ignited into powerful waves of raging fire. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and clung to his trembling body as she felt his fangs pierce her hot flesh. She buried her face against his shoulder, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. "Ooohhh, Nick!" she groaned as she dug her nails deeply into his back. Images of his life assailed her as they had done the previous night. She saw the shrouded faces of his victims and felt horrified. She felt his grief and guilt and she cried for him. She saw the glimmer of hope he found in her and the limitless love for her he could no longer conceal and her heart nearly burst with her happiness. As suddenly as the images had flooded her mind they were gone leaving behind a heightened awareness of his presence. She felt connected to him. It was an odd but pleasant feeling.

He withdrew his fangs and gently licked the twin wounds closed as the minute tremors of his spent passion continued to ripple through his body. He pulled her closer against him and captured her lips in a needy kiss. He plundered her mouth hungrily, and then with a deep breath he really didn't need he pulled away from her.

Natalie whimpered softly as his lips left hers. She wasn't ready to let him escape yet. She crushed her mouth down on his and sucked his lower lip between her teeth nibbling lightly. Then she bit down cutting the inside of his lip with her teeth and sucking the trickle of blood into her mouth.

He pulled his head back sharply as he felt her bite his lip and he tasted his own blood. He stared at her in shock. "Nat! What are you doing?" he nearly shouted.

She smiled shyly at him as she ran her finger along the inside of his lip. She brought her finger to her mouth and sucked his blood from it as he watched in disbelief.

He grabbed her hand and roughly jerked her finger from her mouth. "Natalie! You don't know what that will do to you!"

She gazed longingly into the deep blue pools of his eyes, her lips curving slightly upward. "You've tasted me . . . twice now. I wanted," she paused, "no . . . I needed to taste you," she whispered. "I feel so close to you right now. Like you're a part of me I didn't know I was missing. Until now." She lifted her head and stared across the dimly lit room as she searched for the words to explain. "I don't understand it but it's the most wonderful feeling." She smiled again. "It's warmth, and peace, and glowing light all wrapped up together and somehow connected to you."

He listened, worriedly at first, to her explanation then he relaxed as he recognized what she was trying to describe. He tangled his fingers in her wild mane and drew her down for a gentle kiss. Rubbing his cheek against hers, he whispered in her ear, "We've bonded. What you're feeling is a psychic link between us. It's the same link that forms between a vampire and his convert. A weaker version is the link between two vampire lovers or siblings. It's very unusual for it to form between a vampire and a mortal. Of course, mortals don't usually survive a vampire's lovemaking." He pulled her face away from his and studied her carefully. "Nat, what if this means you're becoming like me?"

She placed her fingers across his lips to silence him. "Shush, we'll deal with that if and when it happens. Besides, I feel perfectly mortal. And even if I wasn't I have no intention of ever giving you up so you'd just better get use to the idea of having me around, possibly for eternity."

His face brightened as he nodded slowly. "Eternity is starting to sound better and better." He hugged her tightly. "By the way, milady," he teased lightly, "I thought we were suppose to go shopping."

She snorted softly. "Well. It's a little late for that now, thanks to LaCroix. It seems he's confused you with a punching bag. But on the other hand, maybe I should thank him. This was a whole lot more fun than shopping could ever be."

Nick laughed heartily. "I will admit I've enjoyed your playing doctor, but next time could we leave him out of it? I can think of better ways to begin an intimate evening. We could still go shopping. I know a place that would open up for us with just a phone call."

Natalie stared at him dumbfounded. "Nick, it's past one in the morning!"

"Yeah, so?"

"So . . . well . . . to be honest with you, I'm a little tired. Could we make it another night?" she flashed him a hopeful grin.

"Sure." He glanced across the room to his video collection. "How about a movie instead. I've got a new one I think you'll like."

She snuggled closer, resting her cheek on his smooth, muscular chest. "That sounds like a plan. What's the movie?"

"Godzilla. The 1956 version with Raymond Burr."

"Great! I haven't seen that one in years," she said as they got up and rearranged their clothing. Natalie got refreshments for each of them from the kitchen while Nick popped the video in the VCR. Then they settled together on the couch to watch the tape.

