When I woke, I knew immediately that everything was different. I felt it in my body. I felt great. Even though I had just been human again for a little while, the difference was extremely apparent. I could tell even as I was just lying there. I was back in our room, Nikolaas's and mine. I couldn't help the smile that came to my lips. I felt like it all had been some crazy dream. But yet there I was, back in the palace and a vampire once again.
I got out of bed and went to the bathroom to freshen up. I wanted to look for Nikolaas, but I had probably been out for a few days and I desperately needed to use the bathroom and brush my teeth.
As I was leaving the bathroom I felt Nikolaas's presence coming. I stopped in the middle of the room. He came through the door, holding a tray with food and a cup of blood on it. Our eyes met, and it was like time froze. The second I saw him, my whole body gave a flutter of excitement. I couldn't contain myself. I ran to him. He held the tray away from us with one hand as I threw my arms around him and pressed my lips to his. I could feel him twist his body as he reached back to set the tray on the desk. When that was done, he swiftly swept me up into his arms and carried me to the bed.
I had had my fill of pleasurable nights spent with Nikolaas before. But this was different. Being in love made a world of difference. I only wished that I had recognized my feelings earlier. Our intimacy before had been more of a byproduct of our marriage. We had to force ourselves to be together, and after a while, intimacy just occurred naturally. But now, intimacy had a whole new meaning. It was both frightening and exciting at the same time.
When we were finished, I rested my head on Nikolaas's chest with a sigh. I was out of breath, and by the rising and falling of his chest, I could tell that he was too. He wrapped an arm around my shoulder and kissed the top of my head. We lay there in silence for some time.
"Nikolaas?" I asked after a while.
"Do you love me?"
I lifted my head up so that I could look him in the eye. "Do you love me?"
"I do. Did I not make myself clear before?"
"Well, it's just…you never actually said it."
Nikolaas thought for a moment. Then he smiled at me. "You're right."
I waited expectantly, but Nikolaas didn't say anything. "Well?" I asked impatiently.
Nikolaas moved his hand down to my waist. He abruptly gave it a tug so that I turned and fell onto my back, while he simultaneously moved to lean over me. He planted his hands on either side of my body as he stared down at me, his eyes intense. "I love you, Iolani Pierce. I love you more than I ever thought I could love anything. I love you more than you'll ever be able to realize."
I put my hand up and covered his mouth. "Okay. Enough. I get it."
I saw Nikolaas's eyes turn up as if he was smiling, and then I felt a pinch on the palm of my hand. "Ouch!" I protested, pulling my hand away. The puncture wound his teeth had created healed instantly.
Nikolaas smiled, licking a drop of my blood off his tooth as he did so. "Mm. Tasty."
"What happened to causing me no more pain, huh?" I asked, raising my eyebrow.
"You're right. Here." Nikolaas put his hand near my face. "Payback."
I grabbed his hand and brought it to my lips. But instead of biting him, I kissed his hand and then smiled up at him.
"You're too good to me," Nikolaas said with a sigh. He leaned down and kissed me.
Just as I was thinking I wouldn't mind attempting another round, my stomach gave a loud growl. Nikolaas broke away from me with a laugh. "Oh, if only you could still blush," he said with a smile.
"Shut up. I haven't eaten in days, I'm sure."
Nikolaas got out of bed and pulled on his boxers. Then he went to the desk and brought me the tray of food. I sat up in bed so that I could eat. Nikolaas just watched me as I devoured my food and drank the blood. I was so hungry and so thirsty, I didn't know how I hadn't realized it before. I supposed I was too distracted by Nikolaas to care much.
"We should probably go see everyone," said Nikolaas as I finished up. "My family's really worried about you."
"Why? You turned me. All my wounds were healed."
"Yeah, but they still worry. They've missed you. I told them I'd bring you after you'd eaten."
It made me feel good to know that my new feelings of this being my home were not one-sided. "Okay." I got out of bed and the two of us got dressed and ready.
Nikolaas took me to the dining hall. Both my guards and his were gathered there, along with Azana, Nikki, Vincent, and Max. They all turned to us upon entering. A second later they were all up out of their seats and rushing towards me. I couldn't make sense of the questions as they all attempted to speak at once.
