Author's Note: Sorry it took a while. I had orientation for college and then I got sick for several days. And I kept rewriting the chapter. I have issues; this is the... fourth version, I think. Might be the fifth. I don't know why my internal editor is so insane.
But this is the last chapter. Gasp. I thought there were going to be more, but... I have a file of all the chapters together, and I reread through the last few with this chapter tacked onto the end, and it just seemed... right.
You should thank my beta-reader, Medieval-Rogue, for helping to make the story as nice as it has been. I'm truly indebted to her for all the help she's given me. Without her, this story would have been a lot more one-dimensional, and not as entertaining. Also, it probably would've been a lot more confusing. Check out her profile here on FictionPress.
Here we go.
One unnerving thing about being on the witness stand was having to sit across from Yuki.
Not that his dark eyes were focused on me at any point of my testimony. His attention was devoted to Caroline, who was doing her best to keep her back to him. I did notice that she was wringing her hands occasionally; so I knew she could feel him staring at her.
"And did the defendant then proceed to threaten your life?" she asked, green eyes flicking between the jury and me.
There were eight women and four men sitting in the jury box, and they were all staring at me. Caroline hadn't coached me on my testimony; she hadn't coached any of us. She had given us some tips on how to behave; one of them was not to look at the jury. So I tried to block out their curious faces and keep myself facing forward.
"Yes," I said, feeling stupid. I wished there was more I could say than that. But Caroline's other tip was not to elaborate on yes-or-no questions; she didn't want to give the defense grounds to object.
I was with her on that one. I didn't like the defense. I tried not to, but I kept glancing over at Yuki's table. His lawyer was almost as scary as he was; the lawyer was a vampire, of course. Every question Caroline asked made me more nervous; it was another piece of material for the vampire to cross-examine me with.
The sky outside the windows was black, and some of the reporters in the back rows looked a little sleepy. The jury probably hadn't been prepared for a nocturnal trial. They probably hadn't been prepared for the armed guards posted around the room, either. I thought the guns were a little unnecessary, considering who the guards were. There were two vampiric police officers standing next to Yuki, two more on either side of the jury box; and the bailiff standing near me was a vampire, too.
I guess Yuki was considered a bit of a risk.
"After threatening you, what did the defendant do, Miss Reed?" Caroline asked, taking a few steps towards the jury.
Later, Avery -- who was sitting near the back of the courtroom -- told me that I reached up and ran my fingers over my scars when I answered that question. At the time, all I was aware of was how much effort it took to get the words out. I can't do this, I whimpered mentally. But I didn't have a choice. I didn't particularly feel like spending the night in jail for being in contempt of court.
"He, uh, he…" I shut my eyes briefly and took a deep breath, convincing myself I had a good supply of oxygen. "He put his hands on my throat and, uh, he started to… to strangle me," I said.
There. That hadn't been so bad, had it?
Except that when I shut my eyes my aura-sight got switched on. I bit my lip and dug my fingers into my palms, using the wooden face of the witness stand to hide my hands from the jury. Damn it, damn it, damn it! I went rigid and desperately tried to hide my reaction to suddenly being able to see the cloud of black around Yuki.
He wasn't actively using it, but I could see all his extra power sifting off him, creating a puddle on the floor around his feet. It seeped onto his lawyer's arm when he touched the man's sleeve, and it cast a shadow over the whole defense table.
Hands clasped behind her back, Caroline took a few steps towards the defense -- well, not exactly towards them, but to a spot on the floor where she was standing between me and Yuki. I exhaled a little and eased the pressure out of my hands. She'd said that if I ever looked like I was getting too nervous, she'd block Yuki from my sight so I didn't have to look at him. I was going to have to send her some flowers or something.
"Did he say anything to you then, Miss Reed?"
It wasn't enough. I could still see the halo of black around Yuki from behind her. "Y-yes," I stammered, eyes skirting around the room for something else to focus on.
The only thing dramatic enough to draw my mind away from the storm of contamination magic less than thirty feet away was Avery. For about the millionth time that night, I was endlessly thankful that he'd come with me. Jamnis and Michael couldn't be present, since they were both witnesses. Sirel was stuck at work, though she'd dropped by on her break and wished me luck before I went in.
