One Heart

Chapter 4

Appetites

Nick opened his eyes and heard the heartbeat of the one laying next to him. She had her leg thrown over his but her head was turned in the opposite direction. He smiled to himself because for the first time in a really long time, he felt truly happy and content. Last night had been a turning point for both of them. He even spent the night at her apartment in her bed. She had installed thick black velvet brocade draperies a long time ago to protect him from the sun throughout the apartment so he could feel free to move about her domain.

He recalled how they had sat for hours on her couch cuddled up together listening to the CD, talking, and kissing. They kissed…a lot. He felt like a teenager. He could not get enough of her. It was a new feeling for him. He had never really had this type of a relationship with a woman. Even when he was human. Things were so different in his time. Oh, he was no virgin by the time he had been turned into a vampire but he also was not all that experienced compared to others of his time. He had not had his first sexual encounter until he was 23 years old. Not that there had not been offers. There had been plenty but he just was not that interested. He was picky. He laughed to himself. Today, he would be considered a prude.

He assumes that compared to other vampires of his age, he was probably not as sexually experienced as others. Sure, he had his share of sexual partners. He was no monk but he has never been one to just have sex just for hell of it. He was going to have to talk to Natalie about this at some point. There had only been Janette and one other person since he had met her. Hell, he has not even touched another woman in a few years. He wondered how much Natalie really knew.

Nick has become barraged with a series of questions in his mind: How many men had Natalie been with? Had there been anyone over the course of the past six years in her bed? Had there been contact that he did not know about? He did not think so but the thought of another man touching her, in any fashion, just made his blood boil. Roger Jamison has been the only suitor that he knew of. He knew it was ridiculous because he had not been exactly "faithful". However, a few years ago when he finally reconciled to himself that Natalie was truly his soul mate, there had been no other person in his romantic life. He was 100% committed to her.

He felt her begin to stir and she turned and smiled at him. She raised her hand and cupped his cheek, "Good afternoon." He turned his head and placed a gentle kiss in her palm.

"Good afternoon to you." This time he leaned into her and gave her a quick kiss on her lips. When he pulled away, she smiled at him. To his surprise, she reached over to him and hugged him and began to gently cry.

She finally pulled away and sat up while she reached over for a tissue off her nightstand "I'm sorry, Nick. It's just that this is so…" She trailed off blowing her nose. He placed his arm around her shoulders for . reassurance. He really did understand the overwhelming feeling of emotion barraging her. It was a lot to take in after several years of suppression.

"Nick, I need to go the restroom." She quipped as she quickly jumped off the bed and made haste to the restroom. He heard a flush, a cabinet shut and some water running. She emerged a few minutes later. It gave him a good view of her in his white shirt. She looked so sexy wearing his shirt with the sleeves rolled up. It stirred him both physically and emotionally seeing the woman he loved and adored wearing something of his in such an intimate way. He hungered for her!

He quickly emerged off her bed and stood in front of her. He was wearing some pajamas that had been left here from another "sleepover" but he had slept on the couch. He pulled her to him. He wanted her to feel how she affected him and express to her physically what he was feeling. As of yet, he had not said the words but wanted to show her. He took her lips in a frenzied passion. His appetite for her was unyielding. He kissed her over and over. He feasted on her mouth. Finally, she said, "Nick, I need to breath." He usually forgot that. All he knew, is that he wanted more of her. He was like a starving man.

After catching her breath, Natalie said, "Nick, you sure do like to kiss." They both busted out laughing, at the same time, because the situation was comical. Two grown adults acting like teenagers.

"Well, I like kissing you. Trying to make up for lost time. Hope you don't mind!"

"Uh, no. I rather enjoy it." She grinned at him. She was so thankful that he was taking things slow and in this direction because there were still many things they needed to work through regarding their physical intimacy.

"Nat, do you think that we can both call out tonight?" Nick questioned as he held her loosely to him.

"I don't see why not. Actually, it is kind of a good time because I am somewhat caught up and besides you and I are rarely out. However, you do know that there is going to be gossip." She waited for his response.

"Do you care?" He replied.

"Nick, do you really think that everyone thinks we are "just friends"? I mean there is that office pool about when we finally make it "official". She grinned at him. She hoped he would not lose it on her.

"Please tell me you are toying with me. Who started that?" He spoke through gritted teeth. He was obviously annoyed. Who would do such a stupid asinine thing?

