Home > 'Til Death (Conversion #3)(11)

'Til Death (Conversion #3)(11)
Author: S.C. Stephens

Surprisingly, she placed her hand on my shoulder, her anger seemingly diminished. "I never wanted him to fall for a human. I only ever wanted a receptacle for a grandchild. When it became apparent that he had deeply fallen for you, I may have resented you a little." She tilted her head and sighed. "I'm sorry, I just didn't want him to grieve you." She closed her eyes, another long tear dripping down her cheek. "I watched my daughter go through it, and Alanna will someday with Jack..."

Her words tearing my heart, she peeked up at me. In a whisper, she said, "But I couldn't take it with Teren. He looks so much like... He reminds me so much of..." She swallowed, another blood trail leaving her eye. "While I never would have wished vampirism for you, I am glad that Teren won't have to live without you."

I nodded and threw my arms around her, no longer caring if she was ready or not. I needed a hug after that. Darn emotional vampires. She awkwardly patted my back, her body nearly as chilly as the wind.

Sniffling, I pulled back and dried my own eyes. "You deserve that too. You have been alone for so long. Nicolis would wish you peace and I think Gabriel gives you that. Doesn't he make you happy?"

She looked down guilty, but nodded. "Yes," she whispered. "Although, we're complicated. He has his own nest, his own family. I won't leave mine, he won't leave his..." She shrugged.

Surprisingly, I found myself cupping her cheeks. "So your solution is nothing? Halina, he's over six hundred years old, you're just over one hundred. Think of how long he's been alone. Do you really want to end up like that? Do you really want to be alone for the next five hundred years?" I searched her eyes as she sighed forlornly, our joint glow lighting the space around us. "It's okay to be happy," I whispered.

She closed her eyes, then slowly nodded. I pulled her in for another hug. This time she returned it warmly. Then, almost as if a switch went off in her, she pulled back and narrowed her eyes at me. "Don't think we're suddenly best friends or anything." She released me, crossing her arms over her chest. "I won't be braiding your hair or exchanging recipes with you anytime soon."

Eyeing me up and down, she stepped to the edge of the raised platform. I smiled, shaking my head as I stepped up to her. "Don't worry, I never thought that would happen."

She twisted her lips into a wry smile, then blindingly fast grabbed me and hopped off the roof. I started to scream but the motion of my stomach lifting into my throat halted any noise I might have made. She chuckled as her feet lightly hit the ground of the parking lot. Setting me down, she adjusted her skintight dress. "Thank you for the...conversation, but I need to go kill something now."

My eyes opened wider at what that might mean, but she rolled hers and shook her head. "Relax, I don't feel like human tonight." Her body crouching down predatorily, she muttered, "I think I'll find our little cow killer."

Sighing that at least the murderer dying tonight wasn't my own species, I clapped her on the back. "Have fun."

She glanced at me from the corner of her glowing eyes, a devilish smile on her lips. "I always do." Then she streaked away, the rush of her leaving sending a shiver down my damp back.

Blown away by the complicated, forever teen vampire, I felt my earlier exhaustion hit me. Hearing only the sounds of sleeping humans or stone-still vampires, I figured I was the only one at the ranch still awake. Shuffling upstairs, I checked in on my angels. They shared one bed here and even though they were nestled around the huddled lump of Spike, they were still holding hands. Smiling, I silently closed their door and headed to my own. Yawning, I prepared for bed, sliding under the cool covers last.

Nestling my back into Teren's lukewarm-from-the-tub chest, I exhaled contently. As Halina's comments drifted through my mind, I was immensely glad that her fear for Teren's future wasn't happening. I didn't want him alone, but I really didn't like the thought of him moving on either. I wanted him like this, with me.

He sighed and clutched my body to him. "I love you, Emma. A life without you...is no life at all."

I smiled in the darkness, knowing that he'd heard that entire conversation with his great-grandmother.

Chapter 5 Grandpa Gabby

Giggling woke me up. Giggling and my feet being licked. That woke me right up. Jerking my knee forward to avoid Spike's early morning affections, I ended up smacking right into Teren's...unmentionables. That woke him up too.