"What did he say?"
I focused my eyes a little above Avery's head. The magic surrounding him was mostly green, healing. Ribbons of other powers were thrown in as well, but it was easiest to see the green. "He said," I faltered and kicked myself, mentally. "He said 'your boyfriend and your brother are going to watch you die. How nice.'"
Actually, he'd said 'lover' instead of boyfriend, but that just seemed like a strange word to say when there were television cameras being pointed at me.
A little rustle came up from the reporters after that statement, but the judge glared and shut them all up. Yuki's lawyer grimaced and looked like he wanted to punch his client, but he didn't object. Thankfully. He stayed silent through my whole testimony. Caroline asked a lot more questions, and when she was done she retained the right to recall me as a witness.
The defense asked for a thirty-minute recess before cross-examination. The judge gave them fifteen.
In the hallway, I wrapped my arms around myself and shut my eyes. The floor was rocking underneath me and I wasn't sure how much longer my stomach could stand it. It was a welcome relief when Avery pressed a bottle of water into my hand.
"You did beautifully, Dana," he assured me, leaning against the wall next to me. The vacation had done wonders for him; after several weeks he was still looking rosy. His eyes were bluer and brighter than normal and his hair, somehow, seemed blonder. It was falling kind of carelessly into his face at the moment, making more than a few women give him a long glance as they scurried to the bathroom before the break ended.
I touched the bottle to my lips and tilted it back, letting the water give me an excuse to put off speaking. Eventually I couldn't drink any more and had to stop. My hands were shaking badly enough that the water was sloshing around inside the bottle. "I don't feel like it," I mumbled.
He kissed my forehead and delicately brushed some loose hair from my eyes. I'd pulled my hair back for this; it made me look younger and stopped me from playing with it. "Don't be so nervous," he said, giving my shoulder a soft squeeze. "Richardson's lawyer isn't going to bite."
"You sure about that?" I whispered, feeling my eyes get a little bigger. That image hadn't been anywhere in my mind before that moment. I looked up at him as my heart sped up.
He grinned and it slowed down a little. "He's about ten years old. I'd have him on the floor before he touched you."
I touched my head to his arm and shut my eyes. I was too tired to hug him, but I think he got the message. His green light was shedding all over me, clinging to my blouse and skirt. It didn't seep into me, which was reassuring. The effects of Yuki's blood had only lasted three weeks; I'd been back to normal before the trial even started.
It was the first week of August. He'd exercised his right to a speedy trial; it had only taken a month for the thing to get to court. Normally I would've thought that impossible; but I guess as an ex-D.A. he still had connections. Michael's birthday was in ten days. I was annoyed that Yuki's trial might bleed over into the day and ruin it for my little brother.
"It's not fair," I said, sighing. "He's wearing a suit and tie. He doesn't look like a murderer." He looked like a fully calm and composed lawyer, which of course he'd been for years and years. I probably looked like a ditzy little girl whose clothes didn't quite fit (the blouse had shrunk a bit in the wash and there'd been no time to find a new one).
"Murderers can have fashion sense," Avery said vacantly.
When that had slid into my ears all the way, I frowned and gave him a look. He was looking somewhere else though, returning the smile a woman was giving him. I pinched his arm and he turned away, such an innocent expression on his face I expected a halo to pop up above his head.
"Before we go back in…" he murmured, after a moment had passed. I reluctantly leaned away from him and looked up, his blue eyes lazily locking on mine. "You were staring at me during your testimony…?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
I shivered and took another sip from the water bottle. "Aura-sight got switched on," I mumbled, seeing a little glint shift through his eyes. "Yuki's aura was… uh… distracting."
"I suppose mine was more pleasing," he said, smirking. I made a face at him and he chuckled. "Did you manage to turn it off again?" he asked.
"Dana," he murmured.
"I know," I said, squeezing my eyes shut. He had more sense than me. I knew I should've shut it off as soon as it came on, but it was the only defense I had and… it was hard to let go of. "I know. Vlad doesn't want me using it in public until I can control my reactions. But I'm… what if he tries to use his magic?"
