Chapter 17

Hi everyone, thanks again for the reviews…Oh, the reviews. LOL. They were awesome. As for the cliffhanger, I did not intend for it to be so long before posting the next part :) Lots of life changes (and computer problems) delayed me from posting this...hope you'll forgive me and keep reading!

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I took a deep breath and turned toward the door.

When I moved into the room my eyes went straight to Eric on the other side. He looked over to me immediately, feeling my presence as I felt his, the emotion rolling like a growing snowball.

I could see the determined look in his eyes and the way his mouth was set as if to stop his gorgeous lips from smiling.

The setting wasn't all that romantic and the company was a tad weird, but it was my life, the circumstances of the choices I'd made and I found it suited me just fine. My mental shields seemed to be stronger than ever and I smiled and walked through the crowded room to slide into the booth next to him. He put his arm around me and we sat in silence for a few minutes.

"You're right, I'm scared," I admitted quietly and glanced sideways toward him.

The corner of his mouth lifted and he slightly shook his head. "Don't tell anyone, but think of what it does to me. Some human woman having so much power over me," he whispered with a smirk.

I rolled my eyes.

"Let's just take it one day at a time, my lover," he said and pulled me close and put his feet up.

"One day at a time." I nodded in agreement. I could handle that easier than a big commitment conversation. "But we're not…seeing anyone else, right?"

He laughed under his breath. "No."

"Okay," I nodded and looked around at all of the staring patrons.

"Do you want to leave?" he asked.

"Sure," I said. "Oh. But I have to work tomorrow at 4:30 and now I don't have a car." Knowing who had blown up my car and why did nothing for me in the department of making me feel any better about it or having transportation.

"Stay at my place. I have an extra vehicle you can borrow tomorrow to go to work."

"Oh, that would be nice, but…" I thought of his beloved Corvette and the shiny black Escalade I had seen in his garage. It would be like driving a bus. "I'm not sure I want to wreck that glossy truck of yours."

"I have a few other vehicles at my disposal that would perhaps be more manageable for you," he suggested.

"I would have to leave in time to go home to get my uniform. So you couldn't lock me in your room," I teased.

He nodded, "Let's get out of here."

"If you're sure," I said and looked around at the throngs of people crowding the place.

Eric was usually pretty hands-on about his business, but things seemed to run smoothly when he wasn't there with Pam around.

We said goodbye to Pam, who seemed less than surprised at our departure, and went to Eric's house.

"Come on," he said and brought me immediately into a huge closet that was next to his room. He pulled a white fuzzy bomber hat on my head and put a blaze orange one on himself, though it was only for effect. It wasn't like he ever got cold. I laughed out loud at him in the vibrant headgear.

He looked approvingly at me. "That looks sexy," he said, nodding.

"If you say so," I said and looked in the small mirror on the wall. I could maybe pass for a Bond girl in the Himalayas. I was wondering if this was some sort of fantasy he wanted to live out. But instead of undressing me, he held out a lined flannel shirt and I reluctantly put my arms in.

"Are we goin' gator hunting?" I joked.

"No, it's a surprise. Put it on," he said.

Eric had a stack of quilts and a small bag under his arm as we walked down the trail to the lake. He disappeared behind a cluster of cypress trees before he appeared; easily pulling a fishing boat down into the water.

"In you go," he said excitedly.

"It's pretty dark for a boat ride, isn't it?" I couldn't see any others out on the lake.

"The only boat rides I take are in the dark," he reminded me. "We have a light. It's perfectly safe."

I shrugged and climbed in. Eric pushed off the shore effortlessly and hopped in. Before he started the outboard motor behind him, he wrapped a quilt around me and laid another over my lap.

"Are you a big fisherman?" I asked with a grin. Somehow it seemed humorous.

"No, though it is a great place for catching bass, I've heard. I just like to drive out on the lake. You'll see why."

My eyes were streaming from the wind as we cruised over the water. A fine mist shot into my face whenever we hit a wave at an angle, so I turned toward the back of the boat. Behind Eric I could see the great distance that was growing between us and the shore. After a few more minutes, he slowed down and then killed the engine.

"Sit in the front seat for a minute, will you?" He asked and unhooked some clips to remove the middle seat. He laid down the extra quilts and looked at me expectantly.

"Close your eyes," he said softly and took my hand. I blindly lay down next to him on my side, using the life preservers as pillows and he covered me back up to keep me warm from the cool night.

"Open them." I was turned toward him and his eyes were glimmering with anticipation. "Look up," he said with a grin.

The dark vastness above us was dotted with brilliantly bright stars and from the middle of the lake there were no borders to the tapestry of the night sky.

The boat rocked gently, making the stars seem to sway above me as he leaned over me. The joy I felt when I was near him was magnified exponentially when his lips touched mine.

"My life has been long," he said close to my mouth.

"Yes," I whispered. "I can't even imagine."

"In all my years I've never found - never thought I would ever find - someone like you," he said as he stroked my cheek.

"Me either," I said in a tiny voice.

"It causes emotions I haven't felt in centuries."

"Like what?" I asked after our lips parted again.

"Jealousy. Guilt. Vulnerability. To name a few. It is also a very dangerous position to put you in." He pulled back from me. "I even worry about my selfishness." A mock look of surprise crossed his face before he hitched a crooked smile on his mouth.

That smile made it hard to keep myself from smiling. "I know what comes along with being involved with you." I looked up at the sky and he traced the line of my cheekbone.

"I believe you called it 'vampire shit'" he mused.

"Honestly, it is part of the reason I was scared from the beginning." I raised an eyebrow, thinking. "But I'm not sure I would be in any worse trouble with you than the kind I seem to get into all on my own."

"That is true," he chuckled.

"And in the end, it is definitely worth it," I said, as Eric leaned in to possess my mouth with his.

Was it ever.