Inner Fire and the Light
Jeannie Ecklund 

This is a Forever Knight/ Touched By an Angel crossover and a sequel to
The Last Night and Beyond. (If you missed the first one and want to
read it e-mail me). I know these characters belong to someone else. I'm
just borrowing them for these stories. No infringement on any one
intended. I'd like to thank Elise from the bottom of my heart for her
Beta Reading. You have no idea how much I appreciate you.. I would also
like to thank my sister, Linda, for content help, consistency, and some
Beta Reading. I'd also like to thank Kylie for her encouragement and
getting me into all this. 


Chapter 1

Nick drove the big van down the long drive way. It went through a
decorated iron gate, an expanse of woods and then around a peaceful
area of grass and trees. He pulled up before a huge, two-story log
cabin. There was a drive down the side that led to a smaller cabin in
the back. Stone steps led up to a large porch that ran the 60 foot
width of the front of the cabin. 

Reese breathed, "Wow!" The lawn in front was rich and lush. A raw
forest framed the whole property. There was a covered well in the front

They piled out of the van and headed up the stairs. The porch was wide,
and had numerous comfortable garden chairs, a porch swing and a
hammock. The floors and walls were of redwood, and there was a huge
picture window open to the front. 

Natalie grabbed Nick's arm, "It's wonderful, Nick! Absolutely perfect."

Nick smiled, "Come on! Wait until you see the inside..." They all heard
the perturbed yowl from the van, so Nick returned to the van and got
the cat carrier, to bring Sydney with them. Returning to the porch,
Nick swung open the door and stepped back to wave the others through. 

They entered a long lodge-like room that extended away from them a good
100 feet. Massive beams crossed the ceiling. To their left was a big
fireplace. Natalie giggled and nudged Nick when she saw the white bear
rug spread out in front of it. The mantel had been transplanted from
the loft, "As you desired, my love." He bent and kissed her, then sat
the carrier down and opened the door. Sidney peaked out wearily, then
shot out of the box and ran behind the TV. 

Natalie laughed, "He'll get used to the place." 

Reese exclaimed, "Look at that TV!" He indicated another section of the
room. A 65 inch built-in TV graced the wall before a grouping of chairs
and a couch. Stereo speakers angled from the rafters around the room
would provide "surround sound". There was even an emergency Ham radio
center off in one corner. "This is our movie and communications
center," Nick explained. 

On the other side of the TV area was a computer center, very well
stocked and expensive. "You have a set up like this in your place, Pop.
I also put another one upstairs for Nat and I." 

"Nick, this place is really something," Joe said, amazed. 

On the other side of the door was the huge picture window with more
chairs and couches for watching the snow in the winter. "We can use
this for our story telling or just for sitting before the fire when
it's cold." 

Reese commented, "I'm looking forward to that." 

Natalie said, "How about some FBI stories as well, Pop?" 

"You got a deal," Joe agreed. 

The floors down the middle were covered with rich area rugs and empty
spaces. Opposite the TV section was Nick's grand piano. There were
columns of marble topped with planters of lush greenery, making a nice
cozy setting. Beyond the piano area and slightly more toward the center
was a large dining table with eight elegant chairs, and at the far end
of the room there was a bar with stools, like a breakfast nook, that
looked into a compact, ultra-modern kitchen over a marble counter. 

Natalie ran around the counter, "Oh my, Nick... It's wonderful!" she
exclaimed, looking at all the state of the art appliances. She fingered
the smooth top of the burner less stove and the glass doors on the
fully stocked frig. 

"Thank, the Lord, there's no wood stove in here. I think this will
really be nice." She continued to explore the kitchen as the two men
watched her enjoying the newness of their home. Nick showed her the
small half-bath off the kitchen. 

After a few minutes, Nick took her by the arm and guided her up the
stairs toward the second floor. Reese puffed up the stairs after them.
"Oh, Pop," Nick called back, exchanging smiles with Natalie, "I
installed a lift in your cabin. That way you won't have to climb the
steps when you're tired. 

"Bless you, Nick," came the big man's breathless reply. 

"Where's mine?" Natalie asked, slipping her hand under the edge of her
expanding abdomen. "When I get too big with these babies, I won't be
able to climb up these stairs either." 

They reached the upper landing and stopped to catch their breath. The
ceilings on the lower floor were 10 ft. This made the staircase quite

Nick kissed her cheek. "It's on it's way... should be here next week. I
had it made special with a nice, soft bench inside. There's a small
shaft next to the kitchen, near the bathroom. You may have noticed the

"Thanks, Nick. You're the best husband in the world." She hugged his
arm. The upstairs had a 10 foot wide hall that ran about 50 ft. to a
nice wooden door. On both sides of the hall, the area was divided into
two good-sized rooms on each side with a bathroom between them. 

The door at the end of the hall opened into a massive master bedroom
with its own bathroom. The huge room had a four poster, draped bed. It
looked small in the enormous room. There was an area for a computer
center and separate study desks. There was a smaller, cozy, intimate TV
viewing place. "This empty place here will be for the babies while they
are small." There was a fireplace right above the one downstairs. It
also had a white bearskin rug. 

Natalie blushed, thinking of the times she would spend there with Nick.
"Nick, it's so amazing I can't even put it in words. I never expected
this much. It's almost a log mansion." 

"I only wanted you to feel comfortable. You can make any changes you
like," Nick assured her. He went to open the bathroom door and Nat was
pleased to find a large sunken tub there, similar to the one in the
loft. She had hated to leave it behind. She and Nick had so much fun

The colors in the room, the drapes on the bed and the tub in the
bathroom, were all done in the rich color of bloodwine. She looked at
him curiously, "Sorry... I know it's the color of blood, but even in my
mortal life it was my favorite color. You can change anything you want
to, Nat." 

Natalie sometimes wondered if he missed any of his immortal life. She
would become self-conscious when they made love, wondering if he
missed the bloodbonding. 

Nick had tried to tell her that he didn't miss it that much. He thought
maybe she might though. The bloodbond was an addiction. It joined the
mental as well as physical. It was like truly becoming a part of the
other person: All feelings and truth was there. Now, they had to rely
only on words and physical expressions. Still, he was so happy with
Natalie, he seldom even thought about what he had been. He shook the
thoughts away. 

Natalie was looking into the enormous walk-in closet. There, she
examined the rich, heavily carved bureaus. "Nick, I'm overwhelmed. It's
almost to wonderful for words." She walked over to kiss him, and hugged
him tightly. 

"Pop, It's amazing isn't it?" 

"Yeah," he said. "I'm stunned!" 

Nick smiled, happy that they liked it. It was so much bigger than he
had first imagined, but he had fallen in love with it. 

"Come on, Pop, let's go see your place." 

They went downstairs and into the kitchen. There they found a door that
opened into a small covered passageway. It went from their house to
Joe's. Inside was a home as well made as theirs, only about half the
size. The upstairs had only two rooms; a big one and a smaller guest
room with a bath for each room. 

Joe stood stunned for a moment, then grabbed Nick in a big hug. 

Nick returned the large man's hug. "Pop, you deserve something back for
what you give to Natalie and me. I doubt I would have adjusted so well
if you hadn't been there these past months to talk to and sound off at.
It was hard, and it was wonderful. I feel so blessed." 

He pulled Natalie into the hug and they stood together for several

After a time, Joe said, "I've been blessed too, Nick. A few months ago
my life was pretty empty. Now I have a son and a daughter, who love
and respect me. I even have grandchildren on the way!" He patted
Natalie's stomach affectionately. "No man could be more blessed." He
pushed them gently toward the door. "Now go on back to your place,
enjoy the night together, and get settled in. I'm pretty tired. I think
I'll just fix a snack and head on up to bed." 

Nick and Natalie could practically read his mind. They started to open
their mouths to protest, but Joe held up his finger stopping them.
They said in unison, "Yes, Pop. Sleep well." 

They each gave him a kiss and headed back up the passage. The first
time that Nick had kissed Reese on the cheek, the man had taken a
step back. Nick had apologized, explaining that it was just habit.
Vampire families were very close. It was expected between father and

A couple days later, Joe had come and told him he didn't mind the kiss,
so Nick had just continued his old habit. 

Nick and Natalie returned to their new home, and secured the door
behind them. Nick took his wife upstairs. He filled the tub, then both
of them got in. They sat holding each other, relaxing for a long time
before scrubbing themselves and each other. Finally they stepped out
and into two white, fluffy robes, and went downstairs to sit before the

Nick went to the kitchen and brought back a tray of cheese and fruit.
He brought glasses and some sparkling grape drink. They sat on the
bearskin rug and ate, feeding each other pieces of fruit and cheese,
kissing and talking. 

After a time, the food was set aside, and they made love, slowly at
first, then hungrily devouring each other. Later, in the afterglow, as
they lay in each other's arms, Nick gently caressed Natalie's stomach
were their baby grew. 

Natalie said, "I can't wait until I can feel the baby move." 

"Me either," he admitted, then thought to himself, "If I were still a
vampire, I could hear the baby's heart beat." 

Changing to a mortal so quickly had been wonderful, glorious, and hard.
So many things had changed. So many things he hadn't even thought of;
like indigestion, feet that hurt, an amazing loss of strength, sight
and hearing. He truly had learned to respect the difficulties that
handicapped people lived with each day. He had felt a huge loss when
he'd lost his ability to fly, see in the dark, survive bullet wounds,
and rip doors off their hinges. He'd stopped working and had taken a
leave of absence to get acquainted with his new lifestyle. 

In retrospect, though, he felt that he had received gifts that were
much greater than those that he had given up. Most importantly, he was
able to walk into a church with his wife and knew he would go to heaven
some day. Beyond that, he could stand in the sun, go to the beach and
see the sun on the waves, and love his wife without restraint or fear
of killing her. It still amazed him to know that there was a life
growing inside Natalie... one that he and she had made through their
love of each other. One day, this child would call him 'Daddy'. Tears
sprang to his eyes at the thought. 

Natalie felt a warm tear slide from his cheek onto hers. "Nick, what's
wrong?" She asked, alarmed. 

He turned his face toward her and smiled. "I'm so grateful for my
life..." He let it drop there. 

"But," she finished for him, "You do miss some of your old life. Nick,
don't be ashamed to think about what you gave up. You lived that way
for 800 years. I understand that you miss your super human abilities.
They were amazing..." 

She touched her stomach, knowing where his thoughts had gone. "Please,
Nick, talk to me about what you feel. Tell me a thousand times if it
makes it better for you." She drew his head to her breast. 

He lay his cheek there listening to her heart beat. 

"Millions of people," she continued, "never have a chance to experience
something like that." 

Nick said, "That life had so many horrors as well. I don't miss
feeding. I don't miss LaCroix's abuse...." 

"But you do miss him, don't you, Nick?" she finished for him. "No
matter what he did to you, you were his child. It's natural for a child
to love his father." 

Nick moved away and stood before the fire, the light dancing across his
face. "I do love him... and I miss him. I would love to show him my
life and have him be proud of me. I know that what inhabits him is evil
and could destroy all of us. I wish he could be free like I am. 

He's a wonderful man, inside, but I have only seen the real man a few
times. Nat, is it wrong to cry over him... to hurt that he is lost to
me? Do you think the Lord is angry that I even think about LaCroix
after all the things he has done to me?" 

Natalie reached up to him, and he pulled her to her feet. She reached
for her robe and drew it over her body, then grabbed his up and
covered him, slipping her arms around him and pressing herself against
his back. 

Natalie laid her face between his shoulder blades. "You know, Nick, I
think the Lord loves every creature He has created. He accepted you
back. I can't believe He wouldn't want the same thing for LaCroix, but
he is responsible for himself. He knows that the Lord welcomed you
back. He will realize that it is possible for him to be freed as well
if he wants it enough, but he has to want it. No one else can do it for

She took Nick by the hand and led him toward the stairs. A tiny "meow"
stopped them, and Sidney hesitantly came out from behind the TV.

Chapter 2 

Natalie grinned up at Nick. She went to pick up the large fluffy cat
and kissed him, rubbing his head. Taking her pet to the kitchen, Nat
showed him where his food, water and bed was, then turned back to her
waiting husband, took his hand, and walked with him up the stairs
to bed. 

Life settled in at the cottage, as the residents called it. Nick had a
trainer/therapist come to the house. The man helped him exercise and
train his body. Once Nick became used to the limitations of his 'new
body', the trainer started to instruct him in different forms of
martial arts. 

They played war games, of sorts, to train Nick to rely on his human
senses to capture an assailant. They had told the Instructor that Nick
had sustained some brain damage and needed to have his physical skills
retrained so that he could be a good detective again. 

Natalie did some research and studied medical journals. Her expanding
abdomen relayed the fact that the baby was growing strong and

Joe usually spent the day writing down the stories that Nick told them
of his life, and in the evening, Nick would either go over Joe's notes,
or tell them more stories. He told them about the mortals he had met
during his travels. People like Shakespeare, Chopin, Mozart, Dali,
Benjamin Franklin, and many others who had touched his life. 

Natalie watched Nick grow more confident as he became familiar with,
and learned how to use the strengths of his 'new' body again. At
night, Nick studied the Bible, unable to get enough of it. Generally,
the three of them would read the Bible and pray together just before
heading off to bed. 

Joe was very unintrusive. He tried to give the young couple as much
privacy as possible. Sidney started to spend part of his night's with
Joe, keeping him company. He had a spot picked out at the foot of Joe's
bed. They had put in pet doors that allowed Sidney to wander between
the two cabins through the enclosed passageway. 

About three weeks after they moved into their new home, Natalie decided
to invite Grace to come for a visit. Nick had a limo sent to the
airport to pick her up when she arrived. When it drove up and their
dear friend got out of the car, she was dressed to kill. She was
wearing a body-hugging black satin dress, and a big black hat with a
red silk rose that added a splash of bright color to the outfit. 

As Natalie waddled up to her, she squealed, "Oh, girl, look at you!"
She grabbed Natalie in a big bear hug, being careful of the growing

Nick hurried down the steps to hug Grace, a big boyish grin on his
face. He was delighted with their reunion. He'd noticed, lately, that
Natalie seemed nervous. He had decided it was because of all the male
influence around and no girl talk. She was, after all, having her first

Nick glanced over at Joe's house and saw him peeking through his front
window curtains. He'd been very adamant that he didn't need some single
woman coming around, yet Nick had seen the idea take root in Joe's
mind. Lately he'd seen a look in Joe's eyes that said the man was very
much looking forward the Grace Balthazar's visit. He'd made an off-hand
remark to Nick that Grace 'was a real looker.' 

"Look at you, Nick!" The big woman teased. "I think you are getting a
bit gray. It's about time! I thought you were going to stay the same

Nick flashed Natalie a grin. "Well, I'd chose this life anytime," he
said, indicating his pregnant wife. "Welcome to our humble abode,
Grace. I'm so glad you're here. Nat's been beside herself all day
waiting for your arrival." 

Grace nodded, "Me too!" She wrapped her arm around Natalie, and they
went into the house. Nick followed with a wide grin on his face. This
was just what Natalie needed. 

"Oh girl, would you look at this place!" Their guest exclaimed, as she
walked through the front door. "Lucky gal, this is amazing!" 

Sidney came over and wrapped himself around her feet. 

"Well there you are, old friend." She said, picking the cat up and
hugging him to her. "I've even missed you, bud." She scratched behind
his ears as he purred happily. 

Natalie smiled at her sassy cat, then said proudly, "It's a wonderful
house, Grace." Taking the cat from the other woman, she hugged her
friend again. "Boy, I've missed you!" she said. 

"Me too, Nat," she replied, then got a gleam in her eye and whispered
to Natalie, "Where's that gorgeous man?" 

"Joe?" Natalie asked, grinning back at her. 

"Yes, Joe! You think I'm talking about sasquatch?" 

Natalie giggled, "I think he's hiding in his house. Go easy on him,
Grace. I think he's really looking forward to this, but you know how it
is... getting back into it all." 

Grace sobered, "Yes, I do." She sighed remembering how she had felt
when her husband was killed years go. They had just been kids. 

"How's the morgue?" Natalie asked. 

Grace said, with a twinkle in her eye, "They're still dying to get

"Funny..." Natalie grimaced at the very 'old' joke. 

Grace sighed, "It's not the same without you two there, Natalie. I miss
you, Nick, always popping in and then suddenly disappearing like magic
all the time. I never saw a man move so fast." 

Nick only smiled. He thought it better not to comment for now. 

Grace returned the smile, soft punching Nick's arm affectionately. "I'm
so glad you two finally figured out you couldn't live without each
other! There were times when I wanted to bash your heads together. The
looks you gave each other made ME hot!" 

She chortled. They were giving 'that look' to each other now . She
continued, "I never could understand what kept you apart and then
what suddenly changed." 

She seemed to be waiting for an answer. Nick fingered the cross he wore
on a long chain, around his neck. "Basically, it was a religious
difference. I was finally able to accept Nat's beliefs." 

"That couldn't have been all it was," Grace muttered. 

Realizing that she wouldn't accept his simplistic answer, Nick added,
"Also, I've lived my whole life in the dark... unable to see the sun.
What kind of life would that have been for a wife and children?" 

Grace nodded, but she still didn't looked totally convinced. 

"Natalie, found a cure for my allergy. It freed me to love her, and my
faith was renewed." 

"Uh huh... " Grace said, a look of disbelief still on her face. 

Nick sighed, going a bit further, "Do you believe in demon possession?"

That got her attention. "Yes," she admitted, wide eyed. 

"Nick, had a very nasty one," Natalie said. "It would not allow him
into the light. It took Angels, Grace! Faith and Angels... to free him.
I saw the Angels! With the Lord's help, Nick was set free. He'd always
been able to control it enough to work and live at night, but it would
incapacitate him by day." 

Nick filled in a little more. "I couldn't get to close to Natalie for
fear it might harm her. We could only be friends." 

"I DID see it on a few occasions," Natalie admitted to her
flabbergasted friend. 

"It seemed able to control Nick more when he allowed himself to love,
so he kept everyone at arm's length. Well," she finished, "enough of
this. It's over now and Nick is free to love and to live in the sun." 

Grace still wanted more. "How did you know how to free yourself?" 

"Natalie had been studying the Bible a lot, and we talked about the
things she read. I finally realized that I had to ask the Lord to
forgive me of my sins and I had to choose to let them go. I asked Him
to cleanse me from the evil and all it had made me do. I had to let go
of the overwhelming guilt and realize that it was something that had
controlled me. The Lord forgave me and cleansed me. I'm so glad that He

Grace finally accepted this answer, at least for the moment. It was 
amazing, but she had seen his temper on occasion, and she could have
sworn she'd seen his eyes glow once. 

"What about the blood in the frig?..." 

"What ?!" Nick and Nat said, in unison. 

"That time they brought you in as a murder suspect, there was a
forensics report about blood in your frig." 

Nick sighed. This woman was too smart. "The demon fed on animal blood."

Grace shuddered, "It was like being a ...." 

Both Nick and Natalie covered her mouth. "It's best not to say it out

Grace nodded. "Okay, not another word." She hugged them both. "I'm just
so happy for you both." 

Natalie smiled, as Nick drew her close. "We're kind of happy about it
all ourselves. Now come on and let me show you the rest of the house." 

After the tour was over, Grace nudged Natalie. "Don't you think we
could convince that hunk of a man away from his little house?? 

Natalie winked at her. "Okay, let's go see Joe. Someone has to break
the ice, and it seems he's content to wait for us to do it." 

They went through the covered passage between the houses and knocked on
Joe's door. Momentarily, they heard the big man's footsteps.

Joe opened his door, a smile on his face. 

Grace stepped toward him, and Joe reached out and took her hands. They
stood and just stared at each other. 

Nick and Natalie's eyebrows rose, and they exchanged silly grins. They
could see the color start to rise on both their friends' dark cheeks. 

Nick cleared his throat rather loudly, and the two jumped guiltily

Joe recovered first. "It's good to see you again, Mrs.Balthazar." 

"You too, Captain Reese," Grace answered, embarrassed by the completely
unexpected warmth radiating from her cheeks. 

"Joe. Call me, Joe," he said. 

"Okay, Joe." She gave him a shy smile, "and you call me Grace." 

"Grace, it is." 

Natalie watched with interest. "How sweet," she thought. "There are
definitely possibilities here... " 

Nick suggested, "Pop, why don't you take Grace for a walk. Show her
around the grounds?" 

"Pop?" Grace repeated. Nick explained, "Yeah, we sort of adopted him." 

He smiled affectionately at the older man, leaned toward Joe and gave
him a kiss on the cheek. 

Grace stared. "Well, I see a lot has changed around here." 

Natalie laughed at her. "You have no idea. Come on. Why don't you go up
to your room and change. You might want to dress down a bit. Put on
some comfortable shoes for that walking tour." 

Grace was still staring at Joe and Nick. She shook herself mentally.
"Okay. I'll meet you outside in about ten minutes, Joe." 

Natalie and Grace went back to the main house, leaving Nick to stare at
Joe. "Hey, Pop. Grace looks pretty good." 

"Yeah, Nick. She looks REAL good." 