"He won't," he insisted. "Not here. Not with so many people," he said.
"We also thought he'd plead guilty," I mumbled.
That stumped him. He faltered and looked away from me, clenching his teeth. His fangs slid out. I knew he wasn't mad at me; all of the vampires had been… agitated… when Yuki plead not guilty. I couldn't figure it out. None of the vamps were proposing any theories, though I had the feeling they had a couple of ideas.
When the bailiff called the end of recess, it felt like the floor started swirling under my feet again. I tensed up and Avery had to peel my fingers off the bottle to get it out of my hand. He pressed a hand to the small of my back and pressed gently, helping urge me down the hallway.
"There's no way I can get out of this is there?" I asked him, teeth gnawing at my lip.
He gave my ponytail a tug and shook his head. "Don't be so scared," he murmured. That made me feel better, until he added -- in kind of a paternal, chiding tone: "And stop biting your lip. There are seven vampires within twenty feet of you. It won't do much for your nerves if they're all concentrated on blood welling through your cut."
"That's reassuring," I said, clutching my stomach. The reporters were twisting in their seats, aiming their cameras at me and scribbling on notepads and touch-screen computers.
Avery leaned down and put his mouth next to my ear, hiding his face so his words couldn't be recorded by any of our audience. "If it makes you feel better, sweetheart, Richardson's lawyer is trying to get his client the death penalty," he whispered, lips brushing my skin.
I tripped on the tile floor, barely managing to catch myself on one of the benches. The bailiff popped up next to me and wrapped a strong hand around my wrist, asking in a heavy German accent if I was okay. I nodded vaguely, looking over my shoulder as the big vampire led me back to the witness stand. Avery winked at me as he sat down.
"You're still under oath," the judge reminded me, after silence and semi-stillness had fallen on the courtroom.
"Yes, sir," I said, settling down. The chair in the stand was extremely hard and extremely uncomfortable and creaked whenever I moved the tiniest bit. I held as still as I could as Yuki's lawyer walked over; trying to keep the squeaking of my chair off the microphone.
The lawyer strolled in front of the stand, stopping closer to the jury than to me. He looked like he'd been turned at about forty-five, maybe fifty. There was just a little gray in his hair. But he stood and walked like a twenty-five year old. His hands were casually stuck in his pockets and he was absently stroking his fangs with his tongue. He glanced up at me, running a set of dark eyes over me and taking a deep breath before asking the first question.
"Miss Reed," he murmured, turning toward his client. "You said that the defendant made a comment about your boyfriend and your brother -- Jamnis Menai and Michael Reed, respectively -- witnessing your death? Is that right?"
"Uh, yes," I said, starting to bite at my lip again before I noticed Avery in the audience. I swallowed hard and forced my jaw to relax. I tried to distract myself by fiddling with the hem of my skirt.
"And you also said you were being strangled at the time this alleged statement was made?"
I hesitated and I don't think I was able to keep the confusion off my face. "Yes…"
"It's safe to assume that your mind was a little clouded at that moment, then, isn't it?" he asked.
Caroline jumped up. Well, she actually just stood up, but she did it so quickly and she was so tall that it seemed like she jumped out of her chair. "Objection!" she called, gesturing at her competition. "Leading the witness, your honor."
"I'll rephrase," the lawyer said, turning his dark eyes on Caroline. She squared her shoulders and sat down slowly, turning her attention back to her notes and effectively snubbing the defense. "Miss Reed, while you were being strangled, what was your state of mind?"
I stared at him. He glanced away from Caroline and blinked at me. He was serious. "I was afraid," I said, stopping just short of frowning at him. A glance at the jury revealed they shared my thoughts.
A glance a Yuki revealed he was still focused on his former employee. He'd propped his elbows on the table in front of him and was resting his head in one hand while the other scribbled at a sheet of paper. If they were notes on the proceedings, I would've been shocked. He wasn't just staring at her, he was… moving his eyes over her, watching every time she shifted in her chair, every time she looked up from her papers.
His lawyer made me stop thinking about that, though. "So, were you concentrating mostly on the hands on your throat or the sounds around you?"
