Author's Note: The next chapter can't take three weeks. The last three weeks have been like "Finals, finals, register for the SAT!" Yeah … SAT … that's gonna be… fun. But now I'm on Vacation! Yay!


The graveyard behind Gavin's house was lit up with Christmas lights.

The glow from the thousands of little bulbs shone all the way into the house's main hallway. Jamnis kept his arm around me anyway, helping me to get back to Gavin's study. When we got there, Gavin was on the phone, and Jamnis used the chance to pull me down into his lap. I didn't mind. I rested my head on his shoulder and shut my eyes, and he leaned back in the overstuffed chair and put his legs up on a footstool.

"Tired?" he asked, stroking my hair. I nodded. I'd slept from the site of the explosion all the way to Hell, and I'd slept most of the way to Gavin's house, but I was still exhausted. If Gavin hadn't been talking, I probably would've fallen asleep again. He was speaking in English, and he sounded frustrated.

"What do you mean, the head's in a bag? How hard is it to dispose of a body?" he asked, his voice on the edge of a scream. He sat down on the edge of his desk and bowed his head, listening to someone frantically try to explain themselves. "I don't know," he snapped. "Boil it or something. Doesn't the Jacob line own a crematory?" He was grasping a paperweight, and from the white-knuckle grip I could tell he was trying not to crush the phone. "You're incompetent," he finally hissed, tossing the phone across the room. It bounced off a couch and fell quietly to the floor.

The softness of the crash made Gavin sigh. He rubbed his face and pinched the bridge of his nose. "This night would have been a total disaster," he muttered, shaking his head, "if not for Vlad's little… plan." He stared straight at me, eyes inspecting every inch of skin exposed by the dress. "I got a call from a colleague in Maine, congratulating me on my acquisition." He stood up, walked over to me, and grabbed my chin. "You served me well, Dana."

Hmmph. "I'm glad," I said dryly. His eyes were locked on mine. I hoped he wasn't trying to glamour me, because I wasn't in the mood for revealing the secret of the anti-Gavin shield. "That's exactly what we were thinking about when we planned it."

He kissed me. It startled me, although Jamnis didn't seem surprised. It was a fairly chaste kiss, but afterwards he moved his mouth down to my throat and kissed the gouge from end to end. "Don't be mad at me," he begged, nuzzling my neck. He was bracing himself on the arms of the chair, and Jamnis's presence wasn't bothering him in the least. "I tried to get you away from Nathan, I made sure there were people looking for you, I…" He sighed, let go of me, and stepped back, his hands in his pockets.

"She is tired," Jamnis said, stroking my wrist.

"Cold, more like it," Gavin said dryly, eyes drinking in my dress again.

Jamnis jostled me slightly and my eyes fluttered open. He gave me a look and I sighed. Alright, Gavin had sent people out to look for me, I was obligated to thank him, at least verbally. "Gavin, I want to thank you for sending out your wicked nocturnal minions of Satan to rescue me," I said, quoting Avery. The corner of Jamnis's mouth twitched and he raised his hand to cover the bottom half of his face.

The blonde was too startled to reprimand me for that. "You're welcome," he said, raising an eyebrow at me.

For a second, no one said anything. Then Gavin grabbed my elbow and hauled me to my feet. "Let's talk outside. Alone," he said, slipping his arm around my waist. Before I could protest he'd run us onto the back porch, and the door was swinging shut behind us.


He gently laid his hand over my mouth and pulled me against his chest, so we were both facing the graveyard. "Do you honestly think I'm stupid, Dana?" he asked, mouth next to my ear. I felt my head swim: there were a million things he could be angry about, I just hoped… well… that I lived to see morning. "Did you think I wouldn't find out? That I wouldn't be able to tell?"

Since his hand was over my mouth, I figured it was a rhetorical question.

"Mmm." He spun me around and rested both his arms around my waist. I hesitantly put my hands on his arms, ready to push off and run in case… in case I said anything stupid. "Answer me, Dana. Do I look stupid?"

