AN: This story incorporates the worlds used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Highlander the Series. Canon characters from both shows may make appearances, but the focus is on original characters.

Chapter 1 – Buffalo, NY – May, 2004

Friday

It was a beautiful city. Many Americans preferred the sheer size of New York City, or the "culture" of Rome or Paris. All of them were impressive in their own right, but Nathan preferred Buffalo. Maybe it was the pristine streets – in many neighborhoods, lawns were ungroomed and windows were barred, to say nothing of garbage in the streets – or perhaps the weather – daylight was an endangered resource in anything but the summer months. No, it was definitely the food. "Spicy" was the way meals were cooked.

Nathan walked down Chippewa Street. It was too early for the bars to be full, which was exactly how he liked them. The bouncer of a nearby bar looked at him oddly. People were suspicious of long coats nowadays, especially with the fear of terrorism in the United States. That was one place to avoid tonight. He decided to skip the bars.

Further along the street, closer to where he was parked, stood a coffee house that he was rather fond of. There was a Japanese restaurant across the street, but he had never eaten there. Nathan sighed and resigned himself to a few hours of mocha something or another.

One advantage to wearing a long coat was pocket space. Nathan had enough room for his wallet, loose change, a couple of novels, and a cavalry sword. He resigned himself to a few hours of reading.

Xxxxx

He had a first edition of Moby Dick somewhere. That book stayed in storage. The copy Nathan was reading he had recently picked up from Barnes & Noble. Somehow, he had never read the book before. Now he was yawning over Ishmael's experience sharing his bed with a strange man. Who defined "must-reads" and "classic literature" was beyond Nathan.

Somebody's watch beeped, Nathan's cue to check the time, even though he already knew what his own watch would read. Eleven o'clock. "You look engrossed in your book," said a voice. Nathan looked up.

"Yeah, ten pages in two hours. Great read." A smiling woman stood above him. "I think I've actually been asleep, and just didn't notice." That she didn't react was probably his first sign something was wrong with her. Or he needed to work on that "prized sense of humor."

"My friends think you're too dangerous to talk to. I think you're worth a shot." Nathan shrugged and put his book into an outside pocket. "You want to talk ... somewhere else?" Women liked his blond hair and chiseled cheek bones, so he was not particularly surprised.

"Where did you have in mind?"

"A place we can drink something more potent." There was a predatory glint in her eye. She was hungry for something.

"Alright," Nathan said. Better him than someone unsuspecting. He followed her outside. "Actually, I know a quieter bar than the ones on Chippewa. This way's faster." He indicated a dark, empty side street.

"Sounds delicious."

Once they were a fair distance down the street, he stopped. "You can stop the pretense."

"Pretense?" she asked, turning to face him. "Very well." Her face transformed. And then she became dust. She had barely had time to recognize the blur that moved toward her neck as a sword. Nathan replaced the blade in its hiding place.

"I guess your friends were right." Vampires could sense the danger Immortals represented, even if they did not understand why. Occasional fools ignored the warning. Nathan sighed. There would be no revenge. Immortals stayed away from vampires and vice versa, and anyone foolish enough to break with tradition got killed.

In the meantime, it was still early and Nathan was young yet. Time to try that quiet bar he was headed to.

Xxxxx

Some foods were a bit like love. No matter how much you liked them the first time, they just got better every time. Hot wings were like that. "Enough wings there?" asked a woman's voice. Nathan wiped any stray hot sauce off his face before looking up. She was more a girl than a woman, eighteen at best. "Are you willing to share?" He considered. Eight wings down, twelve to go.

"Sure, why not? What do you want to drink?" He flagged over a waiter. "They close the kitchen at twelve, so you should order any more food now, too." The waiter came over and took the woman's order. He checked her id, which Nathan noted was fake. It earned her a smirk and no drink. "I hope you didn't pay too much for that," Nathan said after the waiter left to get her a coke.

