Friday, 31 October 2014

Since you went away...

Since you went away, time has been at a stand still. Oh, I know it's moving. I know that days are passing, but in my heart - time is standing so still, the pain of losing you a raw, open wound pulsing against my soul.

It's hard to believe it has been a month since you left me. I miss you with every breath in my body and my heart aches every time I pause during the day and am forced to acknowledge that you are not here any more.

It's so cruel that life just marches on, that it doesn't care that the world no longer has you in it. I want to rail against that injustice and yet I throw myself into work and studies, and into my online world where I have commitments and expectations on me. Because life must go on they say, but deep inside my soul cries out soundlessly, and I want to scream out loud so the whole world knows my pain.

Last night I cried for you. Last night I said the words that broke my heart all over again, the words that acknowledged the truth I so wished I could deny. As my heart splintered once more, I admitted out aloud...

"Dad is dead. There is nothing I can do to bring him back."

You have left such a huge hole in my life, Dad. I know I will have good days and bad days, and time will finally start again for me and dull the pain I feel. But for now time is at a stand still, and my heart is heavy with sorrow.

I'm not ready to let you go, no matter what I admit out aloud. You are my hero, my protector, my teacher, and the kindest, most loving man in my life. I don't want you to be gone. I wish you were still here with me, making me laugh and filling me with your love.

I know I must let you go though, but not without telling you that I am who I am because of your love, support and protection. Thank you so much for being the most amazing father in the world, and for loving me so unconditionally and always being there for me.

I miss you so much, Dad, and always will.

Your loving daughter.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Reluctant Love Ch 10.1

Chapter 10.1: Throw Back Thursday

Emily awakened slowly. She felt a warm body pressing against her back and she smiled. It had been so long since she'd woken to feel Cullen lying beside her. She lay quietly for a while, just savouring the feeling of his arm lying across her waist, his breath tickling her shoulder as he slept.

She looked at the clock and then groaned. It was nine thirty!

"Cullen, we're late," she said, twisting around to face him. He mumbled in his sleep and tightened his arm around her, pulling her closer to him. He buried his face in the crook of her neck.

"Cullen," she laughed softly, threading her fingers into his silky hair as she felt his lips begin to travel over her collar bone. "We need to get up," she said, wriggling in his arms.

"Hold still," he mumbled sleepily. "I'm kissing my fiancé."

Her heart thudded in her chest at his words. For a moment she had forgotten that she'd agreed to marry him last night.

He felt her sudden stillness and moved back to look at her, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Emily?"

Her heart thudded in her chest again as she heard the hesitant note in his voice and saw apprehension in his beautiful, golden brown eyes.

"I haven't changed my mind," she smiled, her eyes glowing. "I'd just forgotten for a moment and you took me by surprise."

She saw relief cross his beautiful face and then he was pulling her closer to him, his mouth seeking hers. He kissed her long and slow and very thoroughly. She moaned and rubbed against him as his lips ignited a fire deep inside her.

She stifled another moan as his lips traveled back to her neck. "Cullen, we need to get up."

"My thoughts exactly," he chuckled, rubbing his hardness against her stomach.

Laughing, she extricated herself from his arms and climbed out the bed. "Not that kind of up," she smiled. "We're late for work. And it's my first day back too. I'm telling you, my time keeping has been shocking since I started working for you!"

Cullen grumbled and muttered under his breath about her having no romance at all which just made her laugh more. He finally realised that she wasn't going to let him have his wicked way with her and got up.

"I need to stop off at home first," he said when he'd finished his shower and put on his clothes from the night before. "I really need to bring some clothes here."

Emily was finishing securing her hair back with a clasp. "I'll meet you at the office then," she said. "I don't want to be any later on my first day back."

Cullen's eyes were thoughtful and for a moment she thought he was going to disagree with her, but then he smiled his beautiful smile and kissed the top of her head.

"Okay, love," he said. "I'll see you a bit later on."

Emily hurried out the apartment before he could change his mind. He was so stubborn when he wanted to get his own way.

She flagged a taxi and was soon at the Cullen and Cross building.

She chatted briefly with Dave, the security guard, as she signed in and then headed up to the top floor.

Beth smiled at her when she arrived.

"Dorian asked if you could go through when you arrived, Emily," the pretty blonde said.

"Thanks, Beth. Emily hurried down to her office and to deposit her bag and jacket.

Alice was positively glowing as she all but skipped into Emily's office.

"Oh, Emily, you were so right," she said happily, hugging her. "Last night was so wonderful."

"I take it things went well after we left?" Emily laughed.

Alice blushed and laughed. "Did they ever! Being with Dorian was like walking through the clouds," she sighed and Emily laughed again.

"I'm so happy for you, Alice," she smiled, giving her a quick hug. "Now I need to go see what the love of your life wants. I shouldn't be too long and you can fill me in with all the fluffy details later."

Alice laughed and went back to her own office as Emily headed to Dorian's.

The blond vampire looked up when she knocked and his face broke into a huge grin.

"Emily," he smiled, motioning for her to come in. "You're late!" he chuckled.

"Blame Cullen," she said, flushing slightly. "I assumed he had set the alarm as he's been staying at the apartment."

She sat down across from him and noticed slight changes in his face. He looked happier and more beautiful than she remembered. His blue eyes were literally shining.

"What did you say to Alice last night?" he asked with a grin.

"I just told her to follow her instincts," Emily smiled. "It just so happened that she instinctively wanted to run her hand through your hair at the time. I didn't think you'd mind," she added with a laugh.

Dorian roared with laughter, his beautiful face alight with joy. "I most definitely did not mind," he said, "once I'd gotten over the shock. Thank you, Emily. I didn't think I could feel any happier yesterday when you came home to us. Then you gave me my heart's desire too. I will be forever in your debt, love."

"You deserve it, Dorian," she said softly. "You made my happiness possible again when we met in Brussels. I'd say we're even."

He smiled a beautiful smile and then asked, "Where's Cullen?"

"Gone home to change," she told him. "Said he'd be in later."

"Maybe you two should take a holiday?" Dorian suggested. "Spend some time getting reacquainted?"

"I can't take a holiday when I've just gotten back," she laughed, though the thought of spending some uninterrupted time with Cullen was very appealing. She decided not to mention that they'd be taking some time off together soon enough, for their honeymoon. She wanted Cullen to tell his friend their news.

"Okay, on to work then," Dorian said, suddenly all business. "We didn't progress any further on the audits of our subsidiaries while you were away. I didn't think we had anyone with your skill level to complete the audits but Cullen mentioned Rafael Montana for some reason."

"Rafael is almost as good as I am," she replied, pleased that Cullen had remembered her recommendation of her old study partner's skills. "I went to university with him. I'd mentioned it to Cullen once. He could have done the job if you'd given it to him."

Dorian frowned thoughtfully, "Maybe Rafael's talents are wasted where he is at the moment. I'll have a think about it. So, are you up to getting on with the audits?"

Emily nodded. "If I may suggest that Rafael assist me?" she said. "It's just I'm going to have another project to work on fairly shortly and it may take up a bit of my time. I could use an assistant on the audits."

Dorian arched an eyebrow, "Another project?"

"Something personal," she smiled sweetly. "Nothing I can talk about just yet."

He shrugged. "Fine," he agreed. "Talk to Rafael. Make sure you get someone to cover for him before you take him away. If you give me a review of his work at the end of the audits, we'll see about moving him somewhere more suitable to his talents afterwards."

"Thanks, Dorian. He really is way too talented to be sitting stifling in his current position. Though he would never complain about it."

Dorian smiled. "Well, go get some work done, woman," he said, waving a hand dismissively.

"Yes, boss," she laughed, heading out his office.

"Alice, can you call Rafael Montana and ask him to come up to my office when he has a moment," she said when she got back to her office.

"Right away," her friend smiled. She hovered for a moment in the doorway.

"Right away?" Emily asked with a laugh.

Alice blushed. "I was just wondering. Did Dorian say anything?"

Emily smiled gently at her friend. She was obviously still a bit uncertain about her new relationship.

"He thanked me for giving him his heart's desire," she said softly. "Does that help?"

Alice's pretty face lit up with a wonderful smile, her eyes glowing with happiness. "I'll just go and call Rafael," she sighed and went back to her own office.

Rafael arrived ten minutes later and after welcoming her back, they sat down at her little meeting table and she explained why she wanted to see him. Rafael was ecstatic at the news.

"Thank you, Emily," he smiled gratefully. "I promise I won't let you down."

"I know you won't, Rafael. That's why I suggested you," she answered. "There's going to be a lot of travelling involved out to the various sites. I won't always be able to go but if you come to the first couple with me, then I'm confident you'll be able to go on site on your own."

"What about my department?" her friend asked with a frown.

"Do you have anyone in your team that can cover for you?" she asked. "Take some time over the selection because there is a good possibility that the person will be taking over permanently."

"Permanently!" Rafael said shocked. "What am I going to be doing?"

"Well, Dorian wants a full review on how you perform with the view of moving you onto something a bit more befitting your talents when the audits are completed. I've a few ideas running through my mind at the moment which I will discuss with Cullen and Dorian later on."

Rafael's expression lit up. "Thanks, Emily," he said quietly. "I really appreciate your faith in me."

"Call it payback for the sleepless nights with you at University, when I refused to give up on a particularly frustrating problem," she laughed. "You're up to the task, Rafael," she added. "I know what you're capable off."

The meeting broke up and Alice came into her office.

"Cullen is looking for you," she said.

Emily smiled. "Better go see what he wants then."

She headed up to his office and was surprised to see him looking nervous when she popped her head in the door.

"What's wrong?" she asked, bemused, as she closed the door.

"Have a seat, Emily," he said with his familiar, crooked smile.

She sat down, her expression curious as he hovered nervously over her, his beautiful face thoughtful.

"Emily," he finally sighed, kneeling in front of her. "I know I asked you last night to marry me and you said yes. But I want to do this right. I know it's corny and old fashioned in this day and age but I want every single important moment between us to be just right."

He was suddenly kneeling on just one knee, a small box in his hands. She could see his hands were shaking slightly as he opened the box and the most stunning engagement ring was revealed.

Emily felt her heart stop for a moment as she gazed at the platinum ring. It had a single, large, square cut diamond in the centre and was the most beautiful piece of jewellery she had ever seen. She felt tears gather in her eyes as she looked at Cullen's beautiful face.

"Emily Swan Mackenzie, will you marry me," he breathed softly, taking the ring from the box and sliding it slowly onto her finger. It fit perfectly and she couldn't stop the smile of joy that bloomed across her face.

"Yes, Sebastian Cullen, I will marry you," she whispered happily.