"The… the hands," I said, tension in my muscles leaving. My mind couldn't focus on being nervous when it was just so damned confused. Had he just admitted that his client did strangle me? Because that's what it sounded like.
"So you were not focused on the sounds around you? Including any alleged statements made by the defendant?"
There was a moment of silence where I struggled with how much to say to that. "Not entirely focused, no," I finally said, gulping. He nodded and took a few steps towards his table, paused, and turned back towards the jury.
"So what you told us was the statement may not have been completely accurate?" he asked.
"I… Maybe," I said.
I guess I couldn't say with one hundred percent confidence that I remembered the statement correctly. As the lawyer pointed out, I was being strangled at the time. I'd been a tad distracted. But I couldn't forget the gleeful tone Yuki had used; how excited he'd been that Jamnis -- who'd told him he was pathetic, nothing -- was going to witness the complete control the younger vamp had over my life. More specifically, my death.
All of the questions were like that. They dealt with things Yuki had said, things that made him seem more sadistic and creepy than his actions did alone. Basically the lawyer pointed out that I could've been making all the conversation up.
When I eventually left the witness box, though, the jury could still clearly see the bright blue brace on my leg.
I had to wait in the hallway alone for a few minutes while the judged wrapped up; I'd been the last witness of the night. I took advantage of the silence to calm myself down and switch the aura-sight off. When I was done, I looked at my watch. It was about eleven-thirty; night cases were supposed to stop by midnight and start half an hour after sunset, to give the vamps attending enough time to get a good meal.
And with that thought, Avery sauntered out of the courtroom. "I told you it wasn't going to be that bad," he said, handing me the water bottle from earlier.
I'd just unscrewed the cap when I noticed we were in the elevator, and the blond vampire had an arm casually wrapped around my waist. I started to glower at him until I heard the crash of reporters fill up the hallway; their voices were only cut off when the elevator doors slid shut.
Sighing, I sipped on the water. It occurred to me that I'd skipped dinner and hadn't eaten in at least nine hours, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to convince Avery to stop anywhere, either. "It seems anticlimactic," I said, when the elevator doors open.
"You'd prefer it if he tried to leap across the courtroom at you?" he drawled. I stuck my tongue out at him, making him laugh. He kept his arm around me as we walked through the basement of the courthouse, over to the parking deck entrance. I didn't feel like arguing. "The world ends with a whimper, Dana," he said.
I sighed. I knew the ending to this wouldn't be as explosive as the ending to Eliot's affair had been. I knew that the fact that we'd turned Yuki over to the police was going to tamper things down and make this just another bad-guy-put-in-jail story. Ending with a whimper instead of a bang had also probably saved my life and mental health. But whimpers weren't that satisfying.
At least Gavin hadn't shown up. He'd threatened to, last time we were on the phone. Probably, he realized he couldn't comfortably take that long of a trip with the new baby around.
Tobias hadn't shown up either, but I didn't blame him. Sakura told me he'd come the first night she testified, and that being so close to Yuki had wreaked havoc with his clairvoyance. That didn't mean I wouldn't see him until he went shopping again… Part of my requirements for majoring in parapsychology at the University was to complete an internship. At the Parapsychology Institute, naturally. I started on the first day of classes and Tobias was going to be my supervisor.
"Where are we meeting Jamnis?" I asked, wanting to change the subject.
"Eirene had him working," he said, fishing his keys from his pocket. "To distract him."
"We have to go to Hell?" I squeaked.
"I don't wear this outfit willingly, Dana," he said, making a gesture at the black suit and red shirt Eirene forced him and Jamnis to wear while they were working. I still groaned a bit, unhappy, and he rolled his eyes, letting go of me as we came upon his car.
When I had the door half-open, I noticed the piece of paper stuck on the windshield. At first I thought it was a flyer, but a closer look showed it was folded, and flyers generally weren't. Avery twisted the key in the ignition, ignoring the fact that I was bending around the car door to pluck the paper from under his windshield wipers.
"Just toss it on the floor, I'll throw it away later," he said, twisting in his seat to see better as he backed up.