She smiled sheepishly. "Eighty dollars. It works in convenience stores. You want to see it?" Nathan took a closer look. A lamination machine and color printer could produce the same results.

"Eighty-five cents. That's what it's worth." He returned the id, and fetched a couple of cheap driver's licenses from his wallet. "When I was in college, I picked these up. Sixty Canadian." The girl inspected them.

"Are you a salesman or something?"

"Nah. Souvenir IDs from Toronto. I keep them to piss off any cops who pull me over."

She laughed. "Sounds smart."

"Was that your real name on the fake?" She said it was. "I'm Nathan. I don't think any of the IDs you saw had my name on them. Have some wings before they get cold."

After they finished eating, the girl said, "It's been fun, but I need to get going." She was eying a couple heading toward the door. "See you here next week?"

All Immortals were connected to life through their Quickening. With that connection, Nathan could tell that of the couple, only the male was alive. "Is he a friend of yours? I don't think you can help him, Heather."

Heather narrowed her eyes. "You'd be surprised by what I can do." She was trying to look dangerous. Nathan knew better than to underestimate someone based on appearance, but a vampire was not an enemy to take lightly. On the other hand, she understood what he meant by helping him. She at least had a hunch about that vampire. He left a pair of twenties on the table after Heather exited the room. She might need backup.

He caught her walking around the building. The vampire would be there. Nathan followed, waiting at the corner. "Is this a group event?" Heather asked.

"You brought us a snack, too?" asked an obnoxious male voice. More than one vampire.

"Just some stake," Heather replied. Nathan rolled his eyes at the quip. He rounded the corner and watched the fight.

Four vampires, one fleeing bystander, and a fighting Heather. She did not cower at their true forms, the ridged faces and yellow eyes. Actually, the vampires looked overmatched. Heather grabbed one vampire by the wrist and twisted her hips so the vamp ended up on the sidewalk. A stake appeared from concealment and turned him to dust.

A male and female vampire held back while the third charged in. Right into Heather's stake. The remaining vampires ran in opposite directions. Heather chased the female away from Nathan. The male spotted Nathan and moved to run past him. Nathan grabbed his arm and spun him into the building wall. "I can't let you go free. You're too dangerous."

The vampire broke Nathan's hold and charged forward. His dagger buried into the vampire's heart, causing the vampire to fall back in pain. It was not a wood, but still the demon's most vulnerable spot. Nathan dropped the knife and drew his cavalry sword. The vampire knocked the sword out of his hand before he could attack.

"You're out of your league, boy," Nathan said. "That feeling in the back of your head, telling you to run? Listen to it before it's too late." The vampire bared his fangs and took a bite out of Nathan's neck – before being thrown several feet back. Nathan's Quickening protected him.

He retrieved his sword. "Tasty?" He approached the vampire, who was just getting up to his knees. A quick swing and the vampire collapsed into a pile of dust. Nathan hid his sword and dagger in his coat and sleeve. He looked back up the street to see Heather staring at him. "You're stronger than you look."

"I didn't put it together before. How did you recognize the vampire? Slayers can sense them, if we concentrate. You're not a Slayer."

"Slayers, plural? Is that possible?"

"Since 2003." For almost two years, then. "I'm in the city to see if we're needed here. I don't know what you are, but you're obviously a Champion. I think you can handle Buffalo."

"Champion?" That was what Cyrus called himself. Something about defending humanity from demon-kind. "You've got the wrong man. Cyrus is on the West Coast."

"Then why did you dust him?" she asked in a very accusatory tone.

"In case you needed the help. So you're here to look for vampires, get free food, and sneak in some alcohol? Very noble." If Nathan was not grinning, she might have taken offense.

"Thanks. But you haven't told me who you are yet."

Nathan always quoted his mentor when asked that question. "Just a guy."

"A guy with a saber and a wicked-looking knife."

"So long as you don't call me a Jedi, I guess that's fine. How old are you, Heather? Really."

