From: CLone Star Software <cstar@xxxxxxx.xxxx

Date: Mon Dec 13, 1999 12:14 am

Subject: ADULT: The First of Forever


This story grew out of a 'what if' idea concerning Nick's arrest in Killer

Instinct. In this particular timeline, KI never happened. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks to Shelia and Micki for beta and to the IRC N&NUTS for letting me

post parts to see if they worked.

WARNINGS: Explicit Sex (M/F) (Nick/Natalie)

ARCHIVE PERMISSION: Permission to archive to Mel's FKFanfic Archive, the

FKFTP site, Mortal Love Archive, Dark Nick & Nat Archives, and JADFE

Archive IS GRANTED. All others must ask permission.

DISCLAIMERS: The Forever Knight characters belong to Columbia Tri/Star. No

copyright infringement is intended. This story and all other characters

are copyrighted by me.

The First of Forever

By Nightlady

(c) 1999

(Sunday night)

"Thanks, Nick. I really appreciate your doing this." Nat said as she sat

next to him in the Caddy. Nick had picked her up at her apartment and was

now taking her to catch a flight at Pearson.

Nick glanced over at her and smiled. "It's my pleasure. There's no reason

that you should have to pay either parking fees or for a cab." He smoothly

turned the Caddy into the short-term lot at Pearson. Finding an open

space, Nick shut off the motor. Getting out he walked back to the trunk

and, opening it, removed Nat's luggage. "Besides," he continued when Nat

joined him, "it's the least I can do for the keynote speaker at the

International Forensic Pathologist's conference. "

Nat grimaced. "Don't remind me! I hate to give speeches, but this really

is an honor." She could still scarcely believe that she had been asked to

give the keynote address. "I keep thinking that when I get there, someone

is going to pull me aside and tell me that they meant to ask some other

doctor named Lambert and got me by mistake."

Nick shook his head. "No, I'm sure they got the correct Doctor Lambert.

You've done some incredible work and it's high time that you were

recognized for it." He casually reached out and stroked her hair as she

gave him a grin of happiness.

"Thanks, again. " Nat said quietly. She reached to take her carry-on bag

from the trunk while Nick hefted her larger bag. Together they headed for

the terminal.

After Nat checked in at the counter and receiving her boarding pass, Nick

accompanied her to the gate. Neither was aware of how others in the

airport paused to smile as the handsome, and obviously very much in love,

couple passed. They reached the gate just as the attendant announced the

first boarding call.

"Have fun at the conference and I'll see you Thursday night." Nick said as

they waited for Nat's row to be called.

"Remember to drink your protein shakes and take your vitamins." Nat

responded with a grin. She chuckled at the face Nick made at the mention

of those items. At last her row was announced and she turned to leave.

She'd only taken a couple of steps when Nick's voice, calling her name,

stopped her. Turning back to him, she was surprise when he suddenly pulled

her into his arms and kissed her softly on the cheek.

"Hurry home, Nat. I miss you already." He whispered into her ear.

Nat felt her heart leap and a wave of pure joy washed over her. "I will.."

she replied giving him a radiant smile. Squeezing his hand one last time,

she walked into the boarding tunnel. The unexpected statement filling her

with more hope for a future with Nick than she'd had for a long time and

she couldn't seem to stop smiling. She took a deep breath, silently

reminding herself that Nick's statement still didn't mean that he

considered her to be anymore than a friend but, somehow, she couldn't quite

make herself believe that.

Nick watched until Nat's plane was airborne before finally returning to the

Caddy. He had to be at work just over an hour and rather than go back to

the loft, Nick decided to drive and do some thinking.

As he drove through the Toronto streets, Nick wondered if Nat realized how

much he loved her. 'And how could she? I'm the one who has always

insisted that we are only good friends.' He mentally chided himself. He'd

adopted that tactic in order to protect her from the vampire. He'd known,

almost from the instant he'd laid eyes on her in the morgue, that she was

different from any of the many women he'd known in his long life. As he'd

grown to know her better, he'd fallen more and more deeply in love with

her. She was the brightness in his dark existence and he'd finally

accepted that he could no more survive without her than he could walk in

the noon sun without harm. "Please let her at least be willing to explore

the possibility of loving me." He prayed softly. Starting the Caddy and

backing out of the space, Nick mentally began to plan just how he would

court Nat. By the time he'd reached the precinct, he was smiling in

anticipation of her reaction to several ideas that had occurred to him.

Nick parked the Caddy and headed inside so preoccupied with thoughts of

Natalie that he never noticed the man watching him from the shadows.

Waiting until the parking area was empty of pedestrian activity, the man

walked over to the Caddy. He carried a small overnight type bag in one

hand. Taking a key from his pocket, the man opened the trunk of Nick's car

and swiftly placed several items from the bag inside it.

Don Schanke looked up from the paper work on his desk and raised an eyebrow

as Nick approached. "Say partner, you look like the cat that swallowed the

canary. What's up?" Schanke's eyes widened as Nick actually smiled at him

before responding.

"Nothing in particular. I was just thinking about some things I'm planning

to do." Nick responded.

"Uh huh. Must be some really nice things." Schanke said. "They wouldn't

happen to involve a certain coroner, would they?" He knew that both Nick

and Nat were wild about each other, even though both tried to pretend

otherwise. With any luck, his thick skulled partner had finally seen the

light and was planning to change that. Schanke also just knew that these

two people belonged together.

Nick gave Schanke his best 'I don't really have my hand in the cookie jar'

look. "If they do, I promise you'll be the first to know." Nick looked at

Schanke and remembered how, when they'd first met he'd disliked this man

whom he now considered to be a good friend. He also remembered that even

though Schanke might occasionally come across as a bit of a buffoon, there

was a skilled detective beneath the abrasive surface.

Schanke smiled in satisfaction. "I'll hold you to that promise, partner."

"Schanke! My office, now!" Captain Amanda Cohen's voice cut off any

further conversation.

Nick glanced at Schanke wondering if there was some problem he wasn't aware

of, but Schanke just shook his head in bewilderment. Nick watched as

Schanke headed for the office.

Cohen looked up from her desk as Schanke entered. "Close the door,

detective. I don't want what I have to say overheard."

Schanke sat down, a frown on his face. "What's going on, Captain?"

Cohen took a deep breath. "How well do you know Detective Knight?" She

finally asked.

"Why?" Schanke responded. He didn't like the sound of this.

Cohen considered for a moment. "We've received an anonymous tip that

Detective Knight may be involved in the St. James Park killings." She

watched to see what Schanke's reaction would be.

"Uh uh! NO way, Captain!" Schanke exclaimed. "I'll admit that Nick is

kinda closed mouthed about his private life, but there is not a chance that

he'd be capable of doing something like that!" Schanke shuddered as he

thought of the condition of the, thus far six, young women whose bodies had

been found over the past two months. They'd been tortured before being

brutally strangled and mutilated. "Captain, Nick truly tries to make a

difference, for the better, in people's lives." He continued.

"I don't want to believe it either, Schanke," Cohen said, "but since we

don't have any other leads, we're going to have to check this one out."

"This stinks, Captain." Schanke said, miserably.

"I realize that, however," she fixed Schanke with a stare, "I've already

gotten a search warrant for Knight's home." Cohen sighed. "I'm waiting on

word from the team there. Also, another young woman fitting the general

characteristics of the previous victims has been reported missing."

Schanke closed his eyes. "I don't want to hear this." He muttered.

Opening his eyes he looked at Cohen. "How am I supposed to go back out

there and act as if nothing is up?" He asked.

Before she could answer, the phone rang. Picking it up, she listened then

with a, "Thank you, we'll take care of it," replaced the receiver. Looking

down at her desktop, she responded to Schanke's question. "You won't have

to. That was the team at Knight's loft." She stopped, then looked up at

Schanke. "They found the missing girl, dead, at Knight's place."

Schanke shook his head in disbelief. "No, there has to be a mistake."

"We have to arrest Knight on a murder charge, we have no other choice."

Cohen said.

Nick sat working steadily on the never-ending mass of paperwork that seemed

to accompany each case. He wondered just what Schanke had done to cause

the captain sound so upset. Even though he could have easily used his

vampire enhanced hearing to listen in on the conversation going on inside

Cohen's office, Nick's sense of decency caused him to deliberately avoid

such an action. Concentrating on the work in front of him, he was only

partly aware of the sound of the office door opening. The sound of

Schanke's heart, beating slightly faster than usual, caused him to raise

his head. 'Must have been really bad,' Nick thought, observing the grim

expression on his partner's face as he approached their desks.

"Nick." Schanke said in a voice laced with misery as he stopped before his


A look of concern crossed Nick's face. "What's wrong, Schanke? Is

something wrong with Myra or Jenny?" Nick couldn't imagine what, other

than some sort of accident involving his family, would have his partner

looking and sounding so distraught.

"Nick, I've...I'm under orders to arrest you." Schanke said.

Nick gave Schanke a look of disbelief. "Arrest me? On what charges?"

Cohen's voice answered his questions. "On the charge of murder. Please,

Knight, don't cause any trouble or make a scene." She said calmly.

Nick noticed that there were several of the department's largest uniformed

officers standing alertly behind her. "Captain, there's been some mistake.

I haven't killed anyone." Nick said, sounding equally calm.

"I'm sorry, Nick, but we got a tip that you were the person responsible for

the St. James Park killings." Cohen began.

"And so you're arresting me on that? Who made the accusation?" Nick could

feel his temper begin to rise.

"A team with a valid search warrant was sent to your loft. They found the

body of a young woman who'd been reported missing early this morning.

She'd been tortured, strangled and mutilated, like the other victims."

Cohen continued. "The tip was anonymous." She noticed the stunned look

briefly visible on Knight's face before his usual unexpressive mien

returned. "Knight, I don't want to believe this either but, given the

evidence, I have no choice but to take you into custody." She added.

"I'll cooperate, Captain, but I'm telling you that someone has set me up."

Nick said as he stood.

Schanke took his arm. "Come on, Nick. Let's get this over." Schanke

said. "Then I can get to work finding out who's behind this."

Nick hesitated as part of him screamed to just dispose of these pesky

mortals and flee, but instead he nodded and walked quietly toward the

booking area with Schanke. His mind was whirling as he tried to figure out

how someone had gained entrance to his loft and why they would want him

charged with such crimes. Looking straight ahead, Nick missed seeing the

looks of disbelief on his fellow officer's faces, and the one of

satisfaction on the face of Detective Phil Banks, a recent transfer from

the 79th precinct. Less than thirty minutes later, Nick found himself

inside the stark walls of a cell.

