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A Good Sharp Kick
By mel




Ten minutes ago, I had quickly jumped the line out of the Ever After in a desperate bid to get back home. Now, as I was cowering in the backyard, tears pouring down my cheeks as an absolutely irate little pixie threatened my life, I wasn't entirely certain that it had been my best decision ever.

Jenks hovered in front of me, angry red dust falling and his sword leveled at my face. "For the love of Tink! Rache, please tell me you didn't do that!"

Or, maybe the decision itself was okay, it was my actions after the fact that was the problem.

Yeah, that was it. What did I do now, you ask. Nothing that I haven't done before, honestly. Let's face it – I'm a total moron most of the time. I would normally try and preface that statement with something to the effect of only with Ivy, but my time of self-reflection in the Ever After these last twenty-four hours has driven home the point that I truly am mentally challenged.




Even though he was right, and I knew he was, I still couldn't let the whole matter drop without at least trying to explain myself. "What do you want me to say Jenks?" I yelled back at him. "Really? What the fuck do you want me to say? That I popped into Ivy's bedroom uninvited? Yeah, I did that. Was I naked? Yeah, I was. But, really, it wasn't my fault-"

"Don't you even start with me, young lady!" Jenks lowered himself so we were eye-to-eye. "You knew that you would jump the line and end up wherever the hell Ivy was, and you couldn't put on a freaking robe?"

"I was running away from that bastard Pierce," I mumbled. "It's not my fault that he decided to work a seduction curse on me! It's not my fault his stupid fucking curse to make me all hot and bothered so that I'd strip my clothes off before I even knew what was happening! Once I realized what was going on, I lost it, okay? I jumped the line to get the hell away from him, and it took me to Ivy. I told you before why I have to come back to her – you know I didn't do it on purpose."

Swayed as he seemed to be by my explanation, he wasn't going to let me off the hook. "Yeah, well, take a good listen, little witch. Hear that crying?"

And, I could. Like a sharp stab to my heart, I could. Ivy wasn't exactly being quiet.

"You did that to her! You did that!"

"I know!" I roared back at him, my anger rising with his. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean for this to happen! I didn't stop to think that she'd think that I'd finally come to her for real when saw me all hot and bothered and naked!"

"That's the problem Rache," he snarled, his anger toward me flaring even hotter. "You never think. Have you ever even taken one freaking second to think how hard this has all been on her? Have you ever taken one second to pull your head out of your ass and realize how completely reliant she is on you? Have you ever taken one fucking goddamn second to think about how you are slowly ripping her heart out with your stupidity?"

"I…" I couldn't think of anything to say.

"Yeah," he whirled away and began flitting back in forth in front of me, his own type of pacing. "Yeah, you haven't. The rest of us see it clear as fucking day, but still you sit and fight it and desperately cling to whatever fucked up ideal it is that you think you need to measure up to. But here's the thing, Rache, and you need to listen and actually hear what I'm telling you. There's a lot of hurt in the world, there's a lot of pain. Love… is …not… wrong."

He stopped pacing to stare me down again. "Sometimes it doesn't come in the form you'd expected, but love is never wrong. Take that fucking thought with you next time you torment Ivy. I'm so tired of trying to clean her back up after you knock her down Rachel. I'm an old man, I can't keep doing this. You know she needs you. You know she's completely in love with you, and god help us all, Rachel, I am starting to think that she might be better off if she wasn't. Because you're like heroin for her. She can't give you up, and you're killing her."

I just stared at him. It felt like my heart was broken into a million pieces and I couldn't breathe. "But she'd told me that she didn't want my blood," I whispered at him, my eyes pouring out tears at an inhuman rate. "What does she want from me then?"

"She wants you to love her," he said, his voice gentling slightly, though the unmistakable edge of his anger was still there. "She wants you to look at her as a desirable woman and love her."

"But I do," I breathed. "I do love her."

"You're still not getting it you stupid hardheaded witch," he muttered darkly. "She knows you love her, but she also knows that it's not enough. How many times do you think you can pull her into your little delusions of 'okay, now I'm ready' only to have you pull back and tell her no? How much longer do you honestly think she can survive that?"

"I don't know," I mumbled.

"Honestly Rache, you need to figure out what the fuck you do know, because you either need to acknowledge that you love Ivy – not as a friend, not as a sister, but as a woman – and then act on that love, or just get the fuck out of her life. Because you're not healthy for her this way Rachel. It's not healthy."

He leveled me with a heavy glare, full of fatherly disappointment, and then he shook his head as he took off, leaving me cowering in the chair, my arms wrapped tightly against my knees as the tears that had been pouring down my cheeks turned into wracking sobs. I was alone. Again.

And I deserved it.

It was twilight by the time I'd gathered myself, my thoughts, and everything to the point that I was functional. Just barely functional, my head, heart, and body felt like they'd all gone twelve-rounds with a prizefighter, but I was resolute in my decision and though exhaustion had me shuffling my way to the backdoor of the church, I was determined. Jenks had given me a swift kick to the metaphorical ass, and I wasn't about ignore it.

The backdoor to the church swung open silently in front of me and I licked my lips at the sight that awaited me. The kitchen was clean and smelled of freshly brewed coffee, and Ivy was predictably seated in her chair at the kitchen table staring at her computer screen.

I stepped inside and closed the door after me with a quiet click, and I wasn't at all surprised that Ivy pretended not to notice. I deserved so much worse than the silent treatment she was apparently giving me.

My eyes had been forced open by Jenks' angry tirade and I found that I wasn't surprised by the love I felt for Ivy. No, I wasn't surprised by it. I had expected it. Had felt it before and had always written it off as something else. But now… now, it broke my heart. It broke my heart that she'd known it was there all this time, and that she also knew that I was fighting it. That I was fighting her. I'd spent the afternoon taking a good long look at how I'd fucked around with Ivy all these years, and I wasn't surprised by any of it. But it still hurt. Admitting to yourself that you're an insensitive asshole is never an easy thing.

I stopped at the island and placed my hands on the smooth stainless surface as I took a deep breath. This was it. Years of friendship and the greatest love I've ever known without knowing, came down to this fucked up moment in our kitchen. I pursed my lips as I heard Ivy stop pretending to pay attention to her computer and I sighed as I imagined her nostrils flaring as she scented the room, trying to get a handle on my mood.

I shook my head sadly and looked up at her. I knew I looked a sight, my hair was undoubtedly a mess and I could feel the stiff tracks of tears on my cheeks, and I licked my lips as I held her questioning gaze. She was so beautiful even like this, detached, aloof, and hurt, and I closed my eyes so that I could escape the pain in hers. It was a cowardly move, I know, but I couldn't do this and look at her. "I'm an ass," I croaked, too tired to care that my voice was complete crap from crying.

"Yeah, you are," she agreed coldly.

I nodded sadly. "Yeah," I sighed. "I know. I don't blame you for hating me Ivy. I hate me too right now." I took a shaky breath and risked a glance at her cold, dark eyes that were regarding me warily before I lowered myself to the floor in front of the sink. I leaned back against the cupboards and rested my head on the hard wood. It was the most vulnerable position I could put myself in, and I honestly wouldn't have begrudged her tearing my throat out at that moment.

The kitchen was silent around me, but I knew that she hadn't left. I could still smell her ash and orange incense. And, as I was now being honest with myself, I knew that she hadn't left because my heart always felt a little empty, a little broken, whenever she wasn't nearby. And, yeah, it would have been nice for her to say something, but I couldn't blame her for leaving it to me to fix this.

It was a mess of my own making, after all. I took a deep breath to try and gather myself, knowing that it wasn't going to work but doing it all the same. "I know this is insanely inadequate, but I really am sorry Ivy. I know it doesn't make any of the shit I've put you through worth it, but I'm sorry that I am such a fucking idiot."

The breath she'd been holding exploded out of her and I could easily picture her shaking her head at me. "You're right, it doesn't make any of it better."

