Decisions Decisions-- an FK story Decisions
by Fleurette

Part I

"No! You can't go! I forbid it!"

"*You* forbid it!? You're not my boss, Daniel. You don't have the right to make my decisions for me. I'm going."

"Melissa..." Daniel whined, dropping the guise of anger in his sorrow. "You can't leave me! What will I do without you?"

"You'll be all right. Mother and Father will be here... and the others. You'll see... it will be fine. We'll write to each other... as often as we can," Melissa told him. She understood his sadness. Leaving him was breaking her heart, too, but she had her own life to live.

"But I want you to stay here with me," protested Daniel.

"I can't. Look, we've been through this all ready, Daniel. I can't stay here and live like this."

"But you *can*! I could--"

"No, Daniel! I don't want that. I don't want to be like you and Father... and Mother. That will never be my choice. I *like* mortal life."

Caught between anger and rejection, Daniel fled from the room. Melissa watched him go and burst into tears when the door slammed shut behind him.

*******

"There's been a lot of tension between the twins lately, my dear," LaCroix said to Fleurette as they stood on the balcony overlooking the garden.

"I know," Fleurette replied. "Daniel is taking this very hard. I suspect he wanted her all to himself."

LaCroix nodded thoughtfully. After a long silence, he admitted that he, too, was not looking forward to saying good-bye to his little girl.

"It won't be forever," Fleurette reminded him. "College is only for four years."

"True, but did she *have* to go to school in America?"

"She wanted to be with Henri and Elena. She misses them very much." As do I... Fleurette thought wistfully.

After another uncomfortable silence, LaCroix said, "I think Daniel wants to bring her across."

Fleurette looked surprised. "She'll never accept it, Lucien. Since the kidnapping, she has never really trusted our kind. There is no appeal in this life for her."

"I know," said LaCroix. "It may drive them apart."

They both reflected upon how close the twins had been in the past. Just lately, with Melissa busy packing for her trip and her time with them growing short, that relationship was slowly deteriorating. Everyone saw it, for it was hard to miss the constant quarrels and moodiness... or the silence between the two that had never been there before.

Fleurette sighed. "I hope not, Lucien. I hope not."

They both turned when they sensed Daniel's presence behind them. He was flushed and very agitated.

"She won't listen to reason, Father," he said angrily. "Make her stay."

"I cannot do that, my son," LaCroix told him, coming up to place a hand on the young man's shoulder. He squeezed reassuringly.

"Daniel..." Fleurette smiled sympathetically at her son. "Try to understand... Melissa must live her own life now."

"Then I shall never see her again," stated Daniel. The seriousness of the statement surprised his parents.

"You will!" Fleurette said. "Melissa will back... on vacations and over the summer. We're her family, and she loves us as much as we love her. She won't stay away forever."

Daniel just shook his head obstinately. "No... " he whispered, almost to himself. "It's over now..."

A few days later, Fleurette stood beside her daughter at the airport, waiting for the plane that would take her away.

"I wish Daniel had come, Mother," Melissa said as she shifted her carry-on from one hand to the other nervously. "I didn't get a chance to say good-bye to him."

"He hasn't been taking this well at all," Fleurette told her.

"I know... I worry about him."

"Don't," Fleurette told her daughter. "He'll be fine once he gets used to you being gone. You'll see."

As her flight was announced, Melissa threw her arms around her mother. "Bye! I'll miss you so!"

"And I you, dearest. Don't forget to write!"

"Every day, I promise! Bye!!!!"

The words were spoken through tears, bittersweet and heart-wrenching. Fleurette watched as her daughter disappeared amid a sea of people all trying to get to the gate on time.

Her little girl was gone...

Part II

Dearest brother, Sept. 5, 20**

We started classes this week, and I couldn't help but compare them to the things we used
to study back when we had the private tutors. I really miss being able to discuss stuff with you.

Do you remember when we read "War and Peace"? Well, I have to read it this year for my Russian Lit class. You always liked that story... I'll bring the book home with me, so you can have it. OK?

Daniel, I want to apologize for being so difficult before I left. I know you were just upset
about my leaving. I'm sorry. I guess I didn't help by being so excited about it. I miss you a lot.

Daddy Henri has changed so much! He tries to hide it, but I can see where he is getting
gray in his hair. But he still as much fun as he used to be. Do you remember the fun we used to have, brother? It was so long ago. Elena is 13 now! Can you believe it? She is going to a real heart breaker in a couple of years. I'll send lots of pictures.

We live in a really nice house. Nothing like father's, of course, but nice. It an old
plantation-style house. There are lots of them here in Virginia. The people here seem to take pride in their old heritage and have worked to keep a lot of the old houses restored. But ours isn't really an old one, just a good copy. You should see it! There are three floors to the main house, and two floors for each wing. A big front porch with Doric columns. My room has a HUGE balcony!

Daddy Henri says he is going to buy me a car! Until then, I get to drive his convertible.
It's red and really yummy!

Oh, Daniel! I wish you were here... we could be having so much fun.

Ooops! I have to get to a class! I'll write again real soon.
Love always,
Melissa

Dear brother, Oct. 20, 20**

I'm so sorry that I haven't written to you lately, but I have been so busy with classes and
homework and stuff that I don't have time for anything else. Plus, Daddy Henri says I can
redecorate my room any way I want. We'll have it done by Christmas!

Tell me what has been happening in your life. I have waited and waited for a letter, but
nothing comes. Mother writes to me, but she never really mentions you. What it wrong? Are you still mad at me? Daniel, I hope you aren't because I couldn't bear it. You are more important to me than anyone else.

I went on a field trip to New York City last week. It was exciting and I got to see the
Statue of Liberty. She's French, like us, you know. And very beautiful. It was awe-inspiring. I
took a ton of pictures of everything! I can't wait to show them to you!

Melissa set aside the letter, thinking about how odd it was that she really didn't have all that much to say to her brother. He never wrote to her, so she couldn't have a conversation with him. She didn't know what he was doing or how he was. Sighing, she picked up her pen again and signed her name to the letter.

Mother, Dec. 1, 20**

Thank you, Mother, for sending me Uncle Nick and Aunt Janette's address and phone
number. I wrote to them and they want me to come visit them for Christmas. I hope you don't mind, but Daddy Henri says it's OK with him if I go.

How is Father? I miss him a lot. Does he miss me?

I cried when you wrote me about Ginger. She was a good horse. I have one here, too.
His name is White Knight. I call him Whitey. I like him a lot, but he's not the same as Ginger.

Mother, please tell me why Daniel never writes to me. I write to him as much as I can,
but he never answers any of my letters. Has he received them? Does he read them? Is he still angry with me, Mother? Please tell him that I love him.

Did you get the pictures I sent you of me and Elena? Doesn't she look like Daddy Henri?
She asks about you all the time. I've told her some things,, but not *everything,* of course. I don't think she would understand about our family, do you? She would like to come for a visit someday.

Maybe this summer, if Daddy Henri says yes and Father doesn't object, of course.

I'm getting good grades in most of my classes, Mother. You would be proud. I really like
college, and I think I've decided on a major now. Or, at least... I have it narrowed down to two choices. I'll let you know what I decide on.

Gotta go now. I love you. Give my love to every one!

Love always,
Melissa

Part III

Fleurette turned to LaCroix, tears in her eyes. "She doesn't want to come home for Christmas vacation, Lucien," she sobbed.

LaCroix took the letter from her, scanning it quickly with his eyes. He seemed unaffected by the news when he said, "What's the sense in it? We don't celebrate Christmas anyway."

"That's not the point! She doesn't want to come *home!*" Fleurette all but shouted at him. She began to cry harder. Didn't he see that their little girl was growing up and didn't need them anymore?

Sighing, LaCroix set the letter aside, pulling Fleurette into his arms. "Shhh..." he whispered. "She'll be back, my dear."

"I miss her," Fleurette admitted, her voice muffled against his crest.

"Of course... so do I," said LaCroix just before he kissed her.

The kiss lasted until Fleurette had forgotten about being upset. When their lips parted and LaCroix finally let go of her, she was no longer crying.

"I think, ma petite, that you have been worrying over you children a bit too much. Perhaps a few days to ourselves would do you some good," LaCroix suggested, his voice low and enticing.

"Do you really think so?" Fleurette asked. The offer sounded wonderful. LaCroix nodded, taking her hand and leading her into their bedroom.

"We'll leave the day after tomorrow..."

Part IV

Daniel stood beside his father after the servants had been dismissed.
"Why are you leaving?" Daniel asked. He had been sulking ever since LaCroix informed the household of his vacation plans.

"As I said before, my son, your mother needs some time away from the house. This will be an opportunity for her to relax," was LaCroix's response.

"Time away from me?" Daniel asked, studying his father. Their eyes met and LaCroix held his gaze for several seconds before giving the boy an answer.

"No, Daniel. It is your sister who is troubling Fleurette." LaCroix sighed. "Melissa is spending her Winter Break with your Uncle Nicholas in San Francisco. We won't be seeing her until summer."