I blinked slowly, knowing what I was going to say was idiotic. But I decided that after what had happened that night I had the right to say it anyway. "No, Gavin. You don't look stupid," I said, glaring at him. Luckily for me, he found that amusing, and I still had my head three seconds after I shut my mouth. "But, really," I said, looking out at the lit-up graveyard. "I don't have any idea what you're talking about."

Technically, I didn't. There were a lot of things he could be mad about. The anti-Gavin shield, not yet telling him what the vampire blood had done to me, humiliating him in front of the auction group… and then there were a thousand things that could've set him off without me even knowing it.

"Room 214."

I stared at him. "What?"

He smiled and bore down on me, pressing me against the porch railing. The look he gave me made me cringe. He had a feline smile on his face, like he'd just trapped a mouse. "Room 214," he said again, eyes sparkling. When I didn't answer, he gave a frustrated grunt, and put his mouth next to my ear. His lips tickled me when he spoke. "That's your room at Rosen University, isn't it?" he asked, and my heart stopped. "Building C, fourth floor. Roommate Sirel Grange, although thanks to Jamnis you've been spending some time in the vampire dorms."

I trembled. "Did you think you could hide forever, Dana?" he asked, tongue flicking my ear. "You told your family you were in college. There are only a few schools near Rosen… and you told your mother you met Jamnis at school… it was child's play to find out from there."

"W-what're you going to d-do?" I stammered, so scared I was actually holding onto his arms.

He chuckled, making me shiver. "Nothing, as long as you behave yourself," he said, leaning back a little. I stared up at him, shaking, ready to cry. He just stared at me, smug. "You and I both know what your mother will do if she's able to find you," he said, catty smirk still there. He nipped my earlobe with a fang, and I dug my fingers into his arm hard enough to make my knuckles go white. "No cursing, Dana?" he asked, the smile fading. "Am I scaring you?" he asked, stroking my chin with his thumb. "You look cute in that dress, by the way," he said.

I couldn't even call him a jerk for that. I didn't want my mother to… I didn't want her hanging around the University. She would entrench herself in my life, on the philosophy that she could annoy me into submission. "What do you want?" I asked, miserable.

"You could stop clawing my arms," he said. I let my arms go limp, and they slid down to my sides. He grinned and lifted me up. "Put your legs around my waist," he said, tilting his head to one side. I started to protest and his eyes flashed. Humiliated, I did as he said, and he practically crushed me against his chest, sighing. "Dana. I'm trying to carry you here," he said, glancing at my arms. I reluctantly put them around his shoulders.

The next thing I knew, he'd kicked off the porch. We were flying.

I screeched, and buried my face in the crook of his neck. He laughed. "Scared of heights?" he asked, and I could feel air rushing past us as we went higher. "Open your eyes, Dana, baby. I won't let you fall," he promised, slowing to a halt. Still shaking, I didn't move. He dug his fingers into my hair and pulled my head back, forcing me to look down.

Immediately I shrieked and hid my face in his shirt again, whispering, "No, no, no, no…" We were so high up. Higher than the trees, so I we could see the entire graveyard, and a lot of the forest behind it. There were birds flying by underneath us. I couldn't have held onto Gavin harder if I tried. At the top of the Cliff, I'd been too scared to jump. Heights weren't my favorite thing. Plus…

At Hell, when that balcony had… the rails had creaked, and Nathan had just kept pushing me against it, and the metal had squeaked and protested under the pressure until… finally…

"Baby, I'm not going to let you fall," Gavin murmured. A cold wind was whipping at us, and I tried to hide myself behind Gavin's frame. He'd saved me, and I was thankful for that. Crashing… falling and knowing what's going to happen and not being able to do anything about it… was… terrifying. He inhaled and counted to ten. "Dana, baby," he was trying to use a soft tone of voice to calm me down, but it wasn't working. "Just look up. I swear, nothing bad will happen. Do you think I would risk you getting hurt, after everything that happened tonight?"