"Nineteen." He studied her face. "Eighteen." It was possible, but Nathan was not sure. He raised an eyebrow. "Sixteen." That he readily believed. Younger than he had first thought, but still a plausible number. "Stop avoiding the question."

Nathan shrugged. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," he quoted. "I'm not oblivious to blood-sucking monsters, that doesn't make me a Champion. Most people aren't so black-and-white."

"You're wrong," she said. "You just don't know it yet." Heather approached him and twirled a finger in the collar of his coat. "Hey, can I stay with you tonight?" There was a certain promise in her eyes.

"If you made it to my age, I'd consider."

"Twenty-six?" she asked. Nathan started to walk off. "There are a lot more Slayers now, it is possible."

"You're a nice girl, just not my type. You attract too much attention."

"Says you. How many vampires have you killed tonight?"

"Two."

"This month?"

Nathan frowned. The number that came to mind was a little high for his liking. When had he started seeking them out? That was the only explanation, considering his first vampire encounter came a millennium into his life. "Four," he lied. "The only time I see them is Friday nights."

Heather looked at him skeptically. "I'm sure." She crossed her arms. "Can I stay at your place tonight?"

"I think that's illegal in this country. Good luck with your quest."

Xxxxx

A buzz caught his attention. It was not the auditory kind, but one he felt in the back of his neck and deep in his abdomen. An Immortal was nearby. He stopped walking and scanned the streets. Only one person was approaching. Nathan held out an arm to keep Heather behind him. "What is it?" she asked, pushing past him.

"Letting a little girl fight your battles?" asked the approaching man.

Nathan kept his hands in plain sight. "I'm not looking for a fight. I don't even know who you are." Heather stopped and looked back.

"Send the girl home. It's past her curfew anyway."

Heather protested, loudly.

"Shut it," Nathan ordered. "He's out of your league. And he's human." She wasn't happy, but Heather left. Back to her hotel or apartment, Nathan hoped. Probably on with her vampire hunt. "I've had enough fighting today, I don't need to kill you, too."

"Don't be so confident," the Immortal said, drawing his sword. It was a design that was popular when Rome was. The Immortal probably chose it to give the illusion of age. Either way, Nathan knew better than to assume that older always meant more dangerous.

Nathan drew his blade. Cavalry swords had the disadvantage of being single-edged, but his was different. Even though back edge was not as effective as the front, it was a small advantage that had won him duels. "My name is Luther Postuci. I'm you're death." Luther did not sound like a Roman name. Irrelevant.

Nathan's attack came more quickly than Luther was prepared for. The challenger knew he was overmatched. He stayed on the defensive until his sword was knocked from his hands. "Wouldn't this be a good time to tell me your name?"

"There can be only one." This time, there was a corpse. It was why Nathaniel ben Yitzhak despised taking heads. A blue glow enveloped the body and the air around it. Lightning flashed, destroying what street lamps there were. Store front windows exploded as Nathan's body absorbed Luther's Quickening. He fell to his knees in agony and ecstasy. It was why he loved taking heads.

A rush greater than any drug stayed with him after the Quickening died down. Vampires claimed to feel the same way when they fed. Nathan grinned. The difference was he didn't do it by choice. For him, the high that came with a Quickening was a bonus, a reward for staying alive.

When he came to, he did not know how much time had passed. His watch was no help, it was fried. So much for digital watches. If Heather asked to stay with him now, he lacked the willpower to say no. He was glad she went home.

"Want to explain the light show?"

Nathan now had the strength to get to his feet. "Not today." He picked a route back to his car.

"What can there be only one of?"

"I thought that was obvious."

"He was not human!"

Nathan paused. "Nathaniel ben Yitzhak. Nathan Isaacs. That's who I am. He was Luther Postuci. Nothing else." He heard the scraping of metal. He turned around and saw the Roman blade in her hand. "That's a replica. It can't be more than a hundred years old." She dropped the weapon.