Cullen rewarded her words with a smile so loving and tender that her heart fluttered wildly and then he was pulling her to her feet and his mouth was on hers, kissing her thoroughly.

She moaned and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back with all the love inside her.

"Thank you, my Emily," Cullen whispered against her hair. "Thank you for making me the happiest man alive."

"You make it sound as if you're the only one getting something precious, Cullen," she laughed softly. "I'm getting quite a bargain here too."

She kissed him gently, smothering his laughter with her mouth. He groaned and deepened the kiss until they were both breathless. Finally he pulled away and held her hand, smiling as he looked at the ring on her finger.

"You haven't told Dorian." It wasn't a question, more a fact.

She shook her head. "I wanted to wait until you were here," she said with a smile.

"Let's do it now," he said, pulling her from the office, his steps quick.

Emily laughed as he dragged her into Dorian's office without knocking.

"We're getting married," he announced unceremoniously.

Emily burst out laughing as Dorian's face went from annoyance, at their rude interruption, to shock, at Cullen's announcement, and then to joy as he took in the meaning of the words.

The blond vampire almost bounded over the desk as he rushed to congratulate them, pounding Cullen hard on the back as he hugged him and then turning to kiss Emily warmly as he gentled the hug he gave her.

"This is brilliant news," he cried happily. "Your personal project?" he queried, looking at Emily.

She blushed and nodded and he laughed, delightedly.

"This calls for a celebration," Dorian said, "Though not right now. We do need to get some work done today," he added.

"Tonight. Maybe Alice could arrange something?"

"I'll ask her," Emily smiled. "She doesn't know yet."

"She'll be fit for nothing work wise once she finds out," Cullen laughed good naturedly as Dorian picked up his phone and asked Alice to pop up to his office.

The little, dark head woman's eyes were curious when she entered. She blushed when Dorian grabbed her to his side and gave her a long kiss before Emily told her their news.

Alice was like a two year old as she bounced around the room, kissing and hugging everyone enthusiastically. Dorian's warm gaze followed her everywhere she went until she finally made it back to his side. He really did love the tiny, exuberant, little woman so much.

"Work," he finally growled laughing, as he shooed them all from his office. He caught Alice's hand as Cullen and Emily left, pulling her back into his arms.

"You can stay a little longer," he breathed against her mouth, his tongue parting her lips so it could slide inside her sweet mouth. He drank in her little gasps of pleasure as he plundered her soft mouth over and over again.

His eyes were shining when he finally pulled away and looked down at her beautiful face, her cheeks flushed with colour, her lips swollen from his kisses.

He groaned softly, "Now I understand why Cullen finds it so hard to get any work done with his love so close to him," he said with a shaky laugh.

He gave her another quick kiss and then stepped away. "Go organise a party," he smiled affectionately.

Alice laughed breathlessly and hurried out the office.

Emily chose Karpathia's for their party. Alice was doubtful but she stuck to her guns. It just felt right to her. One day she would be entering that world completely and she wanted to make sure that she was fully accepted.

Also, the night before she had seen the pattern of the room and it felt wrong. It was old and outdated and whilst she understood the respect the more ancient vampires generated, it was their isolation for the newer members of their kind which was halting progress.

The ancient ones just didn't realise that they had so much to learn from their younger counterparts who still remembered being human. It was time to shake up Karpathia's and bring the vampire nation into the twenty first century.

Alice grumbled but finally went off to call Liam to see if he was amenable to them having a party there. She came back and said he didn't see any issues with it, as long as other vampires were free to come and go as usual.

Emily smiled happily as she worked. She kept glancing at her hand, staring lovingly at the ring on her finger. She suddenly realised that she hadn't told Anton her news. It would be the middle of the night in Spain but she called him anyway.

"For the love of God, Em!" Anton groaned sleepily when he answered. "I finally thought I was going to be able to sleep the night through when you left but you're still wakening me at silly o'clock!"

Emily laughed. "Sorry, Anton, but this news can't wait. I'm getting married!"

Silence greeted her announcement and then she heard him suck in a deep breath. "You're getting married?" he exclaimed, shocked. "Are you sure about this, Em?"

"I've never been more sure about anything in my life, Anton," she said softly.

"I'm stunned," he breathed. "And overjoyed for you, baby girl. It's just, well, you know what he is."

Emily sighed. "Yes, " she answered gently. "Anton, I don't know how to say this." She tried to make the words come out but they froze in the back of her throat.

"You're going to become like him," her brother whispered hoarsely. "Dear God, Emily! Have you seriously thought this through?"

"Yes," she sighed. "One lifetime isn't enough to be with him, Anton. It's not going to happen for a while anyway. There's plenty of time. I'll still be your baby sister."

She could hear the pleading note in her voice. She wanted her brother to accept the decisions she had made.

"Emily," he groaned, his voice sounding harsh. She heard him take another deep breath. "You know I love you, baby girl," he finally said. "I'll always support whatever decisions you make, even if I think they're complete and utter madness. If this makes you happy then I'm behind you one hundred percent."

Emily exhaled slowly and felt tears on her face. "Thank you, Anton," she said softly, wiping at her wet cheeks. "It would have broken my heart if this was something you couldn't live with. I have a favour to ask of you."

"Name it, Em," Anton said, his voice sounding warmer.

"Will you give me away?" she asked breathlessly.

This time the silence lasted longer and she was becoming worried. Finally she heard what sounded like a choked sob at the other end of the phone.

"It would be my honour, Em," Anton finally said, his voice thick with emotion.

They chatted for a few more moments and then she hung up and sighed deeply. She had Anton's approval, albeit a guarded approval.

She headed up to Cullen's office. He looked up as she entered, his eyes quickly seeing the slight redness around hers. He pushed his chair back and opened his arms.

Emily sank down onto his lap and rested her head on his shoulder.

"I told Anton," she said quietly.

Cullen frowned slightly at her subdued tone.

"I take it he knows everything?" he asked softly.

She nodded. "I've never been able to lie to him," she sighed. "He's not exactly thrilled about things but he's willing to support my decisions. He's agreed to give me away at the wedding."

"That's good, love," Cullen smiled, tilting her head back so he could see her face. "Why the tears then?"

"I was just so scared that it would be all too much for him," she answered. "I know how overwhelming all this can be. And then I remembered how Alice reacted to Chris and all the trouble that caused. It would have killed me if Anton couldn't bear to be near me anymore."

Her bottom lip trembled as she spoke and Cullen caught her mouth gently with his, kissing her lightly.

"But that didn't happen, love," he smiled gently. "It's to his credit that he loves you enough to be able to accept your decisions no matter how unusual they may be."

"Unusual," Emily laughed. "His exacts words were 'complete and utter madness'."

Cullen stroked her check tenderly, his golden brown eyes warm as they drifted over her face. "You don't have to do this, Emily," he said softly.

He laughed at her shocked expression.

"Well, you have no choice when it comes to marrying me," he clarified, his lips quirking into a smile. "But the other, it isn't a prerequisite to us being together, love."

"I know," she whispered softly. "But it feels so right, Cullen. All my instincts are telling me that it's the right thing to do."

"Then we'll trust your instincts," he smiled. "Your brother will come around to the idea, once he's met us and sees how much we love you and sees that I'll do everything within my power to make you happy."

Emily hugged him tightly and then slid from his lap, feeling more settled now she had verbalised her fears and Cullen had helped soothe them.

"We're having our little celebration at Karpathia's," she said with a smile. "Need to do some shaking up there. Hope you don't mind me using our engagement as my first battleground."

Cullen laughed. "I suppose we're getting married there too?" he asked, half jokingly. He groaned when her eyes sparkled. "I almost feel sorry for my kind," he said, shaking his head. "They have no idea what's about to hit them."

Emily laughed. "Times must change, Cullen. It's for their own good. Plus, I want to include Liam and Chris in on our celebrations. I've become quite fond of them."

"Whatever you want, Emily," Cullen smiled indulgently.

"I'm heading home now to get ready for tonight. Pick me up at eight?"

"I'm counting down the minutes already," he said softly.

To be continued...... 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Reluctant Love Ch 9

Chapter 9: Throw Back Thursday.

"How many nights have you woken up crying, Emily?" Anton suddenly asked, his voice sad. "I stopped counting myself after the first couple of months."

It was a week since they'd returned to Spain. Anton must have seen something in Dorian that had made him believe that Emily's secret was safe. He had decided against taking her away and trying to find somewhere else to hide her.

Emily didn't answer him, just kept staring at the blurring text on the page of the book she was trying to read at the poolside,
"You have such a beautiful smile, Em," he continued. "I miss seeing it. I don't think I've seen one genuine, heartfelt smile on your face since you've been here. Are you even aware of how haunted your expression is when you think no one is looking? It breaks my heart every time I see it."

"Anton, don't," she whispered, brokenly brushing at the tears that suddenly fell on her cheeks.

"Don't tell you the truth?" he asked softly. "I can't do that, baby girl. And I can't sit back any longer and watch you wilt more and more as each day goes by. You walk and talk and eat and drink but you're not really living, Emily. You're just pretending."

"There's no future with Cullen," she cried in anguish, jumping up from the lounger. "It's complicated and messed up and I can't deal with it!"

"Emily Swan Mackenzie, you couldn't run away from a problem if you tried," Anton said with a fond smile. "You're just too damned stubborn to do it. You used to drive me and Dad nuts when you were little, always wanting to know why or how? No answer was ever good enough for you. That's why you're wilting here in this beautiful Spanish sunshine. You have a problem you need to fix and you're trying to hide from it."

"He hurt me so badly," Emily whimpered, her eyes full of agony.

"And I dare say you leaving him hurt him just as badly as he hurt you. From what Dorian said the man is miserable without you," Anton said. "Hasn't he suffered enough, Emily? Haven't you both suffered enough?"

She stared at him and saw his eyes shining with love and support for her.

"It's time to start living again, baby girl," he smiled crookedly. "I'm going to miss you so much but you need to go fix your problem."

Emily sniffled. "Are you throwing me out?" she asked.

"If that's what it takes," he smiled. He pulled her into his arms and gave her a big hug. "You always could fix anything when you set your mind to it, Emily. You can fix this too, I know you can."

Emily gave a little laugh at the conviction in his voice. "When did you get to be so smart, big brother?"

"You're not the only one in the family with brains," he laughed. "Now go fix your face, it's all snotty!"

"It is not!" Emily said indignantly and then laughed when he winked at her.

"Just don't leave it so long to come home next time," Anton said, smiling.

"I won't," Emily promised. "I love you, Anton. Thanks for putting up with me."

"Any time," he smiled. "You're my baby sister and I'll always be here for you."

