Author's Rant: *hangs head* Yeah, I know-I'm a bad, procrastinating writer. But least I come with gifts! My competition season is almost over, and the only thing I have to worry about is school and work for the next several months! So, let's see if I can crank out some chapters (or just hit me up on Facebook and tell me to get off my lazy ass). On with the show!

Chapter 5

Jess didn't know how she let Mel talk her into things. But then again, Mel could probably charm the snake from the Garden of Eden if she tried. And that little idiosyncrasy she really didn't want to explore, especially since said woman was now using flat iron dangerously close to her forehead on her usually untamable curls. She already singed the top of her left ear so she didn't aspire to look like a burn victim with a bright red welt—or welts—smack dab on her face like some botched testimony.

Even if she wore makeup on a regular basis, which she didn't, it still wouldn't cover up a burn, that's for sure.

The hair makeover was just the icing on the cake. Mel made the promise to make her Chocolate Death's for the rest of the month while they were at work on the condition if she could "spruce up" her appearance a bit for one night while they went out. Whoo boy, what did she agree to?

Mel swore she would keep it tame, tame being the operative word. The tight red and black lace corset top that cut off all sorts of lung capacity was making her think otherwise. Least it was only when she sat down, and it made her small rack look pretty damn impressive. Corsets were definitely instant hooter enhancers. And she had the decency to let her wear a skirt that least went to mid-thigh and didn't make her look like she was a street-walker.

"You almost done?" Jess squirmed in her chair and shifted her legs for the umpteenth time in the past hour. Mel answered by flipping the small lock of hair she had been working on right into her eyes.

"You keep asking me that like some lil' kid on a car trip—'Are you done yet? Are you done yet?'" Mel retorted lowly, keeping her concentration on her friends' hair like she was taking a math test.

"You're the one who wanted to 'do my hair up right' ya cow, and now you're paying for it." Jess occupied her fingers with the black lace ribbon going down the front of the top Mel loaned her. One would think that she wouldn't be able to fill the thing out, but surprise, surprise, it did. Either Mel liked these things tight, or she had this stashed in a closet somewhere for here.

Okay, that was a second thing she didn't want to think about right that moment.

Neither of them talked for like another two minutes. And the silence would've been nerve wrecking if it wasn't for the rock music blaring from the iHome in the far corner and the faint sound of the television near it. Surprisingly enough Mel had a very comfy room. Not too over feminine, but surprisingly not covered entirely in black either. She had got most of her stuff second hand and Jess had had a hand—okay, more than just a hand. More like elbow deep—in refurbishing the pieces.

Java expert, fashion sense, and a lil DIY prowess. Yep, Mel was definitely good.

Jess fidgeted with the lace again. "So, why won't you let me face the mirror?"

Mel moved over to the right side. "Because I don't need you freaking out half-way and making me stop."

Okay, so not comforting. Time to think of something else. Jess dug her bare left heel into the beige carpet and tried to flip the side of the cheap throw rug her friend's bed sat on. Mel got on her ass earlier about swiveling around in the computer chair she dragged in from the living room—it was kinda how she got the burn on her ear. But she wouldn't have any part of that.

It was all Mel's fault, really.

"Has anyone ever told you you're really fidgety?"

Jess blew a strand of hair off her lips. "I'm trying not to talk, or stare at your knockers. You could poke someone eye out with those things."

A loud mix of a scoff and a giggle came from above her. "I'm wearing a tee-shirt."

"And no bra."

Mel tilted her head up with a finger under her chin. Jess could only see with her right eye since the left was currently masked in hair. "I knew you were gay for me." She barely got out of the way of Jess' long arm, and tossing a comment about another burn if she didn't stop playing.

Jess huffed loudly before complying.

Another ten minutes later Mel was finally done with the flat iron.

"There, done, finally. Chick, you got a lot of hair, but it's well worth it." Mel dipped her hand into a small jar behind her and applied something cool and sweet smelling to the straightened locks while Jess fidgeted even more now that she nearing the end of the torture.

