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Episode 2

"I know, sweetheart." I kissed the top of her head, the scent of baby shampoo filling me. "That's Mommy's heart."

Julian peeked up at me. "How come Daddy doesn't have a heart?" I sighed, looking over at Teren. Our children had our senses. Just as they could hear that my heart was pounding, they could hear that his was not.

Teren stared down at his son, his finger coming over to brush a lock of hair out of his eyes. "I do have a heart, Julian. But...we are all vampires and when we get old enough, we don't need our hearts anymore." Teren grinned, his blue eyes sparkling. "We're magic." Then he brought his finger to his lips. "But you can't tell anyone. It's our secret, okay?"

Julian nodded, his little face serious. "Okay, Daddy."

I shook my head a little and held them tight. It was sort of amazing how easy it could be to explain things to a child. They accepted everything so readily. If you told them the sky was blue because a paint can on the clouds had spilled over, then that was what they believed. And for now, it was best if their own could-be scary conversions were introduced to them as "magic."

Nika frowned and sat up on her elbows. "Is Mommy not magic?" She pouted, like this was a tragedy to her.

Teren laughed lightly as I reached up to stroke a lock of silky hair. "Thanks to Grandpa Gabriel, Mommy, and maybe someday the two of you, gets to have her magic when she wants to." I looked over at Teren and he smiled softly at me.

When I'd been close to death, on its doorstep as they say, Teren had done the only thing he could think of to save me. The result had shocked everybody. When I'd awoken, dazed and hurting, but my heart still beating away and the twins safe and sound, no one had known what that meant. None of them had ever tried to change someone. None of them were even sure if it was possible for their mixed blood to do it. The only thing we'd been pretty certain about was that a human body couldn't handle the strain of being pumped full of vampire juice for long, and mine was going to give out, it was just a matter of time. That had left us with two important questions. Would I come back as an undead vampire? Would I die before the twins were ready to be born?

Those questions had driven Teren right to the brink of madness. He'd become obsessed with finding more of his kind, in the hopes that they'd have an answer for him. Since he couldn't find mixed, he'd found purebloods. And he'd done anything he could to get them to talk - anything. His eventual poking and prodding finally got the attention of Gabriel's group in Los Angeles. A prissy vampire named Starla had arrived on our doorstep one day and changed everything for us, once again.

She'd taken us to see her "father," a man who really wasn't related to anyone in the area, but was embraced as such because of his generosity to vampires in need. He'd amassed quite a following of loyal mixed and purebloods. It was almost cultish, and some of their practices were not desirable to me, like catching hunters and locking them up for bloodthirsty mixed vampires going through the conversion process to kill. Even though I understood the reasons why they did it, and even having done it myself for Teren, when I'd essentially fed him a hunter, I didn't like it.

But Teren and I kept our feelings to ourselves on the matter. Because Gabriel was also a genius and had concocted the drug that had kept me alive, was still keeping me alive. In fact, because of Gabriel, I was going to be having my thirtieth birthday in a couple weeks. A fact that most women don't celebrate, but as there was a time when I wasn't sure I'd live long enough to see twenty-six, much less thirty, I celebrated every birthday.

The twins both smiled and giggled, looking at each other. They had a soft spot for the ancient vampire, calling him Grandpa because he was around a lot, and was sort of...involved with Teren's Great-Grandmother, the only full vampire in the Adams clan. They'd started a romantic relationship back when we'd first met Gabriel. Halina tends to move fast if it pleases her, and Gabriel had definitely pleased her. But the surprising thing was that they were still together, and from what I'd heard, Halina was actually not sleeping with anyone else. That was sort of shocking to me.

But I had my reservations about Gabriel, as did Teren. I did genuinely like him. I mean, he saved the lives of my children, how could I not adore the man after that? But, he was also a scientist, and tended to look at my children with appraising eyes, rather than loving ones.

Twins were rare among mixed. The condition of our twins' birth was pretty rare too, what with me starting the pregnancy human, but ending it a mixed vampire. It also didn't help ease his curious nature when it had been discovered that our children were...special. Now, I know that every parent thinks their child is special, but for Teren and I, that was actually true. Aside from the traits that we all shared - fangs, speed, and super hearing - our children had an extra bond. A seventh sense, if you will, if the blood bond between us all, that allowed us to know each other's locations, could be considered the sixth.

It had taken Teren and me over a year to spot it. Really, until they'd started talking, we didn't notice, or we'd brushed it off as a "twin" connection, but it wasn't. It was so much more. See, some human twins claim that they can sense what the other is feeling. For instance, cases have been made of one twin feeling ill or pained, and the other, thousands of miles away, will have been suffering from a sudden case of appendicitis, or something. Our children had that, but to the tenth degree.

Our children, literally, felt what the other was feeling. Not that they felt it for themselves, if one was happy, the other could still be sad, but they were...aware. Julian knew exactly how Nika felt about watching butterflies in the pastures, because he felt it. Nika knew exactly how much balloons terrified Julian, because she felt it. If he stubbed his toe or fell down and bonked his head, she'd cry. Not because she was hurt, but because she felt his pain. If Teren tickled her into a giddy ball of laughter, Julian would laugh too, because he felt her joy.

It was like they were empaths...but only with each other.

Gabriel had never seen anything like it, and aside from his fondness for Halina, I think it was a large part of why he came around so often.

Spike barking distracted the twins from their conversation and they hopped off our bodies to go ruffle the patient collie's fur. Holding the prized ball in his mouth, he wagged his tail as he stared at Teren, eager for his master to throw it again. The kids attached to his sides, Nika burying her face in the fluff around his neck.