Then he asked, "Why did you kiss me in front of her?" He was obviously

Nick apologized, "I'm sorry, but when I'm happy, it just seems natural.
I love you, my friend and mentor. You've become the father I've
always wanted." He tried, again, to explain about Vampire families.
"Remember that I've mentioned that vampires always show a lot of
affection when they are happy and a lot of abuse when they are angry.
It's a hard habit to break even though I'm human now." 

Joe looked at Nick. "Abuse? You've never talked about that much. I
always knew LaCroix was pretty rough, but I didn't know it was that

"Yeah... rough..." Nick said. "He beat me to within inches of a
vampire's life, hundreds of times." He turned away from Joe to hide the
tears that had welled up in his eyes. "I understand more now. I love
him, and I know the man inside of him, loves me. Unfortunately, the
demons within him can't stand love. They take over, and he becomes the
monster they are." A tear escaped Nick's eye. 

Joe saw it slide down his son's face from the side. He reached out and
pulled Nick to his chest and held him firmly. "Pray for him, Nick.
That's all we can do. The Lord promised you would be safe from him.

Chapter 3 

He felt Nick's arms tighten around him, and thought, "As wise and as
old as this man is, he was still the very young man, who'd been
spoiled as a child, worshiped as a young man, and brought across as a
young man filled with anger. A young man who had never had
responsibilities. He had been changed by the Lord, but remained, deep
down, a child needing a father's love and approval." 

In the beginning, Joe had felt strange when Nick had come to him to be
held. He had felt confused, a bit uncomfortable and fearful of the
situation, but Natalie had explained some of Nick's childhood and told
Joe of his need for acceptance. 

Now, as he held Nick close and his fingers touched the blond curls at
the back of Nick's head, he understood how much LaCroix must have
needed this 'sunlight' with him. Nick was sunshine in a physical body.
Even more so now, than before his conversion. 

"Just pray for him, Nick," he repeated. "It's all we can do. Maybe one
day he will be able to forgive himself and ask God to deliver him as
the Lord delivered you. Now go find Natalie." He pushed the young man
away from him, gently. 

Joe thought to himself, as he watched Nick walk away, "That young man
gives me as much as I try to give him." His own need for love and
acceptance was huge right now, having been so recently widowed. 

The three friends each gave of themselves in different ways to the
others to help fill the emotional needs they had. This had made them a
very close knit family. 

Joe felt angry that Nick had been forced to put up with LaCroix for so
many years. How Nick could still love that monster was beyond him. He'd
like to drive a stake through the old Vampire's heart himself. He
sighed and went to put on his own walking shoes. 

When Grace came downstairs, she was dressed in jeans and a sweater.
Good walking shoes were on her feet. 

Joe smiled at her fresh scrubbed look. She was beautiful with, or
without make-up. He made a note to tell her that someday. 

Nick and Natalie watched, with silly grins, as Joe offered their guest
his arm. Grace took it, and off they went. 

Natalie turned back toward Nick, threw her arms around his neck, and
giggled like a school girl. "They like each other!" she exalted. Nick
smiled and held his wife close. "They sure do. It was like there was
electricity in the air. Did you feel it?" 

Nat nodded against his neck. She took the opportunity to plant a kiss

Nick, in turn, moved to capture her lips in a deep kiss. "Come on,
let's go get that dinner ready." They walked arm in arm into the house.

Joe and Grace walked down the path into the forest. Their route was
fairly level for a ways. Joe took her to one of his favorite places
where a huge flat-topped rock made a wonderful place to sit under the
trees. They'd been walking for a bit, so they sat a while to enjoy the
view of the beautiful meadow that opened before them. After a while,
they went on toward a creek he had told her about. 

The trees shaded them with coolness and colored the ground with flecks
of sunlight. "Natalie looks amazingly happy," Grace remarked. "I've
missed you all so much. It just doesn't seem the same anymore." 

Joe replied, "Nat's great! She and Nick have overcome so much. Now they
have the life they dreamed of. Nick's an amazing man. His Heart's so
innocent, yet he has had more experiences than most people dream of.
He's never lost hope... even when things got really bad.' 

Grace looked at him, curiously. "You know the big secret don't you,

"Secret?" he feigned innocence. 

"Yes. Nick and Natalie explained it to me as demon possession." 

Joe was surprised. "They did?" 

"Yes. But, Joe, I know it has a mythological name." She whispered,

"Oh, Grace!" Joe laughed uncomfortably. 

"I'm a pathologist, Joe." She added with a coy smile, "I'm also a big
snoop. Natalie didn't always take the best care of her journal. I
figured out Nick years ago. I cried so many tears in private for those
two. I didn?t really understand what changed until now, but I'm so glad
it did." 

"It was pure faith, Grace. The Lord God came and changed Nick...
cleansed him. Natalie said she saw it all. That's why they have that
white hair now. They've seen the face of God." 

"Joe, why didn't she ever confide in me? She must have known I would
never tell anyone." 

"Please don't fault Natalie," Joe implored. "It's very dangerous
knowledge. There are creatures who would drain you in a second to keep
that secret." 

He saw Grace pale. "Why, is Natalie still alive then?" 

"She helped them medically. Some disease hit them, and she saved them."

She almost asked "Why?" but then she realized that Nat would have done
anything to save Nick. By saving Nick, she had to save them all. 

"It's best not to talk about these things," Joe continued. "Perhaps, in
time, Nick or Natalie will answer more of your questions. Pray for
protection from the Lord. Let Natalie know what you?ve told me." 

He noticed his companion was trembling, so he reached out and pulled
her close to him. "It will be okay. It will actually help, while you're
here, to be on the inside. Nick has some wonderful stories to tell." 

"This place is a sanctuary, here with these two blessed people. The
Lord promised they would have protection, and I believe any Christian
believer would also be protected anyway." 

Grace stepped back reluctantly. Being in his arms felt so good. She
wanted to look into his face. "Ever since I was a child I have
believed," she confided in him. "The Lord's always been a major part of
my life." 

Joe smiled. He took her arm, and they continued their walk. "I could
tell. He shines from your face." 

He stopped and turned toward her. "Grace, life is so short. My life has
changed so much in the last few months. Experiencing history through
Nick's eyes has opened so many worlds to me." 

"Just how old is he?" she asked, suddenly realizing that Nick could be
immensely old. 

"Over 800 years," Joe said, watching her face carefully for her

"800!" She felt her legs start to give out. 

Joe noticed, and reached out to gather her close again. "Whoa! Sorry...
I didn't mean to shock you." 

"But he looks like such a boy!" she protested. 

Joe smiled. "Yes, that's a by-product of a young, immature man in his
30's being brought across. It suspended his maturity, and his father
'creator' treated him like an adolescent all his life. Now he's free to
grow, mature and have children of his own. Life will go on and have an
end eventually." 

"Is that what he wanted?" Grace asked. 

"Yes, more than you know. For him, eternal life without love was hell.
The kind of 'love' his father gave him was mentally and physically
abusive. It's a wonder he still has such a loving, giving heart." 

"And you're showing him what a good father is, Joe. That's a wonderful
gift in itself." She reached up and touched his cheek. "You're a good

He smiled, a bit embarrassed. "It's easy to love Nick and Natalie.
Lately, I've needed them just as much as they've needed me." 

Grace took a deep breath. "Could you, maybe, need me too, Joe?" 

He seemed a bit taken back, but he quickly said, "Yes, Grace, I think I
could need you too... very much so." He leaned down and gave her a
very sweet, gentle kiss. When he drew back, he added "I'd certainly
like it if we explored the possibilities." 

Grace had tears in her eyes. "You have my blessing to explore," she
teased him, with a grin. Then she remarked, "I used to watch you at
work, Joe, and I wanted to give you so much... but it wasn't our time.
I respected that." 

"You're a wonder, Grace. I think I'm going to enjoy exploring the
possibilities. Come on, I guess we?d better get back. I think dinner's
probably waiting for us." He took her hand in his. It felt so good to
have this woman close to him. 

Grace asked suddenly, as they walked, "Do you think any of his former
family will try to contact him?" 

Joe nodded. "I think it?s a given that his father, LaCroix, will be
back. It's something he won't be able to control. He was warned by the
angels never to try to harm Nick or his family, but those demons that
live in him are obsessed with Nick. They will try." 

As they neared the house, Joe said, "Let's keep the revelation, that
you know, to ourselves tonight. We will tell them tomorrow, in the
light of day." 

Grace nodded. "Ok, Joe. I am so looking forward to visiting and talking
about the baby." 

Natalie was setting the table when they came in laughing, still hand in
hand. Nick was setting wine on the table. "Well, I see you two enjoyed
getting reacquainted," he commented. 

Joe beamed. "Yes, we did." 

"Natalie, I'm so glad you invited me up here. The place and grounds are
just beautiful," Grace gushed. 

Joe realized that he was still holding Grace's hand. He drew it up to
his lips, bent to kiss her fingertips, then let her go, smiling into
her eyes. He placed his hand on her back. 

Grace flashed Natalie a thumbs up and a quick wink. 

Nick's eyebrow rose, "Doesn't look like you wasted any time." 

"Son, when you get to be my age there's no time to waste," Joe stated.
"I've know for years that Grace and I could mesh, given the right
circumstances, but as she told me earlier, it wasn't our time then. Now
it is. I don't think either one of us wants to waste a minute alone
when we can explore the prospect of being together. I can't explain it,
but it sure feels right." 

Nick touched Natalie's shoulder, allowing his fingers to run down her
arm and interlace with her fingers. "I know what you mean. I think Nat
and I fell in love the first time we laid eyes on each other." 

"Actually," Natalie said, "your eyes were closed when I first saw you."
She remembered unzipping the body bag. 

Grace said, "I'd love to hear that story." 

Joe changed the subject, not wanting to make things to awkward for Nick
and Natalie until they could explain that Grace knew. "I'm starving.
What's for dinner?" 

Everyone laughed at him then took their seats. They ate and talked far
into the night. They spoke of the department, and cases that Natalie
had been on. They talked about old friends and acquaintances, and of
the city... 

Later that night, as Nick lay in bed holding Natalie close, he said, "I
know you don't like the idea, but I really think I will go back to the
precinct someday, Nat. I just can't imagine my life without it." 

He felt warm tears on his shoulder. It was the only thing that they
talked about that made her afraid. They'd talked a lot about it. 

Natalie knew it was what he wanted... what he was training for. She
feared that since he was no longer impervious to bullets, she might one
day lose him. They both knew it could be a fatal career choice. He
could never survive a bullet to the head as he had that one time. 

Nick had promised her that he would always wear a vest. He knew it was
a possibility, even with his training, that he might act impulsively
some night. He hadn't told Natalie that he sometime had misgivings
about his choice. The idea that he could die before seeing his children
grow up, was very scary. Death had always been around him, but had
never touched him, personally. Now it was real. He knew that if it came
naturally, he would not fear it, but he didn't want to lose his gift of
life too soon. He wanted to grow old with Natalie. 

Nick drew her to him and tried to kiss her tears away. They made love
quietly... slowly... savoring their time together... tucking the
memories deep into their hearts. 

Later, Nick lay with his ear on Nat's stomach, listening for their
Child's heart beat. It was a calming pastime, and eventually it lulled
him to sleep. 

The next morning, after breakfast, Grace brought out a tiny sweater and
blanket she'd knitted for the baby. They talked "baby-talk" most of the
day. They laughed and reminisced. They had a wonderful time. 

That evening, on the front porch as they sat listening to one of Nick's
stories, they studied the stars. Crickets chirped in the background,
lending an aura of peace. 

Suddenly, their tranquility was shattered when a long black limo came
up the drive. 

Nick was deep in thought, when he felt Natalie clutch at his arm.
"Lord, protect us," she prayed. 

Chapter 4 

The friends rose and stood close to each other, fingering the crosses
they had started to wear. The car door opened, and a tall, pale man
got out of the driver's seat and came around to open the passenger

Nick felt both fear and hope run through him. Was it LaCroix? 

Grace and Joe held each other, trying to conceal their fear. 

A long, white stockinged, high-heeled leg came out first, followed by
the rest of a woman dressed in a cream colored suit. The brim of a
large hat covered her face until she looked up at them. 

Nick already knew who it was. "Janette!" he cried out, hurrying
forward, ready to embrace her. 

"Nick!" Natalie shouted in fear, grabbing his arm. 

Nick stopped, remembering Janette was still a vampire... one who hadn't
been very happy with him the last time she had seen him. 

"Nichola," she begged, "please allow me to speak to you." 

"Natalie, I will not harm you or your loved ones... I promise you..." 

Natalie stared at her for a moment, then nodded. "Come into the house,"
she invited, then turned to Joe. "Please take Grace to your
house. We have to talk." 

Joe said, uncomfortably, "I'd rather stay here." 

"We'll fill you in later, Pop. Nick and I are safe from Janette." 

Nick was looking toward the Limo, a question obvious in his expression.

Janette answered, "I am alone, Nichola." She noted, with some relief,
that a brief grimace of disappointment flashed across Nick's face. 

"So," she thought to herself, "he still loves, LaCroix. Maybe I haven't
wasted a trip here." 

As she entered their home, Janette took in the huge dwelling with a
glance, then went to stand by the fireplace. 

"I miss the warmth," she said simply. "I did not realize how much I
loved it until you brought me back across, Nichola." 

Nick hadn't taken his eyes off her. He wanted to hold her close, but he
knew it was too dangerous. "You look beautiful," he said. "Almost

She was still so pale that she could have been carved out of stone, but
the hard look that she had once had, was gone. She wore rich clothing,
but very feminine, light pastel colors. 

When everyone had taken their seats, Natalie demanded, a bit harshly,
fear lacing her voice, "What is it you want, Janette?" 

The beautiful vampiress remarked softly, "Always the direct one. I have
always admired you for your courage, Natalie. To answer your question,
I want to know if you would be willing to help me regain my humanity." 

Nick and Natalie stared at her. 

"I have been human before. I know what it is like to walk in the sun...
to have the hope of having a child one day." 

She glanced at Natalie's expanding abdomen. "Congratulations. I can
hear your children, Natalie. They are both strong and healthy." 

Together Nick and Nat cried, "They?!" 

"Didn't you know there are two?" Janette asked. 

"No," they said quietly, taking in the amazing news. 

Natalie let tears of excitement and joy course down her face. Nick held
her close for a moment, then they turned back to Janette. Nick sat a
moment, staring at Janette again. She knew what he wanted. She could
hear his heart racing. Finally, he asked her, "Where is he, Janette?"

No one had to ask who 'he' was. 

Janette replied, "He's in a safe house in the city. We came, only last
night, from France. I have one of our kind caring for him. He?s a shell
of himself, Nichola. He seldom goes out, and it is difficult to get him
to feed. He has fits of rage. I have to tie him down at times. I look
into his eyes, and all I see is pain. He is lost without you." 

She looked away from him and busied her hands by smoothing her skirt
down over her knee. She looked back at them, "I do not want this only
for myself. I want it for LaCroix as well. Nichola, I love him more
than anything... more than I have ever loved you. Right now, he feeds
from me. It is the only thing that keeps him alive. If I could be
healed of this curse... become human again... maybe I could change him,
too. Would you let him come here?" 

Nick had tears on his face. "How do you think we could help you with a
cure? For us, it wasn't only the blood that we shared. Feeding from
Natalie calmed my heart, yet I only fed twice. There was a small
change, yet personally I went much further. Her love helped my faith
grow, and when I embraced my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ again,
fully, HE came and took the demons away. Demons cause the vampirism,

Janette sat silently for a moment. "I know, Nichola. I never told you
that Robert was a Christian. I've thought about it many times. It was
the purity of his love and his Christian blood that saved me. Still, I
never committed MY whole heart to the Lord. Maybe that's why I allowed
myself to be brought across again. I could have walked into the light,
but I didn't have enough faith, Nichola. I allowed them to come back
in. When you came and took my blood, I protested, but I had begun to
feel so alone. Robert was gone. You and LaCroix were my family." She
let blood red tears fall down her face. "I felt the angels cry... I
actually HEARD them cry!" 

Nick reached forward and took her two hands in his. "How can we help? I
can't allow you to feed on me. I would be allowing the demons a way to
re-enter me again." 

"I know," she replied, "but what about a transfusion? Your blood could
start the cleansing and give me the strength to regain the faith I once
had. Pure blood cleansed by Jesus Christ weakens the demons. I would be
free to ask the Lord to forgive me again." 

"But it could kill you," Nick said. "He will take you back, but there
could be a large price to pay." 

She nodded. "I know. I have thought of that, but it would be worth it. 

I can not live any longer in this darkness. If I can lessen the hold of
these creatures, I can get free one way or another. Then, in turn if I
live, I could give my blood to LaCroix. If we could weaken them enough
to allow him some freedom of choice, maybe he could be freed. I have to
try, Nichola. He's dying, and it's the final death. He would be in
darkness forever." 

Nick squeezed her hands. "I must talk to Natalie in private. Go now,
but come back in three days." He stood and drew her to her feet, "It's
good to see you again, Janette." 

The pale woman nodded. "All right, Nichola." She brought one of his
hands up to her lips and kissed it, then rested her cheek against it
for a moment. 

Nick could see the hope in her eyes. 

"I have missed you, my brother." In a blink of an eye she was gone, and
the car was pulling away. 


Nick slumped back onto the couch, shaking. Natalie wrapped her arms
around him. 

Joe and Grace burst back into the room. "We heard the care leave. Are
you okay?" they demanded. 

Natalie stared at Grace, then accusingly at Joe. 

He held up his hand. "I didn't tell her anything. She already knew.
She's known for years." 

"What!?" Both Nick and Natalie looked at Grace. 

Their friend shrugged. "I was nosy, and I didn't understand what kept
you two apart. Nat's journal just happened to catch my eye... It
certainly altered my view of life." 

Natalie reached out and grabbed Grace's hand. She squeezed, "No one can
keep a secret from you, Grace. I should have known." 

Joe sat heavily on the chair that Janette had vacated. "What did she
want?" he asked. 

"She wants my blood," Nick said, still staring into space. 

"What!" the two gasped in unison. 

Natalie explained. 

Joe asked, "Is that possible?" 

Natalie replied, "In theory... Nick does love her very much. It's not
romantic love,though... is it, Nick?" She said, voicing her fears. 

"No, of course not. You are my only love," he reassured her, holding
her tightly. 

Grace asked, "Who is she?" 

Nick shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs that were clouding his

"She was my friend, my sister, my lover... even my wife, for several
hundred years." 

"Wife?" Grace choked. "Several hundred? Wow!" 

Nick turned to Natalie, "You would help?" 

Natalie's biggest fear was Janette. If LaCroix and Janette came back
into Nick's life, would he still be there for HER? Janette had been
Nick's companion for most of the 800 years of his vampire existance.
She was afraid that this could be a huge threat to their life as it was
now. Natalie knew she would help, (How could she not help to free
someone from that curse...) but it made her feel as if her life had
just been turned upside down. 

Natalie had found out that Nick had gone to Janette to feed, and for
physical comfort, after their relationship had started. It was true
that they had only been friends at the time, yet she had seen it as a
betrayal of all the work they had done together to make him mortal. It
had taken Natalie a lot of time to heal from the pain he had caused
her. Janette was so beautiful... so perfect. 

Grace was asking Joe, "Wife? Sister?" 

Joe said, "Vampires are very complicated beings. They are everything to
each other, father, brother, sister, mate. It's the epitome of evil:
all relationships are acceptable. Janette and Nick are only adoptees of
LaCroix, so that makes it okay, even in our reality. Nick's always
tried to play by human rules, but most vampires have no moral code. It
is evil in its purest form, and humans are their cattle." 

Grace paled, looking at Nick. 

Joe continued, "Nick has protested against his nature for over 700
years. His desire to regain his humanity caused him much abuse at the
hands of LaCroix." 

He turned back to his friend. "Nick, how can you even consider helping

Suddenly, they all became aware of another presence in the room. They
turned to stare. A light appeared that became a large, black woman. Her
hair and face glowed. 

"My angel!" Natalie cried. 

"Tess. I am called Tess," the angel said. 

Natalie stood and went to her. The angel wrapped her arms around the
young woman. Peace enveloped her. "Baby, I know you fear this, but this
is their ONLY hope to be saved. No harm will come to you, your family,
or your friends." 

"But... Janette," Natalie protested. "How can this be asked of me?" 

"Natalie, Nick loves you, and Janette really loves LaCroix." 

Natalie drew back. "She does." She let that sink in. "You know I will
do this no matter what. Its just..." 

"I know, Baby. You are human. I assure you, it will not be easy and it
will take hard work, but this IS their only chance. They will get no

"Is it guaranteed that they will accept the Lord?" 

"No, Baby. They must still chose for themselves, but I promise you, no
harm will come to you while they are on this property. If you do not do
this, they will never be offered their salvation again, and you will
never see them again... for they will eventually walk into the sun." 

"No!" Nick cried. 

Tess turned to Nick. "LaCroix is giving up. You were his light, Nick.
As much as you felt the need to walk in the sunlight, he needed you.
That was his obsession... the light he saw in your blood. When he fed
from you, he felt a little more human. Your blood can bring them
halfway. Your blood is cleansed by the Lord. It has healing properties
for them. It can bring them humanity, but only they can accept

"Nick, you will have to donate a unit of blood every two or three
weeks. We will have it bottled into bloodwine, fill another nine
bottles with water and put them next to bloodwine bottle. The Lord will
multiply the bloodwine as he did with the wine at the wedding in Cana,
and make ten out of one." 