(Thursday morning)

Nat spend several minutes packing her suitcases in preparation for her

departure that afternoon. Her speech had been well received, she'd

attended numerous interesting panels, and she'd made the acquaintance of a

number of fellow forensic pathologists whose work she'd long admired. In

short her trip had been both successful and pleasant, yet she found that

she was eager to return to Toronto. In fact the only part of her trip that

had proved disappointing had been not hearing from Nick during it. After

what he'd said to her at the airport, she'd half expected him to call her

at least once during the convention. Her attempts to reach him had been

futile, only connecting with his answering machine. "Let's be honest,

Lambert," she murmured with a grin, "it's Nick you can't wait to get back

to." She was still smiling as she carried her bags down to the lobby to

leave at the front desk until her departure time.

Shortly before 8:30pm, her flight landed at Pearson. Grabbing her carry-on

bag, Nat made her way out of the plane. Approaching the waiting area she

scanned the room for Nick, a small pang of disappointment filling her as

she failed to see his familiar face. That feeling was replaced by one of

apprehension as her eyes lighted on another familiar face, Don Schanke's.

Nat instantly noted that the usually cheerful Schanke looked like hell.

His hair was mussed and there were dark crescents of exhaustion beneath his

eyes. Unconsciously, Nat stopped in her tracks, her heart pounding ever

faster as Schanke neared her. "Schanke, what are you doing here? I was

expecting Nick to meet me." Nat said, in a voice that trembled slightly.

Schanke reached out and took her by the arm. "I'll explain everything,

Nat, but not here. Let's get your bags and go to my car." He pulled

gently on her arm to start her walking.

The wait for her luggage, though less than ten minutes, felt like hours to

Nat. The more she observed Schanke, his exhaustion, his dourness, and his

overall air of distress the more nervous and convinced that something

terrible had happened to Nick. As soon as she bags were stowed in the

trunk of his car and Schanke had gotten behind the wheel she turned to him.

"Tell me what's going on, Schanke. Where's Nick and why didn't he meet me

like we'd planned?"

Schanke looked at the lovely woman next to him, her hands clinched together

so tightly the knuckles were white, and wished he were anywhere but here at

this moment. He reached out and gently laid a hand over hers. "He's in

jail, Nat. He's under arrest for the St. James Park murders." He said

quietly. He saw the look of total disbelieve his words produced. "Look,

you and I both know that Nick isn't capable of something like that, but we

got an anonymous tip that he was the killer and," Schanke hesitated, "we

found a young woman at the loft. She matched the profile and had been

killed in the same way as the previous victims. Rope, a knife and the

victim's purse were in the trunk of Nick's car."

Nat felt as if she might be sick. She knew that Nick wasn't the killer and

that someone had to have set him up. She also knew that unless that could

be proven, he might be forced to move on. Taking a deep breath to try and

control the nausea that swept over her, she was unable to speak for several

minutes. Schanke had started the car and they were already out of the

parking area before she had herself under enough control to speak. "How is

he? When did this happen?" The words tumbled out as Nat felt tears


"He's not saying much, Nat, except that he's innocent." Schanke responded.

"I'm worried about him. He's been in lockup since Sunday night and,

according to the uniforms, he's not eating. There was talk of having to

force feed him if he continues that."

Nat eyes widened. "Schanke, I have to see him, tonight." She knew that

Nick must be in agony having not been able to feed in at least four days.

Her mind racing, a plan began for form. "But I'm going to need about an

hour, alone, before I go to see him. You know about his allergies, I need

to fix him something that he can eat." Nat continued. She looked

beseechingly at Schanke. "Is there anyway that you could drop me off at my

place, then pick me up about an hour later and take me to see Nick?"

"Sure, Nat. You know I'll do anything I can to help him out of this mess."

Schanke replied, earnestly.

Nat thanked him then lapsed into silence for the remainder of the ride to

her apartment. She mentally considered her options. The easiest thing

would be to get supplies for Nick from his loft, but the discovery of a

body there had turned it into a crime scene and Nat knew that she would be

unable to remove anything from it. The Raven and Janette was a second

option, but Nat was unsure how much persuasion it might take to get Janette

to provide her with some of that establishment's 'special' stock and she

knew that Nick needed to have some nourishment as soon as possible. That

left her with only one other option. Her thoughts were broken as Schanke

parked the car in front of her building. He swiftly got her bags and

accompanied her to her door. "I'm going to go grab some souvlaki," he told

her. "See you in about an hour."

Nat closed the door and began to put her plan into effect. An hour later,

when Schanke knocked at her door, she was ready. Carrying her medical bag

and a brown bag that held a large thermos, with a sip spout, Nat headed to

the precinct and Nick.

Nick lay on his back staring at the dull greenish-gray ceiling above. His

hunger, always present, had slowly grown into a constant ache that required

more and more effort on his part to control. Being surrounded, as he was,

by the sound of mortal heartbeats and the varied, unique scents of mortals

only acted to accentuate the intensity of his need to feed. In an effort

to slow his hunger, he'd even tried to eat real food, only to have his body

swiftly and painfully reject it. Thus far he'd been able to keep the

vampire quiescent, but Nick knew that his control over the beast was


The daily visits from Detective Banks weren't helping things either. He

and Nick had taken instant dislike to one another the first time their

paths had crossed. Banks fancied himself a lady's man and had, at one

time, attempted to force his attentions on Nat. Nick and Schanke had

walked in on that attempt and only Schanke's presence had prevented Nick

from doing violence to the other detective. In addition, Banks was sloppy

in his work and chose to blame anyone but himself for his poor solve

percentage. Now, with Nick incarcerated, he made a point of coming by to

taunt him. Normally, Nick would have ignored the man, but his hunger had

put all of his nerves on edge.

Nick took some small comfort in the knowledge that Nat would be back in

Toronto tonight indeed, if her plane had been on time she was already back.

Hopefully she could manage to get him something he could keep down. Right

now, even one of her protein shakes would be a blessing. He refused to

acknowledge the small, worrisome thought that she might believe the charges

against him. Sighing, Nick closed his eyes and focused his mind on her.

Nat. Thinking of her, remembering the sweet scent of her and how she felt

in his arms had been Nick's main solace in the past four days since his

arrest. Even now, with hunger gnawing at him these thoughts still were

comforting. Silently, he mouthed her name, starting slightly as her voice

spoke his. Sitting up, Nick looked over to the cell door a rush of relief

running through him as he beheld Nat standing there, looking at him with

anxious eyes, waiting for the door to be unlocked. He met her eyes and, as

soon as the locked clicked open, she stepped without hesitation into the


Nat wanted nothing more than to run over and wrap her arms around Nick, but

the presence of the guard held her back. She wasn't about to give anyone

some tidbit to gossip about. She could see the strain in Nick's face and

she marveled at his strength. "Hi, Nick. I came as soon as I could." She

said quietly, sitting her medical bag on the bunk as she looked around at

the stark surroundings. "Why didn't you have Schanke call me? I'd have

come back immediately." She added.

Nick reached out and took her free hand. The sweet scent of her filled his

head and he could feel some of the tension in him ease. "I didn't think

I'd be in here this long. I didn't want to make you miss giving your

speech." He felt her squeeze his hand and saw the concern in her face.

"You are far more important than any speech." Nat said, softly. In a

slightly louder voice she added, "I've brought you something to eat.

According to Schanke you haven't been eating very much."

"You know my allergies, Nat." Nick replied. "I did try to eat some of the

jail food, but I just couldn't tolerate it."

Nat nodded. "Well, I know that you can tolerate what I've brought." She

handed him the paper bag. "They're only allowing me about three minutes

here tonight, but I will be back first thing in the morning. I'll bring

you breakfast when I come."

Nick tightened his grip on her hand slightly. "I understand. I guess I'm

lucky that they let you in at all tonight." He nodded toward the bag in

his hand. "Thanks for this, it's very welcome." He ached to hold her but

the watchful eye of the guard was not going to provide any opportunity to

do so.

"Are you all right otherwise?" Nat asked.

"Yes, except for being bored out of my mind." Nick said, trying to lighten

the mood. He sighed. "I've wracked by brains trying to figure out who is

behind this."

Outside the cell the guard cleared his throat. As the glanced at him he

indicated that Nat had to leave.

"I'll be back as soon as they'll let me in the morning." She repeated, as

she picked up her medical bag. "Be sure to drink that, I think it'll

help." She nodded at the bag.

"I will and I'll be waiting for you." Nick replied. He watched as she

stepped through the cell door, the sound of it closing, and the lock

clicking into place behind her filling his ears. When she turned to give

him a final goodbye look he spoke. "Nat? You didn't ask me if I'd killed

that woman they found in the loft."

Nat looked him in the eye. "I don't need to ask a question I already know

the answer to, Nick. I KNOW that you didn't kill her or anyone else."

Nick closed his eyes. "Thank you for believing in me, Nat."

"I've always believed in you, Nick, and I always will." Nat said quietly.

Giving him a last soft smile, she turned and headed for the door at the far

end of the hall.

Nick stood silently watching her as she walked out of the holding cell area

and the overhead lights were dimmed, leaving him in a semidarkness lighted

only by small nightlights.

Going back to the bunk, he removed the thermos, lifted the sip spout, and

raised it to his lips. Bracing himself for the bland, unsatisfying taste

of one of the protein shakes, Nick was unprepared for the nectar that

filled his mouth. A shiver of pure pleasure went through him as the

vampire rejoiced in the taste of warm, fresh, human blood; Nat's blood.

Clamping his eyes shut, knowing that they were glowing golden; Nick

swallowed. Instantly, he felt warmth course through him. Taking another

small mouthful, Nick focused on the emotions that flowed into him from the

blood, emotions that both awed and humble him, and that left him feeling

more peaceful in his soul than he'd felt in centuries.

The overwhelming emotion was one of love; a love that was like a blazing

firebrand in the inky blackness of night. Knowing, without any doubt, that

Nat's feelings toward him matched his for her only reinforced Nick's

determination to not be driven from this life. Coupled with this love was

Nat's desire to be with him, to love him fully regardless of what the

consequences to her might be. Her lack of fear about becoming what he was

and her willingness to risk everything to fulfill the sensuous need she had

for him caused Nick's body to respond in kind. Nick sat the thermos down,

slid off his shoes, and undid his jeans before pulling the rough jail sheet

over him. As Nat's love flowed through him, he began to slowly stroke his

engorged member, Picking up the thermos he continued to drink, and to

absorb the emotions the blood contained.

