A/N ACK! I forgot to have Nikolaus get rid of an important item that would have kept Donella out of her room. *Smacks forehead*

Chapter 9

December 12 11pm

Donnie listened to the whispers coming from the kitchen where Nik, Kian, and Rees still sat at the table. Unfortunately, she couldn't hear about what they were speaking, but she found it odd they felt the need to speak in hushed tones. What was it they didn't want her to hear? She had a strange feeling she knew it was something terrible and frightening, but didn't know why she had that sensation.

The upstairs was eerily silent with only the creaking of old floorboards beneath her feet making any sound. The darkness added to the ominous atmosphere.

Going into her room, she closed the door staring at the made bed and cool coals in the fireplace. The fatigue, which had forced a yawn from her while playing cards with the guys, left her and she no longer wanted to sleep. In fact, she felt wide-awake.

She turned on the bedside lamp and stretched out on top of the covers. In the nightstand, she'd put a few personal items and one of those had been an old, romantic suspense novel. It had been many years since she'd read it, and hoped it kept her attention, at least until she tired enough to fall asleep.

After an hour or so, and several chapters later, Donnie heard scuffling above her. It sound as if many people were moving around upstairs, but she couldn't recall hearing anyone come up the steps.

She put down the book and got out of bed. Going to her closed door, she put her ear to the wood and strained to check for any movement in the hallway. Hearing none, she cracked open the door and peeked into the hall. When she saw no one, she crept to the top of the stairs and peered down into the foyer. The kitchen light was off. In fact, no lights were on downstairs.

Had she fallen asleep without realizing it and not heard the guys leave the house? But if they had left, who was upstairs?

A shiver crawled up her spine.

For the first time since being in Nik's house, she was frightened.

###

December 13 1:30am

"I wish we could teleport like those vampires in some TV shows," Rees whispered.

"You watch vampire movies?" Kian shot Rees a questioning look.

Rees shrugged. "Sure. They're pretty good, some of them."

"Let's get this over with, gentlemen," Nikolaus lifted Olivia into his arms. Her limbs flopped over his arms, still flexible, but cooler than normal for an immortal; however, her back had stiffened, undergoing rigor mortis.

Kian opened the bedroom window. Nikolaus stepped out onto the tiny sill, looked down at the ground below, and leapt. Rees and Kian followed him down.

He carried her away from his house toward the edge of his property where the trees crowded out the meadow and left behind the dark waters of the bay. Surrounded by loblolly pines, with their thin trunks and needles gathered at their tops, he set her down upon a bed of dried pine needles.

Kian cleared the debris away from her body leaving dusty, dry dirt encircling her. They wanted to be sure that the fire had no chance of spreading. Among the pines, on a crisp December evening, they said good-bye to their longtime friend and co-worker.

Nikolaus said a prayer in German. Rees sprinkled lighter fluid over her, and then Kian dropped the match, which would engulf her body in flames.

They stepped back, the wind pushing the orange fingers in varying directions.

"What happened?" Kian asked, unable to read the elder vampire.

"The hunter posed as a client of K. M. Escort, your business, Kian, and requested Olivia. I think they had their encounter at her house."

"That is discouraged. Why did she do that? The escorts go to a client's home, but I've told every employee not to invite them to their house."

"I have no idea why she did that. Anyway, she was with him, physically, when he turned on her, slicing her with a poisoned blade. I'm guessing that whatever is on the blade is what stops wounds from healing."

"Shit!" Rees turned his back on the fire, pacing. "What do we do, Nikolaus?"

"We hunt the son-of-a-bitch down before he has the chance to get anyone else."

"I am going to go home to Darcy. She's alone. This has me on edge; I won't lie." Kian squeezed Nikolaus' shoulder as he walked passed him.

"I'm going to get going, too. Rachel and the boys are alone. I need to find a way to prepare her. She's the youngest of us. I am sorry about Olivia, Nikolaus. I had a long history with her, too. She was a good…friend of mine." Rees followed Kian back toward the house and then to their cars.