"No," I hissed, pulling him closer, not sure if I was answering his question or telling him I wouldn't lift my head.

"I'm not in the mood to be patient with you, Dana," Gavin growled. When coaxing fails, try threats. I looked up at him, and he smiled warmly. "See, now? I'm not going to drop you… though you might enjoy it, if you'd let yourself calm down." His smile didn't disappear. "I'd catch you, of course. We could… have some fun up here, Dana."

That finally got a rise out of me. Falling… plummeting faster with every second… with only hard earth beneath you, and here there were rocks and pointed stones… how could he think that would be fun? "Stop it," I snapped.

"Stop holding you? Okay."


He sighed. His arms were dangling at his sides, but I was clutching him so tight I didn't budge an inch. "Under any other circumstances, I would enjoy this," he drawled, "but, honestly… I don't like seeing you afraid." He smoothed my hair back from my face and put his arms around me again. We started to float down, slowly, and when we hit the ground he cleared his throat, signaling I could climb off him.

When time proved I was too scared to move, he sighed and set me down on a squared headstone. "Let go," he murmured, and I reluctantly did, letting my ankles hit the granite slab. I wrapped my arms around myself, shivering in the cold. Way down here on the ground there wasn't any wind, but it was still after midnight and the air was still cold, and I was still in that stupid dress.

Gavin walked around behind me and started rubbing my shoulders. "You're tense, baby," he said, kissing the back of my neck. His fingers slid under the straps of my dress as he tried to knead away that tension.

"What do you want?" I asked, my head bowed. I stared at the gravel laid in front of me. This seemed to be a fairly recent grave, not that I could read the headstone. If I had my psychic sight… I couldn't believe I actually missed it, but I did. And it might be months before I got it back.

"…I don't suppose you would consider spending the summer in Ashburgh?"

Hmmph. "I don't have much of a choice, do I?" I asked.

"Dana, please," he said, exasperated. "It's not like I'm ordering you to live here… just visit more often," he said. He kept rubbing my shoulders, a little rougher now. "Although you may have to get your own car if you ever want to drive back here on your own."

Drive back here… on my own.

I spun around, making Gavin step back. Still sitting on the gravestone, I crossed my legs and smiled at him. I didn't say anything - yet. I wanted to freak him out. And it was working, too. At first he stared at me, and then when I just kept smirking, he frowned, and after a moment he took a step back. "Okay. I don't like this smile," he said.

It was hard not to be giddy. "You're not going to tell my mother where I live. You're not going to tell Michael where he can come and bug me, and you're not going to let me sister know where she can find me," I said, the smile stuck on my face. My cheeks hurt from the force of it, but it was better than laughing. If I laughed, I'd never be able to say what I needed to say.

He stepped forward and put his hands on my knees. Our faces were only a hairsbreadth apart. "And why not? What are you offering me to keep your secret?" He kept his eyes trained on mine, and his hands slid up to my thighs.

"I'll keep yours if you keep mine," I said coolly.

He laughed and slid his hands up a little further. I had to admit his smugness was kind of cute. "And what secret is that?" he asked, his bangs brushing my forehead.

I leaned forward, so our noses touched. "I won't tell anyone you lied about seeing some guy in my car the night I dis…. the night I left town," I said. 'Disappeared' was a strong word. I wasn't going to use it.

He froze.

"You think Ariadne will stay with you if she hears that?" I asked, tilting my head to one side. "You think Michael will honor your agreement if he knows you lied? I know my little brother. He doesn't like to be lied to," I said, and my smile threatened to fade. "He nearly beat me up when I knocked into him, and he actually likes me. What do you think he's going to do to you? Especially if I tell him about your little auction?"

Gavin scowled, and his fangs started to slip out.