Less than twenty four hours later, Emily was standing outside the building of Cullen and Cross. She sucked in a deep breath and walked through the glass doors.

Dave, the security guard, looked up and his face broke into a big smile. "Miss Swan," he said delightedly. "So good to see you back."

He opened up a desk drawer and pulled out her security pass and elevator key. He pushed them across to her as she signed in. "Mr Cullen said to keep these available at all times," he told her.

Emily stared at them in surprise and then took them from the desk. "Thanks, Dave," she smiled and headed to the elevator. Her heart thumped in her chest as she got in the elevator. Cullen seemed to have been certain that she would come back.

The elevator pinged open on the top floor and Emily stepped out nervously. The office looked just the same as it had been when she left. She saw Beth's stunned face break into a big smile.

"Emily, it's so fantastic to see you back," she beamed happily. "Cullen and Dorian are in a meeting in the Boardroom. I'll just ring through."

"Beth, can you give me a minute first please?" Emily said, her hands feeling sweaty as her nerves increased.

Beth's face fell. "Cullen gave us strict instructions that if you called or came here he was to be notified straight away."

"I'll sort it if he gets annoyed," Emily promised with a smile. "I was hoping to speak to Alice first. Is she here?"

"She's in her office," Beth said.

Emily headed down to her old office. Alice's office was straight across from hers. She smiled as she saw her friend staring intently at her laptop screen.

"Can I come in?" she called softly.

Alice's head snapped round and her eyes grew big as she stared at Emily. Then she started to cry as she jumped up and threw herself into her arms.

"Oh, Emily, I've missed you so much," she cried.

Emily hugged the little woman, feeling her own emotions starting to overwhelm her. "I'm so glad you're safe, Alice," she whispered. "I was so afraid for so long."

"I'm fine, really I am," Alice reassured her. "It was really scary, Emily. But Cullen, he stood in front of me and said that no one was going to hurt me and if they wanted to try then they would have to go through him first. And then Dorian joined him and Liam. I didn't feel scared after that. I knew I was going to be okay."

"Why didn't you tell me, Alice?" Emily groaned. "I would have helped you find your brother."

"I didn't know you knew about them," she whispered. "I thought I was the only one. I did a really silly thing and I nearly paid a heavy price for it. But it all worked out in the end. For me anyway. I just wish you and Cullen weren't so hurt by it all."

"That doesn't matter, Alice. If Cullen and I shedding a few tears was the price to pay for your safety then I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, love." Emily hugged her close and smiled her first genuine smile in a long time.

"Cullen's taken care of me since you've been gone," Alice said softly. "Emily, please make him smile again. A proper one that makes his face light up as if all his Christmas' have come at once. The kind he has when he sees you."

"We have to do a lot of hard talking first. It may not be that simple, Alice. But I'm here and I'm willing to give it try. I'd better go before he scents me here and gives Beth a hard time because she didn't alert him right away."

She kissed Alice lightly on the cheek and then turned for the Boardroom. She froze when she saw both Cullen and Dorian standing at Beth's desk. Cullen's head snapped round and she saw his beautiful face for the first time in so long.

He looked tired and dejected. His eyes were dark and unfathomable as he stared at her as if seeing a ghost. His luscious hair was loose and hanging round his shoulders. He seemed rooted to the spot, as if he didn't quite believe what he was seeing.

Emily began to walk towards them just as Dorian turned and saw her too. The smile on his face was ecstatic and he strode down the hallway to capture her in a big bear hug. "I'm so glad you came back, love," he whispered against her hair.

"You can show that by letting me breath, Dorian," she laughed.

"Sorry," he groaned and released her, stepping back and grinning broadly.

"You're in my way, Dorian," Emily said with a smile.

He groaned again and stepped to the side so she could see Cullen again. She walked slowly towards him and then stepped passed him into the Boardroom. He followed and closed the door behind them.

"Hello, Cullen," she said softly, turning to face him. His eyes roamed over her face, taking in the deep circles under her eyes, the sadness that seemed to permeate her skin.

"Emily," he breathed. "Are you really here?"

"In the flesh," she said. "I'm not a figment of your imagination, Cullen."

She walked to the table and sat down. He followed and sat down facing her.

"Did you see Alice?" he asked, his eyes trying to peer into her soul.

"I just spoke to her," she answered. "She said you took good care of her."

"It was the least I could do," he muttered, a frown on his face. He looked at her again. "Have you come home, Emily?" he whispered.

She looked down at her clasped hands. "We need to talk, Cullen," she finally said. "There has been a lot of hurt on both sides. It's not a simple case of walking in here and everything goes back to the way it was."

She looked up and saw raw pain on his face.

"But you know me," she said with a small smile. "Never happy unless I'm trying to fix things. So here I am. Willing to try and fix us, if you're prepared to meet me half way."

She saw uncertainty in his eyes as well as a small bit of hope.

"You really want to try?" he asked, his voice low and strained.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't willing to, Cullen," she whispered. "I'm tired of running away. I'm tired of pretending that I'm living my life when really I'm just existing from one day to the next."

She sighed and unclasped her hands only to re-clasp them again a second later. She looked at him.

"Meeting Dorian in Brussels brought everything back and I found it just as painful then as I did when I was last here. So I guess all the moving on I thought I had done was just a lie. I could run to the ends of the Earth and I still wouldn't be able to put enough distance between us, Cullen."

He closed his eyes as if trying to escape from the raw emotion in hers.

"I thought you were dead," he said, his voice breaking. "When I couldn't find you, I thought I would go mad with grief. And then Dorian saw you in Brussels. I was happy, Emily. Happy that you were safe and well, even if you didn't want to be with me. Knowing you were safe was all I could ever really hope for. I never expected you to come back. I hoped for it. I prayed for it. But I never expected it."

He opened his eyes and they were bright with tears. "Tell me what you need from me." he whispered. "Name it, anything you want and I'll give it to you, no matter what it is."

"I want my heart back, Cullen," she whispered, her voice raw. "I gave it to you and you ripped it to shreds. When you stood with the others against me, I thought I would die from the pain it hurt so bad. How could you do that, Cullen? I gave you everything. I loved you. I trusted in you. And you threw it all back in my face when you were willing to kill my best friend even as I begged you for mercy."

Emily took a deep breath, trying to reel in the raw emotions coursing through her. "I know you argued against me helping that day but I loved you. I needed to protect you and I was left in the middle of the man I loved and the best friend I loved. I trusted in you never to hurt me. That included you not wanting to kill someone I loved to protect yourself."

"I know," he groaned, his cheeks wet with tears. "I know I let you down, Emily. It killed me to do so. For a brief moment of time the monster inside me was in control and it was determined to shatter whatever happiness I had. But it was only for a moment. And then I came to my senses. But by then it was too late. You had gone and I couldn't find you to beg your forgiveness. I'm sorry, Emily. You have no idea how sorry I am."

They stared at each other, their faces mirroring the pain they both felt.

"If you ever do anything like that to me again there will be no going back, Cullen," Emily finally said brushing the tears from her face. "I can't go through that again, not ever."

"I swear I'll never let you down again," he answered his hand reaching tentatively across the table. He slowly touched her hand lying on the table. Her heart raced at his touch but she held herself still, afraid to trust in him again.

"Emily, if you can't forgive me, I'll understand," he said softly. "If friendship is all that you can offer then I'll accept it gladly just as long as you don't hate me and I can be a part of your life, no matter how small a part."

Emily felt more tears roll down her cheeks. She hated to see Cullen so dejected, so humbled. His pain hurt her almost as much as her own pain did. She had to make a decision and she had to make it now. She couldn't drag this out any longer, hurting them both with her indecision.

She closed her eyes and more tears fell. What were her instincts telling her? Where was her infamous intuition that always seemed to lead to the correct answer from insufficient data? Could she trust him? Was Anton right in asking if he had suffered enough by losing her for so long?

"Cullen," she whispered brokenly, opening her eyes slowly. "I forgive you."

The flare of joy in his eyes and the tears that spilled over both elated and saddened her.

He flew round the table and fell to his knees beside her. He hesitantly reached out and buried his head against her stomach and wrapped his arms around her tightly. She cradled his head in her arms and cried with him as months of pain sought release.
"I'm so sorry, Emily," he wept over and over, his body shaking.

She stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head, soothing him, telling him everything was going to be all right. As his tears ebbed she tilted his head up and tenderly brushed his wet cheeks. "Forgive yourself," she whispered against his mouth. "And forgive me for the pain I've caused you too."

She kissed him, slowly and softly, feeling her heart race as she felt the sweet pleasure she had longed for so much but had been denied. Cullen's lips trembled against hers and he groaned and took over the kiss, parting her lips and tasting her with his tongue.

His hands cradled her face as his fingers traced her features gently. He kissed her again, pulling her from the chair until she was sitting in his lap and he was holding her tightly to him. "Emily, sweet Emily," he whispered. "How I've missed you. How I've long to see you beautiful face, to see your sweet smile, to hear you say my name the way you used to, so full of love."

"I meant what I said the night we first made love," she sighed softly. "I will love you forever, Cullen. Even when I told myself I hated you I knew I was lying to myself. I've loved you every moment we've been apart. I've longed for you every night. I tried to pretend I didn't care after I saw Dorian. But Anton made me see sense when he asked me how many nights had I cried in my sleep as he had stopped counting after the first couple of months."

Cullen tensed slightly, the hand stroking her face stilled and he swallowed hard.

"Who's Anton?" he asked softly, as he closed his eyes and began stroking her face again. "I'll understand If you sought comfort elsewhere, love."

Emily giggled as she realised how what she had said sounded. "I think Anton would be very shocked at the interpretation you've taken from my words."

He looked at her, his expression confused.

"He's my brother."

Cullen stared at her stunned. "I didn't know you had a brother," he gasped.

"There was a lot of things you never asked about me, Cullen," she said gravely.

"A mistake I intend to rectify," he promised, his eyes glowing with love. "When can I meet Anton? I want to thank him for taking such good care of you, love, and for giving you such good advice that you came home to me."

"I'll invite him over soon," she said, smiling. "I've spent far too much time away from him over the last few years. A mistake I intend to rectify," she laughed, echoing his words.

"Oh God, I love you so much, Emily," Cullen groaned, stealing her breath away in a glorious kiss that seemed to last forever.
"I love you too, Cullen," she said breathlessly when he finally freed her mouth from his.

She suddenly giggled and he smiled at her. "What?"

"We're sitting on the Boardroom floor," she laughed. "They're probably all outside with glasses against the wall trying to figure out what's going on in here."

"Now we're lying on the Boardroom floor," he laughed, moving so she was lying against the carpet and he was lying beside her

"Do you want to go out there?" he asked his eyes running slowly over her body.

