A/N: Yes, it's been two weeks. It's Jane & Seth's fault; I swear it. I tried to ask Seth about Jane, and he got all shy and stammer-y. So I asked Jane, and she threatened to cause me such extreme pain that any interest I had in her private relationships would be burned away in a crushing wave of agony.

That's pretty much a direct quote. I finally had to give the Kings a call and ask them if they could talk to her for me. I think Marcus had my back. Although I may have to go into hiding if any of you tell them I'm writing about their existence.

Leah and Felix were a little more cooperative, but Demetri has been so busy, and is such a stickler for the rules, that he hadn't been around much lately. However, after Aro gave Demetri a break, they definitely made up for lost time. Unfortunately, this chapter was already 5800 words.

I also said there would only be implied slash in this story. So I am writing a real out-take. One that will be published separately, and will be L/F&D's sexy times together. All together. Slash together. I will have it up tomorrow night, even if I have to stay up late.

The next chapter here will be all Lady Bella and the Kings, starting from Christmas, and continuing the story, including ancient texts, battle training, etc.

Interlude IV: Reactions and Relationships

Part II: Relationships

Jane watched as the sandy-coloured wolf's powerful strides carried him far ahead of her. His paws kicked up mud and snow as he wove in and out of the trees, running with his pack. Jake had insisted that the shifters spend some time all together as wolves, becoming more comfortable with each other, and with their wolf-spirits.

The only one absent was Leah, of course. She had left with her mates yesterday, and everyone except Seth was surprised when she was missed. None of the pack, or their wolves, had known why Leah had phased, until their spirit-walk. There were no memories of her spirit form, no whispers of long forgotten legends, no recognition at all. Even Jake, whose wolf had been a part of every pack since the beginning, had not known it was possible for a female to phase. Leah's spirit-wolf began with her, and would be with her for an eternity.

Jane shot forward in a short burst of extra speed, trying, and failing, to catch up to Seth. Aggravated, she scaled a tree and sat near the tip, watching the weak winter sun glint off the nearby mountain peaks. She did not know what the boys were discussing through the pack mind. Maybe they truly were just having some fun. After all the changes in the last week, they probably needed it. It didn't seem to matter how much evidence they were presented with, the more deeply held a belief, the harder it was for humans to let go of it. The Quileute spirits had given the Elders and wolves ample evidence that they were meant to be Protectors against evil, and not all vampires were evil.

Hearing a whimper from the base of the tree, Jane looked to see that Seth had doubled back and was now standing on his hind legs with his forepaws on the trunk, looking up at her with a tilted head. She would never admit it out loud, but she thought his brown puppy-dog eyes were adorably cute. She scowled to herself. She'd never handled change well, either. It had taken her decades to reach for a light switch instead of a lantern or candlestick when Aro had brought electricity into the castle.

At another whine, she huffed, "Fine, I'm coming down. I don't know why you wanted me to come along with you guys. It's not like I can read the pack mind. Or even keep up to you oversized canines," she grumbled lowly. She'd never met anything faster than a vampire before. Not even Children of the Moon could outpace her, unless they had a head-start.

Seth watched Jane launch herself from the top of the tall evergreen, her graceful landing leaving a small dent in the earth. He nudged her shoulder with his head, closing his eyes and snuffing happily when she brought her hand up to briefly scratch his ears.

The young shifter ducked around the tree to phase and pull on his shorts before joining his imprint once more. She was still scowling at him, mumbling incomprehensibly, with her arms crossed over her chest.

Seth grinned. Jane, who was feared throughout the vampire world for her ability to cause and enjoy causing pain, was pouting. All she needed was an protruding lower lip and a little foot stomp, and the annoyed little-girl image would be complete.

Not that he'd ever mention it to her, or anyone else. He was fairly sure she wouldn't use her gift on him, but it was probably better not to provoke her anyway. None of the pack would say anything, either, once they saw this in his mind. They had all felt through the mind-link what Jane had done to Paul and Sam.