Natalie knew he would be annoyed. She only knew about the pool because Grace had told her a few months back. However, when he found out, she knew he would not be surprised by the culprit. She just said one name, "Schanke"

Nick slowly removed his annoyance and began to smile thinking about his friend. "Well, I should have known because he was always after me about asking you out and pressuring me to do something about our obvious attraction."

After that, they both called out and Nick sat on the couch drinking from his mug and Natalie was in the kitchen getting her coffee and some breakfast. She still had not changed. Nick was thankful for that. He enjoyed the view tremendously. Finally, she joined him and turned on the news. They both ate and drink their respective meals and watched the news.

Nat turned to him, "Well, what's the plan?"

"Well, I think we both need to get cleaned up and I am amendable to just hanging out here." He responded.

"Okay, I will go take a shower." She said as she made the way to her small kitchen to deposit her items. Before she knew it, she felt him behind her as she was rinsing her coffee cup. She turned off the water and leaned back into him as she dried her hands on the towel. She could barely breathe. He kept doing this to her; surprising her with his affections. As she leaned back to meet his gaze, he swiftly too her lips in a mind blowing kiss. He found her lips and kissed her again. Only this time, things were much more heated. He immediately parted her lips and swept his tongue into her mouth. She tangled her tongue with his in a bout of unrestrained passion. Interestingly, his fangs never made an appearance. She swept her arm up and cupped the back of his head seeking more contact. Nick pushed his body into hers while she pressed back. She felt what she knew. He was aroused, in a human way, but where were his fangs? She let that question move to the back of her mind as she focused on his kisses. When she came up for air, she hurriedly turned herself around and connected her lips to his and continued the assault. It began to go out of control. Nick kissed his way from her lips to her ear to her neck. He swept his tongue over her neck over and over before working his way back up to her lips. He kissed her again and again and again. However, this time, he began to grind his hips into hers in a way that had Natalie swooning. It had been so long since she had gone this far with a man. She let him lead never daring any more than she already had this evening. He needed to know he was in control. Finally, after several minutes of kissing, Nick politely excused himself and said something about a "cold shower"; but it had not been the first time. There had been many over the years.

Natalie sighed and finished her task of clearing their breakfast dishes. She loaded the dishwasher. While waiting on the shower, Natalie pondered their situation. Things definitely were in a different place. How did she feel about that? Elated beyond measure but she found it interesting that his fangs had not dropped during their kissing session. He was obviously aroused. She found this interesting. Always the scientist. It gave her something to think about while waiting for her time in the shower.

About fifteen minutes later, Nick stepped out of the bedroom door fully dressed in a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. He smiled at her. "Your turn."

She returned his smile as she retreated to the bathroom to ready herself. She took a quick shower. She decided that no make up was appropriate and allowed her hair to dry naturally. She scrunched her curls with some gel and then got dressed. She put on a pair of old jeans and an old gray college t-shirt. She looked fine for an evening in with Nick.

When she finally appeared in the living room, she saw Nick petting Sydney. Sydney seemed to sense that something had changed. She knew he was always gifted.

Sydney jumped off the couch and pranced over to her and rubbed against her leg. She swooped him up and rubbed her nose in his familiar fur. Her time with Sydney was interrupted by Nick who said, "Uh, Nat, I would have fed him but I could not find his food."

"Oh, actually, we ran out yesterday. The extra food is in the spare bedroom. I keep an extra back up bag in the closet." She dropped Sydney in Nick's lap and made about feeding her boy. After that was done, she asked Nick what he wanted to do. He suggested that when it became dark, they should go for a drive to the waterfront and talk. She thought it was a lovely idea.

In the mean time, they watched an old comedy from the 80's and watched half of a romantic comedy until the sun went down.

Finally, they were seated in the car, it was early spring but warm enough to put the top down on the Caddie. Natalie did wear a sweater because there was still a little nip in the air. Nick played a light rock radio station as he guided the Caddie to their destination. When he parked, Nat waited for him to open her door. As she exited the car, he grabbed her hand and they began to walk. They trekked for a good twenty minutes before Nick finally broke the comfortable silence as he led her to a bench far away from other people. They sat down and the view was spectacular with the city lights reflecting off the water and the clear sky looming overhead with the brilliance of the stars.

Nick put his arm around her and pulled her close to him. Brushing his cool lips over the top of her head before speaking. "Nat, I want to make one thing clear before we go any further. Under no circumstances, will I leave you!"

