For Disclaimers, see Part One


Part Seventeen

by  Shadowriter

Waking up on Saturday morning was a different experience. I was in bed with someone, and it took me a moment to realize it wasn't Jace. When I opened my eyes and saw white skin with black hair, I smiled. Cam looked peaceful, snuggled under my arm, her lips just inches from my breast.

I sighed in contentment and closed my eyes, not really wanting to wake up. A sound made me look up, and I watched as Kruise pushed open the door and peeked in. She saw me and raised an eyebrow. I grinned and shrugged gently.

But Kruise didn't smile. Instead, she motioned with her head and mouthed, 'Get out here, now.' I realized that I was about to be yelled at, and this time I sighed for a totally different reason.

After carefully extracting myself from Cam's embrace, I slipped my T-shirt and jeans back on, then quietly headed for the living room. Kruise was waiting near the kitchen, and with a head shake, she summoned to join her there.

Dayle was already at the table, eating pancakes and reading the paper. Kruise grabbed two cups of coffee and put them on the table. "Sit down, Trey."

I had to smile just a little. The whole thing was looking like a scene from Leave It to Beaver, with Ward reading the paper as the Beave comes in to get a lecture from his parents.

"Okay, I'm sitting. What's up, Mom and Dad?"

Looking up from the paper, Dayle glared at me. "Knock it off, Trey. This isn't funny."

"What isn't funny?"

Kruise folded her arms. "Did you sleep with Cam? As in, have sex with Cam?"

"Yep." I grinned and nodded. "It was great, too."

"Do you realize what Tess is going to do to you when she finds out?"

Instantly my good mood was gone. I hadn't let myself think of that yet, knowing only that until she returned, Cam and I could be together. Having my hidden fear voiced out loud first thing in the morning was not conducive to a happy start to the day.

"Tess isn't here. She walked out and left Cam, without letting anyone know where she was really going or how to contact her. For two hundred years, Cam relied on her for everything, and she just walked away. You think I care what she thinks now?"

"Trey, none of us knows what happened between them --"

"'Cause none of you have asked." I glared at Dayle. "We talked about it, last night. And Tess walked away. She doesn't deserve Cam."

Kruise put a hand on my shoulder. "Trey, if Tess comes back --"

"Yeah, I know." Standing up, I shook her hand off angrily. "If Tess comes back, Cam will go back to her. I know. We talked about that last night as well. I'm not stupid. I'm also not going to throw away an opportunity just because she might come back. Cam and I like each other, and I think we can help each other. She's staying with me for the next few days, and I'm not gonna listen to you two telling me I did something wrong, when I didn't."

With that, I left the kitchen and headed for the bedroom.

Cam was just coming out. She smiled when she saw me, but frowned as she noticed how agitated I was.

"Trey? You all right?"

I took a deep breath, then let it out. "Yeah, I'm okay. Kruise and Dayle are playing devil's advocate, and I let them get me riled. I'm fine."

"Devil's advocate? You mean, they don't think we --" She stopped. "Oh."

I shrugged. "No big deal. They're just worried. I say we get a shower, head for my place, and invite them for dinner tomorrow. What do you think?"

She smiled and nodded. "That sounds good. I have some phone calls to make, though. Things about the old apartment and such."

"Right. You gonna get a new car as well?"

"No. I think I'll wait till -- wait on that for a bit."

I noticed the hesitation, and realized Tess was on her mind too.

"You okay, Cam?"

"Fine." She smiled at me. "Really, I'm good. I -- Last night was good."

"Yeah, it was." I touched her face gently. "Thanks for that. It made me feel -- loved."

The smile got wider. "You are." She kissed me. "And now -- why don't you go shower while I see about breakfast?"

It was my turn to hesitate. "Um, Dayle and Kruise --"

"I can handle Dayle and Kruise. Go. Shower. Now." She slapped my butt and winked at me.