Still, he couldn't resist teasing her a bit. "I told you I was faster. We shifters wouldn't be much good against vampires if we couldn't overtake your kind, would we? It was fun to see you try to catch me, though." Seth grinned and lightly tugged the braid Jane's hair was pulled back into today.

Jane pulled herself away from his touch with an indignant sniff. "You're not faster than I am," she argued. "You're just so freakishly big that you cover more ground with less effort. I have to take two or three strides to match one of yours."

"I may be freakishly big, but you are teensy-weensy," Seth snickered at Jane's narrow-eyed hiss. "C'mon, the rest of the pack has gone back to La Push. You want to walk back with me?"

He held out his hand, hoping she would take it. Jane looked at the smile playing at the corner of his mouth for a minute. She wasn't sure what to make of him. She knew she was being teased, but for some reason she wasn't truly angry. Instead, she felt a light-hearted, almost giddy sensation within her. Even after such a short time, Seth meant as much to her as Alec or Aro. But in a very different way.

She was entirely happy being with him, Jane decided, taking his hand. They walked together in silence, listening to the stillness of the snowy forest around them. She felt Seth take a breath, preparing to say something, only to release it without speaking. Stopping, she faced him, raising her eyebrows in question, and waited.

"Did you, maybe, want to take a ride with me?" Seth managed to push the words out shyly. "I mean on me? O-on my wolf, I mean. I could phase and take you for a run. Even just back to the rez. Or around the forest. Whatever. If you want, I mean." Seth blushed and stammered out his offer.

Jane dropped Seth's hand and stepped back. Bracing himself for rejection, the boy's heart soared when his imprint answered with, "That might be fun."

Jane turned her back so Seth could strip and shift. He bumped her lightly when she turned back around and lowered himself, even though they both knew she could easily have jumped onto him at his full height.

Settling herself on his wide back, Jane gripped his ruff and leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "Run, wolf-boy. Show me your forest."

She was never running long distances again, Jane decided, as she lightly jumped off of Seth's furry back. Riding the wolf had been way too much fun. She was still a little miffed that he was faster than she, but then eventually he would tire. The drawback of being alive, she chuckled to herself.

She walked into the Clearwater house, leaving Seth to phase and dress himself. The unpleasant smell of human food assaulted her senses the second she stepped inside, and she was unsurprised to find Sue at the stove. Christmas Day was tomorrow. Charlie, Billy and Jacob would be eating dinner with the Clearwaters, and Sue had been in the kitchen all day. There were pies cooling on the table, and Sue was stirring something red in a small pot.

"Can I help you?" Jane asked, feeling a little out of place. This was her soulmate's mother, and as nice a human as Jane had met. She had accepted the unusual imprinting of her children with calm dignity, even though she was less than pleased that both Leah and Seth would be living it Italy now.

"No, thank-you, Jane," Sue replied. "I'm just finishing the cranberry sauce. Everything else that can be done ahead of time is done. I'll just have to stuff the turkey in the morning, and then it will be a snap to get the rest of the dinner together. At least with the boys appetites I won't have to worry about making too much food."

Jane nodded. The shifters really did eat a lot. Lorenzo was going to be delighted to be cooking for them. Until then, Jane decided she would ask Sue to show her how to cook using modern appliances. She had not prepared human food since her change. It would be an interesting experience, and the thought of providing food for Seth made her feel that same light-hearted giddiness that she had felt earlier when he wanted to hold her hand. Maybe she would make breakfast in the morning. She had seen Sue make ham and eggs on toast this morning. It really didn't look that hard.

Seth bolted awake as the scent of scorched bacon and burning eggs hit his sensitive nose. He'd never known his mother to burn food before. Shaking the last dredges of sleep from his mind, he realized that, while he could hear a small amount of noise from the kitchen, the only heartbeats other than his in the house belonged to his parents, who were still sound asleep.

He smiled sleepily. He'd better go save Jane before she burned the house down.

"Good morning, Teensy-Weensy," he greeted his imprint. Jane glowered at him as she dumped inedible eggs into the garbage. She didn't have to know what eggs were supposed to taste like to know that they had been ruined. "Whatcha doing?" Seth turned off the stove and moved the bacon off the element. About half of it still looked okay. A little on the crispy side, but still okay.