"Not just yet," she smiled. "I want to phone Anton first."

Cullen sat up and grabbed her bag and handed it to her. She rolled onto her stomach as she dug out her cell phone.

"I have your other phone," Cullen said quietly. "I found it in a trashcan when I was looking for you."

"Throw it away," she said. "Leave it in the past where it belongs."

She dialled Anton and put the phone on speaker so she could twist round and kiss Cullen as it connected.

"This better be a bloody emergency, Em!" Anton growled in Spanish when he answered.

"No emergency. I just wanted to let you know that I arrived safely. And that I took your advice and fixed things. Oh and I have you on speaker phone," she laughed, answering in Spanish.

Anton swore at her in Spanish but she just laughed harder.

"I'm overjoyed," Anton said reverting to English. "I assume your beloved is with you, hence the speaker phone?"

"Yes, Cullen is here," she smiled.

"I'm glad you two have made up and as much as I love you to death, baby girl, right now all I want to do is sleep. Call me at a decent hour next time," he said grumpily.

"Love you too, Anton. Cullen wants to meet you so get your backside out here soon."

"I don't play happy families, you know that," he grouched, tiredly. "The last few months was more than enough happy families I can cope with for a lifetime."

"You're such a terrible liar, Anton," Emily said affectionately. "You loved every minute of it. Call me and let me know when you're coming over."

"I'm hanging up now," he warned.

"Okay, Anton. Talk to you soon."

"It's good to hear you laugh again, baby sister," he said. And she could hear the smile in his voice before he hung up.

She smiled as she disconnected and turned to see Cullen looking at her, his expression fascinated.

"You speak fluent Spanish," he said in amazement.

She nodded. "And fluent French, German and Italian."

He shook his head in shock. "How did I not know this?" he said quietly. "You were so right when you said there were many things about you that I didn't know."

Another thought seemed to strike him suddenly.

"Emily, who exactly is your brother?" he asked.

She blushed and looked sheepish. "The reason you couldn't find me was because I was living and working under my real name, my father's name rather than my mother's, which I've gone by my whole life," she admitted. "Your friend Carter Long almost found me."

"Your brother is Anton Mackenzie of Mackenzie Petrochemicals?" he exclaimed shocked.

She nodded.

"So when Carter thought he had a lead on a girl called Emily working there, it was really you?"

She nodded again. "I saw him and knew what he was straight away. I persuaded Anton not to do any business with him. I knew if he hung around long enough he would have realised that Emily Mackenzie was in fact Emily Swan."

"So you own half of Mackenzie Petrochemicals?" he said.

"Technically," she answered. "Up until recently, I've not had much to do with the company. I preferred to follow my own path and Anton was happy to take on running the place when Dad died. I was happy to let him. It worked out fine for both of us."

Cullen sat up and laughed. Emily sat up too and smiled at him. "What?" she asked.

"I just found it suddenly funny that I was paying 250K a year to a billionaire," he laughed.

"You don't have to pay me, Cullen, it's not as if I need the money" she said quietly. "I don't work for money. I work because it's what I love doing. Finding and fixing problems."

"Oh, Emily, you are so priceless," he laughed softly. "You have no idea how much we all need you to teach us what being human is all about."

"Dorian said that in Brussels," she said, her voice tense. "Cullen, I can't begin to describe how non human you all appeared to me that day. It was as if I had been looking at carefully constructed masks all the other times I'd been at the club. That day you were all stripped bare to your very cores and I was terrified of what I saw." She shuddered as she spoke and he pulled her close.

"You felt so scared yet you still stood up against us," he said, his voice full of admiration. "And we needed that, Emily. We needed your capacity for mercy and compassion to make us see that what we intended to do was so very wrong. Liam told me what happened between you in the Boardroom. He so admired your bravery, Emily. It was that bravery which made him stand with us later on that day. Don't you see, Emily? You're doing it and you don't even know that you are."

"Doing what?" she asked perplexed.

"You're fixing us, Emily," Cullen smiled, his beautiful golden brown eyes shining with love. "Subconsciously, your wonderfully unique mind recognised a problem with us and you started to automatically work on solving the problem. First with me and Dorian and then with Liam. I am constantly asked if I have found you when I go to Karpathia's, even by vampires who have never spoken to you but have just sensed your innate goodness when you've been there. We need you, love. You are our one hope of remembering what being human truly is."

Emily stared at him in shock. "Cullen, I don't know if I can do that," she whispered.

"You don't need to do anything but be yourself, love," he smiled and kissed her long and slow until she was breathless.

A knock sounded on the Boardroom door and Dorian hollered, "When you two are ready there's a welcome home party going on out here for Emily."

Emily and Cullen laughed. He jumped up and pulled her up beside him and they headed out to the party.

Emily practically glowed as she laughed and hugged all the friends she had missed so much. She pulled Alice close to her and held onto the little woman for a long time. She looked across the room to see Cullen watching her intently. His beautiful face seemed less tired than when she'd first saw him. His eyes shone as he watched her and his lips curved upwards in a heart stopping smile.

"That was the smile I was talking about," Alice sighed, her head resting against Emily's shoulder.

Emily laughed. "It is pretty spectacular," she agreed wholeheartedly.

She pulled Alice with her over to Dorian and Cullen.

"You have been sorely missed, Emily," Dorian said fondly giving her a warm hug.

"I've missed you all too," she smiled happily. "It's so good to be home."

"Your apartment is still there for you," Dorian told her. "All your things are still there, just waiting for you to return. I had a cleaning company go in once a week to keep it ready for you."

"Didn't the company need it?" she asked surprised.

"Cullen bought another apartment for the company," Dorian chuckled. "Wouldn't let anyone else stay in yours, except himself."

"It's not mine," Emily laughed, shaking her head at Cullen who had looked away, embarrassed by Dorian's revelation.

"It is now, " Dorian said. "By order of Sebastian Cullen, the deeds were transferred into your name months ago."

"Cullen," Emily groaned, her face flushing red. "You can't just give me an apartment. I'm paying you full market value for it."

"I won't cash your cheque," he said stubbornly, his beautiful face set obstinately.

"Are you really going to fight with me so soon, Emily?" he grinned, his eyes sparkling, when she glared at him.

"We'll talk about this later," she warned but her lips twitched upwards and she ended up laughing at his hopeful expression.

Dorian and Alice laughed with them.

A while later, Cullen cornered Emily in a quiet corner and kissed her thoroughly.

"Did you really stay at my apartment?" she asked when he let her breathe.

"Most nights," he said softly, hugging her close. "Your scent was there and I needed to be around you so badly."

"Oh, Cullen," she sighed and hugged him hard.

He kissed the top of her head and ran his hands through her long curls.

"About the apartment, if you really feel strongly about it, I will let you pay me back," he said. "But I would prefer if you accepted it as a welcome home gift from me. I know you don't need me to buy it for you. It would give me great pleasure if you would let me, though."

"This one time, Cullen," she smiled. "If it brings you pleasure."

"It does, love," he smiled and kissed her again. "Will you come to Karpathia's tonight, Emily?"

She tensed, automatically remembering the last time she was there.

"I don't know if I'm ready for that yet, Cullen," she whispered.

"You would be safe with me, Emily," he sighed. "Don't you think the sooner you go, the easier it will be? You need to lay the bad memories to rest."

"I can't really argue with your logic," she said and then nodded her agreement.

Cullen left her side to tell Dorian that they were leaving.

Emily met him at the elevator and was surprised to see Alice and Dorian waiting with him.

"Are you coming too?" she asked, surprised.

"Of course we are," Alice said taking her hand. "My brother Christopher will be there. I want to introduce you to him. He thinks you're great even though he's only ever heard about you."

"Why on Earth would he think that?" Emily said stunned.

"Because you saved his little sister and he loves me very much," Alice laughed, as if it was obvious.

Cullen slipped an arm around Emily and Alice walked between Emily and Dorian, holding a hand each.

Emily noticed Dorian look down fondly at the little woman between them. She smiled slowly as she recognised the feelings in his eyes. He caught her eye and silently shook his head at her raised eyebrow. So Alice had no clue that Dorian was head over heels in love with her. She could fix that.

Surrounded by the people she loved, Emily walked into Karpathia's with only a slight hesitation. Her step almost faltered when the room went deathly silent when they entered. She felt Cullen and Dorian tense and Alice grip her hand tightly.

Then the oddest thing happened. As they passed towards the back of the room, a large number of the vampires present inclined their heads in what she could only discern as being a respectful gesture.

Liam jumped up from his customary seat on the big sofa at the back of the room.

"Little Emily," he cried loudly, his beautiful face grinning broadly as held his arms out wide to her.

Emily ran the last few steps and threw herself into his arms, feeling overcome with emotion at his exuberant greeting.
"Liam, it's so good to see you again," she said breathlessly.

"It gladdens my heart to see you safe and well, little one," he said, sounding slightly choked. "Thank you for coming, Emily. For your generous, forgiving heart."

He called loudly for drinks for everyone and handed her back into Cullen's waiting arms. Alice had vanished somewhere so Emily sat between Cullen and Dorian on the sofa. She looked around the room and then turned to Liam.

"Not wishing to sound disrespectful, but how old are you, Liam?"

He looked surprised at her question. "I am somewhere in my nineteen hundredth year. Why do you ask, Emily?"

"Patterns," she said with a smile. "I just noticed the pattern of the room. I don't know why I didn't notice it before."

"What pattern?" Cullen asked laughing. "What has your mind cooked up now?"

"The younger the vampire, the nearer to the door he or she sits," Emily elaborated. "Your culture seems to associate age with wisdom and therefore the further into the room you sit, the older and more respected you are. It's why a larger number of vampires at the front of the room inclined their heads as we passed. They're more likely to remember being human therefore they are more accepting of the havoc I've inadvertently caused here. The older vampires feel differently."

Cullen, Dorian and Liam stared at her open mouthed. Liam suddenly laughed.

"Your little Emily is a treasure, Cullen," he said smiling. " I have spent the last three months trying to work out where the resistance to change was coming from and she solves the problem with a quick glance around the room and a few sentences."

Emily blushed. "To be honest, Liam, if the vampires hadn't inclined their heads as they did, I probably wouldn't have noticed the pattern."

"But you did, Emily," Liam said. "Thank you for once again coming to our rescue."

Emily cuddled into Cullen and smiled as his arms wrapped around her and he kissed the top of her head. "You constantly amaze me, love," he said softly, his voice glowing with approval.

Dorian smiled fondly at her and patted her hand. "We do so need you, sweet Emily," he smiled.

Emily saw Alice on a sofa near the door with a young vampire. His shock of dark hair and the resemblance to Alice marked him as her brother.