"Whoa. Yes, ma'am." I winked back and headed for the shower, feeling a lift in my spirits. It was going to be a good day after all.


There was a knock on her office door and Kelsey looked up from her papers. She found Nix in the doorway, with Jesse standing behind her.

"Why are you working on a Saturday, Kelsey?" Nix smiled as she asked the question.

Kelsey chuckled. "For some reason my attention wasn't on my work. Now I have to play catch up. What the hell are you two doing here?" She stood up and waved them seats in front of her desk. "I hope I don't have to do another patch-up job on anyone. It's not Cam, is it?"

Nix sat down as Jesse closed the door, then took the second chair.

"No, it's not Cam, and so far as we know, it's not a patch up job." Nix smiled, hesitantly. "I know you're getting tired of seeing us, but I needed to talk to you about something."

"Nix, you know I love seeing you, but I have to admit, I like it better when you're not bleeding." Her grin elicited no response and she let it fade from her face. "What's wrong, Nix?"

The blonde vampire glanced at Jesse, then cleared her throat. "I don't know if there's anything exactly wrong. Um. Should I be feeling any -- ill effects -- from Cam draining me?"

Kelsey raised an eyebrow and leaned back in her leather chair. "What kind of ill effects?"

"Like -- unexplained hunger attacks."

"Hunger for food or --"

"No. Hunger for blood."

"Hm." Kelsey frowned. "So far as I know, you shouldn't have had any effects at all. Once we gave you the transfusion, and you drank the blood I -- you did drink the blood I left, didn't --"

"Yes, I did. That's why this is worrying me a little." Nix took another glance at Jesse and then inhaled deeply. "Last night, Jesse and I -- we --" She suddenly wasn't sure how to say the words.

Jesse came to her rescue. "Nix and I did an s/m scene. She bottomed, and I topped. I worked her over pretty hard, but nothing that would injure her. She bled just once -- cuts that had healed over by this morning." Jesse's voice had remained calm throughout the explanation, and Kelsey could see she was feeling a little guilty.

"How bad were these cuts? Deep?"

"Not really. Lash marks. Long, across her back. And a -- burn -- on her hip."

"That healed as well." Nix reached out and put a hand on Jesse's. "I don't think it has anything to do with what happened last night. It's just coincidental."

"But --"

"No, Jesse. I really think it's just a coincidence."

Things had definitely changed between them, Kelsey could easily see that. "So, you're still healing properly, which is always a good sign. Tell me about this hunger." She leaned forward and picked up a pen, pulling a blank pad of paper from under a stack of folders.

Nix squirmed a little. "The first one was last night, in the taxi. It was serious, and for a moment, I wanted to just bite Jesse, but we were both tired. I was going to just see if I could last the night, but it got really bad, and Jesse figured out how to stop it. She had a friend who went home with us, and I fed from her."

"Was this hunger as strong as the one after Cam drained you?"

"No, but it was damn close. The funny thing, though, is that I just needed a few mouthfuls and the hunger went away. Just -- zap, gone."

Kelsey leaned back, chewing on her pen. "That was the first one. There've been others?"

"Yeah." Nix nodded. "This morning, when we woke up, it happened again. Serious craving. Jesse found me curled up in the bathroom, shaking. Fuck, Kelsey, it was almost like I was -- going cold turkey from drugs or something. I had to feed from Jesse, and again, just a couple swallows, and it was gone."

"The hunger was gone?"  Kelsey noted something on her pad as Nix nodded. "What time was the attack last night?"

Nix looked at Jesse. "Uh, I think it was three?"

"No." Jesse shook her head. "We got back to the apartment a little after four. So, the attack hit right about four in the morning."

"And the one this morning? When you fed from Jesse?"

"That one was nine-thirty or so. I remember seeing the clock when I got out of bed."

Kelsey looked up at the clock. It was nearly three in the afternoon. "Have there been any others?"

"No. But I took a blood packet from my stash, just in case. The strange thing was, I couldn't finish it. My stomach felt full, like if I had any more, I'd be sick."

