From: CLone Star Software <cstar@xxxxxxx.xxxx

Date: Tue Aug 31, 1999 8:42 pm

Subject: The Warmth of the Sun

This story had its origins in a program I saw on a cable channel that dealt with celebrity stalkers and is dedicated to the memories of all those actors, actresses, singers and other celebrities who were taken from us much too soon.

As always, I don't own the Forever Knight characters. The Forever Knight characters belong to TPTB and I'm just borrowing them for a short while. This story is for entertainment only and no profit is being made from it. All new characters are my creation and belong to me.

ARCHIVE PERMISSION: Permission to archive to Mel's FKFanfic Archive, Mortal Love Archive and the FTP site. All others must ask permission.

Please send all comments to: cstar@a... or forevrnite@u...

The Warmth of the Sun By Nightlady (c) 1999

She sat in the car and watched as the door opened and the man came out. A small grin passed over her face as she eased her foot from the brake. This was the crucial part. She had to time it exactly to insure that once he became aware of the danger he couldn't escape. Pushing the accelerator to the floor, tires squealing with the sudden power, she drove directly at the man. His body made a loud thumping sound as the car caught him and, for a brief instant, she could see his expression of terror and pain clearly before he slid from the hood of the car as it tore around the corner. She laughed as she felt the bump of the wheels passing over him. Her laughter continued as she drove down the empty street and disappeared.


Natalie Lambert was kneeling, doing a visual exam on the victim of what had been called in as a hit and run accident, when Nick Knight and Don Schanke arrived. Being in homicide meant that they had to investigate any unexpected or suspicious death and a hit and run certainly filled those criteria. While Schanke stopped to talk to the uniformed officers that had responded to the scene first, Nick made his way over to Natalie. He stood quietly waiting until she finished her examination before speaking. "It came over the radio as a hit and run." Nick said, when Nat looked up and noticed him. "Anything to change that?" Nick held out his hand to assist her to her feet.

 Nat gratefully accepted his help in standing. "Not that I can see here." She responded. "Of course once I get him back to the morgue and take a closer look that could change but, based on what I see right now, death is going to be due to extreme blunt force trauma." She pointed to the dead man's head. "There's what appears to be small pieces of safety glass, like you'd find in a car windshield, embedded in the right side of his face. There is also what appears to be dark green paint on the front of his shirt and the waist area of his trousers along with some glass that may be from a headlight. My guess is that he heard the car coming, turned and was struck while facing it, and then was thrown onto the hood of the car smashing his face against the windshield." She paused to indicate to the waiting attendants that they could remove the body. "Whatever car hit him had to have suffered severe damage. Which should make your job easier." Nat said giving a rueful smile.

Nick didn't answer for a moment, just enjoying the sight of her smiling. The past year had been a difficult one for her, starting with the murder of her goddaughter, Cynthia and the events during the Valentine's Day holiday less than two months ago hadn't helped. Although she apparently didn't have any conscious memory of the events at Azure, Nick suspected that his effort to erase those events from her mind had not been totally successful. Smiles had become rare for Nat and he treasured each one. He mentally shook himself and replied, "Providing we can find the car." They both turned as Schanke approached.

"You are not gonna believe who I just talked to!" Schanke said, obviously excited.

Nick couldn't help but smile. "Probably not, you going to tell us?" He exchanged an amused look with Nat.

"Seems our victim, one Samuel Minor, was a close friend and associate of Terrance Whitaker, the singer." Schanke said. "He'd come to watch Whitaker rehearse for his concert tomorrow night, hung around for a short chat, and had left to go back to the hotel. Whitaker left about five minutes later and found the body."

"That's Sour Sammy?" Nat said, watching the morgue wagon drive off. She saw the questioning look on Nick and Schanke's faces and blushed. "Um, uh, I've heard that some fans of Whitaker call him that." She said in explanation.

"Yeah, Myra's nuts about Whitaker, too." Schanke said. "She even goes into one of those chat rooms, on the computer, to talk about him with a bunch of other women." He shook his head. "What is it about the guy?"

"He's a wonderful singer and he happens to be very attractive." Nat said. "He's also got a good reputation; he really cares about people."

Schanke snorted. "Sounds like you might be a fan of his, too."

"I guess I am." Nat said. "Although meeting him under these circumstances wouldn't have been my first choice."

Schanke laughed. "That's right, he's single isn't he?" He teased.

Nat's blush deepened. "Ha, ha. I better get back to the morgue and see if I can find anything that will help both of you find whoever did this." She said. Giving Nick a brief glance, she headed for her car.

Nick raised an eyebrow and took a better look at the man that Schanke had been interviewing. A small knot of pain filled his chest as he noted that Terrance Whitaker was a handsome man. His dark hair, flashing gray colored eyes and well formed physique combined with the personality attributes Nat had referred to would, indeed, make him very attractive to women. Nick wondered just how attractive Nat found Whitaker. He was still pondering that question as he and Schanke drove back to the precinct.


Nat had just finished the autopsy on Samuel Minor when Grace stuck her head in the room. "Girl, you are NOT going to believe who is waiting to see you in your office." Grace said, an excited expression on her face. Before Natalie could respond Grace continued. "Terrance Whitaker!"

Nat smiled. "Unfortunately, Mr. Minor here was a close friend of Mr. Whitaker. Although, why he's here to see me does have me a bit puzzled." Removing the gloves she was wearing and tossing them into a biohazard bin, Nat continued. "Would you tell him that I'll be along in about ten minutes? Maybe offer him a cup of coffee or something?" Nat wanted to change out of the bloody scrubs she was wearing before seeing Whitaker. Grace nodded her agreement and left.

Nat quickly changed out of her scrubs, chuckling slightly as she realized that she was fussing with her hair. Eight minutes later, she opened the door to her office.

Terrance Whitaker stood as she entered and extended his hand. "Thank you for seeing me, Dr. Lambert." He said.

"I'm sorry that it has to be under these circumstances and," Nat said quietly, "I don't really know how much help I can be to you. Mr. Minor's death is the subject of a police investigation, so I can't really give you much information." She gestured to the chair in front of her desk. "Please, sit down and tell me what it is you want to know."

Whitaker nodded his understanding as he took the seat. "I don't want to do anything that might jeopardize any case the police are able to build. But Sam was my friend for great many years. He was there when I was just starting out and I guess I'm just looking for reassurance that he didn't suffer." He said, sorrow evident on his chiseled features.

Nat was silent for a moment. "I can tell you that it is my professional opinion that Mr. Minor's death was almost instantaneous. He was likely unconscious by the time he hit the ground." She looked at Whitaker sadly. "I wish I could be of more help."

Whitaker closed his eyes and sighed. "You've just helped a great deal. I've been wondering, ever since it happened, if I had been there, seen the accident, and called for help right away whether Sam might have survived."

Natalie shook her head. "No, it wouldn't have made any difference in the outcome." She told Whitaker. Nat mentally berated herself for being unable to keep from noticing how handsome Whitaker was as he sat in front of her, trying to come to terms with his friend's death.

At last he manage a faint smile. "Thank you for that." He hesitated before continuing. "I'm not a Toronto native, I don't suppose you'd know where I could get a cup of coffee and something to eat at this time of night? And perhaps, join me?"

Nat glanced at the clock above her door. It was about time for her dinner break. "There's a small coffee shop just down the street, not much to look at but the food is excellent." She replied. "I haven't had my dinner break yet, so yes, I'd loved to join you." Leaving word with Grace, Nat and Terrance left the morgue.