As the twins clamored up onto our bed, he rolled onto his stomach, groaning. "Emma... I know I'm a tough vampire and all, but some things still really hurt."

His voice was pained and irritated and I couldn't stop the chuckle. "I'm so sorry, babe," I laughed out, genuinely feeling bad, but amused by his tone.

He peeked an eye up at me, his face not sharing in my amusement, but then Nika threw herself on his back and a smile finally broke out of the tight line of his lips. "Morning, Daddy!" she yelled, chipper as could be.

He gently shushed her, then twisted to hug her. "Good morning, sweetheart."

A shaft of light fell across the two of them, highlighting the close-knit pair. Julian crawled into the space between Teren and I, snuggling his warm body into mine. "Hi, Mommy," he muttered sleepily, not quite as awake as his sister. I clutched him to me, savoring the snugly affection of my little boy. I kissed his head and laid my cheek on him, glancing over at Teren tickling Nika. He looked back at me then too, smiling at the image of the close-knit pair beside him.

As Julian started to fall back asleep in my arms, Nika stopped her giggling and looked down at him. "Julie likes that, Mommy." I tilted my head at her, but her eyes were on my hand rubbing circles into his back. I smiled and hugged him tighter, feeling connected to him through my daughter.

"Thank you, Nika," I murmured quietly.

She smiled brightly, bouncing on Teren's stomach. "Daddy, can we go help Grandpa outside?"

Teren chuckled, halting her continuous pounding on his body. "Of course." Raising an eyebrow at her, he added. "I don't think Grandpa can run this place without us."

Nika nodded and leaned down, like she was telling him a secret. "I know, Daddy. He needs our magic."

A look passed over Teren's face then that I knew was pain...grief. He knew that his father was aging, they all did, and there was nothing that could be done about it. He was human, his life was finite. Teren successfully changing me had pretty much been a miracle, Gabriel had confirmed it. Most mixed turnings were fatal to the human. And Halina wouldn't bring someone into a full vampiric life, not that Jack wanted that life. He'd made peace with his fate long ago, and while he grieved for the future loss that Alanna and Teren would have to suffer through, he had shown no desire to live for all eternity. It was sad, but it was also a part of life.

Teren's face regained his warmth as he held his daughter, our new life to help dull the sting of the old life passing. "You're right, sweetheart. We'll go help him after breakfast, okay?"

She nodded eagerly, bouncing on his chest again. I felt Alanna exit her rooms and start to head downstairs. Nika felt it too and twisted her head to watch. Twisting back to Teren, she kissed his nose. "I'ma go help Grandma." She scrambled off his body as he nodded.

I watched her leave, skipping out the door. Shaking my head at her brightness, I looked back to him. "She gets her morning peppiness from you, you know."

Teren, looking thoughtful as he stared out the door, blinked, then looked over at me. "What?" he asked distractedly.

Carefully shifting my sleeping child to the pillows, I sat up on an elbow and placed a hand on his arm. "Hey, you okay?"

He sat up on an elbow too, looking down at Julian resting between us. "I was just thinking about what Nika said, about my dad."

His voice was quiet, speculative. Downstairs, I heard my daughter loudly proclaim her greeting to Alanna, who feigned surprise at her entrance. Cupping my husband's cheek, I brought his gaze back up to mine.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, knowing that there was nothing either one of us could do about it.

He nodded in my hands, his eyes moister. Swallowing, he added, "What you and Halina talked about last night...her afraid to move on, her worried that I would be alone forever..." His eyes drifted to the floor, to where we could both feel his mother. "She is going to have that future." He brought his eyes up to me. "And I can't do anything about it."

I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat and leaned over to kiss him. "No, you can't, Teren, but that's life, baby. That is the way nature intended us to be." I pulled back and shrugged. "Well, us humans, that is."

He nodded, then looked away from me, pulling my hand from his face. "Don't hate me for this..."

I tensed after he said that, not sure what he could possibly be referring to. "For what?"

He looked back, sighing. "I want to move with them. I want us to go to Utah."