At that, Kelsey raised her eyebrow again. It slowly came back down as she wrote something. "All right, let's back track then. Before this attack in the taxi, when did you last feed?"

Nix shrugged. "I had a couple of packets before we left the house for the hearing. That was it -- no, wait." She stopped, her eyes going wide. "I got really hungry in the car with Dayle. We both thought it was nerves, and we stopped at a club. We both fed."

"I figured." Kelsey nodded. "Before that?"

"Um. I was watching TV with Trey and Cam. I -- well, you had said I needed to feed, so . . ."

Jesse moved forward in her chair. "What's going on, Kelsey? Is she all right?"

"Hm? Oh, yes, I think she's fine. I've never heard of something quite like this. I could check a few records and if you like, Nix, I could take some blood, see if I can spot anything abnormal. How do you feel now?"

The vampire shrugged. "A little shaky. That sometimes happens when I get hungry."

"So, you're hungry again?"

Nix nodded. "I just started craving as we were coming up the elevator. It's not bad, yet, but --"

"But it'll get there. Unfortunately, I don't have any blood here at my office, and I can't leave yet. There's too much paperwork to do right now." She sighed. "Let's try something, though. Jesse, if you're willing?"

Jesse had been looking at Nix, worry on her face. "What? Yeah, anything."

"Why don't we have Nix feed from you -- if she feels better after a couple mouthfuls, it shouldn't bother you, and I can monitor you for a few minutes afterwards to make sure. Is that okay with you?"

Nix shook her head. "No. It's too much. I took some from her earlier."

"But you only had a mouthful. Come on, it's okay."

"No, Jesse."

Kelsey held up a hand. "She has a valid concern, Jesse. This is my suggestion. Let's go up to my lab, which is on the sixth floor. I can draw Nix's blood, and we'll take Jesse's blood pressure. If it's good, I'll monitor her while you feed. Does that satisfy both of you?"

Jesse nodded. Nix hesitated, but nodded.

"Good. Let's go." Standing up, Kelsey reached for her lab coat. "But I swear, Nix, if I don't get this grant because I was too busy to finish the application properly, I'll take it out of your hide."


My place was just as I had left it. Lonely and silent.

But as I walked through the door, I felt Cam at my back, and had to smile, just knowing she was there.

"So, you moved into Kruise's old place?"

"Yeah. Couldn't afford mine when Jace left." I shrugged, not wanting to talk about that. "The computer's over there in the corner. I kept the hidden desk that Kruise had. You're welcome to use it if you like."

"Thanks. It'll be nice to get back online."

I hung our coats up and waved to her. "Come on, you're probably hungry. I don't know if I have a lot of food around, but I can scrounge something up."

She followed me to the kitchen, where we proceeded to go through the refridgerator, the freezer, and several cupboards. We found flour, sugar, tea bags, some cans of tuna, tomato sauce, and in the fridge, a carton of milk two weeks past its expiration date.

"Trey, were you eating at all before this?"

"Oh, sure." I pointed out the pizza boxes stacked in the corner.

Cam scrunched up her nose in an 'ick' face. "Oh, that's just bad. Come on. I'll take you shopping."

"No, that's okay --"

"Trey. Listen to me. I'm sane for the first time in over a month, and I have money in my pocket. Things are looking up -- the apartment's going to be fixed, and I have a warm place to stay that doesn't include snow and dirt. Don't piss me off." She winked at me. "I'm taking you shopping. You up for it, or are you going to make me drag you along by the scruff of the neck?"

I grinned. "Would you?"

She folded her arms, but couldn't hold the stern pose very long. Soon we were both laughing and she put a hand on my shoulder. I stopped thinking and stepped forward to kiss her.

We stared at each other for several long seconds. She smiled, then handed me the scarf I'd taken off.

"Come on. Let's go raid a grocery store."

I nodded, and we got our coats.

