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"Morning, honey," she said back, nuzzling Julian's face. He smiled and Nika giggled, feeling how much her brother liked that. I set her down and she blurred to her grandma's side. I looked behind me, but I'd luckily shut the door automatically. Squatting down a little, I looked her in the eye. "Not so fast, Nika."
She looked down, guiltily. Teren and I urged them to use human speed all the time, so she knew better and felt bad for it. Julian reached down to pat her shoulder sympathetically, feeling her guilt. "I sorry," she said softly.

My mom harrumphed at me. "It's just me here, Emma. It's fine."

I sighed and rolled my eyes at her. Once she had accepted the oddness of me and my family, she'd fully embraced my children's gifts. While she understood the importance of secrecy, she was also a proud grandma, and wanted her grandchildren to exalt in what made them unique.

"Mom, you know they need to be careful about stuff like that. Please don't let them do it."

She sighed and placed a kiss on Julian's head before setting him down and picking up Nika. With a little effort, she lifted and squeezed the beaming girl. "I know. I just hate that they can't be as...special as they are."

I tilted my head as I watched her cuddling with vampires. "I know...but it's for their safety." I bit my lip, thinking of the assortment of different people out there that would harm these two beautiful specks of sunshine if they could, just because of what they were.

Prejudice bastards.

Seeing Mom struggle with Nika's weight, eventually setting her down, I frowned. "Your leg still bothering you?" She'd been having problems off and on with her leg going out on her. She swore it was nothing more than the aging process, but it worried me anyway.

She brushed aside my concern with her hand. "Completely normal getting old stuff." She looked at me oddly for a second. "Nothing you'll have to worry about, I suppose?"

Mom and I had never talked about all of the side effects of what Teren had done to me. She generally didn't talk about it at all, and we'd never sat down to have the 'my heart is going to stop, but I'll be fine' speech. That day wasn't here yet anyway, and I was in no way ready to have that conversation with her. I'd become much more sympathetic to how hard that conversation must have been for Teren to have had with me, ages ago.

I looked away at her comment, down to my children darting off to watch cartoons. "Yeah, well, let me know if they start to be too much." I looked back at her, concern in my voice. "I know they can be...challenging, because of what they can do..."

She shook her head and smiled. "I'm happy to do it, and I'll keep at it as long as I can." She smiled wider. "As long as I can still chase after them, I want to be the one watching them."

I gave her a tight hug. She inhaled a bit and I relaxed my super strong grip. "Well, thank you, so much. It means the world to Teren and me that they have somewhere safe to go."

I pulled back from her as she shook her head at me. "The two of you are so wonderful with them. You are doing such a great job." Putting a hand on my cheek, her brown eyes slightly moister, she softly said, "I'm so proud of you, Emma. Both of you."

I nodded, my matching eyes equally moist now. "Thank you." I sniffled, then flicked a glance at my children laughing at Count Dracula on Sesame Street. He was naturally their favorite character. "I should get to work."

Mom hugged me again, then with one last quick hug for my kids, I walked back to my car and left them for the day.

That had been a hard thing to do when I'd first gone back to work, but I'd wanted some part of my old life back. Work, while at times exceedingly boring and monotonous, was also my final connection to normalcy. There, I wasn't Emma, the mixed vampire married to an undead vampire, raising two partially vampiric children. No, there I was just Emma, super employee.

And that's what I had become. One thing I'd discovered early on was how beneficial my new skills were at my job. No one in the office could type faster than me. No one in the office could pull reports faster than me. No one in the office could do anything faster than me...literally. To them, since returning from my maternity leave, I'd become this indispensible person that everyone relied on to get things done.

As I pulled into the parking lot of Neilson, Sampson and Peterson, the prosperous accounting firm that I worked for, I smiled at remembering my first day back after the twins. As my old boss, Clarice, had warned me, she'd filled my position and I'd had to start again at the bottom. Grudgingly, I had gone to my new the mail room. I hadn't been there two months before my reputation for quickness started to precede me, and I was quickly promoted out of there.

Of course, my super hearing also played an invaluable role. I'd sort of become known as the "psychic" one, since I had an uncanny knack for bringing people what they needed, before they'd even asked for it. It was one of the few benefits of being able to hear nearly every conversation going on in the building.

Once I'd learned how to shut out the pockets of conversations that I didn't need, I found that I could hone in on the conversations that I did need. Say, Mr. Peterson muttering to himself that he needed a tax statement on an important client. I could then walk in and hand it to him, explaining that I knew he had a meeting with that client later and I figured that he would need it. Moves like that tended to impress bosses, and within the year, I was back to my old job.