The sense of her rage toward whoever had caused his incarceration shimmered

like a pool of quicksilver. Beneath that, Nick could feel her fear that he

would leave and her uncertainty about his feelings toward her. As he

slowly brought himself to climax, Nick swore that no matter what happened,

he would not leave Nat. He would see to it that she never again have

reason to doubt his love for her. He would love her as he'd dreamt of doing

since they'd first met. As the first true sleep he'd had since his arrest

claimed him, Nick prayed that he'd be able to fulfill those promises.

For the second time that night, Nat thanked Schanke for taking her home.

Once she was sure that he'd gone, she picked up the phone and ordered a

taxi. Having just 'donate' a unit of blood for Nick's dinner, Nat knew

that she had no business trying to drive but she had to get to The Raven.

Nat drank a large glass of orange juice and ate several cookies, finishing

just as the chiming of her doorbell announced the taxi's arrival. She went

back downstairs and twenty minutes later walked through The Raven's doors.

Natalie had only been in the club for a few moments when a dark haired

vampire suddenly appeared at her side. Nat recognized him as the

bartender, Miklos, Nick had called him. "I need to see Janette." She told

him. "It's urgent and it involves Nick." Nat could feel the adrenaline

rush that had seen her through the night starting to fade. "Please,

Miklos, tell me where she is." She added.

Miklos gave Nat a searching look before nodded. "Come, she's in her

office. I will take you there." He turned began to work his way across

the crowded floor, Nat following closely behind him. He led her down a

hallway stopping at a closed door. Knocking, he waited until Janette's

unmistakable voice bade him to enter. Opening the door, Miklos stepped

aside and indicated Nat should enter. He gave her a pleasant, even friendly

smile, as she did so.

Janette looked up as Nat entered. "To what do I owe this visit, Doctor?"

She inquired. "If you're looking for Nicola, I haven't seen him in over a


"No, I know where Nick is, Janette. He's in jail, charged with murder."

Nat replied. "I'm here because I need to get 'supplies' for him."

Janette raised an eyebrow. "Murder, you say? Nicola must have gotten

sloppy." She purred.

Nat glared at her. "He didn't kill anyone. He's been accused of being the

St. James Park killer."

Janette snorted. "I must agree with you, those murders were not the work

of one of us, and most especially not Nicola." Picking up the glass of

blood wine on her desk, she continued. "I'll have Miklos take a case of

Nick's preferred vintage out to your car."

"Um, that's going to be a problem. I took a taxi here." Nat said. "I've

been out of town since Sunday. I didn't know that Nick had been arrested

until I got back tonight. He hadn't had anything to 'eat' in four days, so

I took him a unit of my blood tonight." Nat shrugged. "I figured it might

not be a good idea to try and drive."

"Ah, well perhaps Miklos can be persuaded to drive you home, Doctor."

Janette replied. "Of course if Nicola would just use his abilities, none

of this would be necessary." She added.

Nat held her temper. "You know that Nick tries to not use his

'abilities'." She shook her head. "Listen, I don't want to argue with you

about this. I think that we both care about Nick even if we don't agree

with each other about the path he is pursuing." Nat could feel fatigue

starting to overwhelm her.

Janette gave her an intent look; then seeing the pallor and exhaustion on

the mortal woman's face, her own expression softened. "No, let's not

argue." She picked up the phone on her desk. "Miklos, please get a case

of Nick's preferred vintage and come to my office." She said after a

moment. A few minutes later, Miklos appeared carrying a large crate.

"Miklos, would you be so kind as to drive Dr. Lambert back to her home? It

seems that Nicola has, once again, managed to get himself into a situation

while playing at being mortal and she is attempting to help him." Janette


Miklos nodded. "Certainly." He turned to Nat. "Doctor?"

Nat rose. "Thank you, Janette." She said, preparing to leave. As she

reached the door, Janette spoke.

"You are correct. We do both care about Nicola's well being. I wish you

luck." As Nat turned back to her, their eyes met and both women knew that

they had take the first small step toward understanding one another.

For the third time that night, Nat closed and locked the door to her

apartment. Miklos had carried the remainder of the case of blood wine

upstairs and it now sat in the middle of Nat's kitchen table. Even though

she was bone weary, Nat took the time to find another large thermos. In

the morning, she'd fill it with the contents of one of the bottles and put

a few more in the trunk of her car. At last she'd done all she could for

the night.

Getting into bed, Nat felt the tears she'd been fighting all night start to

burn behind her eyelids. She knew that unless they found who had framed

Nick, it was very likely that he'd have to leave Toronto. The thought of

never seeing him again, or feeling his arms around her was unbearable. She

gave in and sobbed into her pillow until the sleep of total exhaustion

claimed her.

The insistent buzzing of the alarm awoke her several hours later.

Surprisingly, she'd slept deeply and felt rested. Turning off the alarm,

she headed for the shower. After filling the thermos, she decided that it

might be a better idea to put the rest of the case in her trunk. She

wasn't sure just how much blood it would take to reverse the effects of

four days without food. Shortly before 7:30 am, Nat was in her car headed

for the precinct.

Nick was roused from the first deep sleep he'd had in days by Banks' voice.

"Rise and shine, golden boy. You're being transferred."

Nick sat up quickly. He could sense that the sun was already well above

the horizon. "Transferred? I have a documented allergy to the sun. I

can't go anywhere until after dark." Nick said as calmly as he could manage.

"Too bad. You're being shipped over to the main jail. I guess someone's

had enough of everyone coddling you." Banks said, his enjoyment of Nick's

discomfort clear by his tone of voice. "Now you can make this easy for

everyone, or you can do it the hard way." Bank's approached the cell door

accompanied by three other officers that Nick didn't recognize.

"I'm telling you I cannot be taken out in the sun." Nick said. "Listen,

Dr. Lambert is due to come here this morning. Wait until she arrives,

she'll tell you that you can't move me now." Even with the nourishment

he'd gotten from Nat's blood, Nick knew that he was severely weakened. He

doubted he would be able to withstand the combined efforts of the four

mortal men. But if he didn't and they took him outside, the consequences

might well prove deadly to him.

"Oh, good. You're going to do it the hard way." Banks sneered, as he

unlocked the cell door.

As soon as the door opened, Nick rushed forward, hoping to evade the men.

Banks, however, had anticipated such a reaction. Stepping to one side, he

allowed Nick to pass by him and then brought a heavy, wooden, police baton

down on the back of Nick's head.

Nick felt a stabbing pain lance through his skull as the baton connected

with his skull. Agony washed over him and he swayed, nearly loosing

consciousness. Immediately, the other's seized his arms and handcuffed

him. With Nick still groggy from the blow and unable to effectively

resist, they half drug him toward the outside door. The first rays of the

sun on him felt like a thousand knives. Nick moaned in pain and sought to

protect his face and eyes. He felt himself being shoved into the back of a

paddy wagon. Collapsing on the floor, he felt the vampire, emerge.

Nat had just pulled into the parking lot behind the precinct when she saw

Banks and several others dragging Nick outside. Her heart leapt in fear as

she noted the faint wisps of smoke wherever the sunlight found Nick's

exposed skin. Before she could get out of her car the paddy wagon, with

Banks at the wheel, pulled away. Nat barely hesitated before she pulled

out behind it. She'd been following it for about five minutes when she saw

the rear door suddenly open and Nick fall out onto the pavement. Wrenching

the wheel to one side and slamming on her brakes, Nat managed to stop her

car beside him as he lay on the ground. The wisps of smoke were fast

becoming thicker and she knew she had to get him inside her car and find

something to cover him with to protect him from the sunlight. Getting out

of the car she opened the back door. "Nick! Get inside!" She pleaded as

she ran to the trunk. Opening it she grabbed two body bags as well as two

bottles of blood wine. To her relief, Nick was pulling himself into the

back seat. Shaking open one of the body bags, she tossed it in on top of him.

The vampire in control, Nick managed to snap the chain holding the

handcuffs. With a snarl of rage, he attacked the double doors at the rear

of the paddy wagon hitting them with enough force to snap the locks.

Tumbling out into the burning sunlight, he rolled to his stomach. The

sound of car brakes and the scent of exhaust fumes next to him caused him

to snarl silently. At the sound of a car door opening he prepared to

attack. The vampire screaming for the rich taste of blood. Nick inhaled

and the scent that reached his nostrils called to the man, more than the

beast. Nat's scent followed an instant later by the sound of her voice

worriedly calling his name. Gathering his strength, Nick pulled himself

into the car. His pain abated slightly as car roof and body provided some

protection from the sun. It eased more when Nat tossed the opaque body bag

to him. Huddling beneath it, he slowly started to relax.

Nat got back behind the wheel and threw the car into gear. "There's blood

wine in the thermos on the floor Nick and I've got two more bottles up here

with me and the rest of a case in the trunk." Nat said as she drove down a

small side street. Her mind was racing trying to think of where to go. It

stood to reason that the loft, her apartment, The Raven, and anywhere Nick

or she was known to frequent would be among the first places checked.

Nick grabbed the thermos and quickly emptied it. The cow's blood was flat

and bland, especially after the ambrosia he'd had last night, but his body

gratefully accepted the healing strength it provided. "Nat, you said you

had some other bottles?" He asked. A moment later, he took the bottle Nat

held back to him. After drinking it, Nick began to feel better. "Where

are we and where are we going?" He inquired.

"We're heading northeast, out of the city. Unless you can think of

somewhere that will be safe for the day, I'm going to try and get up to my

cottage." Nat relied.

"I didn't know you had a cottage." Nick said.

"I've never used it very much. It should be safe. I don't think that

anyone realizes that I have it. Richard and I inherited it from our

parents. He and Sarah used to go there frequently, but since he died, I

haven't been there much." Nat said, quietly. She still missed her brother

and still carried some guilt over the disaster of his brief existence as a

vampire. Mentally shaking herself she added. "I will warn you that it's

not very fancy, but there is a fireplace and plenty of wood as well as some

canned and dried foods for me. With the extra supplies for you that are in

my trunk, we should have a couple of days at the least before anyone thinks

to check the property records and finds the deed. Hopefully, we can figure

out who's framing you and why before then." Reaching into the seat beside

her she picked up the second bottle of blood wine. "Nick, if you need it,

I've got another bottle up here."

