Dark Fantasies

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Chapter 7: Flashpoint of Desire

Four nights later, after dinner, and long after they had enjoyed many of the varied entertainments that the party had offered, and she was reassured of their continuing safety, Joanna and Ezekeiel found themselves back in the section of the UnderManse where they had been talking that first afternoon. She said, “There is a room downstairs that is much better for what I have in mind, Zeke. Wanna see it?” as they paused outside the parlor door where they had spoken earlier.

“I’d follow you anywhere, ma’am.” Zeke said as he tossed her a jaunty salute, and she giggled at his whimsy as she turned to walk down the corridor that she had left dark when they had been here earlier that first afternoon. She knew that she was headed back down to the playroom, but she knew too that he didn’t know that she had spent a great deal of the time while they were apart this afternoon down here with several of her other lovers.

She knew that the playroom would be empty right now; everyone else was out in the garden, though Amelia and Raven both knew where Joanna was, as well as what she hoped to be doing as soon as they got to the playroom.

But at the same time, Joanna was sure that he hadn’t heard about the reason behind the increase in security for the party. If he had, he likely wouldn’t be as interested in going downstairs with her as he seemed to be right now.

She had no idea that Zeke had spent a big part of the afternoon-- specifically while she had been in the playroom—closeted with both Vlad and her father, doing everything he could think of to improve the security around the grounds to keep that vision he had caught snippets of from coming true.

He knew he couldn’t afford to lose another lover so soon, but he was also helping because he didn’t want Joanna and her family to suffer the way the visions had suggested that they would if the visions were allowed to come true.

But nothing had come of the visions so far, and he was beginning to hope that nothing would. And though he knew that something could still happen, he knew that he planned to enjoy what he hoped was to come between them while they were belowstairs this time.

Raven and Amelia had seemed to be okay with the idea of her spending some time in the playroom with Zeke when she had mentioned it to them earlier, so Joanna was going to take the opportunity that was being offered, in case it was the last opportunity to experience something like this for her. She thought they didn’t know he was more than a Centaur who had been invited to the party.

She didn’t know that both of them knew that Zeke was the dragon they had all been seeing in their dreams, and both of them wanted to enjoy the contact with their new friend as well. But they were giving her the first chance.

Arriving at the door of the playroom only a few minutes later, she unlocked the door and swinging it wide open as she flicked on the light with her other hand, she walked into the room and headed directly for the bed as he stepped almost hesitantly over the threshold and into the room.

Zeke followed her in, and then paused in pleased surprise as he took in the way the room was decorated; in a theme of wall-to-wall erotica. All along one wall were cubbies that were filled with what looked like hundreds of handmade dildos and many other objects whose purposes he was uncertain of, but he was suddenly sure that she could explain them to him in detail.

And in another corner of the room there was a marble statue that seemed to depict a faun with a huge erection, as well as what looked like a huge passionvine plant, covered in enormous heart shaped blossoms in the opposite corner from the bed which dominated one entire wall of the room.

Standing at the foot of the bed, she spread her arms and said, “Welcome to the playroom!” Then she fell silent as he looked around as though contemplating the view. Then she asked, “You ready for me to make your dream come true again?” at the same time as he said, “Would you like me to make your fantasies reality, my darling?”

As a reply, she lifted her skirt, and spread her legs to show that she wasn’t wearing any panties this time, then she bent at the waist with her skirt held high over her back and grabbed her ankles, as she had in the dream, facing away from him as though she was picking something from the ground. Then she smiled over her shoulder at him in invitation, hoping that it would do the same thing for his libido today that it had done in the dream.

And to her delight, it did. “You like what you see?” she asked as he quickly stepped up behind her and reached toward her ruby curls slowly with his tongue as he shifted to the stallion’s tongue to pleasure her for the first time this way, as he remembered doing so long ago in that wonderful dream that they had shared before they had ever known that each other were real.

Oh yes, I certainly do, lover. But, do you think there is enough room in here for me to shift to my proper shape?◊ Zeke whispered in her thoughts as he leaned toward her, and she nodded. And he knew that she would melt into his touch almost as soon as he slipped between her lower lips and into the passage beyond the portal.

Joanna moaned in delight as she felt the long, strong muscle invade her deeply, the way it had in the dream, knowing that it would stroke everywhere in her vagina for as long as she could stand it. Each stroke of his tongue was teasing and tormenting as it drove her toward the edge of orgasm as she leaned back into each stroke, but it took a long time to push her over the edge and into long, lingering waves of pleasure. ◊I... don’t know... how big is your... proper shape, lover?◊ she thought, her breathing coming in gasps even in her thoughts.