At the news, Daniel was silent. "Why does she hate me?" he asked quietly.

"She doesn't hate you, my son. Melissa is just... " LaCroix himself had trouble understanding Melissa's actions at times. She reminded him too much of his Nicholas-- headstrong and independent. "... indulging in her freedom. She'll always come back to us, Daniel. We're her family."

Daniel said nothing, but looked skeptical. "When will you be back?" he asked, changing the subject.

"A week... maybe two," replied LaCroix. "I want you to behave for Natalie, Daniel. She is the head of this household when I am gone. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Father."

"Good." LaCroix studied his son. Martin and Jean Claude were right. The boy had led a sheltered life. This was why he'd invited Vachon and his fledgling to stay at the mansion while they were away. The Spaniard would make good company for Daniel... provided he didn't drag Daniel into too much trouble. "I've arranged for you to have a bit of company while we're away..."

*****

Fleurette looked around the cabin with a look of delight on her face. LaCroix had taken her to his private cabin in the Alps, promising her a week of privacy, relaxation, and midnight skiing. It was a one-room cabin. The kitchen and bedroom were set aside in cozy alcoves in two of the corners, and, of course, there was a bathroom.

What dominated the room, however, was a huge, romantic fire place.

LaCroix took her hand and led her to the overstuffed couch in front of the fireplace.

"What are you doing? Lucien, we have to unpack!" Fleurette protested.

"No... we don't," was his reply as he held her wrist to his lips, kissing sensuously.

"But..." Fleurette felt her will power crumbling beneath his lips. She moaned softly was his fangs punctured the thin layer of skin at her wrists. When at last he raised his head and let the wrist drop, she melted into his embrace.

"Oh, Lucien..." she whispered as his lips found hers.

(back at the mansion)

Natalie stood on her balcony, gazing out at the stars. She was thinking of Martin... and Nick. It had been eighteen years since she and Nick had gone their separate ways, but she still could not put him from her mind. She still cared for him, although she knew it was Martin that she really loved. Martin had asked her yet again to come to London to be with him. Since his master's death, he'd taken on more responsibility within the Enforcers, and now they had little time to be together. The last few times Jean Claude had come to check up on Daniel, Martin had not come. She missed him, and now she began to wonder if she should go to London. If only she knew what...

Natalie's thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of angry voices coming from the garden below her. As she listened more closely, she clearly recognized Angele and Marius. She thought it strange that they should be arguing. The couple was usually disgustingly lovey-dovey.

"I'm going and that's final!" Marius's voice was loud in the night. Nat could distinguish a hint of anger.

"I want you to stay here tonight, Marius. You've spent too much time in town."

"I'm the director! I *have* to be there!" Marius shouted back at his master.

"I'm your master. You'll do as I--" Angele's voice was cut off. Then, Nat heard her shout out, "Marius! Marius, come back!"

"What was that all about?" a voice behind Nat asked. She whirled to see Jean Claude, framed by Vachon and Tracy, standing behind her. Jean Claude grinned at her briefly before a frown clouded his golden good looks.

"Why are they fighting, Nat?" he asked.

Nat shook her head. "I don't know. Ever since Marius started directing that play he wrote... " she sighed. "I don't think they've spent a whole lot of time together, Jean Claude."

Jean Claude's frown darkened. "Angele normally doesn't mind Marius when he's creating. Of course, she's usually the star of his productions." He looked at Nat inquiringly. "She *is* the lead, isn't she?"

Nat shook her head. "Angele's been here with me and Fleurette most of the time."

"Maybe you should go talk to her, Johnny. Might cheer her up," Vachon suggested.

Jean Claude shrugged. "It couldn't hurt," he said as he left them to join Angele in the garden.

Nat stepped forward, giving Tracy a big hug. "You're looking good," she said, smiling at her friend.

Tracy smiled back. "We live well. Not like this..." she commented, gazing about her, her hands moving in a sweeping motion to indicate the luxury around them. "but well enough."

Nat chuckled softly. "LaCroix likes his surroundings to be comfortable. I don't think he knows how to live simply. I'll show you both to your room, if you'd like?" she suggested. Vachon nodded, indicating that would be fine. "So, how long are you here for?" Nat asked as she led them through the maze she had come to call home over the past eighteen years.

Part V

Entering the garden, Jean Claude was reminded of another time when he'd come across Angele crying in a garden. It had been nearly five hundred years ago...

***Flaskback***

"Angele?" Jean Claude asked gently as he approached her. "Why won't you talk to me?"

The question was so touching that Angele turned to him, staring at him with eye red from
tears. "Go away, Jean Claude. Go home!" she told him, still sobbing.

"I am home, cherie," he replied. "Where ever you are, there is my home. I know now that I cannot live without you."

His response made Angele cry all the harder.

"Angele... mon amour?" another voice came from behind them. They both turned to see a man entering the garden behind them. He moved swiftly to Angele's side. "You're crying, mon coeur. Pourquoi?"

Jean Claude watched as the stranger took Angele into his arms. She snuggled into his embrace as if she belonged there and they kissed. Jean Claude recognized the other man to be the vampire from the acting troop in town. His eyes narrowed as a thought came to him. Angele was involved with this youngster. And youngster he was-- this one couldn't even be a century old. "Angele?" he queried fearfully. He didn't really want to hear the truth.
He wanted her to tell him that she still loved him and that she would take him back.

Angele spoke at last, but not to Jean Claude. "Marius, mon amour, please leave me for a while. I must speak to him alone."

Marius released her and took a hesitant step away from her. "Je t'aime," he said as he left.

"You replaced me," commented Jean Claude, "with a common street performer?"

"I'm afraid it's worse than that."

"You can't really be in love with him, can you?" When she nodded, Jean Claude could hardly believe it. "You told me... Angele! You said in your letter..." he looked crushed. "that you still loved me and you'd wait for me!"

"I'm sorry, Jean Claude. I truly am, but I have very deep feelings for Marius."

"He's so young," Jean Claude almost sneered. "How can you bear to stay with someone so young."

Angele was silent. She rose from her bench and came to face Jean Claude. "He is my son, Jean Claude. I fell in love with him the moment I met him and I knew I was to be with him forever. He is devoted to me and I to him. That is the way it shall always be." So saying, she turned and flew from the garden, leaving Jean Claude alone.

*** End Flashback ***

"Angele?" Jean Claude said softly as he approached her. She looked up at him, tears streaming from her eyes. Jean Claude smiled at the irony of this happening two to them in one life time. "Are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?"

"There's nothing to talk about, Jean Claude."

"I think there is. Everyone heard your argument. What's going on?" He sat down beside her and instinctually put his arm around her. "Come on... you can tell me. I told you about Marie, didn't I?"

Angele sighed. "I didn't even know he was writing this play. He never told me about it, either. I found out because I just happened to go into town one night and passed by the play house where he was having rehearsals."

"You used to enjoy his plays. You were always the lead," he commented. "Why aren't you playing the lead, cherie?"

Angele studied him for a while, silent and forlorn. At last, she said, "It's this new play of his, Jean Claude. Marius is never home and when he is here, he thinks of nothing else but his precious play." Her voice was bitter.

Jean Claude's brow wrinkled in confusion. "That doesn't sound like Marius." A thought came into his head, a thought he didn't want to be thinking. Could it be possible that Marius...? No. It couldn't be. Marius wouldn't cheat on Angele... would he?

*****

Marius smiled at the woman who approached him after rehearsal. "Yes, Anna, can I help you with something?" he asked, silently thinking how attractive the mortal woman was.

"I thought... maybe we could..." she looked up at him with a look that was definitely not innocent. Marius felt desire leap into his heart. They┬┤d been playing this game for several weeks now... flirting casually with one another. "Work on our scene a little more, " she said, a flirtatious smile playing across her lips. "I don't feel right about it yet."

"Of course we can!" Marius took her by the arm and led her to the center of the empty stage. "Let's take it from the top of page twelve, shall we?"

Anna glanced briefly at the script in her hand, pretending to read it. "Oh, Marc!" she exclaimed, "I simply cannot decide between the two of you."

"Perhaps I can make the decision easier on you, Angelene, " said Marius, playing the role of Marc. He drew her into his arms and bent his head to kiss her.

Anna kissed him back, neither of them acting anymore. The script slipped from her hand as her arms wound around his neck.

"Bravo!" came a voice form behind them which shattered their scene and forced them apart. Marius whirled to see Jean Claude applauding them from the doorway. "Simply wonderful, Marius, as usual!"

Marius gaped at him in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

Jean Claude smiled wickedly. "I was just in town and thought I would stop in." He eyed Anna, taking note of her seductive appearance. His smile grew more evil as he turn to Marius. "I wonder if we can't have a private word, my friend?"

Marius excused himself and led Jean Claude back stage and into a dressing room. "What do you want?" he asked again.

Jean Claude's smile had faded away into a frown. "What are you thinking?" he hissed in return. "Is she worth it, Marius?"

"What!?"