Nick heard the sadness in Nat's voice. The tragedy with Richard was only

one of many regrets he had. He also knew, from her blood, that Nat did not

blame him for that tragedy. That knowledge was comforting. "Yes, I'll

take the bottle, thanks." He said respecting her tacit wish to not discuss

Richard. He took the proffered bottle from her, being careful to keep his

hand sheltered from the sunlight.

"Nick, did Banks say where he was taking you?" Nat asked a few minutes


"He said I was being transferred to the central jail." Nick replied.

"That doesn't make sense," Nat said. "Banks was heading away from central

holding, not toward it. Besides, I can't picture Cohen quietly allowing

you to be transferred."

"Maybe he had to pickup another prisoner from one of the other precincts."

Nick mused.

Nat could hear the tiredness in Nick's voice. "We'll figure it out after

you've had some rest." She said. "I know it's not the most comfortable of

places to sleep, but why don't you try to get some sleep?" She added.

She'd seen the unmistakable signs of exhaustion during her visit to Nick

last night and knew that vampire stamina or not he needed rest.

"Yeah, probably a good idea." Nick agreed quietly. Finishing the second

bottle of blood wine, he closed his eyes and fell into a fitful sleep.

The petite, blonde woman bowed before her master. "Here is the special

souvlaki you wished," she said handing him a plate. He gazed at her

smiling and reached for the plate. "Thanks, Jeannie." She smiled back,

"My pleasure, Don." Just as he prepared to eat, the room started to shake


"WAKE UP DON!" Myra Schanke's voice cut through the remaining vestiges of

Schanke's dream. Opening his eyes he muttered, "What?"

"Captain Cohen's on the phone. She said that it's urgent that she speak

with you." Myra said as Schanke groaned and sat up in bed. "I told her

you were asleep, but she said it had to do with Nick." Myra added. She

watched as he reached for the bedside phone.

"Yes, Captain?" Schanke said. He listened for a moment his expression

changing from concern to alarm. "I'll be there in about twenty minutes."

He said then hung up. Turning to Myra he explained. "Nick's vanished. The

guard was out of the area for about ten minutes and when he came back

Nick's cell was empty." Schanke got out of bed and headed for the closet.

"Got any coffee made?" He asked hopefully. Myra nodded and left.

Dressing quickly, Schanke was out the door and on his way back to the

precinct, a cup of hot coffee in one hand, in only a few minutes. On the

drive over he tried to make sense of what Cohen had told him. 'Doesn't

make sense, but then Nick being in jail in the first place doesn't make

sense either!' He thought to himself.

At the precinct, Schanke found Cohen in the holding area. "Any more

information, Captain?" He asked as he joined her.

Cohen shook her head. "Not really." She looked at Schanke. "Did he say

anything that might have indicated that he was going to try and escape?"

She asked.

"No, Captain, he didn't." Schanke said. He noticed a young, blond female

detective standing to one side looking nervous.

"Alright," Cohen said, "I want everyone that was on duty anywhere in this

area interviewed. Someone had to have seen or heard something." She shook

her head. "Knight's not a fool. He would know that trying to escape would

only make things worse for him." She glanced at the young officer who had

approached. "Yes, Vetter?"

"Are you talking about the man that was in this cell?" Detective Tracy

Vetter asked. When Cohen nodded she continued. "I don't think he escaped."

"Why?" Schanke asked.

"Well, I was over in the file room," Tracy indicated a door just off to the

left, "and I heard what sounded like people arguing out here. The man in

the cell was saying that he couldn't be transferred in the daylight or

something. I peeked out and saw a man, who I think is a detective here and

three uniformed officers I didn't recognize scuffling with the man in that

cell. The uniformed officers were trying to handcuff him and he was

resisting. Then the one I think is the detective hit the prisoner on the

back of the head with a nightstick. They were able to cuff him then and

they sort of dragged him out of the cell."

"There was no order to transfer Knight." Cohen said. "We were waiting on

the results of the DNA tests on the tissue found under the latest victim's


"If I showed you a picture, do you think you could say if it was the man

you think is a detective?" Schanke asked.

"I, I think so." Tracy replied.

Asking Tracy to wait where she was, Cohen motioned for Schanke to follow

her. Moving out of earshot, Cohen asked. "You think you might know who it


"Maybe." Schanke replied. "I know that Banks has been here daily taunting

Nick. If we could show her his picture, and some of the other detectives

that work here, we might learn something."

"Sounds like a good plan. I'll get the photos, you can take Detective

Vetter to Interrogation Room A and wait for me." Cohen said.

Schanke rejoined Tracy. "Come on, the Captain's going to bring you some

pictures to look at." He led her to the interrogation room. A few minutes

later, Cohen returned carrying a dozen or so photos. It took Tracy only a

moment to pick out one as the man she'd seen, Detective Phil Banks.


Nat drove carefully, not wanting to attack undue attention to her car. She

had a moment of near panic at one point when a patrol car appeared behind

her. She was on the verge of awakening Nick when the car changed lanes and

then exited the freeway. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Nat said

a quick prayer of thanks. Finally she reached the small dirt path that

lead to the cottage. It was somewhat overgrown due to lack of use and Nat

grimaced slightly at the faint sounds of branches scraping against the

sides of her car. 'Nick's worth more than any paint job.' She reminded

herself. As the cottage came into view, she called his name. "Nick? Wake

up. We're here."

Nick opened his eyes at the sound of Nat's voice. He had to admit to being

thankful they'd arrived; the back seat of her car was a bit cramped for

him. He realized that he was no longer feeling the heat of the sun's rays

on him. "Nat, how shady is it here?" He inquired.

"Very. Sarah always said that the cottage was always hard to keep warm

because so little sun filtered through the trees." Nat answered.

Nick cautiously eased the body bag from his head. Although there was still

enough light to make him squint, the dense trees combined with the car roof

offered enough protection to enable him to sit up. "If you can pull up as

close to the door as possible, I should be able to get inside with out any

harm." He told Nat.

"Let me get the door opened first, then you won't have to wait out in the

open while I unlock it." Nat suggested as she maneuvered the car to within

10 feet of the front door. She was unable to get any closer because of the

two large pine trees that flanked the front of the cottage. Turning off

the motor she got out and quickly unlocked the cottage door. She headed

for the car trunk as Nick dashed from the back seat into the cottage.

Getting the box containing the blood wine out she closed the trunk and

headed inside.

Nick stood just inside the doorway. As soon as Nat stepped in, he took the

heavy box from her. The interior of the cottage was in deep shadow thanks

not only to the trees shading it, but also to heavy drapes at the three

windows. Nick's vision enabled him to see clearly in the subdued light.

Putting the box on a sturdy wooden table he looked around.

The cottage was basically one large room. A slightly raised platform, near

the fireplace, held an old fashioned brass bed. To the other side of the

fireplace several comfortable looking overstuffed chairs were arranged.

The other half of the room contained the table he now stood beside as well

as the sink, stove and small refrigerator, which along with built in

cabinets, made up the kitchen and eating area. Nick noticed there were

numerous oil lamps placed in strategic locations thought the room. A door

on one side presumably led to the bathroom.

"The stove, hot water heater and fridge use propane, and I know that there

is plenty of oil for the lamps. Nat said. " She shivered slightly, the

room was quite chilly. "Why don't you get a fire started while I see what

there is for me to eat around here?"

Nick moved over to the fireplace and soon had a roaring blaze going in it.

Nat had lit several of the lamps and he drank in the sight of her hair

shining in the soft glow that now filled the room. She came closer,

standing before the fire, warming her hands. Nick could sense that she was

tense. 'And why shouldn't she be? By helping me she's put her whole

career on the line.' He thought. "Nat, come sit down. We need to talk."

He said.

Nat sat, twisting her hands in her lap. "I know." She looked at Nick with

sadness in her eyes. "I realize that unless something happens to find the

real killer, you may.." Nat paused and suddenly stood and walked back over

to the fireplace before finishing softly. "You will have to move on."

Nick had seen the flood of pain in Nat's face and he heard it in her voice.

Standing he walked over to her. Gently, he put his hands on her

shoulders. He could feel her trembling slightly and it tore at his heart.

He could see in her eyes the uncertainty she still felt. He released her

face and took her left hand in his. As she watched, a puzzled expression

on her face, Nick carefully pushed up the sleeve of the sweater she wore.

Nick easily spotted the small wound nestled in the crook of her elbow that

the needle she'd used to draw the blood she'd brought him last night. He

kissed the wound then raised his head to look at her. "When a vampire

drinks human blood, we don't just get nourishment from it." Nick said

quietly. "We also get the emotions and thoughts of the donor. We feel

what they feel and know their deepest secrets and hopes." Nick paused to

let Nat absorb what he was telling her.

Nat felt a blush rise to her cheeks as she realized what Nick was saying.

"Nick, I...I didn't realize...I mean," She stuttered, her emotions

whirling. She looked down, avoiding his eyes. "I knew that you had to be

in need of blood and it was the quickest way I could think of to get some

for you." She prayed that he would understand that she couldn't help her

feelings for him. She also prayed that knowing how she felt about him

wouldn't drive him away. If all he wanted was friendship then, somehow,

she'd learn to accept that. She cursed silently as she felt tears form in

her eyes a few leaking down her cheeks.

Nick reached out and stroked her hair before tenderly pulling her toward

him and enveloping her in an embrace. Holding her tightly, he laid his

face against her hair. "Shh, it's going to be okay." He murmured to her.

Nat squeezed her eyes shut trying, and failing, to contain the emotions

that had burned just beneath the surface since she'd returned to Toronto.

"Nick, I can't help how I feel for you. I think I've loved you from the

first time we met. I understand if you don't feel the same way, but I

don't want to lose your friendship." She took a shaky breath. "Oh Nick, if

you have to move on, I can't bear the thought of never seeing you again."

She sobbed as her tears began to flow in earnest. She cried softly as Nick

held her, trying to memorize every nuance of his embrace should he be

forced to leave. She felt the soft pressure of his lips against her hair.

"Natalie, look at me." Nick said, very softly. His use of her full name

made Nat raise tear-reddened eyes to his. He released her to cup her face

in his hands. "I swear to you, I will not leave you." He softy kissed

away the tears from her cheeks. "I could more easily walk down Yonge

Street at midday than leave you."