"I thought I'd make breakfast," Jane mumbled, "but I can see now that it was a bad idea. You tell anyone in Volterra about this and I'll. . ." she trailed off, realizing her usual threat of extreme pain was out of the question. "Damn it! I'll think of something."

Seth laughed. "If I ever piss you off, Teensy-Weensy, ask Leah what to do. No one better than a sister to tell you how to best get back at her brother."

Jane giggled, thinking about all the ways she knew of to irritate Alec. Suddenly, the prospect of having the temperamental she-wolf in Volterra was a lot more appealing.

"I will keep that in mind. Maybe she can share a particularly embarrassing childhood nickname, if you are going to insist on calling me Teensy-Weensy. Of course, I could call you Sethy-Smelly-Breathy at the moment," she was amused when he scrunched up his nose and took a step back. "Now, are you going to give me a hand, or just stand there? I obviously have no clue how to do this anymore."

"Umm. . . yeah. How about I go brush my teeth, and then I'll show you how to make coffee while I do breakfast. I may not cook a lot, but even I can't screw up bacon and eggs." Seth chuckled at the sour look from Jane.

"Say that after not cooking for more than a millennium," she muttered.

Seth returned the hard embrace his mother tearfully gave him, then smiled as he watched her hug Jane goodbye. The ancient vampire truly looked young and happy, surrounded by his family and the pack. She and Rosalie had gone shopping with Sue on Boxing Day to pick up some clothing for Esme, who refused to leave the reservation. Sue had managed to talk Jane into getting a few things for herself. Even though Jane felt more comfortable in dresses and skirts – pants for women were still a relatively new concept for her – she had been persuaded into buying a couple of pairs of soft jeans and pretty tops. The jeans hugged her slim hips, and the tops accentuated her young breasts, which had only been slightly augmented during her change.

She was beautiful and vivacious to Seth. Over the last ten days, she had become less caustic, less quick to use her gift, and much sweeter with him. They had gone for walks along the beach, and he had collected pretty ocean-washed rocks, and abandoned shells for her. The first time he had found a perfect spiral shell and picked it up to give to her, she had looked at him as though he were crazy. So they sat on a damp piece of driftwood, and he held the shell up to the light. The sun caught the gleam of the shell, and shone through the delicate object, highlighting it's whorls and stripes.

It was beautiful, more so to her vampire eyes than it would have been to a human. She was fascinated as she reached out to carefully take it from him. She had surprised him, and herself, by reaching up to give him a soft peck on the cheek.

It was the first time she had ever kissed anyone, and that included Alec. Before she could even fully complete that thought she had flitted away, leaving Seth behind with a beaming smile on his face.

She had helped him and his mom pack his things, listening to Sue reminisce over various things he had kept over the years. That had led to a couple hours on the couch in the family room, looking at baby pictures and hearing every embarassingly cute story his parents could remember. Jane and Seth had been side-by-side, with Harry and Sue surrounding them.

If he closed his eyes he could still feel her cool body pressed up to his side, her sweet scent, like caramel apple pie to him, overtaking his senses. Seth had to admit he had a serious crush on his imprint. He was thankful, though, that neither he or his wolf felt any need to pursue Jane as a mate yet. He and his dad had had a long talk the day Jane was shopping. There were just too many changes happening to the young boy to allow hormone-fuelled lust to take over and rush things that had, quite literally, all the time in the world to develop.

Leah hung back, waiting near the limousine as the rest of the vampires entered the Volturi castle. Three vampires had met them at the airport, and Felix had briefly introduced them as Afton, Santiago and Renata. The female, Renata, had gone with Demetri, Bella and the Kings to the hospital, leaving Leah in the car with Felix, Alec and the two strange males.

She hadn't felt very comfortable, hanging her head to avoid the inquisitive stares and flaring nostrils. Hey, they didn't smell fantastic to her, either! They were way too sweet, not like her imprints. Felix smelled like her favourite tea: lemongrass, oranges and licorice; Demetri was dark chocolate mousse and raspberries.