"Alright, alright!" Nikoaas called, putting his hands up to silence everyone. "Don't suffocate her. Let's all just sit and we can talk like civilized people."
We did as he suggested and all sat down. Azana was the first to speak. "Lani, it must have been terrible," she said, reaching her hand out and taking mine.
I shrugged. "Just part of everyday life as an Animage, really."
"Still. Nikolaas told us all that you endured."
I looked over at Nikolaas and he gave me a small smile as he reached to take the hand that was sitting in my lap. "I'm okay," I said, turning back to Azana. "Really."
"I hope your Animage buddies killed that Vanessa real good," said Max with a huff.
I turned to Nikolaas. "Didn't you see it?"
Nikolaas shook his head. "No. Honestly, I had no clue what was going on. All I could see was you." Nikolaas smiled over at Max. "But I'm sure they did kill her good."
"Thank you so much for saving Nikolaas's life," said Azana with a smile. "I'm sure I speak for all of us when I tell you how grateful we are."
"Yeah, Nikolaas would have died from those shots for sure," said Nikki, speaking for the first time. "And then I would have been heir! The horror."
"I'm sorry I ever doubted you," said Vincent with a shy smile. "I thought you didn't deserve my brother but now I'm starting to think that maybe it's the other way around."
I felt Nikolaas give my hand a slight squeeze. "It is," he said to Vincent with a straight face.
"I can't believe you became a vampire again," said Nikki, shaking her head in amazement. "I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing."
"The people love you all the more for it," said Max with a nod.
"This is the life I've chosen," I said with a smile. Nikolaas wrapped his arm around me and kissed my head.
"Well," said Azana with a sigh, leaning back in her seat. "I hope this life doesn't lead you to getting kidnapped again."
I shook my head. "I don't think Calcon will be trying that again. He values his life too much."
"The question I had is how he got you in the first place," said Vicky, speaking for the first time. I had almost forgotten she was there. "How'd he know where you were?"
"I thought the same thing," Beck chimed in. "The palace is free of rats, I promise you that much."
And then it hit me, like a light switch going off in my brain. I gave a quiet gasp. No one else noticed, but Nikolaas turned to me, alarmed. "What is it?" he asked quietly as the others continued to talk.
I looked down at my hands, not wanting to say it without knowing for sure whether or not it was true. "Nothing really." I jumped into the conversation with the others and we spent a while in the dining room talking.
I stared up at the house, willing myself to be wrong. I took a deep breath and went to the door. I knocked twice and waited. A minute later, the door opened.
"Lani. This is a surprise."
"Good evening, Dr. Farrow. May I come in?"
Dr. Farrow looked concerned and confused, but he let me into the house. He led me to the living room, which was bare of any real furniture since the house was more his lab than anything else. "Is everything all right? I heard you were made a vampire again. I guess it's true. It's an amazingly curious case. Would you mind if I did some tests?"
I did mind, but I wasn't going to say it. "Sure."
Dr. Farrow led me into the same room I was in before. He motioned for me to take a seat but I stayed standing as he began to take out some supplies. He was facing away from me. "So, to what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Dr. Farrow, correct me if I'm wrong, but…this isn't the first time you've run tests on me, is it?"
Dr. Farrow gave a short laugh. "Well, of course not. We did it when you were first turned as well."
"No, I mean, farther back than that. I had almost forgotten but…when I first realized I could fully transform into a hawk, you were the one that ran the tests then too."
Dr. Farrow paused for a moment, not moving. Then he continued like nothing had happened. "Yes, I believe so."
"You were one of the handful of people that knew of my ability then."
"Yes, I suppose I was."
"And you were also one of the handful of people that knew that I was coming here that day to run tests after I was turned. The day I was kidnapped for the first time."
Dr. Farrow stopped, resting his hands on the counter in front of him, but still not turning to face me. "What exactly are you saying?"
"I checked your accounts. You have a lot more money in them than you should, based off your salary at Animagia."
"You can't do that!" Dr. Farrow protested, suddenly turning around.