Nat raised her eyes to his. Her heart was beating quickly and she felt

like she could hardly breathe. The expression on his face, as he looked at

her, was so full of love that she wanted to gaze forever upon it.

"I love you, Nat. When I'm with you I feel whole." Nick continued. "I

didn't dare allow myself to dream that you might love me." His lips found

hers in a tender kiss. "Let me love you, Nat. Let me erase all of your

doubts about my feelings for you." He whispered.

His lips again found hers, but this time there was no mistaking his

passion. Nat moaned softly as her lips parted welcoming Nick's tongue as

it gently explored and caressed her mouth. Nat seemed to melt into Nick's

strong form. Her body seemed to mold itself to his and she felt a tingle

of excitement when the unmistakable evidence of his arousal pressed against

her thigh. Nick deepened the kiss, loosing himself in the taste and scent

of Nat. He yearned for the feel of her skin and eased his hand beneath her


She sighed at the cool touch of his hand as it slid beneath her sweater to

lightly stroke her skin. Her body responded with all of the pent up desire

of the past several years. An aching desire to feel not just Nick's hand

on her bare flesh, but to feel his entire body against hers overwhelmed

her. She broke the kiss and then pulled slightly away from Nick.

Nick felt his heart lurch when Nat moved away from him. 'You fool, you

moved too fast.' He mentally berated himself. As he watched, Nat gave him

a soft smile then with a single, fluid motion pulled the sweater off.

Kicking off her shoes, she then undid her slacks and slid them and the

panty hose she wore beneath down over her hips. She allowed them both to

drop to the floor. She stepped out of them now clad only in a lacy black

bra and matching panties. The soft glow of the lamps and the fire made her

skin glow golden and caused her hair to shine like a reddish halo as it

tumbled down her back. Nick gazed at her, filling his eyes with her beauty.

Nat could feel her heart pounding as she removed her outer clothes. Almost

shyly she looked at Nick. Seeing the expression on his face, she smiled

and stepped closer to him. "I want to feel you against me, Nick." She

said, as she ran her hand down the front of his shirt then began to

unbutton it.

"You are the most beautiful creature I've ever seen." Nick said, as he

quickly stepped out of his shoes and undid the waistband of his trousers.

His hardness was aching for release and the sight of Nat, nearly nude

before him only increased his discomfort. As soon as his shirt and trousers

were off, Nick pulled Nat against him.

Both of them gasped at the almost electric feeling that washed through them

as their bodies touched. Nat felt her womb contract in anticipation of

what she'd waited so long to experience. She leaned into Nick as his lips

moved slowly down her neck, causing her knees to feel weak. She, in turn

nibbled at his neck and planted kisses along the planes of his chest.

Nick's hands found the clasp of Nat's bra and he undid it. His longing to

caress, fondle, and suckle her firm breasts would no longer be denied. He

slid the straps from her arms and then traced a trail of kisses to the soft

mounds. He fondled them while kissing and licking them before he took one

nipple in his mouth.

Nat grasped Nick's shoulders as his hands and mouth sent thrills of

pleasure through her. She could feel her juices flowing as her body

demanded fulfillment. Closing her eyes, she let the feelings consume her.

Feeling his hand move to the waistband of her panties and then slip inside

them she moaned his name in gratification as her senses wheeled in ecstasy.

As his fingers encountered the wiry mass of Nat's pubic hair, Nick suckled

rhythmically on one rosy aureole. His manhood was throbbing with his desire

to bury it deep in the warmth of Nat's innermost folds. Hooking his

fingers in the elastic of her panties, he eased them over her hips then let

them drop to the floor at her feet.

He could feel Nat's body trembling as she clutched him for support. The

rapid pulsing of her heart and smell the intoxicating scent of her blood

and her arousal only increased his desires. He released her breast and

kissed his way back up her body before lifting her into his arms. In a few

steps he was beside the bed where he gently laid her before pausing to

remove his boxers.

Nat savored the feel of being in Nick's arms as he carried her to the bed.

She gazed hungrily at his body, delighting in the way the firelight played

on the planes of his muscles. Watching as he removed his silk boxers she

felt her mouth go dry with anticipation as she saw his large, thick, fully

erect shaft. A wave of pure lust spread from her inner core and she ached

to feel him within her.

Nick gazed at Nat his eyes lovingly traveling from her shining auburn curls

down to the sensuous curves of her alluring body. He lay down next to her

on the bed, enveloping her in his embrace. "You are my dearest love. I

can not exist without you, Nat." He told her between kisses. "I want to

make love to you, but I don't want to harm you." He continued. Nick could

feel the vampire struggling to emerge.

Nat looked into Nick's eyes and saw the flecks of gold in their blueness.

"I know that you won't hurt me, Nick. I want you to make love to me and to

trust that our love will keep me safe." She told him as she traced her

finger down his cheek and then down his neck along the large vein there.

Her other hand reached farther down, running lightly along his upper thigh

before gently closing around his granite hard shaft. She smiled as she saw

the look that crossed Nick's face and heard his moan of pleasure. As she

slowly began to stroke him she continued. "I've dreamed of you, naked

beside me, and of us making love for so very long." She breathed as she

saw his fangs descend and his eyes blaze golden. Deliberately, she leaned

into him and kissed him, running her tongue along his sensitive fangs.

Nick responded by claiming her mouth with his returning her kiss with a

passion that all but took her breath away. With a low growl, he covered

her body with his own. He felt Nat spread her legs to allow him total

access to her and the musk like scent of her arousal filled his head.

Moments later, he felt her guiding his manhood to the source of that scent.

Carefully, he slid into the slick heat of her sex.

Nat gasped as Nick's cool hardness slowly entered her. She angled her hips

to allow him enshroud it full and completely in her. His lips were again at

her breasts as he began to move within her and she could feel the growing

tension that filled her as her body climbed toward the release for which

she'd longed. Her hands were in his silky hair and caressing his smooth

skin while her lips and tongue tasted him. As Nick increased both the pace

and the force of his movements, she matched him pressing her mound against

him with each thrust.

Together they moved toward the zenith of their long suppressed needs. As

Nat felt her orgasm began, she cried out Nick's name and pulled his head to

her throat and the pulsing artery just below the surface. She cried out

Nick's name as the first wave washed through her like molten lava. At the

same time, she pulled Nick's head to her slender throat and the pulsing

artery there. The sharp prick of his fangs sinking into her tender flesh

only served to intensify the rapture she was feeling. The mental and

emotional connection that his drinking from her forged enabled her to know

that he truly loved her as deeply as she did him and her soul soared.

Nick's need for release was so great it bordered on pain. Unable to resist

the lure of Nat's blood, he sank his fangs into her seeking and finding

that sweetest ambrosia. Instantly his climax overtook him and with a

shudder he pumped his seed into her. Again he experienced the deep,

unconditional love she had for him, this time untainted with any

uncertainty of his feelings for her. Nick knew the blissful happiness and

sense of peace that Nat's newfound knowledge of his love had given her. He

was able to control the vampire and, after taking only a few small

mouthfuls of her bounteous nectar, withdrew his fangs from her. He kissed

away the last few drops of blood from the small twin wounds on her neck

then looked at her with loving eyes that had regained their clear blue hue.

Nat smiled up into the face of Nick: her lover, her friend, and her soul

mate. "Thank you, I have never felt so cherished in my entire life as I

did just now." She told him.

Nick moved so as to remove his weight from her yet still keep her in his

embrace. "I hope that I can make you feel that way forever, Nat." He told

her as she snuggled against him. Exhaustion, both physical and mental

caused both to quickly drift into deep slumber.

Schanke rubbed his eyes and wished for a giant bottle of aspirin. Lack of

sleep and worry over Nick had combined to give him a pounding headache. A

check of Bank's background records had shown that he'd been on police

forces in three other Canadian cities before coming to Toronto. Schanke

had emailed each of those forces inquiring about any similar murders in

their cities. Now he was impatiently awaiting responses.

Just over an hour ago, a patrol unit had found a van, with false Metro

Toronto markings on it and the rear door locks broken, parked in the lot of

an abandoned manufacturing plant. Repeated phone calls to Bank's home had

produced no results and the patrol unit sent over there reported that no

one appeared to be at the house.

Schanke was also worried about the inability of anyone to reach Natalie

Lambert. He knew that Banks fancied himself a ladies man. He also knew

that several ill advised remarks concerning what Banks would like to do

with Natalie, and one attempt to force his attentions on her, was the main

reason that Nick couldn't stand the man. Schanke hoped that Banks didn't

somehow have both Nick and Natalie.

"Detective Schanke? Any news?" Tracy Vetter asked.

"No. Hopefully soon though." Schanke replied. He'd barely spoken the

words when his email program chimed announcing a new post. "This might be

something." He said to Tracy. The header showed that it was a reply from

the Edmonton City Police. Opening it, Schanke scanned the message then

clicked on the attached file. The morgue photos and case histories of five

murdered women appeared one by one on his screen.

Tracy looked at the screen and felt her stomach churn. Uttering a hasty

"Excuse me!" she fled, nearly running into Cohen, in the direction of the

ladies room.

Cohen glanced at Schanke's computer screen. 'That explains Vetter,' she


"Captain, Edmonton's the first reply I've received," Schanke said glancing

up at her, "and they had a string of murders almost identical to ours about

ten years ago." He consulted a printout of Banks' work history.

"According to this, they started about six months after Banks started there

and stopped the same month he moved to Winnipeg."

Cohen raised an eyebrow. "Interesting, but not enough to get a search

warrant. If any of the other cities he's worked in has similar murders and

there is a time match to his time there, then we might have a chance of

getting one." She turned to return to her office.

"Hang on a minute, Captain. Replies from Winnipeg, Calgary and Thunder Bay

just arrived." Schanke said. He quickly opened the emails and scanned the

information in each comparing it with the print out. "Captain, they all

have similar murders that correspond to the time Banks was known to be in

each city."

Cohen gave him a smile. "Good work, Schanke. Write it up into a request

for a warrant for me to sign and get it over to a judge."

"I'm on it, Captain." Schanke said.

Two long hours later, he was in possession of the required warrant.

Accompanied by several uniformed officers Schanke headed for Banks' home.

The residence appeared to be the picture of normalcy, until the officers

opened what they thought was a closet door on the second floor. Instead of

linens, they found a small torture chamber. Schanke immediately ordered

everyone out and called for forensics. He also called Cohen, told her of

the discovery, and requested that the all points bulletin they'd issued

earlier for Banks be updated with the new information.