"It might be something important," I said. He made a sound that suggested he didn't share that opinion. I only mentioned it because none of the other cars we passed had paper tucked under their windshield wipers. Turning the paper over, I realized it was an envelope. "Want me to open it?" I asked.
He passed a bill to the parking attendant and kept his hand dangling out the window, waiting for change. "Fine," he said, tone dull. The blue in his eyes was swirling, though; he wasn't doing much to hide his interest.
It took me a moment to get the envelope opened. It was small; more like the packaging for a card instead of a letter. So when I pulled a small card out, I wasn't that surprised. No, what surprised me was the fact that the card was cream-colored and had gold edging.
"Something wrong?" Avery asked, making a sharp turn.
My hands were trembling. He was confused; of course, he should've been. He hadn't gone to Caroline's party at Hell, so he wouldn't have seen the gold-edged invitation. He wouldn't have seen the thank-you-for-attending letter that Yuki sent us afterwards, or the gold edging on that, either.
Head throbbing slightly, I peeled the top half of the card up and started reading. It wasn't for Avery, which meant someone had watched us arrive and knew I wasn't in my own car. Part of me hoped that, somehow, Gavin had managed to plant the thing… but I had no such luck.
I read out loud for Avery's benefit. "Miss Reed," it began. "I want to thank you for your testimony. It is much appreciated."
"It's from Richardson?" Avery asked, startled.
I shrugged. The card was of the same stationary he'd used from the party, and his signature was at the bottom. I didn't see the use in someone faking a letter from him. My companion shook his head and muttered something under his breath.
"I suppose I will have to be content with what retribution I have been able to gain so far," I read, shivering. The handwriting was evenly spaced and extremely neat. There was no visible emotion behind the words. "I will always cherish the memories of…"
Avery yanked the card out of my hand when my voice drifted off. He waited until we'd come to a stoplight to look down at it. "Cherish the memories of the deaths I managed to accomplish," he finished reading. He shook his head and eased the car forward when the person in front of us made an illegal turn. "This man has issues," he said.
"Really? Hadn't noticed," I said, clutching at the plastic bottle. There was only a little water left, and I almost choked on it as it slid down my throat. "There was more," I said, after a minute.
He sighed and recited the rest of the card. "You have no need to fear another attack. My assistant was exorcised by your psychic friend, unfortunately," he read. I smiled a bit and wondered when I'd be able to call Tobias and thank him for that favor. "Remember that visiting days are Thursdays."
I frowned. "Visiting…"
"At the jail, sweetheart," Avery murmured.
"Oh," I said quietly.
We arrived at Hell a while after midnight. Jamnis wasn't entirely pleased by this, but he didn't leap from his seat when we walked through the door. Mostly because Eirene was sitting next to him, her slim arms forming a circle around his shoulders. I sparked a bit until she looked up at us and focused her green gaze on Avery.
"Thank God you're back," she said, fingers raking through my vampire's black hair. His blue eyes flicked over to me, and when they saw me smiling some light flashed behind them. "He hasn't spoken for the past hour. He knows he worries me when he does that," she said, half-glaring at him.
"I'm sure that was his intention, Eirene," Avery said, rolling his eyes. She turned her glare on him and disentangled herself from my boyfriend at the same time, absently patting his leg before standing up. Avery held the door open for her, delicately pushing her hand away when it skated across his chest. "Taken, remember?" he asked.
She sighed. "You boys are no fun anymore," she said, traipsing out of the room. Avery shut the door behind her. He raised an eyebrow when he saw that I'd sat down next to Jamnis and wrapped my arms around his waist.
"Hi," I murmured.
"Are you all right?" he asked. He draped an arm along the back of the couch behind me and I snuggled against his side, making him smile. He reached up and cupped my face in his hand, stroking the curve of my jaw with his thumb.
"I'm fine," I said, shutting my eyes and leaning into his palm. His skin might've been vampirically chilly, but it felt wonderful. Like a cool breeze.
"Good," he murmured. His hand curled inward slightly, just enough to give his fingers the leverage to pull me forward. I kept my eyes closed, concentrating on the soft sensation of his lips grazing mine.
The moment was ruined when the third person in the room decided to open his mouth. "As utterly heartwarming as this is," Avery said, "I am not a voyeur."
