Epilogue? Already?! I know, I was panicking, too. But I'll let you find out what happened since I've left you all waiting so long. Hope it meets all of your expectations!


It was 3 months before she fully came out of her slump. She woke up one chilly Friday afternoon in October, staring at the ceiling, dappled sunlight playing over sterile white dorm paint. Her time sense told her it was late afternoon; the only sense that felt like it had been fully functioning since July. Now, she took in all of the little details of the room: the DVDs stacked haphazardly alongside worn textbooks, the muted glow from the lava lamp in the corner, the gentle scent wafting out from under the bathroom door where she could hear her roommate, Jen, taking a shower. The leaves scraped against the window and her fellow dormmates chatted down the hall. She rolled over and climbed down from her top bunk, standing in the middle of the room as if for the first time.

The bathroom door opened and Jen stepped out, wrapped in a towel, one more around her hair.

"Hey girl," she said softly. "You okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah I think so. I just- I mean, I feel like I just woke up after being asleep for three months."

Jen's mouth was hanging open and Ria shifted uncomfortably. "What?"

"You're talking."

"Well yeah." She paused, thinking about her life since she came back to college. She realized with a pang that it was all so fuzzy that it was almost hidden to her. She remembered a lot of the library, and she felt like she knew the first half of her Biology book inside out. She didn't have any memories of friends or guys or parties. She couldn't even remember the last place she'd eaten. "How long?"

Jen laughed. "I'm surprised your vocal chords still work."

Ria winced. "That long?"

"Yeah." Jen walked over and hugged her. "Not that I can blame you, hon." She had told Jen the bare bones of what happened, leaving out all of the supernatural bits. She imagined that vampires and werewolves would come to be public knowledge eventually, but until then... Of course, her slump seemed more plausible with the loss of the marks and her link to Erik, but it was a tad hard to explain without getting into the fangs and claws of it.

She hugged her back. "Thanks Jen."

"For what?"

"I don't know. Everything. Sticking with me through this."

Jen leaned back, taking her by the shoulders and studying her face. "Come with me tonight. You haven't been club-hopping with me since last spring."

She thought about it for a minute, and realized how much she wanted to go. The feeling surprised her, but she thought that maybe, just maybe, she was starting to get past it all. She could still feel a shadow on her heart, but she felt like, for the first time in a long while, she could get back to enjoying life.

"Let me take a shower," she said, making up her mind. "Then you can play makeover."

"Eeeeeeh!" Jen squealed. "I'm so excited. Go! I'll pick out something for you to wear."


The rest of the semester was awash with happiness, though Ria found that her relationships never last more than a couple of weeks. She wondered how she was ever going to get marries if she kept comparing all of the poor mortals to a vampire...especially their kisses.

But now it was Christmas, and she was coming home.

"Ria! You're home!" her mother greeted her at the door and swept her inside, out of the chill that was about as cold as north Texas could muster.

Her mother embraced her, and she clung for a minute, drinking in the scents of home, mingled with the Christmas touches of pine and holiday cooking. She had arrived just in time for holiday dinner, having driven all the way from southern Alabama to make it.

"Hi Mom." She sighed. "God it's good to be home."

Her mother pulled away and put her face in her hands. "You okay, sweetie?"

Ria smiled, sincerely cheerful, though her mother caught the shadow behind her eyes.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Really. Jen's been a huge help."

Her mother smiled. "Good. Come on into the kitchen, your father's carving up the ham."

He was waiting for them, wiping his hands on a towel. "Hey rockhead, How's college life treating you?"

"Okay." She walked into his arms, letting his strength wrap around her like a blanket. She looked up into her eyes beneath a neatly combed mop of her hair, though his was lightly sprinkled with white, making it slightly blond. "I love you, Daddy."

"I love you too, sweetheart." He kissed her on the top of her head. "Why don't you go help your mother set the table? Rory'll be in from the store in a few." He winked. "Your mother forgot the pecans."

Ria pretended to be outraged, looking to her mother. "How could you?" Rum- spiced pecans were her absolute favorite snack food at Christmas time, and it was usually her job to make sure they had a batch.

"Don't yell at me, dear, it was your father who went grocery shopping."

She turned on her dad when the front door opened.


She ran out to the hall and hugged her younger brother (by two years) though he was at least four inches taller than she was.

"Rory! How are you?"

He smacked a kiss on her cheek. "Missing you, older sis."

She laughed as they walked into the kitchen together. "Yeah right. You loooove being the only child."

His grin was pure mischief. "Yeah, I do."

She set out to make the glaze for the pecans and they were seated in an hour, catching up on everything. Yellowstone, however, remained buried. Ria wasn't sure if she was glad or not about that. Talking had always seemed to help in the past.

They stood up almost two hours later, all pitching in to help clear the table and stash leftovers. Ria was bringing in a stack if dinner plates when she heard her parents talking as they stored the leftover ham.

"I don't think we should, Sean," her mother said to her father. "She seemed so happy tonight, I just..." she trailed off, and Ria stayed around the corner, leaning against the wall as she listened, curious.

