MY VAMPIRE'S HUSBAND
Once Nika had her reunion, the rest of the family loved on Julian. As he noisily slurped down a steaming cup of cocoa, Mom and Ash alternated in planting him with kisses. Jack had tears in his eyes as he clapped Teren on the back.
I could see the rings of exhaustion in Teren's eyes as he smiled back at Jack. I imagined from the look on his face that when Teren did finally succumb to sleep, he was going to stay in it for awhile. As my hands never strayed far from Julian, I wondered if I'd be able to relax enough to sleep. I didn't want to lose a second with him. I'd lost too many all ready.
Jack beamed down at Teren. "You did it, son." He shook his head, weariness in his eyes too. "I'm sure I don't want to know all the details of what went down tonight...but I am so very proud of you."
Teren swallowed and looked away, towards his son. "Thank you," he whispered to his dad.
I smiled at the three generations of amazing men in my life, then wrapped my arms around Teren's waist. He smiled at me, his gaze not leaving Julian. I had a feeling that those watchful eyes that I loved wouldn't be straying long from our son for awhile. "Are you alright?" he asked, darting a quick glance at me from the corner of his eye.
Laying my head on his shoulder, I waited for the aches and pains that would have come with my human body after a night like tonight. I should have had a bruised hip, a cracked skull and an aching jugular. I felt fine though. Not even trace of pain lingered in my recently brutalized body. Thank god for super healing. Definitely my favorite new ability.
Nuzzling my head in his neck, I murmured, "I'm great...I'm perfect."
"I know," he whispered, smiling into my hair as he planted a kiss on my head.
Clutching him tighter, I felt the emotional drain of the past few days leeching strength from my body. That was one thing that super healing didn't fix. A body needing rest wasn't broken, even if it felt that way. I yawned, covering my mouth at the last second.
A chain reaction of yawns went around the room, my kids the last to give into it. I laughed lightly and smiled at the warmth and peace I felt. Chuckling himself, Teren went over to pick up Julian. Removing the mug that he was now licking clean, Teren propped him over his shoulder. Julian giggled, the long-absent sound tightening my stomach.
Nika laughed too, feeling joy from her brother instead of the constant state of terror that he had been in. Clapping her hands, she raised them to Teren. "Me too, Daddy."
Grinning ear to ear, Teren leaned down and lifted her, easily plopping her over his other shoulder.
"Alright," he laughed, twisting the kids around in a half circle, "It's time for munchkins to go to bed. Give everybody goodnight kisses." He started to parade them around the room but Julian squirmed and sat up straight.
Teren adjusted his hold on him, careful to not drop Nika in the process. His son's pale eyes widened and glistened as his arms went around Teren's neck. I stepped forward and rubbed his back, my brow furrowed. He was obviously upset about something, more than just being told it was bedtime. He nearly looked terrified.
Nika, sensing it, raised herself up and put a hand on his shoulder.
His eyes locked on Teren, Julian whispered, "Monsters come when you lay down, Daddy."
He started to breathe heavier, his heart starting to race. My arms were around him instantly, my fingers soothingly stroking through his hair as I suddenly understood. He'd been taken from his bed while he'd been sleeping. Then he'd largely been left alone, terrified, and now, now that he was back, he was petrified to go back to bed, afraid he'd be snatched again. Kids were resilient, but they weren't impervious. My dead heart wanted to break in two. A little bit of his innocence had just been lost, and he wasn't even four yet.
Teren quickly shushed him as Julian lightly started crying. "It's okay, it's okay, Julian. Mommy and Daddy are going to lie down with you."
Julian's little face relaxed, the terror in his eyes fading. "All night?" he whispered. Teren nodded, tears in his eyes.
I ran soft circles into Julian's back, the way that Nika told me he liked. He looked down at me just when I felt a tear spill from my eye. Quickly brushing it off, I smiled. "All night, baby. All night, every night...as long as you need us."
