A/N: This story is the third and final in a series. However, each story stands alone. It's meant for mature audiences as it has language and sexual content. Please be advised that if you prefer fade to black bedroom scenes, skip this one. Reviews wanted and welcomed. Thanks.

Chapter 1

December 10, 10pm

Nikolaus Schild walked off the outdoor stage making his way to his dressing room where his violin case awaited. He lifted the lid, but before putting away his Stradivarius, cleaned the rosin off the fingerboard, loosened the bow hairs, then slid the bow into its niche, and finally nestled the violin into the case.

Sweat beaded on his forehead. It was so damn hot, even at this time of night in Sydney. With his white shirtsleeve, Nik wiped the moisture from his face, and then closed the case. The large, open-air venue had a spectacular view of the water and an occasional breeze drifted onto the stage, but it never provided any real relief.

Nik picked up his case, slung it over his shoulder, and took the back door where his limo awaited. His bodyguard, Skeeter, leaned against the side of the limo, his large biceps bulging as he crossed his arms over his chest. Nik didn't need a bodyguard, but at times, it was helpful and kept up his human facade.

"Hey, Skeeter. I'm surprised they aren't here."

Skeeter opened the rear door, taking the violin case from Nik. After Skeeter shut the door, he placed Nik's case in the trunk, and then sat in the passenger seat opposite Sedrick, the driver.

"Here they come, sir," Skeeter's deep voice warned.

"Damn. Well, hope your driving skills are up to par, Sedrick."

"Yes, sir." Sedrick started the car just as the mob closed in on the limo. The screams vibrated the windows, and Nik looked outside watching them swarm the car. Fingers, hands, palms, grabbed at the limo as Sedrick edged the vehicle forward.

One female groupie rushed the limo, pressed her torso against Nik's window, lifted her 'I luv Nik' t-shirt, revealing her large, cantaloupe sized breasts. She bounced up and down screaming, "I love you, Nik. I'd do anything for you. Nik! Oh my God! I see him!"

Nik stared at the display, admiring the view. Hair as dark as midnight, fell over her shoulders, landing below her breasts. Loose curls, sprung like little coils with every jump the girl made. Dark, chocolate brown eyes stared inside the limo and regarded Nik. She knocked on the window, waving, and smiling to flash straight, white teeth.

"Stop," he commanded Sedrick. The car stopped and the shrill screams exploded outside the car. Nik pressed the button on his door and lowered the window a few inches. "What's your name?" he asked the dark-haired girl with the large chest.

"Oh my God! He's talking to me!" she screamed. "Um, I'm Cindy." She giggled and pulled her t-shirt down over her breasts.

"Cindy, would you like to go for a ride?"

After covering her mouth, eyes widening to the size of a full moon, she nodded her head, and her dark curls swung in unison with her head.

He shut the window, opened the door, and slid to the other side giving her room to sit. When she sat down, shut the door, Sedrick locked the limo doors, and rolled the car forward. The crowd parted, but continued to holler, slap the windows, and bounce like excited children at a birthday party.

He grinned at her, and she beamed back.

Nik leaned forward and pushed the button raising the partition between the front and backseats. The window was tinted giving Nik privacy. He reached down and removed a beer from the mini fridge, offering it to Cindy, but pulled it back. "How old are you, Cindy?"

She looked at the beer and then into his eyes. "Nineteen."

"Do I need to card you? Because I will." He could also read her mind, which was screaming that she was not of age.

For a moment, she simply regarded him, perhaps judging if he would card her or not. Then, thinking better of continuing her farce, she confessed, "No, I'm seventeen, but next month I'll be eighteen. I've graduated this month. I'll go to university, maybe in a few months or next year."

He opened the fridge and put the bottle back, removing a bottle of water. He handed it to her and lifted the corner of his mouth, in a lopsided smile. She took the water, sighed, and twisted off the cap. He, however, was of age, and pulled out a tumbler glass, pouring a bit of scotch into it. Nik swirled it and then took a drink, watching Cindy, considering what he wanted to do with her.