"Is that little tart worth losing your wife? Or have you forgotten about Angele altogether?"

"Did Angele send you here?" Marius's eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"No. She doesn't know I'm here." Jean Claude replied. "Marius, what's going on?"

Marius was silent.

"Look... I know we really haven't been the best of friends, but ..."

"But you'd do anything to protect Angele, so you're asking?" Marius supplied when Jean Claude fell silent as
well.
"Exactly. Do you really want to hurt her, Marius?"

Marius sighed. "I don't really know what I want. Lately... I don't know... I've felt so... discontent. Alone. Anna makes me feel good about myself." He looked away from Jean Claude. "We haven't done anything... yet."

"Yet?" echoed Jean Claude. "What will it be, Marius? Will she be a quick snack, or a permanent addition to the family? And how do you think Angele will feel about all this?"

Marius looked away, unable to meet his eyes. "You have no right to judge me," he hissed before turning his back on Jean Claude.

Part VI

Daniel studied the older vampire before him. His father had not told him much about Vachon. Only that they had known each other in Toronto years before. Daniel's blue eyes narrowed slightly. Vachon was not like his father, despite being a vampire. He was younger than LaCroix. Daniel could tell this from the feeling he got from Vachon. He was also not as powerful or as experienced. And if dress was to any indication, this Vachon was not as
financially established as LaCroix either.

"So," he broke the silence between the two of them. "how do you know my family?"

"I was a friend of Jean Claude's... and of your mother." Vachon told him. "It was years ago, before you were born."

"You knew Father?"

"LaCroix? Yes, I knew him. I worked for him briefly."

"How? What did you do for him?"

Vachon felt uncomfortable under the gaze of the young man. "He owned a night club. I played in the band," he told Daniel. "Do you like music?" he asked, hoping to find a common ground with the boy.

Daniel shrugged. "Some. I don't often get the chance to hear new music. What instrument did you play?"

"The guitar."

"What other things did you do... before? My father was a Roman general." Daniel said it with a pride that surprised Vachon.

Vachon launched into an abbreviated version of his life story. Daniel listened with eager ears. When he was finished speaking, he said, "of course, I'm not as traveled as your father... but I consider it to have been a good life so far."

Daniel shrugged again. "Sounds interesting enough. Do you like horses?" he asked.

"Yeah, I like horses." Vachon thought briefly back to his childhood when he was crazy about learning to ride. "I suppose LaCroix has a huge stable?"

"Twelve horses," Daniel bragged.

"Do you race?" Vachon asked. He could see that the boy considered himself good with the noble animals. Here was a way to befriend the young man.

Daniel indicated that Vachon should follow him.

"They're beautiful horses," commented as he ran his hand along the flank of an Arabian gelding. "I think, however, that a race may not be such a good idea. It *is* December, after all."

"I hadn't thought of that," said Daniel. "The cold rarely bothers me now. I guess it wouldn't be right to take them out in this weather."

Vachon studied the young man for awhile. While not entirely mortal, he still wasn't quite all vampire, either. Vachon couldn't sense him, as he could other vampires, without being in front of him. Daniel's heart beat much like a mortal's would, except at a slightly slower rate. Wondering, Vachon asked, "Did it bother you before-- the cold, I mean?"

Being used to people asking questions, Daniel shrugged. "When I was younger such things used to bother me. Now..." he paused, looking thoughtfully back at the mansion. "I've changed. The temperature doesn't bother me. I don't catch colds, and my vampiric powers are more pronounced."

"They weren't before?" Vachon asked. Daniel shot him a curious look, as if to say "why do you care?" He blinked and said non-committally, "I'm curious, that's all."

"No, there were always things that I couldn't do. I couldn't fly until I was ten. I can't communicate through a bond unless it's with Father. And I've never been able to hypnotize people." He laughed ruefully. "I've tried, really I have."

Daniel fell silent, leaving Vachon to digest his words. The silence quickly became awkward. "So," he asked suddenly, "what do *you* do for fun and excitement?"

Vachon smiled. "How often do you get to town?"

Shaking his head, Daniel replied, "not often. Why?"

"Well..." said Vachon, "it just so happens that there is a concert being held in town tonight, and my band is going to be the opening act. I don't suppose you'd like to come?"

Daniel hesitated. "I don't know... I'm not sure if Father would approve, and I *know* Mother wouldn't."

"Ah, but they're not in charge right now," reminded Vachon. "Natalie is... and I know she'll say yes. Whatta you say?"

Vachon's infectious grin spread to Daniel's face in a matter of seconds. "Yeah... I'd like that..."

Daniel tapped Vachon on the shoulder. Raising his voice above the loud music and screaming fans, he said,

"Look! There's Jean Claude!"

Vachon turned to see Jean Claude leaning against the bar, trying to look like he was having a good time. He looked miserable. They approached him.

"Oh, hey... I didn't know you were here," Jean Claude said to Daniel when he saw him. "Nice show, V," was the comment he threw at Vachon.

"Funny... you don't look like you enjoyed it very much," Vachon retorted. He ordered a glass of bloodwine and indicated that the bartender should give Daniel a non-alcoholic version of the same drink. The vampire behind the bar studied Daniel for several minutes before nodding and fixing him a drink.

Daniel ignored the strange look the bartender gave him. "What's got you so down, Jean Claude?" he asked. "Is it about Cousin Angele and Marius?"

"How did you know?" Jean Claude asked with a rueful smile.

Daniel shrugged. "They were fighting again tonight. It's hard not to notice sometimes."

"What happened?" Vachon asked.

"After I spoke to Angele, I went and saw Marius at the playhouse. He was with a woman... a mortal." Jean Claude sighed. "He seemed smitten with her. I think he's about to cheat on Angele."

"I hope not..." Daniel commented.

It was then that Jean Claude realized that it was Daniel with Vachon. Really noticed it. He watched the young man for several minutes. Daniel seemed alive with the music and excitement of the club. "You've... never been off the estate, have you, Daniel?" he asked.

"No sir..." was the reply.

Vachon and Jean Claude exchanged glances. "Can you dance?" Vachon asked.

"No sir..." Daniel replied again. "but it looks easy enough."

"It does, doesn't it?" Jean Claude commented. His attention was caught by a young woman who had been watching Daniel shyly from a feet away. Tapping Daniel's shoulder, he casually pointed her out. "Why don't you go ask her to dance?"

"I don't know if I could..." Daniel protested.

"Sure you can!" Vachon told him. Both the older vampires pushed Daniel towards the girl.

Standing before her, Daniel glanced back at them in uncertainty. They waved him on. Turning back to the girl, his eyes met hers and he smiled shyly. "My... my friends told me to... come over here," he said.

From the bar, Jean Claude and Vachon groaned. "He'll mess it up!' Vachon complained.
'Shhh..." Jean Claude told him as they listened.

"I've never been to a place like this before," Daniel continued, oblivious of the eavesdroppers.

"Neither have I," the young woman told him. "I came here with my friend Carrie, but I don't know where she is now. I'm Annie," she supplied.

"I'm Daniel. W-would you like to dance? It... would make the time go quicker while you're waiting for your friend."

"Sure," Annie said as they both stepped hesitantly onto the dance floor.

"There," Jean Claude said to Vachon, " I knew he wouldn't screw it up."

Part VII

Angele laughed. "I can't believe you worked with Nick all that time and never knew he was a vampire!"

Tracy grimaced slightly at the embarrassing memory. "He hid it well," she said defensively.

"But even after you knew Vachon... you still couldn't tell?" Angele persisted. "The similarities alone should have been some clue."

Tracy shrugged. "I guess I didn't see it in Nick, or maybe I didn't want to." Tracy turned to Nat, who'd been listening quietly for several minutes now. "Do you hear much from Nick, Nat?" she asked.

"No... we don't. *I* don't. He's got a new life with Janette, so he doesn't bother us much," Nat told her.

"Janette?" Tracy puzzled. "Isn't she the one who...?"

Nat smiled, nodding to Tracy. "You never really met Janette. She came back once, claiming to be Nick's sister. The one involved with that murder. Nick covered for her... so did I."

"So did I, in a way..." Tracy commented. "I covered for Nick. I *should* have told someone that he knew her."

Nat smiled, remembering. "Janette is Angele's mother, Tracy."

Tracy turned back to Angele, "Your master?" she asked.

Angele nodded. "*And* my mother, as well. She gave birth to me when she was very young, but we were separated before I was even an hour old. We met again by accident after she had been brought across. She saved my life by allowing me to join her in this life."

"Oh," said Tracy. "It sounds complicated."

"It is..." Angele admitted with a smile. "but no more so than Nick's relationship with Jean Claude. They're the same way."

"They *are*?" Tracy was incredulous.

"Nick was a Crusader, Tracy," Nat said, taking over for Angele. "He had a one night stand with a bar maid and Jean Claude was the result. It gets kind of complicated after that."

"It sounds it!" Tracy was about to say something to Angele when she stopped short. "What's wrong?" she whispered to Nat.