Nick strolled into the detective bureau and hung his black leather duster on the coat rack. He walked to his desk, sat down and started pulling papers out of his in-box. "Hey, Schank," he greeted his partner amiably. He pulled a pen out of his desk drawer and started filling in the form in front of him.

"Hey," Schanke responded with a quick glance and a half-hearted wave of his hand as he continued to concentrate on his own paperwork. A few moments ticked by and he looked up again, his eyebrows rising as he watched Nick working diligently on the paper in front of him. "Ah, Nick?"

"Hmmm?" he responded without looking up.

"Are you okay?" Schanke was now staring at him, his chin parked in the palm of his hand as his elbow rested on his desk.

Nick raised his head and stared at Schanke. "Yeah, fine. Why?" he asked puzzled.

Schanke jabbed his pencil at Nick's desktop. "You're doing paperwork," he stated incredulously.

Nick's eyes trailed down to his papers then back to Schanke's face. "Ah, yeah. I have to do it sometime."

"Since when?"

Nick frowned. "Well . . ."

"Schanke! Office, NOW!" Captain Reese yelled from his open doorway.

Nick winced and looked from Reese to Schanke.

Schanke cringed. He closed his eyes and moaned. "Now what have I done?" He rose slowly and shuffled toward the office.

Nick watched as his partner disappeared behind the closed door then resumed his paperwork. After a few minutes his nose twitched as he noticed a slightly sweet odor. Following his acute sense of smell his eyes fell on a box of donut holes on Schanke's desk. Curious as to why the smell might appeal to him he reached over and selected one drenched in powdered sugar. He sniffed it cautiously then popped it into his mouth. The powdery morsel melted across his tongue and after chewing briefly he swallowed the pastry. He sat rigidly as he waited for his stomach to rebel as it always did when he ate mortal food. He wondered briefly what had possessed him to try the donut hole. To his surprise several minutes passed and he didn't feel nauseous. 'That wasn't bad!' he thought as he peered into the box again. 'Maybe just one more, chocolate maybe' he thought as he reached into the box again.

"You are definitely sick. I think I better call Natalie," Schanke blurted from behind him. "You need to see a doctor!"

Nick swiveled around to glare at Schanke. "Schanke! I told you, I'm fine. Knock it off, would you!"

"Uh huh, I just caught you eyeballin' my donut holes. Go on. Eat it 'Mr. I can't eat regular food'. Then tell me there's nothing wrong with you," he glared back.

Nick defiantly dropped the donut back into the box and went back to shuffling reports.

Schanke sat down at his desk and immediately reached for the donut box. He fished for the chocolate one and with a smug smile slowly ate it. Satisfied that he'd thoroughly annoyed his partner he resumed his work.

Nick rifled through his in-box for the fourth time then checked in between every piece of paper on his desk again. He released a disgruntled breath and swore softly in archaic French. "Schanke? Did we get the forensics back yet on the Abernathy case? I can't find it."

"Nope," he grunted without looking up. "And we also still need the one on the O'dell case. That one might take a couple more days, the body wasn't in the best shape when it washed ashore."

"Maybe I should head over to the morgue and see if they're ready," Nick said hopefully.

Schanke gave him a sidelong glance knowing he was looking for an excuse to visit a certain coroner. "Oh no you don't! At least not before you finish those last three reports. Since you're in the mood for paperwork I'm not giving you a chance to disappear."

Before Nick could respond a tingling sensation at the back of his neck drew his attention to the doorway across the room. A tiny smile stole across his face as Natalie walked into the room. She chatted quietly with a couple of officers as she placed manila folders on their desks, and then she made her way toward him. He stood, walked around the corner of his desk and waited for her, his features softening into a seldom seen tenderness.

"Hi," she said casually, the sparkle in her eyes anything but casual.

"Hi," he responded as his hands found her waist and pulled her slowly toward him.

She held the manila folder up between them. "I got the feeling you might be looking for this so I thought I'd drop it by." She tried to sound professional but she couldn't help grinning.