"C'mon, let me see what you did to me." Jess kept her eyes on Mel's face. The other woman was still preening her hair with a comb, pushing locks this way and that. "I thought you said you were done."

Mel stuck her tongue out and ignored her while she finished up with Jess' hair. "There, now done. Had to make sure you had enough shellac so you won't frizz up."

"Har, har."

"Seriously girl. You have some serious curls. And your hair is thick as hell too. But once again I have proven my awesomeness and have tamed the untamable." Mel beamed proudly. She took hold of the other woman's hands and pulled her to her feet. "Okay, ready?"

Jess rolled her eyes heavenward and tried to rub some feeling back into her sore hips and ass. She was whole-heartedly expecting Mel to have done something incredibly ludicrous with her hair-the woman was known for it-but she couldn't even imagine what she seen when she finally got to see what was done.

Bone straight wasn't even in the same category for what her hair was. Her hair was parted in a zigzag pattern straight down the center and layered very becomingly around her face. Her former thick mane of curls now hung straight and not frizzy to the middle of her back and over her bare shoulders. She reached up and gazed at her reflection the same time she rubbed a few strands in-between fingertips, marveling at how soft it was. The way her hair was now one could actually tell the multiple shades of browns that her hair held.

"Oh-you're good," Jess breathed, leaning into the vanity and turning her head this way and that, running her fingers tentatively through her mane. Mel just grinned ear to ear behind her. "This doesn't even look like my hair anymore…doesn't even look like me anymore."

"And I honestly think you should get your hair straightened more, or at least let me give you regular styling tips; it looks really good on you."

Jess had tried in the past wearing her hair straight. A majority of the time it would look good for bout a day then the barest sign of water would poof it right back into curly mode. That, and it was always either way too much money in the salon or way too much time she didn't like spending with her arms above her head with a flat iron. She remembered a time when she was a teenager and her mother had wanted to straighten out her curly locks for a work Christmas function her dad had to attend…the end result of two hours of work made her look like an angry poodle. That was probably the only time she ever cried about her hair; it had been a train wreck. Least they spared her the embarrassment of attending with her hair like that. But her three brothers didn't let her hear the end of it…least not til' she beat the snot outta 'em.

Jess was a tomboy through and through and growing up around her über-jock brothers who idea of a great Friday night was watching—and playing—wrestling and slamming back Buds, and her military cop dad with an affection for firearms…yeah, estrogen was seriously lacking in her household growing up. Her mom always wished that Jess could be the cute, frou-frou, pink loving girl she always wished for, but she lucked out in that department.

It didn't stop her mom from trying though, even now when Jess was well into her mid-twenties. Phone calls from mom usually always went the same way too:

"So, have you found yourself a good man yet?"

"No Mom, I haven't. Been busy."

"Well, maybe if you tried…"

And it went off on a tangent from there for least an hour. Thank you mom, but nooo. She remembered with a sour thought the last—and only forsaken—time her mom stepped into her love life. It was some guy named Justin…fuck, he had been a glorious mess. Never wanted to actually do anything except hang out at home, and then got on her case if she didn't want to do anything when he did want to go out, and only with his friends. Always made snide remarks on her body and compared her to those buxom broads in magazines, saying maybe she should actually wear a skirt for once or try to dress sexy for him (which was pretty much dressing like a slutty Kardashian-clone)…oh, should she even think about how she caught him cheating on her in her own apartment? That had been the reason why she got another apartment and had her cousin move in with her in the first place.

Least the only thing she had to worry about from her dad and brothers was that whole overprotective alpha-male routine they liked to pull. Heh, though once in a while their manliness was pretty okay.

The thought of how her oldest brother Cameron (the corn and beef-feed linebacker he was) came for a visit from the Army base he was stationed at cross country…she had to pay him in his favorite brew for the shit he pulled with that twerp. It was well worth it too.

Mel broke her out of her train of thoughts, picking up the lavish outfit that she had set aside for herself earlier. "Let me finish getting dressed real quick then we can put on the finishing touches on you, 'kay chick?"

