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Every day I understood just a bit more about him, and every day I loved him a little more.

Cupping my cheek, he stroked my skin with his thumb. "We have time, Emma. We don't have to decide anything today." Kissing my head, we both sighed simultaneously.

I called Tracey early the next morning to let her know that I wasn't coming in for the rest of the week. I had an idea all thought out as I lay next to Teren, snug under our covers. I was going to convince her that I'd caught that swine flu bug thing that was going around. Surely the entire office would insist I stayed away after that.

Practicing my raspy voice, I heard her pick up the line. "Neilson, Sampson and Peterson. This is Tracey, how can I help you?"

"Hey, Trace, it's me." I coughed a couple times into my cell phone, smiling while I did it.

"Emma! Happy Birthday!" She immediately began singing the birthday song to me. It caught me a little off guard; so much had happened recently, I'd nearly forgotten that my birthday was today. I tried to interrupt her a few times, but she ignored me until she was done. Teren started chuckling into his pillows. "Are you coming back today?" she asked merrily, post-song.

Sighing dramatically, I coughed again. "Actually, that's why I called. I'm still pretty sick. The doctors think I got that new virus going around."

Tracey's voice was instantly sympathetic. "Oh, that sucks, Emma. And on your birthday too." There was a pause in the line while I exaggeratedly coughed and sniffled. "Wait, didn't you get the vaccine? We all got that company flyer about it."

My mind replayed back to laughing with her about the seriously written HR memo urging all employees to protect themselves against the epidemic that would surely wipe out all of mankind. "Uh, well...I hate needles, so, no."

Teren started laughing in earnest, covering his head with the pillow so Tracey wouldn't hear him. I bit my lip to not laugh with him. Me afraid of needles? Not anymore, not after injecting myself daily for years.

Tracey, not knowing about that part of my life, sighed. "Well, I bet you'll think twice about waiting next time."

I let myself laugh a little. "Yeah, definitely."

She sighed softly. "Well, get some rest, drink lots of water, and I'll let everyone here know that you were a procrastinating idiot."

Teren laughed a little harder at that and I smacked him on the back. "Thanks, Trace."

She laughed lightly. "Just kidding, Em. Feel better...Happy Birthday."

I smiled, then remembered to cough. "Thank you, I will."

Shutting the phone and setting it on the nightstand, I instantly began smacking my husband. "Quit making me laugh when I'm trying to act. You know I suck at that!"

Still laughing at me, he twisted and grabbed my wrists. "I'm sorry, Tracey's funny." I frowned at him, but he deadweight lifted me on top of him. Holding my wrists behind my back, he brought my face right down to his. "Happy Birthday."

Forgetting my irritation, I leaned in to kiss him. "Thank you," I murmured against his lips.

Releasing my arms, his hands wandered up my back to thread through my hair. Our kiss deepening, I thoroughly relished our similar heat. I also enjoyed the fact that I was now sharing in a perk of undeadness that I'd enjoyed from him in awhile. Let's just say, he never needed mouthwash in the morning. He always tasted great, and now I would too.

Pressing my hips into his body I felt every fiber of mine start to tingle with anticipation. His breath increased as he sensed it too. Flipping us around, so my back was to the mattress, his hand started sliding up the shorts I'd slept in.

"Can I give you your present now?" he breathed in my ear.

Gasping, I grabbed his hand and slid it farther up my skin. "Yes," I panted.

He chuckled a little and removed his hand. Frowning, I watched his lean body stretch over mine and open his nightstand. Realizing he'd meant an actual present, I smiled...and reached down to squeeze his butt. Twisting his lips as he looked back at me, he pulled out a small, wrapped gift.

Shifting to my side, he handed it to me. Furrowing my brows at him, I shook my head. "When did you find the time to get this?"

Smiling warmly, he brushed a stray lock from my forehead. "I always find time for you." Chuckling a little, he added, "Even when you're busy giving me an ulcer."

Sighing, I stroked his face. "I'm so sorry you had to watch me die."

Shaking his head, he murmured, "I would never let you die alone." My eyes started stinging and he nodded at the gift. "Open it."

Swallowing the sudden emotion blocking my throat, I started unwrapping the blood red packaging. Inside the shiny paper was a long rectangle of a box. It felt feather light, like nothing was inside it. As Teren smiled widely, sitting back on an elbow as he watched, I lifted the lid. Expecting jewelry, since my husband was fabulous in that department, I stared blankly at a piece of elaborately scripted paper.

I looked over at him, confused, but he only smiled wider and nodded at it. Plucking the thin parchment, the paper smooth as silk under my fingertips, I started deciphering the fancy font. It took me a second to read it, then I re-read it. My mouth dropping open, I stared back at Teren. "You're having Gabriel soundproof our bedroom? Like, vampire-proof soundproof?"