"She deserves to have it. Besides, she would probably want to open it alone. Imagine what would happen if she opened it the middle of a huge group of relatives tomorrow?"

Her mother sighed. "Okay, say we give it to her-"

Ria decided it was time for her to make an entrance.

"Give me what?" she asked, pretending she hadn't heard the rest of the conversation. Her parents exchanged glances as she stacked the dishes in the sink.

She turned to look at them, a puzzled look on her face that she didn't have to fake. She really wanted to know.

"A boy stopped by this afternoon before you arrived," her father began, almost hesitantly. "He left a box..."

Her mother walked around into the living room, returning quickly with a small box wrapped in silver and blue wrapping paper.

"He said it was a gift from the 'clan' up at Yellowstone." Her father looked questioningly at her. "He said you would know what he meant. Was it some kind of group or...?"

"Yes." She swallowed, unable to take her eyes off of the tiny box that called to her. "It was a-a nickname for a group of friends I made up at the Park."

She reached out for the box, and it felt heavy in her hand. "I think- I think I'm going to go up to my room." She turned to go, but paused at the bottom of the stairs, looking back at her parents, who were still regarding her worriedly. "Do you know who it was that dropped off the box?"

Her father's brow wrinkled. "I believe he said his name was Cameron. Tall. Lanky. Too-long blond hair."

Her spirits lifted. "Yeah. That's him. Thanks."

She smiled a little as she walked up the stairs, but the victory seemed tainted by the fact that Cam came back and Erik hadn't. She pushed open her bedroom door, closing it behind her, and the room sank into darkness. Her eyes adjusted quickly, and though she found she could see better in the dark ever since Erik, she wanted a little bit of light to see what she was about to unwrap.

She found a box of matches and lit the various candles around her room. The scents of cinnamon, vanilla, and orange spice filled the air, reminding her of her high school days.

She sat gingerly on the edge of her bed, unwrapping the box crease by crease, dreading, hoping, wishing, wondering. The box was fuzzy velvet, like a ring box, but shimmered silver. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest and her eyes pricked. She opened it with a snap.

The pendant lay in against the plush black background, shining like a captured star. The light from the candles danced in the red jewel's depths, flickering, pulsing, and for an instant the jewel was liquid, staining the silver, bleeding across her hands...

She blinked and the image was gone. She picked it up, drawing out the chain, and the metal was warm in her palm. She closed her fingers around it in a fist and lay back, curling into a ball, her hear buried in her pillow. There were no harsh sobs or screams, the sadness instead creeping over her little by little, like the ocean working towards high tide. At last, it seemed to engulf her, and she fell into blessed unconsciousness, her only protection against the pain.


She woke up to a knocking on her door. Glancing around, she saw that it was still dark, the candles still burning brightly. Her clock said 9:57. She had been asleep for less than an hour.

"Yes?" she called, when the knocking persisted.

"There's someone here to see you, Ria," her mother said, the words barely carrying through the door.

*Cam* she thought. She loved that she was alive, had missed him tons in the last few months, but she didn't feel like dealing with him at the moment.

"Tell him I'm asleep. I don't want to talk to anyone right now."

"But dear-" Her mother was cut off in mid-protests by a low voice. So Cam was up here. But that meant he had probably heard what she said, and he'd always been good about respecting her. He'd understand. She'd see him tomorrow.

She pulled the covers back over her head, and was almost asleep again when her door opened, the soft creak a familiar warning. She heard the soft click that said he'd shut the door again, and a bitter anger welled.

"Go away," she said into her pillow. God, didn't they understand that she just wanted to be left alone? She clenched her fist, the points of the phoenix's wings digging into her palm.


"I said go aw-"


The voice suddenly stopped her short. For an instant, the world stood still, her heart stopped beating, the air couldn't seem to get past her throat, and the pain was almost too much.

She felt the bed shift as he sat down. Her mind rebelled. It was impossible. She had seen him die...hadn't she?

Slowly, she felt the covers being pulled from on top of her, inch by inch. His scent wafted around her, catching in her lungs, permeating her brain.


"No," she sobbed out. "Stop it. It's not you. It can't be you. You're dead." She didn't even turn to look at him.

"Oui, but you have always known that ma petite. How does that change now?"

She lay there, crying silently into her pillow as he watched. When he couldn't take it any longer, he lay down beside her and tried to pull her against him. She struggled against him, and he stopped, hurt and pain plain on his face, had she chosen to look.

"Ariane, look at me. Please?"

"I can't. This is all some kind of cruel joke and you shouldn't be here."

"What do you mean? I belong here. You belong with me."

She shook her head silently, her poor mind trying to wrap around what was happening. Gently, firmly, he turned her over so that she was facing him. She pulled her hands down and laid his face next to hers, their noses almost touching.

"This is not a joke, mon amour. I am here. With you. Finally."

"How?" Her finger reached out to trace his cheekbone, his jaw, his lips.

He fought to concentrate with her fingers fluttering over his face. He ached for her, a longing that tortured him ever since he emerged haggard, but healthy, from the old hag's lair. When he hadn't been able to find her, it nearly drove him mad. Finally, he had settled to wait until Christmas, when she would return home.