Angele had suddenly grown quiet, withdrawing from them and huddling into her chair like a small child. Her face was even more pale than usual and her face was drawn in pain.

"Angele?" Natalie reached out to touch her. What's the matter, Angele?"

Angele looked up at them. Tears flooded her eyes. "M-Marius..." she choked out as a heart-wrenching sob escaped her lips.

*****

Marius gazed down at the figure asleep on the bed. Her body was perfection, except for the blood which trickled from the puncture marks in her neck. He smiled slightly, remembering the passionate love-making that led up to that bite and the warmth of her blood as it flowed through him. It had been filled with such adoration and infatuation... but not love.

Listening carefully, Marius concentrated on Anna's heart. It beat still, with only the slightest murmuring which was the only internal evidence of his bite. He'd hypnotized her, erasing the memory of both the bite *and* the love-making. When Anna awoke in her own bed, she'd never remember he had been there. That, of course, was for the best. There would, he'd realized when he tasted her, never be anything between them. What had happened
tonight had been little more than an experiment in lust.

Without a backwards glance, Marius flew from Anna's apartment. He didn't go home. The sky was growing lighter, and there would be no time for him to even fly back to the mansion. His best bet was to spend the night at the playhouse.

When Marius had secured all of the doors and windows in his dressing room, he threw himself onto the couch. He was exhausted, mentally and physically. When he'd made-love to Anna, he knew Angele had been aware of him through their link. He'd felt her heart breaking as he climaxed and sank his fangs into Anna's neck. After that, however, their link had vanished. He couldn't feel her, as he'd always been able to do when they were apart.

Angele... he thought forlornly. He loved her still, and yet, the magic was gone from their relationship. Left in its place was an emptiness and a longing for something he could not grasp. Fighting off confusion and loneliness, Marius drew a blanket over his head and slipped into a restless sleep.

*****

Jean Claude ushered Vachon and Daniel into the mansion just as the sun was coming up. Angele stood in the foyer just beyond the door. "Is Marius with you?" she asked of them.

The three men exchanged looks. "No, Angele, he's not," Jean Claude told her. "He's not home yet?"

Angele shook her head sadly. "He cheated on me tonight. I felt it." She studied them for a while. "You're all out late," she commented.

Jean Claude threw a playful punch at Vachon. "See! I told you someone would notice." He smiled as he said to Angele, "Vachon brought the car, so we had to drive it home."

Vachon and Daniel eventually excused themselves and retired to their own rooms, leaving Angele and Jean Claude alone. They stood facing each other awkwardly.

"Did you see him, Jean Claude. I know that's what you went into town for," Angele demanded of him.

Jean Claude nodded. "I saw him with a mortal woman. She was good looking, but nothing compared to you."

"Then...." Angele met his eyes with her own. He could see the tears there waiting to be shed. "why did he do it?" her question broke the dam which held in her tears and she crumbled into his arms.

It was night fall when Marius finally returned to the mansion. Slipping into the bedroom he shared with Angele, he was surprised to find her in bed with Jean Claude. More surprising was the fact that they had not made love. They were both still fully clothed-- Jean Claude lying on top of the blankets, cradling Angele who lay beneath the covers.

They both awoke at his arrival. Jean Claude looked from Marius to Angele, and without saying a word, rose and left the bedroom.

Marius lowered his eyes, unable to meet Angele's silently demanding gaze. "Angele... I... I'm sorry about last night," he stammered. "I don't know what possessed me."

"Neither do I," she said in a whisper. "I loved you."

"I know... I loved you, too."

"It's over between us now," Angele stated.

This statement forced Marius to look at her. Their eyes met and held each other for several long minutes.

Though they spoke no words aloud, their minds and souls touched one another, speaking volumes of emotions. At last, they seemed to come to an understanding.

Marius sighed. "I will always care about you, Angele," he said as he began to pull his clothes from the closet.

"Where will you go now? " she asked.

"I don't know. I'm not prepared for this," he admitted.

"I'll have Natalie find you another room."

"You don't mind me staying here?" Marius was surprised.

"You're still family, Marius. That doesn't change because we are no longer lovers."

"Thank you..."

Part VIII

Fleurette sat staring out at the beautiful whiteness of the snow. A full moon shone down upon it, causing each particle of frozen water to sparkle like the stars. Thinking back to her childhood and the countless hours she and Jean Claude used to spent frolicking in the snow, she let out a deep sigh. Those had been happier times, times when Jean Claude's depression had not been so noticeable.

"My dear, is something troubling you?"

Fleurette turned to find LaCroix behind her, wearing a concerned look upon his face. "I don't know... something feels wrong, Lucien. Terribly, terribly wrong." She looked up at him, seeking an answer. "Can you feel something wrong with Daniel?" she asked.

"No, ma petite. Daniel seems fine. I've sensed nothing from him."

"Then I wonder what it is that I feel... Lucien, I know you wanted this to be our time alone, but may I please call home? I feel something has happened... something sad," Fleurette implored.

LaCroix had never been able to look into her beautiful eyes and say no to her. "Very well, my dear. Call if it will ease your mind."

Fleurette fussed nervously as the phone rang for the third time. Why was no one answering? She wondered.

"Insane asylum. Head nut speaking," came a bright and cheerful voice when at last the ringing stopped.

Fleurette laughed, a smile spreading across her face. "Oh, Javi, it's you!"

"Fleurette?" Vachon's voice brightened even more. "Hey! It's great to hear from you! How are you? What can I do you out of?"

Fleurette laughed some more, then sobered a bit when she remembered why she had called. "Javi... is every thing okay there? I've had the most awful feeling lately. Is Jean Claude okay?"

"Jean Claude? yeah, he's fine... we're all--"

"You're all what, Javi? What is it?"

"Oh, Fleurette... you felt it through your bond with Jean Claude, didn't you?"

"Felt what? Javi... I only felt so incredibly sad. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. What has
happened?"

"Marius cheated on Angele... with a mortal..." Vachon told her.

"Oh! Javi! How terrible!" she exclaimed.

"It was. Angele was very upset. Jean Claude has been there for her... but things are very strained."

Fleurette looked to the couch where LaCroix pretended not to be listening. She knew he could hear every
word. "Where is Marius now? Did he leave the mansion?"

"No. He's only moved to a different section of the place. Angele wouldn't hear of him leaving."

"Because he was family..." as she said the words, Fleurette fell silent.

LaCroix rose from the couch. Approaching her, he held out his hand for the phone, and she handed it to
him.

"Javier," he said in a commanding voice.

"I should have known you'd take over," Vachon commented. "You need something?"

"I merely wish to know how Angele is fairing. Is she well?"

"She's holding up, sir."

Vachon's answer pleased LaCroix. "Very well. Inform the family that we'll be home shortly."

"How shortly?" Vachon asked.

"As shortly as I please, Javier. Your concern is that you do as I say and not worry about what I do." With
that, LaCroix hung up the phone.

"Poor Angele!" Fleurette sighed as LaCroix sat with her on the couch.

"She is a strong woman, my dear. She will be fine." He drew an arm around her. "Still... I think it best to
return home soon. In a day or two."

"What will we do until then?" Fleurette asked as she snuggled into his embrace.

"Whatever we please," LaCroix whispered in his most sexy voice as his lips sought hers.

*****

Vachon stared at the phone in his hand in utter disbelief. He'd forgotten just how arrogant and demanding
LaCroix could be. Shrugging it off, he went in search of Natalie.

He found her in the library, staring wistfully at a picture of Martin Cross. "You miss him, don't you?"
Vachon asked her.

Nat looked up, surprised to see Vachon. "Yes... I do. I miss him a lot, Vachon." she admitted as she set
the picture aside.

"Then why don't you go to London and be with him? You'd be happier."

Nat sighed. She's been debating that very thing just before Vachon joined her. "I don't know. I used to tell
myself that I was staying here to help Fleurette with the children."

"The children are grown up now," said Vachon.

"I know. That wasn't really the reason, I suppose. I was scared, that's all."

"Scared? Of what?" Vachon sat down in a chair beside her.

"Falling in love again... getting hurt again."

"You still don't trust Martin after all these years?"

A tear slide down Nat's cheek. "Look what happened to Angele and Marius... what they had seemed so
perfect and now..." she sniffed, wiping away yet another tear.

"What happened to them shook you, but don't let it ruin what you and Martin have. Natalie, I've been a
friend of Jean Claude's for many years. Since he's been an Enforcer, I've come to know Martin. He is a good man. He loves you, any one can see it. He won't hurt you the way Nick did... or the Marius hurt Angele. You have to believe that."

"He's asked me to move to London," she told him.

"To live with him?"

She shook her head. "No. He says he's found a house that would be perfect for me. He sent a picture of it
in his last letter." She handed Vachon an envelope.

Inside was the letter Martin had written and a photograph. Vachon took the photo out of the envelope and
looked it over.

"It's lovely," he commented.

"And it even sounds perfect from his description of it." She retrieved the letter and read Vachon a snippet of
what Martin had written.