Locking the door to her apartment behind her, she sat and relived the night's events. "See, Ter," she said quietly, "I did understand what you wanted. Now you won't have to put up with that busybody anymore." The memory of how, during a fund raising dinner for a local charity, Samuel Minor had ignored her still stung. She'd scraped and saved to attend the event, not because she gave a damn about the charity, but because she'd learned that Ter was attending it. She'd dreamt for weeks how she would finally have chance to see him, how wonderfully they'd hit it off, and how they would go off and talk till the wee hours of the morning. The night of the event she'd spent over two hours making sure that she looked perfect only to have her plans ruined when Samuel Minor had shown up and claimed Ter's attention. She had managed to make eye contact with Ter. She'd known instantly that he would rather be with her than Samuel.

"I did try and give you a chance." She murmured. "But you had the nerve to brush me off, so I had to make you pay. Now you won't ruin Ter's evenings anymore."

She mentally ran through how she'd insured that Minor's death wouldn't be traced to her. She hadn't been foolish enough to use her own car, of course. She'd waited until the valet at a busy restaurant was distracted and grabbed the keys to the car with which she'd run Minor down. Afterwards, she'd abandoned it several blocks from where her car had been parked. Feeling secure that nothing could be traced to her she drew a hot bath and relaxed in it while dreaming of how her future meetings with Ter would go.


"Thank you for having dinner with me." Terrance said as he and Nat walked back to the morgue. "And for being such a good listener. Talking to you about Sam really has helped."

Nat smiled up at him. "I'm glad that I was able to be of help. I want you to know that the detectives assigned to this case are probably the best on the force." They stopped in front of the Coroner's building. "Thank you for letting me fulfill a secret dream, of actually meeting and getting to know you a little." She blushed slightly. "I have to admit to being a fan of yours."

"I like meeting fans, after all they are the only reason that I get paid to do what I love." Terrance said. "I just wish all of them were as nice as you are." At Nat's raised eyebrow he continued. "Don't get me wrong, most are very nice and respect my need for privacy, but every once in a while you run across one that seems to think that just because they've read anything printed about you and have all your albums, they somehow know you." He laughed somewhat nervously. "Those are the ones that you have to be very careful around. I've been fortunate and haven't had any that were, shall we say really scary, but you've seen the news reports the same as I have. Sometimes a fan goes overboard and occasionally it ends up with someone being hurt."

Nat nodded, she remembering the not small number of celebrities that had actually been killed by misguided and mentally unstable fans. "How can you tell if someone's like that?" She asked.

"Most of the time you'll get a hint from how they talk to you. They'll hint of shared jokes between you or something like that which sets off the alarms." His expression saddened. "Sam was great in helping to screen people trying to see me. It didn't always make him popular, but it did make me feel more secure meeting with my fans."

Nat laid her hand on his arm. "You're going to miss him a lot." She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. "Thanks again for a lovely dinner." She said, then turned, and entered the building. Terrance stood gazing after her before he headed to his car.

Across the street, a lone figure stood watching from the shadows. With an effort, Nick unclenched his hands. He'd dropped by to see if Nat had her report ready. Grace had given it to him and had informed him that Nat had gone to dinner with Terrance Whitaker. Nick had thanked Grace then left. He'd taken the report back to the precinct, then booked off. Returning to the vicinity of the Coroner's building, he'd slipped easily into a darkened area and waited. He admitted that he was jealous of Whitaker and that he would be jealous of any man with whom Nat choose to spend time. Nick snorted softly as he recalled his reaction the first time he'd seen Nat with her brother, Richard. Even though Nick had only known her a relatively short time, he'd immediately felt a sense of rage at seeing her with someone else. He had felt incredibly foolish when he'd learned just who Richard was. 'And what right have I to deny her what I dare not give her?' Nick thought, as he stood in the shadows. He stood there until at last the approaching sunrise forced him to seek the safety of his loft. Nick doubted if he'd find much rest this day.

 Nat unlocked the door to her apartment and, after greeting Sidney, sat heavily on the sofa. She was exhausted yet, in the past several weeks, had come to almost fear sleep. Her rest was filled with half remembered dreams, dreams that caused her to awaken shaking and overwhelmed by a sense of emptiness. Adding to her mental distress was her confusion over her relationship with Nick. In the past month or so he seemed to have withdrawn from her and from their friendship. For some reason, he was almost as aloof as he'd been that first night on the street when he'd been checking up on her to see if... Nat suddenly froze. "He couldn't have, I'm a resister." She murmured softly. "But what if somehow Nick has removed some of my memories? Why would he and what could require him to do that?" Nat stood and began to pace. She carefully thought back to when her sleeping difficulties had begun. After several minutes she whispered, "Valentine's Day." The gut feeling this simple act produced made her certain that something important had happened on the day, something she could not now recall. Somehow, though, just coming to this realization seemed to relieve some of the tension she'd been feeling. She decided that a nice, long soak in the tub was in order. While the tub ran, Nat found a notebook and pen, which she placed beside her bed. She recalled reading that if, when you first awakened, you wrote down whatever you could remember about your dreams it helped you to understand what they were about. Satisfied that she was on the right track she stripped off her clothing and headed into the bath.


"In other words, gentlemen, you don't have any more of an idea as to who was driving that car than you did four days ago." Cohen said, watching her two best detectives squirm under her scrutiny.

"Afraid not, Captain." Schanke said. "Based on what forensics has given us, we know the car was a late model, dark green Ford Tempo or Mercury Topaz. According to Natalie, it's likely that the grill, hood, windshield, and at least one headlight would be damaged. We've got an alert out to all the local automobile body and glass shops to notify us immediately if anyone brings in that model car with damage that sort of damage."

"We've also contacted the various car rental services, in case it was one of theirs." Nick added. "So far, nothing."

"We do have a possible stolen vehicle that was towed in late this afternoon," Schanke added looking at the papers he'd grabbed off his desk on his way into the captain's office. "I'll stop over at impound and check on it tomorrow before I come on shift."

Cohen nodded. "Okay, keep at it, but don't neglect your other cases." She looked at the two detectives. "I know it isn't much help, but it sounds like you're doing everything you can." She waited as they stood and left her office.

"I guess that last was a hint that we should talk to the witnesses to that gang shooting last night." Schanke said, as he and Nick headed down the hallway.

"Knight, Schanke, there are a couple of ladies here wanting to see whoever's in charge of the Minor case. They say they may have some information." Miller called to them. "Should I send them back to you?"

Nick and Schanke exchanged glances. "Yes, please do." Nick told Miller as he and Schanke headed to their desks instead. A moment later, Miller escorted two well-dressed women in to the squad room. Smiling, Nick introduced himself and Schanke as he evaluated the women. Both appeared to be in their mid to late thirties. They were conservatively dressed and seemed, not surprisingly, to be somewhat nervous. "Officer Miller said you had some information concerning what happened to Samuel Minor?" Nick asked in a soothing voice.

The women glanced at each other. "This was your idea, Peg. You tell them." The younger looking of the two said to her companion.

Peg blushed slightly before speaking. "I'm not positive if it's anything that will help you." She said.

"Why don't you tell us whatever it is and let us make that decision." Nick said.

"Lil and I belong to an email list for fans of Terrance Whitaker." Peg said. "Most of the time, we just chat back and forth about how much we enjoy Ter, his music, and how cute he is. The past few days, there's been a lot of discussion about Sam Minor's death. Most of us feel horrible about it." She said, stressing the word most.

"But someone doesn't?" Schanke asked.

Peg wrung her hands nervously. "One of the listmembers, who uses the nickname of 'Pietra', sent a message saying she was glad that he was dead. She's always been a bit odd, hinting that she had some sort of inside track with Ter." She took a folded piece of paper from her purse and handed it to Nick. "I printed out the email, including the headers." She explained.