"Oh there's Alice," she said with a smile. "Looks like she's with her brother. I'm going to go say hi, Cullen."

"Hurry back," he smiled. "I've been without you too long already."

She kissed him on the tip of his nose as she stood up.

She reached Alice after some more head inclining, which she found embarrassing but made a point of nodding back so as not to offend anyone.

"Alice, there you are," she called as she approached her. "I wondered where you disappeared to."

"Emily, come and say hi to Chris," the little woman smiled.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Emily," Chris said, standing and inclining his head slightly. "Alice had told me so much about you."

"Lovely to meet you, Chris," Emily smiled., sitting down beside Alice. "I'm so glad you two managed to find each other again."

He smiled at Alice, his eyes warm with affection. "I am too, Emily."

He chatted for a moment and then he said he'd be back shortly and left.

"He's going for some blood," Alice smiled. "He keeps telling me he's off to talk to a friend. Like I don't know what he's doing," she laughed.

"I'm glad you're handling all this so well, Alice," Emily said. "It must have been an incredible shock to find out that not only your brother was a vampire but also Cullen and Dorian."

The little woman regarded her solemnly.

"I wasn't that surprised to find out about Cullen and Dorian," she finally said. "What did surprise me was that you knew about it."

"It surprised the hell out of me when I found out," Emily laughed. "Remember when I took time off sick when I first started at the company? That was when I found out."

Alice eyes were shining with curiosity. "So that was what was wrong with you," she exclaimed. "I always wondered what was going on around that time. Cullen and Dorian were so tense that week."

"You weren't surprised to learn about them?" Emily prodded.

"I'd seen Chris by then. The beautiful appearance," Alice sighed. "I looked at Cullen and Dorian and saw the exact same beauty. I think I knew though I never verbalised to myself."

Emily smiled. "So you think they're beautiful, do you?" she teased lightly.

Alice rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on, Emily," she laughed. "You can't take your eyes off Cullen when he's in the same room as you. His beauty draws your eyes to him. Dorian is just the same."

"I find I can avoid looking at Dorian quite easily," Emily smiled, her eyes speculative. "What about you, Alice?"

Alice blushed and looked away.

"You can tell me," Emily coaxed. "You like him, don't you?"

"Shhhh Emily," Alice groaned. "It's so embarrassing."

" Tell me," Emily smiled encouragingly.

Alice blushed deeper and groaned. "I find myself thinking about him at the oddest times," she finally said. "I have to resist the urge to run my fingers through his gorgeous blond hair. Sometimes I can barely speak if he's in the room."

Emily's smile widened. "Have you ever seen him look at you in a similar way?" she asked quietly.

"God, no," Alice groaned. "He treats me as if I'm his erratic niece or something. Always politely amused by what I say or do."

"Take a chance, Alice," Emily said, her voice low. "The next time you want to run your fingers through his hair, do it. You'll be surprised by his reaction."

Alice's face flamed hotter. "I couldn't do that, Emily," she whispered.

"Trust me, Alice," Emily laughed. "You know how I can't help fixing things. The look Dorian gave you tonight when we left the office was most definitely not the look of a fond Uncle."

Alice's eyes flew to her, confused.

"I don't know how long he's been in love with you, Alice," Emily sighed softly. "But I saw it in his eyes tonight. So if you have feelings for him, take the risk and go for it. It's scary and exciting, and sometimes incredibly painful, loving a vampire but so worth the risk."

Alice looked as if she had just been slapped across the face.

"He's in love with me?" she whispered, shocked. "He's never once even hinted that he thought about me like that. Maybe you only saw that you wanted to see, Emily."

"Oh, Alice," Emily laughed and stroked her cheek gently. "Another thing about vampires is they're monumentally overprotective of the ones they love. You've been through so much these last few months. Dorian will be afraid of doing anything to frighten you further. He'll keep his distance as long as he feels that you're still fragile."

Emily smiled as she saw a flash of hope in the little woman's eyes. "You really think he loves me?" she asked breathlessly.

"I'm certain of it, Alice," Emily smiled. "Take a chance and find out for yourself."

Satisfied that she'd done her work for the day, Emily waited until Chris returned then she made her way back to Cullen who was watching her approach with a beautiful smile on his face.

She sank onto the sofa and pulled his arms around her body, feeling happy and content. She smiled up at Dorian and his eyes narrowed slightly.

"What are you so smug about?" Dorian asked, a smile tugging at his lips. "You look like you've been up to something."

"Just fixing things," she laughed breezily as Cullen kissed the top of her head and laughed.

"Liam off to indulge himself?" Emily asked, seeing the other vampire gone.

Dorian nodded and sipped from the glass in his hand.

"Not drinking from source tonight, Dorian?" Emily asked and laughed when she saw his eye narrow further.

"I thought you'd noticed earlier that Dorian is a little preoccupied at the moment," Cullen grinned.

"I see the pattern clearly," she answered smiling.

"Will you two cut it out," Dorian said with a groan. "Nothing worse than two smug people taking the piss just because they're lives are finally back on track."

"Taking the piss?" Alice laughed coming to join them and hearing the end of the conversation. "You swore, Dorian!" she said, feigning shock and disapproval as she sat down on the other side of him.

Emily saw Dorian tense slightly as Alice's leg appeared to innocently brush his as she sat down. She stifled a giggle and Cullen looked at her, a question in his eyes as he felt her body shake against his.

"Dorian would you mind if I touched your hair?" Alice asked innocently. "I've always wondered what it felt like. It looks so soft and silky. It's so unfair that you and Cullen have hair a woman would give her right arm for."

Dorian froze and looked at Alice, his expression unreadable. "That might not be wise, Alice," he finally said, his voice low and strained.

"Why not?" Alice asked, her voice catching slightly as she tried to maintain her innocent act.

Dorian exhaled slowly. "A brief touch," he finally said.

Alice's eyes shone with excitement as she reached one small hand up and gently threaded her fingers underneath the hair at the side of his face. She watched in fascination as the blonde silky locks flowed gently through her fingers to come to rest back against his cheek.

"It's even softer than it looks," she smiled delightedly. She had risen to her knees on the sofa, bringing her face so close to Dorian's that her breath fanned his cheekbone as she spoke.

"Sit back, Alice," Dorian said sharply, his body rigid.

Alice turned her face to his and seemed almost as surprised as he was to find their faces so close.

"Did I do something wrong, Dorian?" she asked softly, a slight frown on her lovely face.

"No," he said through clenched teeth, "but I'm about to if you don't sit back right now."

"About to do what?" she asked breathlessly and then gave a startled squeak as he moved suddenly, taking her face gently in his hands and closing the gap between them until his mouth was on hers.

Emily sighed happily and cuddled against Cullen as Dorian kissed Alice with months worth of pent up hunger and desire. Her friend's arms circled his neck and she was kissing him back with just as much passion, her tiny hands threading into his hair.

"You just can't help yourself, can you?" Cullen laughed kissing the top of her head, his eyes sparkling with amusement.

Emily twisted around until she could reach his lips with hers. "Would you have me any other way?" she teased against his lips.
"I love you just the way you are, my Emily," he breathed softly and then kissed her deeply.

When they stopped kissing, Emily turned back to Dorian and Alice. Dorian was holding the little woman close to his chest, his eyes bright with joy. He looked at Emily and smiled ruefully and she laughed and then stood up, tugging Cullen with her.

"Come on," she smiled. "I think it's about time you took me home."

Cullen's golden brown eyes glowed as he hugged her to his side.

"See you two tomorrow," he called over his shoulder as they made their way from Karpathia's.

Emily wasn't surprised when he took her to the apartment. He had said he'd been spending most night's there anyway.

Cullen closed the door behind them and then leaned against it and watched her walk around the room, re-familiarising herself with the apartment.

Emily smiled gently at him and held out her hand. "Come and welcome me home properly, Cullen," she said softly.

He groaned and the emotions in his eyes deepened as he walked slowly towards her. He picked her up when he reached her and walked through to the bedroom, laying her gently on the bed.

"I've missed you so much, Emily," he whispered, his hands shaking as he slowly undressed her and then himself.

"I've longed for you so much, Cullen," she moaned softly, taking his hands and placing them against her breasts.

His mouth found hers and his tongue parted her lips gently and dipped inside her mouth, searching for hers. His hands massaged her aching breasts softly as he kissed her.

Her own hands were stroking against his skin, tracing his jaw line, the broadness of his shoulders, the hard plains of his chest.

Cullen's hands slid to her hips, stroking rhythmically as his mouth trailed kisses of fire down her throat and to her breasts, suckling gently against the hardened peaks.

His hand gently parted her thighs and then his fingers were against her hot flesh, teasing her open with gentle little touches. He began to stroke her rhythmically, dipping his fingers inside her body as she moaned and her hips rose to meet his clever hand.

Cullen pushed her higher and higher as his fangs elongated and pierced the flesh of her breast, drinking deeply of her sweet essence as she shook in his arms as she achieved her pleasure from his fingers.

He finished feeding and closed the puncture marks with his rough tongue. He moved his hand from between her thighs and she felt his hardness replace it. He groaned and slid deep inside her with one hard thrust.

She felt so full with him inside her body. Her breathing was ragged as he sat back on his heels and pulled her body up until she was sitting in his lap, impaled by this throbbing hardness.

Cullen gently smoothed the curls back from her face with one hand, the other wrapped tightly around her lower back. His lips kissed her arched throat and then travelled back to her breasts to suckle her taut nipples.

"My Emily," he breathed softly as he strove to taste every inch of her sweat slickened skin.

He began to move inside her and she moaned and held onto his shoulders as she felt pleasure coil inside her stomach as he set a slow, deep rhythm.

Emily moved her hands to his neck and pulled her body closer to his as they moved in unison. She licked at his lips and they parted, his tongue coming out to lick against hers erotically as his movements began to become faster.

His golden brown eyes were fierce with desire when she looked at him, his beautiful face flushed with passion as their movements became more frantic.

"Emily," he groaned. "You feel so good. I can't get enough of you."

She kissed him wildly and moved faster, pushing her body down against his upwards thrusts.

"Take me, Cullen," she moaned against his lips. "Take me to heaven and back again."

He groaned deeply and laid her down on her back. He rose over her, resting his hands on his elbows so as not to put his full weight on her. His fingers threaded into her curls and he began thrusting hard and deep into her tight body.

Emily moaned and thrust against him, her need spiralling higher as he relentlessly pushed her body towards the wonderful pleasure that waited for them. She didn't want it end, the feel of him inside her so intoxicating after so many months apart.

But he stoked a fire deep inside her. A fire that threaten to consume her. She moaned and pulled his mouth to hers. "Cullen," she groaned, her voice thick with need.