He took the folder from her, flipped it open and started to read. He glanced up at her with raised eyebrows. "How did you know I was looking for the forensics on the Abernathy case?"

She shrugged. "I'm not sure. I got this buzzing in my head and a feeling that you were upset about something and then I just knew you were looking for it." She lowered her voice below the range of human hearing, "Was that the bond you were talking about?"

His eyes widened briefly then he nodded slightly. "Yeah. I'm sorry, Nat. I didn't realize I was broadcasting like that," he answered quietly. The stoic mask he normally wore hardened his features. "I'll try to control it better." He struggled silently for a moment, unsure if he should continue this topic of conversation. Strengthening his resolve with a deep breath he plunged ahead. "Does it bother you?" he asked, concern evident in his soft whisper. "Are you ok with it?"

She pursed her lips as she thought about the feelings that assaulted her earlier. "I'm beginning to understand what I've been feeling and I think I know what to expect." She paused for a moment, and then continued. "And," she smiled brightly, "Yeah, I'm ok with it."

He turned and dropped the file on his desk. He turned back to her and rested his hands lightly on her hips as he moved closer.

"I've got to go," she said, laying her hand on his chest. "I've got a captive audience waiting for me back at the lab." She tilted her head to the side and eyed him coyly. "Do you think we could talk more about this a little later?"

His lips curved upward slightly at her request. "Sure," he said with a brief nod. "Whatever you'd like to know."

A grin spread across her face. "Anything?" she asked. "What about LaCroix? And the others?" she continued soberly.

"What about them?" he asked, smiling at her.

"Aren't you afraid of them?" she asked seriously.

His vision focused on some point across the room as he thought about LaCroix and the Enforcers. "No," he looked down into her startled eyes. "No, I'm not."

"But . . ."

He covered her lips with his index finger. "Before you ask, I can't explain it. I don't know why not, I'm just not."

She stared up at him and released the breath she was unconsciously holding.

"Will I see you later?" he asked as he lowered his head and briefly brushed his lips across hers in a delicate kiss.

"Sure," she responded quietly as she slipped from his arms and headed for the door. "Come by my place when you get off," she said over her shoulder.

He leaned back against his desk, his arms crossed against his chest as he openly admired the view of her backside as she crossed the room and disappeared through the doorway.

"OH MY GAWD!" burst from Schanke's lips as he stared dumbstruck at his partner, his brain finally connecting with the obvious reason for his partner's strange behavior. He had never before seen Nick display his feelings for the pretty coroner so openly.

Nick turned a questioning look on Schanke. "What? What's the matter with you?"

"You! You got laid!" he blurted loudly.

"Schanke!" Nick sounded as if he were being strangled. His eyes traveled swiftly over the raised heads and multiple pairs of eyes that were suddenly focused on him.

Schanke continued in a rush. "Give it up, partner! I've been married nearly fifteen years. I know that look. I just never expected to see you wearing it."

"Don't be absurd," Nick growled angrily as he stalked around his desk and sat heavily in his chair. He snatched his pen and grabbed the folder Nat had left with him. He felt like a bug under a microscope, uncomfortably aware of the attention focused on him. A dozen faces peered at him from every desk, alcove and doorway with mixed expressions of surprise, amusement, and relief. He looked up; his hard gaze defiantly sweeping the room daring anyone to comment on Schanke's ill-timed revelation. His co-workers swiftly returned to their duties. The 'Knightmare' was loose and no one wanted to be the object of his attention, with the exception of Schanke who continued to chuckle and mumble under his breath. With a final glare at his partner Nick returned to his report.

Schanke continued to mutter to himself. "Bout time . . . . . grumpy . . . . . needed a good lay . . . . . knew he had a thing . . . . . their first baby . . . . . say he didn't do it . . . . ."

"What?" Nick lifted his head and stared at his grumbling partner.

"Huh?" Schanke stared back.

"What did you say?" Nick asked irritably.

Schanke shook his head. "Nothing. I haven't said a thing."

"Yes, you have," Nick growled. "You're mumbling."

"I am not," he said tersely.

