MY VAMPIRE'S HUSBAND
I wrapped an extra blanket around her, to counteract Teren's' chill. Teren sighed and closed his eyes, kissing her forehead as he ran a hand down her hair. She peeked up at me when I pulled away from the pair. "Mommy?" she said quietly.
Threading my hand over the hair above her ear, I murmured, "Yes, baby?"
Teren's eyes cracked open as our daughter responded to my question. "Julie's scared."
My eyes watered right back up as Teren clenched her tight. "I know, sweetheart, we're gonna bring him home, really soon."
She nodded and closed her eyes, her young face worn, but completely believing me. She had absolute faith that what we told her would happen; I prayed it did. Teren exhaled brokenly, looking up at me. I nodded at him, kissing his forehead. "Sleep, we'll figure it out when you wake up."
He nodded, his eyes fluttering closed. I slowly backed out of the room, watching them. Nika's breaths were low and even by the time I reached the door. Teren's had completely stopped. Exhausted, they'd both nearly passed out.
I felt my own weariness as I considered joining them. I couldn't though. I heard conversations downstairs over what to do now and I wanted to be a part of them. Plus, every nap or rest I'd taken in the last few days had ended with me waking from a scream worthy nightmare. I didn't want to have any nightmares right now; my awake moments were nightmarish enough.
While Teren slept, my family debated over options. There weren't many. Blindly looking for Julian was an impossible task. Knocking on vampire's nests was also an impossible task, impossible and dangerous. The odds of them knowing anything helpful about Malcolm weren't all the great, since he'd been on the run for years. Plus, Gabriel knew several vampires, if it were really a matter of just asking one, he would have done that.
That of course brought the conversation around to Gabriel. No one flat-out said that Teren should just kill him, but the tension of the thought was in the air. It wasn't as if anyone disliked the man, far from it, but he was over six hundred years old. He'd lived a full life - several of them. My son had barely just begun. The tradeoff seemed fair, in a horribly unfeeling way.
When the sun set, I began to feel Halina's presence stir. All the vampires looked her way as we felt her come towards us. I didn't know if she was returning to the ranch because she was tired and frustrated of pointless searching, or if she just felt guilty being so far away from her clan. Probably guilt. Halina would search relentlessly if she needed to, but she'd have a problem with completely abandoning her position as protector. Even though she could feel us, she was probably anxious over our safety.
Like Teren, Halina had dashed out to search for Julian on foot. She'd been forced to break her frantic pace during daylight hours, when she had to hide out the sun, but I was sure she was just as weary as Teren, emotionally if not physically. As her presence was heading back towards us at a pace that was slower than she was capable of, I figured she had obtained a car during her travels. Knowing her, it was probably a fast one. I wondered briefly what fortunate soul "gifted" her a vehicle. But, fast as it was, it was still going to take her some time to make it home. A couple of days, since she could only travel at night.
When Hot Ben decided to go out for more pointless searching, Alanna, Jack and Imogen agreed to go with him. They'd been studiously watching over my mother, sister and Nika, protecting them in case Malcolm had decided that he wasn't done abducting people, and they hadn't had a chance to look for my son yet. I wished them luck as they left, knowing they wouldn't find anything, but understanding the need to look. Even now, knowing that Julian was safely stashed somewhere for at least the next few days, I wanted to look for him. It was hard to stay still, but I did, for my family.
I heard Jack and Alanna get in his truck, Imogen slip into her car, and Hot Ben get in his SUV. My mom and Ash wanted to head out too, but I made them stay behind. Unless you were undead, or had experiencing dealing with the undead, it just felt too risky to be out in the night, kicking over rocks. Scary things sometimes lived under rocks.
So we played Parcheesi while everyone else searched for him. It was the most somber game of Parcheesi I'd ever played. I felt Teren stir to life not long after everyone had gone. Glancing at my mom and Ashley, both looking out the windows more than the game board, I listened as he got out of our bed and walked over to the bathroom.
The sound of running water through the pipes alerted my mom and Ashley and they looked up, to where Teren was above us. Ashley's eyes came back down to mine. "He's awake?" I nodded, noting that my daughter was still asleep; she must have really been exhausted.
I gave him a few minutes to shower and collect himself, slowly walking to the kitchen to prepare another drink for him. I warmed one up for me too, wanting a little refresher. My thoughts instantly shifted to Julian. It was so unnatural to not feel him, to not be fixing him something to eat, to not be preparing to send him off to bed. I would give anything to go back to when our biggest challenge had been getting the twins to brush.