His own need matched hers and suddenly his movements became more frantic. He thrust harder and faster into her, his kisses wild as the breath rasped from his throat.

"Emily," he groaned hoarsely. "Now, Emily. Take your pleasure."

Emily cried out in ecstasy as white hot flames of passion erupted deep inside her. Her body shook wildly as she felt Cullen's own need spill deep inside her as he growled his pleasure loudly against her ear.

Hearts thundering and breaths rasping, Cullen rolled onto his side, taking her with him, their bodies still joined. His hand lay against her lower back, pulling her tight against him.

"I don't want to leave your beautiful body," he said with a groan. "I've missed this so much, Emily. I'm afraid if I leave, I'll never be able to feel this sweet pleasure again."

"I've missed this too," she said shakily. "I dreamed of this every night we were apart. I would wake crying because I thought I would never know this sweet bliss ever again."

"Stay with me always, Emily," he pleaded, his eyes haunted. "Life is unbearable without you at my side."

"No more running away," she whispered softly. "If we have another problem, I'll stay and try to fix it. I promise you that, Cullen."

She kissed him gently and soothed away the last remnants of hurt from his beautiful eyes.

"I want to marry you," he sighed softly.

Emily stared at him in shock. "Don't you need all manner of legal documents for that?" she asked with a nervous giggle.

"Semantics," he shrugged with a smile. "I know a man who can supply all manner of things. It's a requirement of living this life. Until someone scrutinises too closely," he added with a laugh, looking pointedly at her.

"What can I say? I hate mysteries," she laughed with a blush.

"So, what do you think?" he asked softly. "Will you marry me, Emily?" His voice wavered uncertainly, his eyes intense as he stared at her, holding his breath.

"Yes, Cullen," she breathed softly, her eyes shining with love for him. "I'd marry you in a heartbeat."

The look of joy that crossed his beautiful face caused her heart to miss a beat. He hugged her close and then kissed her gently on the lips, his smile radiant.

"I love you Emily Swan Mackenzie," he laughed happily.

Emily laughed and kissed him. "Soon to be Emily Swan Mackenzie Cullen," she giggled.

"That sounds so good," he whispered, his hand trembling as he stroked her cheek lightly. "Soon, Emily?"

"As soon as we can arrange it properly," she smiled. "I don't want to wait a moment longer than you do."

They lay quietly, arms wrapped around them. Emily couldn't remember a time when she had felt happier. She knew Cullen was thinking hard. There was always a stillness about him when he was deep in thought. She smiled and kissed his chest lightly

"Yes," she whispered, softly.

"Yes?" he asked, his voice tight.

"It is the next question, isn't it?" she said quietly, raising her head so she could look deeply into his eyes.

He was so tense, his eyes deep with emotion. She felt him tremble against her and he swallowed hard.

"Not right now, Cullen," she smiled serenely at him. "But later, when I've fixed things at Karpathia's. Then I'll join with you completely."

"Are you sure?" he asked hoarsely. "You don't have to, love. I am happy to live your lifetime with you, Emily. Even a brief moment of glorious love with you would sustain me for eternity."

"I want to love you forever, Cullen," she whispered. "Not just for my lifetime, but for all time. I'm sure, my love."

A tear of joy spilled over from his eye and she wiped it gently away and kissed him.

Cullen pulled the covers over them and Emily slipped into a deep, contented sleep.

To be continued....

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Reluctant Love Ch 08 

Chapter 8: Throw Back Thursday

Emily didn’t think life could get anymore perfect than it was.  The passion she felt in Cullen’s arms was like nothing she could ever have imagined. They couldn’t seem to get enough of each other, spending as much time alone as they could.

Dorian had known immediately that their relationship had progressed and he had approved wholeheartedly and begun to treat Emily like an adored younger sister.

Emily was busy at work, having completed her audit review at Cullen and Cross and had moved onto their subsidiaries. Her relationship with her PA Alice had blossomed into a strong friendship and when she wasn’t with Cullen or Dorian, she was at Alice’s house having some quality girl time. She had never been happier.

Emily was coming back from a meeting out of the office when she suddenly felt a sense of foreboding. She shivered slightly as she made her way to the elevator, trying to shake the feeling. She felt a threat to her happiness, something she couldn’t quite put a finger on.

She exited the elevator and was astounded to see Liam towering over Beth.

“I MUST speak to them instantly!” he said coldly to Dorian’s PA.

“They are out of the office at a meeting,” Beth said, her voice quivering slightly. “They cannot be reached.”

“Liam?” Emily called, a question in her voice. “Can I help you?”

Liam spun around, his beautiful face cold, his eyes flashing with anger.

“Get me Cullen,” he snapped.

Emily almost took a step back from the vampire. He had always been cordial and friendly to her whenever she attended Karpathia’s with Cullen, especially since her relationship with Cullen had developed into something deeper. His coldness surprised her.

“Why don’t you join me in the Boardroom?” she said carefully, immediately walking to the room and hoping that he was following her. He did and she closed the door behind them quickly.

“What are you doing?” Emily hissed, trying to keep her voice down. “Cullen and Dorian will not be pleased that you’re risking their livelihood by throwing your weight around here, Liam.”

She didn’t see him move but suddenly he had her by the throat up against the wall, his black hair swaying wildly about his face. His eyes looked murderous and it was only complete, utter surprise at his actions that stopped Emily from crumbling into a nervous wreck. Instead she held his gaze with a calmness she didn’t feel inside.

“Are you so weary of having your head on your shoulders, Liam?” she said softly. “You know Cullen and Dorian will be most displeased if you do anything to hurt me.”

Liam’s mouth suddenly quirked and he released her slowly.

“I dare say they would be, little Emily,” he sighed. “As would I once my temper had cooled. Forgive me, child.”

Emily rubbed her throat lightly and prayed it didn’t bruise. Cullen would go mental if she was marked in any way.

“Sit, Liam,” she said. “Tell me what’s so urgent. I want to help.”

She walked over to a secret panel in the wall and clicked it open. She dialed in code and a small refrigerator opened. She pulled out an opaque bottle and glass and poured some blood into the glass. She handed it to Liam.

“A drink usually helps Cullen maintain a certain amount of control,” she smiled softly. “Be quick, in case anyone comes in to see if you’re murdering me.”

Liam swallowed the contents of the glass and passed it back to her. She put it back and then closed the concealed panel again.

She sat across from him and waited for him to speak.

“Someone is trying to break through the firewalls at Karpathia’s,” he finally said, his eyes sparkling with fury. “We have no idea who but they are persistent. It had been going on for the last three days.”

Emily gasped in shock. Someone knew about them? How was it possible?

“You’re certain it’s a concentrated attack?” she asked quietly.

Liam shot her a withering look and she sighed softly. It probably was a stupid question.

Emily took out her cell and sent a quick text to Cullen. It was one word, lavender. Their secret code for if she should need to speak to him urgently. She knew Cullen would be able to read the message unobtrusively and extract himself from his meeting to call.

Less than ten seconds later her cell rang.

“Emily, what’s wrong?” Cullen asked anxiously.

“Liam’s here,” she said quickly. “Someone knows about Karpathia’s. Their firewalls are under attack. You two need to get back here as soon as possible.”

“Let me speak to Liam,” he said and she passed the cell to the vampire.

Emily borrowed a notepad and pen from Beth as Liam and Cullen talked. She couldn’t hear a word they were saying anyway so she wasn’t missing anything by leaving the room.

Liam had completed the call by the time she returned. “They’re on their way,” he told her.

“While we’re waiting, can you talk me through the sequence of attacks? So I can see the timeline?” Emily asked.

She scribbled on the pad as Liam talked it through. She was frowning at the pad when Cullen and Dorian walked in half an hour later. She looked at their serious faces and shivered. Cullen smiled at her and kissed her lightly on the head, his hand stroking her back soothingly.

Liam filled them in on what was happening. Out of respect for her presence, he spoke slowly enough for her to be able to understand. Dorian asked a few questions as Emily continued to read through the sequence Liam had given her. She finally threw her pen down in disgust and jumped up from the chair and began pacing the room.

“Emily?” Cullen asked, surprised by her annoyance.

“It doesn’t make sense,” she growled in frustration. “There’s no pattern to the attempts on the firewall. Something has to be missing.”

She waved her hand at the pad.     “I need to see the computer logs,” she said. “No offence, Liam, but second or third hand data isn’t good enough to establish a pattern.”

Cullen frowned at her, “You expected to see some kind of pattern?” he asked, surprised. “It’s not a number problem for you to solve, Emily.”

“It is a number problem,” she said. “Computers are numbers, they’re binary numbers. All 1’s and 0s. If I can see the logs then I should be able to discern the pattern. Once I know that, I can reverse the movements and hopefully track down the person doing it.”

“Do you really think you could?” Liam asked, his interest piqued.

“I’m almost certain,” she answered, her eyes fixed on Cullen’s set face.

His expression hardened and his frown deepened. “You’re not getting involved, Emily,” he said firmly. “This is dangerous. I don’t want you being anywhere near this if it blows up in our faces.”

Emily sighed at his over protectiveness. “I’m already involved, Cullen,” she said softly. “Anything that threatens you or Dorian threatens me too. You’re my family now.”

“It’s worth a try,” Dorian said suddenly. “We need to know as quickly as possibly who this threat is so we can counter it.”

“Please let me try, Cullen,” she pleaded.

She saw a muscle in his jaw twitch and then he finally nodded. But his look told her they would be having serious words later on.

They headed down to Karpathia’s. Liam had the log print outs ready for them when they arrived.

It felt strange to Emily to be in a high tech computer room at the club. It was completely different from where she usually went. Plus the vampires seemed different too. She didn’t know if it was the severity of their current situation, but she felt slightly frightened of them. Even Cullen and Dorian felt a bit remote to her.

Emily searched the logs for half an hour and then her instincts kicked in and she began scribbling equations on the page. She could feel the eyes of every vampire in the room on her . She turned to Alfred, their technical guru, and called out routes for him to type into his tracking software. The program sprang to life and within moments it had narrowed down the search, finally coming to a stop at a location.

Emily was looking over Alfred’s shoulder when the software finally tracked the location.

“It can’t be!” she gasped, her voice tortured. Her face lost all colour and for a moment she thought she might pass out. Cullen was at her side immediately.

“Emily, what’s wrong?” he asked anxiously.

She looked up at him, her eyes full of fear. “Alice,” she whispered, her voice full of pain. “That’s Alice’s home address.” She knew it well as she was round there often enough.

Cullen and Dorian both repeated “Alice!” in shocked tones.

“Who is this Alice?” Liam said loudly, his tone furious.