"Yeah," I agreed, and was surprised to find that I was crying once again. Apparently, there was yet another well of misery for me to tap into. I didn't know what else to say, so we just sat there. Me leaning against the cupboards with my eyes closed as Ivy did I don't know what. She was probably just sitting there glaring at me.

There was a quiet scrape of wood against tile and I knew that Ivy had gotten to her feet. I wasn't sure if it was to attack or to run, but I remained where I was because I deserved anything she chose to do to me.

"Just tell me what you want from me," Ivy whispered, her voice exhausted. "I'm too tired of fighting with you about this. For once Rachel, please just tell me what you want from me because I don't know what to do anymore."

"I don't deserve the right to ask anything of you anymore Ivy," I told her, my voice as tired as hers. "Jenks made that perfectly clear, and he was right. I don't deserve the right to ask anything of you."

I felt the air in front of me shift, and then her fist was grabbing my shirt and hefting me up off the floor. "Just. Tell. Me. What. The. Fuck. You. Want," she growled.

Her anger was cold fire to my soul and I tenderly wrapped my hands around her wrists that were holding me a foot off the ground. "I want you. I love you Ivy," I whispered, looking down at her through my tear-filled eyes. "I want to show you how much I love you."

She just stared at me, shaking her head in disbelief. "No, you don't mean it and this'll be the little heartbreak that kills me, Rachel. I can't keep doing this. I can't keep loving you like this."

"Because it's not healthy," I finished for her. "Yeah, I know. I'll just go now," I tried to pry her fingers from my shirt. "If you'll just put me down Ivy, I'll go. I don't want to hurt you anymore." I bit my lip as I pulled my right hand away from her arm so I could tenderly trace the line of her jaw with my fingertips. "I'm sorry I'm such an ass. I'm sorry I didn't just tell my head to shut the fuck up and listen to my heart before we got to this point. Before it was too late to try and save us. Just put me down Ivy, let me go."

Tears were coursing down her cheeks and there was the slightest tremble noticeable in her forearms as they began to fatigue from holding me up in the air, but she wouldn't put me down. She shook her head as tears rolled silently down her cheeks and I swear I felt her grip on my shirt tighten. "I can't let you go Rachel," she whispered.


She laughed harshly. "Because I need you to feel normal," she hissed the word. "As much as I hate myself for it, I need you because I know you love me for me. Not because I'm a Tamwood. Not because I'm a vampire who can provide blood ecstasy. But just because of me. I would die without you," she cried. "I hate you and love you and it would kill me to let you go and I just… can't… do… it."

I stared at her, hating myself for landing us in such a fucked up place. Love is supposed to be a beautiful thing, and here we are – drowning in it.





I'd spent the afternoon trying to figure out what I could say to her to make this all okay, and now I realized that there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix it. I had been hoping there was a way to just confess my undying love for her and have her fall into my arms, but somehow I knew that was never going to happen. Shit like that only works in the movies.

"Okay Ivy," I whispered, dropping my hands to my sides in defeat. I couldn't fix it. I couldn't fix us. But I would do whatever I could to try and make her life a little bit easier. "I won't leave until you tell me to." It wasn't romantic, but it was the truth. I could promise her that much.

She lowered me gently to my feet and I before I knew what was happening, she had pulled me into a hug that squeezed the breath out of me. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed back, both of us holding on to the other as if we were adrift in the ocean and she was the last life preserver in the world. And then, before I knew it, she was gone. I heard the front door of the church slam shut, leaving me alone once again with my tumultuous thoughts.




It was a good thing I had vampire reflexes as I raced away from my heart and my home on my Nightwing. If I didn't, I would have ended up plastered across the front of a semi-truck and my first life would have been over.

Damn it all to hell and back, to think that I'd managed to survive Piscary and Skimmer, and here I was a blubbering mess because I had the ingenious foresight to fall completely in love with a witch trapped by her own self-denial. Really, who would have thought that she would be the biggest trouble I'd ever come up against?

Yes, I had run away. Like a scared little girl, I had run, but I had to get out of there. I just couldn't spend another second in that confined space with the emotions that were rolling off her skin. Her words were more than enough to tear me in two, but the emotion pouring from her about did me in.

I had felt her love, disgust, fear, vulnerability, and submission as if it had all been a physical caress and I had to get away. It was, by far, the most potent emo cocktail I've ever experienced. I felt her complete surrender to me when she leaned back against those cupboards, and when I stood to finally look at the way she had exposed her neck to me, I didn't know what to do. Part of me wanted to just dive in and rip out her throat, and the rest of me wanted to just scoop her up into my arms and kiss her. God, even when I'm beyond pissed at her she still somehow manages to confuse me.

And then she offered to leave.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that that about did me in. I really think she would have done it. Every little nuance of her behavior and scent told me that she was willing. More than willing. I really think that she was going to just walk out of my life; and, for as much as I hated her for the way she kept playing with me, I couldn't bear to lose her. I had to get away from her to clear my head, but I couldn't resist holding her to me as I've longed to do for years before I ran, and now all I could think about was the way she held on to me as if I were her own last bastion of hope.

I was driving fast enough that the wind whipping by me was doing a good job clearing the tears from my eyes so I could see, but to say I was less than focused on the road in front of me was an understatement. I didn't really have a plan in mind of where I was going, I just needed to go.

Had to go.

Once I finally cleared the Hollows and entered Cincy, I angled my bike onto a path that would take me to a nicely secluded human-operated bar. Thanks to Glenn, I was something of an occasional regular there, if you will, and I knew that they wouldn't begrudge my patronage. The last thing I needed tonight was to be reminded of who and what I was, and also who I lived with. The more humans the better, tonight. I wasn't in the mood to deal with any Inderlanders right now and I sure as hell didn't want Rynn to find out what happened; he had a big enough hard-on for the two of us to be together – God knows what he'd do to us if he heard about this.

I pulled to a rumbling stop at the curb in front of the pub and took a deep breath to gather myself as I unsnapped and removed the helmet Rachel had given me for Christmas the year before because she wanted me to be safe. I leaned down to check my reflection in the little side mirror and, as I looked into my pitch-black eyes, I decided it was best to use the little tube of pupil reduction medication that was still tucked under the seat – a leftover memory of Kisten that I had been unable to purge. A small smear under each eye made my pupils contract and seconds later I was back to "normal" – nobody would look me in the face and see how truly vamped out I was. I would be able to sit at the bar and do my best to drink away my problems for a bit. Not a perfect plan, but it was certainly the most appealing one at the moment.


I'd promised Ivy that I wouldn't leave and I didn't. I puttered around the kitchen for a while after she'd disappeared before I grabbed the blanket off the back of her chair in the living room and padded down the hall to the sanctuary so that I wouldn't miss her return and that she wouldn't be able to miss me either.

I had promised her that I wouldn't leave, and I needed her to see that I was going to stay.

I wrapped the blanket around me as tight as I could and settled onto the couch, tucking my feet under me and leaning my head on the arm. My eyes slowly tracked around the room that a few days ago felt so alive, and as my gaze settled on Ivy's piano in the corner I couldn't deny the fact that now it just felt empty. Lifeless. Ivy was gone, and so was the warmth and light of our home.

And it was my fault. I'd messed up one time too many, and my life would always be empty from now on. Because, truthfully, I knew there was no way I would ever be able to replace Ivy's place in my life. There was no way I could ever see myself wanting to try and fill that void in my soul with anybody besides her. Part of me was beyond pissed at Jenks for making me realize how much I loved/needed/desired Ivy, but the rest of me knew that I would have eventually admitted it to myself without his forceful prodding.

"I so thoroughly fucked everything up," I quietly berated myself. "I had everything I'd ever wanted within my grasp, and I was too much of a thickheaded chicken-shit to just reach out and take it."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jenks flitting down the hall toward the belfry and Bis. I could hear the gargoyle's talons scraping along the slate tiles of the roof, and I figured Jenks was going up to arrange their watch schedules for the night. I wished with all my heart that he would fly on by and leave me alone to my misery, but knew that it just wasn't that kind of a day.