Nikolaus stood watching the fire burn down as it consumed his friend, his lover. He needed to wait for the fire to consume most of her so he could put it out, fearing that it might set the woods ablaze if left unguarded. Once the body was reduced to near bone, he dug a deep hole, and placed her remains inside, covering them. As he tamped down the loose earth, a shrill, horrific scream came from his house; one only an immortal could have heard from this distance.

"Donnella!"

###

December 13 4:30am

"You're human!" exclaimed the stranger straddling Donnie's body as she lay in bed. He held a knife that resembled a butcher knife on steroids high over his head, preparing to drive it into the center of her chest. He seethed, eyes wide, chest heaving, while he studied her, appearing baffled and uncertain.

"I am human," she stuttered, praying this fact was in her favor.

"Why are you here…with them?" He lowered the knife but instead of putting it away as she'd hoped he would, the man pressed the blade to her throat. "Are you a sympathizer? A wanna be?"

Who was he talking about? Did he have the right house? She shook her head and a tear rolled toward the pillow beneath her head.

"Answer me!" He pushed the knife harder against her neck, and she felt a trickle of blood slide down her neck.

"I don't know who you mean."

"You're either a very good actor or one stupid bitch." He removed the knife but grabbed her throat, holding her in place. "I won't waste my knife on you. It's meant for others, and I don't need it to kill you anyways."

She tried to shake her head, pleading for him to spare her. He was obviously mad. Maybe he'd already killed Nik, Rees, and Kian, as she no longer heard them. And what about Skeeter?

He tightened his grasp and it became harder to breath. The pressure was unbearable and her lungs burned for air. She attempted kicking her legs to throw him off of her, but he was large and far bigger than she was. The world around her blurred, darkening inch by inch as her thoughts jumbled into one knotted mess, and her body stopped struggling. The last clear thought she had was that Nik might be alive and call nine-one-one. She heard someone else move in the distance, so this man was not acting alone. She would die here beneath this psycho.

###

December 13 4:31am

Nikolaus bolted to his house without thought or hesitation. Upon entering his home, he smelled the intruder. Turning to mist, he reappeared outside Donnella's room.

The hunter sat atop her with a knife held high, ready to strike. Nikolaus could not afford to be sliced with that blade and unless the hunter put it down, Nikolaus would have to rethink his strategy.

But he did put it down.

Bursting into the room, Nikolaus tackled the hunter startled to find power behind this man. The hunter's eyes went wide, and he fought to work his way to the other side of the bed where his knife lay on the floor. Indeed, the human was strong but Nikolaus was much stronger.

Nikolaus stood maintaining a grasp around the man's neck, much as the hunter had held Donella's. He slammed him against the bedroom wall, beating his body in repeated thrusts against the plaster. At one point, the wall cracked and blood trickled from the hunter's mouth.

Before he killed the bastard, he needed some information. Dropping him to the floor, Nikolaus stepped on the man's chest enjoying the sound of his breaking ribs as his foot crushed them.

"Who do you work for?" Nikolaus sneered.

"Screw you!" he spat, sputtering blood.

"Not in your lifetime, asshole." Nikolaus stepped harder. Soon the hunter wouldn't be able to breathe or a rib might poke a lung and he would die. "If you won't cooperate, I have other ways of getting information out of you." Nikolaus hauled him off the floor as the hunter screamed in agony. With one hand, Nikolaus held the hunter by the throat, his toes skimming the floor, and with the other, Nikolaus pressed his finger to the man's temple.

A soft crunching sound coming from the man's mouth, stilled Nikolaus, as the hunter grinned, his eyes rolled back in his head. White, frothy foam oozed from the corners of his mouth, and he wheezed his last breath.

Donella screamed. Nikolaus dropped the man and faced her. She sat upon the bed, covering her mouth. When Nikolaus reached for her, intending to quiet her, Donella scooted away from his touch. He looked at the body and then back at her. He moved toward her, reached behind her head to pull up the window. Once open, he lifted the hunter's corpse and chucked it out the window.