She didn’t really realize then that the pleasure she felt then didn’t stop for several days, until after she had been deeply satisfied again and again by his tongue, even occasionally swamping her thoughts when they were physically apart.

I think I’ll use the small version while I’m here, my love. I think this room is just small enough to not want to try the full form here.◊ Zeke said in her thoughts as he continued to give her deep pleasure.

But at the same time, she was very glad that the way Amelia had set up the plans, her party would last for the rest of the year at the very least, instead of ending at midnight the night of her birthday. But with Zeke, the pleasure could last for the rest of her life, Joanna distantly realized as she enjoyed what he was doing right then.

When she had erupted in orgasm the first time, he slowly slid his tongue out and filled her with his fingers until she erupted again and again, enjoying the taste of heartberries and cream that lingered on his tongue. Then, he couldn’t resist the temptation to slide his tongue up her ass any longer, suiting idea to action to her whimpers of delight, sliding deep, then retreating, then sliding deep again and again until she began first moaning his name, then screaming it as he slowly fingered her clit as gently as he could, and soon she was coming hard against his hand again.

Then he was sliding his fist into her vagina as deeply as he thought he could manage, then realized that he could go deeper. And that was when he knew that she was indeed the woman from his dreams; she could take him deep in all his forms as her knees nearly buckled from the waves of pleasure that were pounding her body into submission around his arm where it was embedded deep between her legs.

He slid one finger of his other hand into her ass beside his tongue, then another, and another until he had his fists and his tongue all the way inside her, and she was writhing in exquisite erotic delight as her spasms of orgasm wracked her like an earthquake, to his delight. Then he slipped free of her body and she straightened as much as she could to meet his penetration, using the edge of the bed to brace his thighs against as he lifted his forelegs to brace them to either side of her body so he didn’t crush her with the myrasti-like section of his body, and mounted up as he drove his erection slow and deep into her once again, sliding out and back in again.

This time wasn’t as good as it had been in the dream, for either of them, or even earlier that day; it was so much better that they both knew they wanted to continue like this for as long as they could.

He was much stronger in this form than he had been as the stallion in her dream, and it seemed to take longer for them to find a rhythm that both could enjoy, but eventually, they did.

And Joanna was very glad that one of the other lovers she had shared her body with down here earlier had been one of the Scorpyeres she had met a few months before; he hadn’t known that she was the one who had helped create his race—he had just thought she was beautiful and desirable, like all of her other lovers found her to be.

And, like other members of the scorpion related races, he exuded a substance that not only lubed the passage of his ‘stingbulb’ into her anus when they mated, it also increased not only her enjoyment, but also the likelihood of orgasm—as well as the possibility of conception-- with any other even demi-magickal creature that mated with her for up to six weeks at a time. Of course, it didn’t affect pregnancies that were already in progress, so the fact that she was carrying another child for Vlad and another for Devon hadn’t made a bit of difference.

But, at the same time, they both knew that they would have to find orgasm soon if they were going to explore the delights of going anal again today in this form. And soon they did find it, as he discarded the condom as he shifted his shape once again after she had joined him in orgasm.

And they both knew that when he finally fully shifted forms, they would enjoy nearly endless orgasms.

But neither of them really made the connection of how much time was passing until someone else briefly joined them on the bed, gently tying Joanna’s arms and legs to the bedposts, then stepping back once more, as though to admire their handiwork for a few seconds. Then he stepped back, and turned to head out of the room once more.

When the one who had bound her had come in, Joanna and Zeke had been in the middle of Joanna being deeply banged by Zeke in his stoyrai form; an immense coal black beast with a long flowing silver mane and tail, and an absolutely huge erection that he had slid firmly up her rectum to her moans of delight—“oh my Goddess, yes, YES! Oh, fuck me in the ass” she had cried out, and he had replied in a very deep voice, “You are... so tight... so good against my cock, Joanna...” as he continued to stroke firmly against her sphincter-- when the one who had bound her had slipped into the room.

And Vlad smiled from the shadows as he observed the dragon’s technique for a few seconds before departing the way he had come, glad to know that she was being so well taken care of by the dragon who had longed to get into her pants for almost as long as Vlad had known him.