"Didn't sound like it went too well in here tonight," he said by way of a greeting, still in angry-protective-father mode.

"Nope," I answered in a flat voice. "She hates me."

"Did you tell her why you showed up in her room this morning?"

I shook my head no. "It doesn't matter Jenks. Why I was there like that doesn't matter. What matters is that I did. It's my fault. I was in trouble over there and tried to run away rather than hold my ground and fight. I knew where I would jump to. It's my fault," I said softly.

"So what did you tell her?"

"I told her that I love her and that I want her… and she told me no."

"She said no?" he asked softly, a quiet disbelief in his tone.

I shook my head as my eyes once again stung with tears. Really, when am I just going to run out of them? "She didn't care," I whispered, my voice breaking. "She said that she loves me and hates me and that it would kill her if I left her and then she left me."

"Is she coming back?" he asked quickly, sounding panicked.

"I dunno," I sobbed. "I just don't know." I thought she would, because she sounded so earnest when she said that she needed me, but I didn't know for sure and that was why I was waiting for her here, on the couch in the sanctuary instead of being curled up in a ball on my bed, hiding under the blankets and trying to drown out the rest of the world.

Jenks landed lightly on my knee and leveled a serious, soul-probing look at me. "What's going on, Rache?"

"I promised Ivy that I wouldn't leave," I whispered. It wasn't much of an answer, but it was all I could think of.

He flew up into the air, his eyes roaming my face, a speculative expression forming on his chiseled visage. "Where did she go?"

"I don't know, Jenks," I told him honestly. "What am I going to do without her? I don't know what I'm going to do without her," I cried as I pulled the blanket tighter around me, curling in on myself in my misery. Even the scent of ash and incense that surrounded me as I buried my face in the soft material of the blanket couldn't soothe this pain away.

He hovered before me for a minute watching my quiet hysterics, before he nodded slowly to himself. He flew over to give me what I think he meant to be a reassuring pat on the forehead before he flew off, thankfully not saying another word to me about it. I wasn't sure how much more honesty I could take from my friends today.

It was, by far, the longest night of my life. Sitting there, waiting, not knowing if my life would walk back through those doors or not. I couldn't blame her if she didn't, but it very well might kill me. It wasn't a conscious decision, but I had merged my soul with hers and I knew that if I were to lose her I would die. I couldn't envision a world where I could possibly survive without her.

So, I sat on that couch staring at the front door all night wrapped in her blanket. I sat there all night trying to find comfort in the fact that even if I couldn't have her arms around me, that if I closed my eyes and pretended hard enough I could convince myself that it was her holding me and keeping me warm. I sat there all night because I promised her I wouldn't leave and by God for once I was going to prove true to my word. I sat on that couch all night wishing I could go back and do the whole thing over properly, and then wishing that even if I couldn't go back to the beginning and fix it all, that I could at least have just found the courage to march into the kitchen last night and kissed her like I wanted to.

But that's the problem with life. You never truly know what you've lost until it's gone.


I nodded my thanks at the bartender as he slid another scotch in front of me and pretended not to notice the way he hurried back down to the other end of the bar. I wasn't projecting an aura, but he knew who and what I was, and I didn't doubt for a minute that I was unconsciously giving off a 'leave me alone' vibe that was plain enough for him to pick up on. Normally I would sit and make polite small talk with him, he was an affable guy who loved his Bengals and Reds, but tonight I was too wrapped up in my own head to chat.

Two generously poured doubles of scotch had helped me work past my hurt about everything that had gone down in the kitchen earlier, and now I was beginning to simmer with outright anger about the incident that had led to it all. I couldn't believe that Rachel had the gall to show up in my bedroom, in the middle of the night, naked and positively reeking of arousal, and then possess the audacity to tell me that it was an accident before running away. I couldn't believe that even she could be so incredibly stupid about all this.

Of course, I was also more than a little embarrassed about my actions upon finding her in my room in that condition. Perhaps reaching out and dragging her into the bed on top of me wasn't the smoothest idea, but what the hell else was I supposed to think she wanted when she stood over me drooling like that? My God, it was the extraordinarily strong perfume of her arousal that had woken me up in the first place!

"Girls!" I muttered to myself as I lifted my glass for another sip. This was my last one for the night so I was going to nurse it to death. I was definitely not ready to go back to the church to find that she'd up and left me after I stormed out on her. No, I definitely wasn't ready for that one.

There was a small commotion at the front of the bar as the glittering trail of an incoming pixie streaked across the room, drawing the surprised and somewhat wary eyes of the humans as it streaked past them in search of its target. Me. Great, just what I needed after everything that had happened earlier, now I had my overbearing pseudo-father coming to tell me off.

I glared at him as he landed lightly on the rim of my glass. "Go away Jenks," I said in the low tone that only he and I could hear. "Can't you see I'm drinking here? I've had a bad enough night, Lord knows I don't need you to make me feel any worse."

He just stayed balanced on the edge of the glass, daring me with a look to try and shake him loose as she struck his favorite Peter Pan pose. "Tink's little red thong Ivy, what are you doing here?"

"Drinking," I told him.

"Yeah, I see that. Crap on toast, Ivy, I have been looking for you all night – you haven't heard the whole story of what happened this morning. You really need to go back and talk to Rachel."

"No I don't, Jenks. I don't. I can't just keep getting played by little Miss I Don't Know," I said quietly. "I can't keep doing this. Look at me Jenks. I'm a fucking mess and it's all because she decided to show some interest and then walk away from me. Well, she was running and tripping over her own two feet, but still. She showed up, ogled me, and left me."

"Oh Ivy," he murmured, shaking his head at me sadly as he lowered himself to sit on the rim of my glass. "What am I going to do with you two? There's Rachel, who loves entirely too freely and couldn't figure out her own mind even if she had the blue prints in hand, and then there's you."

My brow furrowed in confusion. "Me?"

"Yeah." He nodded. "There's you. The mega powerful vamp who's scared of her own heart."

"I'm not scared, Jenks. She is."

"You're right," he agreed. "She's scared that the entire belief structure that she's built her self-image around is crap. It is and we both know it, but she's come to terms with that and has accepted it, finally. But you're afraid too, Iv. You're terrified by the idea that she really does want you. You could tell that tonight when she was pouring her heart out to you, couldn't you? But you just wouldn't believe it. You're so afraid of the idea that you might actually be worth being loved that completely, because that means you'd have to love yourself as much as she does. You'd rather have her there in that church as your 'friend', in a half-assed relationship that isn't what either of you want or need, than just take the risk of loving her and letting her love you back."

I just stared at the little four-inch tall wise man on my glass. "And…"

"And, you don't know why she was in your room this morning! For the first time in her life, Rachel decides to be a grown up and take responsibility for her actions, and this is the shit that happens! She wasn't there to tease you! She was running away from Pierce. He cursed her and she ran away. She jumped the line and went to you because you're her goddamn home Ivy and you've left her curled up on the couch, sobbing her eyes out because she's convinced that she's going to die if she loses you. She didn't do this to play you! She's trying to take control of her life! Tink's a Disney whore Ivy! She is absolutely freaking terrified that she's lost you!"

Somewhere in the middle of his rant, my jaw dropped, and I was still staring at him, mouth agape, when he finished. It didn't make sense. It just didn't. "She really does want me? It wasn't some sick joke?"

He just looked at me with a look of pity on his face. "Yeah, Ivy. Is that so hard to believe? Of course, she wants you. The question you have to ask yourself now is, do you want her? Everybody knows that you love her, but do you want to finally commit to her – body and soul? Because you know there's no halfway with her, and that has to scare the shit out of you. It's your call, Ivy. When I left her earlier, she was waiting for you – but who knows how long that'll happen. Our little witch is a proud one, Ivy. As proud as you are if not more. One of you is going to have to be the strong one and give in first. Somebody has to give in before you both lose."