"I wasn't going to keep it! Why do you keep avoiding my questions?" Nathan waved her off and continued back to his car. Heather followed. "I'm not leaving you until you tell me."

"Then stay here." She, of course, did not. His car was more expensive than Heather expected, a European sports car. A Lotus was out of place in Buffalo, but Nathan was particularly attached to the Espirit.

"What do you do for a living?" Heather asked when she saw the car.

"Dentist." He glanced at her gaping jaw.

"A dentist slash demon hunter?"

"Heather, I'm going home to sleep. Following me home is not a good idea."

"If you don't come clean, you have no choice." She crossed her arms.

He unlocked the Lotus with a keychain remote. "Get in."

Xxxxx

The Lotus Espirit pulled into the garage. It was a nice neighborhood in Amherst, a place rated the Safest Town in America. "Why do you have a Subaru?" Heather asked. There was a WRX right next to his Espirit in the garage.

"Snow. We're in Buffalo, after all. I should warn you about my family."

Heather shrugged. "It can't be any worse than mine."

Nathan remembered the family that raised him. They were priests at the Great Temple more than two thousand years ago. "No, the people I live with are a little strange. And vampires." Heather froze. "Don't attack them." The Slayer agreed, reluctantly.

Nathan opened the door from the garage to the den. A young woman waiting on the other side rushed over to give him a brief hug. "You're early, Papa! Who's she?" She glared at Heather.

"Too loud, Eve," he reprimanded. "Yvonne, this is Heather – a Slayer." A hiss from across the room caught all of their attention. "It's okay, Tab, she's not here to stake you."

She eyed the Slayer. "If you say so, Sensei. Just keep her away from me."

"I'll be a good girl," Heather said. "I promise."

Nathan walked passed Yvonne to kiss Tabitha on the top of the head. "I took a Quickening," he whispered to her.

Tabitha's eyes went wide. "Eve, show Heather the guest room." Tabitha gripped Nathan's arm strongly enough to bruise. "You're coming with me." Nathan let himself be dragged upstairs to his bedroom. "Sit." She forced him into an armchair. "Now Sensei, remember to stay while I get you a drink." Nathan smiled gratefully.

Tabitha came back in the room a few minutes later with her arms crossed and an angry look on her face. "I wasn't twenty-one yet when I was bit, so Diana said I can't go into the liquor cabinet. Can you talk to her?" Nathan buried his face in his hand.

"Tabitha wanted to use the crystal," Diana explained from the doorway. The eldest vampire in the household knelt beside Nathan's armchair and handed him a glass of liquor. He took a long drink; rum was not classy, but it was his beverage of choice after a Quickening. "Was he strong, Nathaniel?" She pronounced his name with a strong Semitic accent.

"Stop pestering Sensei!"

"I feel cold," Nathan said, completely out of touch with the conversation. It was warmth he craved, not a woman's company. He drained his glass. "Thanks for getting rid of Heather, Tab. I wouldn't have been able to stop myself." Tabitha grinned, pleased to be useful.

"You want the bottle?" Diana asked, refilling his cup.

Nathan shook his head and downed the rum. "I'll be fine. Make sure Lau stays away from Heather. He won't listen to Tab." There was a pecking order among the vampires, according to age.

"Sempai studies martial arts for self-control, not so he can pick fights," Tabitha said on Lau's behalf.

"A Slayer can't be comfortable around vampires. I don't want him to be accidentally staked." Diana left the room to talk to Lau. "Tab, I'm going to bed. I'll be fine in the morning." He undressed for bed without checking to see if Tabitha left. When he switched off the lights, he saw that she was already gone. Nathan said a quick prayer and climbed under the blanket for a good night's sleep.

Xxxxx

A large pot sat on the stove top. It was an odd sight in a kitchen during breakfast. "Is someone cooking stew?" Heather asked.

"You don't want to know," Yvonne said, adjusting the burner. Heather paled.