"I suppose you like vegetables and all those kinds of icky foods, right?"

She glared at me. "Vegetables are good for you, Trey."

"Uh-huh. Ick."

Cam laughed. "Yeah, I never liked them either."


Kruise got home from work to find Dayle in the kitchen cooking.

Or at least that was what it was supposed to be, she guessed. There were pots and pans everywhere, most of them dirty. Every piece of counterspace was taken up by the utensils or ingredients. What the dinner was supposed to be, she had no clue.

"Babe? Are you here, or did the kitchen explode?"

Dayle turned around from her chopping and glared at Kruise. "Funny. Very funny."

Biting back a laugh, Kruise stepped further into the room. "What are you doing, hon?"

The vampire turned back to the onion she was trying to mince. "I'm making you dinner. Go away. I'll call you when it's ready."

"And . . . what's for dinner?"

"Um. Never mind. You'll find out."

By that time Kruise had already seen the pan with the burnt lasagna noodles. And the pot with the blackened bottom. She sighed, wondering if she'd get dinner at all that night.

"Okay, babe. You just . . . call me when you need me, okay?"

Dayle nodded, but didn't look up.

Kruise was almost out the door when she heard Dayle call her name.

"Yes, sweetheart?"

The vampire turned to her, tears from the onions running down her face. She stuck her cut finger in her mouth and pulled it back out. Then she looked up at Kruise with a plaintive expression on her face. "Help?"

Her first urge was to laugh, but Kruise bit her lip hard and advanced into the wrecked room. "Baby. What did you do?"

Dayle shrugged. "I wanted to make dinner for you."

Kruise kissed her partner. "Tell you what. You go change out of that messy shirt. Get a shower. Relax. And I'll meet you in the living room with dinner."

"But --"

"Oh, don't worry. You're going to do all the dishes later." Kruise grinned, but kissed Dayle again. "But first we need food. I'm starving."

Her shoulders slumped in defeat, Dayle nodded and took several plodding steps toward the door.

A buzzer went off, and the vampire's demeanor changed. She smiled and grabbed a pair of hot pads, then opened the oven door.

"What is that, baby?"

Dayle grinned at her. "Dessert."

Kruise let her jaw drop open so she could inhale mouthfuls of the wonderful aroma. "You made a pie?"

"Of course."

"Apple pie?"

"With lots of cinnamon." She put the pie on the counter and closed the oven. "Smells good?"

Kruise looked over her shoulder, her mouth still open, drool beginning to show at the corners of her mouth.

Dayle laughed and gave her a gentle shove. "Dessert, babe, remember?"

Kruise nodded. "Uh-huh. Can't we just have that for dinner?"



Dayle kissed her partner, then took the hot pads off. "Don't you touch that until after dinner, got it?"

"Yes, dear."

The vampire left the kitchen, but Kruise could still hear her. "I mean it!"

"Yes, Dayle." She waited until she heard the sound of the shower running, then crept back to the pie and gently touched it. Her fingertip came away coated in the cinnamon glaze that Dayle had used. Humming to herself, she licked it.

"WHAT are you doing?"

Kruise jumped. "I thought you were in the shower."

"And I thought I told you no pie till after dinner."

"Yeah, well -- go shower. Dinner'll be ready soon."

Dayle left the kitchen, laughing.


Nix looked tired as she climbed into the elevator at Jesse's building.

"I'm sorry, baby, I'll make this as quick as I can." Jesse wrapped her arms around the smaller woman. "I just need clothes for a few days. After that, we're gone."

"I know. It's okay, Jess." Nix yawned a little. "I don't know why I'm so tired. I slept, I ate, I fed. I should be fine."

Jesse rubbed her shoulders. "Maybe it has to do with these attacks, Nix. Maybe you caught some kind of virus."

"Vampires don't catch viruses, babe."

"You mean, you've never been sick?"

The elevator stopped, and they stepped out onto the third floor. "Well, I've been sick. There are a few things we can catch, but it's certainly not as serious as it would be for a human."