It was with that thought he left me sitting there at the bar. No longer anonymous because really, who has pixies showing up to tell them off in a human joint? Nobody but me. So much for disappearing for the night. I sighed and quickly downed what was left of the liquid fire in my glass before I flashed an apologetic smile at the bartender and stood to leave, making sure to leave a generous tip so that I'd be welcomed back again.

The cool night air smelled slightly of sewage and earth as I walked out of the bar, my eyes busily scanning the neighborhood in search of Jenks, and I sighed again when I realized that he was gone. I climbed back onto my bike just as distracted as I got off of it a few hours earlier, but this time I wasn't going to be racing anywhere. The open road was calling my name and the roar of the engine between my legs promised to fill my mind and grant me the ability to think. I needed to go for a ride and really sort through all this.  




Dawn was just beginning to break over the eastern horizon when I felt ready enough to head back home. I had cruised the farmland surrounding Cincy for hours, my head too full of crap to even think. In a way, it was nice. Nice to just be without thinking so goddamn much. I knew before I'd ever left the Hollows last night that I would be coming home to Rachel; now it was just a matter of trying to work up the courage to walk into the church and risk running head-on into the 'sorry, I'm just not ready' speech again.

The silence that surrounded me when I finally killed the engine was suffocating, and the stab of fear it brought to my stomach literally made me stagger. I knew that this morning would change everything. However things went between us would determine the rest of my life. I had spent so many years waiting for her to come around. Waiting for her to see me as more than a friend. I had spent so much time spent weighing every response, breath, and action that I made to her so that I didn't scare her away, that the idea that I could have her, finally, was frighteningly wonderful.

I slowly eased the front door open and quietly closed it after me once I was in the foyer. As quiet as could be, I slipped out of my boots and coat and put them away where they belonged. In my socks, I entered the sanctuary to find my heart, my dear heart, sleeping on the couch wrapped in the wool blanket that is usually draped over the back of my chair in the living room. Her red hair was splayed over the arm of the couch, her pert lips parted ever so slightly as she slumbered fitfully. Even from this distance in the nearly nonexistent light, I could tell that she was distressed. But even so, she still looked like a goddess sleeping upon her throne and I felt my heart skip a beat as just being in her proximity sent a bolt of affection shooting through me. No, even if I had wanted to, I would never be able to sever myself from her presence.

The sun hadn't fully risen yet and I still had to power of the moon pulsing in my veins, allowing me to slip silently across the room until I was standing above her. Her soft gasps in response to whatever she was dreaming about where achingly adorable, and I dropped soundlessly to my knees, enchanted as I always was by her. Yes, I was absolutely enchanted.



Afraid that she'll have changed her mind again. Afraid that I'll be destined to spend my life living with my one true love who will only ever be my best friend.

My only friend.

I knew I should have gone down the hall to bed, but couldn't make myself leave her side. She was so beautiful, so unguarded in her sleep. Her thoughts and emotions were plainly displayed on her face, and I wasn't strong enough to make myself leave when it was so easy to sit here and pretend that she wanted me.

"Ivy, no," she whispered in her sleep, jarring me out of my reverie. "Please Ivy, don't go. I'm sorry. So sorry," she cried softly. "I love you."

I felt as if my heart was going to burst out of my chest at the sound of the words I'd longed to hear from her for years. She loved me. In her sleep, she could admit that she loved me. The true test, however, would be if she could admit it when she was awake. And, oh, how I wanted to wake her, to gently run my fingers across her cheek and kiss her softly. But I was so afraid that when she woke she wouldn't want me anymore, that when her eyes opened to look at me that she'd remember that she's not 'wired that way' and then she'd recant last night's admissions.

I closed my eyes and took a ragged breath to gather myself, deciding that it'd be best to let my dear heart sleep and talk to her once she'd rested. I gently placed my hand on the arm of the couch to help me stand, doing my absolute best to not disturb her, and almost yelled out in surprise when her small hand wrapped around my wrist.

"You came home," she whispered. "I wasn't sure if…," she couldn't finish the thought.

I smiled my most gentle smile at her. "Of course I came home, Rachel. Go back to sleep, dear heart."

"Don' wanna," she mumbled as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She looked up at me and took a deep breath, "We need to talk."

She looked so serious that I swear my heart stopped beating. My careful mask of nonchalance didn't fall, but inside I was trembling, quaking with fear. "I'm not going anywhere, Rache," I told her softly. "It's okay, you can go back to sleep and we'll talk when you wake up." Give me a few more hours to pretend that you want me, I thought desperately.

She shook her head and leveled her eyes at me. "This can't wait."

"Oh," I whispered as my knees gave out and I dropped to the floor. Here it comes, the final blow. She'd changed her mind, again. I knew it. God, I was so stupid to get my hopes up. The only times she's ever looked this serious was when she'd told me that she didn't want me 'that way'.

"Oh, Ivy," she said softly, as she reached her hand out to stroke my cheek. Her fingers were so soft on my face. "I'm so sorry. So, so, sorry."

My stomach clenched and I was beginning to fear that I would pass out. Here I was, the big bad vampire who could make any living soul in Cincinnati quake simply by glaring at them, so completely terrified of the words that were going to come out of this girl's mouth. Because, when I was with her I wasn't a vampire destined to someday rule the city and join the highest ranks of the vampire hierarchy, I was simply a girl, pleading for another girl to love her. I think I actually started shaking at that point, because she quickly slid off the couch and cupped the other side of my face with her free hand.

"Please Ivy," she begged. "Please look at me."

I slowly raised my eyes to hers. "Sorry." I hated that my first response was to apologize, but I was so very afraid to hear what she was going to tell me.

She began stroking both my cheeks with the pads of her thumbs and cocked her head to the side so that she could look up into my face. "I love you," she said, her voice sure. "Please don't be afraid Ivy. I love you. I love you," she repeated, the emotion behind her words making her voice tremble.

I stared at her, disbelieving because she'd just said the exact opposite of what I'd been preparing myself to hear.

"You don't believe me," she whispered, a sliver of fear crossing her face as her fingers stopped stroking my cheeks.

I shook my head to try and clear the fog of confusion that had manifested inside it. I hated myself for needing to ask, but I'd spent so many years of being told 'no' by this vicious siren that I needed to hear it again. To be sure. "You love me?"

She held me steady in her hands as she nodded and leaned in close, close enough that her next words danced across my lips as she breathed them, "I love you."

Her brilliant emerald eyes were unblinking as she slowly closed the distance between us and lowered her lips to mine. I couldn't help the groan of pleasure that escaped me at that first contact. It was so soft, so achingly tender and a complete antithesis to the kiss I'd stolen from her that day in the sanctuary when I told her she had to accept all of me.

I could tell by this kiss that she had. She had finally accepted all of me. My eyes closed as I let myself fall into her kiss and I reached out to her, gently pulling her closer until we were pressed together. I groaned softly as I realized that we fit together just as perfectly as I'd always guessed we would. I was quickly sugared by the feeling of her in my arms. Finally. This beautiful creature was finally mine to hold and to love.

That first kiss was everything that a first kiss is supposed to be. Tender. Sweet. It held no demands, no expectations of more. It was heaven.

She was the one to initiate the kiss, and she was the first to pull back, a hesitant smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Am I forgiven?" she whispered, her thumbs beginning to stroke my cheeks once again.

"Of course, dear heart," I smiled, leaning in to brush my lips across hers once again, reveling in the fact that I finally could do it. "God, Rachel," I breathed, "you don't know how long I've waited to kiss you like that."

She met my eyes with a sad smile on her face. "I am sorry Ivy. So sorry it took me so long to figure out that my dream guy was the girl living across the hall from me."