The limo drove out of the parking lot, and onto Macquarie Street, heading to Metroad one toward Sydney Airport. He needed to make his decision before they arrived at the airport, because he knew for sure he wasn't about to take her home.

She took another sip of her water, capped the bottle, and set it in a drink holder. As he pondered why he let her in his limo, she pulled her shirt over her head and dropped it on the floor. His eyebrows rose. Cindy scooted closer to him, pressing her bare chest against his body. Bold, he thought and entirely inappropriate. Then, she made a bolder move, and slid her hand between his legs. He coughed, as he nearly spit his scotch across the backseat. Her hand rubbed him, but he wasn't interested in her that way. She was undoubtedly attractive, well built and well endowed, but she was incredibly young—too young. Youth was beautiful but not desirable, not to mention, not legal.

"What do you think you're doing, Cindy?" He smiled at her, sipping the last of his scotch. She ignored his question and unzipped his pants. How did someone so young get this forward? Would she honestly perform sexual acts or have intercourse with a man she didn't know? Some young women these days, he thought as he rolled his eyes. "You think I asked you in the car to screw your brains out?"

The question halted her hand, which was in the process of slipping inside his pants. She was preposterously young and this was beyond awkward.

"Well, would you?" She blinked at him.

He frowned and removed her hand from his lap. "No."

She actually stuck out her bottom lip, but took up stroking his knee instead, perhaps believing he was kidding.

Nik grabbed her hand, removed it from his thigh, zipped his fly, and crossed his legs.

Her mouth hung open. She looked around the floor searching for her shirt, no doubt. "What a whacker! What the hell's wrong with you? Does your donger not work, or something?" She shot him a look. "Oh! I get it, you're gay!" she concluded, obviously astonished that he hadn't fallen for her charms. Instead of answering, he just watched her snatch her shirt off the floor, pull it over her head, and shove her arms through the sleeves. "Why the hell did you let me in, then?"

"You not only have a dirty mouth, but your attitude is demoralizing. I'll grant you that you're a beautiful girl, but for God's sake, have your parents not told you men do not marry women who open their legs for every Tom, Dick, or Harry?" He shook his head.

A dramatic scowl creased her brow, and she pouted, he thought she might even stick out her tongue. Disgusted, he wanted to throw her over his knee and spank her backside, except she'd probably like it. Christ almighty, her skirt was bunched around her hips, and her bottom and notch were exposed - and she waxed. "Good God, please fix your skirt. Do you have a boyfriend?" Doubting it, he waited for her answer.

"No, boys my age are dickheads. Look, I just thought you'd like a little wristy or have a gobby. I didn't know you preferred blokes."

Wristy? Gobby? He hadn't heard those terms, but he got the gist. "I assure you my preference is for women, and that is the pertinent word—women. You are not. And you need to learn that men worth having will appreciate a bit of subtlety, not to mention presenting yourself as nothing more than a coffee house where men go in and out at their leisure denigrates your propriety. Try leaving something to the imagination."

"Christ, you sound like my olds." She crossed her arms over her large breasts and stared out her window.

"No darling, I'm much older than your parents."

"Crikey, what a piker you turned out to be. Just let me out."

"Oh, I can't do that just yet."

He felt his fangs drop, and his eyes sparked to silver. She looked over her shoulder at him and frowned. Nik reached for her, yanking her to him. He brushed the dark strands of hair off her neck, and inhaled. Holding her in place, tightly against his chest, he considered how much effort he wanted to expend. Should he just feed and then wipe her memory, or give her some pleasure? No, he did not want to find his face plastered over every tabloid claiming he'd molested an underage Aussie. He could just see the headline now, Nikolaus Schild, child molester. He'd wipe her memory afterwards and let her think they just drove around, chatting.

When his teeth sunk into her soft, young flesh, she yelped, squirming in his arms. Sucking deeply he drank, enjoying the warm, sweetness of her blood. He'd known she would be sweet, just from her smell. It was a weakness with him, always had been. When he was human, if someone put strudel or torte in front of him all willpower left him. It hadn't changed in the last fifteen hundred years. Some habits never died.