"But you can't catch, like, the common cold."

Nix shook her head. "Nope."

Jesse grinned as she unlocked her door. "A girlfriend who never gets sick, is a good lover, and won't age. I think I can handle that."

"Hush, you." The vampire slapped Jesse's shoulder as they went in. "Hey, how's your wrist? Is it feeling better?"

Flexing the injured arm, Jesse nodded. "It feels great. I think I'm going to take the wrap off when we get home. That stuff Kelsey gave me helped, you were right."

"Good." Nix dropped onto the couch as she watched Jesse check her voice messages and go through her mail. She smiled as Jesse tossed a handful of junk mail into the trash.

Jesse sat down beside the vampire for a moment. "You stay here, love. I'm going to get my clothes and things, and we'll get out of here. Just relax for a few, all right?" She kissed Nix on the forehead.

The blonde nodded. "I'll just wait here. You do whatever. Just drag me with you when you leave."

After kissing Nix once more, Jesse headed for her bedroom. She glanced back at the vampire once, a worried frown on her face.

Nix leaned her head on the sofa and sighed. She was beginning to worry. Between the stress of the last few days, her hunger attacks, and the exhaustion she was feeling, she was beginning to wonder if maybe there really was something wrong. Up until last night, she'd thought the extra hunger and the constant weariness was from the stress. But now the tension was gone, but the other two symptoms persisted.

She realized that the hunger attacks had probably been going on longer than she thought, and she just hadn't noticed. Her feeding habits hadn't been regular for quite some time; in the last year or so, she'd gone up to three weeks at a time without even having a craving, and then had several within a week. As she thought about it, though, she remembered feeling cravings before Trey had come to get her in Toronto. They had been easy enough to satisfy, and they'd never gotten as intense as the current attacks, but they'd been there.

So, it wasn't something recent, and it was getting worse.

"Great. I finally get things ironed out with Jesse, and now something's wrong with me."

Nix didn't realize she'd really spoken out loud until Jesse poked her head out of the bedroom.

"You say something, love?"

"Oh. No, that's okay. Just thinking out loud."

"Well, give me just a couple more minutes and we're gone, okay?"

"Yep." The vampire watched as her lover disappeared again. "Hey, Jess? You think Lista did what she said she would?"

Jesse came out of the room with a duffel bag hanging from one shoulder. "Yeah, I think so. Why? You getting hungry for food?"

Nix shrugged. "Yeah, a little. And I know you'll be starving by the time we get out there, and I don't feel like cooking tonight."

"She said she'd make dinner for us, so she probably will." Jesse looked around. "Think I got everything. Ready?"

"Sure." Nix pulled herself to her feet and swayed for a moment. "Dammit. This being tired all the time is getting old."

"You just need more sleep." Jesse slipped an arm around her. "Come on. You can sleep in the car, and when we get home, we'll have dinner and I'll put you to bed."

The vampire blinked at Jesse's use of the word 'home'. Then a small smile crept across her face.

"What's that smirk for?"

"What smirk?"

Jesse raised an eyebrow at her, but didn't say anything. Instead, she pulled the door open. "Let's go, baby. I'm getting hungry."

"Tsk. So predictable."

Nix got a swat to her ass as she left the apartment.


By Sunday afternoon the snow storm was officially over. It hadn't actually been snowing since about mid afternoon on Saturday, but it was cold and windy, and the weather forecasts were still waiting to see what the disturbance off the coast would do. When it began to change direction and dissipate, they called an all clear and clean up could begin.

Cam and I stayed home. Our shopping trip had gone well, and Cam had insisted on getting a few extra goodies for us. Sunday morning, after breakfast, she ordered me out of the kitchen and said she was going to make chocolate chip cookies. I sat at the computer for a couple hours working on my journal and a short story I was in the middle of. As the time went by I began to smell the cookies baking, and I smiled.