I chuckled. "You sweet talker," my arms pulling her tighter to me as I leaned in to kiss her again. Each brush of her lips against mine banished the earlier specter of doubt that haunted me and left me feeling light, giddy, and, dare I say, even happy. "I bet you say that to all the girls."

"Mmm," she hummed into my kiss as she dropped her arms to my waist. "Just you, Ivy." She smiled as we pulled apart and leaned in to rest her forehead against mine. "I love you, Ivy Tamwood."

"As I love you, Rachel," I swore to her before looking down, unsure of how to phrase the question that I so desperately needed to ask.

"Your face," she whispered. "You look so… unsure. What's wrong?"

"I…. I need to know. I mean, I need to ask you something," I breathed into her lips.

"Anything," she told me, her voice so soft and sweet and full of love that I felt my eyes sting with tears.

"Rachel, I… God, I never thought this would be so hard. Rachel, I want this. Dear heart, I want this more than I want anything in the world. But, I have to know – what do you want from me? From this? I can't…" My voice trailed off.

She smiled at me. "Ivy." She shook her head. "My dear sweet Ivy. I want this," she pulled me into a fierce hug and I couldn't help responding in kind, using my hold on her waist to hold her tight.

She backed out of the hug, raised her face to mine, and pressed her lips to mine, her quick tongue darting out to brush against my lower lip. "I want this. I want you," she breathed, as her hands slid under my shirt, her fingertips gently brushing the sides of my breasts in what I was sure was her way of trying to prove that she did indeed want all of me. "I want to take you to bed and worship every inch of you."

The slow heat working its way through my body from her gentle touch turned to a flash of desire at her words. "Really?" I couldn't help asking, I was still so afraid that this was all some nasty dream that I was going to wake up from.

"Mmm, really." She smiled. "Is that okay?"

I didn't have any words. For once, I was well and truly speechless. So I just smiled and nodded.

"Good," she said, before she pulled me in and kissed me again. This kiss was so full of want, love, and desire and I couldn't contain the purr of happiness that escaped me. Mine, I thought happily as I finally allowed my hands to slip up over her back and begin to explore her body as they've been aching to for so long. Mine.




I leaned back against the many pillows that were piled against my headboard and smiled as I enjoyed the view of a very naked Rachel Morgan skipping lightly around my room to close the drapes over the windows to block out the rising sun and cast the room into a comforting shadow. "Lovely," I observed quietly, as her silhouette was briefly framed in the light before she closed the last drape.

"Yes, you are," she said, smiling as she turned to look at me. Her eyes were dark with need as she sashayed across the room to kneel on the edge of the bed beside me. "So incredibly beautiful," she murmured as she reached out to run a gentle hand down the middle of chest.

I smiled and reached for her, pulling her down so that I could once again capture her lips with my own. The kiss was instantly wet and needy, full of wanton moans, thrusting tongues, and roaming hands, and I groaned as she moved to straddle me, her knees pressing into the mattress on either side of my hips.

She arched into me as I slid my hands down the muscled expanse of her back to latch onto her ass, and she moaned loudly as I used that hold to pull her down into me. "Fuck, Ivy."

I smiled and gave the cheeks under my hands one last squeeze before I dragged the backs of my fingers up the front of her body so that I was able to cover her beautiful breasts with my hands. Stiff nipples pressed into my palms as I began rolling and massaging the mounds and I smiled against her lips as I shifted my touch to be able to drag my thumbs over those straining buds. I was rewarded with a quiet gasp, and I groaned appreciatively as I captured her nipples between my fingers and gave them a light pinch. They swelled to tight points under my touch and I wished I were in a position to take them into my mouth and suckle them.

For so long I'd dreamed of being with her like this that it felt like it was a dream. A wonderful, magical dream. "I love you," I whispered, sliding my hands back down her sides to rest lightly on her hips. I rocked up off the bed into her, spreading a sticky trail of arousal across my skin, and I smiled at the way her eyes fluttered closed at the contact.

Wanting more, I let my hand slide around her hip to tease her already wet center, my own eyes fluttering shut as my finger slipped between swollen, pliant lips and dipped into a virtual pool of desire. "Oh, Rachel," I murmured appreciatively as I ran a finger up and down through her, and I could do nothing to stop the groan of displeasure that escaped me when she rolled her hips away from my touch.

I felt her smile against my lips at the sound. "I want to make love to you, Ivy," she breathed, her lips still moving against my own. "Let me make love to you?" she asked softly.

Oh, that voice. My wildest dreams had nothing on the smoky sexiness of her voice at this moment. "Dear heart," I whimpered pleadingly.

She brushed a soft kiss across my lips and whispered, "Please?"

"I'm yours, Rachel," I whispered, relaxing beneath her to prove that I was subservient to her wishes.

"Good," she smiled as she pulled back and looked at me. I felt my stomach muscles tighten in anticipation as her eyes moved from mine to focus on my breasts. She licked her lips as her eyes caressed my breasts, and when she finally let her gaze roam back up to meet my own, the glorious smile that lit her face was enough to leave me breathless.

"I love you," I murmured.

"I love you," she answered, smiling as she lowered her lips to mine again.

I purred in pleasure at the return of her lips and I let out a small groan of protest when she took her lips away from mine.

"Shh," she shushed, as she dragged her lips over my jaw and began pressing wet, openmouthed kisses to the side of my neck. She spent a fair amount of time kissing that oh so sensitive flesh, sucking and nipping at scars both visible and unseen, her mouth and teeth making me writhe under her loving touch. I felt her smile against me before she placed one last kiss on my neck and made her way down my body until she settled herself over my breasts.

"Oh god, Rachel," I moaned, my eyes rolling back in my head as her mouth surrounded my right nipple. She raised her free hand to cover my other breast and my hips bucked against her again when she rolled me between her thumb and finger, pinching just as she bit down softly on the other side. "Christ," I couldn't help crying out, the scream of pleasure quickly disappearing into a pathetic whimper when she let go and pulled back enough to look at me.

"Too much?" she looked concerned. "Did I hurt you?"

"N…no, God no," I panted. "Good. Yes. Please," I stammered.

"Oh," she smiled as she lowered herself across my body to resume lavishing my breasts with licks, nips, and sucks. Mmm, she was so very talented with her mouth and I couldn't help wondering what else that wonderful tongue of hers might be capable of.

Dear God, I think she's going to drive me mad, I thought as she teased me beyond the mortal bounds of pleasure. I writhed under her touch, my hands massaging her scalp to hold her to me, and when the pleasure became just too much to bear and I needed more, I began softly pushing against her head to try and gently steer her where I so desperately needed her.

"Okay, baby," she murmured, as she finally yielded to my touch and began trailing kisses down my stomach. My hips bucked into her as her tongue flicked over my navel, and when she finally settled between my legs I thought I was going to come just from the sight of it. Her eyes were dark, hungry, and needy and the smile that tweaked her lips was simultaneously pleased and mischievous and it was obvious that she enjoyed the power that came from seeing me this desperate for her touch.

"Rachel," I moaned piteously as she continued to tease me, her mouth hovering just above where I so desperately needed her.

She hummed softly as she leaned in to press a soft kiss to my inner thigh. "What do you need?" she asked, as she leaned her cheek on the spot she'd just kissed.

She looked so comfortable and sexy settled between my legs that I had to tangle my hands into the sheets so that I didn't just reach down and drag her to where I needed her. I knew this was her first time with a woman, and while I had momentarily forgotten that when I'd pushed her down my body to the juncture of my thighs, I remembered it now and I didn't want to push her into anything she wasn't comfortable with.

No matter how much I wanted to feel her mouth upon me, I wasn't going to ask her for it. Fingers, lips, tongue, whatever it was she chose to use would be fine, so long as she stopped teasing me with the promise of her touch. I had already waited far too long to feel it. "Please, Rachel," I murmured, arching my chest off the bed and forcing my hips down into the mattress so that I didn't lift them toward her lips. "Touch me. Please touch me."