Nick looked at the print out. "You did the right thing, thank you." He'd noted that 'Pietra' made mention of Sam Minor hitting the windshield, a fact that had not been released to the press. Nick handed the paper to Schanke, who scanned it, realized that this might actually be their first real clue, and added his thanks to the women.

As they left, Nick could hear Peg saying how much better she felt for having 'done her duty.' He turned to Schanke. "Let's see if the computer folks can help us find who sent this." Feeling more hopeful about the case he started for the door.

Natalie grabbed her coat and called out to Grace, "I'm heading out for my dinner break. Be back in about an hour." Smiling she walked swiftly outside and headed for her car. She was, for the third time in five days, having dinner with Terrance Whitaker. She enjoyed his company and she realized that his friend's death had left him very vulnerable. Knowing that he hadn't any other sort of support system in Toronto, she'd accepted his dinner invitations. Even though it caused her to stretch her dinner hour slightly, Nat was usually back at work within an hour to an hour and a half from the time of her departure. So far, she'd been fortunate to not have a case intrude while she was with Terrance. She'd drive over to the theater and meet him after his performance. From there, they'd take her car, head to whatever little restaurant Terrance had chosen for that evening, and have dinner. She missed the quiet early mornings she used to spend at the loft with Nick and Terrance's company helped her feel a little less lonely. She had to admit, too, that it was rather nice to have dinner with a man who actually ate!

That train of thought caused her to think of the journal she'd been keeping of her dreams.

She was now certain that Nick had messed with her memory. She'd dreamed of being in a luxurious restaurant with another vampire, an older man who frightened her in a way that Nick never had. Even now she shivered as she recalled him. She also dreamed of Nick, holding her in his arms and telling her that he loved her. That dream had changed and suddenly it was Nick's beast that was holding her. Her hand unconsciously went to her neck as she recalled how his fangs had grazed her there. "LaCroix, Lucien LaCroix!" Nat whispered as her memory of the name of the other vampire surfaced. The sudden blast of a horn behind her made her realize she'd been sitting at a now green stoplight. 'Great, Lambert, now you're zoning out like Nick!' She thought. She knew that soon she was going to have to confront Nick about Valentine's Day. No matter what it was, she didn't like the idea of having him tamper with her memory.

Parking behind the theater, Nat walked toward the stage door entry. Approaching the corner of the building she could hear a woman's voice raised in anger. Nat paused, not really wanting to walk into an unpleasant scene. A moment later, a tall, blonde, elegantly dressed woman rounded the corner, nearly bumping into Nat. The woman was still muttering under her breath and, from what Nat could make out, she was angry at not being allowed entry into the theater. Nat gave her a brief smile and hurried toward the stage door.

The blonde woman's eyes narrowed as she passed the petite auburn haired woman. Silently, she turned around and walked quickly back to the corner of the building. The acoustics in the alley were excellent and it was easy for the blonde to hear the conversation between the other woman and the stage door manager.

"Hi, Bill. How close to over is the show?" Nat asked as she approached the door. She noted the look of relief that washed over his face as he recognized her.

Bill smiled. "Hi Doctor Lambert. They're running just a few minutes late tonight, but Mr. Whitaker said I should ask you to please wait in his dressing room for him." He shook his head. "I thought for a minute you were someone else."

Nat raised an eyebrow. "You mean the tall lady that I just saw leaving? She didn't look very happy."

Bill nodded. "Yep, that's her. She showed up claiming that Mr. Whitaker had indicated she was to meet him after the show. Since I knew that he already had plans to meet you, I knew she had to be lying." He shrugged. "You get that sort with someone as popular as Mr. Whitaker. Fans who want to see him privately and try to talk their way inside. Gotta admit, this one was a bit older and certainly better dressed than most of the others." He held the door open for Nat and they went inside.

At the corner, the blonde woman clinched her fists into tight balls, rage coursing through her body. That fool of a stage manager! She'd attended tonight's concert, as she had the previous ones this week, sitting down front in the center section of the house. Tonight had been special. She knew that Terrance was singing directly to her the entire evening. When he'd sung the line, 'I want to see you, I want to hold you close and whisper you are mine' from one of his biggest hits, she'd realized that he meant for her to meet him backstage. Then she'd run into that idiot at the door who'd refused to let her inside but seemed to be more than happy to let the other woman in. Her eyes narrowed as she recalled how the stage door manager had greeted the woman. 'I won't let you try and take Ter from me!' She thought angrily. Making sure she wasn't being watched, she moved over to the lot where the theater employees and performers cars were parked. She'd just settled into a darkened corner when she saw a large, greenish, older model convertible pull into the alley and park.

*********************************************************************** Nick had only half listened to Schanke's chatter as they'd driven to the theater. The story the two women had told, of the apparent need of Pietra to totally possess Terrence Whitaker had struck too close to home for comfort. Nick realized that in that way he, or rather the vampire, had much in common with Pietra. Both needed to totally posses the object of their love. In either case, acting upon this need resulted in death. Nick was certain that Pietra had killed Sam Minor and that she would have no compunction against killing anyone else she felt stood between her and Whitaker. In his own case, he feared allowing himself to love Nat would only end in her death or the loss of her soul to the darkness in which he existed.

The visit with the computer experts had proved frustrating. Nick had learned how easy it was to become anonymous in this age of the world wide web. Whoever Pietra was, she was knowledgeable enough to have sent her email using a mailer that didn't provide an easily traceable link to her. The only hope they had of tracking her down would require several pieces of luck. First they'd have to get a court order to force the email provider to release information about her. This would only be helpful if she'd given her true name and address when she'd opened the email account. Nick figured the likelihood of any of that was rather slim. As things currently stood, they didn't have anything like enough evidence to even hope for a court order.

Arriving at the theater, Nick pulled around to the back, parking the Caddy in the alley near the stage door. Nick and Schanke showed their identification to the man guarding the stage door and were quickly let inside. They followed the guard down a narrow hallway, until they reached Whitaker's dressing room. Nick nodded as the guard informed him that Mr. Whitaker's lady friend was inside the dressing room waiting for him. Schanke thanked the man, waiting until he had left before knocking at the door. "Some life. Women waiting for you when you finish work. Bet she's here to help him 'relax'. Schanke said, smirking, to Nick.

Nick's answer was lost to stunned silence as the door opened and they saw the identity of the lady friend.

"Nat?" Nick managed to say.

"Nick, Schanke, what are you two doing here?" Nat asked as surprised to see them, as they were to see her.

"We've got a lead we need to check out with Whitaker." Schanke said. "How come you're here?"

Nat looked at Nick. She'd seen the brief look of hurt in his eyes before he'd clamped his usual inscrutable expression in place. She wished they weren't here, with Schanke standing and watching every move and Terrance Whitaker likely to walk through the door at any second. "I'm having dinner with Terrance." She said, glad that her voice didn't quiver.

"We'll try to be a quick as possible. Wouldn't want anything as minor as identifying a murderer to interfere with your social life." Nick said, the pain he felt at the idea of Nat being with another causing him to strike back. As he saw the look of hurt that passed over Nat's face, just before she quickly turned her back to him made him realize how unfair he was being. Taking a deep breath he reached out toward her. "Nat..." he started to say in apology when the door opened and Whitaker entered the room.

"Detectives Knight and Schanke, isn't it?" Whitaker asked. He noticed the way Knight was looking at Natalie and that she seemed to be upset. He'd known from the onset that there was someone she cared deeply for and, unless he was mistaken, that someone was Detective Knight.

"Mr. Whitaker, sorry to barge in like this, but we received a possible lead on the driver of the car that killed Mr. Minor." Schanke said. "Would the name Pietra mean anything to you?"

Whitaker shook his head. "No, should it?"