Jess eyed her with suspicions that were well warranted. "Finishing, touches?"

A devilish light lit up Mel's dark eyes, one fine eyebrow rose up as she glanced over her shoulder. "You'll see."

For least a good five minutes he just stared at the man in the mirror who just stared right back at him. Same blue eyes, the same black dye job he'd been rocking for a few years now, and same mug. Like maybe he could talk and connect with his inner-self and demand—more like plead—that it give him more time and wait out the weekend without any further morbid dreams or passing thoughts of warm, sticky sweet human blood, or ripping out some poor humans throat just to sate his inner bloodlust.

Every human had the good and evil part of their conscience: they pick and choose which part to listen to keep their moral compass intact. However when a human became a vampire, they received a new member added to the happy family, one that Gabe has called his inner-beast since day one (actually, most vampires called "it" that.). The beast didn't listen to rhyme or reason. It did what it wanted when it wanted, and bitched and yelled and demanded like an angry bitch when it didn't. It was like another, more primal baser part of oneself that the vampire blood unlocked.

And only those who actually got in tune with themselves could put it on mute…most of the time.

Gabe walked around on the lower level of his loft in nothing but old blue jeans that were frayed at the cuffs and a towel over his head. He made his way to the island counter-top with the lone high-back bar stool where he had his notebook computer set up and running. He swiped his finger across the touch-pad and restarted the video chat he had to abruptly pause nearly a half hour ago.

His cravings were getting worse as time ticked by. Drowning out his senses was getting more difficult to do. Taking extremely long showers just didn't help to calm pent up sexual urges; it also allowed him do some impromptu type of meditation and calm himself out. Empathy sucked royally 'round these times.

Somehow the human part was able to psyche out the primal part and decide that going after that human female Melanie wasn't a good idea. She had given him a flyer for some party that was happening down by the docks in one of the old warehouses. He just needed to concentrate on getting through the weekend and keep his beast in check until hopefully Joe had some better news come Monday. Being around mortals wouldn't help at this point.

Especially considering that Rainier confirmed that his former coven's Wilde Jagd were in fact on the move and heading to the States. Damn it all to hell. Living in California had been probably the longest place he stayed in for the past three-hundred or so years, but he should've known better.

God, he had hoped that they had thought him dead. He hoped even more that it wasn't Selene in control of the hunt. Gabe dragged the green terry towel off his head and tossed it on the back of the bars tool. It wouldn't kill him but he didn't really care for smoking, but it helped at keeping him calm. He grabbed a cigarette out of the pack of Newport's and the sliver Zippo off the counter, flicking open the lighter top and striking it. He stood there for a moment and just stared at the bright flame with a cig pursed between his lips, the yellow-orange flame dancing with the stir of his breathing.

His mind raced back to over sixty years ago. That was the last time he seen Selene, the last person he ever thought he would see. He didn't even remember why he was in Europe at the time, and with the war all around it hadn't been the brightest of ideas either. Maybe a part of him wanted to find something familiar after being distant from everything for so long.

But it had been his choice, hadn't it? He chose to leave that morning so long ago to discover the world on his own. For just a little over a hundred years all he knew was Austria and some of the neighboring countries. He knew his coven…he knew Selene.

When he seen Selene after so many centuries of loneliness it had been a welcome to his heart. Right up 'til the minute she pulled a gun out on him and shot him. There was no sense of their former love from her and none of the gentle eyes she only had for him. Her emotions were cold as the Artic. The reality of that had hurt more than the bullets she shot him down with.

Why? Why couldn't she understand his reasons for leaving? Why couldn't any of them? And what was so horrible about leaving the coven? He knew for years the Regent hid secrets, but what secrets were so important that nobody in the coven could leave it?

There was so much more than just the humans and vampires out in the world.

"Hey! Are you just gonna stand there or are you gonna burn your face off with that lighter?" Gabe blinked and shook his head out of his dark reprieve. He quickly lit the cigarette and put the lighter back down on the counter-top. He didn't notice Rainier had been waiting for him while he was spaced out in la-la land.