"Then leave," Jamnis growled, his hand trailing down to my throat. I made a quiet, petulant sound and opened my eyes, telling myself that pouting would not help my situation.
"I was thinking that you could stop," he countered, sitting down in one of the armchairs placed opposite the couch. Eirene's office was definitely spacious. Her desk was at the other end of the room, but we were near the door. She had the little sitting area arranged around a small table, and there was a flat-screen television on the wall.
I put my head on Jamnis's shoulder and he kissed my forehead, sighing and reluctantly sitting up all the way. "What do you want, Morgan?" he asked. There was a swish noise that made me look up, and when I did my heart skipped a beat. Jamnis had the card from Yuki in his hand, and it took him all of three seconds to read it. When he was done, he looked down at me. "You're fine," he said flatly.
"Compared to when I was on the stand," I mumbled, blushing.
He clenched his teeth and his fingers moved over my pulse. I shivered a little and he kissed me again, his mouth more than grazing mine this time. Avery said something unflattering and Jamnis twisted his head, letting his fangs scrape over my lips before reluctantly pulling away.
"Hey, we only have the sentencing phase left to go," I said.
Jamnis, Sakura, Chance, Kathleen and Michael had all testified already. Caroline called me near last because I had an attempted murder charge attached to my name. I wasn't planning on testifying during sentencing. Let the evidence speak for itself; I didn't want to go back to court if I didn't have to. Michael shared my opinion.
Sakura was adamant about speaking her piece (she wanted the death penalty -- her parents' murders had been added to the list of charges). She and Chance had delayed the wedding… they weren't going to get married until Yuki was in jail, permanently. They didn't want the press coverage from his trial doing anything to their special day.
Kathleen wasn't sure. She was a little distracted with her new job. She'd moved out of Jamnis's house, thankfully, and into the hotel room that her new employers provided her. In a few months she would be moving to a new city -- her employers ended up being the ones to help support the new branch of Hell that Eirene wanted to open up. She was dealing with what had happened by busying herself with work and with hanging out with Michael when they both had time. She wasn't giving herself time to think about it. I didn't blame her.
Jamnis thought he'd come off a little brutal if he argued for the death penalty.
"What do we do about this?" he asked, waving the card at Avery.
"If you feel like extending the trial another couple of weeks, we could turn it over to Caroline."
"And if I don't?"
"We could let Dana visit him in jail," the blond joked. Jamnis didn't take it so well. His eyes sprang open and he bared his fangs at his older companion, who shook his head and crossed his legs. "We keep it in mind. When Richardson has been in jail for ten years and is agonizing over the wait before his execution, he'll contact someone. We'll hear about it and we'll show them this letter and… he may not be able to find the help he'll want."
What? I looked back and forth between them. Avery obviously knew what he was talking about, and judging from the look on my boyfriend's face he understood it perfectly. I was the only one left in the dark. For a second I considered not asking, but they'd spoken in English… so I thought my chances of being answered were decent.
"What are you talking about?" I asked. They both just stared at me and I shifted, refusing to be intimidated. "Is this something about Yuki's lawyer trying to get him the death penalty?"
Jamnis looked at Avery. "You mentioned that, did you?" he asked, glowering.
"She was nervous," Avery said, shrugging. "I was calming her down."
"You have strange methods of calming women down, Morgan."
"I could've kissed her," he said, flashing a smile at me. I made a face at him and Jamnis laughed. Avery scratched his throat and shook himself. Wetting his lips, he put his arms on his legs and leaned forward in his chair. "You want me to explain it?" he asked.
"You brought it up," Jamnis said.
They were actually going to tell me? They weren't going to have a mysterious conversation in Russian and then find a way to change the subject? I pulled closer to my boyfriend, hoping he understood how much I appreciated this. I knew there were things they couldn't tell me, sometimes, but that didn't mean I had to like it. Being let in on a secret, for once, was nice.
"If he had plead guilty," Avery said, grudgingly, "then he would've gone to jail for… What did it add up to?"
"Over a hundred years," Jamnis murmured. "Parole after one hundred and four, or something like that, if he behaved himself in jail."