Vlad knew that Zeke was very skilled at shifting his forms; that was the only way he knew of that Zeke would have been able to speak while he was in his stoyrai form.

But at the same time, he hoped that Zeke wouldn’t object to her being tied; Vlad knew how much Joanna adored being bound when she was giving herself to another lover, however, he wasn’t sure how Zeke felt about it. He had faith that he would find out eventually—from his mate, if from no one else in their passion group.

A few minutes later, Vlad returned to what he had been doing; making sure the many smaller pairings that had evolved over the course of the evening also went well; even Richard and Jayne seemed to be finally able to unwind and enjoy each other again for the first time in what seemed to have been years. And Vlad was grateful to be able to tell that it seemed to be fairly serious between them, as Vlad felt Richard bringing Jayne to orgasm from across the mansion, through the bond the two men shared, though they had never shared blood.

Maybe the day that the girls had foreseen all those years ago wasn’t too far off, Vlad thought, and he knew that if it was, it would be good for both of them. Richard had been alone entirely too long, and so had Jayne, and Vlad knew that both girls would be well satisfied with what had happened between their respective parents if they knew. But from what Joanna was doing, he knew that she didn’t know what had happened as yet.

Though at the same time, Vlad wasn’t exactly sure how they could help knowing about it, even if they were both down in the playroom, which Vlad knew they weren’t.

Amelia and Raven were upstairs, sharing each other with several of the others; Joanna and Zeke were in the playroom, and many of their other guests had also paired off—and sometimes in more than pairs—with others in nearly forgotten corners of the manse and all over the grounds.

But he made sure there was at least one of the groups of Fluttermoons maintaining the shielding of the grounds with each group of guests, for the entire time their guests were enjoying their tours of the grounds, as well as Bloodmoons guarding the rooms inside the house where there were guests enjoying themselves, and of course, the ones in the nursery. And so each one of the pairs and groups eventually wended their way back to the manse, the better for their outdoor explorations.

And as each group returned, Vlad was glad to know that they were safe.

More than an hour later, Joanna was straining against her bonds as Zeke continued to thrust deeply into her again, both of them erupting into orgasm as she screamed in orgasm in his thoughts. And as she went limp against his member, he began to shift his shape again, knowing that she was hoping that they would get to use the dragon form tonight.

But at the same time, he knew that he almost needed a rest between encounters; he was still overflowing into her as he finished slowly shifting to his smallest dragon form, allowing her muscles to slowly stretch-- a bit further than they had been for the stoyrai--around the tip of his member where it lay just within the edge of her portal, as it had been in the dream.

Then, he realized that she was unconscious, and he was the only one present who would be able to revive her.

But it didn’t take very long for him to bring her back, once he figured out that was what was needed. And he shifted his upper half back to his mostly human form so that he could kiss her back to full awareness once more, so that they could continue with what they had been doing. Soon, she was mostly aware again, and he was slowly sliding his member into her passage gently to her sighs of growing passion once more, but this time it was the dragon’s member.

And he hoped that she would be fertile enough to conceive his next generation, which he thought would be very soon. At the same time, there was no real reason they couldn’t enjoy themselves until long after she had conceived from encounters with him, Zeke knew.

At the same time, he wondered what would happen if he were to invite her over to his place for more fun and games between them. But he knew that might not happen for several days yet; he was willing to wait, if the end result was being able to do her in his full form, like he had in the dream.

After a brief rest, they enjoyed another round like this, then as they were resting again afterwards, Zeke shifted back to the form he had arrived in, and said, “Joanna, my love... I have enjoyed myself immensely here, but I wonder... would you be interested in coming to visit my place for a bit?

We could continue to enjoy each other there... and I could show you my proper form, without the size restrictions there are here...” he said as they kissed in the pauses between words. But they waited until they had completed the kiss that they had been sharing before he allowed Joanna to answer his subtle question.

“I would really enjoy that, Zeke, but I have responsibilities here to be dealt with...” she said as she tried to recover her breath for a few seconds, sounding almost hesitant, as though she wanted to go, but didn’t quite dare leave. And Zeke knew that they would have to rejoin the party for a bit, so that she could see that her guests were being well taken care of in her absence.

Besides, he knew that she was due to begin opening more of her birthday gifts upstairs soon, and he didn’t want to deprive her of that joy; not to mention the fact that he wanted to know what her friends and family thought would be suitable gifts for someone of her obvious wealth.