When Cam brought me some cookies and a glass of milk, she found me staring at the screen with a frown on my face.

"What's wrong, Trey?"

I pointed. "An online friend of mine got a contract for her book."

"That's great." My face didn't change and Cam hesitated. "Isn't it?"

I shrugged. "Yeah. Great." Punching the button with a little extra force, I turned off the monitor. "What do you have for me?"

She put the plate on the desk and handed me the milk. "Nope, you don't get out of it that easily. What's up?"

With a sigh, I dunked a cookie in my milk. "Nothing, really. She's a decent writer, and I'm glad for her."


"But --" I shook my head. "Did you ever look at something that someone else did and think, 'I can do that better'?"

"Sure. I think everyone does."

"Right. Well, every time I look at her work, I get that feeling. I mean, her plots are contrived, her characters are one-dimensional, and she has no sense of timing or subtlety. But, she's going to be published, and I'm -- "


I nodded, glumly, and stuffed the now soggy cookie in my mouth. "'Goo cookieth."

"Glad you like them." Cam pulled a chair closer to mine and sat down. "I've never read your stuff. Will you let me?"

I nearly choked on the chocolate chips and had to take a gulp of my milk before I could speak. "Umm. You want to read my stuff?"

"Yeah. Didn't Jace read it?"

"Occasionally." I shrugged. "She was more interested in plays and such. Was always checking for theater news rather than reading."

"Well, I'd like to read something. Will you let me?"

After hesitating for a moment, I nodded and reached for a blue folder. "This is one of my short stories. It's my editing copy, so don't mind all the scratch marks and stuff."

"Great." She tried to take the folder from my hand, but I didn't let it go. "Trey?"


"You need to let it go."

"Right. I'm trying." I faked prying my fingers off the manuscript while she laughed.

When she was the only one holding the story, she stood up again. "I'm going to go read, then."

"Okay." I was dunking another cookie as she left the room.

And already beating myself up for letting her read my stuff.


Nix tried to hide the hunger as long as she could. She was getting more and more worried, as these attacks were getting progressively stronger. The fact that she wasn't really hungry for food didn't help. Looking at the sandwiches Jesse had made for them made the vampire's stomach queasy. Her jaw tightened again as she fought to keep her fangs retracted.

Jesse got up from her position on the sofa. "You want something to drink?"

Shaking her head, Nix tried to smile.

"Okay. Back in a minute."

The blonde vampire groaned as silently as she could and wrapped her arms around herself. She took some deep breaths, trying to fight what her body wanted. Rocking back and forth for a minute, she listened closely for Jesse's return from the kitchen. When she heard footsteps, she leaned back against the couch and tried to relax.

Jesse sat down beside her. "How's the sandwich?"

"Fine." Nix glanced at it, realizing she hadn't even taken a bite. "Sorry, Jess, I'm just not very hungry."

"Really? And here I thought you were starving again." Calmly, Jesse picked up Nix's plate. She took the sandwich, then slid the plate under her own. After that, she picked up the blood pack she'd brought from the kitchen. "I didn't think you wanted food, though."

Despite her craving, Nix felt her eyes begin to sting. "You knew?"

"'Course I knew. You can't hide it from me now." Jesse turned fully to the vampire and looked at her in concern. "It's okay. We'll figure out what's going on, but right now, just feed, okay? You can't keep fighting it and driving yourself crazy."

Her fingers shaking, Nix opened the pack and took a large drink. Instantly she felt better as the muscles in her stomach eased.

"Damn. Why is this happening?"

"I don't know, baby. But we'll find out. It'll be okay. I promise."

Nix nodded and let herself relax against Jesse.

"You gonna be all right when I go to work tomorrow?"

The vampire nodded. "I'll stay here. I don't have anywhere to go, and since these are getting pretty random, it might be better if I don't venture out alone." Her voice was very soft, and there was a depressed tone in it that Jesse didn't like.

"Remember, you're invited to Trey's tomorrow for dinner. She left the message on the machine this morning."