No wonder she wanted to lick, suck and bite them all over.

Felix seemed to know that Leah didn't want to follow the group into the castle. Alec waved and took off, but the other two lingered. Felix let out a low growl when Afton and Santiago's eyes wandered over his mate's form with clear appreciation of her strength and beauty.

"Fuck off, both of you. Eyefuck my mate again, and I will tear you apart. Then I will put you back together and Demetri will tear you apart."

"Sharing her, are you, Felix?" Santiago snorted. "I suppose it figures, considering you and Demetri have been companions for so long. Does she know you two fuck each other?"

With a satisfied smirk, Santiago disappeared. Afton gave Leah a quick wink before he also darted away.

Felix shook his head. Even though he was happily mated to Chelsea, Afton was a consummate flirt. Then again, so was Chelsea. They never took it further than that, though. Santiago was an just an ass, but he was a loyal ass. He and Felix enjoyed an intense rivalry as the brute strength of the Volturi guard, but the dark-skinned Latino had never managed to beat Felix more than a handful of times.

The large vampire was brought out of his musing by a hand on his arm. He gazed down at the native beauty at his side. Leah was watching him with look he couldn't decipher.

"You and Demetri?" she asked. When he nodded his head warily, she broke out into a wicked grin. "Spirits that's hot! You'll still do that, right? Be with each other? Even though I'm here? I mean, I'd like to be with both of you, but you with each other? Hmm. . ." she trailed off, picturing it in her mind.

Felix's mouth dropped open, and then he laughed heartily. Their she-wolf was perfect for them. He could smell how turned on the idea of her two imprints fucking each other made her. He and Demetri had been together since they met. Lovers, friends, confidants, but not mates. They had enjoyed female company, but always together. Sex with another felt wrong unless they were both involved.

Outside of the Volturi, no one knew how close the two guards were. Within the guard they were considered companions. Now, however, Felix felt the bond changing. Since meeting Leah, his connection with Demetri had deepened. He wanted to talk to Demetri, and then consult Marcus.

But that could wait. He could see Leah was tired, even with the excitement of the conversation. He picked her up, holding her ass, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He captured her mouth, lips and teeth and tongue tasting and nipping, hands kneading her fleshy cheeks, as he carried her toward their room.

"Yes, my mate," he answered when he let her up for air. "Yes to all of that. Demetri and I have been lovers for centuries, and we will still be lovers. With each other, and now with you. Both of us with you." He nuzzled his mouth into her neck close to her ear, and whispered, "You'd like that, wouldn't you. Imagine you, over me, riding my cock while I tease your clit; Demetri behind you, buried in your ass, one hand gripping your hip while the other plays with your beautiful, brown nipples. I can see it clearly in my mind, Leah. Can you?" He pressed his erection up into her, and was rewarded with the scent of her arousal increasing.

He stopped at a thick door, sliding Leah down his body until her feet hit the floor. Her heart was beating faster, and her breath was coming in small, whimpering pants. Opening the door, he flashed a mischievous grin at her.

"Unfortunately, that will have to wait until Demetri returns. In the meantime, you were too excited to sleep on the plane. You need some rest and then we will introduce you to the coven. Demetri will be back by then.

"And then," he dropped a kiss on her lips, "we will all continue what you and I have started here." He led her into the room that was his and Demetri's.

Leah blinked through the cloud of lust surrounding her. Her body tingled and burned, and she wanted nothing more than to push Felix to the ground and go for that ride he just described. Her eyebrows slanted into a frown as she came back to awareness.

"You jerk!" she cried, slapping his chest. "You and Demetri both! You got me all worked up, knowing that you wouldn't do anything until he was here. He did the same thing on the plane. Teasing with hot touches and hotter words, until I can't think straight, and then stopping without following through! Demetri wouldn't even let me suck his cock. You! You're – you're vag-teasers!" She broke off at Felix's loud laugh.

"Vag-teasers. I'll have to tell Demetri that," he grinned. "Anticipation, my fiesty one, adds spice to the experience. You may not appreciate it now, but you will. I promise we will satisfy you in every way.