Then her eyes widened, and she gasped in a disbelieving whisper, “Daddy? And... Mom?” in shock. Then she smiled, as she stretched luxuriantly against him and murmured in a satisfied tone, “I wonder if Amelia knows yet...” and she snuggled close into his arms once more. Then she sighed and wondered aloud, “Wonder if we’ll end up with a new sibling from this... I sure hope so!” as he realized she was drifting into sleep in his arms on the rumpled sheets of the bed they had been sharing.

And Zeke realized that he hadn’t known that the woman she called her mother was her adopted Mother, and now it seemed that Joanna’s Father and her adopted Mother were together in a way that they hadn’t been before this day. He smiled too, knowing that something that made Joanna this happy couldn’t be a bad thing to have happened.

As well, he knew that he too had responsibilities that needed to be attended to before he could whisk her off to his home; he needed to be sure that Vlad didn’t object to their union, as well as not objecting to his plans to remove her from the property for a little while. They had discussed the security of his place that afternoon while they had been in the meeting with her Father, but Zeke wasn’t sure that anything had been finalized regarding a jaunt to his place, so he knew that he needed to find out for certain before he even began considering the idea.

But at the same time, Zeke wondered what had happened between them; most of the time, when he took a mate for the first time, she instantly conceived, and after the first serious orgasm, her libido usually dropped off to manageable levels. But for some reason, Joanna’s hadn’t, which suggested to him that she hadn’t conceived from the first encounter. And he wondered how that could be possible; it hadn’t happened in so long that he had forgotten that it could.

Meanwhile, upstairs in their suite, Amelia had been almost asleep in Raven’s arms, with his member still held within her vagina and Devon impaling her deeply from behind, with his fangs buried in her throat and he was sipping a drop at a time from her, when a wave of orgasm washed over her that didn’t belong to her or any of her current round of lovers, and she gasped as she realized that it had come from her Mother.

But it was a greater surprise when Joanna’s father followed soon after and Amelia realized that they were together; body, mind and hearts. And the impression Amelia got was that they had been discussing marriage for years; now was only the first time they had been intimate together that she had noticed the fireworks. And she knew that something must have happened to bring things to a head between them that they would be willing to let their union be known in this way.

“Ohhh, wow!” Amelia murmured, amazed that the prediction she had made when she had been six years old had finally come true, and she and Joanna were finally fully sisters. “I wonder if they’ll let us help with the ceremony.” she whispered a few seconds later, savoring the miracle of her new family that she had known for her whole life, as much as she enjoyed the contact with her lovers. But at the same time, Amelia knew that Raven was fully asleep at last, and Devon was able to feed in his sleep when he was going as slow as this, so he was likely to be asleep soon too, if he wasn’t already.

Then it occurred to her to wonder if Joanna knew yet, and she smiled, thinking about how her sister would respond when Amelia told her what had happened between their parents. Then Amelia wondered if she was going to get a... or rather, if they were going to get a new sibling from this union.

In a way, she hoped they would as Raven woke up again, and he began to nip the side of her throat opposite to where Devon was feeding, licking and sucking playfully as he slowly stroked in and out of her until she was writhing on their members once more, enjoying the powerful orgasm they were creating between them and wondering in the back of her thoughts if any of the rest of the family was feeling the orgasm the three of them were generating in return.

Meanwhile, Jayne sighed as she began to come back down from the heights her last orgasm had sent her to, feeling her lover still stroking gently inside her as he came down from the orgasmic ‘high’ himself. And as she was beginning to relax in his arms, she realized she was feeling another wave of orgasm cresting over her, though she was fairly sure she hadn’t come again. And she realized that it had to be someone else’s, and after a few seconds to analyze the intensity, she concluded that it must have been either Joanna or Amelia she had felt. And Jayne smiled as the two of them slipped apart at last.

Richard noticed and asked with a smile of his own, “Something I need to know about?”

“What?” she replied dreamily.

“You had the strangest smile on your face just now, sweetheart. And I was wondering if there was something that I needed to be worried about.” he replied, his tone playful but vaguely concerned as he watched her. At the same time, he wondered if the old wives’ tales were true; that some women knew the instant they had conceived their next child.

Well, if she is, then the baby will be a blessing as much as Joanna and her sisters have been. And it is appropriate that it is Zeezee who I will have a child with this time. Richard thought sleepily as she paused for a few seconds as she began to rub his shoulders from where he held her against his chest.