Well, no, that wasn't exactly true. What with my super efficiency and my uncanny "psychic" abilities, I was no longer the secretary's secretary. I was no longer underneath Clarice. I was Mr. Peterson's second executive administrative assistant. I was her equal.

She hated that.

Smiling as I walked down the corridor to my new office, an actual room instead of a life-draining cubicle, I waved at my friends and coworkers. Pausing beside one of the cubicles, I looked down at my assistant. Yeah, I had my very own assistant.

"Good morning, Tracey," I told my friend brightly.

She smiled over at me as she stuffed her purse in the tight desk drawers. I smiled wider, happy that I now had a closet for my behemoth of a bag. "Morning, Emma. How are those adorable kids of yours?"

I sighed contently, taking a second to mark where I felt their presence in my mind. Picturing them climbing all over my mother, I shook my head. "They are wonderful, perfect little angels."

Tracey scrunched her beautiful pixie face. "I miss them. Ben and I need to come over soon and spoil them rotten."

I laughed at that. She and Hot Ben had made a real go of their relationship. Tracey even had a full carat sparkler on her ring finger to prove it. I'd had to feign ignorance when she'd told me that he'd proposed. As he'd been talking with Teren about it for over a month, I'd known exactly where, when, and how it was going to happen. I'd even been the one to suggest the place - the diner where they'd gotten back together after momentarily splitting up, for the second time.

The separation had been brutal on both of them, and was sort of Teren's and my fault. Ben had walked in on an....intimate moment and had discovered what Teren was. It had eaten Ben up inside, the constant fear, and he'd distanced himself from the love of his life. At that diner, he'd opened up to her and they'd gotten back together. Sure, he'd been lying his ass off to her about why he'd been distant, but she didn't need to know the real reason for his turn around.

But, regardless of the reasons behind the split and make up, the memory of that afternoon was a big one to her, a wonderful one, one that she still brought up to this day. I knew that him proposing to her there...would be perfect.

I sighed at her comment. "Yeah, we'll have to arrange something really soon." To her, I only smiled widely, but in my head, I was remembering all of the preparations that had to happen before someone not in the loop, like Tracey, could come over.

The kids would be sat down individually and warned about what they could and could not do, what they could and could not say. It was exhausting for them, it was exhausting for us. When they were younger, we didn't let anyone come around unless Halina was there. Since she could do adjustments to people's memories, one perk of full vampirism that Teren and I didn't have, she eased a lot of the tension in the air. If something weird did happen, she could evaporate the memory in the blink of an eye.

But Hot Ben was actually handy too when it came to distracting Tracey. When she'd commented on something weird she'd seen once, he'd expertly shifted the conversation around to their upcoming nuptials. Any memory of the kids doing something sort of odd was immediately lost on the bride to be. After that moment, we'd all sort of agreed that Ben would come with Tracey whenever a visit with the twins was in order.

Waving goodbye to Tracey, I headed over to my office, eager to start my day. As my office was situated directly in front of Mr. Peterson's office, I shared it with his other assistant, Clarice. She was there, of course, as I breezed through the door. Maybe wanting to feel secure in her own job, she had started coming in fifteen minutes before me, and leaving fifteen minutes after me. It still didn't help; I got way more done in a day.

As I waved at the sour, rotund woman, I felt a little bad for her. I did have a supernatural advantage that she'd never, ever, have. But then I remembered all of the years of abuse I had suffered under her scowling, disapproving eyes, and I let the guilt slide right off me. What was that that they say? Karma is a bitch.

She adjusted her June Cleaver pearls as I tucked my satchel into my closet. "Good morning, Clarice. How are you on this fine day?" I tried to keep the smirk out of my voice but it was just so hard not to tease her.

"I don't have time to chit-chat with you, Emma." She raised a penciled-in eyebrow at me. "Some of us have work to do around here."

Nodding my agreement as I sat down at my wide-open, spacious desk, I watched her grab a stack of papers from her inbox and march them out to the cubicles, where I knew her assistant was about to be loaded down with copying and collating in triplicate. Poor thing. The woman who had my old job was a slip of a girl, not really cut out for the harshness of this environment, especially under Clarice's dictatorship. I gave her another six months before she cracked, tops.