"You want to go, don't you?"

Nat looked at him in surprise. "Why... yes, I do. How did you know, Vachon?"

"I heard it in you voice when you read the description to me just now. Natalie, if it's what you want, then do
it."

"You don't think LaCroix will mind?" she asked.

"I don't know. He seems like he's mellowed a bit since the days when he chased Nick around the world.
And your situation isn't the same as that... he *should* have no problem with it." Vachon paused, mulling over what he knew of LaCroix. "Better to discuss it with him when he gets back."

"He didn't say when he was coming back, Vachon."

"Well..." Vachon smiled sheepishly at her. "Actually, that's what I came in here to tell you. Fleurette called
because she was worried about the family. I told them about Angele and Marius."

"And?"

"And LaCroix said they would be returning shortly. That's just how he put it, too... shortly."

Nat laughed lightly. "Sounds like him. Never one to divulge his plans to anyone." Nat rose from her chair.
If they were coming home soon, she had to make sure things were ready for them. Then she could speak with
LaCroix abut her problem. "Thank you, Vachon. You've been a big help to me."

Vachon shrugged. "I figure I owe you a few..."

Part IX

LaCroix stood silently in the train station as he waited for the train to arrive-- the train that was carrying his
daughter back home to him. The months between her departure at the end of August and March had flown by so
quickly. LaCroix slid his hand into his jacket and pulled out a piece of paper. It was the letter Melissa had written
informing them of her plans to return home for Spring Break. He'd sent her the money for airfare from Virginia to
Paris. He'd have brought her all the way by plane, but she insisted on traveling the rest of the way by train. She was bringing a friend along-- a young girl named Cameron--and wanted to give her a scenic tour of France.
Having a mortal in the house again-- one who wasn't family-- posed a problem for LaCroix and his
household. To please Melissa, however, they all agreed on an elaborate explanation of their "sun allergy."

LaCroix chuckled as his mind formed that phrase. Nicholas had used the "sun allergy" excuse in Toronto when he was on the police force. LaCroix had to admit that he missed Nicholas... and even Toronto... a little bit.
Unfolding the letter, he re-read it lovingly. It was hard to believe that he could love Melissa as much as he
did. His love for her was surpassed only by Daniel's devotion to her. Daniel. The boy-- young man, actually-- had
taken it hard when his sister left. Her homecoming would be hard on him. She'd changed since going to college.
LaCroix could see that from her letters alone. Daniel would not know how to handle that change.

A voice came over the intercom, announcing the arrival of the train LaCroix had been waiting for. He went
outside where she could see him when she stepped off the train.

"Daddy!" Melissa squealed when she saw him. She rushed to him, throwing her arms around him. LaCroix
held his daughter to him tightly. Briefly, his mind wandered to Divia. He remembered how much of her childhood he had missed and how much he would have loved to hear her call him 'Daddy.' A young woman stepped timidly closer as LaCroix released his daughter. "Daddy, this is my friend, Cameron Lazarus. Cami... this is my father." Melissa turned to LaCroix. "Cami's already met Daddy Henri."

LaCroix smiled faintly at the appellate Melissa used for her mother's first husband. Daniel had long since
ceased to acknowledge a relationship with Henri. "Miss Lazarus... I'm most delighted to meet any friend of my
daughter's."

"It's nice meeting you, too," Cameron Lazarus said with a slight smile.

"Shall we be on our way, ladies?" LaCroix asked, offering his arm to Melissa.

Cameron shot a backwards glance at their luggage. "What about our stuff?" she asked.

"You need not worry," said LaCroix, "Armand will see to your things."

"Armand?" Cami asked Melissa.

"He's a guy who works for my father," Melissa said with a shrug. "He's nice. All the servants are nice."

*****

"What happened to Mlle. DeMarte?" Melissa asked Natalie as they enter her old bedroom.

"She's still here," said Nat. "She's just on vacation. Her cousin in Toulouse in getting married this weekend.
Your father gave her a month off."

Melissa smiled. "I'm sure she deserved it after putting up with all of us for so long!"

Nat smiled back at her. "There have been some changed since you've been gone, Melissa. Daniel moved
into your mother's old bedroom."

"Why?" Melissa asked.

"Your father felt he needed more privacy now... and the room is bigger. You'll have to stay in your old
room for now, but by this summer we plan to have new rooms done up for you." Melissa nodded. "Your friend here," Nat nodded to Cameron, "can stay in Daniel's old room."

"Oh, look! Armand already brought our things up!" Melissa exclaimed.

Nat nodded. "He had other things to attend to, so he made sure your suitcases got brought up immediately.
Speaking of suit cases... I have a lot of packing to do myself, so I should leave you two now. "

"You really are leaving, Nat?" Melissa asked.

"Yes, honey, I am. I love Martin and I want to be closer to him."

"You'll be happy there, right?" Melissa asked. When Nat nodded, her eyes sparkling with joy already,

Melissa smiled. "Make sure you write to me every once in a while, ok?"

"I will, Melissa, and you have to write to me, too." Nat gave her a quick hug and then left.

*****

After they had unpacked, Melissa took Cameron on a tour of the mansion and the grounds. The sun had
come up since then and the rest of the house was asleep. Cameron kept thinking how odd that was, but didn't want to say anything about it. Melissa seemed so used to it that it was obvious the whole thing was natural for her.

They went to the stables, where Melissa showed her the horses and told her about Ginger.

"Can we ride them?" Cameron asked.

"Sure... I don't see why not," Melissa said. She saddled two of the horses. "You *have* ridden before,
right?"

Cameron nodded as she mounted one of the horses.

After a while, they went in for lunch. Cameron was still amazed that no one was up and about except them.

"Mel... " she began, "does your family seem... well, odd to you?"

Melissa's mouth popped open and she shut it quickly. "No... why do you ask?"

"Well... it's just that... it's in the middle of the day and no one is awake. Just us. That doesn't strike you as
odd?"

Melissa shook her head. "No, it doesn't. I guess I'm just used to it."

"Well, why is it anyway?" Cameron asked.

"They've just always been night people," Melissa said with a shrug.

As the day wore on, however, Melissa herself began to feel uneasy. It wasn't her family that bothered her,
however, it was Daniel. She hadn't seen him yet, a and she wondered why. He hadn't been there when the rest of the family greeted them. She suspected that he was still angry with her for leaving. At night fall, she timidly approached his room, Cameron following behind her.

"Daniel..." she called out. "Are you awake yet?"

At first there was silence, then Daniel replied, "I'm up. Come on in."

They entered, Cameron hanging back in the doorway.

Daniel sat at a large oak desk, typing away at a computer keyboard. His face was lit up from the glow of the
screen. He turned to them when they entered. "That's your friend?" He asked Melissa.

"Her name's Cameron. Cami, you *can* come in, too, you know."

"She certainly may. I don't bite strangers," quipped Daniel with a brief smile.

"Cami's not usually this shy... but she thinks that our family is odd," Melissa added.

"Well, aren't we?" Daniel asked his sister, his smile broadening slightly as he teased her. "Don't worry,
Cami... we may be a bit odd, but we're harmless for the most part."

"What are you doing, Daniel?" Melissa asked as she peered over his shoulder at the computer screen. Cami
had finally entered the room and stood at her side, also gazing intently at the computer.

Daniel shrugged. "Father thought it was a bit unfair that you could go away to college and I could not. He
bought me this computer and had it hooked up tot he Internet. I attend college this way."

"How?" Cami asked.

Daniel paused. He hadn't heard her speak before. He liked her voice. "I cam e-mail my professors with my
homework every day. Once a week, my class meets on-line... in a chatroom... where I am allowed to interact with
everyone and join in the discussions. I find it stimulating."

"What are you taking up?" Melissa asked. She'd known her brother to have had a wide array of interests,
and was curious as to what he would choose as a major.

"I haven't really decided yet. Right now, I'm only taking Gen Ed." He turned back to the computer screen.
After reading what had been said, he typed a few sentences. "I'm almost finished here,' he said during another pause.

"What are your plans for this evening?"

Melissa shrugged, finding herself at loss as both Cami and Daniel waited for answer.

"You must have something planned for your friend's first night here, don't you?" Daniel persisted as his
fingers flew over the keyboard.

"I hadn't thought about it really," Melissa admitted.

Daniel smiled. "I know of a place in town. A dance club. Would you like to go?"

Melissa hesitated.

"Oh, come on! It'll be fun!" Daniel urged. "What about you, Cami? Doesn't it sound fun to you?"

"I guess... " Cami said. She was watching Melissa, who had gone silent.

"Does this mean you're not angry with me anymore?" She asked her brother.

"No, I'm not angry with you. I was wrong, Melissa. You have a right to a life of your own. I just couldn't
see that at the time. I can, now."

"What made you change your mind?" Melissa asked.

"I just saw that there was more out there than this. You had a right to see a future away from the family. I
feel stupid now for being so hateful to you. Can you ever forgive me?" he asked.