“I don’t know. How worried are you about the girls finding out about us?” Jayne asked.

“I had hoped that we would be able to choose our own time to tell them when we were ready. But if they have figured it out, it really is something I should have expected. They are particularly good at figuring things like this out, after all.” Richard replied soothingly as he caressed her cheek. “Don’t worry so much, Zeezee.” he added.

“They won’t be upset with what make us happy.” Then he frowned, as he asked, “This does make you happy, doesn’t it?” his voice sounding worried now as he looked over at her. “It certainly makes me happy, but if you are unhappy, let me know.” he added seriously.

Jayne shook her head, and chuckled throatily, saying, “Of course, being with you makes me happy, Tib, my love. You should know that by now, without having to ask.” Jayne said, stroking the top of his left shoulder smoothly as she rubbed the base of the right firmly, smiling as he relaxed under her hands as she kept her fingers moving in a pattern intended to help his circulation and make it easier for him to relax.

“You always know just where to touch to help me relax, don’t you, Zeezee.” Richard said softly, almost purring in the afterglow of their recent physical activity, under her skillful massage technique. But Jayne wisely stayed silent and simply kept rubbing his shoulders, the back of his neck, and the still broad expanse of his back down to his narrow hips, allowing him to hold her close as she did, knowing that the contact kept her nipples hard, though it seemed to help him relax even more as he melted into her touch.

And she had to admit that he was still very fit, for his age, which she knew was nearly 277, and for his weight, which she knew-- from experience-- was under 200. And she knew too that by judicious replacement of organs as they wore out, she could probably keep him alive almost indefinitely.

At least as long as I am, she thought possessively. I don’t want to have to give him up now, I’ve worked hard to keep him here and I deserve to get to keep him for a while, especially if that is what he wants too. Jayne thought, working on the back of his neck for a bit, occasionally nuzzling his ear and kissing his earlobe as she kneading his muscles firmly.

“Of course I do, Tib. I should after all...” she chuckled as she continued untying the—metaphoric-- ‘knots’ in his shoulders and rib muscles, thinking about the puzzle that was Richard Tiberius William Lathom, and how he made her feel alive as no one since Chandler had done. There were only 57 years separating them in age, and she knew that wasn’t that much of an ‘age gap’; he had been born in 1834, and she had been born in 1891, so at least they shared the same century of birth, unlike so many mid-life romances she had heard of.

He was entirely too tense most days for her taste—even right after sex, which struck her as odd, but she was willing to overlook it; after all, a man his age-- and in his profession-- was allowed a few eccentricities, she knew-- and this was one of the first times she was able to get him to relax quickly enough to be able to do him some good.

The worst part for her was that she suspected that she knew why he was so tense after sex; Maria. Jayne’s best friend’s ghost still lingered in his heart; his murdered second wife, gone slightly more than a century, and she would always be a part of him. But at the same time, Jayne couldn’t be jealous; she had loved Maria too, and she knew she would always miss Joanna’s birth mother.

And she knew that since he hadn’t called for Maria this time when he finally climaxed, there was a very good chance that he was finally in recovery from losing her as abruptly as the family had. It was the first time he hadn’t, after all, she knew and it might have been a fluke, but she preferred to look at it as a hopeful sign of his recovery.

A few minutes later, in the playroom nearly ten floors under her father’s bed, Joanna and Zeke were relaxing in their own afterglow, and Joanna sighed, “You were wonderful, Zeke. Let’s do it all again soon, okay?” as she cuddled up to where he was laying against her, nearly asleep still as he murmured in reply, “Mmhmm. Soon as I have rested a bit, lover.” And with that, he began to snore lightly.

She knew he needed to take a break; after all they had been very active for the past couple hours, and the energy required to shift his shapes must have been huge, so she wasn’t too surprised that he was tired. But she would have thought that he would be more hungry than tired as she drifted toward sleep again herself.

But a few minutes later, she shook herself awake once more and whispered, “My love, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I do have to get back to the party soon.”

Her only answer was a slightly deeper snore, and so she gently began to work her way out of his embrace so she could get dressed and go back upstairs to where the food was. She knew that she was hungry for solid food, and dinner would be being served soon, so if she was going to eat, she would have to hurry, she thought as she glanced at the digital clock on the far wall of the playroom.