Smiling that I no longer had to fake my cheeriness at being here, I listened for my boss through his door as I rapid-fire read through my emails. When I heard him muttering that he was dying for some coffee, and he really needed to be looking at the Johnson's report, I chuckled lightly and went about getting both for him.

Yes, sometimes being a vampire was exceedingly handy.

Feeling a prideful sense of accomplishment as I completed my work day, I hopped in my car to meet up with my family. The Tuesday night dinners had kept going on after the twins' births. If anything, they had sort of felt even more important after that event. We were all so busy now, and it was a good way to put the brakes on the world and reconnect with each other, if only for an hour or two.

Driving over, I popped in a CD that I couldn't listen to if I had the kids in the car. Not that the music was dirty or anything, but the song did have a couple of F-bombs in it, and I didn't need three-year-olds repeating that kind of stuff. I mean, at least until they were petulant teenagers and truly understood the swears that they were spouting at their overprotective parents. God, I was not ready for that day. I didn't think I'd ever be ready for that day.

Pulling into the cozy little cafe that was an extended home for me and my family, I smiled at seeing Teren's Prius already there. I wasn't surprised, since I knew with absolute certainty that he was in the far corner of the building, not moving, and that our children were about a mile away, closing fast. No, what had me smiling was the peace that had started spreading through my body when I'd started moving towards his direction.

It was like stepping down into a hot tub for the first time, that warmth soaking into every muscle, down to the bone, relaxing every part of me, parts that I hadn't even realized were sore. It was a warm fire after being out in the cold all day and no matter where it happened, our reconnection was always like...coming home.

I sighed happily, feeling Teren's direction shifting towards me, to meet me at the door most likely. The languid warmth seeped throughout my body as I walked towards him. Slow and soothing, I felt only utter contentment and joy. We usually met now with a mellow kiss and whispered words of affection, and I was grateful that the dial had been turned from boiling hot to simmer. While the smoking hot connection had been electrifying when we could ride it's coattails to multiple satisfying releases, it had, more often than not, been annoying.

The very first time we'd all attempted to get back together for our dinners, Teren had been running late, having had a meeting with his editor. Everyone at the diner that had gotten to know my family over the years, had oohed and aahed at the babies when I'd brought them in, virtually ignoring me and any oddities that I might have had, like, a fang slightly elongating as I cooed at my son, having accidently relaxed my hold on them for a micro-second.

We'd gotten the twins' car seats safely propped up on wooden high chairs, and were all watching them stare at the toys dangling almost in their faces. I was watching Julian's pale eyes track a black and white ball when I'd felt my husband draw near.

Knowing that I could not lose control in the middle of the restaurant, I'd begged my sister to start talking about something. Noticing and understanding my condition, she'd started rambling about her schoolwork and how she was inching her way up to the top of her class. I'd struggled to ask intelligent questions, but I'd had to sit on my hands to stop myself from tearing apart the table top.

Breathing noticeably heavier, my mom had eventually asked me what was wrong. Since I couldn't talk long enough to explain, and since Mom knew what I was anyway, Ashley started filling her in on my situation. Mom thought it was weird. I agreed.

I'd whimpered and bit my lip when I felt him in the parking lot. Ashley had held my arm as I sat beside her, looking like she was afraid I was going to blur out of the room to rush to him. Honestly, I'd wanted to, and as I was sitting on the edge of the bench seat, I could have. I can clearly still remember imagining the chaos that would have created, the diners seeing a streak of a person rushing by them. I'd shifted my gaze to my children then, to distract my growing desire. I would not risk them by exposing myself. Not for this. I was stronger than that.

When I'd finally felt him walk into the cafe...that's when things had gotten embarrassing. He'd sped walked over to me and I'd dashed out of my seat to crash into his arms, like we were lovers reuniting in some sappy home-from-the-war movie. Then we'd started ravishing each other right there beside the tables, while shocked patrons surely gawked at our fondling hands and eager mouths. My mom had sputtered reprimands, and my sister had had a serious attack of the giggles, but it was eventually our longtime waitress, Debby, who had pried us apart and threatened to kick us both out of there if we ever did that again.

Laughing at the memory, I watched him gallantly swing open the door for me right as I approached it. His timing would have seemed miraculous, if anyone had noticed. "Thank you, sir," I told him huskily, pausing to place a light kiss on him before sweeping past.

"You're welcome, my lady," he laughed back, grasping my hand as he led us to a corner table in the back.

