Lena was sent up to bed at the same time as the night before. This time, however, Desari and Rusti went with her. "Will you sing me a song?" asked the teenager as she settled into bed.

Rusti scooted up into the bed with her. She was amazed at how much Lena had grown and matured while still appearing so young and vulnerable. Whoever hurt her had to be found and brought to justice so they couldn't hurt anyone else. And this vampire that was still on the loose made her nervous. She hated the thought of Darius going after him, but she knew a hunter must do what a hunter had to do to make everyone else safe. She felt better that he would have other experienced hunters with him on the chase.

Desari settled on the other side of the teenager and smiled down at her. "Close your eyes," she said with a grin. "I just made a new song. You'll be the first to hear it. Do you want to?" she asked.

Lena's eyes opened for a second. "Me? Really? Yes, I want to be the first to hear it!" She closed her eyes again. "Okay, I'm ready," she announced.

Desari and Rusti looked at one another and suppressed their laughter at her enthusiasm. Desari thought of the words of the song she'd made just for those in pain from the past, especially the very young. It was a slow ballad of hope and promise. As she began to croon in a low voice, she saw the girl's body begin to relax. When it was done, she sang another song directly afterward, one designed to make certain the hearer suffered no nightmares. She sang a third song in an even lower tone and then sensed halfway through that the girl had fallen into a deep sleep. She finished the rest of the song anyway to make certain it had its full effect.

Rusti looked up and saw Danica and Andriev standing in the doorway. His arms were around her and she was crying silently. "Thank you so much," she whispered to Desari.

"My pleasure," Desari said as she gently pulled at one of Lena's long braids that curled into a spiral at the end.

"We'll stay with her," Rusti said.

Danica knew that the girl would be more than safe with both ladies in the room. She looked up at Andriev. "I am not needed downstairs with the others for at least one hour," he said. They had decided to do some preliminary tracking that night with one another just to learn each others' hunting styles.

"You're not going to go after him tonight, will you?"

"No," he promised. "We cannot do that until Darius and Julian know what we are up against."

She shook her head. "Okay."

"I wish for you to sleep well before I leave," he said as he led her to her own room.

"I see what you're trying to do," she said as she found herself grinning. "You don't want me to worry so you're trying to put me to sleep ahead of time."

"Will you?" he asked as they walked into her room.

"Will I what?" she asked as she saw that he'd closed the door and they were alone.

"Worry… while I am out with the others, you will worry for me?" he asked, a gleam of mischief in his eyes.

She smacked his huge chest as she snorted in laughter. "Whatever."

He caught her hand in his, pulled it up to his mouth, lightly licked at one of her fingers and then kissed her inner wrist gently. "That is a 'yes'," he smiled.

Had the temperature gone up in the house? How had they wound up alone like this? Did she really mind? She looked up into his eyes and felt herself falling into them. Danica stood close and let him draw her into his warmth and safety. She found herself putting her own arms up and around him, pulling him closer to her. She couldn't help it. She had to know… "Kiss me?" she whispered.

Andriev's heart leapt as he leaned forward quickly and let his mouth do what he had wanted since the first time he'd looked into her eyes. Their kiss quickly went from chaste to heated and dangerous within eight seconds. He pulled back abruptly to look at her, didn't understand what had happened to make her change her mind about being alone with him in her room like this. "If I do not stop now, Danica-" he warned.

"Who says I want you to stop?" she asked as she pulled his head back down to her level and kissed him harder. The taste and feel of him had a drugging effect on her mind. Time didn't exist, just the two of them. There were no problems and there was nothing that had to be done, no decisions that had to be made. It was all him.

He found himself backing her up into the wall and lifting her quickly, his body pinning hers to the hard surface. He felt his incisors lengthen and the instinct to bite her overwhelmed him, the ritual words were now beating in his mind. He turned his face from hers, knew she would be angry if he did either thing that instinct was pushing him to do.

She didn't understand how she knew, but she did. "You can make it so I don't remember, right?" she whispered.

"The whole thing?" he asked, wondering if she meant them being together for the first time.

"No!" she laughed. "Why would I want to forget that?" She shook her head as she turned his face back to look at her. Her eyes held his. "I mean the whole… blood thing. I don't want to remember that. Just that part."

"You mean an exchange?" he asked, mystified.


"I wasn't going to do that with you, not tonight. I know you wouldn't want the changes that come with that."

"There's changes?" she asked, taken aback.

"We never got a chance to discuss it, but it would partially place you into my world in a way and you would be in an almost state of limbo after that, not able to truly eat human food again, not able to take the sun as well as you do now. You would still be able to, but you would need my constant assistance to choke down nourishment. You would have to make certain to wear heavy sunblock and sunglasses when you went out. That is all," he relayed with a light shrug.