"And I'm so sure he'd be delighted to know you keep hitting on me," I said, feeling the giddy bubbling up. Giddy is pretty hard to stop when it really wants to come out. "But if you'd like to see their reactions, I'll be happy to tell them when they wake up tomorrow. By the time you wake up, they'll have had lots of time to simmer."

He cracked his knuckles.

I fell off the gravestone.

Well, I'd kind of been asking for it. That didn't stop me from thinking Shit!, though. For one thing, I'd landed on gravel, and it was rough against my already tender skin. And, of course, there was the awkward position I had landed in. I was on my stomach, one side of my face pressed into the gravel, and my knees pulled up underneath me so my butt was stuck in the air. And I couldn't move, either.

"Bastard," I spat, when Gavin's shoes appeared in front of me.

"You look cute like that, Dana," he said, chuckling. He playfully slapped my butt.

I suddenly figured out how to use telekinesis and knocked him against a tomb about ten feet away. After a minute of struggling, I managed to undo my bonds, too, and rolled over onto my back. Gavin was still pressed up against the tomb, and it took me another few seconds to figure out how to let him drop back to earth. The instant I did, he tackled me, hands locking around my neck since I didn't have a collar.

He shook me, furious. "How? How did you do that?"

Time to turn back to my old friend, the flame.

Gavin yelped and jerked his hands away. I snuffed the flame out and leaned up against the nearest gravestone, breathing hard and touching my neck to make sure he hadn't reopened the gouge. "What the hell was that for?" I shouted, putting all my weight on the granite slab. I felt like I was going to pass out … again. "Why can't you just ask questions like a normal person? Why do you have to do stuff like that?"

"How did you do that?" he yelled.

"I don't know, magic!" I barked back. "Scott's stupid blood messed me up!"

He stared at me. "It did, did it?" he asked, looking me up and down again. He started walking around me in a big circle, careful not to get within firing distance. "This is very interesting, Dana. Very." He ran his hands through his hair and kept pacing. "You know what I find most interesting? Neither you nor Jamnis, nor any of my subordinates, mentioned this little fact to me. I'm guessing most of them knew, too. I'm also guessing that it wasn't Scott who blew up the necromancer's truck." He came to rest in front of me and stood so close I almost toppled backwards over the gravestone just trying to meet his eyes. "I'm guessing that was you," he hissed.

I was too scared to move when my hair fell into my eyes. Gavin caught my barrette mid-fall and stared at it for a minute, turning it over in his palm. Then he sighed and gently pinned it back in my hair. "You are so innocent," he said, shaking his head. "Go back inside. Let Jamnis take you home. I… have things to discuss with my sirelings."

I started to walk away, then hesitated. Gavin smiled humorlessly. "I won't tell, if you keep my indiscretion quiet," he promised, pressing a finger to his lips.

"Can I trust you, though?" I mused.

He raised his eyebrows. "Do you have a choice?"


Jamnis wanted to walk me to my room - well, he wanted to carry me to my room - but since Michael's bedroom light was on, I figured that was probably a bad idea.

The two of us stood on the front steps for a while, just holding hands. Neither of us said anything, we were content to just look at each other. Or, I was. After a minute Jamnis stepped closer to me, so we brushed up against each other. I almost had to look straight up to see his face. "What did Gavin want?" he asked, in a very strained voice.

"He… figured out where I stay, at the University," I said, shrugging. I couldn't read Jamnis's expression. "But… he promised not to tell anyone. And he was kind of upset when he figured out what Scott's blood did to me," I added, shaking my head, sighing. Jamnis touched my hair, briefly. "He'll want to talk to you when you get back." Jamnis was spending the night there, in the graveyard, and he'd said he was excited about it… it'd been a while since he'd slept in warm earth, he said.

"You're tired," Jamnis said. He squeezed my fingers. "I should let you go."

I stood on my toes and kissed him, leaning in slightly so I could reach. He bent over to make it easier, and after a second holding hands wasn't enough for him. He growled and pushed me up against the door, and it was obvious he was holding back, making sure he didn't hurt me. "I should've been doing this hours ago," he murmured, mouth on my neck. His fangs brushed my skin but he didn't break through, though he trembled with the effort.