"Plus," he went on to explain gently, "Demetri and I have never taken another to our bed without us both being there. I begin to suspect that will not be the case with you, but for our first time together neither one of us would think of enjoying you without the other present and participating."

Leah sighed and nodded; she was still on edge, but she couldn't be angry. The thought of both her mates with her was just so appealing. She could wait.

She looked around; Felix and Demetri's room – hers too now, she supposed – was large, and it needed to be. Dominating the room was the biggest bed she had seen; it had crisp, eggplant-coloured sheets and pillows, but no blankets. Through an archway on the far wall, Leah could see a sitting room, with an oversized couch facing a flatscreen TV mounted on the wall. The main room also had two other doors, both closed. Leah opened the first to a spacious walk-in closet. The next led to a bathroom. She looked at it, blinked, and then turned to Felix.

"Nice digs, but there is no toilet in the bathroom."

Felix's lips quirked up. "We have never needed one. The Masters have a full bathroom because they knew their mate was human. Alec and Heidi also have toilets in their ensuites, as they have kept human lovers from time to time. But Demetri and I have only ever been with other vampires."

"OK," Leah responded. "So what do I do if I have to pee? And you're right, I'm tired. What time is it? I'm also hungry. Least you can do is feed one hunger, if you're going to ignore the other." She crossed her arms and huffed teasingly.

Felix's face never lost its expression of mild amusement as he bent, grabbed her by her knees, and hauled her over his shoulder. He smacked her butt, ignoring her surprised screech. He was having so much fun with her.

"I will take you to the kitchens. There is a bathroom nearby you can use. We will have our ensuite redone right away. It is around noon here, middle of the night for you. Eat, then sleep. You are probably dead on your feet."

Leah snickered at the phrase. "I'd say I'm in perfect company, then," she replied.

When Leah awoke, on the softest sheets she had ever felt, she wanted to go right back to sleep. Demetri's presence was the only thing that kept her from pulling the pillow over her head and ignoring the world for a few more hours.

When she realized he was sitting on the bed next to her, she stretched, kicking off the sheet so he could get a good look at her nearly naked form. Felix must have stripped her down to her underwear after he put her to bed.

Demetri's eyes grew dark, and he leaned over her, pressing kisses to her neck and up her jaw, finishing with the sweetest peck on her lips.

She didn't want sweet, but he was adamant.

"No, mate," he denied her firmly. "As much as we would like to sequester ourselves in here with you, Protocol demands that we introduce you to the coven first. If it were just the guard, there would be no issue, as the Kings are currently indisposed with the Lady Bella. But the Ladies Didyme, Sulpica and Athenodora are here, acting as Regents for the Masters. Now that I have returned, we must meet them and present you as our mate.

"Felix is waiting for you in the ensuite. He will help you shower. I will be waiting for you here." Demetri kissed her once more, pulling her out of bed and escorting her to the bathroom door. "He knows not to dally, and will ensure you do not either."

Before Leah could respond, she was in the bathroom, where the running water had already made the room steamy. Felix was there, clad in just a robe. He smiled at her burgeoning anger, and waited for the explosion of temper. It didn't take long.

"Who does he think he is?!" she fumed, "We need to meet the coven, fine! But he practically ordered me to shower! No, he ordered me to let you give me a shower, and to be quick about it. I have a half a mind to rip his head off and go back to sleep. He can have it back when he learns not to be such an arrogant jerk!"

Felix stifled his laughter. He unsnapped Leah's bra while she was ranting, and she shrugged out of it without a pause, stepping out of her panties just as quickly when he lowered them. He disrobed, pulled her into the shower and began to wash her, just as she finished blustering.

"Did you know," he said casually, "that Demetri is Captain of the Guard for the Volturi?"

Leah shook her head. She didn't know, and at the moment she didn't care. "Why is that even relevant?" she asked.

"Even though the Ladies have been overseeing the Volturi in the Masters' absence, if Demetri had not come with us to Washington, the Ladies would not be needed. Demetri would have been left in charge, and every occupant of the castle, every vampire who visited, would have been subject to him.