"You mean we're invited."

"Well, yeah, but I have to work late."

Nix sighed. "I don't know if I want to go by myself, Jess."

"Have Dayle and Kruise pick you up. Take some blood packs with you. It'll be okay."

"And what if one of them asks about it?" Nix scowled. "Cam will start thinking it's her fault, Dayle will get all worried, Trey will be upset with me for making Cam upset, and then Kruise will be mad cause I worried Dayle."

Jesse laughed; Nix's description sounded pretty accurate to her. Finally she stopped and shrugged. "Tell them what's going on. Tell them we're not sure why it's happening and Kelsey's looking into it."

"Maybe." But she didn't sound convinced.

With a sigh, Jesse put an arm around her. "It's okay. We'll work it out. I love you, Nix."

Nix looked up at her, hoping that Jesse was right. "I love you, too, Jesse."


"Want a piece of pie, love?"

Kruise looked up and smiled at her partner. "Yes, indeed. You know I'll never turn down your pie."

"I know." Dayle winked at her. "Think I should make another? Take it over to Trey's tomorrow night?"

"Sure." Kruise looked pensive. "I hope to hell Trey knows what she's doing."

"You mean this thing with Cam?" Dayle brought the apple pie over to the table and cut a slice for Kruise. "I know. I'm worried that Trey's setting herself up to get hurt."

"Yeah, but more than that, Tess is going to kill her."

Dayle frowned as she lifted the slice of apple pie onto Kruise's plate. "I don't know about that. I mean, yeah, Tess is probably not going to be really happy, but Trey did have the point that Tess left."

"Sure, but Cam admits that things are kind of blurry from about that time. What if Tess told her something, explained something, and Cam just doesn't remember? Maybe Tess even told her when she was coming back. If that's true, then when Tess gets here, she's going to be pissed, for a lot of reasons."

"Maybe." The vampire sat down. "But maybe not. You're assuming what Cam remembers is inaccurate or incomplete. Even if that assumption is true, Tess has to recognize her own responsibility in creating the situation. If Cam was already having problems, why didn't Tess know? Why'd she just take off if she did know?" Dayle shook her head. "I'm less worried about Tess's reaction and more worried about what's going to happen to Trey when Tess does come back. She may say she knows Cam will go back to her, and intellectually I have no doubt she does know that. But emotionally, it'll be Jace leaving all over again."

Kruise looked up at her. "You know, I've been so worried about what Tess will do to her that I didn't even really think about how Trey will feel. You have a good point, though." She sighed. "I guess I should tell you. Trey -- well, she's been more depressed than I've ever seen her. At one point I thought she might even do something stupid."

Her partner nodded. "You mean like walking into a building where a mad vampire might have been, then confronting that same vampire without any back up?"

"Something like that." Kruise's smile held no humor. "And now she's sleeping with that mad vampire."

"Who's no longer mad." Dayle lifted a hand to emphasize her point. "You know she's not, and Trey's in no danger from her."

"No, I know that. I just think it's odd, that's all."

"That she wants to sleep with a vampire?"

Kruise turned fully to her lover. "Are you trying to start a fight?"

"Me? No. I'm just trying to figure what you just meant. She's sleeping with Cam, who was crazy, but has recovered."

"I know that. But she's the one that bit Trey and nearly killed her. Don't you think it's odd that Trey would want to sleep with her after that?"

Dayle laughed. "Friday night I left Nix naked and handcuffed on Jesse's bed, cause Nix wanted me to. The two of them have been fighting since Nix got back to the city and she still had me leave her there like that, with no escape if Jesse wanted to really work out her frustrations. Now, that I found odd, but then Nix has always been a little crazy. Trey wanting to sleep with Cam?" She shrugged. "Why not?"

Kruise snorted and took a bite of her pie.


She looked at Dayle.

"You mind if I go to a club tonight? I -- I should really feed."