"She makes good eggs," Nathan declared. "Eve, that's a request." Yvonne turned to grin at him. "You want an omelet?"

Heather slid into one of the kitchen chairs. "Sure. Thank you." She waited until they both received their omelets before asking any questions. "I appreciate a warm bed, but you're not going to distract me. What are you?"

"He's my Papa." Yvonne turned off the burner and started filling thermoses with what looked like tomato soup. To be honest, it was darker than tomato soup. "He saved me from a brothel forty years ago."

"You're not a vampire, and you don't look like a demon. That leaves ... sorcerer? That explains the lightning."

Yvonne giggled.

Nathan finished his eggs. "Excellent, Eve. I'm always impressed." Heather was staring at him. "Alright. Some people, if they die a violent death, come back to life. Oddly, all of them are foundlings; none ever knew their real parents. These people are Immortal." He waited for Heather to nod before continuing. "All Immortals participate in the Game, a combat tournament to the death. The winner will have ultimate power. Luther Postuci was Immortal."

"And you are, too?" Nathan took a sip of orange juice. "Okay, but there are still two things you haven't explained. First, what happened to that vampire when he bit you."

"Second is the lightning show. It's the same explanation. What makes us different is the Quickening, our Immortal life force. Most Immortals never learn to hone it. On its own, the Quickening can heal almost any wound. That's what knocked out the vampire. If an Immortal takes another Immortal's head, he absorbs the Quickening. That's the light show you saw." Heather rested her chin in her hand.

"I don't know if I believe you."

Diana, Tabitha, and Lau filed into the room. Yvonne distributed thermoses to each of them. Diana drank greedily and finished hers before anyone else even opened theirs. Yvonne already had a second thermos ready for her. "You told her?" Diana asked, glancing at Heather's face. She sat down next to Nathan. "I met Nathaniel in a tavern ... six hundred years ago. Vampires and Immortals don't normally get along. There's a kind of sixth sense that keeps us from really noticing each other. Immortals aren't attracted to us, and we don't find them appetizing.

"We bumped into each other and started talking ... I didn't want to feed on him, I wanted him as a companion. Someone to spend eternity with. I got half of what I wanted."

"I don't get it," Heather interrupted.

"Even vampires want more from the world than meals. I was only a vampire for a few years, and my Sire didn't impress me. Forever was too long to live with him, I needed someone I could share myself with when I wasn't hunting for blood. So when we were alone, I bit Nathaniel's neck." Heather remembered the vampire Nathan had beheaded the night before. "He could have killed me."

Nathan took over the narration. "No. The last time I'd been with someone I really cared for was about two centuries before. And I had a little bit of a crush on Diana. She told me why she'd bitten me. Her speech was much more passionate in French. I explained that I was already Immortal; if she wanted my companionship, she had to stop killing."

"He's been like a brother since then. Two hundred years ago, we adopted Lau. Then Tabitha, and finally Yvonne. We're a family that will never grow old."

"How sweet," Heather said. "You really don't drink human blood?" Diana said they didn't. "Ever? And you don't even have souls. I thought that was impossible."

"Some vampires have a stronger desire for family than others. I'd be surprised if there were any others like us."

"You didn't get exactly what you wanted, though, did you?" Diana raised an eyebrow. "You weren't looking for a brother six hundred years ago, you were looking for a mate."

Diana did not deny it. "They're my family, and I'll take care of them until someone takes my head." Diana placed a hand on Nathan's shoulder. He shrugged it off.

Heather leaned forward. "So if you're Immortal ... age doesn't mean much to you, does it? How young is too young?"

"Two centuries," replied Diana.

Tabitha picked off of her comment. "Divided by ten. If you have to use a fake id to get alcohol, you're too young. Right, Sensei?"

"Close enough."

Heather frowned.

"There's nothing for you in Buffalo. You should head home, Slayer." She decided to do exactly that.