"Cam took me to an old sorcière. A witch, for lack of a better term. She dabbled in les arts sombres. Necromancy. She kept me alive, brought me back. I wanted to come back. I had to. For you."

The tears shimmered as they traveled slowly down her face, but, for the first time in ages, they were tears of joy.

"Erik." She choked out his name, placing one hand against his cheek and leaning towards him.

An instant later she was flat on her back, Erik's mouth devouring her own, his hard length pressed against her, pinning her flat. His hands skimmed under the hem of her t-shirt, and she gasped at the contact of his hands on her skin. His tongue slid in, and she felt his fangs against her own as he teased her into response. One knee slid up between her legs and his hands tugged up at her shirt.

"I can't," she said, pulling her mouth away from his. He just transferred his affections to her neck. "My parents..."

"Je ne soigne pas. J'ai besoin de vous." She let herself fall back into him, lured by sweet words, but a loud laugh from Rory downstairs jolted her back to the present.

"Erik, please."

He pulled away, his breath coming in heaving gasps. His heart pounded frantically against her own, as if they were desperately trying to reach each other.

"I'm sorry, mon amour, but I can't seem to keep my hands off you."

She laughed breathlessly. "I noticed." She smiled, wrapping her hands around his neck and pressing against him, seeking warmth, comfort, and the reassurance that this wasn't some crazy dream.

He shuddered against her. "You are trying my patience, ma chérie."

"Good. You're still mine, then."

"I always was," he murmured.

"I don't want to lose you again, Erik," she whispered, clinging to him.

"You won't."

"Mmmm...I believe I was the last one who said that, and look where we ended up."

"Ah, yes, but there are no Destroyers of Peace out to get us this time. He is truly gone."

"But there are so may other things."

"I know, love." He sat up, pulling her into his lap, unable yet to be separated from her. "There is something I must tell you. Shhh," he stopped her question. "Ask later.

"You remember those marks I gave you that allowed us to speak telepathically, non?"

"Yes, I do."

"I only gave you two. In total there are four, and when all four are given, the human becomes, in vampire terms, a human servant. In the old days, vampires did this if they needed a human to serve some purpose, perhaps in the daytime, that a vampire could not do. The human is bonded more intimately than any we have felt, giving both sides added power.

"The vampire's power increased, as did their ability to focus, while the human gained some power, along with, well, along with a life as long as the vampire's."

She looked up at him. "So you're telling me that, essentially, I could become what, immortal?"

He nodded slowly. "You would not need to drink blood or any such thing, you would live normally, your life would just be...extended. And your figure, your looks, would remain as they were at the time of the final mark."

She blew out a breath. "And if I refused..."

He looked away. "I would not live a day past you."


He shook his head. "No. What's done is done. There's not a day I could live without you. Not after what I- we've been through."

She chewed on her lip. "I don't know, Erik, it's such a big step. And my parents, and Rory..."

He smiled down at her, and the expression had something almost carnal in it. "You know, they didn't used to give their humans a choice."

She leaned up to kiss him, feeling the desperation rolling off of him. "But you love me too much to do that."

He sighed. "Yes, I do."

"I want to finish college," she said abruptly.


"If we go through with this, I want to finish college, first." She smiled slyly. "And at least be over 21."

He laughed. "It is a deal." He looked down at her and her eyes were solemn. "Do you promise you will come with me, then, once this college is done?"

"Yes. I promise, on one condition."

"What is that?"

"You have to teach me French."

He laughed and rolled her so that he was once again on top of her. "Here is your first lesson," he said, nuzzling her neck. "Je t'adore."

"Je t'adore," she repeated, rolling it off of her tongue, looking at him when he shivered slightly. "What?"

"I have wanted to hear you say that in my own tongue for a long time."

"What does it mean?"

"I love you."

"Of course," she laughed a little. "Je t'adore, Erik," she said, giving it the French flair she had heard some of the other vampires use.

His arms tightened around her. "Mon Dieu. Tu es parfaite."

"I'll take that as a compliment," she murmured.

"Bon. That is what it was meant to be." He kissed her slowly, thoroughly. "Je t'adore, Ariane."

She smiled, clinging to him, letting her emotions lead. She buried her head in his neck and an overwhelming feeling flooded over her, and then receded, leaving only a phrase: She was home.


*SIGH* I can't believe it's over. I'm not sure if I like the ending... just the last bit. Taking any and all suggestions. Other that, I just want to thank everyone who's been reviewing. I love you all and you kept this story going.

Night of the Raven and black rose: You guys are great for sticking with me through this all the way and making sure I get a review for every chapter. Thank you sooo much and I hope you liked reading it as much as I liked writing it.

Sapphire Baby and Bloody Ashes and BC Andrews and Spy, I know I saw your names up there multiple times, and that means a lot to me. I like to know what mine looks like compared to other vampire fics, from the eyes of the reader.

Again, thank everyone, and perhaps I'll consider a sequel with Cam... I don't think I could leave him alone. Okay, I'll stop rambling. You could say it's my last attempt to keep writing with this story. I'm going to miss it.