I finished my radio show and left CERK studios for the Raven around 4 am. The music was still blaring and the dance floor still crowded. Don't they ever get tired of all this noise? I sighed and walked through the crowd directly to my office, closing the door behind me. I heard the door open and close. Guess who.
She smiled and walked toward me extending a goblet of bloodwine. "Here. I thought you might like a drink before bed."
I smiled in spite of my mood and took the glass from her, draining it half gone in a single swallow. "You're too thoughtful of me, Urs. I might get spoiled."
"Maybe I'd like to spoil you," she whispered and pulled me into a warm embrace. "I wish you would tell me why you seem so sad. I'm worried about you."
I tucked a finger under her chin and pulled her face up to look at me. She had tears in her eyes and such a sorrowful look that I pulled back in surprise. Then I cleared my throat and drained the other half of the goblet. "Thank you, Ursula. For everything. Right now, I just want to go back to my townhouse and get out of this noise. Will you close the bar this morning?" She didn't respond right away and I looked back at her to see indecision in her eyes. "What's the matter?"
She lies very badly. What is the matter?
"Urs? Do you have a date to spend the day with someone? I can get Miklos to close if that is the case."
"No," she replied quickly. "No, it's not that. I just … well … I was thinking that maybe you'd like some company. If you were lonely or just wanted to talk or something … I could spend the day with you."
I watched many emotions cross her face but fear and concern seemed to be the prevailing ones. What was she afraid of? Had someone threatened her? I felt some of the exhaustion dropping away as the thought of some young fledgling doing her harm filled my mind.
"Why are you afraid?" I demanded, crossing to her and taking her by the arms. "Did someone hurt you? Threaten you? Tell me, and they'll never see this day's sun rise!" I growled out, feeling my fangs descending.
The Raven and its staff are mine! No one better dare threaten them until they have dealt with me!
"No! No one has threatened me. Just a few lewd remarks, but nothing I can't handle."
She winced and I guiltily loosened my grip. "Sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you," I said softly, massaging her arms where my fingers had left marks.
"It's okay. I'm a vampire remember? It heals quickly." She smiled as the bruising I'd inflicted began to fade already. "I'm afraid because you don't seem yourself. I'm worried for you, LaCroix. And I want to help you if you'll let me."
"What makes you think that I need help?"
Urs shrugged out of my grasp and turned away from me. I heard the tremor in her voice despite her efforts to control it. "I know you are a private person, you don't like to be beholden to anyone for anything. I know that. I just wanted to try to make you a little happier than you have been lately. That's all." She started to open the office door to leave. I pushed it closed and gently turned her to face me. Tears were streaking down her cheeks. I felt the exhaustion hit me full force and I stumbled backward to rest against my desk.
"Urs, I'm tired. Very, very tired. I don't know why, I'm too tired to find out why. I don't want to talk. I want to go home." I watched her face closely. Her tears continued, much to my confusion. "If you will feel better about it, you may accompany me to my townhouse and spend the day. I'll get Miklos to close the Raven." She stepped forward and gave me another hug. I reached up and wiped one of the tear trails away with my finger, then gently sucked the blood away. She tasted of overwhelming love and protectiveness. For me, dear heart? Why?
"I do want to spend the day with you. I'll talk to Miklos." She refilled the goblet from the bottle she'd carried in. "You drink this down. Then we'll leave."
She touched my shoulder and left the office quietly. I slumped into my desk chair and picked up the goblet. I wasn't hungry, not at all. Hadn't been for some time I realized. Still, I cannot bear to see that hurt look on her face. I drained the goblet and waited for her to return. Twenty minutes later, we were safely at the townhouse, the blackout drapes drawn and preparing to sleep.
Nick arrived at the loft a half hour before sunrise. Natalie was already there and had some bloodwine poured for him. "Did you hear his show?" she asked anxiously.
"Yes. Reese and I both heard him." Nick drained the glass and poured another. "You're right, he sounds depressed and tired. How did you find out? From the show?"