On the monitor was a live video feed of the man who had been his closest friend, and constant pain in the ass, ever since he left his former life and started a new one. Rainier reclined back in a lavish leather chair and a floor to ceiling window behind him that overlooked expanse of the city skyline of nighttime New York. Where Rainier's current office was at he couldn't take a guess at—he had several. Just in New York alone. All he could see of him was his head and torso, dark brown hair unbound and down to his broad shoulders, crisp pale blue dress shirt with a few buttons undone. The shirt and dark city skyline just made his sapphire blue eyes even more prominent in his dark features, not to mention the almost-constant confident smirk plastered on his mug.

"Sorry, was just thinking." Gabe took a long drag of the smoke, letting the heavy smoke linger in his mouth before letting it escape through his nostrils. "So what do you got for me?"

Rainier reached off screen and pulled back with a glass of wine, taking a swig of the dark contents. "Well, before you went off and got the urge to probably go spank it in the shower; I was going to tell you that asking that coven living up in the hills where you're at is out of question if you're asking for asylum or for them to keep quiet. Half those old Spanish pirates get on my nerves."

Fuck, what was it with everyone putting their two-cent comments towards his sex life lately? Gabe went over to the fridge, pulled out a Budweiser and twisted the top off the bottle, flicking the cap onto the growing collection in an empty coffee tin by the microwave.

He came back over to his seat and sat down, setting the cigarette in the nearby glass astray. "Lucky me they don't know where I actually squat at. But I'm gonna take a shot in the dark and say that they'll probably help out anyway just to stay in good graces with Cronus. He does run one of the biggest covens I've seen or know of."

"Now that's where you're wrong my friend. Surprisingly enough, the coven in Japan can easily rival that merry lil' band of zealots."

"Japan? Seriously?"

"Trust me on this one. But that's not what's important right now."

Rainier didn't tend to beat around the proverbial bush when it came to serious matters, surprisingly, but he was right as he usually was. What was important was getting away from the Wilde Jagd before they could pinpoint him. Gabe took a swig of his beer before he spoke. "Right. I think Tibet is looking pretty good. Nice, secluded. I can get a lifetime worth of meditation in."

"Fuckin' screw Tibet, Gabriel. No more hiding in some little secluded corner of the world. It's hard enough trying to relocate your ass if you're not trying to drop off the grid all together."

Gabe crossed his arms over the countertop and picked up the cigarette, taking a drag off it. "That was one time Rainier, and you still found me by the way." Which was still bugging the hell out of him how he managed to do that: it was sometime in the 1960's and Rainier just popped up out of nowhere one night while he was pissed off like someone shit in his cereal. They hadn't spoken to each other since the end of WWII when the older immortal helped him heal from injuries sustained in the middle of a battlefield and a well-placed mine. From the German side no less. After he had been adequately patched up, he just got up and left without a word.

All he knew one minute he had been busy having a very enlightening and philosophical debate of religious viewpoints with a group of village elders somewhere near Mount Gephel (in the Tibetan Plateau no less), the next being yoked up by the collar and dragged down the street on his ass by Mr. Cynical I-never-take-life-seriously Rainier.

"What the hell—Rainier! How in the world did you get here? How did you find me?"

"I can track anyone. And the fact I had to track you to the fuckin' roof of the world is not the highlight of my year."

Gabe had finally managed to get himself out of the older immortals grasp long enough to be on the receiving end of a mean left hook. Rainier had hauled him up by the neck and pinned him to the nearest wall…but the look he gave him that day was seared into his memory banks, as well as the emotions from him.

Rainier had feared that he had been caught.

No words came from him and Gabe kept his mouth and temper checked behind the urge to let his fist kiss his friend's jaw. To make matters even worse when an elderly Tibetan woman started throwing a colorful array of curses at Rainier, the others followed suit soon after.

Teeth, eyes, and claws were unsheathed along with a volley of choice words right back at her. Untactful and not giving two shits about it either. And then the fearful cries filled the scene of a demon walking came along with that show, but he just ignored it and kept dragging him out the village.