"Yes, you are," Nick shot back.

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

"Knight! My office." Captain Reese's voice bellowed across the room silencing Schanke's reply.

Nick stiffened as he threw an accusing glare at his quarrelsome friend. He slowly rose from his seat and stalked across the room to his boss's office. He stopped just inside the door, his arms crossed, waiting for the Captain to acknowledge him.

Captain Reese sat behind his desk reading the contents of a manila folder. His beefy fingers fumbled with the pages as he spread some photos on his desk. He picked up a pen and jotted some notes on the papers in front of him.

"Ah, Cap?" Nick asked, wondering why he'd been called into the office. "You wanted to see me?"

Reese looked up, studying Nick for a moment. "No, not really," he responded, a hint of mirth in his deep voice. He smiled at Nick's blank expression. "Sit down, Nick," he said gesturing toward a chair. "Oh, and close the door."

Nick turned slowly, closed the office door and then crossed the room to the offered chair. He sat down and watched the Captain while he continued to slide photos around on his desk. "Cap?" he said after a few moments, "if you didn't want me then why . . .?"

Reese looked up, amused at his detective's puzzlement. "I just thought you could use a little break from all that," he gestured toward the other room.

Nick's eyes widened. His complexion paled to a ghostly white as his gaze darted over his shoulder then back to his captain's face. "You heard . . .?" the words died on his lips as his cheeks attempted to imitate a very pale pink rose petal. He groaned and slumped down into the chair.

Reese chuckled lightly. "I think we all did," he said good-naturedly.

Suddenly Nick sat up straight, his expression slipping easily into the blank, emotionless mask he wore to hide himself from prying mortal eyes. "I 'm sorry, Cap. It won't happen again," he intoned flatly. "Please," his voice softened, "Don't hold this against Natalie. It wasn't her fault. I initiated it. I'm to blame."

Reese took a deep breath and looked thoughtfully at his detective. "Nick, I 'm not blaming you for anything, and you don't need to defend Natalie's honor. You really need to stop living in the thirteenth century." He scooped up the photos, laid them inside the folder and closed it. "Your friends out there were giving you a bit of a raspberry and you didn't look like you were taking it too well. They've been waiting a long time for you and Natalie to finally figure out you've got something special.

Nick sullenly dropped his gaze to his lap. He didn't think of his co-workers as friends, he couldn't afford to. He always lost mortal friends one way or another. He also wasn't sure how Nat would react to being on the rumor mill. He mentally kicked himself. He should have thought about that before he kissed her in front of the whole bureau.

 "Come on, Nick. They are your friends," Reese emphasized. "And they're happy for you. You may not have realized it, but you're part of the family here. You're a hard man to get to know but you've been around here long enough that they've seen you at your best and your worst. They've accepted you for who and what you are," he smiled broadly. "In case you haven't figured it out yet, you're safe here."

Nick looked up at him sharply, his body tensing like a viper preparing to strike. His vampire defense mechanisms clicked into action as Reese's words crashed into his brain and the slight color in his cheeks drained away. "I don't know what you mean," he said carefully.

The Captain sat back in his chair. "Yes, you do," he answered pointedly. "They don't know precisely what you are, except maybe for Schanke and he's not talking, but it doesn't matter to them. They know you're different. But you're family and that's all that does matter."

Nick felt a prickly sensation travel over his body as he realized the Captain knew about him. He could feel the vampire's fear wash over him. Mentally embracing the vampire, he soothed its irrational panic. It did not need to fear this man sitting before him. Calmly he asked, "Ok, so where do I go from here?" If he had to move on, at least he would have Natalie with him.

Reese chuckled under his breath. "Oh, Nick," he shook his head. "What am I going to do with you," he muttered. His phone's insistent ring interrupted his monologue. He picked up the receiver, "Reese," he said tiredly. He listened intently, scribbling notes on a piece of paper. "Ok, I'll get someone over there. Thanks." He hung up. He looked up at Nick, grinning at his tense pose. He held out the scrap of paper. "This is where you go from here. You have a new case. The ME's already rolling."