Holding the two steaming cups of plasma, I made my way upstairs. Opening the door to our room here, I instantly saw my husband. Standing in the doorway of the bathroom, drying his hair with a towel, he stared at the shape of our daughter snoring away in our bed. The light from the humid room silhouetted his body, casting a shadow of him on our bed. It nearly looked like he was still lying down with Nika, his black form protecting her just as he would.
The scent of body wash tickling my nose, I headed over to him, cup extended. He cracked a smile as he took it, warmed by my gesture as much as the return of my presence. Our bond glowed between us, for a second warming the hole that Julian's abduction had created. Tilting back our drinks together, I watched Teren as I gulped. Dressed in rugged denims, a loose, dark blue button up shirt over the top, he again looked clean and fresh, ready to take on the world. I wasn't sure if his spirit was quite there though, as conflicted as he was over his decision.
Only stopping when his mug was empty, he sighed softly and closed his eyes. When they reopened and locked on me, they seemed brighter, more alive and determined than I'd seen in awhile. Sometimes rest and nourishment was all it took to give you the drive to start again. We may not know what to do, or where to look for our son, but he was alive and would be for the next three days. There was a surprising amount of comfort in that.
Taking his thermos, I watched his ice blue eyes shift back to Nika on the bed. His black hair as dry as a towel could get it, he blindly tossed the cloth behind him, into the bathroom. Leaning against the frame, he sighed and shook his head. "I thought a shower would clear my mind. I thought the solution would hit me instantly."
Setting our mugs on a dresser, I came up to him and rested my head on his shoulder. "I don't think there are any instant solutions to this, Teren."
He looked down on me as I slung my arms around his waist. He smelled clean, familiar and comforting, and I allowed myself to indulge in it, burying my head in his shoulder much like Nika had earlier. His hand rubbed my back, comforting me, even through his own pain. "You look better at least." I peered up at him, the jaw under his stubble flexing. "Do you feel any better?"
His lips thinning as he pressed them together, he whispered, "I feel like a hole has been punched straight through me. I feel...incomplete."
His pale eyes glassed over as I pulled back to look at him. His gaze was studiously fixed on Nika, like he knew that if he met eyes with me, those glossy orbs would fill to a breaking point. I palmed his cheek but didn't make him look at me. He was struggling to remain in control and I understood that. I constantly felt on the edge of hysteria...and that wasn't going to help Julian.
"I know...I feel that way too." I followed his gaze to stare at Nika on the bed. Her arms were outstretched on the bed, like she was still reaching out for Teren, or Julian, but her legs were bunched up to her chest, curling herself into a protective ball. My kids sometimes fell asleep in the exact same position. Was Julian right now, reaching out for us, for his twin?
My vision hazing, I whispered, "I wish we could feel what she feels," I looked back at Teren, "just so we could know for certain that he was alright, that he was safe, that he was...alive."
Teren looked down at me and swallowed, his arms around me squeezing a little tighter. "If I had never told Gabriel about what had been done to me, none of this would have happened."
Sighing, my fingers on his face stroked his cheek. I raised my eyebrows as I shook my head. "If I'd remembered to open the door, we would have heard Malcolm. If we'd never soundproofed our room, we would have caught him."
Teren slumped and looked down and I squatted a little to hold his eye. "But then, if we hadn't met Ben at the gym that night, I wouldn't have been bitten. If we hadn't stopped to help someone that day, we wouldn't have been abducted." I smiled softly as Teren sighed. Shaking my head again, I murmured, "And...if I hadn't spilled coffee down your shirt, we wouldn't have met."
Teren smiled softly at the memory he loved while we both straightened. My arms moving up to slink around his neck, I rested my forehead against his. "You can play the what-if game forever, Teren. It doesn't change anything. This happened. We have to focus on what to do now."
Exhaling steadily, the faint smell of sweet blood on his breath, he rocked his head against mine. "What do I do, Emma?"
Intenseness in my eyes, I pulled back to gaze at him. "You'll do whatever you have to, to get Julian back."
Closing his eyes, Teren nodded. When he opened them again, he looked around the room. "Where did everyone streak off to?"
I felt the pings of family members in my head, some near, some very far, and shrugged. "They wanted to search for Julian." His eyes came back to mine and I shrugged. "They haven't had the chance yet, since they've sort of been on guard duty."
Teren nodded, looking at the floor to where we could hear my mother and sister discussing what Teren should do. They seemed just as torn on the matter as we were, both sides having pros and cons, the biggest pro of course being Julian's return. Shaking his head, Teren muttered, "They won't find him."
Hearing him admit that made an ache run through my silent heart. Biting my lip, I nodded, and conceded. "I know...but they want to try."