"Oh, Ivy," she sighed, and I shivered as I felt her hands snake around my legs to latch onto my hips. "My Ivy," she purred.

I groaned at the feeling of her hot breath against my aching center and then I felt it, just the lightest touch of her tongue against my straining clit. "Oh fuck, Rache," I grunted, as my hips bucked hard against her mouth. I swear I heard her groan as another light lick was painted across my clit, and when her tongue dipped lower to lave slowly up my folds my eyes snapped shut and I was helpless to contain the scream of ecstasy that tore itself from my throat.

It was all I could do to throw my head back and hang on as she made love to me with her mouth, lips, teeth, and tongue, while her strong hands fought to hold me still in front of her. Her tongue pushed inside me, firm yet supple and yielding, and my grip on the bedsheets tightened to the point that my fingers tore through the flimsy material. Each broad swipe of her tongue through me caused the room around me to spin faster and faster, every swipe of her tongue over my clit sent stars shooting across my eyelids, and I swear I was beginning to go numb from pleasure.

Too much, I thought to myself as I writhed under her mouth. Dear God, it's too much. And then, just as that thought cleared my barely-lucid mind, my entire universe exploded as the most intense orgasm I'd ever experienced rocked through me.

And then I am pretty sure that I died my first death because the entire world went black.

"Ivy?" A worried voice was calling out to me from somewhere nearby. "Look at me Ivy, are you okay?"

I opened my eyes to see my own personal angel hovering over me with an anxious expression on her face. "Mmm." I smiled up at her. "I okay." I nodded drunkenly. "Very okay."

She started laughing, probably in both amusement and relief. "Fuck, baby. Please don't scare me like that ever again! You passed out!"

I was a little confused at that thought, but was still happily fuzzy. "Did not," I couldn't help the giggle that escaped as I argued with her.

"Oh." Her grin widened as she looked at me. "I think you're sugared, Ivy."

"Mmm," I mumbled, as I tried to raise myself off the bed to kiss her. My body didn't want to work, but she thankfully knew what I was trying to do and lowered herself to my level. Her lips were soft and tasted like me, and I hummed happily as I ran my tongue over them.

"Completely sugared," she murmured breathlessly when she finally pulled away.

I smiled and shook my head. "I can't get sugared off of myself. I think you broke my brain."

"Really, now?" She murmured into my lips, her incredibly talented tongue waltzing around mine as I opened my mouth to her. "You sure know how to make a girl feel good Tamwood," she teased when she finally pulled back to breathe.

"Me?" I giggled. "Isn't that what I should be saying to you right about now?"

Her eyes were full of love as she smiled at me and shook her head, and I could tell that she still felt guilty about fighting this for so long. "I love you Ivy."

"I love you," I murmured, smiling as I found the strength to reach up and pull her down onto me. She made a small noise of dissent, but I accepted her weight gladly. "I love you so very, very much, Rachel."

She sighed and relaxed into me. "My beautiful Ivy," she murmured, her bright green eyes dancing over my face as she ran a tender finger across my lips.

I smiled and sucked her finger into my mouth. I chuckled throatily as her eyes widened with surprise and darkened with need, and I ran my tongue lazily around the stolen digit for a moment before I finally let it go. "I need more kisses," I told her.

"You do, huh?"

I nodded, feigning a seriousness that I certainly didn't feel. "I need to defend my honor."

"Your honor?" she smiled.

"Absolutely." I grinned devilishly, gladly giving up my charade. "I'm going to have to do my best to try and make love to you until you pass out now."

Bless her, she responded by arching a brow at me challengingly. "You think you can?"

"Pretty sure, yeah," I replied as I slid my hands to her breasts and gave her nipples a playful pinch. "You know me." I grinned as I wrapped my arms around her and flipped us around on the bed so that she was pinned under me. "I'm never one to back down from a challenge."




After spending a solid twenty-four hours in bed making love, trading kisses and touches and whispered words of affection, I sighed as I glanced at my alarm clock and noticed that I would have to be getting up soon. I wanted nothing more than to repeat yesterday's activities, but I had a run to make and no matter how much I wanted to stay in bed, I knew I couldn't. The only consolation to the idea of forcing myself out of bed was the knowledge that I knew Rachel would be waiting for me when I came home.

Rachel was draped across me with her head resting snugly beneath my chin and one leg thrown across my hips, and I smiled as I ran a gentle hand up and down her spine to try and wake her. She smiled against my throat and purred as she burrowed closer into me, but didn't wake, and I sighed as I pulled my head back enough to be able to press a soft kiss to her forehead. "Rache, dear heart, I have to get up."

"Hmm?" She mumbled, squeezing her hand that was wrapped around my right breast.

I groaned as a shot of desire ricocheted through me, and it was all I could do to not give in and ditch the run. The werewolf who had hired me to look into the whereabouts of his pack's missing money would understand, right?

Unfortunately not, Ivy-girl, the voice of reason inside my head answered sadly.

I sighed and closed my eyes as I pressed another kiss to my love's forehead. "Rache," I said a bit more loudly as I have her waist a light squeeze. More soft mumbling was her only response, but I could tell that she was waking up so I went back to rubbing her back and kissing her forehead to try and hurry her along.

She smiled as she pulled back to look up at me. "Morning, Ivy."

"Morning," I husked, my voice otherwise gone as I drank in the sight of Rachel hovering above me. She was an absolute vision with her pert lips puffy from sleep, and her hair tousled into a style that quite clearly said that she'd spent the better part of a day being thoroughly debauched.

"Hi," I whispered, lifting my head so I could kiss her perfect lips. I felt her smile against my mouth as she leaned into me, her arms slipping under my shoulders as she resettled herself on top of me.

"Hi," she said, chuckling softly as she wedged her left leg between mine and flexed her thigh against me.

My eyes fluttered closed at the feeling of her pressed against me and I groaned loudly at the way she wantonly rocked herself down onto my thigh. God, she was already wet. So wet.

And I was late. Damn it. "Ugh," I whimpered pathetically as I pulled back from her kiss.

"What's wrong?" she asked, gazing at me curiously as she smoothed her fingers through my hair.

The feeling of her long fingers tugging against my hair sent small bolts of electricity coursing through me and I groaned again as I captured her lips in a quick, chaste kiss. "I have a run. I gotta go," I mumbled into her lips, my body putting up a valiant effort against my mind to decide what activity would take place at this god-forsaken time of day.

She actually giggled as she leaned in and kissed me again. "So why are you causing trouble then?"

"Can't help it." I smiled and kissed her again.

"S'okay, Iv," she whispered. "Go on your run. I'll be here when you get home."

The sincerity in her words made my heart clench and I smiled as I reached up to run a gentle hand over her jaw. "Promise?"

She smiled and nodded. "Always, my love. I swear. Are you going to be late?"

I licked my lips and shook my head. "I shouldn't be. It looks like it'll be a pretty routine recovery," I told her. "I'm pretty sure the pack's missing money was embezzled by their unsuspecting human accountant, although I have yet to figure out why they used a human accountant, but whatever. A little flash of fang and he should confess in no time. I should be home for a late lunch…say seven or so?"

"Sounds good." She nodded and ran a gentle finger over my lips. "I'll even cook something."

A quiet night in sounded amazing and I smiled as I lifted my head to kiss her again softly. "I love you Rachel."

"Love you too." She smiled and rolled off of me so that I was free to move. "Now, go finish your run so I can ravish you when you get home."

I sighed dramatically and rolled out of bed. "Yes, ma'am," I muttered. I glanced back over my shoulder at her and couldn't help but groan at the sight of her stretched out across my bed on her side, her head resting on her hand as she stared back at me. It was hard to leave her there like that, naked and perfect and oh so ready to be ravished, but I somehow found the strength to force myself across the room to the shower.