The forensic team arrived and started processing the small room. They were

followed by Internal Affairs since Banks was a member of the Metro Toronto

police. Knowing that forensics would take several hours to do their job

and with I.A. making it quite clear that THEY were now in charge of the

investigation, Schanke decided to take a break and to try and get some

sleep. It was already late afternoon, the setting sun was casting long

shadows on the ground, and he was feeling the strain of being up so long.

Shivering slightly in the cold air, Schanke hurried to his car. The sun

had already set. The streetlight nearest Schanke's car was out forcing

Schanke to unlock the door more by feel and habit than by being able to see

it. His exhaustion caused him to only vaguely notice that the car's

interior light failed to come on when he opened the door. Sliding inside,

he started the motor and pulled away from the curb. As he turned the

corner, Schanke heard a sound from the back seat. Before he could turn his

head to try and see what it was Schanke felt the cold metal barrel of a gun

pressed against the back of his neck.


It was shortly after 4:00pm when Nat awakened. She smiled as she found

herself looking into Nick's soft blue eyes. "It wasn't a dream." She said


Nick tightened his arms around her. "No, my love, it wasn't a dream." He

could feel her contentment through the still weak bond that drinking from

her had forged between them and the sense of happiness he felt from Nat

removed any lingering doubts of the rightness of their being together. He

kissed her gently.

"Did you get any rest?" Nat asked. She knew that the past several days

had taken their toll, even with Nick's vampiric stamina.

Nick smiled and nodded. "Yes, I've only been awake for a few minutes. I

feel very rested, in fact, I can't recall when I've felt as good as I do

right now."

"Good," Nat said, pulling her self to a seated position, "because I'm

about to be the voice of reality. Nick, who could be trying to frame you

for these murders?"

Nick sighed, then he too sat up, leaning back against the headboard. He

knew that Nat was right, unless they could figure out who was behind the

murders his life, in Toronto, was over. "I honestly don't know, Nat."

Nick ran a hand through his hair. "I would think that it was LaCroix's

doing, but it just doesn't feel like him. On the other hand, I can't think

of any reason for some other vampire to do this to me."

"Are you certain that it's a vampire doing it?" Nat asked. "What about

Banks? Is there any chance that he could be behind all this?"

"Nat, you know what my security system is like. It would take a vampire to

get into the loft undetected and even they wouldn't have an easy time doing

so." Nick responded.

"Unless it was a mortal that knew your alarm codes and somehow had keys to

the Caddy." Nat countered, reminding him that part of the evidence against

him had been found in the car trunk. "So who, mortal or vampire, would

have both?"

Nick shook his head. "None of the vampires I know have keys to the Caddy

or for that matter know my alarm codes. The only mortals that both know

the codes and have keys to the car are you and Schanke." Nick said,

troubled. "I only give the code to people I trust."

"You gave Schanke keys to the Caddy? AFTER that time he crashed it? You

must trust him!" Nat said, with a bit of a laugh.

Nick chuckled. "He has a spare set that he keeps in his desk. You know,

even vampires can lose their keys on occasion."

Nat sat up, interested. "Does anyone else know that Don has those keys?"

Nick looked at her. "Well, actually about half the precinct. I couldn't

find my set about two weeks ago and had to use the ones he had. Turned out

that I'd somehow laid them under some papers. I found them later on. But

Schanke had a great time ribbing me about it."

"So even if Banks weren't on duty that night, he may well have heard about

it from someone else. What about the alarm codes. Are you certain that no

one else knows them?" Nat inquired remembering when Alyce Hunter had

gained entry to the loft.

"No one," Nick said. "Except for the person from the cleaning service."

He added.

Nat gave him a bemused look. "No, I guess I can't quite picture you

mopping the floor." She teased. "You wouldn't know exactly who cleans

your place, would you?" She asked in a more serious tone.

"No, I don't see them. I just pay the bill once a month." Nick said

shaking his head.

"Well, I suggest that as soon as it's dark enough, we find out who and see

if they have any connection to someone in the precinct." Nat said.

Nick could feel the sun's rays fading from the sky. "It's nearly dark

enough now, by the time we get ready to leave here, it will be." He told

Nat. "I have to say that I'm still inclined to think this is the work of

some vampire. IF it's Banks, like you seem to think it might be, that

would mean..."

"That he murdered that woman they found in your loft." Nat finished,


"Yes." Nick said quietly. "Her name was Juanita Montoyez. Schanke said

she was only twenty-three years old." He added.

Nat leaned over and rested her head on Nick's shoulder. "Her death is NOT

your fault, Nick. If I'm right, then Banks has killed before." She told

him. She felt Nick's muscles relax slightly and knew that he'd accepted

the truth of her statement.

They lingered for several more minutes before finally rising from the bed.

Less than forty-five minutes later, they were headed back to Toronto.


Despite the chilly air, Schanke felt himself break out in a sweat.

"Just keep driving, nice and calmly, Don." Bank's voice spoke from behind


"Where are we going?" Schanke asked.

"We're going to take a little drive." Banks said. "You should have stayed

out of this, Don. I didn't have any problems with you, just that partner

of yours."

"Yeah? What about the women you killed in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Thunder

Bay? Were they because you wanted to frame someone, too?" Schanke shot


"No, they were just fun." Banks said.

Schanke felt a chill down his spine at the calm, matter of fact tone the

other man used. The chill deepened as he felt the muzzle of the gun press

harder against his skin. Schanke scanned the area, hoping for a patrol

car, but seeing nothing. After a few minutes, turning as directed by

Banks, Schanke realized they were heading for a waterfront park.

As they neared the park, Schanke felt his cell phone vibrate. Carefully,

to not attract attention to his actions, he let one hand drop down, into

his coat pocket. Praying that whoever it was would be able to hear and

have sense enough to not say anything, Schanke thumbed the button to accept

the call.

"Are you planning to go for a beachfront stroll, Banks?" Schanke inquired.

"I've always like coming to Ashbridge's Bay."

"Good," Banks replied in a voice full of menace, "Because you're going to

be staying here."

After directing Schanke to park in a wooded area near the entrance to the

park, Banks ordered him out of the car. Banks kept the gun pointed at

Schanke the entire time. Schanke knew that he would only have one chance

if he were going to escape. Pretending to stumble as they moved away from

the car, Schanke reached for his gun. As his fingers touched the butt of

it, he felt a stabbing pain in his side and heard the sound of the gunshot

that had hit him. He fell to the ground moaning in pain.

Banks walked over to where Schanke lay. "Just so you know, I used Knight's

gun. Now he'll have one more thing to try and explain away." He started

to take aim again, but the sound of an approaching car stopped him.

Cursing softly, Banks backed off behind a clump of bushes.

Nick parked Nat's car outside the offices that housed the cleaning service

he used. Together they got out and headed toward the building. On the

trip back to Toronto, they'd decided that finding out the name of the

person who'd done the work at Nick's would be a start on trying to figure

out if Banks was indeed behind the past week's events. Nick had tried to

convince Nat to wait in the car, not wanting to involve her in any more

illegal activity than she was already a part of by helping him. Nat had

flatly refused to stay in the car. It took Nick only a moment to force the

lock on the office door. Once inside, they quickly found the file showing

who had worked at Nick's.

Leaning against him, Nat felt Nick stiffen when he read the name of the

last person assigned to his loft. "What is it, Nick?" She asked, concerned.

Nick pointed to the name in the ledger, Juanita Montoyez. "That's the

woman they found dead in the loft." He said.

Nat saw the pain in Nick's eyes. "Nick, her death is NOT your fault." She

said, softly.

"Isn't it?" Nick replied in a strained voice. "She was working at the loft

the night she disappeared. If she hadn't been there the odds are high she

wouldn't be lying on a slab in the morgue now."

Nat shook her head. "Listen to me, Nick. The only person to blame for

Juanita Montoyez's death is the person that killed her. If it is Banks,

then yes, he may have chosen her in order to gain access to the loft, but

HE is to blame for her death, not you."

Nick looked into Nat's eyes. He wanted to believe what she was saying; the

guilt of yet another innocent because of him was unbearable. "So what do I

do, Nat? Just shrug her death off as 'bad luck'?"

Nat reached out and laid her hand against his cheek. "No. You bring the

person who did this to justice. You had no way to prevent her death, but

you can see to it that Banks, or whoever did this to her, pays for their


Nick covered Nat's hand with his. "You're right." He kissed her palm.

"Do you have your cell phone with you?" He asked.

"Yes, it's in my purse." Nat said.

"I think it's time we let someone know where I am." Nick said. He saw

Nat's questioning look. "I'm going to call Schanke. I can trust him."

Nat smiled and handed Nick the phone.

Nick dialed Schanke's cell phone number and listened as the other phone

rang. He heard the faint click as the call was answered and started to

speak. His words froze in his throat as he heard Schanke's voice talking

to Banks and Bank's response. Ending the call Nick grabbed Nat's arm

hurrying her to the door. "Banks has Schanke. They're at Ashbridge's Bay

Park." Nick said as they exited the building." Call the precinct and tell

them to get someone over there now! Then wait for me at the precinct."

Giving her arm a final squeeze, Nick took to the air.

Nat quickly dialed the precinct. As soon as she identified herself she was

immediately put through to Amanda Cohen. Nat quickly relayed the

information to the Captain.

"I've got three units heading there now and I'm leaving to go there as soon

as we hang up, Dr. Lambert." Cohen told her. "We know that Banks is the

one that killing these women, so Knight is in the clear."

Nat felt relief wash over her. "I'm going to head over to the park, too,

Captain." She told Cohen, hanging up before the other woman could raise any

objections. Getting in her car she muttered, "Sorry, Nick, but I just

don't take being ordered to do something very well." Throwing the car into

gear, Nat headed in the direction of the park. She was grateful that the

park was only a few blocks away.

Nick pushed for every bit of speed he could manage, but he was still

several blocks away when his keen hearing detected the sound of a gunshot.

'Please, don't let me be too late.' He prayed to whatever deity might

listen. As he landed, he also heard the distant sound of sirens. Moving

faster than any mortal, Nick raced toward Schanke's car, visible in the

distance. Off to the left of the car, Nick saw Schanke lying prone on the

ground. Only the still strong sound of his partner's heartbeat enabled

Nick to keep his beast controlled as rage toward Banks filled him. Nick

knelt beside Schanke, noting the pooled blood beneath the unconscious man.