“My best friend,” Emily said quietly, her face worried.

“She works for us as Emily’s PA,” Dorian elaborated, his voice sounding colder that she had ever heard before. “Emily is particularly fond of the girl, though we now have to wonder if Alice has fostered this friendship to try and get information about us.”

Emily stared at him in shock. His face was hard, his eyes unforgiving. She turned her gaze to Cullen and shrank back from him as she saw his expression mirrored Dorian’s.

“I don’t believe that, Dorian,” she said, her voice wavering slightly. “There has to be another explanation. She has to have a reason for trying to hack into Karpathia’s computer system. Alice doesn’t have a deceitful bone in her body.”

“You don’t think trying to hack our system is in anyway deceitful?” Liam asked harshly, his eyes flashing angrily.

Emily struggled not to flinch away from the fury in his voice.

“Let me talk her,” she said, her voice holding a hint of a plea.

“Emily, you can’t fix this.” Cullen’s face had softened slightly as he looked at her, and she saw regret in his eyes.

“What do you mean, Cullen?” she asked, her voice sounding harsh. “What are you going to do?”

“We will do what needs done,” Liam said coldly. “We must protect ourselves.

Her eyes flew to his and she shuddered at the coldness she saw there.

“Define what needs to be done, Liam,” she pushed, a feeling of cold dread coming over her.

“We will find out what she knows and then we will make the problem go away,” Liam answered. “Do you wish me to say the exact words, Emily?”

Emily shook her head in denial. “No,”  she whispered, her voice raw with anguish.

Her eyes sought Cullen’s. “Don’t hurt her,” she begged.  “Please don’t hurt her, Cullen. I love her.”

His eyes were tortured as he looked at the anguish on her face. “Emily, I can’t stop this,” he groaned. “It’s what has to be done, to protect ourselves.”

“Can’t you do your mind thing instead?” she cried, clutching at straws. “Cullen, you and Dorian keep telling me that my instincts are uncanny. I couldn’t love Alice the way I do if there was something inherently bad about her. I’m sure there is a reason for her actions. Just give me time to find out what it is. Please!”

“You can’t fix this, Emily,” he whispered harshly.

She spun round, her eyes welling with tears as she saw the sad resignation in Dorian’s eyes and even a touch of pity in Liam’s as they looked at her.

“You can’t do this,” she cried. “I won’t let you kill Alice!”

“Emily,” Cullen groaned, his expression tortured. He reached for her but she flinched back from him.

“I’ve done this,” she moaned, her body wracked with pain as her part in it hit her like a ton of bricks.  “I handed her to you on a plate.”

Emily looked around the room frantically, her eyes pleading once more with them as the tears spilled down her face. She saw their fixed expressions, the deadliness in their eyes. For the first time she saw the monsters they all were deep down inside and she shivered.

She finally turned back to Cullen and her heart silently broke as she saw the look in his eyes. Her body felt numb as she looked into his beautiful face and didn’t recognise him.
There would be no amount of begging or pleading that would convince him that Alice should receive any mercy.

“If you do this I will never forgive you, Cullen.” She didn’t even recognise her own voice it sounded so cold and hard.

“Or you, Dorian,” she continued, turning her accusing gaze on the blond vampire.

She looked at each vampire one last time and then she slowly wiped the tears from her face as she felt her heart harden.

“I’m going home,” she finally said, her voice lifeless and cold. “I have some blood to wash off my hands.”

“Emily,” Cullen said softly, his hands reaching for her.

“Don’t touch me, Cullen,” she said, her voice dripping with distaste. “The very thought of your hands anywhere near me makes me want to throw up.”

She wanted to hurt him so badly. She wanted to break his heart in just the way he was breaking hers.

“Today I finally see the monster you really are,” she continued coldly. “Today I also see the monster I’ve become too. To protect you, Cullen, I’ve handed my best friend over to your brand of justice. I’ve murdered Alice as surely as if I’d put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.”

She turned to leave. “I’m assuming I am allowed to leave?” she said, her voice flat and hard. “Or will I become subject to your justice as well because I know too much about you and what you’re about to do?”

“I’ll take you home, Emily,” Dorian said, his voice gentle. “You know we would never harm you.”

“No, Dorian. I don’t want to be with you any more than I want to be with Cullen. And you are harming me right now.” She turned to face him. “I was right the first time, I went from one nightmare straight into another. I wish I’d never met either of you.”

She walked out the door without a backward glance. She didn’t see the agony in Cullen’s eyes as she walked away from him. She knew he would be suffering but she didn’t care. What he was feeling was nothing compared to the way she felt.

She dialed Alice’s number but it went to voicemail. She didn’t leave a message. Slowly she walked through the streets, wandering aimlessly. She tried Alice again and it still went to voicemail. She finally called Beth to be told that Alice had left the office with Dorian a while ago.

Emily found a bench and sat down and cried. Her heart ached for her friend, and her guilt at her part in the whole thing threatened to engulf her completely.

She finally pulled out her cell again and dialed a number she hadn’t called in a long time.

“Anton, I want to come home,” she said quietly.

“Emily, you know you’re always welcome here,” her brother answered. “Where are you? I’ll charter a jet for you. Are you okay, Em? You sound so strange.”

“I’ve done such a terrible thing, Anton,” Emily sobbed as her brother’s concern washed over her and triggered the heartache she felt deep inside.

“I find that hard to believe, Em,” her brother said quietly. “I could believe it of anyone but you. Come home, baby girl. We’ll work through it together. Just tell me where you are.”

Three hours later, Emily was in a private jet headed to Europe. She hadn’t gone back to the apartment. She’d stopped long enough to pick up a new cell so she could dump the old one. Cullen had been calling almost constantly and she didn’t want him to be able to reach her. She had wiped the memory of her old cell and dumped it in a trashcan.

She planned what to do next as the jet came to land at the private runway belonging to her family home in Spain. She knew Cullen would try to track her by having her debit and credit cards logged for movements. But she had her family accounts to draw from. Something  no one knew apart from herself and her family.

She had never told Cullen. Not because she had deliberately hid it from him. It had just never come up. He had never asked her about her family, not once since she had known him.

Anton was waiting by his car when she stepped from the jet. Her big brother, all lanky six foot of him, leaning against the bright red Ferrari he loved so much. They looked nothing alike, they had the same father but different mothers and Emily favoured her mother. Anton had their father’s deep chocolate coloured hair and big brown eyes. He held his arms open and she ran into them sobbing.

“Shhhh, baby,” he crooned softly. “It’s okay now. You’re home with me.”

He drove quickly to the house, his eyes deeply troubled by the sobbing woman beside him. Her pain was wretched to listen to.

He handed her a whiskey once they were inside, telling her to drink it all down in one go. Then he held her as her tears began to ease.
“Tell me everything, Em,” Anton said gently.

Emily hiccupped and tried to think how she could explain it to him without mentioning vampires. There just wasn’t any way to do so. She considered lying but her brother had always been able to tell when she lied to him. So she took a deep breath and blurted it all out, her voice rambling on as her story was interrupted by fresh tears.

“Vampires,” he said quietly when she had finished. “I’ve always wondered if there was any truth to that myth. Guess I now know.”

He hugged Emily and handed her another tissue to blow her nose with.

“Are you sure they meant to kill Alice?” he asked gently.

“Their meaning was pretty clear,” she said forlornly. “I couldn’t sway them, Anton. I tried so hard to but they were set on their course of action.”

She held her glass out for more whiskey and he poured a liberal mount into the glass.

“You would have loved Alice, Anton,” she sighed sadly. “She was so spunky and fun and full of life. And I led them right to her.”

She started crying again, her misery having no ending.

“What about you?” Anton asked, concerned. “Will they try to hurt you, Em?”

“I don’t think so,” she shook her head. “I don’t believe Cullen or Dorian would allow that to happen. I’m the lucky one,” she snorted. “They  both love me.”

“But will they look for you?” he persisted.

“Cullen most definitely will,” Emily said softly. “He was phoning my old cell constantly. That’s why I ditched it and bought a new one. Dorian will look for me too but they don’t know the truth about me.”

Anton relaxed slightly. “They don’t know you’re a Mackenzie?”

Emily shook her head numbly. “I was still using mum’s name.”

“So they can’t tie you to Mackenzie Petrochemicals in any way?”

“I said they couldn’t,” Emily grumbled sourly. “Dad concealed my relationship to him very well when they divorced. I’ve never told anyone who I really am. “

“That’s a blessing in disguise,” Anton said. “You’ll be safe here, Em. I’ll place a trusted team on Cullen and Cross to keep an eye on their movements. It’ll be so discrete they won’t notice it, don’t worry.”

“Be careful, Anton,” she said worriedly. “They have almost two thousand years of experience over you.”

“I’ll be careful, baby girl,” he smiled reassuringly. “The most important thing to me is keeping you safe. To do that, I need to know what they’re doing and if they’re getting close so we can move you somewhere else before they find you.”

“I’m sorry, Anton,” she whispered.

“For what?” he asked gently.

“For staying away so long,” she sighed. “I should have come home more often.”

“It doesn’t matter, Em. You came home when you really needed to. That’s all that matters, that you still view this as your home and a place of safety. I’ve missed you, Em.”

“I’ve missed you too, Anton,” she whispered and began to cry again.

When Emily fell asleep, her brother got on the phone and quickly implemented a watching brief on anyone searching against Emily Mackenzie. It was unlikely to happen but he wasn’t willing to risk it.

He then set his private security firm to do a covert investigation into Cullen and Cross. He wanted to know everything about them. He also asked them to keep a daily check on any news concerning Alice Matheson. If they did indeed kill Emily’s friend, her body would have to show up at some point.

Satisfied he had done all that he could, he put some classical music on and poured himself a scotch. He sipped slowly as he waited for Emily to awaken.

Emily sighed and tried hard not to scratch at the wig on her head. Anton was really taking this protecting her seriously. He refused to allow her to go into town unless she put on the black, bobbed hair piece. She couldn’t fault his logic. Her hair was very distinctive and hiding it was for the best. She had considered cutting it short and dyeing it but had balked the day before her appointment. Her vanity just wouldn’t let her get rid of what she thought of as her best asset.

At least Anton was letting her out of the house now. Okay, she had to take two private bodyguards with her but still, after a month of being stuck in the house, it was worth it to get out and about and do some shopping.

Naturally she wasn’t using any of the funds she had acquired as Emily Swan. Instead she was using the money she had under her real name. Her eyes had almost popped out of her head when she had seen her bank balance. She knew she was rich and that Mackenzie Petrochemicals was worth billions and she owned half of it. But she had no idea that she had thirty six million in hard cash sitting in her Spanish bank account.