Nodding and relaxing, he slumped into Teren's shoulder. Nika put her head on his arm supportively. I heard vague sniffles around the room but my eyes were locked on Teren's. Leaning his head against his son's, his eyes were glossy as he held gazes with me. "As long as you need us, Julian. We're always here for you. You won't ever be alone again...I promise."
By the time we got the kids upstairs, taking them into our room here at the ranch, they were already asleep. I took Nika from Teren and he gently laid Julian down. Julian whimpered and reached out for him. Teren sat beside him, putting his arm around him and Julian nestled into his chest, his body stilling into peace. As I laid Nika on Julian's other side, her arm protectively wrapping around her brother, Teren looked up at me.
Running a hand over his mouth, he shook his head. "Em..." He shrugged, not able to say anything else.
Nodding at Teren, I laid beside my daughter and stared down at Julian. How much damage had been done in the few days he was gone? Treated like royalty or not, he'd still been ripped from his home, he'd still been terrified. Could we erase that memory by immersing him in love and affection?
Reaching out to rub his back, I watched a smile creep into his sleeping face. His eyes fluttered, like he was dreaming. I glanced at my daughter and she smiled too, dreaming as well. Looking between the two of them, I saw the same peace and contentment.
Maybe it wasn't too late. Maybe we could erase the one dark spot in an otherwise idyllic youth. Leaning over, I kissed his head. That would be my goal, every day.
We all stayed in that bed for a solid day, arms wrapped around each other for comfort. I knew we'd eventually get back to our regular routine, but I also knew that it would take some time. Julian needed to feel safe again and getting him to that point was my priority. But I didn't really mind. I needed to feel safe again too. And all of us being together...felt safe. We took the healing in stages. We stayed out at the ranch for a few more days until Julian asked to go home. Then we all dispersed from the ranch, my mother grudgingly going back to her empty nest, my sister anxiously bounding out of there to be with Christian.
When we got back to our place by the bay, Julian looked around. Nika grabbed his hand in the entryway when he seemed frozen in place. "Let's go play, Julie," she said softly, pulling his arm. He nodded and smiled at her and the two of them dashed up to their bedroom, Spike barking merrily and dashing after them, eager to play again with the tiny version of his master.
I exhaled in relief that he was okay enough to go back in there. He wouldn't sleep there though. Every night, he insisted on staying with us. We always let him. Burying himself in-between Teren and I, he conked out pretty fast each evening. Usually his dreams were quiet ones, but occasionally he'd start thrashing and whining. I rubbed his back while Nika sleepily patted him, and he'd relax.
I prayed every night he had a bad dream that it was the last one he'd ever have. I knew that was an impossible prayer, since even I still had the occasional nightmare about my abduction, but I still made the prayer for him. For the first time ever, I wished he wasn't part vampire. Then Halina could wipe him, give him a fresh start.
Him and Nika both.
While she didn't have the same haunted look that Julian would get at times, when it was getting late, getting close to bedtime, I could still see a fear in her that wasn't there before. She watched Julian extra close. She hovered protectively by his side. She almost seemed like she was watch guarding him, like she would never let anything bad happen to him again. She reminded me of Teren. He often had that look of determination in his face when it came to helping his loved ones. Even though I hated the situation, it did make me smile that the father and daughter were so much alike.
Eventually though, through lots of love, patience and encouragement, Julian asked to sleep in his and Nika's room. Biting my lip, I tucked him into his separate bed. Nika immediately reached out for his hand in the space between their beds. Looking over at her, he clasped it tight. His wide eyes drifted up to the window and I instantly wondered if that was where Malcolm had come in. It had to be. He'd crawled up the wall and into our house like the fictional monster he was. I was so glad he was no longer an issue.
Patting Julian's head, I leaned over and kissed the soft blackness of it. His eyes came back to mine. "Love you, Mommy."