"Right," Avery said. He inhaled and stared at the surface of the coffee table for a few moments. "In that one hundred years… he would have had to subsist on commercial blood alone."
Gavin had gone without live feedings for a little over nine months, when Ariadne had been pregnant. I'd seen him in the days around Aidan's birth, and he'd been pale and a little gaunt… and he was Gavin. He was over ten times as old as Yuki was. I shivered at the thought of seeing any vampire, age regardless, after a hundred years with no live feedings whatsoever.
"Now, the laws may change in the next few decades," Avery said. "He may be permitted live feedings in… ten, twenty years. But he'll be so insane by then he won't be able to tell the difference."
"Oh," I mumbled.
"So the death penalty, even though it will take twenty-five years or more to be put into effect, will save him… half a century of madness, at least," the vampire finished. "But he may not want to wait that long. I'll give him ten years before he tries to contract a hit on himself. When that happens, we can show someone this rather disturbing letter… and he may find it slightly more difficult to find a murderer," he said, smiling.
So happy to be let in on the secret.
"Would you like me to leave you alone for a romantic moment now?" he asked, batting his eyelashes at Jamnis.
Expressionless, Jamnis stood. "I'll open the door for you," he said, mock bowing.
While I was busy blinking, Avery jumped to his feet and dashed across the room, locking my boyfriend in place with an arm around his shoulders. Jamnis flinched and tried to get away, but the blond dug his fingers into his shoulder and kept him immobile. I had to blink again, but this time they were still in the same places when my eyes opened.
When Avery spoke next, his voice was soft. "You've healed, right? The sunburn thing?" he asked, tilting his head to one side. That made his grip on Jamnis seem more affectionate and less hostile, though no less unnerving.
"It's been over three weeks," Jamnis hissed. He was slightly more unnerved about it than I was. "I've healed."
"Mmm." He leaned forward, his face very close to my vampire's. The dark-haired man was staring at the floor, doing his damnedest to ignore what a strange turn the conversation had taken. "You know, Eirene isn't the only one you've had worried," he murmured.
Jamnis started to protest and Avery merely cupped his head in his hand. "Menai, I'm taller than you," he drawled, pulling Jamnis's head down a little. "I can see you haven't healed yet. Are you going to let me take care of that or will I have to get Dana to beg you?"
"I am fine," he said, gritting his teeth.
Avery glanced at me and raised an eyebrow.
"Jam…" I murmured.
I didn't even leave my seat. He made a defeated noise and his shoulders sagged a little, giving Avery the leverage he needed. He pressed his hand over the burn, mostly hidden by Jamnis's hair, and held it there for a minute or two. I didn't bother to turn on my aura-sight, knowing that a healing lightshow was not particularly exciting. Eventually Avery dropped his hand and stepped back from Jamnis, who -- glowering -- dropped back onto the couch next to me.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?" Avery asked.
"I think Eirene is paging you," Jamnis said.
"You're welcome," the blond said, rolling his eyes and slamming the door behind him.
Neither of us said anything for a minute. Then Jamnis seemed to realize that we were alone, and we were alone long enough for me to get a little more comfortable with the thought of visiting Hell more often. He peeled off my knee brace at one point, which startled me. But he was so gentle that I barely noticed it was gone.
The entire thing was slow and careful, like he was afraid I might splinter and break apart at any moment. I'm not sure I wasn't thinking the same thing about him. In the middle of a kiss, I realized that a month ago I could've lost him forever, and if he had been human I probably would've hurt him with how hard I hugged his shoulders. But we took our time. It was just as good, even better, than anything frantic and heated would have been. We savored each other… something we hadn't had the chance to do in what felt like years.
I have to admit we snuggled for a while afterward, a new set of bite marks in my throat, though Jamnis wouldn't have called it that. 'Snuggle' was too puppy-love for him. Still, his arms were around me, and my head was lying on his chest. Even being in Hell, being flooded with little things that made me think about December, and even having just come from being forced to tell my story in front of an audience of strangers, I felt safe… resting in my vampire's arms.
It was… hmm. It was a whimper.
But sometimes a whimper can be just as nice as a bang.