Nick's jaw dropped in astonishment. "You mean . . . ?"

"I mean," he said sternly, "go to work, detective."

"Yessir," Nick said quickly as he grabbed the paper and headed for the door.

"Oh, and Nick?" Reese called to his retreating back.

Nick turned, his hand on the doorknob. "Yes?"


Nick visibly relaxed. "Thanks, Cap."

"Now get out of here. And take that pain of a partner with you!"

"Right," he called back as he darted out the door.


 Natalie knelt by the body and carefully examined it for obvious visible signs of trauma. The young woman was lying on her side, her hair haphazardly strewn across her face. Her arms were folded under her at unnatural angles. Her upper arms and legs displayed bloody smears as if someone had used her as a dishrag, wiping their hands across her limbs. As Natalie placed plastic baggies over the shattered fingers and hands, she felt the ever-present tingle at the back of her neck intensify. She finished her task, stood and turned to face the new arrivals.

Nick and Schanke walked down the steep slope of the hill toward the lights below. A jogging trail twisted its way through the trees past the rocky area where the body was found. The moonlight streaming through the trees threw eerie shadows across the uneven landscape, wavering with the unruly breeze. Nick's breath caught in his throat as Natalie turned and the silvery light flashed through her hair igniting the deep red highlights. He envisioned a statuette he had seen once, an ancient fire-goddess of burnished copper found in an archeological dig he'd been involved with years before. He said a silent prayer of thanks as he realized how blessed he was to have her in his life.

As they got closer Natalie called, "Hey, I was wondering when you two were going to get here."

Nick feigned annoyance. "Sorry we're late, Nat, but Schanke had to stop for a souvlaki on the way over. You know how he gets when he misses his dinner break. Then I had to stop to air out the caddy." He pressed his lips together trying to keep his mock-frown from turning into a grin.

Schanke huffed loudly. "Ya'know partner, a souvlaki would do wonders for your personality. Look what a donut hole did for your love life. You should try it sometime." He crossed his arms against his chest and grinned smugly at Nick.

"What?" Natalie asked as she shot an astonished look at Nick. "What about a donut hole?"

"Ohhhhh, he didn't tell you?" Schanke oozed.

Natalie shook her head dumbly.

"I caught him, ya'know," he said gleefully. "Yep, I did. Rootin' around in my donut box. He was going after my last chocolate donut hole." He bounced on the balls of his feet for added emphasis.

Natalie stared at Nick. "Nick??? Did you actually eat one?"

Nick raised his chin defiantly at Schanke. "Yes, I did. And I liked it."

Natalie and Schanke burst out laughing.

Nick looked worriedly from one to the other. "What? You're always telling me to eat."

Natalie nodded her head, her hand over her mouth to hide her Cheshire-cat grin. "You're absolutely right." Clearing her throat, she tried to revert to her professional demeanor without giggling. "Well, gentlemen, to get back to business, it looks like we have a homicide. There's blunt trauma to the head and extremities. The fingers and hands were especially affected. From the position of the body, I'd say she was killed elsewhere and dumped here. Death was probably caused by the trauma but I'll know more after I get her back to the lab."

"Great," Schanke said. "Now I can finish that souvlaki." He turned and headed back up the hill.

Nick groaned. "I'll never get rid of the stench. I guess I'll check the crowd for witnesses." He leaned forward and gave her a peck on the forehead. "I'll see you later." With a backward wave, he walked toward the gathering crowd of onlookers.

Natalie spoke briskly into her small tape recorder. She methodically examined the external appearance of the victim, reciting each physical characteristic and noting each anomaly she found. Then she moved on to the interior body cavity, making tissue slides, removing and weighing organs, then placing them back inside the body.

As she worked a feeling of dread crept over her. Her skin was tingling and the air became oppressive, as if the earth had lurched and the pull of gravity had tripled, weighing down her limbs. She stepped away from the body and spun toward the door. She flinched as she stared into LaCroix's cold eyes. She pulled the filter mask away from her face, her mouth set in a grim line.

"What are you doing here, LaCroix?" she asked coldly.