Anton was also insistent that she speak only Spanish when she was out or if anyone visited the house. He had smiled broadly when she had told him that neither Cullen or Dorian was aware that she was fluent in Spanish, French, German and Italian. It was another mask to hide behind. Between the dark wig and her perfect grasp of the language, she could pass as a native born Spaniard.

Emily checked daily to see if there was any news about Alice but nothing ever came up. She still cried every time she thought of her friend and what had happened to her. Guilt ate at her very core and sometimes Emily wondered if she would ever fully recover from Alice’s death and her part in it.

She also told herself daily that she hated Cullen. She stood in front of the mirror and said the words out loud, as if doing so would make them true. But each night her dreams were filled with his beautiful face. His laughter surrounded her. His golden brown eyes haunted her and she woke every night with tears on her face.

The first few weeks, Anton came to her at night and held her as she cried. Finally she asked him to stop, seeing the dark circles around his eyes as he was deprived of sleep. She took to muffling the sounds of her crying so he couldn’t hear and sighed with relief when she saw him actually start to believe that she was slowly coming to terms with things.

Emily was surprised and concerned with the number of vampires that lived in Spain. She could spot them a mile away. They were all just so incredibly beautiful. She avoided them like the plague. Terrified that they were looking for her.

Anton had sat her down last week and told her that a detailed search was being done against Emily Swan. His contacts had told him that her cards were being tracked by an anonymous source but they both knew who it was. She wondered when Cullen would give up. Would he ever give up? Would she be in hiding for the rest of her life?

Inevitably, Emily quickly grew bored with her life of leisure and she started going into the office with Anton. It had taken some persuasion but finally he had agreed if she promised to keep a low profile and her disguise in place.

Weeks moved into months and finally Emily was finding that she could sleep through the odd night without dreaming of Cullen. The pain was still there but it seemed more manageable. Being able to work in the accounts department helped. It wasn’t on the level she was used to and she had to work hard to downplay her knowledge, but it was better than sitting in the house all day long.

When Emily saw an impossibly beautiful man at the reception desk one day, her heart almost stopped. She didn’t know him but she knew what he was. She quickly turned and hurried into the nearest office, which was thankfully empty and closed the door. She hid inside until he was gone.

She quizzed Anton about him later on and was told that he was a prospective new client. She told him that he was a vampire and her brother quickly severed all contact with the man. It wasn’t as if they really needed Carter Long’s business.

Life seemed to fall into a familiar pattern so it was a massive shock to Emily when she bumped into Dorian one day when she was visiting a subsidiary in Brussels with Anton.

He was sitting in the reception area, waiting to attend a meeting with someone. She spotted him before he saw her and quickly turned and walked back into the office she had just come out of, praying he wouldn’t see her.

He stopped her closing the door easily and entered the room behind her.

“The hair threw me for a moment,” he said quietly. “But your scent is unmistakable, Emily.

She shuddered at the sound of his voice. It was so familiar. It made her want to turn around and throw herself into his arms. She wrapped her arms tightly around her body and kept her back to him.

“Emily, love, we’ve been looking everywhere for you,” he said gently.

“What do you want, Dorian?” she replied.  She kept her voice cold and hard.

“Some time,” he breathed softly. “To talk. I swear I won’t tell Cullen you’re here, Emily. I just want to talk to you. To make sure you’re okay.”

She turned around. “I’m perfectly fine,” she said not meeting his eyes. “Did you think I’d crumble, Dorian? I’m much stronger than that.”

“I know, Emily,” he sighed sadly. “But you were hurt so badly, love. We never meant for that to happen. You know we love you.”

Emily sighed too and shook her head. “I’m not coming back, Dorian. I don’t want to be part of that life again. I became someone I didn’t recognise. I lost myself. It’s taken me so long to find myself again.”

“We need you, Emily,” Dominic said softly. “I don’t just mean myself and Cullen, though God knows, Cullen needs you more than anyone does. I mean ‘we’ need you.”

She looked at him then, knowing he was talking about a collective we, as in his kind. His beautiful blue eyes were full of pain as he looked at her

“That day,” Dorian explained. “What had to be done seemed so clear.”

Emily swallowed and closed her eyes. “Alice,” she breathed miserably.

“You have to understand, Emily. We need to protect ourselves. There has always been a set way things were done to ensure our secret was never revealed.” Dorian’s tone was pleading.

“I don’t know when we lost our humanity, love. Somewhere along the way we did, in our battle for self preservation. And then you came into our lives and suddenly everything wasn’t so cut and dried anymore. When you left that day, the look on your face, the pain and the anguish and then finally the life draining out of you so completely. It was more than Cullen and I could bear. Even Liam’s heart was touched by your pain.”

He paused and searched her eyes intently. She nodded to him to continue even though her heart felt like it was breaking all over again.

“We brought Alice back to Karpathia’s. The girl was terrified out of her wits. Some of my kind wanted instant justice but some of us reasoned calmly to see why she had done what she had done.”

Dorian groaned,  “She was just looking for her brother, Emily. It turned out he was one of us and she had turned him away when he had revealed himself to her. Her love for him was strong and she wanted to find him to beg his forgiveness. If your plea had not stayed our hand, love, we would have done a grievous wrong not only to Alice but to ourselves too.”

“Alice is alive?!” Emily whispered in shock.

“Yes, love,” Dorian said gently. “She’s safe. You got through to us. Made us stop and think before we acted.”

“Really, Dorian? Alice is really safe,” she whispered and then she burst into tears. He was at her side in an instant, pulling her into his arms and holding her as she wept tears of relief.

“I swear to you, Emily,” he said gently. “Alice is safe and well and missing you almost as much as we do. You saved her, love.”

“All this time I thought I’d killed her,” Emily sobbed. “I thought it was my fault.”

“We couldn’t find you, Emily,” Dorian groaned. “We looked high and low but you seemed to have just vanished from the face of the planet. We were frantic looking for you, love. Cullen is a complete wreck. I think somewhere deep inside he feared that we couldn’t find you because you were no longer alive.”

“Cullen thinks I’m dead?!” Emily’s voice came out in a startled squeak. She pulled back so she could look into Dorian’s eyes.

He smiled sadly at her. “He’s never said it out loud,” he told her. “But I know how his mind works. He is so sure he would find you if you were still alive. We almost thought we had a while back. One of our friends had a lead on a girl called Emily who worked in the accounts department at Mackenzie Petrochemicals but it turned out she was the daughter of the man who founded the company and her name was Emily Mackenzie”

“Carter Long,” Emily breathed softly. “I knew he was bad news. I talked Anton out of doing business with him.”

Dorian started when she said the vampire’s name, then he looked at her perplexed. His expression was so confused that she couldn’t help but laugh.

“Neither of you ever asked me about my family,” she said pointedly. “My parents divorced when I was two and they agreed I should use my mother’s name for protection. I am Emily Mackenzie.”

Dorian stared at her incredulously and then he suddenly laughed. “Serves us bloody right,” he finally said. “No wonder we couldn’t find you.”

“I didn’t want to be found, Dorian. I’m still not sure how I feel about it now,” Emily admitted. “I’m glad in one way, because I now know that Alice is safe. I’m unhappy too because now you know who I really am and I no longer have a safe place to hide anymore. Anton is going to be gutted if I take off again and vanish from his life.”

“Anton?” he queried, his eyes still sad.

“My brother,” she replied. “We’re half siblings really but I think of him as my full brother. I’m all he has and I stayed away a long time after my father passed. I was happy staying out of the limelight and Anton was happy running the company. But he missed me terribly. I didn’t realise how much until I came back into his life.”

“You don’t need to run, Emily,” Dorian sighed. “I won’t reveal your identity to anyone, not even Cullen. We’ve done you so much harm already, love. It’s the least I can do for you.”

“Thank you,” she whispered, relief in her eyes.

“Oh, Emily, I’m so sorry about everything,” Dorian groaned and hugged her tightly again. “I hope one day you can find it in your heart to forgive us.”

Emily felt tears threaten to overcome her again and she hugged him tightly.

“Emily,” she heard Anton shouting outside and then the door pushed open and he was rushing inside.

“Get away from her,” he growled at Dorian, his face contorted with fury.

Dorian released her immediately and stepped back.

“I’m sorry, baby girl,” Anton said, crossing to Emily and taking her in his arms. “I just heard that he was here. I hoped to get to you before he did.”

“It’s all right, Anton,” she said quietly. “He wasn’t going to hurt me.”

“You trust too easily, Em,” her brother said, glaring at Dorian. “Why can’t you leave her alone? Is it not enough that you’ve almost destroyed her once? Are you back for a second attempt? I’d advise you re-think if you are because I will not let you or anyone else hurt her again.”

“It is not my intention to ever do anything to harm, Emily,” Dorian said. He kept his tone neutral so Emily couldn’t tell if Anton’s anger had annoyed him or not.

“Anton, Alice is alive,” Emily said gently, turning his head to look at her. “They listened to me. They took time to discover her reasons. She’s safe.”

“You believe him?” her brother asked doubtfully.

“Dorian has never lied to me once, Anton. If he says Alice is safe then I believe him.”

“I meant what I said,” Dorian said softly. “We need you, Emily. Cullen, his melancholy pierces my heart. He spends more time trying to find you than he does working. The light has gone out of his eyes and he never smiles anymore. His mood only lightens when Alice is around. He smiles for her but it never reaches his eyes. He protects her and cherishes her as if hoping that if he takes good enough care of her, you will somehow know and come home to him. He is lost without you, Emily.”

“Dorian,” she groaned pulling out of Anton’s arms so she could face him.  “I’m sorry Cullen is hurting, I really am. But I’m not about to come running home just because he feels bad. He ripped my heart out that day and handed it back to me in pieces. I don’t think I could ever go through that again. I barely survived this time.”

“I understand, love,” he said gently. “Just think it through though. Take as much time as you want. I’ll keep your secret, I promise. He won’t suddenly turn up on your doorstep.”

“I promise I will think about it, Dorian,” Emily said. “I’m not promising anything else though.”

Dorian nodded and smiled sadly.

“Can I at least tell him I saw you, that you’re safe?” he asked, hopefully.

“Yes.” She found herself agreeing almost immediately. “You can even tell him you met me in Brussels. I’m leaving in a few hours anyway. I don’t live here. I move around a lot.”

“I hope you can forgive us, Emily, and you come home to us,” Dorian sighed. “Thank you for at least listening to me. It is more than we deserve.”

“I’m glad we had this time to talk, Dorian. Tell Alice I send my love and I hope she is happy.”

Emily hugged Dorian one final time and then she turned and walked out of the room with Anton, without a backward glance.

To be continued...