Kruise swallowed her bite. "Sure, that's fine. Can I go with you?"

"If you really want to. Would you rather I just call --"

"No. We can go the Shadowbox. It's okay, Dayle."

Dayle looked at her closely. "Are you sure?"

Kruise nodded. "Yeah. You're a vampire. I need to remember that, and let you be what you are. It may take a little while for me to get completely comfortable with it, but -- I will. I promise."

All Dayle could do was smile.


Cam enjoyed my short story and demanded a chance to read the book I was trying to get published. I gave her permission, then headed into the kitchen, telling her to come let me know when she wanted to talk about it.

Dinner was baked chicken with barbecue glaze, a personal specialty of mine. I was just putting the pan in the oven when Cam appeared, a thoughtful expression on her face. She poured herself a glass of apple juice and sat down at the table.

I waited nervously, but she didn't say anything. Finally, I turned and glared at her while I folded my arms.

"You going to say something or not?"

She smiled. "I'm on chapter 23. I like it. I'm impressed. You're an excellent writer, Trey."

I sat down and sighed. "That's what all my friends say. I'm never sure if I can completely believe it or not."

"Why wouldn't you believe it?"

"Because you're my friends. You care about me. Obviously you're going to want to spare my feelings."

"Oh, bullshit. What kind of friend would tell you you're good at something and you should do it for a living if it wasn't true? That's like telling someone they're a great warrior and sending them out to get slaughtered. A friend wouldn't do that. They'd tell you the truth."

"Yeah? Well if that's the truth, why are my friends the only ones who can see it?"

"Obviously they're not, if you're getting stories and articles published." She shrugged. "I don't know anything about the publishing business, Trey, but I know that it takes time. Not everyone is going to enjoy your style, or your topics. It's a matter of finding the one publisher out there that's right for you, that wants what you want. Once you do, it'll happen. You just need to keep looking."

I nodded. "Only problem is, I'm running out of places to look. They're just aren't many large publishers looking at unsolicited material."

"How about a small one?"

"I've submitted to a few smaller ones. Most of them have sent it back saying either they're not looking for unsolicited manuscripts, or they didn't feel it was right for their company."

"Any of them told you it stinks?"

I chuckled. "No. No one told me that."

"'Cause it doesn't." She reached over and ruffled my hair. "So stop beating up on yourself, okay? You just need to have patience."

"Patience." I smoothed my hair back into place. "Goddess, please give me patience, like now."

Cam laughed. "Old joke, Trey."

"Well, you'd know."

She threw an ice cube at me, and we ended up wrestling on the floor.

The chicken was almost burned by the time we took it out of the oven.


"Did you call everyone and make sure they're coming?" Cam was drying the dishes as I washed.

"Yep. Nix said Jesse's working late tonight, so she won't be here for the actual dinner but will show up afterwards."

"Cool. Dayle and Kruise?"

"Dayle said they'll be here, on time and everything."


It was about four-thirty in the afternoon. After much debate, we'd agreed on steaks for this evening's dinner, and they were marinating in a red wine sauce after having been tenderized.

"Did you pick up the wine?"

"Yes." I'd gone out earlier to get the last couple of items on Cam's list, and also to check my mailbox. "Cabernet Sauvignon. Just like you asked."

"Wonderful." She kissed my cheek and took the last of the dishes from the rack. "It looks like we're set, don't you think? We can't do much of anything else until people start arriving."

I was drying my hands on the dish towel. "I know. Nix said she'd be here around five-thirty, then Dayle and Kruise about six-thirty."

"Start the steaks as soon as Dayle and Kruise show?"


The rest of the kitchen was cleaned, and the table set. I was going through my mail on the couch when there was a knock on the door. I flipped the rest of them mail onto the table, including the next rejection letter from a publisher, and went to open the door.

"If that's Nix, tell her she's way early," Cam called.

"I know." And I opened the door.

But it wasn't Nix.

End Part Seventeen

 Part 18

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