Smiling, I cupped his cheek. "I love you too, baby. Mommy and Daddy are right down the hall if you need anything."
He nodded, his face serious. "I okay, Mommy."
I sighed, giving him silent strength, and absorbing the sensation of him in my head. It was once again a comfort, something that I clung to throughout my day. That knowledge of where he was, that I could always find him if I needed to.
I kissed him one last time, then leaned over to kiss my daughter. Her eyes were all on Julian. "Goodnight, sweetheart," I whispered.
She finally looked up at me. "Goodnight, Mommy." I wrapped my finger around a strand of her hair, listening to the silky strands slide against my skin as I pulled away.
Teren immediately took my place, leaning in to give her a big hug and a kiss and then Julian. He held Julian for an extra second, murmuring that he loved him very much, and that he was very proud of him for wanting to sleep in his own room.
Julian beamed up at him, seemingly proud of himself too.
I smiled genuinely. I didn't really need to worry about my children's psyches. With Teren as their father, my kids were going to be just fine.
Standing and backing towards the door, Teren grabbed my hand. I clenched his, almost not wanting to leave. My kids may be a little stronger than me. As Nika and Julian settled into their beds, Teren twisted and pulled me out of the door. "Come on," he whispered, "they need this."
Sighing, I followed him out.
Leaving their door open, we slowly walked back to our room. On the way, I heard the sound that reminded me that Julian was never alone, not really. Even if she hadn't been in the room with him, holding his hand, even if they'd been forced apart for a time, he shared a bond with his sister that was eternal. It had probably brought him a great deal of comfort, when he'd needed it most. He was never alone...Nika was always with him, and he was always with her.
"Goodnight, Julie, love you."
"Goodnight, Nick, love you too."
Teren and I looked over at each other as we reached our door, smiling. Hearing that lifted my heart, made me feel light again. Kissing the back of my hand, Teren whispered, "It's going to be okay, Emma. Everything is going to be okay."
On the other side of our door, I reached up and grabbed his cheek. His glow enveloped me as warmly as his heart. Silent or not, it was the most giving heart I'd ever met. "I know," I whispered, smiling as I leaned my lips up to his.
His kiss was soft, tentative. We hadn't had any sort of intimate connection since the night Julian was taken. I often wondered if Teren felt the same guilt over that night as I did. We'd both made a mistake. If one of us had opened the door, we surely would have heard Malcolm entering our home. But then again, maybe not. You never know how things might go down...until they do.
I pressed my lips to his harder, needing the residual guilt I felt over being with my husband gone too. That would be the final point of healing for us, feeling safe enough to reconnect. And if Julian was brave enough to sleep in his own bed again, surely we could be brave enough to let our guard down for a moment.
Neither one of us moving to shut the door of our soundproof room, I pulled him backwards to the bed. That had been an unspoken agreeance; we wouldn't use the soundproofing. Not yet anyway. I needed to hear my children at all times, even if that meant that they had to hear us too. Teren had gotten through his childhood that way just fine. Surely they would too?
Sliding my fingers down the front of his dress shirt, I slowly popped open each button. Teren had finally gone back to work, waiting until after me, so one of us was with the kids at all times. Mom had been nearly jumping up and down when we brought them out to her to watch again. She loved it so much, taking care of them.
Sliding the shirt off his shoulders, I ran my eyes over the smooth planes of his chest, highlighted in the light from my eyes. He was beautiful, and perfect, and eternally mine. His lips came back to me, hungry for more, but still holding back. As our breaths increased, his hand on my back slid over my bottom, squeezing gently. I smiled and locked gazes with him. He didn't smile back, his face looked serious, almost too serious.
"I've missed you, Emma."
His eyes glanced over my face, then down my body. My hands left the comfortingly similar warmth of his chest, and cupped his cheeks. Tilting his head, I made him look at me. "I've missed you too...are you okay?"