He chuckled at the look on my face, then sat up, propping an arm on his knee. "I tried to think of something you wanted, really wanted, and all I could come up with...was privacy." Tilting his head, he smiled down at me. "I asked Gabriel if he could make our bedroom like his lab, and he said he could."

Feeling more than a little floored, I sat up with him. "We'll be...alone?"

He nodded, his fingers tracing my cheek. "For the first time in a long time, we'll be alone."

I shook my head as I imagined that possibility. We always had to be so careful around the impressionable children that could hear us in every corner of the house. Smiling, I let out a soft laugh as I hugged him. "Thank you, I love it."

He held me back tightly and something else popped into my head. Pulling back, I raised an eyebrow at him. "Is this really a gift for me...or a gift for you?"

Laughing at the playful look in my eye, he shook his head. "A little of both, I suppose." Sighing, he lowered his forehead to mine. "It's a gift for both of us, so we have somewhere to just be us. Somewhere to talk about things without waiting for the kids to be asleep, without worrying if they are hearing conversations that maybe they shouldn't hear."

Both eyebrows raising now, I flicked my gaze over his face. "Talk? You did this so we"

Laughing, he glanced down at the sheets. His hand coming down to rest on my hip, he murmured, "Maybe other things too." Peeking up at me, his lips curved into a devilish smile that halted my breath. "I didn't think 'hey, I made us a sex room' sounded nearly as romantic."

Laughing, I pulled him to my mouth for a scorching kiss. Romantic or not, I couldn't wait for our "sex room" to be finished. Lowering me back down to the pillows, the elegant gift certificate he'd made for me dropping to the floor, a drawback struck me. As his hand slid up my thigh, I exhaled, "What about the kids though? I don't want to not be able to hear them."

His breath heavier as his stubbled jaw ran up the side of my neck, he whispered, "We'll always open the door, once we're done...talking."

I let out a soft laugh, a response to that on my tongue, but then his fingers dipped between my legs and I couldn't think coherently. Biting back the groan I wanted to make, I arched my back and clenched his hair. God, I couldn't wait to not ever have to hold back with him.

The remainder of my birthday was spent exactly how I'd wanted to spend my birthday - cuddled together with my family, watching a movie. My mom and my sister came over and once the twins were put to bed, we plugged in a cheesy B-movie. Because I thought it was funny, we watched an old vampire flick.

Halina rolled her eyes and groaned dramatically at nearly every ridiculous plot twist in the so-bad-it-was-good film. She got particularly riled up over the myths that she considered dumb.

"Why can't vampires go into people's homes without their permission? Are we suddenly polite, or something?" She snorted as yet another vamp was deterred from their prey by them simply closing the door.

Thinking about that, I looked over at Teren. "I guess that one's not true. You've never needed an okay to go anywhere."

Teren grinned and shrugged but Halina threw a pillow at the TV, softly, otherwise it would have gone right through it. "Why would silence bar me from entering a home? I could rip down that cottage plank by plank if I wanted to get inside it."

My sister chuckled while my mom's eyes widened; the full vampire still sort of freaked her out. Wondering how that myth had gotten started, I shook my head. "I don't know."

Halina looked over at me, her pale eyes fiery, like we were suddenly having a debate. "And how would that work anyway? What if I went to a business? Whose permission would I need?" She leaned forward, her short skirt riding higher up her thighs. "And what if more than one person owned the house? Would I need both? Is the power granted to anyone staying there? And how long do you have to be there to get that sort of power? Would squatters have that kind of magic ability?"

She leaned forward even more, her hair swishing over her exposed thighs. Punctuating her points with hand, her voice got even more heated. "Or is it the physical act of signing the mortgage papers that seals the deal? Or maybe it's filing the title with the state that starts the process?" Tilting her head, her voice turned incredulous. "What if you inherit the house? Do I need to ask the dead person? Can I enter in the interim, or does the magic automatically shift to the new owner? What if the house gets foreclosed? Do I need to ask the bank?"

Rolling her eyes, she paused to irritably exhale. I took her silence to try and end the debate I wasn't really having with her. "I got it, it's a stupid myth."

She smirked and leaned back on the couch; my mom visibly relaxed and I patted her thigh. Halina shook her head, her arms crossing over her chest. "That one riles me up. It's right up there with us not casting a reflection in a mirror for some odd reason." She rolled her eyes again at the idiocy of mankind. "Do we suddenly stop solely existing in this world when we changeover, and that's why no reflective surface can capture our image?" She raised an eyebrow at me, but I wisely said nothing. Not having anyone to whine to, she muttered, "And don't even get me started on cameras."