"Natalie, no matter what this might do to Nick, you must have him
supply this every couple of weeks. I do not want you, or your babies,
to suffer any harm . You are NOT to donate blood! Only Nick can supply
what LaCroix needs anyway. LaCroix needs to see that Nick still loves
him, or he will not be able to see the love of the Lord that shines
through Nick."

Chapter 5 

Joe asked, "Why would God even care what happens to such vile
creatures? LaCroix has never even tried to do good." 

"He has done good... He is just quiet about it, and he doesn't try to
search it out like Nick has. When it happens, though, he does not turn
away from it. There's a part of him that's pure deep down inside. All
vampires were once humans created by God. They've just lost their way,
as all humans do in one way or another. Remember 'ALL have come short
of God?s glory'... " 

"God has waited for nearly 2000 years for LaCroix to have this
opportunity to come back to Him. Natalie, you told Nick that he was not
dead, and you were right. The man inside never dies. His body was
infected by a disease that is a by-product of the demons. It feeds on
blood, and arrests the body in a type of suspended animation. It was
never a true death. The vampire lives eternally because the demons
are eternal. Even the vampire does not understand the reality of his
situation. So many hunger to return to the light and to their former
states of grace. All they have to do is ask..." 

"Then why do they need the blood from Nick?" Natalie asked, curiously. 

"LaCroix, like many others, would never be able to ask. They are so
buried in their vampire demons, that they do not even realize that a
creature, apart from them, lives in them." 

"Nick has the Lord in his heart." She smiled down at Nick. "In Nick's
blood, LaCroix will see salvation, and even feel it. That's the only
way to make it real for a vampire. Those that want to get out of their
evil way of life, feel like Nick did... that their sins are too much to
be forgiven, and they do not ask." 

"In your blood, Nick saw the truth, Natalie. He would have never made
it back without you showing that love and forgiveness was possible for
him. Your love gave him hope that God could love and forgive him as

She studied the faces around her. "It will be necessary for LaCroix to
come here." 

Nick jumped up. "What? I don't want him here. I don't want Natalie,
Joe, or Grace to be in any danger." 

"I already promised you that you would be protected," she assured him.
A bit of frustration crept into her voice. "Right now, LaCroix needs to
see the Glory of the Lord shining from your face, Nick. It's his ONLY

"I will be with you and will have two other angels here to help as
well." She went to the door and opened it. 

The cabin residents turned. There was a beautiful, young woman with
long, dark hair, and a tall, young, blond haired man. Their faces were
gentle and comforting to look upon. 

Tess introduced them, "This is Monica and Andrew. Andrew will be a
caretaker, of sorts, for LaCroix. He will care for him physically so
that you do not have to come near him if that is your wish. He will be
able to restrain LaCroix when he is out of control." 

Natalie sat down in a chair. Tears ran down her face. Tess came close.
"What is it, Baby?" she asked. 

"I wanted this time of my life to be full of joy and peace," she cried,
touching her expanding belly and rubbing it. She felt such a strong
connection to her babies. 

Tess caressed her cheek with soft fingers. "I know, Baby, but your
children will be fine. It's necessary. Will you allow this?" 

Natalie looked at Nick and saw the hope in his face. "Yes," she said,
covering her face with her hands and letting the tears flow freely. 

Grace asked, her voice shaking, "Do I have a part in all this?" 

"Yes," Monica answered, coming close. The cabin residents heard the
rich Irish brogue flow like music over her tongue. "You must help
Natalie with the tests and help keep her healthy. You have a knack for
humor where there often is none. This gift will enrich these peoples'
lives more than you will ever know, as the days go by." 

She turned to Nick. "Do not fear LaCroix. He cannot hurt you
physically. You, alone, know how difficult it will be to free him. He's
trapped inside himself, but he doesn't realize it. The demon has
integrated itself so much into him, that he has no realization that a
seperate being inhabits him. YOU know what it's like, Nick. He will
need to see your love... see your acceptance of him before he can reach
out and accept change in his heart. Do not hide your love from him
through your fear and anger. He needs to see your salvation to know he
can have it for himself." 

Grace asked, "What about my job? I was only supposed to visit for a
couple weeks." 

"It's been taken care of. You've had a family emergency. Another angel
will take your place." 

"He will do a good job," Andrew reassured her. 

"Grace, you and Joe are here for support, and there is much you can
learn from each other." Tess reached out and took her hands. "It's time
for pain and for joy. Rejoice, dreams can be a reality if you are all
willing to walk through the fire." 

"LaCroix will arrive when the three days are over. Nick, you will need
to have a home here for Janette and LaCroix, separate from your own.
You understand their needs better than anyone. Double wide mobile homes
should supply all their needs." 

Suddenly the angels were gone and the four friends were left to stare
at the emptiness. 

Nick collapsed onto his knees. Natalie came to him and held him. "I
Don't know if I can do this," he told her in a tortured voice. "Nat, I
love him, but he scares me so much. I never thought I would have to
look at him again." 

"I know... I know." She soothed him, rocking him back and fourth. "I
know you love him, Nick. This will never be finished unless we make
this effort to save his soul. If we do this, he could be free. He could
be a real father to you. Imagine all that obsession turned to love. Our
children would be blessed to have both LaCroix and Pop as

Natalie continued, "LaCroix has so much knowledge to share with them."
Natalie was saying the words and listening to them herself. She needed
to convince herself that this was right, too. 

Nick looked toward Joe and reached out to him. The big man took his
hand and drew him to his feet, enclosing him in his arms. "We must try,
Nick. You will never forgive yourself if we don't. It's the Lord's
wish. He has sent you angels to make the request." 

Nick drew back. "Yes... He did, didn't He?" Feeling overwhelmed, he
said, "I need to lie down. I'm so weak and shaky." The aftermath of the
adrenaline rush had set in. 

With Grace and Joe's help, they got him up the stairs and to his room
where he collapsed on the bed. Exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep. 

Natalie kissed his forehead and covered him before returning down
stairs to talk with Grace and Joe. "I'll take the first unit of blood
tomorrow. I?m sure someone will come to take it to Tess." 

Natalie felt a bit faint herself, and wavered. Grace cried out, "Whoa,
girl!" She grabbed Natalie around the waist and led her to the couch.
"You need to rest, too. This is just as hard on you." 

"When Nick was saved, I thought we would never again have to deal with
vampires," she admitted to her friend. "I thought it was all in our
past. The Lord promised us protection. I guess I took that to mean
separation as well." 

Grace asked, "If the Lord will protect you, how hard can this be?" 

Natalie smiled sadly at her. "You haven't met LaCroix! He's like
looking Satan in the face. He's cold and evil. The man looks like he's
carved out of porcelain. LaCroix, originally, was a Roman General. He
still has an air of command about him. He spent 800 years ruling Nick
with an iron fist. When Nick would run, LaCroix would follow, and
physically torture Nick into submission. It happened over and over." 

"Through all of that, Nick still loves him. They have been close at
times. This could set Nick back, emotionally, a 100 years, if it
doesn't work out." 

Grace assured her, "Joe and I will do anything we can." 

Natalie yawned. "I'm going to go up now and hold Nick while he sleeps."

She slowly ascended the stairs and went to their room. There, she found
Nick curled up in a ball on his side. Sidney lay in the crook of his
arm. Natalie took the cat off the bed, and shooed him on downstairs,
then gently coaxed Nick to relax. He pulled her close, whimpering a bit
in his sleep. She let her tears wash some of her fear away. 


After Natalie went up the stairs, Grace turned to Joe. "Would you mind
holding me for a minute?" she asked. 

Joe's smiled and wrapped his arms around her. He could feel her

"How did I ever get involved with this?" she asked, shakily. "I know
it's going to be hard for us all, but old hates are best put aside." 

"I agree with that," he said. 

She held on for a moment more, feeling strength return to her legs.
Reluctantly, she finally pushed away and went to sit on the couch. 

He followed her, and she smiled up at him, "And here I came for a
simple vacation... " She held up her hand to him, and when he took it,
she drew him down beside her. "I'm going to need your strength, Joe,"
she told him. 

"Do you feel like you are being put into a position you are not ready
for?" She asked, studying his face. 

Joe sat close and drew her against his shoulder. "Not really, Grace.
Actually, I feel like this is were I was born to be. We CAN do this. If
these beings can't physically harm us, then we only have our own
emotions to deal with. It will be hardest on Nick." 

"Yes," she agreed, "we are the support team. We just have to be there
for Nick and Nat. They are the ones that have to walk through the
fire." She rested her head on his shoulder, and they relaxed. 

After several minutes, Joe realized that she had fallen asleep. He
managed to grab a throw from a chair nearby, and drew it over her. He
was content to feel this lovely woman's body against his and to stare
into the fire and pray. 


The next day, Nick woke determined to get things ready. He got on the
net and the phone, and soon had ordered the new home and the equipment
to get the house placed the next day. It would cost him a fortune, but
money hadn't been a problem for him for several hundred years. 

By midday, the first tractors and work crew came to clear the land. A
parcel was chosen that sat to the right and a little before, the main
house so they could use the same drive. 

Men swarmed in. The land was cleared by that evening. Connections were
made to the main property's: cesspool, telephone lines, cable,
electricity, and water lines. The house would be put on blocks and not
cement. It was, after all, only a temporary dwelling. 

The next morning the house arrived in three sections and was set up. It
was more than a mere mobile home. It had a spacious living room of dark
wood walls, and there was a dining room and three bedrooms. The windows
were draped in rich dark curtains. The kitchen was small, and done in

There was a large master bath with a whirlpool tub, and a smaller bath
with showers for each of the other two bedrooms. The furniture was
of leather and dark woods. The beds were canopied and draped in rich,
wine-colored drapery in Janette's room; a deep hunter green in the
guest room, and royal blue in LaCroix's room. All were trimmed in old
Roman designs. Nick was pleased, and Joe, Grace and Natalie stared
at everything in amazement. 

Natalie commented, "I'm sure they will be pleased, My Love." 

Natalie had drawn the first unit of blood the first day while Nick had
been on the phones and the computer. A young Hispanic man had shown up
to collect it, promising to return the next day with the bloodwine.
Natalie was sure that he was, also, an angel. 

Andrew had arrived with the new home, and was inside making some sort
of preparations only he knew. The young angel would stay in the guest
room in order to be near LaCroix at all times. Monica and Tess arrived
with their bags and moved into the two large bedrooms upstairs. Grace
had taken one on the sunny side of the house. 

By the evening of the second day, the bloodwine was delivered; four
full bottles and thirty-six empties. They filled them with water and
sat them around the bloodwine in the refrigerator of the mobile home.
That next morning, all the bottles were filled with a rich, dark red

The kitchen of the mobile home was made into a lab. Natalie would do
her blood testing on both LaCroix and Nick there. She needed to make
sure Nick wasn't getting anemic. 

Nick became increasingly agitated as the evening of the third day came
closer. He'd hardly eaten anything since the decision had been made.
About an hour after sundown, a long, black limo came up the drive. 

The four friend stood together on the porch watching, with the three
angels standing in front of them. 

Janette stepped out first, then reached her back into the Limo. The
hand that grasped hers was claw-like, shriveled and nearly transparent.
With help, Lucien LaCroix appeared before them. 

Nick gasped and clung to Natalie. 

LaCroix was almost skeletal. His eyes where sunken in his head, and he
needed to lean on Janette just to stay on his feet. His eyes were
amber, a sign of constant hunger. His teeth were extended. 

Grace cried out unvoluntarily, and she clamped her hand over her mouth.

Chapter 6 

Joe went to Grace and held her close, as much for himself as for her. 

LaCroix zeroed in on the sound and stumbled forward. Before the
residents, the angels began to glow. LaCroix covered his eyes and cried

Janette held her hand up, shielding her eyes from the angelic light. 

Their skin started to smoke. 

LaCroix saw Nick through the light. "Nicholas," he whispered. Their
eyes met. 

There was such raw hunger and pain there that it tore at Nick's heart,
and he started to move forward, but the angels blocked his path. They
glowed brighter. The vampires were forced to go into their new home. 

Nick was trembling so hard he could barely stand. "I must go to him,"
he cried. 

Natalie was shocked that Nick would have rushed forward if the angels
Hadn't been there. 

Tess gripped Nick's shoulders with an iron grip. "No, Nick. First his
hunger must be alleviated." 

Janette nearly dragged LaCroix into their new home. She dropped him
into a chair. 

"Nicholassss..." he whispered again. The vampiress went to the kitchen
and opened the frig. She was relived to see the familiar looking
bottles. Grabbing one, she tore the cork out of it with her teeth as
she crossed the room and handed it to him. 

His claw-like hands grabbed the bottle, and he drank it down. He cried
out as it seared him with pain and sheer delight. "Nicholas!" he
whimpered, in wonder. 

Janette found a glass, poured herself a draught, and sipped at the dark
liquid. She closed her eyes and let the wine, sweet as nectar, slide
across her tongue. She looked at LaCroix and realized that he had
finished the rest of the bottle. There was a look of raw pleasure in
his clear blue eyes. 

"He still loves me," he croaked through dry, parched lips. Blood tears
ran from his eyes. "I must sleep," he sighed. 

"Come," she said. "I will take you to your room." 

There was a knock on their door, and the young male angel entered. "I
will take him to his room," he told Janette. 

She pulled back. "He will burn if you touch him... " 

"No, LaCroix will be safe with me as long as he does not fight me. The
cleansing blood of the Lord, through Nick, is in him now." 

Andrew found that LaCroix had already fallen asleep. He picked the
wasted vampire up and carried the fragile creature to his room. The
angel laid him on the bed, covered him and made sure the curtains were
secure before he took a seat across the room to watch his sleeping

Janette watched until the door closed, then she left and walked toward
the big house. She could see, through the screen door, that Nick sat
before the fire, holding tightly to Natalie. 

She knocked on the door frame. "May I come in?" she asked. 

Nick sat a bit taller as Janette came closer to him. "Thank you," she
said softly. 

"How is he?" Nick asked. 

"He's sleeping. Andrew will watch over him." 

Nick asked her, "Did you tell him why he is here?" 

"No," she said. "I wanted him to come here and to drink the blood for a
few days before he knows. He would never have come here like he is now
if he knew why I brought him. We must weaken the demon's hold first so
that he can think. Your blood has soothed him, Nichola. He felt your

Nick was shaking. The idea of LaCroix drinking his blood made his
stomach lurch. He ran from the room to the bathroom by the kitchen.
They could hear him retching. 

Janette looked at Natalie with concern. "Will he be all right?" 

Natalie pushed her hair back from her face. "He'll be okay. This is
very hard for him. He wants to go to LaCroix, and yet his spirit tells
him, 'No! Not yet.' There is an emotional battle raging inside of him."

"I know." The vampiress said, hearing the toilet flush. She saw Nick
come out and head upstairs without looking back. "I can't tell you how
much this sacrifice of his means to me." She touched Natalie?s arm. "I
promise you, Natalie, I am no threat to you. I will not betray you

Natalie looked surprised at her admission. 

"I knew Nichola loved you," she admitted to Natalie. "I saw it in his
blood. He was so afraid to hurt you, yet so hungry for physical
contact. LaCroix ordered me to make him come to me. He wanted Nichola
to live like a Vampire and come back to us. Feeding from me was a step
in that direction. A small one. It was never more personal than that. A
kiss or two... and feeding..." 

Natalie said, "I fed Nick, a couple of times." There was anger in her
voice. "Feeding is physical... and so much more!" 

Janette nodded. "Yes, you are correct. It is. Forgive me. It will, of
course, never happen again. Excuse me, Natalie. I need to go see to
LaCroix, and you should go see to Nick." 

Natalie glared at her retreating back until the vampiress was gone.
Suddenly, she realized that Monica was sitting at the computer. She
felt ashamed at her outburst. 

Monica commented, "It's all right for you to be angry, Natalie. That
woman had no right to seduce Nick. She does sincerely regret her
betrayal of you, but she is hardened. The Vampire spirit still controls
her, no matter how in control she seems now. God has given this time
for all of you to work out the anger and pain that has been caused by
the evil of vampirism. You have a disadvantage. Nick has been a part
of your life for only a few years. Their history goes back for

Natalie turned to her. "How do I compete with that?" she demanded

"You don't have to. Nick loves YOU with all his heart." 

Natalie slumped into a chair and cried healing tears. If she could not
believe an angel, who could she believe? "Thank you, Monica," she said,
getting to her feet. "I need to go check on Nick." 

She found him sleeping on their bed. Tess was sitting close to him,
gently stroking his golden curls. She looked up as Natalie came in. 

"Are you okay, Baby?" 

Natalie nodded. "How's Nick?" 

"Sleeping a restful, deep sleep." She stood and patted the bed. "Come
on, Baby, get in beside your husband and get some sleep, too. I?m going
down to talk to Joe and Grace." 

Natalie whispered, "They belong together, Tess." 

"That they do," the angel chuckled. "Now, Little Miss Matchmaker, go to
sleep. We will watch over you. LaCroix's asleep and Janette is

Natalie reached out and squeezed Tess' hand. "Thank you for taking care
of him." The angel left and Natalie wearily changed, crawled into the
bed and reached out to touch Nick. He moved into her arms, and they

Grace and Joe sat in his living room, before the fire, praying. Tess
had come by to talk to them and try to give Grace some peace of mind. 

LaCroix's full vampire mode had scared her half to death. Being faced
with the red-eyed demon had been a lot more "reality" than she had been
prepared to face. Now she knew for certain there were vampires. 

Joe had brought Grace in, shaking and crying with fear. He had held her
close as they prayed until she grew calm. She was still afraid to go
back to her room in the big house by herself, so he had walked her back
through the passage and given her a final hug as he handed her over to
Tess who walked up to her room with her. 

Joe had returned to his place and continued to pray until dawn, then he
had gone to bed. 

The humans slept most of the day. When they finally straggled into the
kitchen of the big cabin late that afternoon, Tess and Monica set a
nutritious, tasty meal before them. 

They were all pretty quiet, gearing up in their minds for the coming
night. As the day faded, Nick became moody and sullen. 

Janette came out of the house first. She was dressed in jeans and a
t-shirt. Her hair was tied up in a pony tail, and her face had a clean
scrubbed look sans make-up. 

Natalie thought Janette looked more human than she had ever seen her
before... very fresh and natural. She had to keep reminding herself,

The humans watched as she set some chairs out in front of her place.
Then she came toward them. "Nichola, I'm going to have Andrew bring
LaCroix outside. Will you join us?? 

Nick nodded, slowly. "Will you come, too?" he asked Natalie. 

"Yes, of course," she said. Nick helped her down the stairs . They
stood back until Andrew had seated LaCroix. 

Janette placed a glass of bloodwine on a small table near him. She
tucked a blanket around his legs. 

Nick plopped into a chair about a yard away from LaCroix. He did not
look his former master in the eyes. 

Natalie stood behind him with her hands on his shoulders, trying to
will him some courage. 

Grace and Joe also stood with Nick, but a bit to the side. 

LaCroix looked slightly better tonight. "Nicholas," he spoke gently. 

Nick glanced up at him, unused to hearing that tone from his mentor. 

LaCroix looked deeply into the young man?s eyes. "It is good to see you
again, my son." 

Nick opened his mouth to protest LaCroix's words, but Natalie squeezed
his shoulders, so he asked instead, "Why have you done this to

LaCroix turned angry. "You dare ask that! YOU pulled away. YOU left
your people. YOU left ME!" He spat the words at his errant son. 

Nick rose and turned away, thinking, "I can't do this." He wanted to go
back to his home. 

"Nicholas," - Fear flashed in LaCroix's eyes - "Please do not go. I
will try harder. Please... just let me look at you." 

Nick sat back down warily. 

"Still the child I see. My golden child... " LaCroix?s hold on his
emotions was so tenuous that he felt his eyes go amber and the beast
assert control again. 'Why must we be flanked by these creatures?" he

"These creatures, as you put it, are here to protect me from you," Nick
snapped back at him. 

LaCroix's amber eyes turned red. 

Nick jumped to his feet, grabbed Natalie and pulled her back toward the

LaCroix lunged forward. "Nicholas, you will not turn your back on me!"
he screamed fiercely. 

Andrew had moved quickly, throwing his arms around LaCroix. He held the
vampire in his fiery grip. 

LaCroix's eyes bled, and he snarled like a caged animal, fighting
against his captor fiercely. "Nicholas, don't go!" He screamed in pure

Janette ran to get a bottle of bloodwine for the beast, and Andrew held
on. Grace and Joe had fled into the big house with their friends,
keeping between the screaming fiend and the young couple. Andrew
dragged LaCroix back into his house. 

The four friends could hear him screaming, snarling and screaming some
more. "Nicholas!" he would bellow in his rage. It went on filling the
night air. 

Nick tried to cover his ears, but couldn't stop the cries from piercing
his brain. He wouldn't even let Natalie hold him. He paced the house
like a trapped animal. Finally, he went to the piano and assaulted the
keys. His fingers flew across the keyboard. The music was loud and
tumultuous. Finally, LaCroix?s cries were drowned out. 

Joe and Grace, thankful, watched in awe as Nick played. They were
stunned by his skill. 

After a long time, he stopped and there was only a deafening silence. 