Nat knew there was more. He needed to finally say what they both felt. He lifted her head by her chin and looked deep into her eyes before continuing. What he saw was hope. "Nat, you know how I feel about you, don't you?"

"Nick, I need you to tell me." She tried to cover up her desperation. She needed to so hear those words again that had been uttered four years ago. I guess she would need to let him know that she remembered everything from that Valentines Day so many years ago. That was another conversation for later. She met his gaze.

"Natalie Lambert, I love you more than words can say. Those words don't seem to be enough to express what is in my heart. I need you and want you in every way possible. In all my years, I have never felt this way about another woman…ever." He held her hands in his and watched as tears began to pool in her clear blue eyes. He saw relief in their depths. She had been holding her breath for the duration and began to expel the air in a controlled fashion.

"Oh, Nick. I love you, too. How could I not? You are everything I have ever wanted in a man and more. I know you think that I am missing out on something in my life but I promise you that I am not. You fill my heart." Natalie busted out laughing through her tears. "We sound like some bad romance novel."

"We do." He concurred. "However, I promise you that I will not throb or pulsate with lust."

Natalie started giggling so hard that she almost made herself sick. Nick laughed as he had not in years. That is why he loved their relationship so much…their ability to find humor in their situation and their laughter spoke to his very soul. Cheesy, yes, but the truth.

After the bout of hilarity, Nick knew they needed to talk about some more serious issues. Regardless of how they felt, there were still dangers that even Natalie was not aware of in his community.

"Nat, there are some other things we need to discuss related to the community."

"Okay"

"Nat, at some point, I will need to mark you, even if we are not intimate. I will need to exchange blood with you so that others will not bother you. Because of my standing in the community as an elder vampire, my blood mark will keep others at bay. Also, you are under the protection of being connected to LaCroix and nobody would dare to cross him. He is even an Elder on the Final Committee."

Natalie looked somewhat perplexed to the reference to his father. She was curious. "Would LaCroix approve of our relationship?"

"He gave his blessing to me after the Divia incident." Nick explained.

Natalie knew this was the time. "Nick, I remember that night." She locked with his eyes hoping for recognition without explanation.

"I didn't know." He said.

"I'm sorry but I knew you were trying to protect me. Janette called me a few times and I asked her about it and she explained some things to me. I understand now more about why he felt the way he did. I don't think he is justified in it but I understand because if he felt one iota of what I feel for you for Fleur; then I can at least have compassion for him." Nat desperately searched his expression for his feelings.

Nick closed his eyes, "Nat, he absolved our bargain and extended to me his protection if we ever decided to take our relationship to its natural course. He told me he finds you a rare find in a woman and thinks you could be a wonderful addition to the family, if that was a choice we ever decided to make."

"Huh? Would you ever consider that Nick?" Natalie could not contain her surprise.

Nick opened his eyes. "I don't know Natalie. I really don't know. I could not ever imagine my life without you but I don't know if I could ever damn you to this existence."

"But I will only get older. I mean we could get lucky and Janette's cure could work for us but I don't want that to be our only option. I am not getting any younger Nick. Each day, I become one step closer to death. I won't lie to you and tell you that I would rather that our life take a natural path but if that is not to be then so be it. I would rather live as a vampire for eternity with you than live a lifetime of torment knowing that death loomed for me right around the corner."

"Natalie, you need to really think about this before we continue. Once we exchange blood, there is no turning back. You are bound to me until death!"

Natalie cupped his cheek. "Nick, a life without you is death."

"You are a remarkable woman, Natalie Lambert."

"So I have been told." She smiled gently and leaned over and kissed him on the lips. "There is more?"

"Yes. If you are not marked within a certain amount of time, we will have to deal with the Enforcers. You have been left alone because of your aid to the community of vampires and because of LaCroix but that only goes so far." He informed her.

"I understand. How long do we have?" She inquired.

"Five years, once we become public." Nick replied.

"How does that work?" Natalie asked.

"This is going to sound so strange because we are vampires but I literally submit a letter of acknowledgement to the Elders on the Final Committee."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes, I am serious." He grinned. "Vampires may be old but we are definitely in the 21st century."

Natalie began to chew her bottom lip. "How soon can you do this?"

"Uh, Nat, we still have some time."