Luckily enough he didn't physically unleash his inner-psycho. He never knew him to act rashly…and he didn't want to see it from Rainier either. Hell, he didn't ever want to see him remotely getting pissed again. The man could make a devil cry.

Gabriel took another drag of the cancer stick. "I won't go drop off the map again I swear." More smoke escaping his nostrils. "I can't find good coffee that way anyway."

"Good deal. So just gotta find a good place for you that has plenty of Starbucks around and you're set."

"Not every Starbucks has good coffee." There were a lot of little shops that had hell of a lot better. That little shop he went to the other day had some pretty good java…and the atmosphere much more relaxed.

He took a few more drags out of the cigarette before rolling the last bit with the filter between his fingers over the ashtray and depositing the butt in there. There was already a few put out the same in the glass dish and he knew he would probably smoke the rest of the pack before the night was up. Lucky he had a full carton stashed away in the kitchen. He wouldn't be tempted to leave.

An image came unbidden to the foreground of his thoughts, appearing and dissipating quickly as a lightning strike, and just as powerful. A teasing image of a curly mane of chestnut hair, beguiling hazel-grey eyes…the scent of sun-ripened berries. It sent his body into an unexplained hum, blood growing hotter in his veins. God, it made the gnawing in his gut come back and his throat feels like he choked down glass. Fuck, he should be able to contain his hunger better than this. Why was everything going so helter-kilter now?

"Gabriel, man, you okay?" It took a bit of loud feedback from the speakers to snap him back down to reality. Rainier's face was drawn tight with concern. "You haven't fed recently, have you?"

"Don't worry about me so much. I had some pig's blood several days ago."

Rainier sat back in his chair and pushed his hair away from his forehead, shooting him a bullshit glare. "You know we can't survive off of animal's blood for long, so don't try and play it cool."

Gabe lowered his head and let his damp hair hide his eyes, gritting his teeth. "I'm fine."

There was a sigh over the speakers and a long drawn out moment of silence. "Joe told me the problems he had with the hospital."

Holy shit—what was he, twelve? "How much does he report to you?"

"Enough. And before you even think about going to go out and skin him you should know he works for me and its part of what I pay him for."

Gabe's shoulders sunk even lower. So that's what he was always trying to befriend him for…goddammit.

"I ask him to check up on you from time to time, that's all. But he does worry about you. I mean, seriously worry about you. You should try and get out and be part of the world, and not little orphan Annie at the glass window looking in all the damn time."

Humans die. It's better not to make connections…I won't have to grieve.

"Are you even listening to me? I know you kinda got into the whole rock/Goth scene but you don't have to go all Emo on me."

"Yeah, I'm listening to you." Gabe breathed, reaching for his beer. "I'm just thinking."

"Way too fuckin' hard I might add. Look at your arm." Rainier snorted.

Gabe finally looked up to the monitor with a whole lot of puzzlement on his face, looking down at his left bicep and didn't see anything. Just when he glanced back to the monitor ready to ask what the hell, Rainier didn't say anything but smugly pointed to his other arm that he had the beer held in.

"Holy—" There were fresh marks where his nails had dug in and started gouging flesh, blood running fresh and down his arm and dripping on the granite countertop. And the very moment his brain registered the injury and all sorts of not-so-wonderful hot needles of pain sliced through whatever nicotine and boozed haze he might have had.

He grabbed his towel from the back of the chair and pressed it down on his upper arm, wiping up his blood from his skin. Holy hell, he didn't even notice himself tearing at his own arm. He's dealt with the cravings before, and he's never started taking jabs at his own body before, not in over his four-hundred plus years of being a vampire. Oh, God, what was going on with him he couldn't even notice pain when it happened? He needed human blood…he—

"You need to get out." Gabe looked at the video feed image of Rainier like he just dropped a few screws down the drain, but his look was dead serious.

"I'm not going out if I'm like this."

"Your arm will heal up in a couple hours tops."