The cries had stopped. Natalie, with a tear-streaked face, came and sat
beside him on the piano bench. She held him as he cried. They sat a
long time in blessed silence. 

Grace and Joe slipped out quietly through the back, not wanting to go
anywhere near the house that held the tormented vampire. 

Nick moaned, "Is this a punishment? Is this my penance... to face what
I was in it's rawest form? How could I have ever existed like that?"

Chapter 7 

"Nick," -she made him look at her- "you CAN do this. You know what you
were. You can face it again. You're healing him, Nick! For the first
time in your life, you can help LaCroix change his nature. You can give
him the choice to live again, free from the hell he is in." 

"Nick, that snarling creature was the demon. It was the man that called
out your name. You've got to remember the difference. The man was
there, if only for a moment, Nick. The need for love I saw in him, tore
at my heart." 

"He knows what you are doing, and he's grateful. Remember, he as as
much a prisoner of vampirism as you were. Maybe he tried centuries ago
to fight it too, but he gave up hope. He let the vampire have complete
control. It became a part of him, and he forgot his humanity." 

"Now, he sees freedom in your blood, Nick. He sees what you have become
and what you feel. Maybe he remembers what he once was and now, could
be again." 

Tess stood by, invisible, listening. She nodded, and whispered, "Good,
Baby..." Then she was gone. 

Nick seemed to gather strength. "You're right. I need to rebuke this
spirit that makes me want to run and not face the truth. I just need to
love him. Oh, Nat... do you think I can find the real man LaCroix was,
and guide him to the Lord for divine intervention so he can live

"I would love to met the real LaCroix. I know he was a hard man... a
Roman officer. Do you think he was ever a good person, Nat?" 

"You told me he loved his daughter and was devastated by having to
destroy her." Nat reminded him. 

"You're right. He did love her... even at a time when having girls was
not celebrated. It doesn't matter what kind of master he was. If we all
work together, maybe his soul will be freed one day. I could find a
loving man in there." 

Natalie kissed him and held him tightly. "Go to him, Nick. Love him
because he loves you. Show him REAL love... the forgiving love of the
Lord. Let him see it shine from you like I do." 


In the mobile home, LaCroix lay whimpering on the bed. His arms were
burned from fighting so hard against Andrew. 

"Nicholas," he groaned repeatedly. There was a knock on the door.
Janette looked at Andrew, and he nodded. She left the bedroom and
went to the front door. She was surprised to find Nick there. 

"Nichola!" She glared at him. "Do you come to torture him again?" 

Nick sighed. He deserved that. "No, Janette... Please forgive me. I
want to see him again... I need to see him again," he stressed. 

She looked at him steadily for a moment, then stepped back, renewed
hope in her eyes. She motioned him through the door, and led him back
to the old vampire's room. 

Andrew looked up when Nick entered. He glanced at the bottle of
bloodwine that sat on a table nearby. Nick went and poured a glass
full, then came up close to the bed. He was shocked by the burns on
LaCroix?s arms. 

"Father?" he spoke softly. 

LaCroix raised his head with difficulty and looked at him. The
vampire's face was streaked with blood tears. The look in his eyes
changed from hurt, longing, and confusion to surprise and gratefulness.
He reached out a bony hand, "Nicholas... you have come... " 

"Yes, father, I am here..." he said gently. 

LaCroix's cold, bony hand covered Nick's hand on the stem of the glass.
He drew the glass toward him, draining the thick red liquid. Nick
refilled the glass, trying hard not to be repulsed by the cold thin
fingers. He poured another glass, and then another, until LaCroix
refused more. 

Nick was relieved to see the burns starting to healing. Finally, Nick
felt he could draw away, but, all of a sudden, LaCroix?s hand shot out,
grabbing Nick's wrist and drawing it toward his mouth. 

Terror clutched at him, and Nick tried to pull back, but LaCroix's
fingers were strong. He looked frantically at Andrew, but the angel
seemed unpreturbed and said gently, "It's okay." 

Nick stopped resisting, and LaCroix pressed his lips to Nick's wrist in
a gentle kiss. "Thank you, my son," he whispered and then drifted off
to sleep. 

Nick sat at his side for nearly an hour, stroking the long, silver-gray
hair that hung to the man's shoulders. The role was so different from
the way things had been, but Nick kind of liked it. LaCroix looked so
peaceful in his sleep. 

Nick's thoughts drifted back to the past. He remembered the days when
he would study LaCroix's sleeping face and wonder what kind of man he
had been before he had come across. Had LaCroix ever loved or had
kindness in his heart? Had LaCroix ever wanted to change? Now that his
father was asleep, and Nick was free of those icy blue eyes, he could
imagine what kindness they might one day hold. He looked up at Andrew,
a silent sentinel. 

"Andrew, what kind of an angel are you? How can you stand to look at
all this evil and death?" Nick asked, curiously. 

Andrew smiled. "It is a difficult assignment, but I am no stranger to
death. I am the angel of death." 

"What?" Nick asked, his heart skipping a beat. "Are you here to take
LaCroix or me when this is over?" 

"No, Nick. Only if he chooses NOT to accept the Lord's gift. You were
able to convert back to humanity with a reasonable chance to live a
normal life. If LaCroix returns to the body he had before he was
brought across, he will die. He was aware of pain before Pompeii was
destroyed, but he did not realize that he was seriously ill." 

Nick asked fearfully, "What is it?" 

"Liver cancer. He will only live a few weeks at best. Humanity, for
LaCroix, has a price." 

"Is there no hope?" Nick asked, anguish filling his heart. "Do we do
this all for nothing?" 

"Humanity is one thing, Nick. Your blood will give both Janette and
LaCroix humanity. Only his acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Lord could
cleanse his body of disease. Humanity is our first goal, then the
choice is up to him, Nick. For now, he will sleep until tomorrow night.
Go... be with your wife." 

Nick nodded, and went back into the living room. Janette was waiting
for him. She walked to him and hugged him to her. "Thank you, Nichola."

Nick drew back, "Your cheek feels warm!" 

She looked a bit bashful. The innocence in her surprised and delighted
him. "It's already happening, Nichola." 

I've already begun to change. After you brought me across, I left
Canada and went back to France, very angry. Missing my humanity, I
subsisted on animal blood and tried to maintain a human way of life. It
was Myklos who found me living in a tiny apartment, and told me about
LaCroix. I went to him, and he led me to you. Maybe, since I never fed
on human blood or embraced the vampire life again, I'm easier turned." 

Nick held her closely. "I am so glad for you, Janette, but you must
settle your soul with God in order to live in peace." 

Janette nodded. "I know, Nick, but I must be here for LaCroix as I am.
As soon as Andrew tells me my work is finished, then I will ask God's
forgiveness, and accept Him as my Lord..." 

Nick understood. "I must get back to Natalie now. She will be worried
that I have been gone so long." He kissed her forehead and left.
Natalie was busy in the kitchen feeding Sidney when Nick came into the
house. She sighed with relief as he smiled at her. She could tell that
it had gone well. He almost seemed happy. He sat at the bar, and she
gave him a sandwich and a big glass of milk. It was about 1:00 am, and
after his snack, the two went upstairs. 

Behind locked doors, they shed their clothes and got into the big tub.
Nick sat behind Natalie so she could rest her back against his chest.
They talked about his time with LaCroix, and he told her everything
that had happened. 

The revelation of Andrew's nature scared her a bit. He was such a
beautiful young man. She had never thought of the Angel of Death as
beautiful. When she thought about it, thought, she realized that she
should have known better. Knowing how loving God was, he would have
made the Angel of Death to be comforting and gentle, not a bony figure
like the movies portrayed him. 

Nick suddenly got an idea. "Let's go on a picnic tomorrow with Joe and
Grace. Our guests will sleep during the day anyway." 

Natalie relaxed and feeling pampered, purred, "I'd like that." 

Nick was soaping and rubbing his hands gently over her belly when he
felt a tiny flutter against his hand. They turned and looked into each
other's eyes. 

"Did you feel that?" Natalie asked. 

The young, soon-to-be father nodded, his eyes wide. They laughed and
kissed, then sat quietly for a while and felt two more tiny flutters.
Finally, he assisted her out of the tub, and carefully helped her dry

He brushed her hair until it shone. She loved the feel of the brush in
her hair and the tiny kisses Nick planted on her neck and shoulders.
She turned on the dressing bench, and kissed his chest, running her
hands up and down his torso. Nick sighed with delight and caressed her
face and shoulders. Finally, he could stand it no more. He picked his
wife up and took her to bed. 

Nick woke at 9 o?clock the next morning. He came downstairs to find Joe
cooking breakfast. Grace was gazing at him in unabashed adoration. Nick

Natalie was coming into the house with an armful of flowers that she'd
picked near the house. She and Grace arranged them to brighten up the

Nick and Nat told the others their idea about a picnic and found that
everyone was looking forward to it. A taste of normal life would do
them all good. They packed their backpacks and headed into the cool

None of them glanced at the mobile home nor saw the two angels watching
from the front room window of the main cabin. 

Monica asked, "Will this work, Tess?" 

"What, Angel Girl?" 

"Will LaCroix be saved? Will the humans be okay." 

"The humans will be fine. LaCroix is another thing." 

"It's all up to him," Monica admitted. "I could hardly stand to look at
him when he first came, but it's getting better." 

Tess slipped an arm around her shoulders. "I know, Baby. It's hard to
look on evil." 

Monica said, "It's not just the evil, Tess. I can see the man trapped
inside... trapped for centuries... in torture. Can we save him?" 

I don't know, Angel Girl, but we sure are going to try." 

The humans walked slowly looking at everything around them. Letting the
peace of the forest sooth their ragged nerves. Finally they found a
nice flat place near the stream where they decided to lay out the
blankets and pillows. 

Joe took his shoes off and lowered his feet over the bank of the stream
into the meandering water. "Ah," he sighed. 

Grace, Natalie and Nick sat on the blankets and set out the food and
drinks. They ate and talked, and then Grace took her shoes off, grabbed
some food and a soda, and joined Joe. 

Nick rested his back against a tree. He placed a pillow on his legs and
eased Natalie down until she lay upon pillows against his chest. They
rested and listened to the noises of the forest. 

Grace and Joe talked at the edge of the stream, their conversation
animated with laughter and whispered secrets. 

Natalie slept for a while, and Nick caressed her hair, feeling it's
silky strands run through his fingers. Flecks of sun came through the
trees and danced across the stream. Nick thought of LaCroix and prayed
that one day he would be able to sit with his father in the sunlight. 

He glanced over at Joe and Grace. They'd become quiet. Nick smiled when
he saw that they were kissing. It warmed his heart, and he bent to kiss
Natalie. Waking her, he pointed to their friends. 

Natalie smiled, slipped her hands up behind his neck and pulled him
down for another kiss. "Nick, I'm so happy today. This was a wonderful
idea. It's so beautiful and peaceful out here. It helps renew my

"I know what you mean," he agreed. "I feel the same way, and I hate to
put a damper on this, but we have to be getting back. Tonight may not
be much better than last night." He stood and helped Nat to her feet. 

"When LaCroix kissed my wrist last night, it was one of the very few
times he's ever been gentle with me. Nat, I love him. I've hated,
feared, and yet loved him for hundreds of years. I still fear the
vampire, but I love the man so much. I can't imagine my life without
him. I want him to see my life here and to be happy for me. God help
me, I want to see him bounce our babies on his knee." 

Natalie turned him to face her. She took his face in her hands and
kissed his cheeks, tasting salt tears. "I can't say that last image
doesn't scare me, but I understand it. If LaCroix changes and accepts
the Lord, I will welcome him into our family, but he must walk away
from his former life. I must have guarantees that he will never harm my

Nick held her close. "Thank you, Nat. Thank you. I understand and feel
the same way, of course." With a sigh, they started after Joe. It was
time to face another night with LaCroix. 

Chapter 8 

It was dusk before they re-entered their backyard. They could already
hear the screams of pain and anger. Nick gently pushed Natalie
toward Grace and Joe . "Take care of her," he said hurriedly. "I must
go to him." 

"Nicholas!" La Croix roared in his madness. Nick entered the mobil
home. Janette was standing in the living room, drenched in blood. Blood
tears ran down her cheeks. "He won't take the blood from me. He only
wants you. It's even worse tonight," she cried. 

Nick held her close. "Go over to the house and take a shower. Nat will
find you some clothes. Andrew and I will take care of him." 

Nick took a deep breath and entered the bedroom. He found that Andrew
was holding LaCroix tightly in a vise grip. The rampaging vampire?s
flesh was smoking, blistering, burning and his eyes were red with
savage hunger. This time, instead of running away to hide behind the
pounding music, Nick got the blood and held it for the tortured
creature as he drank. The cold hands that gripped his weren't as
emaciated as they had been when he?d first arrived. 

It only took one bottle before the old vampire was able to calm down
enough to slump onto the bed. His cold blue eyes seemed less harsh as
they gazed at Nick. 

Suddenly, sickness overwhelmed LaCroix. Andrew held a bowl, and Nick
sat beneath him holding his head while the blood came back up. He
nearly wretched himself, but he felt Andrew's courage and the steadfast
love of the Lord protecting him as he bathed the sick vampire's face. 

When LaCroix had quieted, Nick tried to leave to help clean up, but the
old, sick creature grabbed him and clutched the young man to his chest.
His father refused to let NIck go, so he sat, holding him against his
chest until LaCroix had finally fallen asleep. 

Andrew helped him clean LaCroix up and change his soiled clothing. When
Nick tucked him into bed, he leaned down and kissed the old man's
forehead. He was rewarded by a faint smile on his father's lips. 

For the next week, the days were short and the nights long. At the end
of the week, LaCroix had a particularly bad night, and Andrew had sent
Nick away. Nick had returned to the piano, but this time he played
calm, beautiful music. Soon Janette came running. "Nick, can you play
louder? He can hear it through his window, and it's calming him. You
know how much he used to love to listen to you." 

The next day, Nick had a baby grand delivered to LaCroix's home. He
spent a few hours each night playing for LaCroix. Natalie spent most of
her evenings with Monica and Tess. Their presence helped her to stay
calm while the war raged so close. She was surprised that the angels
enjoyed playing games and watching old movies. 

Grace would join them for several hours every evening. She always
managed to make them all laugh with her crazy stories of life at the
morgue. Often, when they weren't praying for their friends, she and Joe
would sit on the porch and talk. 

One night, Joe asked Grace to walk with him. They went down the road,
walking along the long drive. When they were out of view of the house,
Joe drew Grace into his arms and kissed her until they were both
breathless. "I love you, Grace," he said, holding her tightly to him. 

Grace's heart soared. "And I love you, Joe. I have for years." 

He drew back, looking into her beautiful face. "Years?" 

She drew his face down to hers, and as she kissed him she murmured,
"Years... " 

The second unit of blood was drawn the next week and the processing
occurred the same as before. 

LaCroix was able to retain more. He put on weight and grew stronger. He
could walk with assistance. Nick often sat with him and played chess.
They didn't talk much about the past, as this would bring the demon
out, and Andrew would have to restrain the vampire. 

The next unit of blood had to be drawn after only two weeks. Nick was
starting to lose weight. His face was gaunt, and dark circles were
etched under his eyes. Natalie watched him breathe while he slept,
fearing for his health. At night, after LaCroix would fall asleep, Tess
and Monica would sit with Nick, holding him and helping to renew some
of his strength. 

During the following week, LaCroix had two very bad attacks. The blood
started coming up again, and Nick had to give a second unit in one
week. His strength was gone, and he couldn't stand, let alone calm his
nerves by playing the piano. 

He grew despondent and Tess came to minister to him. As they sat on the
couch before the fire, Tess cradled his head in her lap, and stroked
his hair. 

"Tess," he asked, with tears in his eyes, a wave of dizziness
assaulting him, "Why isn't he getting better? How long can I do this?" 

Tess soothed his brow with a damp cloth. "That demon has had control of
him for two millennia. LaCroix never tried to weaken its hold as you
did with your constant fight against the vampire nature. It does not
want to let go. This one was of the elite. It was fighting at Satan's
side when he was banished from heaven." 

Nick shivered in fear. "Is there nothing more we can do?" 

Tess smiled as she stroked his blond curls. She'd been waiting for this
question. "Hands on prayer will help, but you would all have to
participate. Will Grace help?" 

Nick sat up and turned to her. "I don't know." Grace had made it a
point to stay as far from LaCroix as possible. "I will ask her. We must
end this. Natalie is getting too tired and doesn't eat much either. I
need to be able to take care of my wife and our babies need her

Nick asked his friends to gather together that evening in his room as
he lay resting on his bed. He'd spent a particularly rough night at
LaCroix's. They pulled up chairs around Nick and Natalie's bed. Nick
was terribly pale and weak. 

He asked Tess to explain what she had told him about helping LaCroix.
"There is a chance," she explained, "if you all bond together in prayer
and bind the demon in Jesus? name that this would free LaCroix enough
for him to make the choice to turn his life over to the Lord." 

Natalie asked, "Will there be any danger to our babies, Tess?" 

"You are seven months along. It's a difficult time. There is always
danger," she explained patiently. "But remember, the Father gave his
word that no harm will come to you." 

Natalie's eyes teared up. "Of course... forgive me. I have asked that
too many times." 

Tess nodded. "I understand. You are human, and you need assurances.
Know that if you, any or all of you, choose to do this, there must be
no doubt in anyone's mind... none. We all have to believe that this can
help... that it can change the tide of where we are and what we are
trying to accomplish. It can work if everyone has pure faith." 

Natalie saw the genuine concern in Tess' eyes. The angel sometimes
seemed so harsh and outspoken, but Natalie could see the love of God
shining in Tess' eyes. 

"We all need to talk about this as well as pray for guidance," she told
the angel. 

Tess nodded, "I'll go join Monica and Janette. That young woman is very
close to accepting the Lord into her life forever." 

When everyone had settled close to the bed, they prayed holding hands
in a circle. They continued through the night to talk and pray, trying
to lay Natalie's and Grace's fears to rest, and to truly hear from God
about the timing. Finally, as the sun rose on a new day, they all had
agreed that they would spend the day in fasting and prayer and then
gather around LaCroix the next night and ask God to intervene, take the
chains off the tormented man, and free him. 

Grace and Joe retired to their own rooms to rest, and Nick turned to
his wife and held Natalie close. They feel asleep, holding each other. 

Natalie was surprised when she woke seven hours later totally rested.
Her sleep was never that good. Usually, she had to move several times
during the night to get comfortable now that she was getting so big.
She praised God, thanking Him for this special gift. Nick woke a few
minutes later, also feeling much stronger. They spent the rest of the
daylight hours praying, both together and apart for the ordeal they
would face with the coming of darkness. 

As the darkness settled on the compound, Andrew set out a chair and
brought LaCroix out. Once the old vampire was seated in his chair, the
angel took a position behind him, and laid his hands lightly on his
shoulders. As the friends and family came to take their places around
the tormented creature and grasped hands, he started to get

Suddenly, he fought to rise from the chair as Andrew began to glow,
lighting the darkness. LaCroix eyes flared red. He started snarling and
snapping at them like an animal. His fangs were extended. 

He cried out, "Nicholas! Please, Nicholas, don't do this to me." 

Nick pleaded with him, "Father we must do this if you are to be free of
this demon that eats at your soul. Please... just let the Lord free

The old vampire looked about him and knew there was no escape. The
demon wanted desperately to flee, while the man was filled with fear
and yet... hope. Was there a way out of this hell? Could he be freed?
Could God still care about him... love HIM? 

The small group of them stood around him with their voices raised to
the heavens. They were praying for HIM... sending HIM love. Love he
craved to the depths of his soul. 

As these thoughts and feelings flooded through his being, he also felt
tremendous pain. The demon was trying to distract his thoughts...
regain control of him again. "Nicholas! Aaargh... the PAIN!" He
screamed in agony. 

Nick loosened his hold on Joe and Nat's hands and started to move
toward his father to offer comfort, but Tess grabbed his shoulders and
held him still. "The demon would kill you, Nick. Do not let him touch
you." Nick drew back, shocked, and re-linked fingers with the others. 

The four Christians stretched out their arms and surrounded LaCroix,
Nat and Grace linking hands around the angel and his tortured charge.
They lifted their voices, asking the Lord to cleanse him. 

The monster screamed in pain then howled a long, blood curdling sound
from deep within. Blood ran from his lips, cut by the sharp, gnashing
teeth. His fingernails were cutting deep holes in his palms. Putrid,
contaminated blood, thick and dark like black ink, dripped from his
hands to the floor beneath the chair. 

The Christians were aware that the howl came from inside LaCroix, and
was not produced by his own vocal cords. After a time, they noticed
that many more howls were filling the air and realized that there was
almost an electric charge in the air around them. 

If they had ceased praying and looked out past their circle of light
into the forest around them, they would have seen a multitude of red
glowing eyes. 

Dark fearsome shapes filled the edges of the forest, and began to
advance on the small group. Vampire's of all shapes and sizes stood
there ready to spring and tear the Christians apart, yet they found an
invisible force before them that clutched at them and seemed to hold
them to their places. They began to chant LaCroix's name, begging him
to stay with them... to come back to them. 

The demon in LaCroix roared, and gave a tremendous surge as it seemed
to regain some of its strength. It reached out to claw at Andrew,
tearing him with its evil. 

