Chapter 1 A New Life...or Two
Seven months. That was the last time my life was completely normal. So much can change in such a short amount of time. Back then, I'd been relatively content with my life - great friends, great family, great job. Okay, a promising potential for a great job. But an emptiness had been with me too. If I was going to be honest with myself, I was lonely, very lonely. Not that I'd never dated, I had, but I'd never felt connected with any of them. Not the investment banker, who would only talk about the changing stock market climate, not the yoga instructor, who tried to convert me to veganism daily, and definitely not the pretty-boy model, who, as I discovered one day when I walked in on him, wasn't aware of the definition of monogamy.
Yes, they were all normal and none of them for me. My knight in shining armor had ended up being a vampire, well, a little bit vampire, as he likes to put it. His great-grandmother had been turned into one while she was nine months pregnant. That change had brought on labor and she'd birthed her baby before the change completely affected the infant. His grandmother was born half-vampire. She had then gone on to marry a human and conceived and birthed a baby, before the vampirism had stopped her human heart and she became one of the walking dead. That baby, his mother, had also married a human and had a child, before her mortality was also claimed. That baby had grown up to be the man of my dreams, my partial vampire, who could walk around during the day in full sunshine and suck a cow dry at night - Teren Adams.
That man was now, unfortunately, part of the mysterious undead world as well. His "conversion" had just happened recently and it had been terrifying for both of us. We'd been abducted by some deranged lunatic who'd assumed that Teren was devoid of all humanity, just because he was partially a mythical creature, a mythical creature that had a reputation for being dangerous to humans - a reputation not completely undeserving. Vampires were dangerous and they did prey on humans. Full vampires were extremely dangerous - faster, stronger, and with extra abilities that the mixed breeds didn't have, like "trancing", a form of compulsion that could bend a human's will to their own. But taking a life was still a choice, even for full vampires, and Teren's family chose not to. Well, most of his family did. His grandmother had made a couple mistakes in her vampiric youth...and his great-grandmother, well, she killed because she wanted to. She killed people that most of society would deem as deserving of such a death, but still, it was one thing to think that, and quite another to know it was happening...and who was doing it.
Not that I had room to talk anymore. I'd taken a life. It had been the only way to get us both safely away from our abductor. It had been survival - us or him - but it haunted me nonetheless. And, being honest with myself again, I'd struck an incapacitated man, exposing his blood to the air so my near-death, starved vampire would eat. I'd made the choice between a madman and the love of my life. And while the act itself walked my nightmares, the choice did not. Given the same situation again, I'd choose to take the same actions. I'd choose Teren Adams every time. No contest.
And I had chosen him...for the rest of my mortal life. We were engaged. I was going to walk down the aisle and marry this amazing man, who no longer had a heartbeat. But that fact didn't bother me anymore. It was inconsequential. I didn't know where love came from, but it didn't come from that organ. Teren's may be still and lifeless, but his love for me truly knew no bounds. We'd do anything for each other. We already had. I'd killed and Teren had chosen not to - even though every part of his body had been screaming at him to take my blood, he'd chosen not to.
That was one quirky little side effect of his conversion...hunger. No, that just isn't a strong enough word to describe the level of thirst attacking his body. It wasn't just that he could use a little something to eat. No, it was a primal, animalistic need to devour - to consume everything in his path until he was satiated. And I'd been forced directly into his path. Yet somehow, somehow he'd resisted that life or death urge to drink my blood. He'd refused me...he'd even refused our attacker, instead choosing to die. Choosing death over taking the life of another. That was my man and that was why I had no fear of becoming his wife...and the mother of his children.
That was another obstacle that had been placed in our way. He could only give me a child while he was still human, still producing human hormones and nutrients that were vital to giving life, even on the male end of things. I'd resisted his family's pressure for us to conceive at first, and really, I don't think I could be blamed for that. They'd practically shoved the idea of a baby down my throat upon our first visit to their home, a sprawling ranch near the base of Mount Diablo, an "open air pantry" as Teren referred to it.
I'd been angry when I first heard their plan for us. Of course, the way I'd found out hadn't exactly been subtle or welcoming. The idea had practically been an ultimatum - do this or we'll find someone else who will. But Teren and I had only been together one month at the time and I may have been dating a vampire, but I wasn't crazy. I wasn't having a kid with a virtual stranger, just because some insistent, black-haired bloodsuckers told me to.
I'd broken up with Teren after that. The news, combined with the fact that he was slated to die within the year, had just been too much for my sensible head. I couldn't process it and I'd left him. That hadn't lasted long though. The pull I'd felt to him was entirely too great, and I hadn't even made it a week before I was rushing back to his arms. It had taken a couple months after that, but I'd eventually agreed to have his child. And boy, once we had agreed to it, we attempted to make it happen with zealotry. Of course, being under the proverbial gun will do that to you. We'd only had a few months until he'd be incapable of making a baby, and we didn't waste any precious time trying.