When she whimpered and sobbed, he realized his venom was burning her. He retracted his fangs, licked the wound, then pushed her to the other side of the limo, and wiped her memory. He watched her eyes glaze over and then clear.

"Next time, you'll think twice about getting into a car with a total stranger, I hope." Feeling like he wanted to lecture her and call her parents, he couldn't help himself. "For God's sake, wear some panties. Do the women of your day not believe in leaving anything to a man's imagination?" He tisked and glanced out the window before adding, "In my day, imagining what was beneath a woman's skirts was half the fun, and then working to actually get under her skirts was the best game ever invented. Try a little subtlety, my dear. It's much sexier and will get you into less trouble. Now," he smiled, as he explained while using his ancient power to blur her memories, "We had a nice chat all the way to the airport. I gave you an autographed photo." He lowered the partition and asked, "Skeeter, you have any photos up there?"

Skeeter rummaged through a briefcase at his feet, and then handed one to Nik.

"Thanks." He raised the partition again, set the photo on Cindy's lap. "You will be more careful of strangers in the future. I advised you of this on our little drive. Now, wake up."

She lifted the photo and squealed, threw her arms around his neck, kissed his cheek. When she blushed, Nik gave her a crooked grin, and said, "You're welcome." He stared out the window the rest of the way to the airport.

When Sedrick stopped the limo, walked to Nik's side, opening the door, Nik instructed him to take Cindy back to the Opera House before Sedrick returned to catch the next flight to the states. Sedrick nodded, then retrieved Nik's violin case from the trunk and his one piece of luggage.

He poked his head inside the back of the limo before going into the airport. "It was nice to meet you, Cindy, be a good girl and remember what we talked about, never get into a car with a stranger." He winked at her and walked next to Skeeter into the airport.

"Sir?" Skeeter inquired, giving him a quick look.

Nik lifted his chin, affirming he heard his bodyguard.

"I was just wondering if I can have Christmas off again this year?"

Nik stopped walking and faced Skeeter. "When have I ever denied you any holiday vacation?"

"Sir, I don't like to assume."

They headed for the ticket counter. "Of course, take your vacation through the first of the New Year."

"Don't you have any more shows?"

"Not until the end of January. I'm tired and bored. I'd like a vacation myself."

"Where will you go?"

Nik placed his boarding pass on the counter for the clerk to check. "I was thinking, Saint Mary's County. It's time to be home."

December 11 3am

Skeeter drove Nik from National Airport to Saint Mary's City. They drove up the long driveway flanked by stately red cedar trees. At the end of the drive, Nik smiled when he saw the historic brick colonial. Magnolia House. The estate rested at the top of the pickaxe shaped cove off the Saint Mary's River.

The mortals thought this house, built in the seventeen hundreds, old, he found that charming. During his mortal days, even as king, he lived in what would be considered a shack by today's standards. There were no toilets, or running water, no electricity, or heat other than a fireplace in fifth century Austrasia.

Through the centuries, he'd greatly improved his standard of living. By the sixteen hundreds, Nik owned land throughout Europe. A particular favorite property was Bruckstein Castle; its acres of gardens, pastures for the horses, vast lawns, and ponds, all nestled on the outskirts of the Black Forest.

Skeeter parked in the detached garage. Nik got out, walked a few paces, and decided it was a nice night for a stroll.

"Skeeter, if you don't mind, take my case and overnight bag, please. I'm going to walk the property."

"Yes, sir," Skeeter replied and went to the trunk to retrieve the luggage and violin.

December in southern Maryland was schizophrenic. Some years, snow came late and covered the ground in about an inch or two, but other years were as brown and bleak as a graveyard in autumn. This year, December started out more like the latter.

Nik followed the brick pathway in front of his house to the backside where Saint Mary's river flowed slow and dark against his property. The tide was low and bits of shells, rocks, and cattails were exposed. If he stood by the shore long enough, he could hear the fish slap the surface of the water or the tiny fiddler crabs skittering across the sand. But tonight he heard the motor of a Deadrise oyster boat coming home - later than usual - to dock after a long day of dredging. He watched the red and green lights on the bow of the boat pierce the dark.