Natalie cried out as she saw wounds appear on Andrew's face and arms...
Wounds that bled pure light. 

The light shot out in beautiful, pure rays. It seemed to strike at the
first line of Vampires and they howled and shrunk back to the edge of
the forest . Their voices grew quieter and finally stilled. 

An unearthly cry came from deep within LaCroix. The demon's fear struck
them like a hurricane. Hot wind buffeted them. They became aware of
gloriously magnificent singing filling the air, and bright light
surrounded them. The bright glowing shapes of angels formed a tight
circle around them to protect them from the legion of Vampires that had
come to take LaCroix from them. 

Nick opened his eyes as he continued praying and in the glow of the
Angel's light, he suddenly could make out the faces of individuals he
knew in the community. Some of them had once been friends. There was an
inky blackness that surrounded and permeated them. The air stunk of

The groans and cries of the undead were drowned out by the singing of
the angels. The four friends turned back to LaCroix. They heard him
whisper, "Jesus?" and saw inky black blood begin to pour from his eyes,
nose, ears and mouth. It hissed and evaporated in the light of God that
shone around the angels as if exposed to the rays of the sun. The light
of the angels flowed over and around LaCroix. Fire seemed to bath him.
He was caught up into the air. The fiery light swirled around and
through him. 

Nick cried out to him, "Now father, ask the Lord to save you." 

LaCroix heard Nick's voice. It seemed to come from a thousand miles
away. "Nicholas," he cried out, "help me." 

"No, Father, don't look to me, look to the maker of the light. Ask the
Lord to save you. Please... I need you!" he cried. Fear that he would
lose his father threatened to overwhelm him. He felt Natalie's hand in
his and Tess' hands on his shoulders. He allowed their love, the love
of his friend, and his faith in the Lord to calm his spirit. 

"Father," he said softly, "Ask the Lord to forgive you. Ask him to save
you from this living hell." 

LaCroix's felt peace surround him. It gave him clarity of mind and
thought . He felt an overwhelming love and knew it came from the Lord.
Jesus was real and wanted him. He let his voice call out clear and
strong, "Jesus, save me!" 

Nick knew how he felt. His transformation had been nearly the same. He
cried out "Thank you, Lord," and heard the others echo his words.

Chapter 9 

LaCroix's body slowly lowered and his feet touched the porch floor. He
looked as if he was collapsing in slow motion. Nick broke the circle
and gathered his father into his arms as he slumped to the ground. They
went down together. Nick sat on the dirt and held his father against
his chest, tears of joy streaming down his face. 

He looked around. Gone were the legions of vampires. Nick did not know
if they had perished or had just ran away. He searched LaCroix's face.
If it could have been more pale than before, it was. Nick was almost
certain that the older man was dead when, suddenly, he saw his father's
eyelashes flutter. 

The singing, which had died down in the background of his mind, grew
louder and seemed more joyous. A light shone on LaCroix's face, giving
it a warm glow. 

Nick realized that Natalie was kneeling close to him. She touched
LaCroix's chest. "I can feel his heart beating, " she cried, awe
filling her voice. 

"Father?" Nick called to him. 

"Father!" he said, louder, shaking the older man's shoulder. 

LaCroix opened his eyes. Gone was the cold steel blue look. It had been
replaced by a warm sea blue. There was gentleness and love that Nick
had often dreamed of seeing there, but had only glimpsed a few times
during their 800 years together. LaCroix reached out his arms. 

Nick bent to embrace him, and his father on earth wrapped his arms
around him. Nick heard his Father In Heaven say to laCroix, "My Child,
you have finally come home." 

The song of the angels faded, but the darkness no longer seemed full of

Nick helped LaCroix to his feet and then Natalie. Andrew came close to
steady LaCroix, who was weak and exhausted. Joe and Grace came closer. 

Tess came forward. "Andrew, put Lucus to bed, please." "Lucus?" Nick

She smiled. "The Lord thinks LaCroix should have a new name. The name
Lucien is too close to Lucifer for him to use as he starts his new
life." She turned to LaCroix and said, "I think if we just shortened
it, you could still retain a part of it. Your name shall be Lucus." 

LaCroix was being supported by Andrew on one side, and Nick on the
other side. "I agree, Madam," the freed man said, humbly. "Thank you, I
will try to be worthy." 

Natalie suggested, "Nick, why don't you take him to our room. I think
Grace and I have some cleaning to do before we return him to his own

Janette appeared at their side. Nick stared at her. She was radiantly
beautiful. Gone was the gaunt pale skin. Now her flesh was alive with a
pink glow. He was saddened that he had missed her conversion, but glad
for her that it was done. 

Joe took Andrew's place, and the three humans slowly headed toward the
house. Andrew went ahead to ready the bed. 

LaCroix was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow. Nick,
exhausted as well, crawled in close, and Natalie joined them. Nick
turned his back to his father and spooned Natalie close to him. Andrew
pulled a blanket over them and bid them all a good night. 

Nick woke as the sun filtered through the window. He sat up, realizing
that his father was not at his side. 

He quickly looked around, then gazed in utter joy as he beheld LaCroix
standing before the big window. Only his silhouette was discernible.
The rays of light seemed to dance and caress him. He had his arms
raised heavenward, fingers splayed out, soaking up the warmth. 

Nick glanced at Natalie. He decided to let her sleep. Slipping from the
bed, he went to stand near his father. He reached out and touched the
man's shoulder. "Father," he whispered. 

LaCroix turned his beautiful, sea blue eyes to look upon his son.
"Nicholas," he said. The words were filled with love. "I never thought
to see the daylight again." He wavered a bit on his unsteady legs. 

Nick slipped an arm around him. They both stood and bathed in the
warmth and light of the sun. 

"Nicholas," LaCroix said, "I have no words to tell you what I feel. I
have so many regrets. I have so many transgressions against you. How
can you forgive me for them? I would not be here if you hadn't loved
me. Why would you want to love what I was?" 

"Shhhh, Father... we were each in our own trap. I only wanted you to be
free to choose," Nick replied. 

LaCroix continued, "I found that the moment I was free, there was no
question of choice. God was there all around me. I felt my spirit and
my soul rush toward Him. The separation of two thousand years ended.
How could I have lived so long in darkness, Nicholas? How could I have
have taken you, a mirror of that light into eternal darkness. You may
have been in a slump in your faith when I found you, but I know now
that it was that spark of the Lord you have always carried around in
your heart that drew me to you. Neither one of us understood what it
was we searched for. I am fortunate that you always came back." 

He leaned to kiss Nicholas on the forehead. Suddenly, his legs lost
their strength, and Nick turned to support him back to the bed. 

"You must rest, father," the young man told him. 

Natalie had wakened and quietly watched them sharing the morning sun.
Tears of joy had fallen down her cheeks as she listened to them talk so
lovingly together. Now, she scrambled out of the bed to help Nick
settle LaCroix in. 

"Please... this is your bed," he protested. 

Natalie reassured him, "You have brought us all a blessing, Father.
Allow us to do you this honor for now." 

"You called me 'Father', Natalie? You forgive me, too?" His eyes filled
with unshed tears. 

"It's forgiven... all of it. Maybe now we can all live joyful, peaceful
lives." LaCroix felt hot, salt tears slipped out of his eyes. He
touched his finger to a tear and looked at it in wonder. "It's pure...
there's no more blood." His voice held a touch of awe. 

"There's no need for blood anymore, Father. The Lord's blood has
cleansed it all away." 

LaCroix held out his arms, and Nick sat on the edge of the bed, letting
his father hold him close. He could hear LaCroix's heart beating
steadily, regular and strong. 

"My golden son," he said. "I am so proud of you. I am so grateful that
you continued to pursue the woman you loved. It was wrong for me to
keep you apart." He reached a hand out to Natalie, and she took it,
moving closer. "Thank you, my dear." 

Natalie smiled, squeezing his hand gently. "You're welcome. Let me go
get you a light breakfast. You will need to eat." 

Lucus LaCroix smiled, "I've always wanted to try soft boiled eggs. The
yokes reminded me so much of the sun." 

She smiled, "I can do that. It's a good place to start. We have no idea
how your stomach will react to food." 

She left the room. Closing the door, she stuffed her fist in her mouth
so they wouldn't hear her sobs. After a moment or two she realized Tess
was holding her close. "Cry, Baby. Let the tears of relief wash your
pain and fear away. It's finally over," the angel soothed. Tess led
Natalie downstairs to the kitchen and had her sit on a stool. She began
to prepared breakfast for LaCroix, Nick and Natalie. 

Natalie sniffed again, "I am so happy for Nick and LaCroix. You should
have seen the look of pure joy on their faces as they held each other.
As they stood before the sun, it seemed to caress them. They had no
"dark need" for each other except for companionship and pure love." 

"I have feared that man for so many years... now he's like a new born

"An apt description. You will have more than two children to raise,"
Tess smiled. Natalie rubbed her growing abdomen. "I want to enjoy these
last few weeks of my pregnancy... just rest and think of these babies."

"You shall, Natalie. There is a chance that the babies will come soon.
It's not unheard of with twins to deliver early." Tess finished the
eggs and added two slices of toast and a small glass of milk for each. 

When she and Tess returned to the bedroom, they found Nick sitting
cross-legged on the bed facing LaCroix who was reclining. He was
relating the story of a small green frog they'd seen in the stream.
Tess smiled at them and set the tray down over LaCroix's lap. Then she
excused herself and went downstairs. LaCroix looked down at the food
gratefully. "I think I'm hungry. There's a strange emptiness in my

Nick took his plate and held it in his lap. He patted the bed, and
Natalie got her plate and sat down beside him. 

"That's hunger," she said. "Just go slowly. It's been a long time since
your stomach has had to process food." 

LaCroix, after watching the others for a minute or two, picked up his
spoon and rather clumsily stirred and mixed the egg up. He took a
spoonful and ladled it into his mouth. He got such a funny look on his
face that Nick and Natalie both said, "What...?" 

His face broke into an amazing smile. "It's wonderful!" They laughed as
they watched him eat his first meal in nearly 2000 years. 

Later, Nicholas helped LaCroix bathe, then put him back to bed,
exhausted from the excursion. Nick left him to sleep and went in search
of Joe. 

He found the other man sitting on his special rock near the stream. Joe
was feeling neglected, and a little foolish for indulging himself in
the emotion. As Nick came into view, Joe got a big smile. 

Nick asked, "Mind if I join you? I could use a little rest. It's going
to take me a few weeks to get all my strength back..." 

Joe didn't speak. He just motioned to the rock beside him. "I've missed
our talks, Pop. I haven't been able to give you much attention lately."

"I understand, Nick. You have your father back." He looked away. 

"Joe!" Nick grabbed him firmly by the arm. "Having my father back in no
way changes how I feel about you or what I need from you. I've got
enough love for all the people here. I spent 800 years unable to love.
There's a lot of love stored inside of me. I need all of you." 

Joe turned away, embarrassed by his jealousy concerning all the things
he'd witnessed in the last 48 hours. 

"Having LaCroix here will only make things better," Nick said. "I can
stop looking back and look forward. He can tell you so many more
stories than I can. He was 12 hundred years old when I met him. He even
lived in Pompeii." 

Joe's eyes lit up. "He could tell me stories, couldn't he?" 

"Yes," Nick said, " and LaCroix loves to tell stories. He used to bore
me to death with the ones meant to be lessons of one sort or another,
but he told Janette some really fascinating ones. I'd hide in the next
room and listen. Looking back, I'm sure he knew I was there, but we
were often like oil and water." 

Joe suddenly changed the subject and blurted out. "I'm going to ask
Grace to marry me." 

He stood and walked a few steps away. "I want to have her come here
permanently if she says yes and it's alright with you." 

Nick stepped around him so he could look into Joe's face. He put his
hands on Joe's shoulders and looked him in the eye. "Pop, that's
wonderful. Natalie would love it. She could use a woman's company
around here, and I would love to have Grace here as well. I can see she
already loves you... maybe even before she got here?" 

Joe nodded, "She has told me that. I can't really fathom why she does,
but I know I am a blessed man. I'm not handsome. Some might say I am

Nick looked at him. "No, Pop... never ugly. You're totally beautiful to
me. Your capacity to love and accept those around you makes you
beautiful. You're an honorable, decent man. You cared enough about me
to keep my terrible secret. I see an angel when I look at your face."
Nick let tears of emotion slip from his eyes. 

Joe's eyes watered. "You're a good son, Nick. It may take some getting
used to, this sharing." 

Nick nodded. "For LaCroix, too. He was obsessed with me for 800 years.
I would be a fool to think it was all just the vampire. Humans are full
of pettiness. All this human emotion will be new to LaCroix. It took me
sometime to accept my limitations. Just because we now all believe in
the Lord doesn't stop all the pitfalls of human emotion. He will have a
lot to contend with, and he will need all of us to help him." 

Joe said, "Of course, I will do anything for him, Nick. You know that."

Nick grabbed his mentor and hugged him a moment. He felt Joe return the
pressure, then abruptly let go of him and head further into the forest.

Nick wanted to go after the big man, but realized his friend needed
more time to think. 

Joe hurried through the forest. Hot tears ran down his cheeks. "Forgive
my foolishness, Lord," he thought. "To be jealous of your new creation
is so childish of me... especially at my age ." 

"Joe, " a voice called to him. He looked up to find Tess standing

Chapter 10 

The usually tough angel was looking at him with tenderness shining from
her eyes. "Do not feel ashamed," she said. "This will pass. You and
LaCroix can become fast friends. You have much to teach each other." 

"He's 2000 years old. What can I teach him?" he asked, not quite
masking the sarcasm in his voice. That realization washed him with new
pain and embarrassment. 

"Joe," Tess said, "Nick will never love you less. You can't imagine how
much that young man loves you. You accepted him as he was. You are
still supporting him. You could not be more his father if you had the
same blood in your veins." 

"Both he and LaCroix are now human, but they have very little true
human experience left in their memories. The Lord brought you here for
the purpose of helping to instruct all the former vampires. Janette
will see your relationship with Grace and learn as well." 

She and LaCroix will soon find each other in a whole different way than
they have in the past. They're all babies compared to you. You will be
the patriarch of this group." 

"God trusts me with that?" he asked, amazed. 

"Yes, Baby," She said. Then she touched his cheek, and he felt peace
flow through him. 

"Thank you, Tess," he said, humbly. They started back. "What happens
now for you? Will you be moving on?" He found he dreaded the time when
the angels would leave. What if the vampires came back? 

As if reading his thoughts (or having God tell her his thoughts), Tess
said, "They may threaten, but they can not touch any of you. God
promised Nick and Natalie and this place His protection." 

"Really?" Joe laughed with glee. He turned back to look at Tess's face,
but she was gone. 

That evening, the six humans sat at the dinner table. LaCroix had
gotten through several simple meals without difficulty and had felt
strong enough, with a bit of help, to come down to the dinner table. 

They dined on a light meal of broiled chicken with fresh vegetables.
Little was said. They had all been quiet since Joe had come with the
news from Tess. 

They finished their dinner and Joe and Nick rearranged the furniture so
that the grouping before the fire held enough seats for them all. That
night they had the rare treat of listening to LaCroix talk about his
life in Pompeii. 

Janette sat close to him, holding one of his hands. LaCroix seemed to
enjoy her closeness. She had been his companion for hundreds of years
and it seemed natural to have her at his side. Being in love was far
from his mind. 

Janette, having fallen in love in the past with a man she had met, knew
what human love could be like. She wanted that for herself and LaCroix.

After story time, Nick announced, "I'm going to ask the trainer to come
back tomorrow. I need to continue my physical training. Perhaps, in
time, you will join me, Father. This human body has limitations. It's
very difficult at first." 

LaCroix nodded. "I feel the weakness of this body. It's also strange
not to hear someone's heartbeat or have night vision. I feel like I am
tied to the floor. I miss levitation already," he stated. 

"I know what you mean, Father. The hardest thing for me to leave behind
was flying. Still, you wouldn't believe what this human body is capable
of. There's physical training that allows humans to go far beyond what
most people realize." 

LaCroix said, "It sounds interesting. I'll watch you for awhile and
probably join you as soon as I feel stronger. Now, I think Janette and
I should go home. All the reminders of my former diet are gone, I
understand, and the lab has been put to rest. I wasn't able to tell you
how much the decor in my room means to me, Nicholas. Thank you." 

Nick nodded, "Before you leave, I wanted to talk to all of you about
naming this place. I've been thinking about calling it "Saving Grace"
if you all agree. It will be a home and a haven for all of us, and all
of us have been saved by God's grace, so... What do you think?" 

"Oh, Nick, it's perfect! I love the idea," Natalie enthused. 

The others all agreed that the name would fit their little retreat
perfectly, and it was enthusiastically and unanimously accepted. 

Nick turned back to LaCroix, "I know your place is simple, but I hope
that you can enjoy it for a while longer. When you are ready, we will
have a proper home built for you here. You will be welcome to stay or
use it as a vacation home, whatever you prefer." 

"Thank you, Nicholas. We will talk about it another day. I'm really
tired now." With Janette and Nick's help, he struggled to his feet, and
the three left. 

After settling LaCroix in his own bed and kissing Janette good night,
Nick returned to his own home. Joe and Grace where just bidding Natalie
a good night. Joe turned to Nick as he came in, "Good night, son. I'm
going to see if Grace would like to go for a walk." He turned and asked
Grace, "Would you like to come with me?" "I'd love too," She grinned.
Turning to Nick and Nat, she gave them each a hug, then left hand in
hand with Joe. 

Nick sighed when they were out of sight, "Alone at last." He sat next
to his wife on the couch and drew her against his chest so she could
put her feet up and relax. "Now I want to devote a great deal of time
to you, my lovely wife." Kissing her temple, he added, "My love." 

Natalie snuggled against him. "I'd love that." Nick laid a hand against
her belly, hoping to feel the babies move. Despite all the things they
had gone through during the last few months, there had been no
difficulty for the babies. Natalie was tired and a bit run down, but
otherwise healthy. 

"Oh, I forgot," Nick added, "Pop, is going to ask Grace to marry him." 

Natalie squealed with delight. "Oh, Nick, that's wonderful. She's so
crazy in love she can't see straight! I'm so happy for them." "Nick,
could we go shopping tomorrow? Just the two of us? I'd love to spend
some time alone with you... maybe talk about the babies... about names
and things... decide what we will have in the nursery?" 

Nick kissed her neck and said, "Sounds great, Nat. A day alone with my
girl. I can't think of anything I would rather do, and we do need to
gather all the nursery items for their arrival. We've put it off too

"Nick, since you are in a naming mood, I'd like to name the babies
Joseph Nicholas and Lucy Anne. What do you think?" Nick was speechless
for a moment, then he sputtered, "That's a wonderful idea, Natalie.
They will be honored." He sighed and held her close. The fire warmed

"There are so many unknowns now," Natalie said after a few minutes.
"How will LaCroix adjust... and can he? Just like some fledglings never
make it, will he be unable to turn back and be a human? Janette loves
him. What will she do if he doesn't love her back?" 

"Nat, lets not worry about them now. Janette will find someone else if
it becomes clear that LaCroix thinks of her only as his child. Right
now, they are free of all former bonds as he and I are, but he will
always be my father. We'll just have to pray for them and surround them
with love and support." He stood and drew her to her feet. "Come on,
let's go to bed." Natalie agreed. She was more than ready. They went up
on the lift. Natalie asked Nick, "Do you think Janette and LaCroix will

"For now... eventually, all of us have to go back into the world. This
will become our vacation home. We can't stay here and hide from the
world forever." 

As they passed the guest room, they heard Monica and Tess talking.
"They'll probably be leaving soon, too," Nick commented. "I'm surprised
they are still here. Andrew already left this morning." 

Natalie said, "I really like Andrew. It's comforting to know how
beautiful and gentle the death angel is. I'm also comforted that he's
gone. I had a fear he was here for someone else." Nick nodded,
understanding. "I guess he WAS here for someone. He helped take away
the death from father and Janette." 

When they opened the door to their room, they found that it had been
cleaned, and the bed was changed and fresh... no doubt the work of
angels. The young couple took a quick shower, crawled into bed, Sidney
jumped up too and curled up beside Nat and they slept. 

Outside, Grace and Joe had settled on the big rock. There had been a
full moon to light their path. They lay on their backs looking up into
the trees and watching the stars through the gently swaying branches.
They watched in silence for a time. Joe finally blurted out, "Grace...
marry me?" 

She sat up and turned to him. "What? Did I hear you right?" 

He repeated quietly, " Would you marry me, Grace? I know I'm much..." 

Grace leaned over and kissed him to stop him from saying "older." 

He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her and holding her close. "My
life has been in limbo for so long, Grace. I want what Janette and
LaCroix have now... a chance to live again. What do you say?" 

Grace drew back a few inches so she could see his face in the pale
moonlight. "I say, yes!" she shouted with glee, as Joe pulled her down
to kiss her deeply and fully. 

"When?" she asked against his lips. 

"Soon," Joe said. "As soon as you want." 

"I've wanted this for months, but I suppose we'll have to wait until
tomorrow," she laughed. 

"Right!" Joe said, playing along with what he took to be a joke. 

"No, Joe, I'm serious! Let's go down to the city tomorrow and see what
we can do.". 