Xxxxx

The Following Thursday

The vampires were out for the night. Nathan was always too tired Thursday nights to visit bars or clubs. With the Slayer out of town again, no one in Buffalo was dangerous enough to stake Nathan's family. Not having to worry was great, and the very reason he had a vampire family. He clicked a button on the remote control and changed the channel.

A buzz drew his attention from the television set. His coat and sword were in the basement, which he had turned into an exercise room. The alternative was a cutlass he kept under the couch. Nathan retrieved the weapon. To Nathan's surprise, there was a knock at the front door. He opened the door with his cutlass behind his back.

The woman was a stranger to him, but she recognized Nathan. "You really are one of us," she said. She tried to enter, and was stopped by Nathan's cutlass.

"Who are you?"

She took a step back, then reached up and touched her eyes, one at a time. She was removing colored contact lenses. "Surprised to see me, Rabbi?"

Green eyes were rare, especially rare among brunettes. "Laurette." He lowered the cutlass.

"You were in the British Navy?"

"Marine." Laurette stepped inside.

"Nice place." Nathan closed and locked the front door. "A little big for one person, isn't it?"

"It would be, if I lived alone." She glanced at Nathan. "You don't have to stay in the foyer. There's a living room just up ahead." Nathan ushered her into the next room. Laurette found a place on the couch. "I had hoped you wouldn't be murdered. Not all pre-Immortals die violently."

Laurette's eyes glazed over. "That hadn't occurred to me. When I heard you were Immortal, I couldn't accept it. If you were Immortal, you knew what I was going to be. You must have left because you didn't want to know me as an Immortal."

Xxxxx

Circa 1200 CE

Nathan knew enough about religion to pass as a rabbi to the few Jews living in town. While he had in fact been a rabbi at one time, he was hesitant about his current identity. Religion was probably what kept him going from day-to-day, but it was also deeply personal. What right did he have to tell others how to approach it? Not to mention he did not own a bible in any form.

Another aspect to his current identity that Nathan was uncomfortable with was that rabbis rarely had much wealth of their own. They lived off the contributions of their congregation. Since Nathan's congregation was all of two families, he felt like some kind of parasite. Never one to wholly rely on others, Nathan helped out as much as he could. But it never felt like enough.

A donkey pulling a cart was led past where Nathan stood alone in the street, the sound snapping him out of his reverie. He heard another set of footsteps from behind. "Good morning, Laurette."

"Morning light, Rabbi." Laurette was the daughter of the family he was staying with. She was almost at marrying age and quite a few locals had their eyes on her. Nathan found it best not to dwell on what he thought of her. There would be no broken hearts in this lifetime. "You look so serious standing there. What's so interesting about a muddy road?"

"I can't help but think how much of a burden I've been," Nathan replied, turning to face her. Her dark hair was silky, she had probably brushed it thoroughly just before heading outside. He tried not to look too deeply into her green eyes. "Between the food your father gives me and the brewing trouble with the other locals ..." he trailed off.

Laurette placed her hand on Nathan's shoulder. "Don't think about it. We want you here." She looked like she wanted to say more, but that could have been wishful thinking on Nathan's part. "Besides, you help us make more money than you ever cost us." His business skills certainly did come in handy when it came selling goods.

"Maybe. But three years might have been too long. I'm going to leave soon." He suddenly looked down the street, staring intently, body rigid. "Immediately," he corrected. He turned back to Laurette, saw the pain in her eyes.

Xxxxx

"A headhunter was in town."

"I wanted you to take me with you."

"That wasn't an option." Nathan checked his watch. After eleven, the vampires could arrive at any time. It was 11:36. "It's not my place to choose how a mortal lives and dies."

Laurette glared. "You don't want me. That's the reason." Nathan was trapped. If he said the wrong thing, she might challenge him. The girl he knew eight hundred years ago never would, but Laurette was no longer an innocent teen. "You're spitting out excuses, Rabbi. I know you were in love with me."