"It's the name used on an email that was sent to an internet fan list of yours. The writer made mention of a fact about the case that wasn't released to the public." Nick said, still watching Nat.

"An email? Can that be traced?" Whitaker asked.

"Yeah, it can be. Unfortunately whoever this Pietra is used a public terminal and a web based email service to send it, so there isn't much help there. The email service won't release any information on this person without a court order and we don't have enough to get one of those." Schanke explained.

 Whitaker sighed. "Most of my fans are wonderful people, but I'm sure you understand that occasionally you will run into one that carries it too far. Sam took care of most of the fan mail and screened the people that got to see me." He ran his hand through his hair then looked up. "I just remembered. Sam kept a notebook with information about fans that he felt were too pushy or just odd. It is back in my hotel room with some other things of his. If you'd like I can send over to the station?"

Nick finally looked at Whitaker. "Please do. It is possible that this Pietra may have attempted to contact you. If she did and it set off alarms with Mr. Minor, he may have made a notation about her."

"How many people were aware that Mr. Minor acted to screen your mail and who got to see you?" Schanke asked.

"It was fairly common knowledge." Whitaker replied. "Why?"

"If Pietra felt that he was standing in the way of her seeing you, it might be a motive for his murder." Nick said quietly. He noted that Nat had gone over to Whitaker and laid her hand on his shoulder.

"It's not your fault, Terrence." Nat said softly. "From what you've told me, Sam loved his job. You had no way of knowing anything like this would happen."

"If you could get that notebook to us as soon as possible, we'd appreciate it." Nick said. "It doesn't have to be tonight, but sometime tomorrow, perhaps?" He turned to Schanke, "I guess we should be going."

"Yeah, thanks for your time, Mr. Whitaker." Schanke said.

"Nat, do you still have time to go to dinner?" Whitaker asked.

"Um, yes. Why don't you go get the car? I need to talk to the detectives a minute." Nat said, handing him her car keys. Whitaker agreed and left. Nat turned to Schanke and Nick.

"When I got here earlier, there was a woman trying to get in to see Terrance." Nat said. "She nearly ran into me as she was leaving. I heard her tell Bill that she was expected."

"Can you describe her?" Nick asked.

"A little, she was about thirty, tall and slender with long blonde hair. Very well dressed, expensive suit, very refined looking." Nat said. "I only got glimpse of her, Bill might be able to give you a better description."

"Thanks, Nat." Nick said. "It does help and we will talk to Bill." He stepped closer to her before adding softly. "I'm sorry I snapped at you earlier. You didn't deserve that."

"It's okay, Nick." Nat said. "I better head to the door, Terrance will be waiting." She moved toward the door, followed by Nick and Schanke.

At the exit, Nick and Schanke stopped to talk to Bill while Nat went out to meet Terrance. They'd just started questioning Bill about the woman when the sound of a gunshot, followed by the squeal of car tires, caused Nick and Schanke to rush to the doorway.

Nick burst through it, his eyes frantically scanning the area for Nat. He saw her crouched beside the Caddy and hurried to her. "Nat! Are you hurt?" He reached down and helped her to her feet.

"Nick! She didn't leave! I got out here just as she was getting into the driver's seat of my car!" Nat said, as she unconsciously leaned into Nick's arms. "She shot at me and then drove off. I caught a glimpse of Terrance in the car with her before I hit the ground."

Nick instinctively pulled her against him. The fear that had coursed through him at the sound of the gunshot made him want to never let her go. "Schanke and I will find them Nat." He soothed.

"I'm gong with you, Nick! That's my car they're in." Nat said.

"Nat, stay here where you'll be safe." Nick said.

"Nick, please. I might be of use, in case anyone is hurt." Nat said, looking pleadingly at Nick.

 "Okay, but when we find them, I want you to stay put in the car until either Schanke or I calls you." Nick reluctantly agreed. He sighed as he watched Nat get into the back seat and then hurried around to the driver's side. Part of what he loved about her was her fearlessness, but just now he'd be happier if she'd stayed safely at the theater.

It took over an hour for Nat's car to be found and for the Caddy to reach the location, a high rent residential area. Nat immediately checked to be sure that her medical bag was still on the floor in the rear seat area, breathing a small sigh of relief when she saw that it was. She also noticed her keys still hanging from the ignition switch and removed them.

As Nick and Schanke were deciding where to begin looking, Captain Cohen arrived. "Gentlemen, I don't need to remind you that the people living here are not used to having the police knocking on their doors at almost one in the morning, do I?" She asked. "Let's hope that the superintendents for these buildings are all at home and not out somewhere. Check with them first to see if they have anyone in their building matching the general description of our suspect. That way we won't have to disturb an entire building."

"Yes, Captain." Schanke responded.

Nick nodded, then turned toward a building a short distance down the street from where the car was parked. His vampiric hearing had enabled him to hear Whitaker's voice as the man attempted to calm the woman holding him captive. "Let's start here." He said to Schanke.

"Why not. Gotta start somewhere and this looks to be as good as any other building." Schanke replied as he climbed the stairs to the front door.

They quickly located the building manager who said that the description sounded like Pauline McQuary. After getting her apartment number Nick and Schanke headed upstairs. At the door to the apartment they paused. Both could hear the shrill sound of a woman's voice from inside the apartment.

"Sounds like our lady. Man, I hope she doesn't decide to do something crazy and start shooting." Schanke said, softly.

"If we knew where she was in relationship to Whitaker and if she still had the gun, I'd feel a better." Nick agreed. Using his enhanced hearing, Nick could tell that Pauline was extremely agitated. He could also hear Whitaker attempting to calm her. "If we knock at the door, she's liable to start shooting. Schanke, why don't you notify Captain Cohen? She may want to try and negotiate with her by phone." Nick wanted to get Schanke out of any possible gunfire or the chance of seeing him should he need to use his vampire abilities to enter the apartment.

"Yeah, good idea. Be careful, Nick." Schanke said as he headed back to the stairway. Nick waited till he was out of sight, then moved closer to the apartment door. It was nearly ten minutes later that he heard the phone inside the apartment beginning to ring. Nick could hear Cohen trying to calmly talk Pauline into surrendering. He could also hear that Pauline wasn't buying. Nick frowned when he heard her threatening that if she couldn't have Whitaker, no one would. To make life, or in his case unlife, more interesting, Nick could also hear Schanke returning.

Taking a firm grip on the door handle, Nick forced it to turn until the locking mechanism gave way. Moving as quickly as he dared, Nick burst into the apartment. The first things he noticed were all the candles. They seemed to be everywhere, not only on tables and counters, but also along the floor and in sconces on the walls. Nick made mental note to be very careful; fire was as deadly to him as it was to mortals. As he rounded the corner of the entry hall, Pauline fired at him. Nick felt the bullet pass through him and was grateful that Schanke wasn't behind him, in the line of fire.

Hearing Schanke calling his name and knowing that it would only be a matter of seconds before his partner entered the apartment, Nick lunged at Pauline. To his disgust, she managed to elude him, running toward the rear of the apartment. Nick grabbed a hold of Whitaker's arm and pushed him toward Schanke, who was coming down the hall. "Schanke, get him out of here, while I go after her." He waited only till he saw Schanke and Whitaker leaving before going in pursuit of Pauline. He didn't notice that as Whitaker had gotten up, he'd knocked over several of the candles.

Nick moved cautiously after Pauline. He could hear the rapid beating of her heart and followed that sound. Moving with the ease of almost eight hundred years as a predator, Nick closed in on the woman. Knowing from the sound of her heart and breathing exactly where she was in the room ahead of him, Nick moved in a blur to grab her. It took only a second to wrest the gun from her. It was then that Nick noticed the smoke.