"J-Jamnis," I stuttered, blushing. "W-we c-can't do this n-now-"

"Give me one good reason," he said, glancing up to lock eyes with me. He was serious. If it wasn't so unlike him, I would've said he was begging. He needed a good reason to stop himself.

"E-everyone's inside," I whispered, transfixed by his stare.

He raised an eyebrow. "That's a good reason?"

Michael cleared his throat. "I'd say it's a pretty good one," he said, arms crossed over his chest. I jumped, startled, but Jamnis just kept me pressed up against the door and glared at Michael. My little brother was standing on the front lawn, fuming, his face red and his eyes narrowed. "Wouldn't want someone walking up on you, would you?" he asked, titling his head to one side.

Jamnis stared at Michael for a minute, and I looked back and forth between them. Then Jamnis grunted, turned to me, and sunk his fangs into my neck. He didn't drink, he knew I couldn't handle that, but that didn't make the bite feel any different. I gasped and made a little noise in the back of my throat that absolutely infuriated Michael.

Smirking, Jamnis pulled out and kissed me. "Sleep well, Lover," he said, making perfectly sure that Michael heard the last part.

"You are very… smug," I murmured, shaking my head. He laughed and kissed me one last time before striding back to the car, whistling a smartass little tune that made me smile. I don't think Michael was so enthused, though. He was literally shaking in his boots, fists clenched. I sighed, turned around, and marched up to my room. I didn't want to deal with my brother's anti-Jamnis feelings right then.

Michael came in after me and stood at the end of my bed as I slid off my shoes. "Kinda late, aren'tcha?" he asked.

"Kinda none of your business, ain't it?" I retorted, raising an eyebrow back.

He looked me up and down. "Cold?"

"Tired," I said, shutting my eyes and swaying a little. "And, before you ask, I am aware of how I look, the neck and the bruises on my face," I muttered, touching my jaw. Hopefully I had a turtleneck in my suitcase. If I hadn't packed one, I knew there'd be a few leftovers in my closet, from before I'd left. The bruises would be pretty easy to explain, but getting my family to ignore the gouge on my neck… impossible.

"Did Jamnis…?"

"Do you honestly believe he would do this?" I asked, pointing at my neck. I mean, come on. If Jamnis had wanted to hurt me, which he would never do, why would he resort to something so… barbaric? Nathan had only done it because he'd been enchanted, and most of his vamp powers had short-circuited!

"I believe he'd be very upset if he caught you looking at someone else," Michael said, seriously. I crossed my legs and looked away from him, trying very hard not to let my hands catch fire again. If Michael found out I'd had two doses of vampire blood that night, things would get bad, quickly. If he found out why I'd had two does of vampire blood that night, things would get even worse.

"Michael, you know he wouldn't hurt me," I murmured.

"Why don't you just like a human guy?" Michael asked, jumping up.

I raised my eyebrows. "Why don't you?" Sure, Nathan was dead, but Michael didn't know that yet. And there was no way in hell I'd be the one to tell him, either, and especially not with today being Christmas. I'd leave that task to Gavin; after I was safely back in Rosen.

"Hey, I broke up with Nathan," Michael snapped. "You, however, are still with Jamnis," he muttered.

"And that is how I'm going to stay," I said, sticking my tongue out at him.

He grunted and slinked out of the room, the night weighing down on his shoulders. He may have been up when Jamnis and I got back, but that didn't mean he was fully awake. In fact, just because I'd been up when Jamnis and I arrived didn't mean I was fully awake. Stretching, I curled up underneath my blankets, not even bothering to change into my pajamas.

At about eleven the next morning, I awoke to the scent of cinnamon rolls. Stretching, I reflected on my decision not to tell Michael about Nathan's death. After a few minutes, I once again decided it had been the right thing to do. There was no way my little brother was over his first boyfriend yet, and if I told him Nathan died it'd crush him. And no way in hell was I going to do that to Michael. He could find out from Gavin. I didn't mind if Michael hated Gavin.