"He is not the best fighter, the fastest, oldest, or even most intelligent among the guards," Felix went on. "Instead, he has that dominant and charismatic personality that makes him an excellent leader. He expects to be obeyed, and so he is. You have also seen that he can be patient, sensitive, and understanding.

"I'm telling you, though, that his personality does not change, even in private. To use your terms, he is the Alpha here. In public and in private." Felix smiled as he finished washing her hair. "Although I quite enjoy that about him."

Leah's jaw dropped again. She wasn't sure if she was understanding the large vampire clearly, but even the thought of him being obedient in the bedroom was tantilizing. Thinking back, she remebered that each time Demetri had told Felix to do something, the taller vampire had not hesitated to follow the command.

Still, "I'm not sure I could be that subservient," she said, hesitantly, "I hate that part of being a wolf. If Demetri thinks he can order me around, I don't think we'll get along too well."

"Don't worry, my fierce warrior," Felix soothed. "I have a feeling Demetri will soon learn that, while I am happy to do his bidding without question, if he tries to command you too often, he will be in real danger of having his head chewed off. And that may be a literal phrase, in our case. Don't be afraid to challenge him. You saw how happy he was that his mate was strong and fierce, instead of docile. He told you that. And I know Aro mentioned that we needed our own strong female.

Now, just to forewarn you, I'm sure he's laid out clothes for us. Feel free to pick something else if you are unhappy with his choice."

The trio arrived at what Felix told her was the Throne Room, where the public and formal business of the Volturi was performed. The Ladies were seated on three of four ornate chairs on a raised dias, and Alec and the senior guard were cloaked and standing in a row at the platform's base. Felix had explained that the Volturi could be very formal, and this was one of those times.

Demetri and Felix stood with Leah beside them, and bowed to the Ladies.

"My Lady Didyme, my Lady Sulpicia, my Lady Athenodora, may we present to you and the coven our mate, Leah Clearwater." Demetri's voice rang through the room, and he indicated who was whom as he named the Ladies.

The three vampires stood from their chairs.

"Welcome to Volterra, Leah Clearwater," Didyme intoned. "We are pleased to meet you, and overjoyed that Demetri and Felix have found their mate. These are the Volturi guard. Alec you know, and I have heard you briefly met Afton, Santiago and Renata. This is Chelsea, who is mated to Afton, and Heidi."

Leah nodded her head, unsure of what to say, or whether she should say anything. Her hesitation went unnoticed, though, as Sulpicia spoke, looking concerned at the Quileute.

"Forgive me, but you have the scent that is very near to that of a werewolf, young one. Oddly, it is not repulsive, but it does concern me. You are not human."

"I am a shapeshifter, a wolf," Leah replied, a little bemused. She had never been told she stank in such a polite way before.

"She is the sister of the shifter that was brought to the Masters last week," Alec interjected. "He was gone before you arrived, or you may have known the scent. She is also one of the shifters who saved the Lady Bella from the two in the dungeon."

"Ah, I see! Fascinating!" Sulpicia's expression turned to excitement. "You must tell us all about yourself."

Leah laughed as she adjusted the green, red and white striped tights, looking at the red curly-toed shoes.

"How do I look?" she asked Felix, kicking her feet so the little bell tips jingled.

The large vampire ran his eyes down his mate's velvet-clad body appreciatively. The red dress had long sleeves and a flippy skirt that ended a few inches above Leah's knees. It was simple, modest, and sexy as hell.

"You are perfect," he said. "I'd like to think that if Demetri had known that the ladies of the coven were going to take such an interest in you, or that he would be called by the Masters mere minutes after we had finally escaped the females, he would have damned protocol. Those precious few hours before duty called him away would have been spent in a far more enjoyable manner than listening to gossip, and plans for shopping trips and wolf runs."