"I do. I have already... Daniel, I thought you hated me. I'm so glad you don't!" Melissa exclaimed as she
hugged her brother.

"Welcome home..." Daniel whispered as he held her.

"So... are we on for tonight or what?" Daniel asked, referring to the club.

Melissa exchanged glances with Cami and an understanding passed between them. "Sure!"

Daniel went back to his typing, and eventually signed off and left the chatroom. "There... now that that's
over..."

"I have question..." Cami said suddenly.

"What is it?" Melissa asked.

"Daniel mentioned not being able to go away to college. Why is that? Why can't he attend regular classes?"
Cami asked them.

It was Daniel who spoke. "I have a really bad allergy... to the sun."

"The sun?" Cami echoed in disbelief.

"Yes. It's a recessive trait... that originated in a few small communities in Eastern Europe during the end of
the Middle Ages. It flourished for a while openly and then went dormant. For some unexplained reason, the trait is dominant in our family. There have been several cases of it in almost every generation for hundreds of years." Daniel could see he had Cami's attention. "That's why we're night people... because everyone, whether they had the allergy or not, has adapted to living life during the night."

"Wow! I didn't realize... it's genetic, you say? It's not catchy?" was Cami's response.

Daniel shook his head to reassure her. "Not in the least."

When Cami went to shower and change into something suitable for dancing, Melissa returned to her brother.

"That was a smooth lie you just told," she commented.

"Did she believe it?" Melissa nodded. "Good. That's the official story Father wants us to tell. Although,"
Daniel chuckled. "I didn't expect her to ask so soon. I figured it'd be at least another day."

"I hoped she wouldn't ask at all." Melissa admitted.

Part X

Melissa walked in the garden with her mother, talking and laughing.

"How does your friend like it here, Melissa?" Fleurette asked.

"She seems to like it a lot. I'm glad, because I was afraid things would go wrong if I brought her here,"
Melissa told her mother.

"Go wrong? because we are vampires...?" Fleurette asked her daughter gently.

Melissa nodded. "But she really seem to like it and nothing bad has happened."

"Why should it? We've all had years of experience being around mortals. We can control ourselves. You
know that."

"I still worried, maman."

Fleurette smiled gently. "Daniel has been so much happier since you've been home."

"I've been happy, too. I'm glad he doesn't hate me."

"Oh, Melissa... Daniel didn't know how to let go. He'd never had to say good-bye to you before."

Melissa reached out to hug her mother. "I've missed you, Mother," she said.

"And I've missed you... we all have."

Turning the corner, they found Daniel seated with Cameron by the fountain. They looked like a young
courting couple on the warm spring night. Daniel was holding her hand somewhat awkwardly and his smile was shy as they whispered to each other.

"How romantic..." Fleurette commented. "Perhaps we should leave them."

Melissa followed her mother, but was unable to take her eyes from Daniel and Cameron.

"Mother," she asked when they were back inside the mansion, "do you think it is a good idea for Cameron
and Daniel to be so close?"

Fleurette was at a loss. Daniel never spoke to her of his private life and she didn't know if he ever spoke to
LaCroix about it either. She wondered if he could handle the stronger emotions of love and passion. Could he
control himself if he came to desire her blood?

"Mother?" Melissa was alarmed by her mother's sudden silence.

"I don't know, my dear... I simply don't know..."

*****

Melissa sat on her brother's bed. He was at his computer, typing away to his professor. "You won't hurt
her, Daniel, will you?"

"Hurt who?" Daniel asked as he turned away from the computer to face her.

"Cameron! Mother and I saw the two of you in the garden yesterday. Promise me you won't hurt her!"

"Melissa! I would never hurt your friend. She's very nice. I like her... in fact, I... I think I might love her."
Daniel admitted.

"Oh, no! Daniel don't say that!"

"Why not? I thought you might be happy for me... for us."

"Daniel, what if you hurt her. What if she finds out what you are? What then?"

"I didn't think of that. I'll..." Daniel looked her straight in the eye, reading the worry etched on her face.
"I'll... " He wanted to say that he would end the relationship that was budding between them, but he couldn't bring
himself to say it. "I'll be careful, Melissa. I promise."

"Daniel, she's my best friend. I don't know what I would do without her."

"I won't hurt her, Melissa. Geez! You act like I'm some kind of monster! Trust me, will you?" The smile
that he gave her, an expression that Melissa knew to be rare in Daniel, warmed her heart and made it hard for her not to trust him.

"OK," she told him. "I will."

Later that night, Daniel sat in his room, brooding over his conversation with Melissa. He'd never felt this
way about any one, mortal or otherwise. Cameron was special. She was smart and funny, fun to be with. She
seemed to radiate warmth and light. When she smiled at him, he swore that the stars shone brighter. How could he give that up, even for his sister? How?

A knock came at his door, interrupting his thoughts. "Come in... " he called out.

Cameron entered, dressed for bed. "I just thought I'd come in and say good night. Will you be awake much
longer?"

Daniel smiled at her. "I'm a night owl, so I'll probably be up for a while yet. At least a few more hours,
anyway."

"Oh..." Cameron sat uninvited next to him upon the bed. "I was hoping we could talk." Her smile was
enticing.

"I'd like that..." Daniel said. what followed was a silence that was both familiar and uncomfortable at the
same time. "Cameron, I..." Daniel began. Before he could finish his sentence, her lips found his in a gentle kiss.

Taken by surprise, Daniel was unsure of what to do at first. Then Melissa's voice filled the back of his mind.
Daniel, she's my best friend. I don't know what I would without her. He pushed her away.

"Daniel?" Cameron questioned him softly.

"I think you should go," he told her, unable to look at her. He felt strange... like he'd never felt before.
"Now! Please!"

When she had left, Daniel sat, rocking back and forth upon the bed. He didn't know what had happened...
what he was feeling. When she'd kissed him, he'd suddenly been able to feel nothing except her heart beating. A strange perfume had scented the air around her. Lilacs... and honey. The smell of it had overwhelmed him. His body was shaking and he was suddenly hungry. Rising from the bed, he went to the kitchen to find something suitable to quench his inexplicable hunger.

After drinking his fill, he returned to his room. On a whim, he stopped to look in at Cameron. When he
opened the door, she awoke and looked up at him. She looked like she had been crying. The sight of it made his heart break.

Coming to her side, he said, "I'm sorry, Cami. I didn't mean to make you cry." She allowed him to hold her
in his arms.

"I... I like you a lot, Daniel. I guess I just assumed that you liked me, too."

"No... I do! I love you!" Impulsively, he kissed her.

*****

Melissa awoke to the sound of a horrible, blood-curdling scream coming from the room where Cameron
slept. Jumping up, she dashed into the room. There she saw Daniel, cradling Cameron in his arms. She was limp like a rag doll and there was blood everywhere.

Daniel looked at her, and he could see the hatred in her eyes. "Get Father!" he commanded her. Even
before she could turn to leave, however, LaCroix was there beside Daniel. Fleurette and Natalie were behind him in the doorway.

"W-what happened, Father?" Daniel asked, looking up at his father helplessly. "What have I done?"

LaCroix looked from the two figures on the bed to Melissa and then at Fleurette and Natalie. "Natalie...
how much your medical training do you remember?"

"A great deal. Wh--"

"Good. Come here and help me with the girl. Fleurette, take Melissa down to the library. I'll be down
later." LaCroix commanded his family.

Melissa paused in the doorway as her mother ushered her from the bedroom. "Will Cameron be all right,
Father?" she asked.

"Of course, my dear..." LaCroix told her, although his voice didn't contain much assurance.

*****

"I hate him," Melissa told her mother when they reached the library. Her voice was bitter. "I hate all
vampires."

"Melissa... you don't mean tha--"

"Yes! I do! I hate you all, and when I leave here, I'm never coming back. Ever!" Melissa threw herself
into a chair and curled into it as if to protect herself from an attack.

"Melissa..."

"No! I want a normal life. One without vampires and hunters and kidnappers who wish to study me! I hate
it here! I always have!"

"Melissa..." Fleurette reached out to comfort her and she jerked away, hate in her eyes.

"Don't touch me. I don't want you to touch me ever again."

They were still at a stand-off when Natalie arrived. Looking at them both, Nat was quick to assess the
situation.

"She's pretty upset, huh?" Nat asked Fleurette. Fleurette nodded. "Melissa... your friend is going to be
fine. Daniel didn't take all that much blood."

Melissa glared at her, but the black look flowed away when she saw the concern in Nat's eyes. "She looked
dead," she whispered.

"She wasn't. The wound is minor and will heal. She'll be weak tomorrow is all."

"What if she remembers what happened to her?" Melissa asked.

"She won't... LaCroix is taking care of that as we speak." Nat sat down beside the young woman. "She'll be
fine. You don't have to worry."

"Will she be able to travel soon?"

The question surprised Nat. "Why... yes, I suppose, but why would you want to?"

"We can't stay here. Spring Break is almost over anyway... and I don't think we should stay much longer."