It was a little before seven when I made my way into the church. I had been right and the pack's accountant was the one responsible for their missing millions, and I had been equally right in guessing that he hadn't the faintest clue of whom he'd been dealing with. One would have thought that, this many years after the Turn, that humans would be better at discerning a physical threat, but this guy sure hadn't been. Anyways, when I brought the man crying and sniveling in front of the pack, they'd been so pleased with my work that they gave me a fat little bonus for being so quick about it all, and I felt lighter knowing that that extra bit of cash should hold us over for a few months until Rachel hopefully gets that damned shunning reversed.

My boots landed quietly on the mat under the coat rack and I tossed my keys into the glass bowl on the console table against the wall as I passed. I smiled at the familiar sound of Rachel in the kitchen and though I was always happy to come home, tonight the experience was even better because I knew that she was waiting for me. Whether or not I'd get that promised ravishing didn't matter, I was just happy to know that she was here and she was mine.

I shook my head at the sound of Jenks questioning Rachel about me and I stopped in the doorway to the kitchen to see what was going on. He was sitting imperiously on the end of a wooden spoon that was draped across the rim of a glass mixing bowl that looked like it was full of brownie batter, and Rachel was standing in front of him, her hands pressed into the countertop as she stared him down.

"Do you really think that's a good idea to ask Ivy that, Rache," Jenks asked in that concerned fatherly tone of voice that he did so well.

She sighed audibly and shrugged. "Who knows, but I have to try."

My heart jumped into my throat as I realized that I obviously missed something important. She sounded so serious. I was pretty sure about her… us… what had happened, finally, but hearing that tone in her voice stopped me cold. What is wrong? What did I do wrong?

"Well, she's in the hall behind you," Jenks said, not bothering to whisper. Which, really, didn't matter, because I would have heard him either way. "Good luck Rache, let me know how it goes."

My presence already announced, I gamely padded the rest of the way into the kitchen. I glanced around the room as I entered, noticing that there was a salad already prepared and waiting on the kitchen table, and I could smell a pizza cooking in the oven.

"What's up," I asked cautiously, my face automatically slipping into what Rachel called my vamp-mask as I crossed the room to pour myself a cup too.

"You heard us," she said quietly when I stopped on the opposite side of the counter from her.

"Only the last bit," I told her. "What's going on?" Though I was again trembling inside, I managed to not show her that I was deathly afraid of what she was going to say.

"I…. well…." She stuttered, rubbing a hand over her face. She shook her head and took a deep breath as she looked me. "I wanted to talk to you about yesterday," she waved her hand in the air to emphasize the whole impreciseness of the timing.

"Okay. Did I do-" I couldn't help asking, but my fear must have been obvious in my tone because she cut me off with a small gasp and a gentle hand on my forearm.

"No! Dear Goddess no, Ivy! It's nothing like that. I just wanted to ask you something."

Though I'm sure she'd meant for her words to be reassuring, my stomach still twisted with the fear that my brief, shining moment of happiness was over. I reached across the island to steal her coffee cup and take a sip, and arched a brow at her to show that I was listening.

Her lips pursed thoughtfully as she worked them from side to side, making her look like an adorable ginger bunny rabbit, and I took some small measure of relief from the fact that she was still there and that she didn't smell guilty. She smelled unsure, like she didn't know how I was going to respond, but not like she was going to leave. "I was just… I mean, I wanted to ask…." She stomped her foot and shook her head. "Why is this so hard?"

"I don't know, dear heart," I murmured. "Just say it, Rache. Whatever it is, just say it."

My quiet encouragement must have been what she needed because she took a deep breath and asked, "I was wondering why you didn't bite me last night?"

I licked my lips and studied her carefully as I set my pilfered mug down onto the counter and slowly made my way around the island so that I could reach her. I smiled gently at her as I cradled her jaw in the palm of my right hand and I shook my head as I leaned in and kissed her softly. When I pulled back I could see that her eyes were closed and I nuzzled her cheek with my nose as I hummed her name imploringly. Green eyes fluttered hesitantly open and I smiled as she finally looked at me. "I didn't ask because I thought you didn't want it, and because…" I paused for moment, trying to organize my reasons for why I didn't particularly want to do it. "Well, because I love you, and I just wanted to show you how much I love you and still be me."

She looked a little confused. "But you are you Ivy."

I smoothed my thumb ever so gently across her cheekbone and shook my head. "What I meant, was that I wanted to make love to you as just me, no vamp tricks, no pheromones messing with your mind. Just me. I needed to know that I was who you were responding to, and not the fuzzy-feel-good vamp shit."

She nodded slowly. "Okay, I get that. But why…."

I cut her off before she could finish the thought because I had a pretty good idea of where this was going. "Rachel, dear heart, time and again you've made your feelings clear on the whole blood thing. So I didn't ask because I didn't want to mess up what I thought was a particularly splendid day. I'm just happy you've given me your heart. I have people I can call to help me manage that other stuff."

"I don't want you calling other people, Ivy," she said softly.

I licked my lips as I leaned in to brush a light kiss across her lips as I began to understand exactly what it was that she and Jenks had been talking about. "What do you want, dear heart?"

"I don't want you calling anybody beside me to help you take care of any of your needs. I want to be the one you come to for blood, Ivy. I've always wanted that. Ever since that first time in Mackinaw and our auras merged so that I was able to feel your love for me and I was able to cover you in my love for you, I've wanted it. Sharing blood with you is beautiful, Ivy. And the second time we tried was just…"

Orgasmic, I thought. "But after that second time you swore that it'd never happen again," I reminded her.

She nodded. "I was wrong, Ivy. I was scared that just a bite could make me feel so much. I was still running from myself and so I lashed out at you."

"I thought it was because you were afraid of being bound to me."

She shook her head slowly and then rolled her eyes as she nodded. "I was afraid of being bound," she admitted sheepishly. "But after last night, with you, I'm not afraid anymore."

"So you want me to bite you now because you know I'm good in bed?" I asked, not wanting to push her, but needing to know what, exactly, she was thinking.

She looked up at me with a shocked, hurt expression on her face. "No! Geez, Ivy! Give me a little credit here! I have always wanted you to bite me! Every time I was saying no, my body was telling my brain to just shut up and say yes! I've always wanted it." She shook her head. "And then, when we made love…" She took a deep breath, still staring intently into my eyes. "When we made love I realized that it didn't matter if you bound me to you by blood because I'd already bound myself to you with love. I could never leave you, I love you too much. And just because you bound my scars doesn't mean that I'll be a shadow," she said, using my old argument to her to back up her point. "It's just a way to belong to you and only you."

The cow timer on the counter behind me mooed and we both jumped.

"Timer," I said softly, my voice a little shaky.

"Pizza's done," Rachel answered, quickly standing to go and pull the pie from the oven.

I watched her reflection in the window as she lifted the pizza from the oven and shimmied the pie off the sheet onto a cutting board. She let out a quiet huff of annoyance as she looked around the countertop for the pizza cutter, and I couldn't help but smile at the way she ran a frustrated hand through her wild hair as she turned her attention to the drawers around the sink.

I quietly retrieved the pizza cutter from the drawer on the end of the island where it belonged and sidled in behind her, my left hand resting lightly on her hip while I held the tool in front of her with my right.

"Here it is," I breathed onto her neck, onto the scars that my teeth had left on her beautiful skin. They used to taunt me, like pale specters of a future I would never have, but now they looked welcoming. Warm. Inviting.

It was a good thing I had one hand already on her hip, because her knees buckled as my breath danced across her scars and I had to catch her. I set the pizza cutter on the counter and wrapped my other arm around her, spun her around to face me and easily lifted her to sit on the counter, settling my body between her knees as I held her tightly. "Are you okay?" I asked.

She nodded. "Yeah," she answered, her voice breathy.