"Oh, that's all?" she laughed as she pulled his face forward to kiss her again. "I'm not ready for that," she admitted.

"I would be satisfied to take from you and add nothing," he said as he continued to kiss her eagerly.

"There wouldn't be any changes to me?" she asked as she let the kissing grow heated again.

"No," he said as he traced light kisses down her neck. "We do not even have to share bodies this night. I can wait. I have found my will to be stronger than I supposed before we met. I assumed once I met my life mate, I would immediately-" his thoughts turned to what he really wanted to do with her, unintentionally transmitted it into her mind.

She pulled back from him quickly. "Whoa! You perv!" she giggled as she pulled his hair out of its braid. "I'd like to say I at least made out with you once very intensely before we get into any of that!" she laughed.

He lifted her in his arms more fully, carried her to her bed. "Your wish is my command," he said almost sacredly. "We will not go far this evening. And I will not add a thing to you innards that you do not wish, my love," he whispered as he lowered her to her bed. "We will simply—what was your wording? Make out intensely," he smiled down at her.

Andriev walked away from her less than twenty minutes later. He hadn't taken too much of her essence into himself, but it was enough that he was able to send her fast asleep without effort. She would not awaken dizzy or tired the next day, at least there was that. He had weaved a safeguard on her window so that nothing could enter.

As he walked away, he did not wish to leave her. He wanted to stay at her side. So long as she remained fully in her world and he in his, the time frame they had together each day would be miniscule. But he was determined to let her make up her own mind in every aspect of this.

He immediately walked to the room where Lena slept and looked in once. The girl was still fast asleep, both Desari and Rusti still on either side of her. "She is well?" he whispered to the two ladies. They both nodded.

He entered the room silently and quickly erected a safeguard on her window. He knew all three hunters would safeguard the entire house before they left. He was in the finishing stages of the safeguard when he felt Darius enter the room. His hands weaved the last intricate pattern and then he turned.

"I thank you," said Darius. "I have never seen such a pattern before," he admitted.

"It is one of my father's," he said proudly. He had not seen his father for such a very long time. "His mother was half Dragonseeker."

"Let us go," said Darius. "We must see what needs to be done before night progresses too much further." He looked over at Rusti. "Tempest, we leave now," he said as he leaned down and kissed her. He looked over at Desari, "Perhaps Julian will consent to remain here with you all."

"It may not be necessary," Andriev admitted on a whisper. "Danica's shield seems to be impenetrable. I do not understand where she got the ability, but she is perfection in the area of hiding others. And most especially, it is intriguing because she exudes it naturally. It is effortless and seems to be inherent in her nature. It the reason the vampire has not yet tracked the child."

"Yes, you're correct. According to what the child mentioned he seemed to track her when she was outside Danica's sphere of protection the evening she was returning from her dance studio," Darius nodded. "Come. Let us not discuss this here. We will talk downstairs with Julian- your cousin," he halfway smiled.

Rusti's eyebrows climbed. "He made a joke," she whispered at Desari.

The three men talked downstairs for a short time. They decided that Julian would patrol the area outside the home and stay as close to it as possible while they relayed all information back to him that they uncovered.

"You have not fed enough, this night," Darius could tell as he looked at Andriev. "You did not take enough from your woman. But that is understandable."

"She must take care of the child and cannot spend the day abed as I may wish her to when I am not around. And she is not yet ready for a full exchange. I will feed before we hunt," he said.

"Take what I offer freely," said Darius. "And this way we will have an instant link to one another."

They both exchanged just enough blood and then they went and fed from a rowdy gang of young men. Since they were simply being loud and slightly disruptive but had no bad motives, both men were gentle and implanted pleasant memories. There was one among them with a truly keen mind and good spirit. Andriev implanted within him the sense that he must do better in school in order to pursue higher education. Afterward, they went to the vampire's last known lair. Of course, he was not there.

Both hunters took to the sky and searched silently. Andriev scanned the North and East and Darius scanned the South and West.

"The west, there," said Darius, turning Andriev's attention to that area.

Andriev turned and scanned, saw the blank area that tried too much to conceal itself. "I sense it," he said.

"Let us shift and investigate," said Darius as he changed shape midair to a harmless pigeon.

Andriev followed suit as they both flew to and then skirted the outer region where they sensed the blank area of power. They realized, then, that it was not his lair, but that he was out on the hunt that evening.

We cannot allow him to hunt another! Darius thought to Andriev.