Schanke pushed Whitaker toward the stairs. "Go on down, I'm going to help Nick." Schanke turned back to the apartment, only to be stopped at the door by a wall of flames. He tried to enter, but the heat of the fire and the thick smoke drove him back into the hallway. "NICK! Where are you!" Schanke yelled, coughing as the smoke reached him. His face already felt like he'd fallen asleep in the sun and Schanke knew that if he stayed where he was, he'd die. With tears that were only partially from the irritating smoke coursing down his cheeks, Schanke fled to the relatively cool, clean air of the stairway.


Nat stood near Captain Cohen trying desperately to contain the anxiety she was feeling. For the tenth time in as many minutes, she checked her watch. Schanke had come out and informed them that Pauline McQuary was indeed the kidnapper, and likely Sam Minor's killer, before returning to the building. Nat had listened while Cohen first located some background information on McQuary and then attempted to negotiate, via the phone, with Pauline. As Nat listened, her fear for Terrance Whitaker's safety had intensified. Though she couldn't make out the words, Nat could clearly hear the shrill tone of Pauline's voice. That and the look of concern of Cohen's face told Nat that things were not going well. Her heart sank further when Cohen put down the phone she'd been using with a sigh. "Captain?" Nat asked.

"She's out of control, threatening to kill herself and Whitaker if we try to move in on her." Cohen said, concern lacing her voice.

"Maybe Nick will be able to talk her into opening the door." Nat said with more confidence than she felt.

"Let's hope so. Right now this whole situation is a powder keg." Cohen replied. "Knight's got a good record of being able to persuade hostage takers in to surrendering." She added.

A shout from one of the uniform officers alerted the two women just before Terrance Whitaker appeared in the front doorway of the building. Nat felt the hard knot of tension in her stomach ease slightly. As Terrance swiftly made his way toward her, she scanned the doorway waiting to see Schanke and Nick. She was only partly aware of Cohen asking Terrance if he was injured; her mind was screaming that something was wrong, that Schanke and Nick should have been out by now. "Terrance, where are Nick and Schanke?" She asked.

"Detective Knight went after Pauline," Terrance said. "She ran when he rescued me. Detective Schanke said he was going to help Knight." He turned and looked back at the doorway. "I hope nothing's happened."

Nat's response was cut off as someone yelled, "Captain! It looks like we've got a fire in there!"

Looking up Nat could see a reddish glow in the windows of the third floor and faint wisps of smoke seeping from them. She felt her heart lurch in her chest as fear for both Nick and Schanke washed over her.

"Call the fire department and tell them we need them here NOW!" Cohen ordered. She grabbed Natalie by the arm. "Come on doctor, we need to move across the street for safety." She'd seen the panic in the coroner's eyes and wanted to insure that Natalie Lambert didn't take it into her head to try and go after Knight. A sudden explosion of glass from one of the windows, followed by a burst of flames and smoke, gave credence to her statement. Cohen raised her free arm in an attempt to shield herself from falling slivers of glass. Tugging at Natalie's arm, she began to force the other woman toward the safety of the other side of the street.

Nat looked in horror at the flames shooting out of the window. She felt, but ignored, the stinging impact of several small pieces of glass hitting her. "No," she moaned softly. "Nick where are you!" She wrenched her arm free from Cohen's grasp. Her freedom was short lived, however as Terrance firmly seized her and all but dragged her across the road. Nat stared at the front doorway of the burning building, scanning the people that were exiting. She prayed that Nick and Schanke would be among them. Tears poured down her cheeks as the flow of people slowed with no sign of either detective.

Cohen walked over to Natalie and gently put her arms about the sobbing woman. "Don't give up yet, they may just be making sure everyone else is out safely." She said, trying to convince herself as much as Natalie. Even as she spoke, however, Amanda Cohen doubted that she'd ever see either one of the men again. A cheer from several of the other police caused her to turn around in time to see Don Schanke stagger from the building.

Nat struggled to free herself from Terrance's grip when she saw Schanke, but even with the added strength her terror gave her, she was no match for him. Forced to wait until Schanke crossed over to where she, Cohen, and Terrance were standing, Nat held her breath watching for Nick's familiar form to appear. As Schanke drew nearer she saw for the first time the stunned look of sadness on his face. "No, please, no." Nat murmured, as the world seemed to suddenly tilt. Terrance's grip on her was all that saved her from falling to the ground as she fainted.

Schanke met Cohen's eyes. "There were candles burning everywhere. One of them must have caught something on fire. I tried to get back inside, Captain. I tried to get to Nick..." He broke off his voice cracking with emotion.

"Schanke, this is not your fault." Cohen said, laying a hand on his shoulder. The sound of sirens filled the air as the firefighters arrived. "Come on, I want the paramedics to look you over." She led him toward the newly arrived emergency personal.

**************************************************************************** ***

Nick cursed softly as he saw the wall of flames in front of him. Making matters more difficult was Pauline's struggle to free herself and 'join Ter' as she kept muttering. Nick turned her to face him and gave her a small shake. "Is there another exit to this apartment?" He asked.

"No, no way out." She said almost laughingly. "I'm suppose to be with Ter. We belong together, you know." She made another attempt to break free.

"What about a fire escape?" Nick inquired.

"I don't have to tell you that." Pauline said, coughing from the smoke in the air.

Nick caught the sound of her heart. "Which window leads to the fire escape?" He asked. He could see the flames rapidly approaching, some were already moving along the ceiling, and the heat from them was uncomfortable. He knew that they didn't have much time.

"In the bedroom, on the west side." Pauline obediently responded, pointing away from most of the flames.

Nick allowed himself to hope. "You're very tired. You can't stay awake." He told Pauline. It would be easier to get them both out of this alive if he didn't have to fight to keep her from running back into the flames. Pausing only long enough to awkwardly shrug out of his jacket, which he used to cover Pauline in an effort to give her some protection from the flames and smoke, Nick lifted the now limp woman and headed for the room she'd indicated.

In the bedroom, Nick laid Pauline on the floor near the window as he unlocked and opened it. He'd just picked her back up and started to exit when the increased amount of oxygen from the open window cause the fire to erupt behind him with and explosive force. Nick screamed as he felt the touch of the flames on his back and agonizing pain as a long splinter of burning wood fell from the ceiling and pierce the muscle of his upper right back. He staggered, nearly losing his hold on the woman in his arms, before he gained the fire escape. Fighting to contain his beast that was screaming for the warm blood of the woman he carried, Nick made his way down the metal stairs. Above and behind him, he heard the roar of the fire and the sound of the ceiling of the bedroom collapsing.

Finally reaching the ground, Nick took a moment to reclaim his jacket. He grimaced in pain as the cloth rubbed against blistered skin and caused the wood splinter to shift. Breathing deeply, Nick managed to master his pain, he didn't dare allow the medics to examine him, and then awakened Pauline from her mesmerized stupor. Moving carefully, he led her toward the front of the building.


Nat had quickly regained consciousness. Her terror of loosing Nick to the raging flames had triggered the rest of the memories that Nick had tried to remove. Now she stood with Schanke, near one of the fire trucks, watching the building burn. When the roof collapsed, she began to sob. She was aware of Schanke's arm around her shoulder, as he tried to comfort her. "He can't be gone, Schanke, he just can't be." She said, sorrow at knowing that she'd been denied the chance to love Nick, first by LaCroix's threats and now by the blaze that had engulfed the building, tearing at her heart. Until the roof's collapse, Nat had held out the hope that Nick had been able to escape from the inferno. Now, she felt even that faint hope slip away. If Nick had managed to escape he would have been here by now.

 "Nat, I know it's hard. I don't want to believe it either, but..." Schanke started to say. A movement across the street, along the side of the building, had caught his attention. As the figures of two people moved closer a wide smile split his face. "Nat, look!"

