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Episode 4

I dreamt of my children as I slept, of what their future might be like. I imagined the partners that they'd meet and fall in love with. I imagined Gabriel supplying them with as much life-suspending juice as was necessary for them to live as mostly humans for as long as they wanted. Unlike us, our children could take their time having their own kids. It delighted me endlessly that there were no biological alarm clocks hovering over their heads. They could have children whenever they wanted, or never at all. I was fine with that too. Just so long as they were happy...and safe.
I was just picturing an adult Julian standing beside an adult Nika, on what looked like her wedding day, when a harsh scraping along my neck started bringing me back to awareness. Groaning as my body fought against stirring, I brushed the irritant away.
Teren laughed in my ear. "Wake up, Emma. Time to start your day."

I flung an arm over my head, sort of hating my husband at the moment, even though he was nicer to wake up to than an alarm clock. He laughed again at my displeasure, the back of his finger running down my cheek. "You're going to be late, sweetheart."

I peeked an eye open, cringing at the bathroom light he'd left on for me. "Tell me again, why I went back to work?"

He smiled and shook his head. "Glutton for punishment?" He shrugged. I twisted my lips at him and narrowed my eyes. Chuckling, he shook his head again. "Because you are an intelligent, beautiful, confident business woman, who loves her job and loves to feel good at it." He raised an eyebrow at me, waiting for me to object to his summation. When I didn't, he added, "And you like turning me on in those amazingly hot, little lacy camisole things you wear."

I moved to smack his chest but he'd already blurred away from me. Smartass. At least that was one thing that hadn't changed since the very beginning. Teren was still a playful little tease.

Sighing, I tossed off the covers and stood up. As I still wasn't wearing anything, having fallen sleep immediately after our session last night, his eyes widened and he stopped smiling. Loving that my body still affected him, even after carrying and passing two children through me, I sashayed in front of him. Loving that he wasn't even bothering to pretend that he was interested in my face, I huskily said, "Fine, I'm up."

He peeked up at me then, the grin on his mouth devilish. "I think I'd prefer it if you were back down."

His hands ran over my flat stomach and for a moment, I felt worshipped by his caress. I'd worked hard after the twins to get my regular body shape back, hitting the gym every chance I got. And having vampiric speed and strength, let me tell you, getting in shape is harder than it seems. I had to constantly remind myself to run at a normal pace. And since weights did nothing for my enhanced muscles, I'd had to do yoga and Pilates to firm myself back up. But eventually, all of the effort had paid off and my curves were even tighter than before. I loved knowing that if and when I ever decided to stop taking Gabriel's shot, my body would be fit for eternity, much like Teren's.

As his hand on my stomach delved lower, I blurred into the bathroom. Turning the water on, I clearly heard, "Hey, I wasn't done!"

Laughing, I muttered, "Yes, you were. I don't want to be late, remember?"

Hearing that, even over the forceful flow of water beside me, he stepped into the room, leaning on the doorframe. "I believe I've told you this before...but, I can be really fast."

I threw him a smirk and shook my head again. Men. Even though Teren was more romantic than most, he'd still chuck it all out the window for a quickie, a super quickie, no less.

"Tempting...but no." I opened the door and quickly stepped into it before he decided to throw the charm back on. If he really wanted to, he could have me laid across our mammoth bed with just a few whispers of devotion, both of our jobs be damned. He grinned as he watched me through the glass, like he was well aware of the power he held.

Shaking his head, he sighed dramatically. "Fine. I'll see you tonight. Tuesday dinner, right?" He cocked an eyebrow and I paused in wetting my hair. It was so sexy when he did that. Clearing my head, I nodded. "Yep. Mom will bring the kids."

He nodded and waved goodbye, then headed downstairs. I tracked him while I went about washing my hair. Long ago ditching the too fragrant shampoos, I'd gotten one that was technically considered unscented, by human standards anyway. To me, it just smelled like a fresh sea breeze. It was a soothing scent, having lived near the ocean my whole life, so I'd readily adapted to it.

As I scrubbed up some bubbles, I felt Teren leave the house. A slight pull of sadness swept through me as he engaged the tension in our bond. As creator and child, although I hated thinking of myself as Teren's child, we had a bond that was unique to us. In the beginning, it had been a nearly primal need to be together. Embarrassingly strong, and at times, inappropriately graphic, it was designed to keep sires near their newly created vampires. The intensity of it varied, depending on what the connection was before the turning, and since Teren and I had been married...well, it was like a four alarm fire being kindled every time we started coming towards each other.

Luckily for us, the bond had eased up considerably over the years. Now, it was more a feeling of warmth and love, and less a feeling of, 'oh God, I need in your pants right now.'

I smiled as I rinsed away the lightly scented suds. I did sort of miss the passion, but I definitely didn't miss ripping off my shirt in front of Hot Ben. On my top ten list of the most embarrassing moments in my life, that one was right up there.

It had happened not too long after the twins had been born, when Teren had been spending the day with Ben. They'd gone fishing together and when Teren had tried to return Ben to his car, our bodies had had other plans. We'd ended up having sex in the front of Ben's SUV. He'd barely run out of there in time to not accidentally witness the whole show. He had not been happy with us, although, months later he'd confessed, to my horror, that he had liked the peep show.