He wandered near the river, glancing toward the opposite shore where warm yellow lights dotted the land. His shoreline was protected in the small cove. The southern shoreline was mainly sand, whereas the northern part was rockier with bits of grass. Even in protected coves, hurricane damage could wreak havoc. Due to hurricane Isabel, a few years ago, he'd had to rebuild the dock. Several of the wooden boards had split and others suffered from usual wear, nail pops, splintering wood. That was damn expensive, he recalled as the dock reached fifty feet into the river. They'd had to take out the rotted pilings and bring in the machinery that drove the long tube-like wooden structures into the riverbed. Perhaps next year he'd add a roof to make it a covered dock, which would protect the wood from the weather, not from hurricanes, however.

Two outbuildings, both barns and neither used, were a few hundred feet off the shore in an open field. The grass grew high this far from the house. He liked the pasture feel of tall grass, dotted with white Queen Anne's Lace and wild Black-eyed Susans in Springtime. The lawn around the house was mown and the English garden, which a master gardener maintained, as Nik was not interested or able to dig, trim, plant, or weed, sprawled along the northern edge of the lawn.

In the garden, flowering plants from the soft blue petals of Smooth Aster to the indigo Downy Lobelia and the intense fuchsia of azaleas gave way to the slightly pink flowers on the Black Huckleberry bushes bloomed from spring to fall. The colors, Nik thought, are what he missed the most. At night, all hues blend into various tones of gray, but in daylight, the world lights up in technicolor. Now, he had to settle for paintings or photos to enjoy the world brightened by color. But after November, no flowers were left, only the green of the boxwoods and other shrubbery remained.

With the river to his left, as he walked further north, he paused, bent down, grabbed a handful of sand, and let it slip through his fingers. Cool and smooth, the grains moved over his palm. He dusted off his hand and pivoted at the sound behind him, in the pasture. The swishing of grass caught his ear, as if someone or something was moving in the field. It was probably an opossum or deer, and he turned to face the water, turning his back on the pasture.

Unable to focus on the river, he turned to study the grassy area again, feeling decidedly watched. Lifting his chin, he scented the air, noting a hint of copper and vanilla, notably not smells inherent on his property. He shut out the rest of the world and listened to the area where he saw the movement.

A heartbeat.

Something alive was on his property that smelled of copper and vanilla.

He could turn to mist or he could just run. He opted to run. Within a quarter of a second he stood, looking down upon a huddled small form, which smelled of blood, lots of blood. The figure screamed as she looked up to find him staring at her.

"Stop," he commanded, while forcing her mind to silence her mouth.

Short, dark hair, spiky as winter tree branches, and as chaotic as knotted yarn, sat atop a delicate, oval face. Her full moon eyes, moist with fear, stared up at him. A quivering bottom lip, swollen and bleeding, hinted she was on the verge of hysterics. A gash on the side of her temple, scrapes on her knuckles, and a trickle from her right ear were why he smelled copper.

"What are you doing here on my land?" he asked, gently, trying not to frighten her anymore than she already was. He lifted his spell and permitted her to speak, but she did not, instead, the young woman crab-crawled backwards, away from him. Nik rolled his eyes. "Stop," he stilled her body with his command. "Tell me why you are hiding in my field."

"He...he's going to kill me," she stuttered and scrambled to get to her feet, but collapsed on her bottom. "I'm sorry. I'll go," she whimpered and attempted once again to stand.

"Who is going to kill you?" Nik stood still, watching her struggle to her feet. She was tiny, all of five feet. The woman looked more fragile than his family journals, which dated as far back as the fifth century. Once steady on her feet, she stepped away from Nik. He repeated, "Who is after you?"

"I'm sorry, I'll go. Just...let me go." She turned to run, but tripped and fell.

"Shit," Nik mumbled. "Woman, I asked a simple question, and I deserve an answer. You're on my property. I didn't seek you out to do you harm. You've interrupted my evening stroll, so tell me, why are you here?"