"We should have it here, Grace. We owe Nick and Natalie a chance to be
there. They are our friends and hosts." Grace smiled, "You're right, of
course." She laid her cheek against his chest. "But we can get the
license tomorrow and see if we can find a minister to come here for the

"Sounds good!" Joe beamed. "You've got a deal." 

While checking on LaCroix, Janette found him uncovered. She grabbed the
blankets and tucked them around him. He awoke and grabbed her hand,
holding it to his cheek. "I feel such peace, Janette. I can't even
mourn the loss of my powers... not yet anyway. I have always had to
control this terrible rage inside of me, and so often I would fail. I
know now it was the demon, but we were so much a part of each other. I
always thought it was just an evil part of me." 

"It was different for me." Janette told him. "I never fought what I
was... ever. I accepted it. I'd forgotten what it was to be human, and
when I became human so unexpectedly the first time with Robert, the
love overwhelmed me." She continued, "It was not even close to what I
thought was love with Nichola. I lived in the sun again. I wanted to
have a baby. You know how much I've always wanted a baby." 

He reached up and caressed her face with his fingers. "Yes, I remember.
We have been forgiven, but can we forget what we did... what we were?" 

"That's a price we have to pay, Lucus." She said his new name shyly.
"We must never forget how easy it is to embrace the darkness. We must
always be ready to fight it and strive to do good with the rest of the
life that the Lord's has given us." 

She brought his fingers to her lips, kissing the tips of them. He
slipped his other hand behind her neck and drew her down to his chest,
wrapping both his arms around her. Janette could hear and feel his
heart beating in his chest. His hand was stroking her hair. "I do not
know what I would have done without you all these centuries, my dear.
You have made it possible to get through the times when Nicholas was
gone. You have always been faithful and have remained at my side, as a
devoted daughter." 

"Lucus, I am no longer your daughter." She drew back and looked him in
the eye. "You are human... I am human. We are no longer bonded as sire
and daughter by the vampire blood. We are free to make our lives what
we want them to be. If you wish, we can walk away from each other... or
form a new bond. We are free to love, live, maybe even have babies...
if you want that, Lucus." 

LaCroix's face registered surprise. "That's an intriguing thought, my
dear. I think that we will just step forward into the future and take
it a day at a time. You might want to see what kind of man I become
before you offer me such a wonderful gift." 

"Who else could we share our memories with? I know we both deserve the
kind of love I found with Robert. I only told you what is in my heart
because I want you to consider a life with me. If I did not say it, it
might never have occurred to you, and we could both lose out." She
leaned down and gave him a very soft, sensual kiss. 

LaCroix's face was full of wonder as she turned off the light and left,
closing the door behind her. 

The next morning, Nick and Natalie announced that they were going on a
shopping spree for the babies. As much as they both wanted to go alone,
Grace's announcement that she and Joe were going to get married the
next day spurred Natalie to offer to take Grace and Joe with them to

Janette decided to stay with LaCroix since he wasn't up to traveling.
He and Janette planned to 'just be domestic' as she put it. 

On the trip in, Joe and Grace discussed their plans to get the
paperwork and find a minister to marry them. They asked Nick and Nat if
they would mind having the wedding at "Saving Grace." 

"Joe, I've told you, that place is just as much yours as ours. I think
it would be wonderful to have the wedding there, and I know Nat will
agree," Nick said, as he glanced at his ecstatic wife, who was nodding 

Chapter 11 

The first thing Nick did when they got to town, was take Joe and Grace
to get a new car. He gave them a gold card and talked to the dealer as
he signed the credit voucher. "Pop, buy whatever you and Grace want.
Consider it a wedding gift." 

Joe protested, "No, Nick, I can pay for it." 

Nick stopped him. "Pop, let me do this for you. The money I have means
nothing to me unless it can benefit someone else. I could buy a
thousand cars a day on just the interest my investments bring in." 

Both Joe and the dealer's eyebrows raised to the sky. 

"Nick!" Joe said, taking his arm and leading him away. "You should
never say that out loud." 

Nick smiled. "You're right, Pop." He squeezed the man's arm and nodded
to Grace. "Just have fun and we'll see you back at the house tonight." 

He shot over his shoulders as he headed out the showroom door, "Oh...
get one that's good for mountain terrain in case we have some bad
weather this winter." 

He headed for the car, happy to help his friend and looking forward to
having his wife to himself for the rest of the day. 

Nick and Natalie found a Baby Depot and spent several hours selecting
items for the babies. Their time was spent carefully pouring over the
safety information on car seats and cribs, and making purchases of
remote monitoring equipment and sensor pads for the beds. 

Natalie laughed over rattles and stuffed toys, looking forward to when
the babies could appreciate them. She bought blankets, touching them to
make sure they were soft and warm. 

The pair stocked up on draperies, paint, wall decorations, and anything
else they felt they might need. In another store, the expectant parents
bought diapers, pins, bottles, medical supplies... anything a doctor
might need to help with the babies in their remote location. In the
late afternoon, tired but happy, Nick took Natalie out to dinner. As
the two sat in a secluded booth eating steaks, Nick said, "Day after
tomorrow, they will deliver all the big stuff. I will start painting in
the morning." 

Natalie said, "I'd like to keep the babies in our room for the first
six months in their bassinets, Nick." 

He took her hand across the table. "Of course. We have so much room, it
will be easier for the night feedings." 

Tears sparkled in his eyes. "Nat, I sometimes can't believe I'm going
to be a father. Do you know I have dreamed of this for centuries?" 

"It's more than a dream, Nick," she said, rubbing her hand over her
expanding midriff. 

"You're right. Of all the women I have known in my life, I am so glad
that it is you that I am proud and blessed to have these babies with." 

"Nick, I would be happy right now just to watch our babies grow. I
never want to take anymore blood samples, file paperwork or examine
anyone dead or alive. I just want to be with my family." 

"Natalie, if that is what you wish, I will support it, but put off
making any decisions until you are with the babies for a while. You may
want something more than motherhood after a while. 

You're a wonderful doctor and a brilliant scientist. You have years to
decide. Humanity can always use good, dedicated doctors. Let's talk
about it later, maybe after a few years. For now, come dance with me."
He drew her to her feet and onto the sparsely populated dance floor. 

They giggled a bit when they found it was nearly impossible for them to
get close, but they managed as best they could and danced slowly.
Natalie rested her head on Nick's shoulder. It was wonderful to feel
her husband's warmth, to hear the faint, steady heart beat. She thought
about how much she loved him and how their lives had changed, and she
thanked God. 

Nick drew his head back and put a finger under her chin, lifting her
face so he could look into her eyes. He kissed her with soft gentle
kisses. They had to keep their passion in check, reminding themselves
they were in public. 

When the dance ended, he said, "We'd better get you home, my love. It's
very late, and your doctor might skin me alive if he finds out you've
been on your feet so many hours at this late state of your pregnancy." 

She nodded, reluctantly. "It's been a wonderful day, Nick. Thank you."
She pulled him down toward her and nuzzled his neck as she hugged him. 

He smiled, caressing her cheek with his hand. Whenever he looked at his
wife, he never failed to thank God in his heart, for her. It amazed him
how the Lord had brought him through untold horrors and endless nights
to have this joy in his life. 

The van was brought to them and they got in. It was loaded clear to the
back of their seats with all their purchases. Nick got in and Natalie
scooted across the special bench seat he?d had built into their van.
She snuggled against him and soon fell asleep. 

He drove in silence, listening to her breathe, enjoying her warmth
against him. He had been able to learn to enjoy the night, to see it's
beauty again and feel a peace in it. There was such a contrast between
it and the light of day. He was grateful to be able to live in both

Before, the night had been like a type of freedom in a cage. Unable to
go out in the day, he had considered the night both friend and enemy.
He still preferred the days. He looked forward to the summer now, to
the longer days, and to being with his wife and babies. 

Thinking of the babies made him go all soft inside. Sometimes his hands
would tremble and his knees would weaken... terror would grasp him. It
was a terror so pure he could barely comprehend or stand it. 

He hadn't told Natalie any of this. He was struck by such a huge sense
of responsibility... the raising and molding of two babies lives! Was
it natural to fear this responsibility or was he just so unworthy? He
could barely comprehend God's blessing him with two at once. There had
been a time when he never expected to have even one. 

How could he possibly raise these babies well? The only 'father image'
He'd had for so long was of LaCroix the vampire father. Nothing in the
life he had led had prepared him for fatherhood. He felt sheer terror,
and it rose in his throat as panic. 

All of a sudden he heard Tess' voice. "Relax, Baby, you'll do fine." He
looked into his mirror and saw her reflected from it. He didn't bother
to turn and look over his shoulder. He knew she wasn't there. 

He thought. "Do you really think I'll be able to raise our babies all
right, Tess?" 

"Yes, I do, Child. You have the Lord now. He will color all of your
future. Think about it... you know all the right things to do. You know
what the worst and the best father can be like. Lucus will also be
learning along side of you." 

Nick felt the panic subside and peace enveloped him. "Thank you, Tess.
I'll try to keep your words in mind." He glanced back into the mirror,
and she was gone. 

As he pulled into the drive way, Natalie stretched, yawned and looked
around. They spotted a new SUV in the drive near Joe's house. 

Hw smiled, glad to see that Joe had selected a good, sturdy vehicle. As
Nick parked beside the new SUV, Joe and Grace came from his house. Nick
and Natalie looked at the new car briefly, but when Grace noticed that
Natalie was trying hard to stifle yawn after yawn, she said, "Come on,
girl friend, let me take you on up to bed. We'll let the guys finish
checking out the details. 

She slipped her arm around Natalie's shoulders and led her to the lift.
They went upstairs where she helped her friend undress and get into

Natalie barely said, "Thanks, Grace," before she was asleep. A
satisfied smile dancing on her lips. 

Grace stood for several minutes, studying her friend's face. When they
had left this morning, it had been lined and her eyes dark with worry
and exhaustion from the past months. Just today's outing had taken
years off her features. 

Grace gently smoothed the hair away from the sleeping mother-to-be's
face. Lately she had slipped more into the mothering role she had felt
with Natalie over the years. She was only 6 years older, but since Joe
was a father figure around here and she would marry him soon... She
smiled down at Natalie, turned down the lights, and joined the men

As she walked down the stairs, she thought about the things in her life
that had changed since she had arrived here. There had been so many new
things she had seen and learned. She sent a prayer of thanks to the
Lord. It had been a most frightening, yet most joyous time. She wasn't
sure she would have gotten through all of the bad if the Lord hadn't
put Joe as a pillar of strength in her life. 

She had almost entered the kitchen when she heard the guys practically
cooing. She peeked out from the stairs and found that the men had
brought in all the boxes from the van and were now examining the cute
baby items. She watched from the shadows in silence, covering her mouth
to stifle the giggles as she watched Joe and Nick "oooh" and "aaah"over
the tiny baby dresses, hats, outfits, and toys. When Joe popped a
pacifier in his mouth and set Nick to laughing, she laughed aloud too
and joined them, relishing their embarrassed grins. 

After they finished unpacking and storing all the baby items, Nick bid
his friends good night and went to see how LaCroix and Janette were. He
found them sitting before the big TV watching Casablanca. 

LaCroix's head was resting in Janette's lap. He sat up and turned off
the TV when Nick came in. 

"Nicholas," he beamed, holding out his hand. 

Nick took it and was drawn down to sit beside his father. The move
sandwiched him in between LaCroix and Janette. He relaxed half leaning
against his father's chest and shoulder. 

There was no longer any tension or danger here, only peace. It was
amazing to feel LaCroix's arm across his chest and to feel the warmth
of his father radiating to him. 

He took Janette's hand and drew her into the circle of his arms. They
sat and shared their day for about an hour. Nick discovered that
Janette and LaCroix had gone for a short walk around the backyard.
They'd sat and enjoyed the sun for a while before coming inside. Nick
told them about his day, the baby things they'd purchased and how much
fun he and Natalie'd had. 

Janette said, ruefully, "I tried to cook some of the hamburger Grace
showed me." 

LaCroix laughed. "They looked like little, black hockey pucks." 

Nick laughed. "I guess we will have to ask Grace to give you some
cooking lessons." 

"Do you think she will?" Janette asked eagerly. "I know desserts but
not real food." 

"I can almost guarantee it," Nick replied. Finally, reluctantly he
stood to leave. "I must check on Natalie," he told them as he leaned
down and planted a kiss on LaCroix's forehead and then Janette's cheek.

The tears of gratefulness that sprang into LaCroix's eyes touched his
heart. He left them with his own eyes filled with bright tears of
thanks to God that LaCroix had come to accept the Lord. 

He turned off most of the lights at his place, leaving only the kitchen
and the passageway lit between his and Joe's house. He had seen Joe and
Grace sitting on Joe's porch as he had returned. He wanted Grace to be
able to see her way back to her room. 

Natalie was sitting on the edge of the bed when he entered their room. 

He hurried to her. "Nat, what's wrong?" "Brakston Hicks, I hope," she
said, straining to rub her back. 

He got up on the bed behind her and started to gently, but firmly, rub
her back. 

"Oh, that's good, Nick," she groaned. "How are LaCroix and Janette

"They're good. How did you know I went to see them?" he asked,

She smiled, "I can smell his aftershave on you, as well as Janette's
perfume." "Do you mind that we are still so close?" 

"No, Nick, they are your family... your father and your dear friend. I
understand that you are now getting the emotional support you should
have gotten centuries ago. I'm happy for you all." 

She moved, and Nick helped her to recline on her side across the bed,
facing away from him. He continued to rub her back carefully. 

She said, "It was a wonderful day, Nick. Everything was normal." 

He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Yes, it was normal. It was
wonderful!" He told her about unpacking the baby things with Joe and
how Grace had laughed at them. 

Natalie stiffened again. The pain was harder this time. "Maybe I should
have Grace give me something to stop the labor. It's to early to have
these babies." 

Nick hurried to get Grace, and she administered a low dosage of
medication to Natalie to try and stop the contractions. 

Nick helped his wife to lay on her back with pillows propped under her
knees. "If this doesn't work, Nick," Nat warned him, "we could be on
our way to having these babies. I would like to hold on to them a few
more days if possible." 

Nick lay against the length of her back, snuggled up to her shoulder
and prayed with her. 

Chapter 12 

After a time, the pains, thankfully, stopped. They both breathed easier
and finally drifted off to sleep. 

The next day, Nick allowed her to come downstairs, but made her stay
seated most of the day with her feet propped up. The women gathered
around her and made plans for the wedding. 

Since it was Grace's wedding and neither Nat nor Janette could cook,
Janette called a caterer. Then the ladies decided only the family at
"Saving Grace" and the minister's wife would be the guests. They
directed the men, as they set up the tables, chairs and wedding

Joe and Nick built an arch that would be set in the garden later for
roses. For the day, though, they placed it in front of the house. The
women decorated it with ivy and flowers. 

Since there would only be the six of them plus the minister and his
wife, only a few chairs were needed. Grace had commented, when she had
told them about finding a minister, that the minister's wife seemed

Grace had no family to invite, and Joe had called his daughters and
told them. Their reactions had been less than enthusiastic. They had
yet to forgive him for the funeral he had planned for their mother. He
hoped they would understand later. 

About noon the next day, the minister arrived. His wife was a small
pale woman with a glow of grace around her. The family was pleased to
find that the three angels had returned to share this day with Joe and
Grace. It always surprised them to see the three appear out of no where
and often fade back into it. 

At one o'clock, the eight people and three angels gathered around the
arch. Grace wore a full length white dress with an over blouse of white
lace. It had lace sleeves to her wrists. She had pearls running though
her hair. Janette and Natalie had worked hard to make her hair perfect.

Joe was dressed in his Captain's dress uniform. 

Grace had a bouquet of garden flowers that Monica had brought to her
tied with a pure white ribbon. 

The Minister, Patrick Coleman, looked around the group. They were an
interesting bunch. He could tell there was a good fifteen year
difference between the bride and groom. His skin was the color of ebony
and hers, a rich, dark honey brown. 

The blond man and his pregnant wife seemed the most average, of the
group. The beautiful French woman and her companion, a strange tall man
with long silver hair, had a Roman look about his profile. When the
minister looked into the man's eyes, they seemed to hold the wisdom of
the ages . He was thin and gaunt and must have been, or still was, ill.

The minister glanced at his own wife, Charity, and saw the illness in
her face. He stuffed the pain down into his heart. She suffered in
silence. He was so proud of her and loved her so much. He prayed for
the ten thousandth time that God would see fit to heal his beloved

Last, but certainly not least, there were the three friends. The
minister felt power emanating from them. It seemed as if he could feel
a spirit of purity, and agelessness. 

The strange group seemed to revere the three who did not live here. He
looked again at his wife and raised an eyebrow. She knew where his
thoughts were and nodded, agreeing this was an interesting group. 

There was no doubt that these people loved the Lord. The spirit of God
surrounded them and emanated from their faces and eyes. This was one of
the reasons he had agreed to marry these strangers. 

Andrew discreetly snapped photos, and Monica monitored a video camera
Nick had set up on a tripod. Joe had wanted to have something to show
his daughters. 

After the minister read I Corinthians 13, they exchanged vows. Joe and
Grace pledged their love and devotion to each other and to their
friends. Finally, the minister pronounced them husband and wife. 

Joe pulled Grace close and kissed her gently. She threw her arms around
him and kissed him back ferociously, making all their guests laugh. Her
cheeks were wet with tears. 

Nick helped Natalie up from her chair, and they both hugged the
newlyweds, pressing kisses to their cheeks. 

Janette and LaCroix stood back a bit. Joe came to them, surprising the
two former vampires by giving each a hug. Joe whispered to LaCroix,
"You're next old man." He indicated Janette with a twist of his head.
"She's a prize to be cherished." 

"Indeed she is," LaCroix said, turning a gentle look on his companion.
He whispered back, "She has already let me know that she is

Joe stood back a bit, but kept his voice low, "You are a blessed man,

"I agree," LaCroix replied. 

Grace came to join them and kissed LaCroix on the cheek. 

He seemed warmed by her show of affection. LaCroix still had problems
believing he could be forgiven and accepted by these people. He was
touched each time they showed him love or affection, by touch or deed. 

"Congratulations, my dear," he said to Grace. 

"Thank you, Lucus," she said, using the unfamiliar name. 

Nick was talking to the minister off to the side. "Yes, sir, there is
something different about us and this place. What you are sensing,
Pastor, is a renewal of faith so profound that you can have no
conception of the changes in myself, my Father and Janette. Sir, do you
believe in angels?" 

"Yes, of course I do." 

"Do you believe that they come among us and physically minister to
humans... even take on the appearance of, and be physically
indistinguishable from humans?" "I've heard many stories of miracles
from people, Nick. Some talk of ordinary looking humans who are like
angels and others speak of glowing beings. It's obvious something

Nick glanced at Tess, who was close by listening to their conversation.
She nodded now to him. "Go ahead, Baby, tell him. He has great favor in
the eyes of the Lord." Nick saw Monica and Andrew come to stand next to

The rest of the group noticed the angels gather, stopped their chatter
and turned to listen and watch. 

Nick waved his hand toward the angels. "Pastor Patrick, these wonderful
beings you see before you are angels. They were sent by God to deliver
the three of us; Janette, my father, and myself, from hundreds of years
of demon possession." 

"What?" the startled minister exclaimed incredulously. His face paled. 

His wife, Charity, came closer. "What's going on, Patrick?" She could
sense the power in the air. 

Suddenly the three angels started to glow. The minister and his wife
fell to their knees. Andrew came forward. "Please," he said, "do not
bow to us. Bow only to the Lord, your God." He helped them to their

"The Lord charges you with the job of overseeing these new Christians.
They need your wisdom and guidance. They need you to instruct them in
the Word." 

Monica came forward and took the ill woman's hand. "Charity is a name
fitting for one who gives so much of herself. Your body is being
ravaged by cancer. You know it wouldn't be long without a miracle. The
Lord wants to bless you and heal you so that you can be a witness to
the people of your church and to these people, and a teacher to the

She drew Charity into her arms and a glow grew around the woman and
filled her with gentle warmth. Charity gasped as the warmth engulfed
her. Immediately all her pain was gone, and she became strong and
healthy before their eyes. 

Patrick, weak at the knees, realized Tess and Andrew were holding him
up. The love that flowed through him was like the brilliance of a sun.
"The Son," he thought to himself. 

In a few seconds, he found his strength and rushed to engulf his
sobbing wife. They both cried, while the rest of the group thanked God.
After a while, Patrick looked to Tess for answers and details. 

Nick was surprised that she was forthcoming with all the facts about
vampirism and the demons that caused it. Most surprising of all, was
that he didn't seemed surprised... more like relieved. 

Nick finally realized... "You've seen a vampire before?" "Yes," the Man
of God agreed, "in New York. I had just become a minister. I went on a
mission to New York City to pass out blankets to the homeless. It was
late and I had gotten a bit lost. I heard something in an alley, and
slipped carefully into the shadows to take a look." 

"A dark figure was bent over a man he was holding to his chest. Just
then, a cat ran from the trash can I was hiding near and knocked over
another can that rolled away. It created such a clatter, I think my
heart almost stopped. The thing raised it's head. It's eyes were
glowing, and I saw the glint of teeth from the light of a passing car."