Shaking my head at how crazy that intense pull had been, I stepped away from the shower and turned the water off. I heard each lingering drop fall as I wrapped a warm, plush towel around me. I also heard the beginnings of rustling, as the other two members of the house also started stirring.

After drying and curling my hair, I dressed in my favorite work outfit, and apparently Teren's as well. Adjusting my trim pantsuit and the clingy, plunging camisole underneath my jacket, I felt my husband's presence stop its movement away from me. He was at work, probably sitting down at his desk to pop out another fantastic article on the highs and lows of city life in beautiful San Francisco. If only Gate Magazine was aware of how undead their life and style writer was. The irony of it always brought a smile to my face.

After I fixed my shoes and made last minute adjustments to my hair, I put on the locket that I always wore to work with me. Teren had gotten it for me for my birthday, right after we'd learned that I'd survive long enough for the twins to be born. The gold heart folded out into four pictures, the two of us and our two children. I loved having the reminder of my family around my neck during the times when we were apart. A visual reminder to go with the physical reminder constantly binging their position to me in my head.

As I smiled at the tiny, sleeping infants in the locket, I heard Nika yawn and say to her twin, "Morning, Julie."

He in turn, yawned as well. "Morning, Nick."

I smiled at the nicknames they'd given each other. They'd started doing that nearly from the first time they'd started speaking. It was such a personal thing between the two of them, that no one else in the family used the shortened names. That was something just between them.

Standing in my empty room, I said, "Good morning, children. Hurry and get up so we can go to Grandma's."

There were excited squeals and a flurry of movement as they rushed to do what I'd asked. They loved visiting my mom and she insisted on having them. Since a traditional daycare was sort of out for us, since they were still learning to hamper their abilities, my mom had completely stepped up. Teren and I both told her repeatedly that Alanna and the girls would watch them, but she'd bristled at the idea of us driving so far each day out to the ranch, when she was right here in town. And since she'd retired, just so she could be available to watch them, it sort of made it hard to say no to her offer.

But she was so great with them that mainly, it was a relief. Someone I loved and trusted was taking care of them every day. It was such a burden lifted from my shoulders that I thanked her every time I saw her. Teren did too, although, I think he was also compensating her monetarily for her time. I was pretty sure of that when I noticed her brand new flat screen TV. But I didn't say anything about it. Teren's family had money and if he wanted to share some of that with mine, as a thank you for protecting and caring for our brood, I wasn't about to question him about it.

Feeling the pressure of a time clock ticking away in my head, I blurred down the stairs to get the children's breakfasts ready. When I blurred back up the stairs, grateful that I'd perfected speed movement enough that I no longer tripped on my lightning fast feet, I dashed to the kids' room.

I smiled as I watched Julian attempt to get a shoe on Nika's foot. They'd been practicing dressing themselves and were sort of getting good at it. Nika had chosen a bright pink and yellow striped dress with a pair of teal and orange, polka-dotted pants underneath it. The dress was on backwards. Julian had gone for a button-up shirt, but he'd only gotten one of the buttons to close - the bottom one to the top one.

Chuckling at them, I kneeled down by Nika and pulled off the outrageously clashing pants. Twisting her dress around, I finished putting on the little black Mary Janes that Julian had been trying to mash on her foot.

Julian frowned at me as I fixed his shirt. "Nick liked the dot pants, Mommy."

I looked back at Nika and she did have a slightly sullen look on her face. As she watched me watch her, a genuine pout graced her lip. It was one of those pouts that only toddlers could make adorable. Containing a smile that Julian had stood up for her feelings, having felt them himself, I tilted my head at her. "Do you want to wear those today, honey?"

She nodded, her pout getting bigger. Shaking my head, I put the pants back on her. Sometimes, you just had to let children feel like they were in control of their own lives; it was good for their self esteem. I'd read that somewhere.

Finished with the dressing portion of the morning routine, I quickly got them to eat their breakfast, and then we were out the door. Strapping them into the back of my cheery little, bright yellow VW bug, I pulled out of the drive. Smiling as our warm, comfortable home faded from my view in the mirror, I listened to my children sing a Russian nursery song. Halina had taught it to them and they loved practicing the strange enunciation.

I found myself humming along to the song, which I believe was about a boy drinking vodka, no joke, but I ignored that as best I could since even English nursery rhymes weren't exactly innocent. Jack and Jill falling down a hill? Humpty Dumpty breaking beyond repair? Ring Around the Rosie was said to be about the plague for goodness sake! But the Russian tune was catchy, and completely stuck in my head by the time I stopped the car.

Staring up at my mom's place, a cute little one story rambler that she used to share with my sister, Ashley, before Ash had moved into my old place, a surge of homecoming hit me. Even though the place wasn't technically my childhood home, that one having burned down when I was young, this place had memories of me and Mom and Ash, and now memories of my children. That firmly cemented the building into my heart.

Unfastening the kids, I popped Julian on my hip and grabbed Nika's hand. At times like these, I was grateful for my enhanced strength. Without breaking a sweat, I could have held both of them, the bag of all their stuff, my overloaded purse, and probably, if I had another arm, the family dog. That sort of strength was a little suspicious though, so I kept it to one child at a time.

Mom greeted us at the door, her plump face alive with joy at seeing her two favorite little people in all the world. I handed her Julian as I picked up Nika. Nika squirmed to be in Grandma's arms too, but I knew Mom could definitely only handle one at a time. "Morning, Mom," I said brightly as I stepped inside.


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