Melissa's voice was indifferent, as if she hadn't said the real reason behind her wanting to leave. Nat picked
up on it immediately. Glancing to Fleurette, Nat said, "I'll talk to LaCroix and see what he thinks about it."

*****

Daniel stopped his sister as she walked out to the car that was waiting to take her and Cameron to the
airport.. Cameron stood waiting beside the car. She still looked pale, but was otherwise unhurt.

"Melissa... won't you look at me? Won't you even listen?" Daniel begged.

Melissa looked to her friend, thankful that she was too far away to hear. "No." she hissed in a whisper.
"You tried to kill my best friend. What makes you think I want to hear anything you have to say?"

"I didn't mean to."

"I'm supposed to believe you?" Melissa shot at him as she pushed pasted him and strode to the car.

Daniel watched the car drive away. Tears red with blood flowed down his cheeks silently. Unmoving, he
stood there for several minutes after the car had disappeared from sight. Silently he vowed never to let anyone touch his heart again. It would never break again so long as he could help it.

Part XI

Natalie looked around her, admiring the interior of the house Martin had found for her. It was everything
she expected it be and even a little bit more. Martin had said it was perfect, but he had been wrong. It wasn't just
perfect... it was *home*. Natalie had felt that as soon as she stepped inside. She was home.

Angele sauntered into the room from the hallway. "Have you seen the bedrooms yet, Natalie? They're
enormous and beautiful."

Angele smiled at Natalie, making her feel glad that she'd invited Angele to move in with her. Returning the
smile, Natalie followed Angele to inspect the bedrooms.

"Martin certainly outdid himself when he found this house," commented Natalie as she filled two coffee
mugs with blood and set them in the microwave to be warmed. Pausing before she pushed the START> button, she reflected upon the first time she'd seen Nick do the same thing. She smiled sheepishly as she remembered how much it had disgusted her to see him sipping from a steaming mug of steer blood.

Angele studied her quietly. "What was that smile all about?" she asked.

"Oh...I was just remembering my introduction to vampires." Nat sighed. "Never in a million years would I
have thought I would ever become one. Sometimes the irony of it all gets to me."

"Do you miss Nick much, Natalie?" Angele asked.

"Sometimes," Nat admitted. "I was too much in love with him to see that he would leave me. I never
thought he would." She laughed, a slight hint of bitterness in the sound. "I wonder how Janette can live with him,
knowing that he's likely to leave her at any time?"

"She's used to it... and besides, Mother is just as capable of leaving him first. It's the nature of their
relationship and always has been."

"Well, I don't understand it myself," Nat told Angele.

The microwave began to beep, telling them that their blood was now warm. Nat rose from her chair to
retrieve the mugs. As she did, she realized how comfortable the action was. It confirmed her first impression of this house. She was home here... in this house, and in London.

Later, after waking for the first night in her new life, Natalie walked into the spacious living room to find
Angele curled up in one of the plush chairs. She was holding a photo album and had been crying.

"Angele? Are you all right?" Nat asked her, coming swiftly to her side.

Angele looked up at Natalie, a slight smile forming on her lips. The smile was sad. "I was just
remembering," she said with a sigh.

"Remembering what?"

"The first time I visited London... with Marius." She pointedly closed the album that sat in her lap and set it
aside. "It was fun."

"Oh..." Nat wasn't sure this was a good time to mention Martin's invitation to dinner.

"The phone rang earlier, didn't it?" Angele asked suddenly, thus making it difficult for Natalie to avoid the
issue.

"Yes... it was Martin," she told Angele.

"What did he want... or was it private?" Angele asked.

"Oh, it wasn't so private. Martin and Jean Claude invited us to dinner at a restaurant that caters to our kind. I
came to ask if you would like to come."

Angele began to frown, shaking her head sadly. "No, Natalie. You go on ahead and have a good time with
you man. The two of you have spent so much time apart... I should not be in your way tonight."

When Martin and Jean Claude arrived later that night, Angele still had not changed her mind. Natalie was
worried. She sensed something was not right, but could not figure out what.

"Where's Angele?" Jean Claude asked, looking for her. "She *is* coming, isn't she?"

"I'm afraid not, Jean Claude," Nat said as Martin helped her with her coat. The act itself was necessary in
order to keep up appearances, but it always made Nat smile secretively. "She said she didn't want to be in the way."

Jean Claude's brow wrinkled. "Maybe I should stay behind, too? Perhaps I can talk to her... and see what is
wrong with her?"

"Oh, I wish you would! She's been acting so strangely just lately." Nat told him.

Jean Claude found Angele in her bedroom, sprawled out on the bed. When she saw him, she rolled over,
curling into a fetal position. "Go away, Jean Claude," she told him.

"I don't think so. What's wrong, Angele?"

"Nothing is wrong. I'm tired, that's all."

"Angele..." he persisted, sitting beside her on the bed. "I can tell that you're lying to me. I can hear it in
your voice. Please tell me what's wrong." When she didn't answer, he said, "Angele, we're all worried about you.
Nat especially."

"She needn't be."

"Well, she is. Why won't you confide in me?"

Angele sat up suddenly, facing him. "I envy her, Jean Claude. She is so young and full of life still. I am old
and so, so tired."

"Old!" Jean Claude exclaimed. "Dearest... you're not old! You've plenty of life left..."

"I *feel* old, Jean Claude. Old and tired." She sighed. "There is nothing left for me to give to this world."

"Angele? Is it Marius still? Does it still bother you-- what happened in Lyon? Is that what has got you so
depressed?"

Angele started to shake her head, then she stopped. Jean Claude was staring at her so intensely that she
knew he'd never believe the lie. "Yes. He was everything to me and now everything is gone."

Jean Claude took her hands in his. "No. Not everything is gone, Angele."

Their eyes met and held in a deep gaze in which time stood still. The kiss was slow and deliberate, though
neither knew who had initiated it. When it ended, they clung to each other for several minutes before disentangling themselves from one another.

Jean Claude and Angele looked away from one another, unable to understand what had happened.

"You still love her, don't you?" Angele asked, meaning Marie.

Jean Claude swallowed hard. "Sometimes I wonder if I ever did love her. I wonder if what I had with her
wasn't just something that was necessary for my heart to finally heal. Other times... I don't know." he finally looked
at her. "I think about her a lot. I think about what I threw away... what we could have had if I hadn't been so stupid.
But I still don't know if it was truly love or just an infatuation." He sighed. "And you still love Marius," he said
matter-of-factly.

"Yes... but I think I knew... long before he ever cheated on me... I think I knew it would be over soon. The
magic was dying."

"What about us? Do we still have magic?"

Angele smiled slightly. "A little... yes. Are you willing to risk getting hurt again, Jean Claude?"

He hesitated in his answer. "I don't know. Somehow it feels too soon... for either of us."

Angele nodded. "Will the time ever be right?" she asked.

"Again... I don't know. But when it comes... no strings, Angele. I can't take the pain again."

"Neither can I."

After a long pause, she said, "We're still friends, right?"

"Always," he replied.

"As friends.... you wanna go get some dinner. I know a great restaurant..." She grinned at him as they rose
from the bed.

"It would be my pleasure..." he replied.

Part XII

Melissa set the letter her mother had sent her aside. It had been three months since she'd last left Lyon in
anger. Although Cameron had survived and had no lasting memory of that night, Melissa could still not shake the
image of her friend --deathly still-- in Daniel's arms. It had brought back nightmares of a time long past, when she and Daniel had been kidnapped by Corwin and held hostage by the Enforcers. Her mother's letter, warm and entreating, did nothing to wipe away the painful memories.

No, she told herself, I must truly my own life now. Away from them... away from *that* life. Only then
will I escape the pain.

She tossed the letter in the wastebasket beside her dresser and turned away from it. Her eyes caught her
own image in the mirror on the wall. She smiled at herself, the haunting memories fading with the smile. For the first time in her life, Melissa truly felt normal.

Twirling, she inspected her image closely. She looked perfect. Jason was waiting for her downstairs and
she didn't want to be late.

"Elena? Are you ready?" she asked, stopping at her sister's door on her way down the hall. "Jason's here to
take us to the movies."

Elena, a girl of thirteen-- waifishly thin with dark black hair and deep brown eyes-- who tended to be shy,
came out of her bedroom. "Are you *sure* it's OK for me to come? Won't Jason mind that I'm tagging along on
your date?" she asked her older sister.

Melissa laughed. "You silly goose! It was Jason's idea to ask you to come. Now, let's go!"

Stopping to say good-bye to Henri, both girls followed Jason to his car.

*****

"Look at the rain!" Elena exclaimed as they left the movie theater.

The rain, which had been nothing more than a light drizzle when they left home, was now coming down in
sheets.

"Will you be able to drive home in this?" Melissa asked Jason.

"I'll try. I've never seen it this bad before. Why don't you call your father and tell him we might be late? I'll
go start the car," said Jason. He and Elena dashed to the car.

As Melissa hung up the phone, Jason pulled the car to the curb so she wouldn't have to make a run for it as
well. "He says to drive carefully and pull over if we have to," she told Jason when she slid into the front seat.