Twisting to Teren again, I murmured, "Should we put in Twilight next?"

Halina dropped her head back to the cushions. "Oh my god! What self-respecting vampire...sparkles?"

Every vampire laughed at her comment, the humans joining in as well. Cuddling into Teren's side, I peeked over at Halina muttering about how those vampires didn't even have proper fangs, and wondered if Halina was just a touch jealous of their sun-walking abilities.

As the deliciously bad B-movie wrapped up, I heard the sounds of light crying upstairs. Immediately in Mommy-mode, I blurred up to where I heard my children rustling in their bed. Quietly stepping into their room, I sat on the edge of the low mattress.

They both twisted to look up at me, then Nika crawled over to cuddle in my lap. Julian sat up, patting her back sympathetically while she cried in my arms. Hugging her tight, I kissed her head repeatedly. "What's wrong, sweetheart?"

Nika shook her head, crying too much to answer. Julian softly spoke for her. "Nick hurts, Mommy," he patted his chest, "right there."

I pulled her back to look at her, the glow of my eyes highlighting her pajamas. Aside from crocodile tears rolling down her cheeks, she didn't look injured. Shaking his head, Julian looked frustrated that I didn't understand. "No, Mommy, inside."

I pulled Nika to my chest again, finally getting what he was saying. She wasn't physically hurt, she was emotionally hurt. Julian, feeling her pain, patted her back again. I shushed her soothingly, asking her again what was wrong. I asked Julian too, but he didn't know. He could only feel her turmoil; he didn't know the reason for it.

Teren silently opened the door and stepped through. Sitting on the other side of the bed, he placed a palm on Nika's back. "What's wrong, princess?"

Starting to sob in earnest, she looked up at him. The glow of his eyes washed over her, drawing her in. He held the gaze with her, using the soothing feeling that his eyes could give a person to calm her tears. When her crying had softened to hiccups, she finally answered him.

"Are we bad, Daddy?"

He blinked, looking up at me before swinging his eyes back to hers. I twisted her face to make her look at me. "Of course not, baby. Why would you think that?"

She rubbed her eyes and sniffed. "Movie said vampires bad." Huge tears lit her eyes as her lip trembled. "We're vampires."

Closing my eyes, I pulled her tight to me, kissing her head. "Oh, baby, no." Tears stung my own eyes as I considered what that horribly awful movie sounded like to children that had no idea the world thought of them as evil. Shaking my head against her, I rocked her in my arms.

Pulling back, I cupped both her cheek and Julian's; his eyes were sad too, as he finally understood what had so upset his sister. "You two are the most incredible little people I know. You're the best and there is nothing wrong with what you are. You are absolutely not bad. Okay?"

They both nodded, Julian crawling into my lap to hug me along with his sister. Teren ran a hand along their backs, giving me a warm smile. Feeling those tears dangerously close to falling, I shook my head at him. "Soundproofing sounds like a great idea."

He smiled wider and nodded, a finger coming up to wipe the moisture from under my eyes. "I'll tuck them back in," he murmured, taking Julian from me. I nodded and gave him Nika, who was already falling back asleep in my arms.

Kissing each member of my family a final time, I hastily made it out the door before my tears started falling. Leaning against the wall as Teren started humming a lullaby, guilt filled me. I'd never imagined that I'd be the indirect cause of my child's pain. As I ran my hands down my face, I wondered if she'd need therapy when she got older because of me.

Alanna breezed into the hallway as I listened to my children yawn and my husband comfort. With my eyes closed, I felt her step before me and place a hand on my arm. Peeking up at her, I felt a tear fall on my cheek. She smiled as she wiped it off. "Not as easy as it seems, is it?"

I shook my head. "It's so strange. I want them to see the world, and I never want them to leave my sight." Tilting my head at her, I sighed, "I don't know how you did it? How did you ever let Teren go?"

She raised an eyebrow at me and glanced at the door that her son was behind. "Did I?" She laughed a little and I considered all of the mothering that Teren put up with from her, sometimes grudgingly.

Chuckling myself, I pulled away from the wall. "I want to give them every opportunity, but I never want them to feel pain." I shrugged. "With what they are though...that just isn't possible. How do you deal with knowing what they'll be facing?"

Alanna shook her head and shrugged. "You find a way." Her warm palm came up to my cheek, cupping it. "Raising a child isn't easy. You beat yourself up over every mistake, every tiny little thing that goes wrong. But you do the best you can." Sighing, she swept me into her arms. "And if you try again tomorrow."

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