"No, I want it done as soon as possible. There is no reason to wait any longer. We have waited too long already. I want to get this show on the road." She stuck her chin out to let him know that he had no option.

"You need to know that this is not always the case. You are being given special considerations because of your commitment to the protection of our kind." He explained.

"Are you saying that it is a privilege that I have earned?"

"Yes, and one well deserved."

"Well, that's unexpected." She sat in awe for several seconds.

"Nat, can we talk about a few other things and come back to this later. I will submit the letter within the week."

"What is it?"

"We need to talk about something but this is hard for me because of my principles."

Nat knew this had to be about sex. Gracious he was such a prude sometimes. She would just put it out there. "Nick, is this about sex?" She quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Well," he blushed as much as a vampire was capable of. Sometimes it was like she could read his mind. It was scary.

"Just say it."

"It's more than just about sex, Natalie. Sex for vampires is different." He finally was able to meet her eyes.

"You are so adorable when you are embarrassed." Natalie teased with her eyes gleaming. "Nick, you have talked to me about the blood before. Do you mean that the blood exchange between vampires is a form of sex?"

"Yes." She never ceased to amaze him.

"I know you can have sex with a mortal but what about the blood exchange?"

He just decided to go with the flow. She was being open about this so he figured he could do it too. "I have to have so much to climax but the problem is being able to stop because your blood will make me want to drain you?"

"You mean it will be like a dessert for you because of your feelings for me. Not like I am just some other mortal?"

"Yes. It may be difficult for me to stop and Nat, I am not very good at turning others as you already know." He had told her about Alyssa a few months back. She felt bad for him and it gave her more insight about his reservations.

"We take things slow. There are other ways." She now blushed.

"Oh, really."

"You're teasing me now." Natalie scolded him.

"Nat, what do you know about "other ways"?" He wanted to know so bad.

"Nick, I am a doctor."

"That does not answer my question." He scolded.

"Are you trying to find out about my sexual experiences?" She responded.

"You are way too intelligent for me."

"Well, all you had to do was ask." She actually sounded a little irritated.

"I was not sure how you would react."

"Well, there is not that much to tell, Nick. It's not like I have had a lot of time for relationships. I have always been a relationship type of girl. Something I am sure you already knew." He nodded his head in affirmation. "I have really only had one sexual partner for all intents and purposes and that was Giles from college. We were together for over three years and then he moved to New York. I am not going to lie to you and tell you that I never "fooled around" with a few guys but that is about it. I have never done anything out of the scope of normal stuff." Oh, God she hoped he did not ask for more details because then he would know how inexperienced she really was for a woman of her age.

Nick placed his hand on her knee for reassurance and gently squeezed. "Nat, you know in the blood exchange, we will know all about each other. I just want to get this part out in the open and a few other things but we can talk about that later."

"I have never done things that many of my girlfriends had because I never wanted to do certain things because I did not feel comfortable with it; however, with you, I don't feel that way." She turned as red as a beet.

"Oh, Nat. I would NEVER ask you to do ANYTHING you did not want to do. You need to know that. I want you to be comfortable." He told her.

"Thanks, Nick." She smiled and was crying again. Nick reached over and wiped her tears away with gentle kisses to her face. She just could not seem to control her tear ducts.

"Nick, I just don't want you to think I am a prude." She began a new set of waterworks.

"I would never think that, sweetheart. You have never given me any reason to think that about you. I mean a prude would not stand in the middle of my living room half naked letting me watch you get dressed." He remarked with a smile.

"I guess not. I just worry that I will not be able to live up to your expectations. I just don't have a lot of experience."

"Natalie Lambert. You definitely have the wrong impression about my sexual prowess. Yes, I have lived a long, long time and yes, I have had numerous sexual encounters. Good grief, I am over 800 years old. However, I promise you that I do have areas in which I am not…how do I say this…skilled. There are some things that just come natural out of a loving relationship. The fulfillment sexually is one of those. Love plays such a heavy role in that. We love each other. As cheesy as it sounds, our love is timeless and special. Not everyone shares our type of love. What we have is unique and extraordinary." He pulled her to him and held her for several minutes. This was not the path he had wanted their conversation to take; but evidently fate had another idea.

"Nick, I love you." Natalie mumbled into his neck.

"Natalie, I love you too." He smiled to himself.

"I'm hungry." They both said simultaneously.

They both busted out in gales of laughter. They decided it was time to appease their appetites…for their respective foods.

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