She screamed again and cringed away from Nikolaus.

"Come," Nikolaus said. But she did not move. She stared at his face, specifically at his eyes. They must be glowing silver, Nikolaus thought. Using his preternatural powers, he commanded her to move toward him. She did as he bid and the moment she was within reach, he scooped her into his arms and rushed her from the room.

In the music room, he laid her on the couch. She curled into a ball and sobbed.

"Donella, look at me." She shook her head, stubborn woman. "Look at me," he demanded. Slowly, she uncurled her body and met his gaze. "Remove the memory of my silver eyes and who threw out the hunter's body from your window from your thoughts and mind. Recall that my eyes were blue and intense and you will be unsure how the body landed upon the ground outside your window." He pulled back the supernatural power and she blinked a few times.

"Is he…" she asked unable to finish her question.

"Yes. Are you all right?" He dropped to his knees and examined the bruises erupting on her throat.

"My throat is sore," she answered hoarsely.

"What happened?" Nikolaus sat on the couch near her feet.

"I am not sure. I think I fell asleep reading my book, but I went out to the hall and…that's when he grabbed me. He must have come in another way because I was at the top of the steps. He couldn't have come up them."

"I left my bedroom window open when Rees, Kian, and I went outside. He must have come in there, although, it's awfully high."

She looked at him, puzzled, with her brow wrinkled and her lips pressed firmly together.

"Why did you have your window open in December?"

"I like fresh air."

"But it's winter."

"I can't like fresh air in winter?" He brushed a few strands of her hair off her forehead. The spiky look to it had disappeared and it lay flat against her head.

She closed her eyes and shook her head in dismay.

"I don't understand, but it's your house."

"Well, you should try to rest, it's only about five. The sun will be up in a few hours."

Her gray eyes sought his, and she looked at him, stricken with fear. Donella's bottom lip trembled and moisture seeped into her eyes. Her body shook and she began curling into herself again.

He sighed, but gently pulled her up and against his body. One arm wrapped around her shoulders, while his hand encouraged her head to rest upon his chest. He leaned back on the couch taking her with him. Her tears fell wetting his sweater and even though he knew he shouldn't attach himself to this little human, his need and desire to protect her silenced any internal dissention.

After a few minutes, her sobs quieted and gradually subsided. She sat up and wiped her face, glancing at him occasionally.

"I am tired," she admitted. "But I am frightened to sleep alone." She held his gaze, her eyes, red and watery.

How easy it would be for him to bury himself in her and temporarily shut out the world, melting away their stress if only for a fleeting moment. There was so much anger bottled inside him that cried out for release, and if he did not dissipate the fury in a positive manner, it could bubble out on its own at most inopportune times. Yet, he had made a promise to Olivia to be better to Donella than he had been to her. He wasn't certain Donella wanted a relationship with him, but he knew she found him handsome and enticing. He also knew she'd never had a fulfilling, not to mention, kind sexual experience. He could give her that, but with what would he leave her, a broken heart, more questions than answers?

"I can stay with you until you fall asleep," he offered, but did not mention that if she took too long to go to sleep, he'd simply use his power to aid her because he could not risk her waking to find him in his death sleep.

"Okay," she whispered and lifted one corner of her mouth.

Standing, he bent and lifted her in his arms. He took her to bed and wedged himself beneath her as she rested her head upon his chest. As the first yellow rays of the sun snuck into her room, Nikolaus dematerialized and took solid form once in is room.

He stared at his bed, the imprint of Olivia's body still apparent. A circle of blood, dried, stained his bedspread. Her scent hung in the air wrapping around him, consoling him or torturing him, he wasn't yet certain.

Unable to lie where she had taken her last breath, Nikolaus locked his door, his window, pulled the heavy drapes that protected him from the harmful rays of the sun closed, and spread out on his floor. With every fiber, he fought sleep; for the first time in a century, he feared his inability to wake could endanger those around him. He had been born a soldier and he had died a soldier, defending the land and people he loved.