"A second later, and it had vanished as if it had never been there...
except for the body. The man crumpled onto the ground. It was too late
for him, but I summoned help anyway. The police thought I was a bit
crazy. They said it must have been a cult blood-draining, and I just
saw some psycho drop the body." 

"I've never told anyone except Charity. We have prayed for my peace of
mind for years . As fantastic as this may seem, it's a huge relief to
finally know there really are vampires." 

"Baby, nothing happens that God can't use in some way for good if we
give it to him... even what others would use for evil..." Tess

The relieved pastor looked around. "I'm sure we'll speak more of this
later. For now, there is much to celebrate." He hugged Charity to him
again, and cried with relief for her, himself and his new friends. 

"Come on, my friends, let's turn our attention to the bride and groom."

Everyone took seats at the table in the garden. They sat and talked,
enjoying each others company. They took pictures. Since everyone now
knew the 'BIG secret,' as Grace called it, the former vampires told
funny stories of previous weddings they attended through the years. 

There was a beautiful, two-tiered cake, Janette had made. It was
covered with white, delicate flowers and tiny, amazing white doves. 

Everyone stared in amazement at it. Janette had just shrugged. "You
don't live over thousand years and not learn a few handy trades." She
smiled, pleased with their compliments. 

As the sun set, a long, white limo pulled into the drive. 

Nick turned to his newlywed friends and said, "Gentle Lady and Sir,
your coach awaits to take you on a special night stay at a fabulous
hotel in the city. I know you don't want to leave Natalie at this time,
Grace, but Nat and I agreed that she should be alright for a couple of
nights. After the babies are born, I promise to send you both for a
month to anywhere in the world you want to go." 

Tess and Andrew brought out the couple's bags. After hugs and kisses,
the bride and groom where driven off into the night. 

Nick asked Patrick and Charity to stay the night since it was so late.
Tess assured them that the guest room was already prepared forthem. 

Finally everyone was settled in, and Nick and Natalie crawled into bed.

"It was a wonderful day, Nick," his tired wife said. "I think Grace and
Joe are happy. They received a huge blessing by having that wonderful
miracle on the day of their wedding." 

Nick nodded. "Yes, it was a blessing. Pop said the Lord led them to
this minister's door. He had given up trying to find someone who would
come up here on such short notice. He saw their little church and
decided to make one final request. Obviously he was guided by our
Lord." Nick turned to his wife and realized she was already asleep. He
smiled and kissed her face gently. She snuggled in toward him, and he
gathered her close and slept. 

In the limo, Joe held Grace close. The driver was concealed behind the
tinted glass of the luxurious limo. There was a TV, telephone, fully
stocked refrigerator and bar, soft gentle music and champagne that had
been chilled on ice. 

He opened a bottle of Champagne with a pop and poured his bride a
drink. She took the glass with a smile. Joe leaned to kiss her, his
desire mirrored in her eyes. "To my wife!" he toasted, lifting his
glass. "You are aptly named, being filled with grace and love. You are
truly a blessing to me." 

Grace toasted him back with, "To my husband... a gorgeous hunk of a
man. You are a very welcome and unexpected blessing in my life." 

The glasses clinked together, and they drank, laughing as the bubbles
tickled their noses. The emptied glasses were set aside, and Joe drew
his wife into his arms. Their lips met in a gentle kiss, but soon they
were raining kisses all over each others faces. 

Eventually the car stopped, and they reluctantly drew apart. The driver
opened the door for Joe who got out, then reached back taking Grace's
hand to help her out. 

They found themselves standing before a huge Ritz-Carleton. A footman
came forward to take their bags, as an assistant manager appeared to
guide them to their room. 

Joe and Grace looked at each other in surprise when they were taken to
the penthouse. 

When Joe tried to give the man a tip, he waved it away. "No, Sir, it's
all been generously taken care of. Please enjoy your stay." 

Joe assured him, "Oh, we have no doubt that we will." 

The manager closed the door to the suite behind him, and the newlyweds
turned to look at their home for the next two nights.

Chapter 13 

The huge living room had comfortable, overstuffed furniture and a big
fireplace with lush carpets. Flowers here and there made the room
softly beautiful. The place had marble floors and huge windows that
overlooked the city giving them a gloriously glittering view. 

There was a fully stocked kitchen and a beautiful, intimate dining
area. The door to the bedroom revealed a huge, four poster bed, draped
in rich hunter green and Champagne. 

Grace squealed in delight when the bathroom door was opened. A massive,
sunken hot tub took up half the huge bathroom. It would almost qualify
for a small swimming pool. 

All ready a bottle of champagne stood iced near the steaming pool. Two
soft, white terrycloth robes were laid over a wide lounge chair. 

"Look," Grace pointed, "Our names are embroidered on the pockets." 

Joe shook his head. "Nick's too much! This is wonderful. I just wish I
could have given you this. I hate to keep taking from Nick." 

Grace smiled and came close to kiss him. "I understand why you feel
that way, Joe, but this gives him pleasure, and he's led such a long
life without pleasure. We have to be graceful enough to accept it. You
might not realize it, but you have given him much as well. We will both
be there for them now and for the babies. That's how we can, and will,
give back." 

The was a knock at the door. Joe looked at Grace and shrugged. He went
to get it. It was room service with a huge cart full of covered plates
for their dinner. "Compliments of Mr. and Mrs. Knight,² the young man
informed them. ³Enjoy." He wheeled the cart to the dining table and
then left. 

Joe took a rose from the vase in the middle of the cart and gave it to
his bride as he kissed her. She held it to her nose and inhaled the
gentle fragrance. 

Joe grinned. "Shall we see what they brought us?" 

He and Grace dove into the trays with delight. They uncovered a dish of
chocolate dipped strawberries. Another held crackers, cheese, and
caviar. There were also small fillet mignon steaks with baked potatoes
and vegetables. They enjoyed every bite of their meal. 

After dinner, they took the strawberries, and a bowl of whipped cream
from the frig, to the pool in the bathroom. They shyly undressed each
other and slipped into the water. For several minutes, the pair fed
each other strawberries, sometimes using them to draw with the whipped
cream on the otherıs neck or face, and then licking it off. 

Eventually, the newlyweds made love for the first time as the warm
water caressed them. Afterward, they held each other for a while, then
lovingly bathed each other. Finally, Joe climbed out and slid into his
robe, then held his hand out to Grace who stepped out and into her robe
as well. 

He guided her to the bed, and they gently explored each other again,
touching and caressing. They made love again, and finally sated, they
fell asleep. 


Back at 'Saving Grace', in the mobel home, LaCroix found he was unable
to sleep. He slipped into his black silk robe and tied the belt
securely. Stepping into some comfortable shoes, he walked out into the

It all seemed so different now. The night used to be full of sights and
sounds that only a vampire could hear and see. Now the shadows were
dark and menacing. He could no longer see in the dim light, yet he felt
his mind clear and he looked around with his human senses. 

The air was cool, with a hint of rain. He realized he could smell the
damp dirt and the green grass. Also, there was the sweet fragrance from
the garden flowers nearby. He glanced up at the sky and saw a few stars
though the clouds. He would have soared into the night if he could
have. At times like this, he really regretted the loss of the vampireıs
ability to fly. 

Lucas heard the door open behind him and the sound of footsteps. A warm
hand snaked over his shoulder, a chin rested on his arm, and another
arm came around his waist. "Good evening, Janette," he whispered. He
could smell her perfume and feel her beautiful, soft skin on his neck
where her fingers had come to rest. 

Janette asked in a soft whisper, "Are you all right?" He turned toward
her and slipped an arm around her waist, pulling her close to him.
"Just enjoying the night... learning the different senses a human has.
We gain about as much as we lose, I think..." He turned to face her. 

They had been vampire lovers hundreds of years before they met Nick,
though they'd never told him about that. LaCroix leaned forward and
kissed her gently. Her hand slipped higher, burying itself in his hair.

He drew back. "It's very different, isn't it? I cannot feel your
thoughts or sense your blood, yet there is a great satisfaction in the
touch and taste of you. It's new... and very pleasurable." 

"Oui, it is... very pleasurable." She drew him back down for a deeper

Finally, LaCroix pulled back again. "Are you sure this is what you
want, Janette?" 

"Oui, Lucus, I want it so very much." She moved away. "But I also want
to go to dinners, movies, dancing... do the whole dating thing." 

"Really?" he said. A twinkle came into his eyes. He bowed. "As the Lady

"Really, Lucus! Really?" She queried. 

"Yes, really." He touched her chin with a finger. "It's a good
beginning for us, Janette. We are human now. We should do as humans do.
We shall date." 

She giggled with delight. 

LaCroix smiled. "As soon as I get strong enough, we will go to the
city, and buy new clothes. I want to get rid of my black garments. We
will see those movies, and so many other things." He drew Janette back
against his chest, holding her tenderly. 

"I find it so amazing that God would care who I was after all the
atrocities I have committed. My heart feels so new and clean." 

Janette murmured her agreement, shivering against him from the coolness
of the night. 

LaCroix looked down and could see by the porch light that her thin
white arms were full of goose bumps. "Come, we must go back inside.
You're cold, and it's time to sleep." 

They looked up again at the stars and then headed inside and to their
own rooms. 

The day after the wedding they helped move all of Grace's things to
Joe's house. Patrick and Charity stayed to help set up the nursery. 

They set up the bassinets in Nick and Natalie's room and the cribs in
the babies' room. They painted the room a light yellow with white trim
because the young parents wanted everything to be full of light. 

Charity helped put up the lace curtains. There were bunnies on Lucy's
side and bears for Joey's side of the room. 

As they worked, Natalie learned that Patrick and Charity had gotten
married when they were very young. They had kids right away and had
lived in tiny parishes the whole time. Their kids were all married or
going to college now, leaving them on their own again. They had only
recently found out about the cancer, and that it had already

Yesterday's miracle had strengthened her faith, making it new and
fresh. She worked all day and felt healthy and strong. She cooked for
the group, and they ate before the couple had to head back down the
mountain toward home. Their hosts asked them to come back anytime. 

With Grace and Joe gone, LaCroix and Janette had planned to watch a
movie at their place. The angels had left, leaving the two soon-to-be
parents with the house to themselves. 

That evening, they sat cuddling, gently kissing and just being close.
After awhile, they took a short walk around the yard. Finally, Nick got
Natalie to go on up to bed, then returned downstairs to sit alone for a
few minutes. 

LaCroix appeared at the door. "Nicholas, may I speak with you?" he

"Sure, Father. Come on in." Nick answered. 

LaCroix asked, "Mind if we walk a bit? The night is so beautiful." 

Nick opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. "Of course... I
would like that." He knew LaCroix's strength hadn't fully returned yet
so he offered his arm, and his father took it gratefully. They
descended the steps and strolled down the drive. 

"How are you, Father?" Nick asked. 

"I'm doing good, Nicholas, but Iım still weak... and perhaps a bit
scared. I would not want to go back." He took a deep breath, "I want to
tell you something, Nicholas... something I told Natalie months ago...
the first night she was in the hospital." 

Nick looked at him in surprise. "You were still in Toronto?" He felt
himself shiver. "She should have told me." 

"Do not be angry with Natalie. I would not have hurt her, and she
realized that." 

Nick found that he was still a bit hurt. "What do you want to say?" 

"All those years I tortured you because you wanted to be human... it
was frustration more than anger." He stopped and turned to his son. "I
had tried, a good part of my first several hundred years, to find a

"What?" Nick felt anger rising to the surface. "You tortured me for
something you did yourself ?" 

"I did not want to see you suffer as I did." 

"Why not just tell me?" Nick had moved away. 

"That's the hard part. I couldn't tell you. I did not wish you to see
any weakness in me. I felt that I had to be strong. I was Roman. This
was what I had lived with all my human life... be strong. You were my
child, and like a soldier under my watch. I saw it no differently. You
told me the night I became human that all was forgiven, but you cannot
forgive what you do not know. I need you to hear my transgressions.
Then you must decide if I am truly forgiven." 

Nick turned back to him, ready to yell out his anger, but when he saw
that tears were streaking down his father's face. He grabbed him and
held him close. 

The older man sobbed against him. "Nicholas, please don't hate me. I
should have told Natalie to tell you. I was different then. I was so
seldom in control those last years, and when I was, I always fell back
on my training as a Roman officer. The only time I felt close to
regaining a part of myself was when we became close those last months
before I left." 

Nick held the older man as the sobs wracked his body. He did not see
this as weak, but as a step in a direction that could heal them all.
There was so much guilt in LaCroix. Guilt was something he certainly
understood. He had expressed his guilt to others thousands of times
over the centuries, but LaCroix had always held his inside. 

Nick felt his anger fade. Tess had told him that LaCroix would have a
lot to deal with. He knew how guilt could overpower you and take on a
life of its own. Being saved might make you not guilty before God, but
forgiving yourself... that often took a great deal of time. 

When they had been vampires, they shared blood and the things they
wanted each other to know was there for the reading. Nothing had needed
to be spoken aloud. The older vampires often had developed some
shielding to their innermost thoughts, though, and Nick had never been
able to read LaCroix very well. He'd only seen touches of his regret
and pain. Now it washed over him in waves as he held his father close.
Nick prayed for strength to deal with the things that LaCroix would
eventually tell him. Things that might come up later that he would feel
a need to confess. 

"Father, shhh... please just let it go. It's okay. Come... let's just
sit together for a while.² They had battled for so long, tearing at
each other many times. Nick wanted to put all that behind him now, and
start new. He knew, thought, that it wouldnıt be easy or quick. 

"Father, I've never stopped loving you," Nick said. He took LaCroix's
trembling hand in his. "There is a saying: If you love something, let
it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours forever. There were times I
missed you so much that my heart would ache. Times I headed back to
you, only to have you catch me before I got there, and then you would
beat me half to death. I needed space to be an adult, and you always
treated me as a child." 

LaCroix raised Nick's hand to his cheek. "Forgive me," he said.
"Nicholas, how will we get past all this? The weakness eats at me, and
I have so little strength. I am an open book, with no emotional
control. I feel like a sniveling baby. I no longer recognize myself." 

Nick slipped an arm around his shoulder. "It's going to take time." "It
didn't take time for Charity. In moments she went from being sick to
being beautiful and healthy." 

Nick explained, "God's ways are different for each person. Charity has
served God most of her life." 

"Do you thing it's a punishment to make me learn humility?" 

"Punishment?" Nick repeated, thoughtfully. "I don't think so. Maybe a
consequence. If a man smokes 40 years and then quits, it's not a
punishment that he gets cancer anyway. It's a result of abusing his
body all those years. Years of possession has changed us." 

LaCroix turned to Nick. "The years didn't change you much. You fought
against your vampire nature all those years. The Lord knows that. I
allowed it to consume me. You were a bright sun. Despite all the odds
against you, you persevered. You were always in search of good. I see
that you have been blessed much, and it warms my heart that you have
Natalie and your babies on the way." 

"Thank you, Father" Nick told the older man. He saw the weariness in
his father's eyes. "Come, I should be getting back to Natalie and you
need to rest." 

Chapter 14 

They stood and LaCroix took Nick's offered arm, gratefully. Nick felt
his father lean hard on him. "Are you sure you can make it back? I
could go get the car and drive you back," he offered. 

"No... I'll make it. I need to start exercising." 

They started slowly and as they walked, Nick said, "I am so sorry you
must go through all this. I feel I should be there more for you, but
Natalie needs me right now." 

"Nicholas, you are right to spend your time with her. I have interfered
too much already. I am warmed that she even looks at me with

"Natalie loves with great empathy. From the moment she saw me in her
morgue, she looked for the good in me. It was my salvation." 

LaCroix agreed, "Yes, she is very special." 

"What about you, Father? You and Janette loved as man and wife once.
You could let it happen again." 

LaCroix looked a bit surprised. "You knew?" 

"We, also, lived as husband and wife. We shared blood. You were always
there in her mind. It made me jealous for a time. I think that's why I
finally left. As much as she loved me, and I know she did, you were
always there in her heart. She never thought of you as a "father". You
were her master, but also, her man. I hope you can find your way back
to each other." 

LaCroix admitted to Nick. "We already have done so. We have talked, and
we have decided to date." 

"What?" Nick exclaimed, excitement in his voice. He hugged LaCroix,
surprising the older man. "That's wonderful, Father." 

LaCroix held Nick to him. "Thank you for your kindness, Nick. I owe you

They had stopped at the stairs to the mobile home. "Thank you, Father,
but the Lord did much for all of us. We have a new life. You see
yourself as weak, but I see great strength. It takes a lot of courage
to admit doing wrong, and ask forgiveness... great courage." Janette
opened the door. "There you are! I wondered where you had gotten off
too. Dinner is ready." She came down the steps. 

Nick hugged LaCroix and then Janette. "Tomorrow we'll talk about
getting the trainer here. He's well versed in physical therapy, and he
can help you begin to regain your strength. It will make you feel whole

"That sound good, Nicholas. Good night," he said, taking Janette's arm.
Together, they climbed the steps. While Nick hurried toward the house
to check on Natalie. 

LaCroix turned to watch his son enter the big house and then gazed up
at the last rays of the sunset. Janette watched with him. "I will never
tire of looking at the colors in the sunsets," she said. 

"Nor I," he agreed. "I talked to Nicholas. I was able to get a few
burdens off my chest, as humans say." 

She smiled. "WE are human now," she reminded him. 

"Quite right, " he said, as they turned to enter their house and head
for dinner. 

Nick went up the stairs two at a time and found Natalie still asleep.
He pulled his shoes off, crawled under the covers and snuggled up to
her, nuzzling her ear and neck. 

She smiled, sleepily, and turned toward him, but her eyes stayed

Nick kissed her gently. "I talked to father tonight. He told me about
the hospital visit." 

Natalie's eyes flew open and she searched his face to see if he was
angry. She saw that he was a little hurt. "Forgive me, Nick. He only
came to see if I was okay. It scared me, but only for a moment. I
realized that no harm would come to me." 

Nick pressed a kiss to her lips. "Shh... It's okay. It's past. I won't
allow my former life to mess us up now.? 

"It's hard for LaCroix. He's battling centuries of guilt... his body is
weak. Really, it's frustrating him more than it's angering him. He's
been in control of his whole existence, and now control has slipped
from his grasp. I don't know that I can counsel him properly. I'm still
learning so much myself." 

"Nick, that's Pop's job. They'll be back tomorrow. It's why Joe is here
to help us all. He's got more experience with life... human life...
than any of us." 

"When he comes back, I will be glad to see him. I know its only been a
couple days, but he's like a rock around here and I've grown to depend
on him." 

"Make sure you tell him that," She suggested. Suddenly she turned to
Nick and asked, "Nick, when LaCroix tells you about his guilt, how do
you feel?" 

Nick pulled away from his wife and sat on the edge of the bed. 

Natalie moved up behind him and laid her cheek against his back. "He's
done some horrendous things to you. It's all right to be angry about

"How can I be angry, Nat? Do I have the right to hate him for the
things he did. It wasn't even him, really... it was the demon." 

"Maybe not hate, Nick, but you can be angry. I don't think anger is a
sin. After all, Christ became angry with the money changers in the
Temple. He drove them out with a whip. That's not a passive reaction...
and God counted him sinless when he went to the cross. 

There is a lot of anger and pain between the two of you, yet you have
always loved each other. That's why you accepted his offer to become
what he was. Your love and need for him has always been the reason,
Nick. You were searching for a master, and you picked the wrong one.
For you both to heal, you are going to have to share it with him." 

"Nat, he has so much to deal with." 

Natalie said, "Maybe if you continue to tell him how you felt about
what he did to you, it will help you both. You can forgive him and let
it go." 

"If he's new in Christ, wouldn't the Lord have forgiven him for it all
already? How can I drag it up?" 

"The Lord forgave him. He knows that. He just needs to hear it from
you, too. We all have to come to the point when we can forgive each
other. I know it hurt to hear some things tonight, but don't you feel
better now? It's been washed away by the crystal clear tears you both
shed together. When we allowed your father to come here, we accepted a
huge responsibility, but it's been worth it already, Nick." 

He smiled at her and turned to gather her close to his chest. "It's
hard, but it's wonderful to have him here. I would not have been able
to live with myself if we hadn't tried." 

"I know," she said soothingly. "Come to bed, my Love." 

She helped him undress, and he climbed in beside her. She laid her
cheek on his shoulder and let herself drift off to sleep. 

Nick listened to her steady breathing for a while before letting
himself drift off. 


Joe and Grace were feeding each other chocolate strawberries and cream
as they lounged in the spa/tub again. They hadn't left the penthouse
since their arrival. They'd basked in the luxury of it all and tended
to each other. 

"Joe, I've waited years to be with you like this," Grace confessed as
she ran her hand over his chest. 

"Years? You've said that before, but what are we really talking about?"
he asked, returning the caress. 

"Remember that night three years ago? The one where I was put on a case
instead of Natalie while she was gone for a few days on a conference to

"It was a horrible murder... a child. I was pretty green on field
cases, and you were in charge of the scene. You saw my distress and
followed me when I had bolted behind some bushes. I was gasping for
breath, and I must have hyperventilated. Next thing I knew, you were
there. Your arms were wrapped around me. Your voice was calming me. I
was so embarrassed I could barely say, 'Thank you', before I had to get
back to the job at hand." 