And she wondered how much longer he was going to want to sleep; he was going to miss dinner if it was going to be too much longer. She knew she didn’t want that to happen, if she could avoid it for him, but she wasn’t too sure how to go about waking him either, once he really got to sleep.

“Zeke... food is gonna be served upstairs soon... are you hungry?” she said in a tone approaching her normal speaking voice, and he simply grunted, remaining motionless for several seconds, and she knew he hadn’t heard her. After a few more seconds, she repeated herself in his thoughts, and he twitched away from her, mumbling something that sounded like, “ ’mnothungry, ’Talia...” and ended on another deep snore as he rolled over on the bed they had been sharing.

Then his eyes snapped open, and he looked shocked as he looked at her. Then, his expression turned enraged for an instant, only to be replaced by bottomless pain and loneliness within the space of a shattered heartbeat.

She watched him with wide eyes, knowing only that he was surprised to find her in his arms and not the woman he had mentioned by name, not ’Talia. And in that second, Joanna knew that Zeke could be very dangerous to be alone with, though that wasn’t the impression she had gotten from him before that instant.

And she found that she wanted to wipe the pain from his eyes, dry his internal tears and bring him the love that he so desperately needed to keep himself sane in a world that seemed to have gone mad all around him.

“Zeke?” Joanna asked hesitantly, knowing that she could invoke her own defenses if she needed to, but knowing too that she didn’t want to have to; that would ruin any chance she had of helping him the way he needed to be helped, and she knew that.

Then he closed his eyes, and hung his head in what seemed abruptly like shame to Joanna, and she asked softly, “Are you okay?”

He nodded silently, just sitting still like that for a very long moment, then he whispered, “Joanna, I’m so sorry that you saw that. You shouldn’t have had to deal with that so close to our finally getting to fully share each other in the flesh.” he said, fighting to keep from bursting into tears openly as he took and released two deep, shuddering breaths before he could continue.

“’Talia... was my lover. My most recent human lover before you, I should say. And... I still miss her, deeply. More than I thought I did. I meant to tell you about her, but... I didn’t, not entirely because I didn’t want to hurt you, but more because I didn’t want to hurt me, again.” he paused, gesturing helplessly around them before he could continue. Then he seemed to get a grip on himself, and he was better able to continue with what he had been saying.

In that instant Joanna was reminded irresistibly of the confusion she had felt after the last time she had been in town alone. A pair of children had paused to stare at her, and the little girl had run away with a terrified expression on her face as the little boy had called after her, “Maddy, she isn’t going to hurt us...!”

And when Joanna had asked why the child would think that she would hurt them, the little boy responded, “she’s my sister...”, as though that should explain everything, though it didn’t explain anything at all. Then she shook herself out of her memories again to focus again on what Zeke was saying.

“I know, I should have told you about her before we got involved. But I thought this time, it might be different. You see, she... died about a century and a half ago now, and... and we fought bitterly the day she died.” Zeke said, his tone almost hopeless, as though he thought he would be alone forever because they had fought before she had died. And he paused to try to get his breathing under control again, then he seemed to give up and let the ragged breathing continue as it would as he shook his head regretfully, as though he thought there had been something he could have done to prevent what had happened to her.

“We both said... some pretty unforgivable things to each other that night, and she left our home in anger. She had only been gone for a matter of minutes before the police called and said that there had been a terrible accident...” he added, his eyes on the bed, his expression miserable.

And she could see the tears in his eyes trying to break free as she whispered, “Zeke, it’s gonna be okay... you don’t have to tell me about it if it hurts too much to speak of her right now...” as she reached out to try to comfort him, though she wasn’t exactly sure what had happened.

“I understand that you will probably still dream of her, that you might even see her in place of me when we are together, but you need to understand that it’s gonna be okay between us. I promise you that I won’t be jealous.” She swallowed, and leaned against him again, knowing that if she missed dinner, they would simply have another one for her when she was ready to be there for it.

But in the meantime, Joanna knew that she could—and likely should-- let Vlad know that she was going to be a bit later than she had thought she would be, Joanna thought as she reached to her mate’s thoughts to let him know of her choice, as well as some of the reasons for it. Though she kept quiet on the worst of them, wanting to respect Zeke’s privacy while he was still in such obviously deep mourning for ’Talia.

“Zeke, I have another story to tell you, and I hope you will listen to the message of it. It’s about another dream I had a few years ago, a dream that changed everything in my life that you hadn’t already made wonderful.”