Gabe hissed at him. "You know what I mean."

Rainier took his wine glass and drained the contents. "Right now you're fighting not just your nature, but yourself as well, which makes it a whole hell lot worse. I know you're craving human blood, but your body has the Jones for something else and I can tell. You don't need to be alone right now—"

Gabe cut him short. "What if I rip out some human's throat? Damn it Rainier, what if I do that?"

Rainier leaned in close to his monitor so he could clearly see his eyes, the barest hint of a smirk playing his lips. But his eyes remained impassive. "Ask yourself this—what were you just thinking about not long ago? If it was blood madness you wouldn't be able to talk to me right now and you would be ripping out some human's throat whether you liked it or not."

Gabriel has never experienced it, but he's heard about it many times over the centuries. Blood madness was when the beast took the steering wheel, overrode central command, and went on a bloody rampage, literally. The body of the vampire turns against the mind and did anything to keep itself alive by whatever means necessary, and it always ended with a pile of corpses. Any immortal with a half decent conscience never wanted to get to that point.

"Then if this isn't—" Now it was Gabe's turn to get cut off.

"Just go out and get your mind off things. The lil' hunting party we don't have to worry about for a few days, and they're probably still looking for blonde you, not to mention nobody knows where you hole up. And if anything you can just send them home with their tail between their legs again like you've done in the past."

"Easy for you to say,"

"Heh—well it is actually. And it would be a whole lot better if you just let me have a much needed talk with ol' Cronus and we'd be done with this mess."

"I've gotten you involved with my problems enough; I don't need you even deeper in them." And I don't need you to get hurt because of me. Rainier was old, Gabriel knew that. How old he couldn't be sure of and his friend wasn't very forthcoming with that information. Every time he so much as brought up any sort of inquiry Rainier would drop it like a bad taste in his mouth and move onto another subject with a smirk on his face. He always mentioned his past was boring and not worth looking into, but if Gabe could find out where he came from he would reveal some details about his long past. He didn't want to get Rainier in Cronus' or Selene's crosshairs.

After three centuries he was still coming up with didly-squat. Talk about being enigmatic.

Gabe checked on his gouge marks, satisfied that they weren't bleeding any longer, tossing the towel on the floor behind him. The skin was an angry red around the welts but was slowly closing up. There would be nothing but a light bruise in less than an hour considering how deep they were; he was glad his idle hand didn't decide to turn into claws and go at his arm or it would be a lot more serious.

"Hard-headed as always I see." That only served to get all sorts of grumbles and evil puss from Gabe. "But I'm serious, get out of your lonely loft and go do something to take your mind off things. Can't be alone all the time."

Gabe snorted in the back of his throat, picking up his beer. "You sure seem to do it a lot."

There was an indignant snort that sounded more like static feedback over the speakers. "Who you been listening to? I'm never alone—haven't been in all my many years of living."

Wait just a damn second. All the times he's ever seen Rainier he's always been alone. Okay, if you count the giant slab of cynicism he carried around he wasn't, but he's never seen him with a companion. Though sometimes he did seem like he had the whole best-sex-of-my-life glow about him. And sometimes, just sometimes, he would catch him turning his head and closing his eyes like he was listening to a song on the wind that only he could hear. Or feeling a lover's caress gently across his cheek. And every time Gabe would see the cynicism drop from his face only to be replaced with an expression of peace, an inner peace he could only guess at.

Sometimes, it made him wonder…and surprisingly jealous.

Like clockwork Rainier flashed his characteristic snide grin, tilting his head slightly. Jeeze, now what was he brewing in that thick skull of his? "What are you cheezing about now?"

"I never told you about my wife, did I?"

One of Gabe's eyebrows went up to meet his hairline. "You were married?"

"No, still married. And speak of the devil," Rainier smiled broadly and scooted further back away from the monitor, reclining further back, lifting a hand and crooked a beckoning finger at someone apparently off screen. Gabe was a bit startled to hear Rainier say something in a language even he didn't know, not even remotely like anything he's ever heard before, but it sounded strangely beautiful. He heard a melodic female voice speaking in the same tongue before a slender yet statuesque woman's form in dark pants and tight fitting white shirt appeared on camera, the woman reaching out and tenderly cupping the side of Rainier's face.