Sighing, I rolled out of bed. I sorted through the old shirts in my closet, and I couldn't find anything with a high enough collar to hide the wound on my neck. Frustrated, I stood in the middle of my room in the wrinkled dress. Sirel came in and threw a little package at me. "Open it," she said, leaning up against the doorway. She had on the necklace I'd given her the day before.

Curious, I peeled back the wrapping paper. When I saw what was inside, I laughed. "Scarves," I said, pulling one out. There were two. One was green, some kind of warm wool-cotton-thing, and the other was white cashmere.

"I didn't think you'd need them so soon," she said, rolling her eyes.

"You're acting… serene," I noted, lifting up the green scarf. From the looks of things it would cover the wound on my neck, and now that scarves had become a fashion accessory, no one would think it was odd if I wore it all day.

She grunted and shrugged. "Avery glamoured me into a two-week calm period. I despise him for it, or at least I think I do, but I can't muster the anger or the willpower to beat him up." She looked straight at me and scowled, a strand of her black hair falling into her face. Her green eyes were blank and her shoulders were relaxed. "It sucks."

"I'm sure it does," I said, a mad grin on my face. She rolled her eyes again and shut the door, so I could get dressed.

When I finally got downstairs, I was delighted to discover that my mother hadn't arrived yet. It was ten, and Michael was still in his pajamas - which meant he'd gotten like five hours of sleep. I slapped him on the back of the head as I walked by, and he barely sat up to glare at me. Normally we would've gotten up earlier, but since we were going over to a vampire's house, well… I'd probably take a nap before sunset.

"Morning, Dad," I said, hugging him. He hugged me back and didn't ask about the scarf. Hopefully - and what child ever thinks this, huh? - hopefully he just assumed I had bite marks I wanted to cover up. He didn't ask about the bruises, either, thank God.

However, he was too much my father not to make a comment about my night. "Michael tells me you were in late," he said, sipping on a cup of coffee. I glared at my little brother. "Exciting night?" Dad asked, handing me a plate. I grinned sheepishly and scooped two cinnamon rolls onto it.

Michael was so dead. "Oh, you know," I said, still smiling weakly at my father. "Traffic. And the crowd at the party didn't filter out too quickly, either. And Gavin wanted to see us," I added. No doubt Gavin would make some comment about our little talk, and I wasn't going to be accused of lying. And there had been traffic, and it had taken the people at Hell a while to leave the club.

"You're lying, Great Dane," my dad said, tweaking my nose. I blushed. No one had called me that in years. He sighed, waving his hand at me dismissively, coffee cup still clutched in his fingers. "But at least you're trying to protect an old man's heart."

"Aw, Dad," I said, hugging him again, this time with one arm since I had a plate. "You're not old."

"True," he said, grinning. "Time is relative, and-"

Michael stuck his fingers in his ears. "Nerd talk!" he yelled, eyes shut tight. Dad walked over and ruffled his hair, pulling out the chair next to him. Michael unblocked his ears, glaring at our father - though maybe the glare was more of a pout. "You promised no science on Christmas," he said, reaching up to fix his hair.

"Ah!" my father said, putting his hand over his heart. "You wound me." He pretended to wipe a tear away from his eye, and Sirel stifled a giggle. "To think, I raised a… a jock for a son," he said, gasping.

Slumped down in his chair, Michael picked at a cinnamon roll. "School is out until after New Years," he muttered, brushing his bangs out of his eyes. "I just don't want to think about it until then, that's all." He licked some icing off his fingers, and Sirel made a tiny little purring noise. I kicked her in the ankle and sat down next to her. She just smirked at me and ran her tongue over her lips. Michael and my father didn't notice a thing, thank God.