And she proceeded to tell him about the Divine Dreams, telling him hers, the one Raven had told her about, and the one that Amelia had described for her, focusing on the thought that sharing joy was the most important thing they could do for one another, and that jealousy was supposed to be the farthest thing from the minds of anyone in the group.

He was silent for several minutes after she had finished speaking, and she knew that she hoped with all her being that he was trying to absorb the truth of what she had told him.

But she couldn’t be sure until he was able to respond to her again. And that didn’t come for several minutes.

“But, Joanna... I know that you say jealousy is not something that you or any of your lovers will admit to, but it is a human emotion. There must be some level on which you still wonder what would happen if one of your lovers was to devote themselves to you alone...” Zeke began reasonably.

“Not really. Most of my lovers have been with the group for so long that we all know what makes each other happy, though we are finally getting around to bringing in some new members...” she said, sounding thoughtful, then she continued, “But if one of us finds that we are getting jealous of another in the group, then we know that we need to back off and let someone else have a turn.

We have a saying amongst us, ‘Jealousy is for those outside the circle of passion.’ ” Joanna added calmly, then, after a thought filled pause, she added, “There are some who have accused many of us of simply being sluts. But the truth of the matter is simply this; there is no such thing as a slut. Anyone who thinks any of us are slutty simply has failed to learn how to share.”

He snuck a look at her, and he was surprised to see that she was serious. And he decided that if she was right, then maybe he could forgive himself for what had happened with ’Talia, and more importantly, for what hadn’t happened with her; that he felt like he hadn’t even tried to stop her running away from him into the arms of Death that stormy night and getting into the accident that had killed her.

And he thought about that for several minutes. Joanna let him think about it while she finished getting herself untangled from his arms and slipped off the bed to gather her clothing so she could get dressed to head back upstairs to where the rest of her birthday party was being held.

“You asked me if I was hungry a bit ago, baby.” he said quietly, a few minutes later as she finished dressing, and she nodded.

“Yeah, I did. Are you?” she asked, still sounding thoughtful as she watched him, knowing that she was getting more hungry than she really liked to be, but there was nothing she could do about it right now; Zeke had needed to explain about ’Talia, and she had needed to let him.

But at the same time, Joanna wondered how many times she would have to open the ‘counseling office’ in the middle of loveplay after this. And she kept her headshake purely internal, knowing that her sudden grumpiness was likely to be an artifact of her hunger. It had been before this, it likely would be in the future, she knew.

“I think I might be, a little, now.” Zeke said, sounding almost thoughtful as he seemed to be examining something within himself, seeming a bit like a man who has broken a limb and has been afraid to test it for months, worried about the pain that has been involved before that minute, and suddenly finds that there is less pain than he was expecting when he puts weight on the limb once more. And Joanna knew that he was on the road to recovery at last about what had happened with ’Talia.

And Joanna heaved an internal sigh of relief, knowing that they would be heading upstairs as soon as Zeke was ready to head back. And she thought impishly that it would be so much easier on her wardrobe if she was a centaur too. But she knew that she didn’t really want to be; she was too satisfied with the shape she wore right now to want to change it for another so soon, even though Raven had been working on teaching her how to shift her shape the way he did his own.

At that point, her stomach growled, and she blushed, as Zeke smiled, saying, “You really must be hungry for your stomach to be making such noises. We’ll be heading back in just a minute, I promise, lover.” And Joanna nodded, knowing that after dinner was done, there was going to be cake and ice cream, then presents. And suddenly, she wanted to do the presents first, the way she had when she was ten, and she blushed again, knowing what her sisters would say to that thought.

In that second, a tiny frown slipped across her forehead, and Zeke noticed instantly, and said, “What is it, Joanna?”

And she shook her head dismissingly and said, “It’s probably nothing important. I was just thinking about how my sisters used to respond when I wanted to open my birthday presents before eating dinner or having cake and ice cream, and it occurred to me that I haven’t heard anything from Amelia or... or really any of the others since Daddy and Mom announced themselves so clearly.

I think... I think I should get back up there soon, Zeke.” she added, sounding vaguely worried now.

“I’m sure they are perfectly safe, darling. But if you are hungry, then of course we should go up and see if dinner is being served as yet.” Zeke said soothingly, as though he could feel Joanna’s worry. And for all she knew, he could, she thought, as images from that dreadful vision played out in her thoughts once again, and she felt the frown deepening without her conscious control of the muscles of her forehead.