Even still, we'd thought we'd failed. I hadn't believed I was pregnant when the cruel man who'd absconded with us had injected Teren with some strange liquid he'd created, a liquid that had forced Teren to change. At that moment, I thought I'd lost Teren, and any chance of having his baby. But through some miracle, or maybe fate, I had been pregnant and just not realized it yet. It was weeks later when Teren had been the first of us to realize it. In a moment of intimacy, he'd heard the tiny, fast and fluttery heartbeat with those amazingly perceptive ears of his. He hadn't understood at first and the beats had been odd to him, until he'd understood why. He hadn't been hearing one heartbeat...he'd been hearing two. My amazing man had not only managed to knock me up in time, he'd knocked me up twice.
So here I was - a twenty-five year old human girl, hopelessly in love with a twenty-six year old dead vampire, a fact that no one besides my sister knew, and getting married within the month to him, so that I was his wife in every sense of the word before our vampiric twins arrived - a fact that absolutely no one outside of his family knew about.
Should be interesting.
"Teren?" I loudly called over my shoulder, pushing aside my sudden flood of memories.
He instantly breezed into the room, a toothbrush in hand and a disgruntled expression on his face. "You don't need to yell, Emma."
I smiled at his irritated look, realizing that he was right. If I needed to speak with him, I really didn't have to put much more effort into it other than just talking as if he were in the room right beside me, and not where he had been, in the opulent bathroom adjoining his parents' "guest" bedroom. Super ears. One of his many vampiric traits and one that made living in a house full of vampires feel sort of like we all shared one communal bedroom. Not exactly an aphrodisiac.
"Sorry," I whispered.
He shook his head and smiled at me. "What is it?" he asked, before sticking the toothbrush back in his mouth and continuing to brush those pearly, pointy whites. I watched him for a second, amused that even the undead cared about oral hygiene, and wondering if he flicked out his super long canines when he brushed. I'd never seen him do it, but that didn't mean he didn't.
Remembering what I wanted to talk to him about, I frowned. "Are you sure about this?" I sat on the edge of the most luxurious king-sized bed known to man and put my hands back on the satiny sheets. We'd just gotten up from a recent tumble on those sheets and hadn't gotten around to making the bed yet. As Teren's athletic body walked around the edge of the bed to sit beside mine, I briefly considered dragging him down for another tumble on those sheets, super ears be damned.
He sat down beside me, removing his toothbrush and setting it on the nightstand. Putting a hand on my knee he turned back to me with a furrowed brow. "What do you mean?" His hand went to my stomach and his incredible, pale blue eyes followed the movement. His fingers traced a wide oval over the top of my t-shirt and I smiled at the look of peace on his face.
Since we'd found out I was pregnant a week ago, on Teren's birthday, he'd started touching me like this often. He looked almost reverent whenever he did it. He'd resisted the idea of having children, of bringing more partial vampires into the world, but now, I think he was more in love with the idea than I was. And I was pretty in love. As my eyes dropped to watch his fingers lovingly caress my soon-to-be expanded stomach, I started to wonder what our children would look like. Would they have my wavy, brown hair and light brown eyes, or would they stick to the Adams genes and have pitch-black hair and startling blue eyes. As I considered that every child born into Teren's family had inherited the dark hair/light eyes combo (along with pointy teeth and a hunger for plasma), I started to think that the odds were pretty good that they'd look exactly like Teren. I was completely fine with that.
His calm eyes looked up and swept over my face. "Do you mean having children...or getting married?" He cocked an eyebrow and grinned crookedly. "Because, it's a little late for both. Or so I've been told."
I grinned at the reference to the sort-of ultimatum I'd given him when I'd found out I was pregnant. In not so many words, I'd basically told him if I was having his kids, he was putting a ring on my finger. He'd been fine with that, as I knew he would be. I lightly smacked his shoulder. He laughed and I frowned, remembering, yet again, my real question. "No, going back to San Francisco, going back to work and people and...life."
He leaned back and blinked. "Yeah...why wouldn't I want to go back?"
I cocked my head at him, giving him an incredulous look. "Um...because you died?"
He gave me a cocky, lopsided grin and I resisted the urge to pull him on top of me. "It will be fine, Emma." He laughed and shook his head. "No one will know my heart isn't what is keeping me upright."
I frowned as I considered that, wondering what exactly in his vampire blood was animating him, but then shoved that thought aside. It didn't matter. Something was keeping him here with me and that's all I needed to know. I sighed and hoped rejoining the world was as seamless as he made it sound.
His hand left my stomach and came around to my hip, squeezing me softly. "You're stressing...it will be fine." I sighed again, knowing he could read my body without me even having to say a word. My pulse, my sweat, my smell, everything about me gave me away, especially now, since his already sensitive senses were heightened. He'd only changed over a few weeks ago, but he'd already gotten good at honing into my moods, memorizing what the different indicators meant when combined together. That helped to skip a few steps when I was ready for some...loving, but it could be a little annoying when I wanted to stress without him bugging me about it.
He sighed and brought his hand to my cheek. As always, his cool skin gave me a slight shiver before I adapted to it. "What do you see when you look at me, Emma?"
My lips twisted into a wry grin. "A sexy, baby daddy corpse."