Luckily for us, Spike adored the children. He'd even tolerated the months of being yanked and pulled and poked without ever yelping or biting. Sometimes, when the twins had been infants, he'd made a sound that I could have sworn was a sigh, and then he'd look up at me with those large, tired, puppy dog eyes. I'd had to laugh at the poor canine. Sure, dogs couldn't emote, but at those times it was obvious that he'd been wishing for the tactile stage of the kids' development to end.

Teren sat up, shifting my body so my legs were over his lap, and ruffled his dog's fur. "Hungry, boy?"

Spike thumped his tail against the floor as he sat down. The kids giggled as they adjusted to the floor with him. Dropping the ball, he barked again. Teren smiled. "Alright, let's get you something to eat."

He looked back at me on the couch. "I could use something too, how about you?" He smiled warmly at me and I took a second to appreciate the beauty of him before answering.

Eyes the color of a perfect spring morning gazed at me; they were the warmest eyes you'd ever see on a person. Whoever created this image of vampires as soulless, bloodthirsty creatures, had clearly never met one. They were people, same as any people, and while some were bad, as wicked, sick, and twisted as any human could be, some were good, exceptionally good. Teren...was exceptional.

"I would love some, thank you."

Knowing my husband only tolerated an all plasma diet, I knew he meant blood when he spoke of food. Dead vampires couldn't handle anything else. It wasn't just that their bodies couldn't digest it. No, eating wasn't something they could do for show then cough up later. Their vampiric bodies rejected food like it was poison. It was extremely painful and uncomfortable for them. I'd seen Teren do it once...I never wanted to see him do it again.

He nodded at me, his black-as-night hair shining in the fading rays of the sun. Bringing his attention back to Nika and Julian, who were now showering Spike in kisses, he leaned forward, so he was closer to their level. "What about you two? Who wants some blood?"

As a young person, the thought of what you'll be like as a parent occasionally crosses your mind. It certainly had for me when I'd been plowing through my job, wondering who I'd eventually marry, and fantasizing about how many of the imaginary man's kids I'd have one day. But what I'd never envisioned, ever, was hearing myself or my husband ask those delightful little beings if they wanted a steaming glass of cow's blood. Those are just words you never expect to hear spoken to a child. But then, when you marry a vampire and have vampiric children, it just sort of comes with the territory. Besides, it was the best meal on the planet, and what parent would deny their child the most delicious thing on earth?

They both agreed too, loving and craving the nutrient as much as any vampire I'd met. Although, for them, it wasn't as high on the list of snacks as it was for us. Truly, they got more excited about getting cotton candy at the fair. was right up there.

Jumping up and down, they both started saying, "Me, me, me!"

Teren laughed, extraditing himself from my body so he could prepare meals for everyone. He loved to take care of people. It made him a pretty fabulous companion since, from the very beginning of our relationship, he'd spoiled me with homemade dinners; he usually even cleaned up too. That was just his way. And he was equally attentive to the kids, even going so far as to cut their sandwiches into fun little shapes. He was sort of, well, Mr. Mommish. I was a very lucky girl.

Wading through a sea of eager toddlers and a hungry dog, he laughed as he walked out of the living room into the kitchen. I stayed where I was on the couch, smiling as I listened to a family that I could hear, but no longer see. With my blood sense though, I knew exactly where they were. That was such a comfort to me, knowing exactly where my children were. I couldn't imagine not knowing their location at every point of my day. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving their sight and not knowing, with every fiber of who I was, where they were. I think I would worry myself into insanity if that were the case. Honestly, I didn't know how human mothers did it. They sort of amazed me.

Listening to my husband pop open the fridge, I heard my children start to play with the magnets on it. As Teren grabbed the pitcher of plasma in there, he helped them start to spell words, calling out different letters so they could arrange the shapes into the words that they used most often - mom, dad, dog...blood.

I smiled and shook my head when he spelled out that one for them. That probably wouldn't be in a normal three-year-olds vocabulary, but it was one of the first words they'd said, right after Dadda, actually. They could even say it in Russian, along with a few other simple phrases. Teren was teaching them as they grew, so I was starting to finally pick up a few things too. I liked that soon I'd be privy to the private conversations he sometimes had with his family. I hated being kept in the dark, even if it was unintentional.

As he warmed it in the microwave, he sped away to get the dog some food. He was back before the fifteen seconds had gone off on the timer. Nika giggled at the display. "Again, Daddy." Teren chuckled, and I heard him place a kiss on her. The kids loved the blurred visual of us moving fast. They could do it too, in very short bursts, but it generally led to one or both injuring themselves, so Teren and I tried to dissuade them from doing it. Plus, that was something they could absolutely not do around humans. We drilled that into them constantly.

In fact, just after I thought it, Teren reminded them that that was something that only happened at home with family. They both automatically replied with, "Okay, Daddy," as Teren set the blood for another warming cycle.

Smelling the warmth of that blood drifting out to me, I inhaled it deeply, my smile a satisfied one. My stomach, less satisfied, even after the chicken and vegetables the kids and I had eaten earlier, rumbled loudly. Everyone in the kitchen laughed, clearly having heard it.

"Mommy's noisy," Julian gigged.

Sighing at my super hearing family, I stood and shuffled off to the kitchen, stretching languidly with each step. Teren smiled at me as I stepped through the archway into the room. "Yes, Julian, she sure is."

He raised his eyebrows suggestively, and I bit my lip, knowing he was not talking about what Julian thought he was talking about. Being that there were impressionable little vampires in the room, I couldn't even smack him for his dirty talk. Flushing slightly, I settled with discreetly pinching his butt.


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