His lips curled into an arrogant sneer. "I've come looking for you, Doctor." He strolled casually toward the instrument tray next to the examining table. He lifted a razor sharp scalpel from the tray and rubbed his fingers across it in a gentle caress. "A fine instrument, don't you think, Doctor? It's important to have the right tools for the right job, isn't it," he dropped the scalpel back onto the tray. He lifted his eyes, his malicious gaze impaling her. He took slow, deliberate steps toward her.

Natalie could feel his anger radiating across her skin in searing waves. Never before had she been so aware of his dark nature and her knees buckled as she tried to back away from him.

With viper-like swiftness, he caught her by the throat and forced her against the wall, her toes barely brushing the floor. "Now, Doctor, you will tell me what you did to Nicholas. I know this was your doing. You will also tell me how to counteract it. Then, I'm going to find out for myself why Nicholas finds you so enchanting. I promise you, your end will come swiftly," he growled into her ear, his cold breath chilling her cheek.

Natalie was breathing in short gasps, his tight grip closing her windpipe. Nick's brilliant smile was her last thought as darkness threatened to claim her.

The door slammed back into the wall as Nick exploded into the room. His fingers clamped into LaCroix's shoulder like an eagle's sharp talons latching onto its prey, exerting pressure on the nerves running into his arm. With an agonizing grunt, LaCroix's numb and nerveless fingers lost their hold on Natalie's throat and she slumped toward the floor.

Nick jerked him backward and lunged for Natalie's falling form. He caught her before she could hit the floor and cradled her in his arms, her head lolling against his shoulder. He turned toward LaCroix, his face a mask of raging anger and his eyes shining like molten silver.

LaCroix stared at him uncertainly. Silver-eyed vampires were a myth, old and powerful, unfettered by their vampirism. This wasn't possible. His Nicholas could never have become one of those creatures. 'What did this wretched woman do to him,' he thought wildly.

"Nicholas!" he hissed. "I demand to know what she's done to you. This is madness and I won't allow it!" he spat vehemently.

Gently, Nick laid Natalie's still body on the floor. He rose and stalked toward LaCroix. "You won't allow it?" his voice rumbling through his chest. "You have no choice. This is what I am, what I've become. Natalie had nothing to do with it, unless you believe her overwhelming love for me could trigger this change. But you don't believe in love, you believe in possession and strength through fear and hatred." He clenched his hands into tight balls. "I'm going to kill you, LaCroix. Your evil has taken her from me and I'm going to eradicate you from the earth like the vermin you are." He stepped closer, his rage building with every step.

"Nick?" a weak voice whispered behind him. "Please, don't."

"Nat!" He spun around and dropped to his knees beside her. Carefully, he lifted her into his lap and brushed her hair back from her face. "Oh, Nat, you're alive," a single tear left a reddish trail across his cheek.

She smiled up at him as she took a deeper breath and rubbed gingerly at her bruised throat. "Yeah, I'm still here." She reached up and gently wiped the tear from his face. "Let him go, Nick. He can't ever hurt you again."

"But, Nat . . ." he began, "for what he's done to you . . . "

"Please, Nick," she asked, "for me. Let him go. He won't be back."

Nick searched her face as the color returned to her pale cheeks. He stood and lifted her into his arms. He turned and faced the master vampire.

"Get out. If I ever see you again or get the slightest sense that you're anywhere near Natalie, I will kill you." His eyes flashed like lightening in a moonless night sky.

Wordlessly, LaCroix inclined his head slightly in Nick's direction, and then vanished swiftly out the door.

"Nick," she patted his chest to get his attention. "I'm ok, you can put me down now."

Gently he swung her feet to the floor but kept her tightly in the circle of his arms. "Are you sure you're ok?"

"Yeah," she smiled tiredly up at him. "Can we go home now?"

He hugged her and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "Whatever milady wishes," he said happily as he wrapped his arm around her waist and guided her through the door.

The End

Copyright J. Hardin, 2001 Aka DragonLady

DragonLady Harem Wife#12, NNPack, DarkNN, Enchantica Dragon Collector

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