Nat raised tear-filled eyes to look in the direction that Schanke pointed. She felt her heart leap in her chest and in an instant she was running across the road toward them.

"Schanke! Stop her!" Cohen yelled, seeing Natalie running toward the building and unable to see the other two people from where she stood. As she hurried toward the coroner, Cohen too, stopped. A look of intense satisfaction filled her face.

Nick wearily handed his prisoner to an uniformed officer. "Take her in. Book her for kidnapping and murder." He told the man. The sound of footsteps rapidly approaching caught his attention and he looked up to see Nat literally running toward him. As she reached him, she slowed and stopped only inches from him. He could see her reddened eyes and the still damp trails of tears on her face. She reached out her hand and lightly touched his face. Nick looked into Nat's eyes and saw the love in them.

 "Nick? Oh, Nick I thought," Nat said as fresh tears, this time of joy, flowed. She could see the strain of the night in his face as she gave thanks that they'd been given another chance. She made a silent vow that she was not going to waste it. She leaned her forehead against his chest. She felt Nick's arms wrap around her and her determination coalesced. Pulling back slightly she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck and, pulling his mouth down to hers, kissed him deeply. She felt him stiffen with surprise for a second before he returned her kiss. She tightened her hug and only when she needed to breathe did she allow the kiss to end.

Nick's eyes widened as Nat kissed him. At first concerned that Cohen, Schanke, and probably half of the Metro Toronto police and fire departments were witnessing it, Nick tried to resist. When Nat's tongue plunged into his mouth, he moaned softly and gave himself to the experience. When she finally broke the kiss, he looked into her shining eyes and smiled. "You are aware that we have an audience?" He asked.

"Yes, and I don't care. I don't care if Schanke, Cohen, or even Lucien LaCroix knows that I love you." Nat said, watching Nick's reaction.

Nick felt his heart lurch. "You remembered." He stated softly.

"Yes. I remembered." Nat said. "We have a lot to discuss, but this isn't the place to do it." She kissed him softly. "Stay here. I'll be right back."

Leaving Nick, Nat walked over to her car and retrieved her medical bag before going over to where Schanke and Cohen were standing. Giving them both a look that dared either to say anything, Nat spoke. "Captain, I'm declaring Nick unfit for duty for the rest of tonight and tomorrow. He took a lot of smoke and it is my professional opinion that he needs time to recuperate. I know you need his report, but he can send it to you via email." She waited only until Cohen nodded her agreement before turning to Schanke. "Do me a favor, Don, and take Terrance to his hotel. You can pick up that notebook while you're there, you might still need it for the case." Nat reached in her pocket and handed Schanke her keys. "Here, you can take my car and leave it in the lot at the Coroner's Building." Nat started to turn back to where Nick waited when Cohen's voice stopped her.

"Should I call your office and let them know that you'll be out tonight and tomorrow?" Cohen asked, smiling.

Nat returned her smile. "No, I'll call them when we get to the loft, but thanks for the offer." As she walked away, Nat heard Schanke murmur, "It's about time!"

Nick watched and listened to Nat from where he waited. He knew that he shouldn't allow her to endanger herself by being with him. Despite his fears, Nick also knew that he loved her more than he'd ever dreamed it was possible to love. That Nat remembered the events at Azure and still loved him was, to him, amazing. As he watched her walk back toward him, Nick vowed that no matter what, he would never harm her or allow LaCroix to harm her.

Nat smiled at him. "I can tell by looking that you heard what I told those two. So come on, let's get out of here." She held out her hand and they headed toward the Caddy. As they walked Nat asked. "How badly were you hurt in there?"

Nick glanced at her. "How'd you know?"

Nat looked back at him. "I know how you move and right now you're moving very cautiously. I have to assume that's because you're in pain."

Nick nodded. "I got caught by the fire. From the way it feels, I'm guessing I've got at least bad second-degree burns on my back. I think there's also some wood in my shoulder."

"Your jacket doesn't seemed to be damaged." Nat said. "Or weren't you wearing it?"

"I used it to protect Pauline McQuary." Nick admitted, as they reached the Caddy. He took out his keys and handed them to Nat. "Do you mind driving?"

Nat laughed. "Good idea, if you drive Cohen might start reconsidering how much or long you need to recuperate." She opened the driver's side door and put her bag on the back floorboard. Getting in, she turned to Nick. "I'll take a look at your shoulder when we get to the loft, unless you need me to do it now."

"No, the loft will be fine. I'm going to need blood in order to heal and I don't have a supply here." Nick said. He shifted his weight on the seat to put as little pressure as possible on his right shoulder. In the close confines of the car, Nat's scent filled his head. It was both a source of comfort and of temptation.

As she drove Nat asked, "What will happen to Pauline McQuary?"

Nick sighed. "That will be up to the Crown Prosecutor. She killed Sam Minor, and she has to pay for that, but I suspect that her lawyer will try and get her sent to a hospital rather than prison."

"I hope so. While you were inside, Cohen had a background check run on McQuary. She's a very successful business woman, active in numerous charities and civic organizations."

Nick shook his head. "She's obsessed with Whitaker, if they can cure her of that, she likely wouldn't be any danger to society." He hesitated a moment then asked. "Nat, what about your relationship with Whitaker?"

Nat glanced at him and smiled. "The only relationship I have with Terrance Whitaker is that of a friend. He doesn't know a lot of people in Toronto, and he needed to talk about his feelings concerning Sam Minor's death. I was a sympathetic ear, nothing more."

Nick felt a wave of relief rush through him. "I guess I overreacted, again." He said a bit sheepishly. Nat laughed and nodded then reached over and squeezed his hand. Nick kissed the back of her hand and then leaned his head back and tried to find a more comfortable position.

 Fifteen minutes later, Nat pulled the Caddy into Nick's garage. She grabbed her medical bag and joined Nick in the lift. As they rode up to the loft, Nick held Nat's hand in his.

Once inside, Nat first called her office to arrange for time off. That accomplished, she then helped Nick remove his jacket, gasping slightly as she saw the charred ruin of his shirt. Examining the blackened mass of third degree burns and angry red skin where the wood had embedded itself in Nick's shoulder, she felt her eyes again fill with tears. She knew that he must be in incredible pain and that he must be using all his control to keep the vampire subdued. Having Nick sit down, Nat went to the fridge and removed two of the green glass bottles. She wasn't sure how much blood Nick would need to heal, but she did know it would take at least this much. Handing Nick one of the bottles, she sat the other on the table.

"Nick, I'm going to have to dig for that piece of wood." She warned him. "Do you want me to give you something for pain?"

Nick shook his head. "Wouldn't do any good, my body doesn't react to pain killers. He reached up and caught her hand. "Just get it out, once it's gone, the pain will go away, too." He managed an encouraging smile, even though her nearness and the warm, seductive scent of her blood stirred his beast. The vampire wanted to taste the promise the scent held and drink the life from her.

Nat nodded, noting the dusting of gold in Nick's eyes. Taking a deep breath, she picked up a long, thin, tweezers like instrument. Carefully, she began to search for the slender shard of wood. She could sense the effort it was costing Nick to keep his muscle relaxed. Finally, she felt the tip of the probing instrument touch the wood. "Almost have it, Nick. Hang on." She told him.

Nick moaned slightly and took a long drink from the bottle in his hand as Nat pulled the tormenting shard of wood from his shoulder. The bovine blood tasted even more bitter and lifeless than normal as his beast raged for the sweetness of Nat's blood.