Then he heard her sigh, “Oh, thank the Lady, we’re still safe.” as she crumpled into a heap on the floor near the foot of the bed a few seconds later. Swiftly snaking one wing out to catch her as she dropped, Zeke quickly prevented her from hitting her head on the floor, and he blew out a huge sigh of his own in his relief at having caught her, though holding even her slight weight at that angle was soon going to be too much for that joint of his wing, Zeke knew.

And accordingly, he gently lowered her to the floor the rest of the way, and carefully slipped his wing out from under her, so he could finish shifting back to something a bit smaller, like his centaur form. Even though he knew that going back up the stairs would require something with only two legs instead of four, but that was something he would worry about when he got there and not before, Zeke decided firmly. Once he had completed the shift, he leaned down and scooped her into his arms and brought her back to the bed, where he stretched her out on her back, as though she had lain down to take a nap.

And he sank down onto the floor beside the bed to wait for her to regain consciousness once again. Then, he thought better of it, as he quickly leaned over and kissed her gently, in the hopes that it would help her wake up.

Fortunately for him, this time, it worked, and she was responding to his kiss within a few seconds.

“Ooh... what happened?” Joanna whispered as she reached to slide a hand over her forehead as their lips parted once more. Then she whispered, “Hi.” realizing that she was almost nose to nose with Zeke again.

But Zeke didn’t realize that something bigger than a simple fainting spell had happened while they had been involved with each other that afternoon. In fact, two momentous things had happened; Vlad had received word that the Brotherhood was on the move and he had unleashed his spell-- long held in abeyance against this day—and Joanna had conceived again; this time with Zeke’s child.

However, Zeke and Joanna herself wouldn’t find out about the last for more than three months, even though Vlad knew already. Though, many of the-- more spectacular--results of the spell she had felt go off would be visible almost as soon as the next time she was able to go out riding on the grounds of the mansion. And she knew that Vlad already had people cleaning up the mess the spell had left behind, so the chances of her finding any of them was slim and growing slimmer by the minute.

“Hi yourself, beautiful. You feelin’ any better?” Zeke asked softly. “You fainted, I think, lover.” he added, stroking several loose hairs back from her eyes as she blinked up at him in confusion.

“But... I haven’t fainted, except during loveplay, for years...” she whispered, shocked. And Zeke said softly, “Well, that’s what happened this time, sweetheart.” as he brushed her lips again with his own. And he knew that she was going to need to rest, to be able to come to grips with the shock she had just had, but she had said earlier that she was hungry, so they needed to think about getting her to the food too.

“We should at least try to get you up, so that we can get you upstairs, so you can get something to eat, sweetheart.” Zeke said a few minutes later.

“Yeah,” Joanna said breathily, though she rolled to a sitting position on the edge of the bed with her head hanging a little bit, as though she was still a bit dizzy. A few seconds later, she seemed to shake it off and pushed herself to her feet, though she still seemed to be focusing on something inside her own head, and he realized that she was communicating with someone telepathically, and this time, he wasn’t privy to what she was thinking.

“Joanna?” it was Zeke’s turn to ask hesitantly. “Are you okay?” he added when she hadn’t responded a few seconds later, and she didn’t even appear to be breathing.

“Hunh? Yeah... yeah, I’m... um... I’m fine.” she said, as though she had forgotten that he was with her, and seeming to shake herself out of whatever introspection the internal conversation had produced, and she focused on him again.

And as she did, Joanna said, “Are you hungry?”

“A little, as I said. But since you are, shall we head back upstairs?” Zeke asked as she offered her hand to him.

“Certainly.” she said with a little giggle as they headed for the door. But at the same time, he noticed that she seemed like she was listening to something the entire way up the stairs, though she was able to focus at least some of her attention on the conversation between them. And he knew that she was still worried-- deeply worried-- about something that she had either heard or felt while they had been belowstairs.

When they got to the top of the stairs, she unlocked the door carefully, as though she was expecting trouble, and he knew what had been bothering her; the visions that Vlad and Rick—short for RicaTib, which was the nickname the dragon had known her Father by for years-- had been talking about that had made Vlad seriously ramp up the security at the party.

But when the door swung open, the scene it revealed was only one of pleasant enjoyment, and she relaxed again, and Zeke was able to relax as well, knowing that he had been feeling her tension as well. It was then that he realized that she was an empath as well as being a vampyre.

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