My father poured himself another cup of coffee. He was staring out the kitchen window, distractedly, in the way that meant he was watching Mom walk. He didn't do it on the edge of a flinch, like I did. His eyes got warm and his shoulders relaxed, and every time I saw it happen, I wondered what Mom was like before I was born. What kind of person had she been, to make someone as nice as my father fall in love with her? And stay in love with her?

She came in through the back door, dressed in a robin's egg blue blazer and skirt that perfectly matched her Cadillac convertible. Not a single hair out of place, makeup flawlessly applied. The first thing she did was walk over and kiss my father, which made Michael gag. I had a similar reaction, but at least I kept mine quiet.

"Good morning, dear," Mom said. He was grinning like a thirteen-year-old, and he'd draped his arm around Mom's waist. It was the kind of sickening display of parental love no child ever wants to see. Especially when said child thought her mother was evil. "How is everyone?" my mother asked, beaming as she looked around the kitchen.

Her eyes slid right over me. "We're doing just fine, Vicky," my dad said, kissing her cheek. "How's Ari?"

Mom shook her head. Her hair shifted slightly, but not a strand fell out of the bun on the back of her head. "She was feeling a little peckish," she said, glancing at the toaster to check her hair. "So I told her to stay home. She'll feel better by the time we go over there this afternoon."

Dad sighed. "I wish the doctors would let her stay alone. I don't like having you away so much," he said.

Startled, I glanced at Michael, who shrugged. Mom picked up an empty coffee cup and wandered over to the still-bubbling pot on the counter. "The procedure," she said, reluctantly acknowledging my confusion, "for carrying a vampire's child to full term is… treacherous. Ariadne will probably be on constant bed rest by February."

"Which means you won't be able to come over as much," Dad grumbled. Mom whacked him in the back of the head, before sitting down next to Michael. "And, of course," Dad added, fixing his hair, "poor Ari will be in bed all day. And night…" He shook his head and leaned up against the counter. Dad had never really been comfortable sitting down all day - I didn't know how he could be a high school teacher. Still, he said it was better than working at the nearby college, where he'd had to spend weeks just grading essays.

"Is it really that dangerous?" I asked, pressing the subject before it slipped away. There was no way I'd willingly go and research vampire in vitro, but if I happened to hear about it over breakfast… Unfortunately, it seemed to be a touchy subject. Michael was tapping his fork on his plate warningly, but I didn't give in. "How is it different from normal in vitro?" I asked.

"No one knows," my mom said, waving her hand around. "It's just more difficult for a vampire's child to be carried full term. Some people think the DNA is just too old, or that the cells they get it from aren't alive… but they have to be," she shook her head. "Otherwise it wouldn't work. And it has worked… there's only one group of scientists who can make it work, but they're the ones…" She took a deep breath. "Who did Ari's."

Dead cells. Of course, vampires would be made of dead cells. They didn't grow, they didn't age… the only time their bodies changed was after an injury. I put my hands around my glass and prayed that the scientists extracted live cells from an open wound, as disgusting a thought as that was. The edges of a wound would be the only places vamp cells activated, and if the scientists got them any other way… it meant…


Now I was thinking like Vlad. I shook myself and tried to push the thought out of my head, but I couldn't keep myself from picturing a tiny zombie inside my sister's womb. There was no way all those scientists were necromancers, I assured myself. Though how many would they need, really? Maybe just one…

"Ari will be fine," Michael said. He glanced at me and touched the bridge of his nose, right between his eyes. I just blinked at him, until he traced the outline of a third eye on his forehead. "The baby will be fine," he said, reaching down to finish off his cinnamon rolls. Somehow, knowing he'd used his powers to see how the delivery would go made me feel worse instead of better. Would I be getting visions now?

My mother sipped at her drink. "I'm sure they will, Mikey," she said, absently patting his hand. "It doesn't keep Gavin from being tense, though. That boy needs a good spa day."

I tried to picture Gavin at a spa and failed.