"I'm one of the best secret agents in all of Animagia. I certainly can do that. Dr. Farrow, you've been working with Calcon. You betrayed the company. You almost got me killed. And you blew my advantage with my shape shifting ability."
He didn't even have to bother denying it. I could see by the way he was shaking and the desperate look in his eyes that it was the truth. I would have to call him in. Animagia would take care of him.
"Please," Dr. Farrow said suddenly in a pleading voice. "Calcon got some information on me that would have been very damaging to my family and my job. He blackmailed me. I didn't know what to do. He kept asking me to do things. I tried to reject him, but he threatened me. Lani, please understand."
"I understand. But that doesn't change what you did. I'm going to have to call it in."
"No! They'll throw me in Animage prison! I can't go to that hellhole!"
"You should have thought of that before." I reached into my pocket for my phone.
Before I could get my cell, Dr. Farrow made his move. He suddenly opened a cabinet and pulled out a small stake shooter. I wondered if he had hid it there for the exact purpose of being found out by Nikolaas or me. I didn't have time to think. My hand switched direction and went for the gun that was tucked into the side of my pants. I pulled it out. Dr. Farrow and I were both pointing our weapons. I fired first. My vampire/hawk speed was no match for his. Dr. Farrow looked down to his chest in shock as the blood started to seep through his shirt. He crumpled to the ground and was dead seconds later.
I stared in dumb shock at the place where Dr. Farrow had been standing a moment ago. I hadn't expected him to get so desperate. Why would he try to go up against me? He should have known he would lose. Did he think I wandered around unarmed? I was an Animage. It was standard procedure to carry at least one weapon with you wherever you went.
I tried to tell myself that it wasn't my fault. But then I began to think of the other options I had had. Why had I shot him in the chest? Why not the arm that was holding the shooter? It was an awkward angle, but I might have been able to make it work. The more logical side of my brain tried to tell me that "might have" wasn't good enough when my life was at stake, and that had I not taken him out completely he could have shot at me from the ground. But it didn't do much good.
I was too stunned to realize that someone else was in the house until they were opening the door to the lab. I knew it was Nikolaas without looking. He came up behind me. I could feel his presence at my back. He reached out a hand and grabbed my arm, the arm that was still holding the gun out. He lowered it and I dropped the weapon. He rested his chin on my shoulder as he wrapped his arms around me.
"You followed me?" I said, my voice quiet.
"I tried not to listen, but your thoughts were loud. I had an idea of what you were doing and I was worried."
"I don't mind." I was silent for a moment. Then I started to tremble. "He was going to kill me. I didn't have a choice. He was going to shoot me."
Nikolaas shushed me in a consoling way. "It's not your fault, Lani. That man betrayed Animagia, and us, and he was ready to kill you. You did what you had to do."
I knew Dr. Farrow had betrayed us. But still, I was struggling with it. He was a part of Animagia. No matter what he had done, he was still one of us. I had known him for so long. And now he was dead by my hand. I couldn't stop my body from shaking. Nikolaas pulled me in closer.
The rest of the night was chaotic. We had had to call the proper authorities. They had come and asked a million questions of me. Then General Caymond had shown up and I had had to justify my reasoning for letting Nikolaas turn me again. It was almost dawn by the time I was finally released.
"How'd it go with Caymond?" Nikolaas asked as we began to walk back to the Nest.
"He's annoyed that I did things without his consent. And he's a little unsure of how he's going to get the other members of the Council to accept it, but he gets it. He's not about to strip me of my powers or anything."
"I'm sorry about everything."
"It's okay. I'm better now." I would carry Dr. Farrow's death with me from now on, like I did all the others. But it was just the way things were. It was the job, the lifestyle I had both been chosen for and chosen myself. I knew it would always be a struggle.
"We're in this together now," said Nikolaas, as if he had known what I was thinking.
I realized that he probably did know what I was thinking. Our bond was stronger than ever, that much had become apparent fairly quickly. We were more in tune with each other than we ever were. This time, I didn't mind it. Nikolaas took my hand in his and we walked to the Nest in silence.
The End! Hope you guys enjoyed it. I have begun work on the next set of the series, Third Company: Revelation. I should have the first chapter posted within the next few days.