My mouth dropped nearly to the sheet. I stammered for something to say, but really, I was too stunned to say anything. I'd just assumed that the vampires would leave without us. Truly, I hadn't even considered moving with them, not that I'd had long to think about it. I guess, since Teren and I had jobs here, and my family lived here, it just never occurred to me that we'd be moving.

Teren still looked his age, and would look his age, or close enough to it, that it wasn't necessary yet. Staring at him though, watching him bite his lip as he watched me shuffle through my thoughts, I saw the desire to leave, the conflict of being separated from his own kind. Even if Teren desperately tried to live a life of normalcy, he still needed them, needed to be with them.

I sighed, a hand resting on my son's back. "But...my family...?" I let that trail off, knowing I couldn't argue my family's importance over his own. There was just no way to do that.

He looked down, understanding that as well. "I know." He peeked up. "We could visit...constantly."

I looked down to the end of the bed, where Spike had decided to rest while he waited for us to get up. "If we left, would everyone here be wiped?"

I glanced back at him and he looked down, then slowly nodded. "Yes, not your family, of course, but everyone else...yes. They would still remember you, vaguely, but not anything about you being with me." He shrugged. "I'm sorry."

I sighed again, lying back to the pillows. I tried to imagine every friend or acquaintance I knew only hazily remembering my face, and probably not even remembering my name. I tried to imagine leaving my mother and sister, only to see them on holidays and special occasions. I couldn't picture it. Being on "bed rest" had been hard enough, and that had only been a few months. A long term separation...would be painful. Feeling the tears sting my eyes, I unfairly muttered, "But your family is immortal...mine isn't."

He brought his hand back to my face, twisting me to look at him. "My dad isn't." He shrugged, like he knew it wasn't a fair argument either.

We both sighed at the same time and I had a sudden appreciation for spouses that met and married great distances from each other's families. You pretty much had to choose which side to go over to, and there was no way to really fairly decide that.

Looking glum, he whispered, "We've always moved together..." He let that trail off and looked away from me.

I could see the guilt there and hated that he felt it. He shouldn't feel guilty for wanting to stay near the family he loved, the same as I shouldn't feel guilty. Pushing aside a decision that was still, at the minimum, a year away, I brought my fingers to his stubbled jaw. He looked back at me, sadness in his pale eyes.

I smiled warmly. We could work this out. Our being together was the most important thing anyway. Smiling even wider, I stroked his cheek. "We have time to think about it. We have time to decide what we want to do...and we'll decide together, okay?"

He smiled softly, then nodded. "Together...I like that."

His words reminiscent of a conversation held between us long ago, a conversation regarding the two miracles we'd brought into this world, I laughed lightly. He laughed with me, then leaned down across Julian's body to give me a soft kiss.

Julian stirred between us, a shudder running through him at the feel of Teren's chill. I bundled him up next to me and pushed Teren away. "Why don't you go keep your promise to your daughter, and go help your dad."

I said the last part softly and his eyes flicked over my face for long seconds before he stood up. I watched him silently as he stripped off the clothes that he'd slept in, then dressed in rugged jeans and a button-up shirt. I sighed at how attractive the man was and wished for the millionth time that he had a cowboy hat tucked away somewhere. It would just complete the fantasy for me.

Finished getting ready for the day, he leaned over me and his sleeping son, giving us each a cool kiss. "We'll be outside, if you need us." He grinned, obviously eager to show his daughter the world he secretly, or maybe not so secretly, loved.

He ruffled the fur on Spike's head as he twisted to leave. "Come on, boy." Spike thumped his tail and eagerly hopped down, following his master out of the room. Alone with a slightly snoring toddler, I rested my cheek on his head and thought about leaving my family.

I was still thinking about it when I walked downstairs awhile later with Julian in tow. His energy level now matching his boisterous sister's, he bounded into Alanna's arms when we met up with her in the kitchen. She laughed merrily and effortlessly picked him up. Sighing at the sight of them, so similar, so perfectly natural together, I thought of my own mother, bad leg and all. Alanna twisted her head to me as she held Julian on her hip. "You alright, dear?"

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