Author's Note: The ending... well, I know I'm taking a risk. I'm hoping that you guys will receive it well; you've responded to my strange plot choices in the past, so I'm thinking you'll understand this one. I know it's not as satisfying as getting to see Yuki die would have been, but considering he got turned over to the police you would've had to wait about twenty-five years before he wasted away from lack of real blood or was executed. Dana would've been in her late forties. I think that might've been awkward.
I liked this story. I hope you liked it too. Yuki wasn't a typical villain. He didn't have a giant blow-out at the end... he'll kind of fade away. But I think he deserves some years of drawn-out punishment for what he did to Sakura's family. And I liked Kathleen. I think she added a little dimension to Jamnis, too. And I liked Chance and Sakura... you will definitely be seeing more of the Carters.
I have a third story planned in this series, tentatively called Blood Ties. I need to do some more plotting before I can start writing it, though. Give me a few weeks (I start college on August 16th). I hope you'll be interested enough to return. I'd like to tell you all of my ideas but I'm not sure which ones I'm going to keep and which I'll scrap. One hint I can tell you for sure is that Michael's finally going to fall for someone who is not straight, not taken, and not dead.
And here we go... reviewer recognition. I just want to give an all-over thanks to every one of you. You've been great to me. This has been a bit of a weird story, with Kathleen especially, and Yuki being such a different villain than Eliot was in the last story... Your comments have been wonderful, helped me keep writing, and at times even influenced what I wrote. So thanks for being so wonderful.
I'mAFairyPrincessLookAtMeDance: I consider Yuki hoping for the death penalty being a bit of a plot 'bend,' heh. I hope you enjoyed the chapter, and the story. Thank you for reviewing.
Liviania: I'm glad you enjoyed the humor in the last chapter, especially Vlad's conversation... I worked hard on that, ha. Thank you for your review, and all the ones you've left before!
tanya50801: Sorry it took so long to post this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for your review and great comments.
toxic-noodle725: Your last review made me laugh. I hope you enjoyed the chapter and the story. Thanks for reviewing!
FreedomStar: I am definitely glad you caught my attempt to keep only the main characters involved, when I sent Sirel away to Italy. I like her, because Dana needs someone who's just a friend, but there was nothing for her to do with Yuki. So thank you for that compliment, and thank you for the review.
Gayle of Genisis: I guess Yuki is a bit of a coward, not really doing anything to the gang in court. But I'm glad the story has been interesting enough for you to stick around till the end, and I want to thank you for all the reviews you've left -- so, thanks!
Medieval-Rogue: I don't think I could ever quite find the right words to thank you for all the help you've given me with this story, and with my skill as a writer in general. I guess the best I can say is that I wouldn't have grown as much as a writer as I have without you around. :) Onto respoding to your review. I'm really glad the last chapter accomplished a lot of the necessary winding-down, and reflected all the mess that Yuki left. And I'm happy Michael has become a more developed character, not just Dana's little brother. I know I still need to work on him, and I'm hoping to in the next story. Heh, Vlad... Vlad is an interesting character. We've talked about Yuki's, ah, depth as a villain... which I'm glad I've been able to display. Mostly though I'm glad you think Dana and Jamnis are developing as a couple, since I don't have a long-term relationship of my own to reference by. It's so weird that this story is over... but I'd like to thank you for all the help you've given me, and all the wonderful comments you've made, and all the time you've spent reviewing and beta-ing my chapters.
losingmyfaith: Oh, you finally caught up... at the second-to-last chapter, heh. But don't worry, there will be at least one other story dealing with these characters. Thank you for reviewing!
Status-Writing: Hehe, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Thank you for the review, and the wonderful compliment!
For What Its Worth: Well, she didn't manage to have a big long conversation with Tobias, but she'll definitely be seeing more of him when her internship starts. Thanks for all the reviews you've left!
Vampire's Desire: I'm glad you like that I don't give all the, uh, intimate details of Jamnis's and Dana's 'encounters.' Truth is I get a bit squeamish when it comes to that stuff. On that note, I hope you liked how I handled their 'encounter' at the end of this chapter. Thank you for reviewing!