"I still can't believe them! How can they be that accepting of me? I'm not that accepting of them." Leah shook her head. "At least my wolf didn't want to tear their arms off every time they touched me. I mean, Emily was the only real girlfriend I've ever had, and she is my cousin, and I don't think she ever had her hands on me that often. Did you know Heidi wants details after we finally manage to get it on? She told me that when you guys went to get me food. Apparently she imagines you and Demetri together a lot. Do I really have to go shopping with them?"

Felix chuckled, shrugging into his Santa jacket. "Heidi has made no secret of her fantasy of watching Demetri and I, even if she isn't invited to join. Don't worry, we have never been interested. Aside from a lack of desire for her company, we would never have casual sex with a coven member. Too much potential for conflict. We are vampires; relationships, even casual ones, tend to be more serious than in the human world. That's why unmated vampires usually have long-term companions. There are a few exceptions, of course. But even Heidi and Alec, when they take human lovers, always keep them for several years.

"And no, you do not have to go shopping with them, but you may find you have a great deal of fun if you do. Just tell Heidi that her imagination will have to suffice because no one outside of us three will ever be privy to what goes on between the three of us."

With that he adjusted his wide black belt, straightened the buckle, and stamped his feet into the large buckled boots. He took a very authentic-looking white wig, complete with a long beard, and secured it perfectly over his head and face. Turning to her, he smiled, the moustache moving with his lips.

"Now, are you ready to go, Mrs. Claus?"

"This is Ana-Maria; she is six months old," Felix stroked the little girl's delicate fist. She was asleep in a frilly white crib, her cherub-bow lips parted and her face flushed. "She is a little miracle. Her parents were told that they could not have more children after the first." Leah's heart lurched as she watched the sleeping babe. She had resigned herself to never having children, but it still hurt to think about. Even mates that the Spirits had destined for her underscored the fact that she was never meant to be a mother.

Felix reached into the red sack he carried and pulled out a pretty little doll, with a large pink bow in her hair. He placed it beside the baby, then darted to the main room, placing a wrapped box beneath the tree there. "Ana-Maria's brother, Franco, is six. He wanted a robot for Christmas."

He and Leah snuck back out of the house, locking the door behind them, and moving on to the next house. They had delivered close to a thousand gifts, mainly to children between three and twelve. However, there were some households, like this last one, where Felix had a little something extra in his bag.

Leah had seen a side of Felix that she didn't think a vampire was capable of. He was jolly. She laughed at herself, but the word truly fit. And he was kind, caring, and oh-so-sweet. He knew about every family he visited. She learned that he usually visited the children who were in the hospital during Christmas, but hadn't been able to this year. She was surprised to find out that Santiago would take over that role when Felix wasn't available.

"This is our last stop," Felix told her. "The twins, Antonia and Fernando, are eight, and have been trying to catch Santa in the act since they were four. I find them asleep in a different spot every year. Once on the stairs, once behind the tree, once behind the cushions on the couch. Last year they hid underneath the little table where they put the milk and cookies. They had put a tablecloth over it, and their little feet were just peeking out from underneath.

"Their mom tells me they can never understand how they end up in their own beds with a candy-cane in their hands. They always wake up when their parents move them." He chuckled, "I look forward to teasing them when they come of age."

"Why'd you leave them for last, then? It's five a.m., aren't they more likely to wake up now?"

"I want them to catch me this year," Felix explained. "I've been told they are starting to doubt Santa's existence. They will see me, and believe for another few years. It will be fun. Stay out here, but keep your back to the windows. If they look, I don't want them to be able to recognize you."

Leah laughed and turned away. "Hurry up, Santa Claus. I'll be here when you're done keeping the dream alive."

She jumped when she felt him smack her ass. When she looked over her shoulder, he was already inside. She smiled. She really thought she could love the bloodsucking bastard.

A/N: Review please. Remember, lemons in the out-take, and in the next chapter. Pinky-swear.

Oh, and I have a quick rant about a certain word being misused. "Weary" means tired, fatigued. When you want to express that someone is careful or cautious, the proper word is "wary".

I've also noticed one of my favourite authors, with excellent stories, likes the word 'grizzled'. She uses it often enough for me to recognize. Is there a word or phrase that I use often enough to be noticeable?