He shrugged. "I feel...like I...can't protect you, you or the kids. I'm...afraid to let go," he whispered.
I shook my head, my eyes misting. "Everything is okay now, Teren. He's gone...he's not ever coming back. We're safe...because of you, we're safe." Peppering him with light kisses, I murmured between our lips, "You saved me, you saved Julian..." I kissed his jaw, down his neck. "You do protect us. You do whatever you have to do to keep us from harm."
My hands ran back down his chest as my nose ran up his throat; he growled a little, deep in his body. "You could have killed me during your conversion...you didn't. You could have let me die when I was attacked, you didn't. You did the impossible...you found other mixed and saved my life. Mine and the kids."
My mouth trailed down the other side of his neck, lightly sucking the skin as I worked my way down. His chest was moving harder as his breath increased. Igniting his body, easing his mind, I shook my head, rubbing my lips over his collar bone. "You could have given up on trying to find Julian...you never did." Wandering over to the other side of his chest, I placed a soft kiss over where his heart should have been thumping fiercely. He sucked in a quick breath, his hands resting on my hips tightening.
I peeked up at him as I rested my cheek against his chest. "You cut out a heart for god's sake. All for us, all for them." I started placing kisses straight up his throat, forcing his head back. His mouth dropped open a little as another soft growl rumbled around the room. "We're safe, Teren. We're all safe...because of you."
At the top of his chin, I quickly swiped my tongue out, stroking the harsh stubble. His head snapped down, his eyes burning with desire now. "And you aren't in this alone, Teren. You protect me, I protect you. That's how a marriage works," I whispered huskily, my breath washing over his mouth. "That's how a family works. We're in this together, Teren...'til death."
His fangs crashed down as he stared at me lustfully... and lovingly too, always lovingly. Then his mouth was on mine and any tentativeness he'd had flew out the window.
Just like with other dark spots in our history, we'd get passed this and come out stronger...together...forever.
By the end of the next week, all traces of the recent hardships that my family had gone through were faded scars in the background. Still there, deep under the surface, but not noticeable to the naked eye. But I knew that over time they'd be faded completely and we'd be the joyous unit that we were before. It was already starting.
My children were laughing and playing, running up and down the dual staircase of the ranch, chasing Spike, blurring with speed until I reminded them not to, since a not-in-the-know human was in the house. But they were especially giddy today. We were all especially giddy today. Today was the twins' fourth birthday.
Not only was it their birthday, which to them meant tons of cake and tons of presents, but Teren had broken down and gotten them that pony. Not to keep though, just for the day, but they were still bouncing off the walls, waiting for it to get here.
When the screech of tires on gravel announced its arrival, my children bolted to the front door. Teren rustled their hair, chuckling as I held them back. We didn't need to freak out the poor man who was in charge of the animal by our excited children moving faster than humanly possible. I even had to remind Julian to pop his teeth back up, and I rarely had to do that anymore.
Alanna and Imogen tickled their bellies, making them giggle, while Teren, Hot Ben and Jack stepped out to help unload the shaggy little pony he'd lined up. Mom and Ashley were giggling with Tracey in the kitchen, busy decorating two horse themed cakes for the twins; a blue one for Julian, a red one for Nika. Ashley was sighing that Christian had really wanted to come today, but he'd gotten called into work after an explosion at a warehouse had left two firefighters badly burned. Yes, her hero helped other heroes. My sister had found a man nearly as wonderful as mine. I was over the moon for her, as was Tracey, when she finally heard that he was doctor.
In the rooms deep below the earth, I could feel Halina's silent presence sleeping the day away. I couldn't feel him or hear him, but I knew that Gabriel was down there with her. His darkly tinted sedan parked outside was one giveaway that he was at the ranch. The other two giveaways were busy with the task that I'd assigned to them - Starla and Jacen were currently stringing up streamers, banners, and other birthday decorations around every surface possible. No balloons though, nothing that would frighten Julian.
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