"Hang in there, Schanke. Help's on the way." Nick said.

"I don't think they'll be in time for him, or you." Banks' voice spoke

from behind Nick. "Stand up nice and slow." Banks ordered.

Nick complied. Turning he glared at Banks. "Put down the gun, Banks. It's

over." He said in a soft voice.

Banks laughed. "Oh I know they've figured out that you didn't kill those

women, but I'll still have my revenge on you." He aimed the gun at Nick.

"I should be able to elude the cops long enough to pay a visit to your dear

Dr. Lambert, too." He sneered.

Nick felt the beast raging at the thought of this creature, anywhere near

Nat. "If you ever lay a hand on her, I promise you I will kill you." He

told Banks.

"Going to be a bit hard to do if you're dead, Knight." Banks replied


Nick gave the man a cold smile. "Don't count on being able to kill me that

easily." He could hear the sirens drawing closer. His hearing also picked

out the sound of a familiar car motor approaching. 'Nat!' He thought. He

forced himself to not look in the direction of the park entrance. Instead,

Nick suddenly launched himself at Banks.

Banks instinctively fired as Nick crashed into him and Nick felt a brief

wave of agony as the bullet tore through him. As both he and Banks crashed

to the ground, Nick managed to knock the other man's gun away. Nick's

strength, already taxed by the events of the week, was less than normal for

him, allowing Banks to pull loose from Nick's grip.

Scrambling away from Nick, Banks grabbed the first thing that he could use

as a weapon, a good-sized, downed tree branch. He knew that the shot had

hit Knight and couldn't understand why the other man was still on his feet.

Seeing Nick again heading toward him, Banks swung the branch at him,

hitting Nick in the lower leg.

Nick cried out in pain as the wood, always far more dangerous to his kind

than any bullet or knife, slammed into him. Heard the sound of the branch

cracking, and hoped that was the only thing that had broken. His leg gave

out from under him and Nick fell heavily to the ground. He rolled onto his

back to see Banks standing above him, the now stake-like end of the broken

branch aimed at his chest.

Nat pulled her car into the park, in time to see Nick launch himself at

Banks. Getting out, she left the headlights for light on as she hurried to

where Schanke lay. A quick check told her that Schanke was seriously

injured. She pulled out her cell phone and called for an ambulance, then

did what she could to staunch the bleeding. Concerned that Schanke was

going into shock, Nat removed her coat and carefully covered Schanke with

it to provide some extra warmth. Her ministrations were interrupted when

she heard Nick cry out in pain. She looked up in time to see him fall and

to see the deadly stake-like branch in Banks' hands.

Nat reacted without thought. Springing to her feet she raced toward Banks.

She saw him raise the branch as he prepared to plunge it into Nick. Nat

leaped onto Banks' back, clawing at his face with her nails.

Banks smiled smugly; at last he was going to rid himself for good of the

presence of Detective Nick Knight. He'd just lifted the improvised stake

above his head when what seemed to be a wildcat landed on him. Dropping

the branch in order to free his hands to protect his eyes, Banks staggered

as he tried to unseat whoever it was that had attacked him.

Nat clung to Banks' back, fear for Nick's safety and pure rage at the pain

Banks had caused not only them, but the families of all his victims, giving

her strength. Even that was not enough however when, in his determination

to get free, Banks repeatedly slammed her against a tree. Nat's grip

loosened and she fell to the ground moaning slightly, the breath knocked

out of her.

Banks whirled around, finally seeing who had attacked him. His face was

bloody from the deep scratches that had been inflicted on him. As his

vision focused on the source of his pain, a cruel grin formed on his lips.

"Well, this is even better than I'd dared hoped." He said. "Now the only

question is do I kill you first and make Knight watch or kill him and make

you watch?" He eyed Nat. "I think you first." He started to move toward


Nick struggled to his feet, leaning heavily against a tree, but the damage

the wooden weapon had done to his leg had not yet healed enough for him to

be able to walk, much less fight Banks. Nick felt his beast emerging as

his frustration at his helplessness grew. Through the nascent link he now

had with Nat, Nick had felt her rage, her pain when Banks had slammed her

against the trees, and now her terror as she lay, stunned by the battering

she'd received. Desperation made Nick lunge away from the tree despite the

pain that lanced through him in an attempt to reach Nat, to protect her

from Banks. He'd only take two halting steps when a gunshot rang out.

Nat tried to move, to get away from Banks. Her body ached where Banks had

slammed her against the tree and that, combined with her fall to the

ground, had knocked the wind out of her. Her movements were slow and

sluggish; her breath came in ragged gasps. She heard his footsteps drawing

closer to her and when the sound of a gunshot filled the night, she braced

herself for the impact of a bullet. Instead, she heard a strangled cry

from Banks and saw him grab at his chest before collapsing to the ground.

She closed her eyes in relief as she heard footsteps approaching.

Nick could scarcely believe it when Banks suddenly collapsed. Only then

did he become aware that there were other people here. He looked over to

where Schanke lay and saw Amanda Cohen, several uniform officers, and a

young blonde woman rapidly approaching a member of IA who stood somewhat

ahead of the rest of them, still aiming his gun at the now fallen Detective

Banks. Nick also saw that paramedics were busily working on Schanke. Nick

grasped at a nearby tree for support and awaited Cohen's arrival. While he

waited Nick watched as one uniform officer and the blond woman headed to

where Nat and Banks lay. Nick knew that Nat was alive, even with all the

other people present he could clearly pick out her heartbeat. Watching,

Nick saw the uniform officer stop by Banks, leaned over him while feeling

for a pulse, and then straighten up. "Captain, he's dead." The officer

called to Cohen. Nick noticed that the woman was by Nat.

"Dr. Lambert? Are you hurt? Should I call one of the paramedics for you?"

Nat slowly opened her eyes at the sound of the unfamiliar, yet concerned,

voice that was addressing her. She found a young blonde woman leaning down

toward her. "No, I don't need paramedics, but Schanke does." Nat said, as

she tried to catch her breath. "Help me up, I just need to catch my

breath." She added.

"Yes, ma'am they're already working on him, so don't worry." The blonde

replied as she extended her hand to assist Nat up.

Nat stood leaning on the other woman for a moment, then spotting Nick and

Cohen, headed in their direction. "Thanks," Nat paused, "I'm sorry I don't

think I know who you are." She said to the younger woman.

"Detective Tracy Vetter and I'm glad I can be of help." The woman replied,

still keeping a hand on Nat's arm in case she faltered.

Nat gave her a longer look. "Any relation to the police commissioner?"

She asked. She saw the other woman blush slightly and look a bit sheepish.

"He's my father." Came the reply.

"Well, thank you again, Tracy." Nat said with a smile. Nat stopped a few

feet from where Nick and Cohen were talking, not wanting to interrupt but

aching to touch Nick an assure herself that he was all right.

After convincing Cohen that he wasn't seriously injured, claiming that the

blow he'd received from Banks had only temporarily affected a nerve in his

leg as the reason he'd been unable to walk, Nick had listened in relief as

Cohen told him of Schanke's discoveries concerning Banks. He could hear

the satisfaction in her voice as she related that because of what they'd

learned, all charges against Nick had already been dropped. Looking up he

saw Nat standing a few feet from them. He met her eyes. "Excuse me,

Captain." He told Cohen quietly, and then he stepped forward and wrapped

his arms around Nat.

Nat closed her eyes as Nick held her tightly in his embrace. The feel of

his chest beneath her cheek, his scent, and the murmured sound of his voice

saying her name all combined to give her a sense of security and peace.

This was where she belonged; this was where she wanted to stay, forever.

She wrapped her arms around him, returning the embrace.

Tracy watched the pair embrace. The expression intense love on Knight's

face as he held Dr. Lambert made her hope that someday there would be a

person to care that deeply for her. Feeling as if she were eavesdropping,

Tracy looked over at Cohen noting that the captain was smiling slightly as

she, too, watched the couple. Cohen motioned with her head that Tracy

should come to her.

"Why don't you see if either the paramedics or one of the patrol units has

a blanket they can spare? Dr. Lambert seems to be missing her coat and

this wind is bitter." Cohen said, quietly.

"Yes, ma'am." Tracy replied, heading quickly to where the patrol cars were


Heedless of the others surrounding them, Nick continued to hold Nat. He

pressed kisses to her temple, rubbing his cheek against the softness of her

hair. He could feel her shivering, partly from the adrenaline that had

flooded her system and partly because of the coldness of the night.

Finally he reached down and tilted her chin to gaze into her eyes. She met

his gaze and no words were needed. Both knew that they were a part of the

other and that whatever else the future might hold, they would never be

alone. After several long moments, Nick tenderly kissed Nat's brow, and

then they both turned to face Cohen. They walked over to where the she

was, Nick's arm protectively around Nat's shoulders.

Cohen greeted then with a smile. "I just sent Detective Vetter to try and

find a blanket for you." She said to Nat.

"Thanks, I could use one." Nat said.

"When she gets back here, I need both of you to give her a preliminary

statement. The detailed one can wait till tomorrow night, you both look as

if you could stand some rest." Cohen continued. "Knight, you're still

going to be riding a desk for the next couple of days, until I.A. finishes

their report. However," Cohen reached into her jacket pocket, "I can't

tell you how glad I am to be giving this back to you." She handed Nick his

badge and identification card.

"Thank you, Captain. It feels good to have it back." He said. "I think

the blanket is here." He added seeing the young detective returning.

Nat gratefully accepted the blanket and wrapped it tightly around her.

While she was doing this, Cohen instructed Tracy to take a brief statement

from Nat and Nick, then departed to head to the hospital to check on

Schanke's condition.

Nick and Nat gave Tracy their statements, which were interrupted several

times by various other officers stopping to tell Nick how glad they were

that he'd been cleared, and finally were able to leave. They were just

preparing to pull out when the orderlies from the morgue and one of the

junior medical examiners arrived to deal with Banks' body. Nick reached

over and gently squeezed Nat's hand.

After a brief stop to trade the blanket for a spare jacket Nat kept in her

office, instead of heading to either Nat's apartment or the loft, the two

went instead to Sunnybrook Trauma Center, where Schanke had been

transported. They found Myra in the waiting area along with Captain Cohen.

Greeting both of them, Nick and Nat quickly learned that Schanke was in

surgery. The four found seats and together, waited for word on Schanke's


It was nearly three hours later when the doctor at last appeared with the

good news that the surgery had gone well and that unless some unexpected

development occurred, Schanke should make a complete recovery from his

wounds. Almost miraculously, the bullet had not damaged any major organs,

although it had nicked a number of blood vessels.