The memory of our embarrassing encounter fresh in my head, I flushed a little when Debby popped over to say hello. The waitress had probably forgotten the odd greeting, but my vampiric mind held onto stuff like that. Teren tilted his head at the rush of blood in my face, but didn't say anything. I shoved down the lingering uncomfortable emotion and greeted her warmly. We really had done the best we could with that intense connection.

Squishing close together in the semi-circle bench seat, I leaned against Teren's cool side and focused on the feeling of my children approaching me. Teren kissed my head, whispering that he missed me. I clenched his hand, whispering that I missed him too.

Resting my eyes, I let the sound of the world flow through me. But for low, even, faked breaths, Teren was silent as he rested beside me, but the others around were not. Clangs and curses streamed from the kitchen, laughter and whispered conversations echoed from the customers, and the hostess that had greeted Teren and I at the door, was commenting to her friend about how nicely shaped Teren's backside was. Teren chuckled at the same time I did, clearly having heard that as well. I lifted my head to smirk at him. He only smiled back at me, shrugging his shoulders.

Then the conversations shifted to hushed mutterings of, "Oh, wow, look at that," and, "Ugh, grab a bag, I'm eating." A low growl rumbled from my chest before Teren jerked my hand, shaking his head. I forcefully stopped the reaction, but I knew who the comments were about and it boiled my blood.

My sister had just entered the cafe, and she always garnered a reaction from people. Having been caught in the fire that had destroyed our childhood home, Ashley was horribly scarred, head to foot. The burns had been so bad that she'd had to have several painful surgeries to heal properly. As a result, her body was blanketed with overlapping skin graft lines. She was a patchwork of imperfection, and in a society that placed more emphasis on external beauty than internal beauty, she stood out.

Of course, not everyone who saw her reacted with vitriol. In fact, most people's comments were sympathetic or encouraging, commending her for her bravery in the face of adversity. But the negative ones were the ones that I picked up on, since they greatly bothered me. I was tired of my sister being considered different, being noticed just for her appearance. It had bothered me so much at one point that I had asked Teren to change her, just to heal her. I knew how stupid and dangerous that request was now, having gone through a change myself, but at the time, I'd just wanted her to walk down the street without a thousand stares following her.

But as Teren had told me once, she was happy, and as she bounded to the table, a slight spring in her hobbled walk, I thought she looked happier than usual. Tilting my head as she carefully sat down and scooted around to sit beside me, I asked, "You seem extra chipper, something up?"

Ashley shook her head, the half of it that could grow hair swishing around her shoulder. "Just had a good day at work. You should see the way this little girl there idolizes me." Ashley's eyes teared up as she shook her head again. "I give her hope."

That made my eyes tear up too. Ashley had finished school, and being in the top of her class, had gotten the dream job she'd wanted in the burn unit ICU at San Francisco General Hospital. She was more than just another nurse there, she was a living, breathing example of what the patients there could be, if they just plowed through the horrible fate that they'd been given. I could not have been any prouder of my sister, and once again, I wished to be just like her when I grew up.

"That's amazing, Ash. You're amazing." I reached around her body, hugging her to me, and felt Teren wrap an arm around her too. He adored her as well, completely understanding what it was like to feel different.

Ashley laughed and flushed under my praise. "Yeah, well..." Her brown eyes perked up as she spotted what I'd already felt. "No...they are the amazing ones."

I released her and looked over at the two boisterous toddlers clutching my mom's hands as they came up the aisle. The trio were a happy sight, Nika still in her mismatched outfit, Julian's mouth covered in some sort of chocolate treat. I shook my head at the spoiling grandmother that my mom had become, then smiled when my children let go of her to get to me.

"Mommy! Daddy!" they both exclaimed in unison. Teren chuckled as they hopped up on the seat to crash into his side. Nika squirmed over his lap to sit in mine, throwing her arms around me and showering me with kisses. I laughed and kissed her back, loving how kids could make you feel like you'd been away from each for decades, instead of just a few hours.

"Oh, I missed you guys," I said, giving them each sloppy kisses. Teren tickled Julian with one hand as he wiped off his mouth with the other; Nika laughed at Julian's joy. "Any problems today?" I asked my mom as she sat down next to Ashley.

Smiling broadly, she tucked her chin-length hair behind her ears. "Of course not, those two are perfect."

"Perfect little monsters," Teren chuckled, tickling Julian even more, until he squirmed and tried to get away from him. I elbowed Teren in the ribs for his comment, but everyone at the table laughed, entertained by the fact that technically, in the eyes of most people, they really were monsters.

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