"Spa night," Michael corrected, rather darkly. Mom gave him a sharp look and he slid down in his seat, letting his chin fall on the tabletop. I wondered how many times he'd had the 'but he's a vampire, Ari can't date him' argument with our parents. "I can't believe we have to have Christmas at night, just because of him," Michael muttered.

"It won't be so bad," Dad assured him.


"It won't be so bad," Sirel assured me.

I raised an eyebrow at her. Avery was standing on the front porch, arms crossed, waiting impatiently for Sirel to come out and join him. The two of them were going out. Leaving me alone, with my entire family and Gavin and Jamnisin the same room. The lovebirds, Gavin and Ariadne. Testosterone city, my father and Michael versus Jamnis. My mother. Just in general.

"Have fun," I said, waving as Sirel stepped outside. I stood by the front door and watched her and Avery drive off into the distance. Then I stuck my tongue out at the retreating car and slammed the door shut. "Leaving me alone with my mother," I muttered to myself, turning to face the living room. "What was she thinking?"

Michael was pacing around the furniture in a figure-eight pattern. "I want to go already,"he said, glaring at the ceiling. "Mom and Dad told us to be ready by sunset - and Avery's already come and gone! What the hell is taking them so long?" he asked, nearly tripping over the coffee table.

"Michael…" I said, rolling my eyes. "You know how your birthday is at the end of August?"


"And that's nine months after Christmas day?" I asked.

Comprehension dawned. A muscle in the corner of his eye twitched. I laughed; it looked like I'd broken him.

A little while later our parents came downstairs, ready to leave. They looked the same as they had when they went up to the second floor, but now their faces were flushed. "Let's go," Mom said, smoothing out her skirt. She didn't seem to notice that Michael's eye was still twitching.


Author's Note: One more-ish chapter left! I've got it half written. Weird. I'm almost 100 there will be a sequel, though I want to actually figure out the plot first, instead of posting a page without any idea where it's going… like I did here.

medieval-rouge: Dana person in real life? That's creepy and cool at the same time. Several people seemed to like the would-be sex scene, I had no idea people were looking forward to that. As always, thanks so much for betaing and reviewing!

Gayle of Genisis: Ah, yes, here comes the resolution is winding up. Or would it be down? Thanks for the review.

Funeral of Hearts: Eeh, so I'm not so good at the physical romance stuff, that ripping-clothes thing was... interesting to write. Thanks for reviewing!

AubriannaKnight: Hope you enjoyed the chapter, thanks for reviewing!

Kim: Aww, thank you, for the compliments and the review.

Asling: Eep, sorry BB was difficult for you... the vampires, of course, have a tendency to be dominating, being so old and powerful, it's become part of their nature. Dana's only had nineteen years to develop a personality to combat that, so, yes, the humans aren't always going to be on par with the vamps. And the slave-master thing, well, Jamnis used to have slaves, heh. Thanks for the review, though!

Rae: I loved Vlad's boxers too, hehe. Thanks for reviewing!

Heavens Reject: Hehe, glad to know you enjoy the story! Thanks for the review!

Jenniexb: Lots of people have been looking forward to the 'sex scene', as I was totally oblivious to before last chapter, heh. Thanks for reviewing!

Kizera: I still can't believe I've missed a chapter of your story. I definitely think you should continue! (And, of course, thanks for reviewing.)

Rae Anderson: Hehe, thanks for the review.

Okami-Kokoro-Inochi: Aw, thanks, I'm glad to know you've enjoyed it! Thanks for reviewing!

moonlight-dragon3: It always surprises me that anyone would sit and read all the way through the story. Thanks for that, and the review.

Liviania: I'm never sure about the romance scenes. Thanks for reviewing!

mely: Eep, sorry it took so long. Thanks for the review!

Alyssa Pires: I love Jamnis too. Thanks for the review!

Foxonfire: The sky is falling! (hehe) Thanks for reviewing!

midnightdream-5: Aww, thank you!