Cohen excused herself a few minutes later to return to the precinct. Nick

and Nat stayed with Myra until she'd had the chance to see her husband, who

was still in recovery, just over an hour after the doctor's appearance.

They then drove Myra back to her house.

Returning to the car after having escorted Myra to her front door, Nick

paused before pulling away from the curb. "Nat, come back to the loft with

me and spend the day." He said, reaching over to grasp her hand. "I need

to feel you in my arms, to know that you are safe beside me." He hoped

that she would agree.

Nat leaned toward him. "Yes, I need to be in your arms." The tears that

she'd manage to contain all evening finally began to slip from her eyes.

Her voice breaking slightly she added. "Oh Nick, when I saw Banks standing

over you, I was so frightened." She felt Nick's arm around her, as she

rested her head on his shoulder. "I couldn't bear losing you." She said.

Nick held Nat and soothed her until she was able to regain her composure.

"I couldn't bear losing you, either." He told her, looking lovingly into

her eyes. Kissing her softly on the lips, he brushed away the moisture

from her cheeks. "Do you want to stop at your place for anything?" He

inquired. "I don't think any of the clothes you have at my place are

suitable for wearing to work."

Nat thought for a moment. "No, I'm going to be pretty sore by tomorrow

night. I'll call in sick and you can drop me off at my place your way to

work." She told him. Just knowing that she was going to be with Nick made

Nat feel better.

They rode in companionable silence to the loft. Once there, Nat's car

parked in the space normally occupied by Nick's Caddy, the headed to the


"Any idea when you'll get your car back?" Nat inquired as they rode up in

the lift.

"I'll find out tomorrow, before we leave here." Nick replied. "Maybe

instead of me dropping you off, you could run me over to impound to pick it

up?" He asked as he pulled her closer to him.

"Hmm," Nat said, snuggling into the comfort of his embrace, "I think that

can be arranged." Nick tightened his hold on her causing Nat to wince

involuntarily as the bruises on her back protested.

"You are hurt." Nick said, concerned.

"Just some bruising, nothing serious." Nat reassured him.

"Well, I think I know how to make you feel a little better." Nick said,

steering her over to the couch. "Sit here and give me about fifteen


Nat sat down, relaxing in the familiar feel of the leather couch beneath

her. She smiled as Nick went up the stairs, wondering just what he was

planning to do. She could hear him moving around upstairs and her

curiosity increased.

Upstairs, Nick first went into the bathroom and started the water running

in the deep Jacuzzi tub he'd recently installed. Making sure that the

temperature dial was properly set he added some soothing bath salts to the

water. With the tub filling, he lit several scented candles that were

placed throughout the room. He place a couple of large, soft towels near

the tub and then headed to the bedroom In the bedroom, he lit additional

candles letting their flickering light illuminate the chamber. He paused

to fluff the pillows on the bed and to turn down the coverlet. He went to

a small safe that was in the closet, opened it, and took out a small box.

Lifting the lid, Nick looked at the object inside and smiled. He carried

the box over to the bed and slipped it beneath one set of pillows.

Checking on the tub, Nick turned off the water and started the whirlpool

jets. He stripped off the clothes he was wearing, leaving on only his

boxer shorts. Grabbing a black silk robe he slipped it on and then headed

back downstairs.

Nat watched Nick descend the stairs. "Umm, I feel better already." She

told Nick.

Nick smiled and reached down to help her to her feet. "Then you're going

to feel wonderful in a little while." He led her up the stairs.

In the bedroom, Nick indicated that Nat should sit on the foot of the bed.

"Let me assist you in preparing for you bath." He said as he knelt and

started removing her shoes and socks. That done, he stood and held his

hand out to her then helped her stand. Leading her into the warmth of the

now steamy bathroom, Nick continued to undress Nat. He undid the

fastenings of her slacks, allowing them to fall to the floor. Next, he

eased the sweater she was wearing off over her head. Moving behind her he

reached to undo the clasps of her bra. A frown furrowed his brow as he saw

the darkening bruises on her back. Nick leaned forward and softly kissed

the bruises before easing the last of Nat's clothing, a pair of silk

panties, down over her hips. While Nat gathered her hair up on top of her

head to keep it from becoming wet, Nick shrugged out of his robe and

boxers. He was already becoming erect, just being near Nat seemed to have

that affect on him.

Nat finished with her hair and turned to face Nick. She saw his arousal

and smiling stepped closer to him. Nick immediately pulled her against

him, his lips seeking hers. Nat sighed with pleasure as their tongues met

in a tender, yet intensely passionate, kiss. She gasped slightly when she

felt him lift her into his arms, then sighed again as Nick carefully

lowered her into the hot, soothing tub. "Oh, this is heavenly." She said,

as the water seemed to leach most of the pain and stiffness from her

muscles. She looked mischievously at Nick. "It's a big tub. Won't you

join me?" She asked.

"I think I will." Nick replied.

Nat slid forward slightly as he got into the tub. Once he was seated, she

leaned back, resting against his firm chest. Nick's arms went around her,

his hands cupping the soft fullness of her breasts while his lips nibbled

the skin of her throat and jaw before again claiming her lips. Nat's hands

lightly massaged the smooth muscles of Nick's thighs, while her need and

desire for Nick grew. After several minutes, of kissing and caressing,

Nick at last released Nat's lips. He stepped from the tub and wrapped one

of the large towels he'd previously placed nearby around his waist. The

other he held open for Nat.

Nat stepped from the tub to find herself wrapped in a soft cocoon of

comfort. Nick's hands were caressing her as he toweled her dry while his

lips played along her skin. His actions fanned the flame of her desire

into a roaring blaze that raced through her body. She pressed against him,

feeling the hardness of his manhood. With a moan that was half pleasure

and half need, Nat ran her hands along the strong muscles of Nick's back

and up into his hair. It took but a small effort to claim his lips with

her hungry mouth.

Nick's head was filled with the richness of Nat's scent. Her arousal was

plain to him and, combined with the heady scent that was uniquely hers,

cause his loins to ache with the need to be one with her. His fingers

found the pins she'd used to keep her hair up and he swiftly removed them,

burying his face in the silky curls that now tumbled freely down her

shoulders. Unable to resist any longer, Nick lifted Nat into his arms and

carried her to the bedroom. Both of the towels were left lying discarded

on the floor. Nick could feel his eyes change as his ardor increased.

Laying Nat on the bed, he paused to gaze at her. The pure joy and

happiness he saw shining in her eyes as she reached for him filled him with

warmth. He saw no fear, no loathing of what he was, only love. As he lay

close to her, covering her body with his, he nuzzled her neck and

whispered, "You complete me, my dearest love. You are a flame of golden

light in my world of darkness."

Nat heard not only his words, but also the emotions behind them. Reaching

for him, she cupped his face in her hands. "I love you, Nick, more than I

ever dreamed was possible. I've never been as happy as I am when I'm with

you." Her hand slipped behind his head and she pulled his lips to hers.

"Make love to me, Nick, now and forever." She murmured as their mouths met.

Nick pulled back from the kiss. "Then tell me that you'll be mine, now and

forever." He said, reaching to remove the box he'd placed beneath the

pillow. He opened it to reveal a large, flawless diamond solitaire.

"Nick?" Nat breathed, afraid that she was dreaming.

"I bought this as an act of hope," Nick told her. "Marry me, Nat. I love

you and I want and need you beside me."

"Yes, Nick. I want and need to be beside you, forever." Nat said as he

slipped the ring on her finger. Smiling, she again reached for him.

Nick needed no encouragement. His need for her was so intense as to be

painful. He plundered her mouth with his, then trailed kisses down the

slender column of her throat and onto the soft, creamy skin of her

shoulders. His hands moved over her body lightly caressing her breasts

before descending the core of her femininity.

Nat moaned with pleasure as Nick seemed find every erotic location on her

body. She could feel small tremors of ecstasy course through her even as

she felt her body rising toward the ultimate culmination of bliss. Her

hands sought and found the throbbing shaft of Nick's manhood. Closing her

fingers around it, she stroked him, feeling the slickness of his

pre-orgasmic emissions as she did so.

Nick's breath was uneven as the sensations Nat's ministrations caused took

him closer to the edge of climax. With a soft growl he slid between her

legs. "Nat, I need to be in you." He panted. When she released him, Nick

lifted Nat's hips from the bed and with a single smooth stroke, buried his

turgid rod fully within her. He paused only a moment before he began to

move, pulling back until only the very tip of his shaft was still inside,

then thrusting its full length back inside her.

Nat gasped as she felt Nick's coolness enter her. As he began to move, she

matched his motions, pressing against his pelvis as she sought feel him

fill her completely. As the tempo of their movements increased, the

rhythmic pressure against her clit built into a tension beyond any she'd

ever known. "Please, Nick, come with me." She cried as she felt her body

nearing the edge of orgasm. Her hands urged his mouth to the pulsating

vein in her throat.

Nick felt his entire world contract until it was centered only on Nat and

the wonderful feelings that raced through him. The need to taste the

sweetness of her blood, and in doing so realize his climax was unendurable.

He offered no resistance as she drew him to the source of that nectar. He

sank his fangs deep into the vein, triggering his release, just as he felt

Nat's body spasm with her own release.

Nat cried out as a powerful orgasm shook her. Her pleasure was only

enhanced by the sharp sting of Nick's fangs, a sting immediately followed

by a sense of closeness and of love that all but overwhelmed her senses.

The intensity of Nick's love for her, that the blood link provided, brought

tears to her eyes. She pushed into the link, letting her love and emotions

flow like a beam of sunlight to Nick.

Nick shuddered as he pumped his seed deep into Nat's womb. The beast

savored the heady wine of her blood and his mind was filled by the pleasure

and joy she felt. His soul basked in the brightness of her love for him

and he was filled with peace. He withdrew his fangs from her and held her

tightly in his arms.

Nat gazed, sated, at Nick's face seeing a calmness there that she'd never

witnessed before. As they both gave into the languor that stole over them,

they snuggled tightly against each other, kissing softly as they relished

the aftermath of their love. Nick roused enough to draw the sheets and

comforter over them, and then they both sank into sleep. That they would

have many decisions to make, they both knew, but for now they slept knowing

that this was but the first night of forever.

The End

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