Holy…it was that look again. The look he sometime seen on Rainier in the past made an appearance now, the same slight tilt of his head as if he was listening to the wind sing, the closing of his eyes. Jesus, all those times he's seen that look on him…

He felt a stabbing ping of longing in the center of his chest while he watched the exchange for what seemed like eternity. To have something like that, just to have someone who could be close to him.

Rainier never was alone—but, wait…that would make this woman a vampire too. Fuck, now how old was she?

Gabe let the thousands of questions that ricochet around his noggin stay in there for now, bringing his beer to his lips, but not before noisily clearing his throat. He was in mid guzzle when Rainier opened his eyes, shocked but not phased by the sight of his eyes, which were now a pale iridescent blue flecked with gold and glowing. Obviously this woman had some real power over him if she could get him to respond like that. Thank God he was video-chatting instead of being there, or he would be feeling a whole lot of hard male vampire arousal being thrown around.

"Sorry about that," Rainier spoke, but his expression wasn't very repentant. He took hold of the delicate hand on his jaw and yanked the owner down into his lap, situating her so her long legs were thrown over one of the thick leather armrests.

The mystery woman was a total knockout. Granted, female vampires generally were but she was something else. Honey skin, a little nose set in between perfect cheekbones and full lips. Eyes the color of emeralds fringed with dark lashes and ebony hair pulled back in a perfect chignon at the base of her head. She looked like she belonged on a cover of Victoria's Secret instead of a dimly lit business office, though she looked totally comfortable and like she wanted to be no other place except there with Rainier.

"This is Vanessa, my wife, lover," Gabe seen Rainier reach up with a hand and tenderly brush long fingers across her slender neck and over the bit of exposed collarbone, a hungry look flashing over both their eyes. "My soul. She's everything to me."

Gabriel would've never pegged Rainier to be a suck-sorry sappy romantic if he didn't see it first hand, even if it was over a video monitor. The ways he touched and looked at her made him feel like a peeping tom, thinking maybe he should turn away but it didn't seem like Rainier or Vanessa cared in the least.

God, to have someone like her.

"You say the nicest things my love, but you forgot partner-in-crime like you usually do." Vanessa smiled. She sounded like a nightingale, even over the small laptop speakers. Gabe wondered if this woman ever took up singing in her lifetime.

Rainier chuckled lightly, not taking his eyes off her face. "Well, I didn't want to embarrass you like you say I usually do in front of others, especially since this is the first time you've met Gabe."

At the mere mention of his name Vanessa perked up like a kid at an ice-cream shop and totally shut her husband down, turning her attention to the monitor with a bright and welcoming smile. "You mean the Gabriel?" attitude totally changed, she acted like seeing a close friend for the first time in years, waving at the screen. "I'm so glad I can finally see you face to face! Albeit online, but it's better than nothing. Ramah has told me so much about you."

Gabe flashed a quizzical look at the different name drop. "Ramah?" He jabbed a finger at the monitor pointing past her to the vampire who looked like he was trying to hide behind her. "You mean Rainier?"

"Ooh, you're still playing that game huh?" She turned her head and said something in that unidentifiable language to her husband who just rolled his now normal eyes at her.

Okay, Ramah was a Hindi name and Rainier sure as hell didn't look like he came from anywhere in that region, not with peepers like those. Who the hell was he?

Oh, one of these days I'm gonna pin you down and make you answer me truthfully. And I think your 'wife' will be all too willing to help.

"Ramah, huh? Old name?" Gabe smirked slyly. Rainier flipped him off.

"Yes, and before you ask: No, I'm not even remotely from that part of the world. It's a name she's known me by for ages and she the only person I let call me that."

"Oh, you're so melodramatic love. I don't know why you always have to do that with people."