Jason did drive carefully, but the rain made even the high-beam lights impossible to see by.

In front of them was a huge tractor trailer. Suddenly, the rig began to swerve in the road. Jason tried to
avoid it, slamming on the brakes out of blind reaction. When their car began to slide closer to the out-of-control rig, Melissa and Elena began to scream. Jason's voice joined theirs when rig slammed into them and the windshield shattered.

Part XIII

Fleurette stood staring at the phone as if it had slapped her.

"Well? Can you come, Fleurette?" the voice on the other line asked anxiously.

"Yes... we'll be there, Henri. As soon as we can, we'll be there." She was close to tears, her voice shaking
in violent tremors. "Are they... going to make it?" she asked.

Henri was silent for awhile. When he spoke again, his voice, too, was shaky. "The doctors haven't said
anything yet. They've been in there for awhile now."

"Oh... " Fleurette could no longer speak, as every time she tried to form the words, her daughters' faces
appeared before her, and she could only cry. "I should go now," she said at last. "We'll be there soon."

*****

Henri met them the next night at the hospital. He seemed older than Fleurette had remembered him and
even older than the pictures Melissa had sent home. They hugged briefly.

"What a terrible way to be reunited," Henri tried to joke. He even sounded older. "You're the twins'
father?" Henri asked of LaCroix. He seemed to remember LaCroix from somewhere and had thought he would be older.

LaCroix just nodded. "What happened exactly?" he asked. Daniel, who had been staring at the door to the
ICU intensely, came to stand next to his father. He fixed his intense gaze upon Henri.

Henri felt nervous under Daniel's stare. He cleared his throat. "Melissa's boyfriend, Jason, was taking them
both to the movies. When the movie let out, it was raining quite hard. In fact, it was one of the worst storms this
area has seen in a long time." He glanced at Fleurette. "A witness said the tractor trailer in front of them lost control and there was no way Jason could avoid a collision."

"Were there survivors?" LaCroix asked.

"Melissa and Elena, and they're in bad shape. Jason and the truck driver both died instantaneously."

"Henri..."Fleurette began, her voice choked, "what of my babies? What did the doctor say?"

Henri reached out to comfort her as he said, "Melissa won't make it. She's brain dead already. Elena..." he
paused again, looking from face to face, trying to gauge their reactions, "... has a slim chance. She was crushed by the front seat when the rig smashed into them. Her heart is badly damaged. The doctor says we can..." he stopped. He couldn't go on.

Fleurette waited for his tears to stop before asking, "We can what. Henri?"

Henri looked sadly at her. "Melissa and Elena are the same blood type. The doctor says we can save Elena's
life by giving her Melissa's heart," he told them. "I told them I couldn't make that call without you. You're their
mother."

Daniel, who had stood silently through Henri's speech and tears, suddenly came to life. "No!" he screamed
out. He started to move towards the door that separated him from his sister. LaCroix stopped him, pinning him
tightly in a bear hug.

"No, my son. Soit tranquil. There is nothing you can do right now," he whispered to his son. Then he
turned back to Henri. "Is there no other way?"

"No. They said they could keep them both on machines until we decide. The decision must be made soon,"
Henri told him.

"I want to see my sister," Daniel said, wrenching away from LaCroix's grasp and forcing himself to remain
calm.

*****

Eventually they were allowed into the room where both girls were being kept. Both Melissa and Elena
were, as Henri had said, hooked up to machines that kept them alive.

As Henri was not with them, LaCroix felt it safe to speak freely.
"What do you want to do, my dear?" he asked Fleurette.

She sighed. "I don't know. I don't want to lose either of them."

"Then bring them across," said Daniel. He'd taken a seat by Melissa'a side. Touching her hand, he
whispered, "I won't let them kill you."

LaCroix raised an eyebrow. "We *could,* you know."

Fleurette thought about it in silence as she watched Daniel fawn over his sister's body. He didn't even seem
to notice that his other sister was also hurt. At last she said, "We can't. We shouldn't. Elena has never know this
life. She is too young to be brought across, even were she to have chosen it. She hasn't even been given the choice."

She sighed sadly. "And Melissa never wanted to before. She'd never be happy as a vampire. we both know that."

Daniel whirled out of the chair to face his mother. "No! I won't lose her! I love her! You can't let them kill
her, Mother!"

"Daniel, dearest son, she is already dead. This *machine,*" Fleurette said bitterly, "is what keeps her alive."

"If you won't bring her across, I will!" Daniel stated.

LaCroix interceded quickly. "Fleurette, please will you leave us. I need to speak to my son alone." When
Fleurette left, closing the door behind her, he turned to Daniel. "You care a great deal for her, don't you?"

Daniel nodded. "She can't die," he whispered. "Losing her would hurt too much."

"Daniel," LaCroix said, turning the boy to face him, "listen to me. I have a story to tell you, one that I have
not confided in anyone save your Uncle Nicholas. Will you listen?" Daniel nodded. "A very long time ago, I had a
daughter, and she was the most precious thing in the world to me. I loved her above all else and showered her with gifts befitting a princess. One day, word came to me that my daughter my daughter was ill-- dying. I ordered my army to break camp and we headed back to Pompeii immediately. When I arrived, my daughter lived by a miracle. Also, on the night of my arrival, the volcano erupted. My daughter shared her miracle with me and I was spared from death."

"You daughter... was your master?" Daniel asked.

"Yes. Her name was Divia. Many years later, we were... separated... I thought her dead. Eighteen years
ago, she returned to me. But it was not a happy reunion. My Divia was unspeakably evil and hateful beyond
imagination. She tried to kill your Uncle Nicholas, that Spaniard Vachon, and then myself. Your Uncle Nicholas
staked her to stop her from killing me. I watched her die, longing to bring to her back, because as her father, I loved her despite her evil. It hurt me, but I let her die."

"So... I should let Melissa die because you gave up Divia?" Daniel asked, his voice was mildly bitter.

"No, my son. Look at the other bed here in this room. That little girl-- Elena, your sister-- can still live."

"I can save them! I can--"

"Your mother was right. Neither of them would freely make the choice to become a vampire. They would
hate whoever brought them across, even if it was to save their lives. It is a difficult decision, Daniel, and I cannot
make it for you. If you wish, bring Melissa across, but it will mean Elena's death. the choice is yours." So saying,
LaCroix turned, leaving Daniel alone with his sisters.

*****

Daniel sat alone beside his sister's bed. He looked over at Elena laying in her own bed. She looked so small
and helpless. Both seemed to be asleep, as if all he had to do was call their names and they would wake. They
wouldn't, however, and he knew it.

He wanted to do it-- to bring Melissa across and leave the hospital with her. They had always been together
and he couldn't imagine his life without her. They were twins. They were connected. They should always be
together.

Then he remembered something... when she came home last... before the accident with Cameron, Melissa
had told him about her dreams. She had such beautiful dreams. None of them involved being a vampire. She wanted a nice home and a husband... and children.

Daniel sighed. He knew what he had to do. He didn't like it, but he had to do it.

Fleurette and LaCroix were standing with Henri and the doctor when Daniel finally joined them. They
looked at him expectedly.

"Doctor Bradshaw was just asking us what we had decided about the transplant," Fleurette said to Daniel.

"We told him the decision was up to you."

"Have you decided?" LaCroix asked.

"Yes..." Daniel said in English. He then broke into French, speaking quickly to his father and mother.

Afterwards, he fled the room.

The doctor looked shocked.

"Daniel agreed to allow the transplant to take place," LaCroix told him. He, too, left suddenly... in search of
his son.

*****

Daniel rushed out of the hospital as fast as he could without looking suspicious to the mortals. He could
feel the tears gathering in his eyes and he wanted to be far from any mortals when they fell. As soon as he was sure no one could see him, he took to the air, flying fast and furious away from civilization. He felt so empty and alone. Melissa wasn't dead, but she would be soon. He flew farther and farther away, wishing his speed would wipe away the ache that was gathering inside him.

He landed in a deep wooded area, and sinking to the ground near the bole of an old oak tree, he began at
last to cry...

***FINIS***

Aftermath:

The transplant was a success and Elena lived on many years, eventually marrying and having two beautiful children of her own.

Natalie and Martin furthered their relationship, eventually moving in together. (see next story, "Wedding Day") Jean Claude and Angele continue to come to terms with the feelings they still have for one another, and for the people they have lost (Marius and Marie). They do not become romantically involved for quite a while, remaining instead good friends.

With Melissa's death, a transformation took place within Daniel. She, his twin, was his link to mortality. When she died, so did the last vestiges of his mortal existence. He became wholly a vampire in every aspect. Unable to live in the mansion in Lyon, he went away. Meeting up eventually with Vachon and Tracy, and joining Vachon's new crew.

LaCroix and Fleurette also moved away from Lyon, feeling it time to move on.

This story continued in the last of my Fleurette Series, Wedding Day.

With Love,
Fleurette