Softly at first, and then crescendoing, the whimpers grew into sobs. He rolled his eyes again and crouched down. Maybe if he made his six feet four frame smaller, she might calm down. But that didn't seem to have any effect. The woman laid down on the ground and curled into the fetal position, sobbing. What in the hell was he supposed to do? He didn't want to play doctor. The sun would be up soon, and he'd have to sleep.

He'd call the police, they could deal with her. Nik pulled his cell out, tapped the screen, and dialed the emergency number. The moment she heard him utter, "Yes, I need the police. Yes, thank you."

She sprang at him like an angry jack-in-the-box, clawing, grabbing at the phone in his hand, and screaming, "No, no! Hang up, please. Hang up!"

He stood, holding the phone out of her reach as he told the nine-one-one operator, "I'm sorry. It seems I don't need the police. It wasn't an intruder after all, just my friend mulling around downstairs. Thank you." He hit end and stuffed the phone back in his pocket. Hopefully, they didn't get his position. If he'd called from a landline, they would have had his address, and probably would come by to make sure he was all right.

Her hands gripped his shirt. Two large eyes stared at him, tears pouring out. One eye looked puffy, he noted. Nik tried to read her mind because she seemed intent on keeping him in the dark, but her mind was busier and more confusing than the beltway at rush hour. So many thoughts, jumbled and clogged, he couldn't make any sense of it.

"Look, you have one minute to tell me why you're on my land, bleeding, in the middle of the night, or I call the police back."

She released his shirt and stepped back. With the back of her hand, she wiped her cheeks and nose. Her winter jacket, torn and dirty, slipped off her shoulder and she shrugged it on again.

"I didn't realize I was on anyone's property. I just ran, okay. I'll go." Steadier now, the woman turned and walked away, but he caught her wrist. She snatched it from his grasp, but he took her arm instead, holding firmer this time. "Let go of me!" she demanded as if her words had power over him.

He released her, and she stumbled with momentum backwards, landing on her bottom. Nik went into his pants pocket and held the phone, letting her know he would call if she didn't start talking.

"Okay. Okay. My...boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—paranoid son-of-a-bitch, thinks I cheated on him. After he slapped me, and pushed me down the steps, I got up and ran. He came after me, but tripped over his drunk self. That's why I got away. And I just ran, all right. I'll leave."

A man hit a woman? he pondered. Of course, he knew these things happened but he'd never been privy to such occurrences.

"No, you will not. Where would you go at this time of night?"

"Just away." She shoved her hands into her coat pockets.

"Do you have family in the area? I can drive you there."

She shook her head.

"Friends?"

"No, I just came here from Pennsylvania about a month ago. Don't even have a job yet."

Christ, he should just walk away. She meant nothing to him and would only be trouble. Probably would snoop around his house, touching things, moving things, opening things, ask all kinds of questions.

So, why the hell did he say, "Look, come inside, clean up, get something to drink, maybe get some sleep and by morning you'll have a better perspective."

She eyed him, wiping her mouth with her coat sleeve, but she didn't move.

"Do you need assistance walking?"

She shook her head and took a step—more of a limp. He closed his eyes, pursed his lips, and then scooped her into his arms. It would take the rest of the night at her pace to get to the house.

"No, I changed my mind, just put me down. Please, just put me down." Squirming in his arms, pushing against his chest, her movements were as ineffective as a babe's was.

"Can't do that. So, shut up, I'm losing my patience. I can get you there faster."

She flinched, and he sighed. "Your man hit you, you're skittish and frightened, but I will not hurt you. Now, I'm taking you to my house. Skeeter will fix you a cup of tea, coffee, water—whatever you want. Then, I'll show you to a spare room with a bath. You can clean up and rest. In the morning, I'll take you to a hotel or any place you wish to go. Do we have an understanding?"

She didn't say a word, but stopped wriggling. "I'll take that as a yes. What's your name?"

After a moment of silence, she whispered, "Donella Ava Fitzpatrick." She turned her face away to stare at the path before them. "But, most people call me, Donnie."

"I am not most people, Donella. Welcome, to Magnolia House."