"Well, if you wouldn't spoil my fun," He jabbed her in the ribs playfully, causing her to jump and squirm in his lap. "You won't have to worry about it."

Vanessa crossed her eyes at him and pushed his head back with a hand before turning her attention back to the screen. "Ignore him Gabriel; he's always been this way even before he was converted. But he grows on you, I promise. Now before my husband," she jabbed a well place elbow right into Rainier's sternum, causing him to wheeze and glare daggers at her. "I was saying how nice it is to meet you. Hopefully we can meet in the flesh sometime soon."

"Uh, yeah. That would be great." Gabe felt a little apprehensive at saying so, but it genuinely looked like Vanessa wanted to actually get to know him, to connect with him. To connect with someone else, and she was obviously a vampire too, so she wouldn't be a passing glimmer in his long existence where connections came as quick as the dawn.

"Okay, remember I'm still here you two." Rainier barked, wrapping his arms around Vanessa in an act of possession. Vanessa snuggled against him and just laughed, kissing his forehead. "But back to what I said earlier Gabe. You need to get out and just relax a little. You keep yourself so wound up and on guard you need to give your sanity a break."

"He's right Gabriel. Nobody should be alone, not even us immortals. Eternity is a very cold and dark existence without someone to share it with, even for a small time." She touched Rainier's mouth with her fingers, smiling down at him with a look of total adoration. "Even the beast inside knows and understands that." When she looked back at the screen her eyes were the same ethereal pale iridescent Rainier's had been earlier, only hers were flecked with tiny bits of green and gold. "Get out and let your soul take you to where you need to go. It's probably why your cravings have been worse this time around."

"Wait—when did Rainier tell you…?" Gabe started, but the sentence fizzled short when Rainier turned his attention to him now, sly fanged smile plastered on his face.

"Worry about it later. Just get out of your loft tonight. Go get fucked up and shit faced, get nasty with a couple of hotties, and maybe something might slap some sense into ya."

Gabe would've said something else but Rainier cut it short and ended the video conference all together. More than likely so he could have some private time with Vanessa that she was all too willing to comply to.

He smoked another cigarette and finished his beer before he just got uncomfortable in his own skin sitting there in front of his laptop, getting out of the chair and picking up the first book he seen laying on the floor near the large leather sofa, the only piece of furniture he had in the living room besides the nicely put together entertainment system and large flat panel on the wall. Whoever invented TV had to have made a Faustian bargain in their life to come up with the idea for that glorious box of silicone and wires. TV aside (okay, PS3 and Xbox too), books were still extremely entertaining. It didn't matter how many times he might have read something, he could always go back and read it, near-perfect memory or not.

Give him just about anything and he would just soak it up. But at that very moment the thick book in his held his attention bout as much as paper bag. Concentration gone, not to return anytime soon.

Frustrated, he flicked the book back onto the pile by the couch before plopping down onto the thick leather cushions, arms splayed out across the back, head kicked back. Jesus, his concentration these days were so shot, which was just sad considering that he rarely ever had moments like these. And if he was going to be having a run in with some hunters anytime soon, he needed to stay sharp.

He reached up and raked his fingers through his hair, gaze fixed on the high arched white ceiling. "Get out and let my soul take me where I need to go, huh?" He mumbled on the tail end of a heavy sigh. Why would Rainier's woman even say that to him? Something that cryptic...he needed to be on the ready to get out of town if he had to. That was his life...

It doesn't have to be. Could let your guard down for one night and just go relax. No hunters, nothing holding you back.

Maybe he could handle one night out, and keep control of his hunger. Find somewhere to go get hammered...maybe go find a woman to keep him company as well. No, not in his current state; he would be liable to get a little too rough with her.

His mind stared to wander aimlessly around his psyche, somehow finding its way to the thought of that woman he seen the other day. The one with the sharp wit and killer game face...and curly chestnut hair, and those hazel-grey eyes. Why was she crossing his thoughts? Not like he would ever see her again.

Maybe I should get out for the night, Gabe thought as he got up off the couch and headed up to his bedroom.