"It's not an excuse, Laurette. I wanted you to live a full life, not follow an Immortal on the run." They heard the garage door open and a car pull up. Nathan knew from the sound it was his WRX. "They're home."

"You're married, aren't you?" The garage door closed and from the side door flooded Nathan's family.

Yvonne was the first one through. "Look, Papa has a date."

"Yay, Sensei!"

"Leave them alone," said Lau. He ushered Yvonne and Tabitha upstairs.

"Adopted?" asked Laurette.

Then Diana came in. She glared at Laurette. "Immortal. What do you want with Nathaniel?"

Laurette glanced back at the staircase, at Diana, and looked to Nathan. "How did she know?"

Diana noted the cutlass on the floor by Nathaniel's feet. She sat down next to Nathan and picked up the sword.

"Don't hurt yourself."

Nathan held her in place with a hand on the shoulder.

"I don't kill mortals."

"Neither does Diana. Diana, this is Laurette. I was her rabbi eight centuries ago."

"Someone older than I am. How rare." She set the sword down and leaned back against Nathan. "Are you in town long?"

"I haven't decided yet. What exactly is your relationship?"

"Diana is ... family. And the others are our children and students." Laurette sighed and turned away. "We've been friends for more than five hundred years, Laurette."

She looked at Nathan in disbelief.

"She's a different kind of immortal."

"I can't compete with that. I was so thrilled to hear you were alive ... I have to go. Bye, Nathan."

"Laurette," he said, when she rose from the couch. "I hope we can be friends."

She nodded and left the room. Diana held him in place, not letting him get up.

"What's with you?"

"She wants to be more than friends. Priests use faith to keep them celibate. How do you do it? You're not even Catholic. Six centuries, Nathaniel."

"A little more than eight," he corrected. "When I met you, I was ready to try again. Then you turned out to be a vampire."

"Does that matter, anymore?"

"Diana. Her father wanted me to marry her. Laurette and I both wanted to."

"This is the life you chose. You redeemed me, Lau, Tabitha, and Yvonne. We're real people because of you. Don't give that up. Lau will get by on his own, but Tabitha and Yvonne can't live without you. Neither can I."

Nathan hugged Diana with one arm. "When you said you wanted to spend eternity with me, you didn't mean as a friend, did you? Or even family. You wanted to be my wife." She said nothing. Her heart was still, as it always was, but Nathan got the impression it would have skipped a beat. "Tabitha looks young, so we can pretend she's adopted. What about Lau and Yvonne?"

"Yvonne could be your sister," Diana speculated. "And Lau's a family friend."

"Tabitha."

"Yes, Sensei?" she called from just out of sight.

"Who else is listening?"

Tabitha descended the staircase and sat down on the floor near Nathan and Diana. "Just me, Sensei. Can Eve be your cousin? That way, she still has to do what I tell her."

"If you like."

Tabitha grinned. "It looks like we're going to be even more of a family. Sensei, if you want Diana to be your wife, I don't think she'll be happy if it's in name only."

Nathan looked at Diana. She was staring at Tabitha. He had a hunch she thought Tabitha said too much. Really getting what she wanted must have been too much to hope for. Diana loved him. Nathan moved his hand up her shoulder and to the side of her neck. "Neither will I." He leaned forward and kissed Diana's jaw line. "I had always intended to romance you. I don't know when I forgot." She shivered at the breath against her skin.

"Why this?" Diana asked. "Why now?"

"Laurette reminded me why I wanted to be with you in the first place." Nathan turned her head to look at him. "And what I was afraid of. I'm not going to lose you so easily." He pulled her forward and kissed her lips. He had meant for it to be a short kiss, but Diana pulled him in the other direction. Before he knew what was happening, Diana was flat against the couch, Nathan on top of her.

Tabitha got up and started to sneak out the room.

"Papa's finally found someone," Yvonne said from the stairway. "Diana's going to be pissed."

"Shh!" Tabitha hissed. "Privacy." She forced Yvonne up the stairs, leaving the two lovers alone.