I lifted my left hand from her waist to run my thumb over her exquisite neck. "Are you sure you want this? Because I'm happy with what we've got, Rachel. I am more than happy to just have you to love. I want to share blood with you, please don't mistake what I'm saying here, but I don't know if I'll be able to handle you changing your mind again. I'm just not that strong, dear heart."

"I'm not going to change my mind." She leaned in to kiss me softly before she rested her forehead against mine. "I want all of you, Ivy. I love all of you."

I smiled at her words. "I love you Rachel," I murmured, pulling her to me to kiss hungrily.

The pizza smelled good, but damned if she didn't smell better. And, knowing that I could really have all of her was the most potent aphrodisiac I have ever experienced. My hands roamed her back, rubbing and kneading, and hers were busy making similar motions on mine. I pulled her closer so that those most intimate parts of her were pressed tightly against my hips, and she moaned in pleasure at the contact.

"Pizza?" I gasped between kisses.

She shook her head no. "It'll nuke up fine," she answered, her voice rough with desire. "Take me to bed, Ivy. Please, just take me to bed."

I moaned as I quickly reclaimed her mouth with my own and I wasted no time lifting her off the counter, easily supporting her weight with my arms as she wrapped her legs around my waist. I started down the hall to my bedroom, each step causing her to rock against me and drawing quiet purrs of contentment from her throat, and once I was inside I hooked the door closed with my heel behind us in case there was a peeping pixie in the building. He could hover out there and listen all he wanted, but he wasn't getting a show.

I gently laid Rachel down on the bed and settled myself on top of her, our lips never breaking contact as we moved fluidly together in a dance that was as old as time. Now that my hands were free, I put them to good use getting rid of her clothes and she was doing an equally quick job with mine.

That first press of skin on skin drew a quiet sigh from my lips and I smiled as I ran my left hand up her body to cover her breast. She moaned as I began flicking my thumb back and forth over the nub and then it was my turn to moan when she shifted beneath me so that her very wet center was pressed against my thigh. I teased her nipple with my fingers as I took full possession of our kiss, thrusting my tongue into her mouth and forcing her to try and keep up with me, and I smiled as she started rocking slowly against my leg. "You're sure?" I asked softly.

"Oh god Ivy, please," she moaned, turning her head to the side to reveal her neck to me.

I sucked a deep breath in through my teeth as I stared at her before I lowered my mouth to her neck. I brushed the softest of kisses over her scars, purposefully keeping my pheromones in check as I did so. This would be the night that truly changed everything between us forever, and I didn't want to sway her into giving me what I so dearly wanted. "Can I?" I asked softly. "Can I have this? Do you give this to me?"

She writhed under me as my breath danced across her skin. "Yes Ivy. Please. Make me yours and only yours."

My eyes fluttered closed at her wanton need and I licked my lips as I pressed a very chaste kiss to my scars that she wore. "Thank you," I whispered, finally releasing the pheromones I'd been holding back as I began to lick and kiss at her neck. I wanted to work her up slowly and show her how truly beautiful sharing blood like this could be. This wasn't like that time in the van or our one aura-clanging affair in the kitchen; this was so much more real and I wanted to make it special. Like our first time should have been.

The more I tongued and teased her neck the faster her hips rocked against me and I found myself meeting her thrust for thrust as I sucked and lightly nipped at her neck, bringing more blood to the surface but never breaking her skin. The intoxicating scent of redwood and amber surrounded me and I groaned as I buried my face in the crook of her neck in a desperate bid to try and control my own hunger that was demanding I sink my teeth into her beautiful skin and drink.

"Ivy, please!" Rachel whimpered, snapping me from my haze. "I need you."

"I need you," I murmured, closing my eyes as I allowed my instincts to guide my mouth higher until my lips were hovering above my scars that marred her skin.

Her hands tightened on my hips as I took a moment to steady myself, and I sighed as I leaned in to nuzzle her throat one last time. Her scent was so strong and her fingers dug almost painfully into my hips, and I just couldn't fight it any longer. I needed her. In the worst and best ways possible, I needed her.

"Thank you," I whispered reverently, my lips brushing across her skin and causing a ripple of pleasure to roll through her as I finally did as we both wanted and bit down, my razor-sharp canines tearing easily through the tender flesh of her throat.

Hot blood, rich and thick and spicy poured into my mouth and I sucked reflexively, drawing more of her into me. I had taken blood from an untold number of humans and Inderlanders alike, and hers was the most potent, most delicious, most intoxicating blood I had ever tasted. It sang to me. Danced across my tongue and enveloped my every sense in her essence.

She cried out as I began to suck lightly against her, wanting to extend our moment for as long as I possibly could, and I groaned as I pushed my leg tighter into her as I pulled against her again, reveling in the feeling of her blood filling my mouth as our bodies rocked together.

The familiar sensation of our auras merging tickled my brain and I consciously pushed every feeling of love and adoration that I felt for her through that tenuous bond into her, and I felt her complete and unabashed love for me flowing back. It was beautiful. So incredibly perfect. I played slowly at her neck, not needing blood but wanting to prolong the joining of our metaphysical selves as our bodies raced toward the euphoric precipice together.

I love you, I thought desperately to her through the bond as I felt the familiar heat of my orgasm begin to build low in my hips and spread down into my legs. I was pushed that much closer as she screamed, "Oh yes. Ivy… I love you. I love you, I love…" Her voice trailed off into a silent scream as our auras chimed and she was rocked into orgasm, her release flowing through me and bringing me to orgasm along with her.

Once I regained control of my body enough to move, I gently, ever so gently, slid my teeth out of her neck and slowly lapped at the handful of drops that leaked from the wounds until they stopped. I pulled back and kissed her lips softly. "I love you Rachel."

She purred happily as she blessed me with a gorgeous, beaming smile. "I love you. That was amazing, Ivy."

I laughed and dropped my head to her shoulder. "That's what I've been telling you."

"Well, you were right. I had no idea what I was missing," she replied softly.

I smiled as I pulled back to look at her, and the unfettered love I saw shining back up at me made my heart skip a beat. Somehow, after all the wrong I'd done and all the pain I'd suffered, I'd finally managed to find somebody who truly did love me. All of me. With no strings attached. I hummed softly as I leaned in and kissed her tenderly. "I'm going to go get you some food, I didn't take much, but you will need to eat something," I murmured, staring into her bright green eyes as my fingertips reverently stroked her cheek.

"Pizza?" she asked hopefully.

I smiled. "Perhaps after you finish your cookie. I'll be right back, dear heart."

Later that night, after Rachel had eaten her cookie and we'd shared the pizza and salad that she'd made for us, we ended up once again in my room. We were back in bed, Rachel cuddling on top of me, her head resting just above my breast, when I decided to broach the topic of what had happened.

"Do you regret it?" I asked softly, my fingers playing with her tangled curls.

She snuggled closer to me and pulled the sheet up over us both. "Regret what, Ivy?"

"Letting me bite you? Bind you?"

She smiled as she buried her face in the hollow of my neck, her lips pressing a soft kiss in that oh so sensitive spot. "No, I don't regret anything, Ivy. I love you," she whispered.

"I love you too, Rachel," I murmured, dropping a gentle kiss to the crown of her head as my arms tightened possessively around her waist. Now that I had her, there was no way I was ever going to let go. "I've always loved you."

She looked up at me and smiled seductively. "Are you ready to love me again?"

I jumped when her hand cupped my breast, the feeling of her thumb dragging heavily over my nipple causing my breath to catch in my throat. I nodded as I turned my head to kiss her softly. "Do you really think you're ready to try again?"

She pushed herself up and smiled down at me, her tongue slipping through her lips as she grinned. "I have a feeling I'm always going to be ready for you, Ivy," she husked, trailing a hand slowly down my stomach. "And I can tell that you're ready for me."

"Yes," I purred, putting that grey silk into my voice that I knew drove her crazy. "Kiss me."

She moaned and lowered her lips to mine, her fingers easing into a now familiar tempo as she pressed tight circles against me.

The End

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