"No. Urs called me, Tracy and Vachon to a meeting at the Raven about it. I'm afraid I walked out of the meeting" Nat admitted ruefully. "But Tracy came over and described his symptoms and damn if he isn't exhibiting classic signs of suicidal depression. Urs is really afraid that he'll go into the sun if we don't stop him."
Nick looked up from his drink sharply. "Suicide? LaCroix? He'd never go that route."
"Are you sure?" Natalie asked. "What if you're wrong?"
Nick shot her an anguished glance, grabbed his phone and dialed the Raven.
"Miklos is LaCroix there? Where did he go? Okay, thanks"
Natalie looked at him expectantly. "Well? What did he say?"
"Miklos said that LaCroix left around 4:15 or so with Urs. They were going to his townhouse together." Nick started to dial the townhouse, then pushed cancel. "I think I'll let him sleep. Urs is with him, she'll take care of him for today. I'll stop by and see him at sundown." Nick suddenly felt a huge yawn split his face. "Guess I need to sleep too. Care to join me?" He held out his hand and smiled coyly. Natalie laughed and took his hand.
"I'd love to!"
I found Urs a robe and one of my pajama tops to wear. I went into the shower and just stood in the spray, hoping that the scalding hot water would ease away some of the exhaustion I felt, but it only seemed to deepen it. I closed my eyes and drifted to a half sleep state. I don't know for how long. Suddenly I was aware of her presence in the shower.
"Urs, really I'm too tired to play," I protested starting to turn to face her. She stopped me from doing so.
"I'm not playing. I can feel how tired you are. Let me take care of you, LaCroix." She gently kneaded my shoulder and neck muscles. "Let me bathe you and take care of you."
Her touch felt so good. I was so tired. I just stood in the spray like I was in a trance while she took a thick wash cloth and soap, washing and massaging my entire body. She carefully reached up and washed my hair as well, massaging my scalp as she had my body. It was so relaxing I wasn't certain I could stay on my feet much longer. She must have sensed my thoughts because she immediately turned the water off and drew me out of the shower to sit on the bench while she meticulously dried me and dressed me in the bottoms that matched the top I'd given her to wear.
She pulled me to my bed and, well, tucked me in, before climbing into the bed herself. She spooned herself right up against my back. I knew I was too tired to have sex with her but she'd done so much for me I thought perhaps some thanks was in order. I started to turn toward her but she tightened her hold and stopped me.
"No, LaCroix. I'm not trying for anything here. Just lie still and I'll hold you while you sleep," she whispered.
I relaxed into her arms and after a while felt myself drifting off to sleep.
Nick woke up with Natalie curled up next to him. He stroked her hair for a minute while inhaling the scent of her blood. Beautiful scent of jasmine! He lingered for a moment then slowly extricated himself from her and the bedding. He looked back at her while he put on his robe, then took a deep breath and headed for the shower. He set the water and stripped, then grinned as he caught sight of himself in the mirror. Better add a little more cold water!
As he showered and shaved, Nick pondered what to do to help LaCroix. They hadn't really spoken since Nick had announced his engagement to Natalie in the Raven. Nick grimaced as he remembered the rage he felt radiating from his father that night. Slick move, Knight. he thought, vigorously toweling himself down. You should have told him first, fought it out, then announced it to the community in the Raven. Natalie is safe from attack only because the other vampires fear LaCroix. If they get the sense that he has withdrawn his protection… Nick shook his head angrily. As angry as LaCroix had been, Nick wouldn't believe his sire would do that. There had been something else behind the rage in LaCroix's voice that night. Nick had thought about it a few times since but couldn't identify what it was. Maybe it's time to find out.
Natalie was awake when Nick emerged from the bathroom. He crossed to her and gave her a long, deep kiss. She smiled and pushed him away.
"Not now, Knight! My turn for the bathroom. You go see LaCroix."
Nick stuck out his lip in a brief pout, then turned to dress. Natalie stood watching him, came over and straightened out his collar.
"I hope you can help him," she whispered then disappeared into the bathroom. Nick put on his holster and jacket and headed for the lift.
"Me too," he whispered as the lift doors closed.