Teren looked up at hearing me admit defeat. It was a difficult thing to say. Having doubts and fears in your mind was one thing. Verbalizing them to another person was quite another. It made the entire situation suddenly seem real...and a little hopeless.
His hand came up to cup my cheek, his skin almost hot against my chilled flesh after his searing shower. "I'll do whatever I have to, Emma, to get him back to us."
I nodded, swallowing. Nika stirred on the bed, her arms tightening around nothing. Glancing at her, Teren started pulling me towards the door. "Let's go downstairs, let her sleep in peace."
I followed him out after placing a cool kiss on her hot cheek. She stirred, mumbling something that sounded like, "Julie," then she fell back into peacefulness. I wished her a long rest. Her tired, tiny body needed the reprieve.
Teren was waiting for me in the hallway, a hand outstretched. I grabbed it, a small smile lifting my lips at the connection. It faded instantly though. Small pockets of joy coursed into me throughout my day, but they were never enough to truly lift the weight around my heart. Teren's lips exactly mimicked my actions and he sighed wearily. Tilting his head to the dual staircase, he started leading me that way.
Expecting to walk back to the living room to rejoin Mom and Ash, I was a little surprised when he twisted us so we left the main building. Walking through an open air breezeway, the scent of cattle stung my nose for a second before we entered one of the side buildings here at the ranch. Each building beside the main one held numerous guest rooms, games rooms, formal dining rooms, laundry rooms, everything a growing vampire family could ask for.
None of the rooms were made available to the ranch hands that helped out a couple times a year. They were relegated to their own home far from the main house. That gave the vampires freedom to be more who they were. Not having to constantly reign in their nature. The ranch hands house was still empty, everyone was still being held away. My earlier conversion had thrown everything off schedule and Alanna and Jack had pushed back Peter's return until after the twins' fourth birthday in a couple weeks. A birthday I prayed they both got to celebrate together.
As we walked down a hallway that I knew well, a hallway that held the room I'd prepared to marry Teren in, that sweeter, purer time filled my head. Our life had seemed so hopeful then. I was completely human, recently pregnant. We hadn't known about Gabriel and his expansive circle of mixed and full vampires. Carrie was alive and well, and I'd been oblivious of her past connection to my then boyfriend. They were simpler times, and seemed a lifetime ago as I walked down the hall with Teren. Our biggest problem that day had been Hot Ben walking in on us and discovering what Teren was.
Remembering Ben asking Teren if he was going to eat him, a small smile cracked my lips. It fell off my face the moment we stopped before another door that I knew well. A door that held memories that weren't so pure and sweet.
Teren's face was hard and serious as he opened the door into what I liked to call the "war room." I never came in here, not since that day that Teren and I had fought here. He'd been packing up for battle, preparing to do whatever was necessary to find an elusive mixed vampire, any mixed vampire, hoping against hope that someone could help me. I cringed that it had come down to this. That once again, Teren was being forced to do something unsavory, to protect his family.
I wanted to pull him back, to forcibly make him leave this room with me, but I couldn't. I knew the risks, and this time...I supported his decision. His breath heavier, he dropped my hand and opened a chest on the floor. In it, were all the weapons Teren and Ben had accumulated on their hunting trips. I bit my lip as he rifled through stake after stake. I hated the vision of violence before me - guns, silver knives, even a crossbow. It was all so barbaric, so against who Teren was as a person. The image of him examining an aged, wooden stake, seeing if the point was sharp enough, was so jolting that I felt my stomach rise. I didn't want this...but I wanted my son.
Finally settling on a silver one that shone brightly in the sun streaming through the window, its light refracting around the room, he stood back up. His face tight as he examined the object in his hands, he murmured, "I need to call Gabriel, have him come back here. I'll tell him I found something, a clue, but I need his help with it."
My eyes watered as I watched his thumb stroke over the deadly piece. Surprisingly, an intrinsic part of me was afraid to be near it, like my body understood the danger of the weapon. I took a step back from him holding it. Teren's eyes lifted to mine, his face haunted by what he had to do, for our son.
I wanted to scream at him that there had to be another way, that he couldn't seriously be considering murder. But I didn't. I only nodded at him and forced myself closer to the hated object so I could touch him. Exhaling in a shaky breath, I wrapped my arms around his neck and held his head tight to mine. I could feel him trembling as he stood rigidly, stake in hand. He didn't want to do this either, but the odds of us blindly finding Julian were impossibly high. We'd have better odds finding Bigfoot.
Holding him close, I whispered in his ear, "I love you."