"There! Got it!" Nat cried as she withdrew the nearly four inch long piece of what had once been a part of a rafter. She watched as a small trickle of blood oozed from the wound and then stopped. She noticed Nick was fast draining the second bottle of blood and headed to the fridge to get another for him. Grabbing one, she wordlessly handed it to him. Already she could see the pale healed skin appearing amidst the burn blacked mass that was Nick's back. She could see that he was in far less pain now, too. Nat disposed of the piece of wood and wiped off the instrument she'd used before placing it back in her bag. When she'd finished she walked over to the couch and sat down.

 As his wounds healed and the pain ebbed, Nick closed his eyes and sighed in relief. Standing he went for one last bottle, knowing that it would allow his metabolism to finish healing all of his physical wounds. Taking a glass from the cupboard, he poured some of the blood into it before joining Nat. He sat silently for several minutes, trying to think how to best explain why he'd tampered with her memory. He suspected that 'for you own good' was not going to be a satisfactory answer.

Nat watched Nick's face as he sat beside her. After allowing him several minutes of silence, she reached over and took his free hand in hers. "Nick, we have to talk about Valentine's Day." She said softly. Her heart ached as she saw the pain in his eyes.

"I know. How much do you remember?" Nick asked.

"I remember being with you at my place, being in your arms. I remember what we said, what we promised each other." Nat said quietly looking down at her hands. "I remember going to Azure, expecting you and finding LaCroix instead." She paused as the remembered fear she'd felt washed over her. "I think he may have drugged me somehow. I could hear and see what was happening, but it was like looking though a piece of gauze." She looked up at Nick. "I knew that I should try and get out of there, but I couldn't seem to make my body obey. When LaCroix, when he was going to, to bite me I remember being frightened and very angry." She smiled slightly. "I was angry because I didn't want that from anyone, but you. I wasn't afraid of dying or of becoming a vampire. I was afraid that he would bring me across to use as a weapon to control you, to make you stop your search for mortality. I couldn't bear it if I were the cause of you stopping your quest." She swallowed, needing a minute to regain her composure.

Nick gently squeezed Nat's hand. That her fear hadn't been for her own safety but for him and his quest tore at his heart. He could tell that she was close to tears.

The feel of Nick's hand squeezing hers gave Nat the strength she needed to continue. "When you arrived, I didn't know what to think. You were very convincing; so much so that I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. What you said to LaCroix, about using me to gain your own ends seemed so contradictory to what you'd said to me, yet you said it with just as much sincerity. Until you took me from LaCroix, until I felt the way you held me, the way you kissed me, I honestly believed that I'd been fooled by your words of love." She saw the stricken look on Nick's face and quickly laid her hand on his cheek. "But once I was in your arms, I could feel your love. I wasn't sure if you were actually going to drink from me, but I was praying that if you did, you'd make me what you are." She laid her fingers across Nick's lips as he started to speak. "I still think that we can be together, can show our love completely without that having to happen, but Nick, please understand that I'd rather spend eternity in the darkness with you, than one day in the sunlight without you." She looked into his face, trying to will him to understand how much she loved and needed him. She held her breath waiting for his reaction.

Nick looked into Nat's soft blue eyes seeing that her love for him was as strong as deep as he knew his was for her. Tenderly, he lifted her hand to his lips, tenderly kissing each of her fingers. Releasing her hand, he cupped her face in both of his and softly began to kiss her, starting at her forehead and slowing moving down to her eyes, her cheeks, and finally claiming her mouth with his. He heard how her heart increased the speed of its beats, but the passion with which she met his kiss still amazed him. Burying a hand in her silky hair, he held her tightly as he deepened the embrace. Her warmth against the bare skin of his chest sent a wave of desire through him. He could feel his need for her building, could feel his manhood hardening and growing. With a low growl, he plunged his tongue deep into her mouth, seeking to caress every hidden corner of it, to taste her, to claim her totally. He felt Nat's arms encircle his neck as she pressed against him, moaning slightly. Breaking the kiss for a moment, he looked at her face, gazing with love into her eyes. He smiled. "NEVER doubt that I love you. You are everything to me, Nat. You give me hope and the strength to believe that, perhaps, I am not damned for all eternity. I want you and I want to make love to you with every fiber of my existence." Nick said as he caressed her face. He left unvoiced his fear that to do so would be at the cost of Nat's soul.

Nat snuggled against Nick and smiled. "I'm yours Nick, I think I have been from the first time I saw you." She ran her hand across his chest. "I know that we are meant to be together." She whispered kissing him while her hand dropped down to lightly caress the bulge of his hardness through the fabric of his jeans. She heard Nick's sounds of pleasure and grew bolder. Delicately, she used her tongue to caress the base of his fangs until they dropped.

Nick moaned, in both ecstasy and anguish, as Nat's teasing tongue caused wave after wave of sensual delight to course throughout his body. He felt the vampire emerge as his fangs dropped and his eyes glowed with the deep gold of passion. He tried to pull away from Nat, to protect her from the monster he felt himself to have become. Grabbing her hands, he faced her. "Nat, look at me. This is what I am, a monster, an unnatural creature that shouldn't even exist. A danger to your life and your very soul."

Nat looked calmly at him. "I don't see a monster, just the man I love. We promised, that night before Valentine's Day, that we would find a way to fully express our love. I understand that, for you, drinking my blood is a necessary part of that and I have faith that you won't harm me." She spoke softly, her voice full of emotion. "Tonight you were almost killed. Tomorrow, I could die. I don't want to lose you, or go to my grave, without us ever having had the courage to love one another." She lay her head on his shoulder. "Please, Nick. Make love to me. Trust yourself and our love. I know that, together, we can do this."

Nick held her tightly as his heart warred with his fear of harming her. At last, he lifted her chin to look into her eyes. "Nat, if you're wrong and I take too much..."

"If I'm wrong, bring me across. I'll gladly trade going out in the sunlight to be with you." She smiled as she added, "I'd just be searching for a cure for both of us if that happens."

Nick searched her face one last time for any sign of indecision. Seeing only love, he slipped his arm beneath her legs and stood up, cradling her in his arms. As she nestled her head against his shoulder he carried her up the stairs to his bedroom.

In the bedroom, he carefully placed her on her feet. Still holding her, within his arms, he placed a soft, tender kiss on her lips. He smiled as Nat guided his hands to the buttons on her blouse. Still planting soft kisses on her face and neck, Nick undid the buttons and slipped the blouse from her shoulders.

His eyes were drawn to the fullness of Nat's breasts as they strained against the fabric of the lacy black bra she was wearing. Nick slowly kissed his way down the soft curve of her neck and lower to the creamy skin that showed above the lace. He could hear the sound of her blood as it rushed through her veins and the cinnamon and oranges scent that was uniquely Nat filled his head.

Nat closed her eyes as Nick's lips moved against her skin. She held on to him, grateful that his vampire metabolism had healed him completely, and lost herself in the wonderful sensations and the joy that filled her. She had envisioned being here, like this, for too long. Now, she found that the reality was far sweeter than any of her dreams had been. As Nick's lips found the fullness of her breasts, she made a soft cry of delight. She could feel her breath quicken as she felt her bra being removed, followed by the soft, yet intensely erotic touch of Nick's hands and mouth. A sensation that was almost electric shot through her body as his cool lips and tongue closed over one nipple. A sensation that only grew as Nick began to suck gently at the nipple while lightly flicking his tongue across its hard nub. Instinctively, Nat leaned into him, encouraging him in his actions. She relished how this produced a delicious warmth deep in her belly.

Nick savored the sweet, slightly salty taste of Nat's skin even as he ached to taste the richness of her blood. He deliberately proceeded slowly, wanting not only to prolong the pleasure for himself, but also to insure that Nat reached full satisfaction. So many days, he had lain awake while dreaming of making love to Nat; he was now determined to enjoy the reality to the fullest. His own desire had built to the point where his manhood was straining almost painfully against the confines of his underclothes. Finishing his careful attentions to both of Nat's breasts, Nick stood and pulled her tightly against him exulting in how her body molded to his.