"Joe, yours were the first man's arms that had held me since my husband
died. It was such a comfort, and I could not help but love you for it.
You never lectured me about it or even mentioned it again. You just let
me be at peace, and I was so grateful.... I prayed that I would be able
to repay you for that some day." 

Joe remembered that night. Two hours earlier, he'd found out about
Denise. He'd needed that comfort just as much as Grace had that night.
Afterwards, he'd felt guilty about taking comfort in the arms of
another woman. He shared this with her now, as they gently caressed
each other. Grace smiled... she leaned in and kissed him. 

"I knew you were a married man just coming to a lady in distress.
Still, it sparked a powerful need in me. For several weeks after that,
I often found myself thinking of you... dreaming about us. I finally
had to force the thoughts away because I had to work with you. I ached
for you when Denise died. I knew she was your life." 

Joe pulled his new wife against him. She laid her cheek against his
chest. The warm water in the pool caressed them and made them feel as
if they were in a cocoon. Grace started to hum "Amazing Grace." 

She felt Joe's body jump as if a jolt of electricity had hit him. He
whispered over her head. "It was YOU in the cemetery! You?re the one
who held me after that fiasco with my daughters. You gave me more
comfort than I have ever known. I needed it desperately." 

Grace felt hot tears run down her neck and she realized they were
Joe's. "YOU were my angel!" 

She drew back. "What?" 

"I thought an angel had come and wrapped me in her arms that night. I
heard an angel sing to me. One moment I was alone, and the next, an
angel held me. I've wondered about it many times. Why didn't you tell

Grace blushed. "I was wondering if you would figure it out for
yourself." She shrugged, "It just never came up." 

"It's strange, isn't it," Joe said, ?that we were there for each other
on several occasions when our need was greatest. Now we can spend the
rest of our lives together. God truly is good..." 


Nick woke the next morning and found that Natalie wasn't in bed. He sat
up and looked around the room. Empty. He grabbed his robe and bounded
down the stairs to find Natalie sitting with LaCroix on the couch
before the fireplace. She had one of her hands over his hand which
rested against her stomach. 

Curious, Nick came forward in time to witness a transformation cross
his father's face. The older man's features softened, and awe filled
his countenance. Nick realized that one of the babies must have moved
and bumped against his father's hand. 

"That's amazing," LaCroix said. His face was alive with emotion. 

Nick sat on the couch arm behind LaCroix and put his hand on his
father's shoulder. "Yes... It is amazing. Perhaps one day you and
Janette could..." 

LaCroix stood, fear crossing his face. Suddenly, he turned and ran out
of the door and down the steps before Nick could even call after him. 

Natalie shook her head sadly. "Nick!" she said, an admonishment in her

"What did I say? They could have a child..." 

"Nick, he loved Divia and look what she became. Think of what she did
to him and his family. Think how it must have hurt him when he had to
destroy her. Don't you think that ripped out his heart?" 

Nick shook his head, mentally kicking himself. "I'd better go find him
and apologize." He leaned to kiss her, letting his chin rest against
her forehead for a moment. He inhaled her scent. It always seemed to
calm him. He sucked in a deep breath and went to find LaCroix. 

When Nick finally found LaCroix, he was sitting on Joe's big rock. He
sat beside him, "Forgive my thoughtless comment?" he asked, leaning
until he could rub LaCroix's thin shoulder. 

"No, Nick... don't feel bad. The idea is a wonderful one. I just don't
know if I could ever have the courage. I didn't love Divia's mother.
She was a madam in a house of ill repute." 

"Really?" Nick said, his eyebrow raising. 

"I was seldom around. I wasn't there to instill any values in the
child, and she ran wild. Maybe what happened to Divia was my fault. I
wasn't there to keep her safe." "Father, it would be different this
time. You know how much Janette would like to have a baby. She never
spoke much about it, but when Daniel was with us, she thought of him as
her child." 

"You are right, Nicholas. She would love to have a baby. Technically,
she's only in her middle 20's." He squirmed. "To tell you the truth,
the thought of a baby turns me to mush... and the fear overwhelms me.
Still, it is something to ponder." 

"Come on back to the house, Father. Nat's worried about you, and we
need to have breakfast soon because the trainer is coming in an hour." 

LaCroix looked at him. "I am looking forward to regaining some control
over this body. It will be good to start a regimen of training." He
laughed a rare laugh and looked sternly at Nick. "Nicholas, I forbid
you to laugh at me when I falter and, perhaps, fall on my butt." 

Nick grinned at him and pretended to close his lips with an invisible
zipper. "Not a word," he said. He grabbed LaCroix by the arms, and they
headed back to the house.

Chapter 15 

Joe and Grace sat at their breakfast table. Both were loath to leave
their beautiful room. It had been like heaven on earth. Soon they would
have to pack up and get ready to leave. Grace had spent an hour taking
photos of every nook and cranny. 

"Memories," she had said when Joe teased her about it. 

The car was due in an hour to return them to the cabin, and they would
leave with mixed feelings for they were looking forward to seeing their
friends again. 

"I wonder how everyone has been adjusting since we left," Grace thought
out loud. "I hope Natalie has been OK. I'd feel really awful if she
went into labor before I got back." 

"Now, Grace," Joe soothed, "You know we've prayed for them and that
they are in God's hands. The angels said that things would go well with
them... but I will be glad to see everyone again... not that I haven't
enjoyed being here with you... " he stopped and leered playfully at

"You better not give me any ideas or we won't be ready when the car
gets here," she admonished. 

They finished packing up and were outside waiting when the limo pulled
up to take them home. The drive up the mountain was so beautiful that
they didn't talk much. They relaxed in each other's arms and enjoyed
looking at God's creation all around them. 

Finally, the car entered the gates of "Saving Grace" and pulled up in
front of the larger cabin. Out on the lawn in front of the house, the
trainer was working with Nick and LaCroix. The men were starting with
some simple stretching exercises designed to strengthen muscle tone and
loosen them up. 

Natalie and Janette sat on the porch watching. Everyone came over to
hug the returning honeymooners as Joe and Grace got out of the limo.
Natalie pulled Grace aside. "How was it?" 

"Girl, it was wonderful! That man of yours sure knows how to pamper
people. The tub was like a swimming pool... huge. It was glorious. We
nearly lived in it. It's always been a fantasy of mine." Natalie's eyes
twinkled. "I know. You told me that once, remember?" 

Grace looked at her friend. "Natalie, you told Nick?" she blushed.
"Well... Thank you so much. It's more than we hoped for... or

"You're wrong, Grace. You guys deserve the best of everything. You have
been such a good friend to me and to Nick. You've accepted this whole
crazy life, and you have a few gray hairs to show for the some of the
things we've put you through." 

"Gray hairs! Where?" Grace plucked at her hair, with mock distress.
"Girl, they were there long before I knew of vampires," She laughed. 

The newlyweds returned to the porch with Janette to watch the men as
they returned to their workout, while Natalie went inside. 

After several more minutes, LaCroix called to Janette, and she came and
helped him back to a seat on the porch. "I've had enough for today," he
said, "... but it felt so good." 

Natalie had also returned to the porch. She touched his shoulder and
knelt before him. "Are you okay, Father?" 

LaCroix looked down at her, and tears formed in his eyes. She'd never
called him that before. It sounded good to his ears. 

"Yes, daughter," he smiled. "It was a wonderful work out. When I was in
the army, we did a regimen of exercises each day to get in shape. I
just need to take it slowly." He patted her hand. 

Natalie saw the pleasure in his eyes over the fact that he had been
able to accomplish something positive. She turned his hand, pulling it
to her lips and kissed his palm. The tears that had formed in his eyes
spilled over as she slipped an arm around his neck and drew him close
to hug him. "I'm so glad you are here with us, Lucus," she assured him.
"So glad." 

When Natalie finally drew away from his trembling body, she realized
that everyone was watching them. Nick had taken a break to check on
LaCroix and arrived in time to catch their interchange. 

LaCroix looked at the tear filled eyes of his family and said, "Forgive
me. I am overwhelmed with emotion. This humanity is difficult!" 

Everyone laughed happily together. There were more chuckles when Nick
and Joe had to help Natalie back onto her feet. She was absolutely
waddling now. 

"Come on," she called, as she led them back into the house. "Lunch is

Nick extended his hand and hauled LaCroix to his feet. Janette took his
arm on the other side. "Father, you never fail to amaze me," Nick said.

"How so, Nicholas? You are surprised to see that I have come to love
your Natalie?" 

"Actually, yes. You opposed her for so long." 

"True, but we were on opposite sides then. It was another life time.
She has graciously put it behind her. I am grateful to be here with you
and be so accepted and trusted by your beautiful wife." 

"You and I have so much bad history that you still cannot truly trust
me yet. I understand, Nicholas. I must earn your trust. I still have
much to confess and ask your forgiveness for." 

They reached the table and everyone started to take their seats. Nick
passed by Grace and Joe on his way to his seat next to Natalie. He
hugged Joe's neck, slapping him on the chest as his arm wrapped around

"Pop, it's sure good to have you back. There's been a really empty spot

He wrapped his other arm about Grace and kissed the side of her
forehead. "Did you enjoy the rooms?" 

Everyone laughed as Grace turned a bright red. She coughed, "Yes, Nick.
Thank you. It was wonderful!" 

They turned to eat their lunch of salad and cold chicken. 


The next few weeks went slowly for Natalie. She could barely get out of
bed. She used the lift when she wanted to get downstairs. Often she
would sit on the porch with the family and they would talk. Sometimes
they would read the Bible aloud and discuss the passages. It was a time
of relaxation and waiting. Sydney often followed his young mistress
around, but was disgusted when he could find no room on her lap. After
tolerating his glares for a while, she finally got the brilliant idea
of getting him his own chair to sit beside hers on the porch so she
could stroke him as she sat. He would sit purring loudly, reassured of
his place in her heart. 

Patrick and his wife came twice during those three weeks. They stayed
overnight, and Charity started to teach the other ladies how to make
baby quilts. 

Sometimes, as Natalie lay on the porch divan, Grace would rub
moisturizer into her legs and arms. Janette would brush her beautiful,
long hair and often sing old world lullabies. Lucus and Nick would tell
stories, and Joe would stay busy typing them up on his laptop. 

Each afternoon, the trainer came, and Nick, LaCroix, and Joe would go
through the stretching and strengthening routines. Sometimes Grace and
Janette would join them while Natalie watched, feeling the twins moving
inside her. 


One afternoon, Nick, Grace and Joe were sitting out on the porch after
the trainer had left, watching Natalie's cat. Sydney was pacing around
the porch in an agitated manner, and they were wondering what he was
upset about. 

Natalie had spent the day up in the bedroom resting. Sydney had stayed
with her, keeping her company most of the morning. Grace had taken her
a light lunch of soup and a sandwich, but she had only sipped some of
the soup and said she wanted to try and nap, so Grace had picked up the
reluctant cat and left. 

Suddenly, a blast of cold wind blew through the porch. Heavy black
clouds started to roll in. 

Nick turned to Joe, "Looks like a storm's coming. Maybe that's what
he's so upset about. You know how these mountain storms blow in quickly
and get kind of rough for a few hours. Maybe we'd better batten down
the hatches and get the gang inside." 

LaCroix and Janette were out on the lawn playing croquet. Joe had
laughed at them when they had brought out the game. He thought it was
funny that the former vampires knew how to play. LaCroix had told him
it had once been all the rage with the rich in the early '1900's. All
of a sudden there was a flash of lightning, and a torrent of rain
seemed to deluge them. Grace opened the door for the suddenly frantic
cat and hurried inside to find Natalie doubled over in pain near the
lift. She helped the pregnant woman cross the room to the couch before
the fireplace. 

LaCroix, having regained much of his strength, grabbed Janette's hand
and they raced across the expanse of lawn to the big cabin's porch
where Nick and Joe stood, yelling at them to hurry. 

Lightning cracked directly overhead, and the shock nearly knocked them
off their feet. Their ears rang and their eyes dilated in the blazing
white light of the storm's sudden fury. Hail the size of marbles began
to fall. The four stood for a moment, open mouthed in shock. A cry rang
out from inside the house. 

It was Natalie. 

The four looked at each other, then raced indoors to find Grace
propping Natalie up with pillows. She had one under her knees. Sydney
paced nearby watching his mistress. 

"Nick, the babies are coming!" Grace cried, as Natalie screamed again. 

"Something is wrong!" Nat cried. 

Nick looked around frantically at his friends, "What do we do, Grace?? 

"What are you doing down here, Natalie? What's wrong?" He slipped
behind Nat propping her up a bit into a sitting position and began
rubbing her back. 

Grace ordered, "Joe, go up and get a couple of clean sheets and some
towels... Oh, and bring Natalie's medical bag, too. LaCroix, Janette,
see if you can get a fire going." She turned back to Natalie. "Natalie,
how long have you been having contractions?" 

Nat answered, sheepishly, "About 12 hours. I thought they could be
Brackston Hicks, and didn't want to get everyone worked up for nothing
but about a half hour ago, they suddenly got very hard and close
together. It's taken me awhile to get down here for help..." the
pregnant woman panted. 

She grabbed Nick's hand and held it so tightly he thought it might
break as she struggled not to scream again through a new contraction.
"Grace, you are going to have to take a look. Something is very
wrong... I think one of the babies maybe backwards. You're going to
have to turn it if it is." 

"Me? Natalie, I'm a coroner, not an obstetrician. I've never had to
deliver any at-risk babies myself. I only assisted in two problem
deliveries during my internship, and they were C-sections. That's been
years ago." 

Her laboring friend cried out again then begged, "Grace, you have to
try. You're the only one who can do it." 

LaCroix said quietly, "I've done it before." 

They all turned to look at him. 

Chapter 16 

"I was a surgeon in the 1800's. I have done the procedure, even before
it was acceptable. Most women in those days died in childbirth. This
baby did not die... and neither did the mother." 

Nick was sweating with fear. "You! You saved babies? Why?" 

"I was posing as a doctor. That's what doctors do. I'd seen a vet turn
a calf. I thought the mother would die anyway so it might be an
interesting experiment. It worked." He shrugged. 

He took Natalie's face in his hands. "Let me try. I will be as gentle
as I possibly can. I remember the event very well. It was one of the
most human things I ever did when I was a vampire." 

Nick shouted over a new thunderclap, "I don't know...." 

Natalie screamed, "Nick, we have to let him try. We have no choice.
Grace will have to do a C-section if it doesn't work." 

Grace said, "I can do a saddle block for a C-section, but I don't have
anything to deal with the side effects and that could be quite

Natalie shook her head. Between clenched teeth, she said to LaCroix,
"Father, I trust you... God will guide you. Just do it!" 

LaCroix ran to the kitchen and scrubbed his hands and arms in hot water
and soap. He hurried back and put on the gloves Grace held out to him. 

The older woman had prepared Natalie. She was on clean sheets, lying on
the bear skin rug. Nick was propping up her upper body. 

She moaned, "I wish you had your hypnotic ability." Another contraction
hit her and she pressed her lips together trying to suppress the
scream, but a low moan still escaped her lips. She was drenched in
sweat. The suppressed scream tore at Nick's heart. "Scream, Natalie, if
it helps. Come on... breathe the way we were taught... breathe," he
instructed using the LaMaze techniques they had studied to try and
distract her. 

Janette stood off to the side, watching the whole process. She started
to pray for her new friend and for wisdom and help for the man she
loved that was trying to help her. 

LaCroix knelt between Natalie's legs. He examined her as gently as he
could, then his lips tightened and he nodded. "She was right. The first
baby is not in the proper position. It must be turned. Nick, you'll
need to hold her tightly." 

"Grace, can you help brace her legs?" He waited until the end of the
next contraction, then slipped his hand inside her and up the vaginal
wall into the uterus. 

Great sobs of pain came from Natalie. LaCroix felt the baby's feet. He
slid his hand along the legs and up the spine and shoulders. He
supported the baby's head and neck and gently rotated it around, then
withdrew. Natalie had gone limp and silent, and he looked frantically
into her face. 

Grace moved around and took her vitals, then reassured everyone, "She
just passed out. Vital signs are okay." She took an ammonia ampule,
broke it and waved it under Natalie's nose. 

Natalie awoke, coughing and sputtering. LaCroix, pale and sweating from
his exertions and the tension, moved back and to the side as Grace took
his place. 

"Natalie, at the next contraction I'm going to need you to push, OK?
Here it comes. Now... push, Natalie!" 

Nat took a deep breath and pushed as hard as possible, tears streaming
down her face. 

Joe held Janette as they watched in nail-biting silence. 

Natalie was holding Nick's hand so tightly he thought he heard bones
crack. All of a sudden the first baby's head crowned. Grace said
tensely, as she worked, "It's crowned, Natalie. Stop pushing while I
ease the head out... There we go... Ok, push again..." 

The laboring mother strained again, screaming in pain and joy as she
felt the baby slither from her body. 

The slippery child slipped into Grace's waiting hands. "It's a girl,"
she cried. 

Joe handed her a soft towel, and she wrapped the infant in it, rubbing
her gently until she cried with frustration at being in this harsh new

Outside the storm raged, the shutters rattled, and the rain poured.
Inside it was warm and six faces peered at the new little one. 

Natalie cried and laughed at the same time. Nick did too. He pressed
his lips against her forehead. 

"Janette, could you come and take Nick's place so he can cut the cord,"
Grace asked the awed woman. 

Janette slipped into Nick's place, bracing Natalie. Tears ran down her
cheeks. She'd never been touched more by any event in her life. 

Nick slipped into Grace's place. She showed him how to tie and cut the
cord, then handed Nick the baby. 

He took his new daughter, with trembling hands, and brought her to
Natalie, to lay her on his wife's chest. 

Natalie stared at the beautiful, newborn. She had blond hair like her
father and a little upturned nose. "You shall be called, Lucy Anne."
She looked up and met the eyes of a very surprised and touched
ex-vampire master. She saw the tears that sprang to his eyes. 

The baby cried, and nuzzled Natalie's chest, hungrily looking for her
first meal. Janette helped Natalie with her blouse, and covered mother
and child with a warm blanket. 

Natalie got an amazed look on her face as the baby attached herself,
drawing the first drops of precious fluid into her tiny body. 

"Oh, Nick," she cried. 

Suddenly a second round of contractions hit. Quickly, Grace took Lucy
from Natalie, handing her to a stunned LaCroix. He stood nearby,
peering at his new name sake. 

Grace turned, "Nick, just stay there. When you see the baby's head
crowning, let Natalie know to quit pushing. Place your hands on both
sides and gently ease the skin down and around it. Tell Natalie when
she can push again. Support the head as the baby emerges and the moment
you see the shoulders, take hold of them gently with one hand, keeping
the other under the baby's head. As you draw the baby out, slide your
hand further down its body until you cup its little bottom." 

Natalie cried out and bore down. Grace massaged her uterus through the
stomach wall to help it contract enough to start the other child on its
way. After several more contractions, the next infant's head crowned.
Following Grace's instructions to the letter, Nick finally felt the
baby slide out in one quick motion, leaving the awe struck father
juggling the slippery little body. Nick cried out, "It's our boy." 

Everyone laughed. They'd all known it was to be a boy. 

Nick found Joe beside him with another soft towel. Wrapping the newborn
in it, Nick held his son, fascinated. Natalie watched her husband as
the baby flailed around with his hands finally wrapping his tiny
fingers around Nick's large one. 

Nick whispered softly, "I love you, Nat! Thank you, my love." 

Grace tied and cut the cord. 

"Nick, you can give the baby to Natalie and let him nurse. It will help
start the contractions to expel the afterbirths and we can finish this
up." She got busy preparing for the afterbirths. 

Nick moved to sit down near Natalie as she rested against Janette. Her
friend was gently washing the tired mother's face with a cool towel
that Joe has brought. 

Nick looked up at Joe. "This baby will be called Joseph Nicholas." 

The big man's face melted with emotion, and tears ran down his ebony
cheeks. "I am honored," he said. 

Grace coached Natalie through several more contractions and soon the
After-birthing was done. She finished cleaning up with everyone's help.

They had decided against moving the new mother upstairs for the time
being, and had made a very comfortable bed with a down comforter and
pillows. Finally, they put the worn out Natalie onto the temporary bed
where she snuggled down and put the babies to nurse. The storm raged
outside, but inside everything was safe and warm. The cabin's occupants
sat or reclined around watching the little miracles of life take their
first meal. Nick sat behind his wife again, caressing her hair and
gently touching one baby or the other, bestowing kisses on Natalie's
lips every time she raised her face to look into his eyes. 

"I love you so much, Natalie. You have made me the happiest person
alive." He kissed her again. 

"As you have me," she returned. "How did we ever live without them?" 

Nick said, "I don't know." 

"Listen," Natalie said. "I think the storm is over..." 

Everything was still outside. "Sometimes God takes away the storm?s of
life, and other times He goes through them with us..." Joe commented
quietly to the agreement of all. 

After a while, Grace came and took the babies, telling Natalie that she
needed to rest. She handed Lucy to LaCroix and Little Joey to Joe. Nick
and Natalie watched as the two men became enamored with the tiny beings
in their arms. 

LaCroix looked at the baby in his arms and said, "THIS, truly is

Every one murmured their agreement. 

The End