Nat loved how the skin of Nick's bared chest felt against her sensitive nipples. The coolness of his skin was a delightful contrast to the heat that filled her. As she pressed against him, Nat was aware of his need for her. She blindly found the buckle of his belt and undid it, then undid the waistband of his trousers. As they fell to the floor, the feel of his hard shaft, covered only by the thin fabric of his silken boxers, cause her to tremble in anticipation. She could feel the moistness of her own sex and found that she was breathing in small gasps.

Nick sighed as his engorged member gained some freedom. He felt the shiver that ran through Nat's body and smiled, realizing it was not from fear but from pleasure. He could smell her arousal and the tantalizing odor called to him. With a swift movement, he removed both her skirt and the tiny wisp of lace she wore as underpants. The sight of her thatch of auburn curls, peeking out beneath the garter belt she had on made his member throb with the desire to be buried deep inside her. Kneeling before her, Nick kissed the shallow depression of her navel, then licked his way down and across her lower abdomen. Planting small light kisses on her thighs and the wiry mass of curls he carefully parted the concealing lips with his fingers. His tongue sought and found the small nub of her clit and he started to suck and lick at it. He could hear the wordless cries of pleasure Nat made as she shifted her hips allowing him greater access to her soft moistness.

Nat could feel her body exulting in the feelings Nick's actions were producing. She'd never felt anything so delicious and a part of her wondered if it were possible to die from sheer delight. She could feel molten warmth growing inside her as Nick licked and sucked at her most sensitive area. She never wanted the moment to end. She clutched at Nick for support as her legs began to tremble from the sensations. She was panting for air, her head thrown back as she felt her body moving ever closer to release. When Nick inserted two of his fingers deep inside her, the feeling pushed her to the very edge of orgasm. As he moved them back and forth within her, she crested the top and her body shuddered with the power of the sensations that washed over her. She was only vaguely aware of Nick's strong arms supporting her and preventing her from collapsing to the floor.

The feel of Nat's muscles contracting around his fingers caused Nick to become even more aroused than he'd thought was possible. He stood and swept Nat into his arms. Stepping out of his shoes and trousers, Nick turned and lovingly laid her on the bed. Tenderly, he removed her shoes, nylons, and the garter belt she still wore. His eyes feasted on her nude form, flushed from the effects of her orgasm. Nick then removed his socks and then stepped out of his shorts and approached the bed.

Nat felt her breath slowing as the last wave of pleasure from her orgasm faded. She watched as Nick removed the last of his clothing, her eyes greedily taking in the sight of his nude form. She smiled and licked her lips as she saw his thick, long shaft. The thought of that, buried deep within her aroused her anew. As he approached the bed, she smiled and raised her arms to him.

Nick lowered himself onto the bed, pulling Nat into his arms. He slowly rubbed his erection against the soft skin of her abdomen, the sensation making him gasp with pleasure. He hungrily captured her mouth; his needs and desires demanding satisfaction. Nat's avid response only fueled those needs, and Nick growled deep in his chest as their tongues caressed and probed at one another.

Pushing Nat onto her back, he covered her body with his. Slipping between her legs Nick allowed his hard shaft to rub against her, making her moan and press against him as her already sensitized clit responded to his actions. The movement of her beneath him, the heady scent of her sexual arousal, and the seductive call of her blood all combined to drive him into a frenzy of lust. His mouth moved over her body kissing, licking, and lightly nipping at her. He nuzzled the hollow between her breasts as his eyes briefly flared red. Raising his body slightly, Nick lifted Nat's hips and allowed the tip of his now throbbing shaft to enter her. He'd planned to slowly ease his fullness inside her, but the feel of her slick moistness overwhelmed him and with a single smooth motion he buried himself completely in her. A cry of absolute rapture escaped him, a cry that was echoed by Nat.

Nat felt Nick's hard shaft sink deep within her core and cried out his name in gratification. This is what her body sought and her soul craved. She lifted her legs to wrap around his hips, holding him inside her. For several moments they stayed like that, each relishing the feel of the other. Finally, Nick began to move, slowly withdrawing and then plunging back into the haven of her sweet core. As he did so, Nat tightened her muscles, hugging his firmness and allowing both of them to fully experience each movement. Nat arched toward him, as Nick once again carried her toward fulfillment. A part of her was surprised at her reactions; she'd never experienced such seemingly insatiable desire. Even though she'd enjoyed a powerful climax only a short time earlier, her body was eagerly moving toward another. She could see and feel that Nick was rapidly approaching his own climax, too. As the speed and force of his thrusts increased, Nat cried out her delight. She could her Nick's voice, saying her name and various words of love and endearment as he, too, neared the pinnacle of his need. When she knew herself to be only seconds away from her orgasm, she bared the slender column of her throat to him and pulled his mouth to the pulsing vein there. The sharp, yet incredibly erotic, sting of Nick's fangs as they entered her flesh pushed her over the edge and she screamed out his name as her body contracted in the throes of a massive orgasm.

Nick's entire world had narrowed to the feel of Nat. Each place her flesh touched his seemed to be electrified and he could feel his climax quickly approaching. His breath was ragged with lust, but his voice was filled with pure love as he spoke her name and all that she meant to him. He could both see and feel her body nearing it's own climax and when she suddenly bared her neck to him, the large vein pulsating clearly just below the satiny skin, he was unable to resist when she pulled him mouth to it. He sank his fangs deep into her flesh, hearing her cry of ecstasy as her orgasm washed over her just as her blood filled his mouth. Nick gave two last powerful thrusts within her before his own climax took him and his body shuddered in pleasure as his seed spilled forth into her. He sucked greedily at the sweet nectar that was her blood, as the sensations of Nat's climax merged with his filling his body and soul with warmth and gratification. He experienced all that she was all her sorrows and joys, her hopes and fears, and the strong all encompassing love she had for him. That love, and the faith and trust behind it, force the vampire into retreat and enabled Nick to withdraw his fangs from her. Tenderly, he kissed the wounds on her neck, capturing the last small drops of blood that oozed from them as they healed. It was only then, Nick realized that his face was damp with blood tears, as his soul was full of joy and peace.

Nat felt awash in a jumble of memories. Nick as a newly created vampire draining his victims with a combination of pure delight and anguish. Nick later in his existence, beginning his quest to free himself of beast and all the failures and disappointments he'd endured. Finally, the Nick she knew and loved. A man of honor and of decency who was determine to do good not evil. She felt his love for her and his fear that by loving her he would destroy her. Lastly she felt his hope and his joy as he found in her blood the love and acceptance that was capable of subduing the beast, allowing the man to truly love. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, smiling as she saw his relief that she was unharmed and the newfound peace that radiated from his eyes, even as his tears coursed red trails down his face. She pulled his head down on her shoulder, comforting him as he slowly relaxed and finally slept. She lay awake for a short time, just luxuriating in the feel of Nick's arms holding her and the comfort she felt being snuggled against him. At last, still smiling, she followed him into slumber.

Nick slowly relaxed as he gave himself to Nat's comforting embrace. He'd not felt this safe, this peaceful, since the time he'd been a young child. Even though he knew that the vampire was still within him, he also knew that despite everything LaCroix had said, he still possessed his soul and that redemption and possibly mortality were possible. As sleep overtook him, his last conscious thought was that Nat had been right. Together, they would triumph, and one day, walk hand in hand in the warmth of the sun.

The End

Hope you enjoyed the story. All comments to: cstar@a... or forevrnite@u...