Natalia felt him lick her shoulder. She felt his fangs pierce her skin. He seemed to be moving in slow motion. She felt the injection of the venom, and how it seeped like a wave of heat through her body. He licked her shoulder again, sealing in the venom.
His hands moved to slowly unbutton her blouse. When he slipped it off her, she noted the time was almost one am. She wished he would speed up his slow dance of taking her clothes off. However, she breathed in his scent and waited, knowing it was only going to get better.
He took her bra off, letting it drop to the floor, and traced her breasts with a finger.
“Do you remember?” Uri said.
“The first time you bit me?”
“Yes. That was a special day. Almost as special as today.”
“That was the day I picked you up.”
“Two months ago to the day. Almost to the time.”
He unzipped her skirt, and it fell to the ground. She helped him take off his own shirt and unbuckle his belt. The musky smell of him intensified. She ran a hand across his chest.
“Why was it almost as special as today?”
“It was my birthday,” he said. “That day I picked you up.”
“I didn’t know.”
“You were a wonderful birthday present,” he said, inhaling deep into her hair.
“Why is today special?”
“I’ll tell you later. You’re not going to remember anything here in a moment.”
Uri seemed to pull a knife out of nowhere and cut off her panties.
“I don’t remember that,” she said.
He smiled and pushed her backward onto the bed.
She edged herself all the way up, wanting him badly. He dropped his pants and crawled on top of her. She raised herself up to him, but he teased her with just a touch. Her breathing was getting fast.
“Don’t waste it,” she said in a breath.
However, he waited another few seconds while he teased her before he slid in to her.
Natalia moved with him, feeling the same passion and excitement as the first time. She wanted it to go on forever, but he brought her to an orgasm. She didn’t remember him finishing while she panted to catch her breath. Then, they were spooned together in a warm embrace.
Natalia opened her eyes. There was sunlight coming around the curtains.
“Are we going in late today?” she said, astonished at how fast the night went.
It was Friday. Of late, Uri had been going to work early on Fridays, instead of late.
“We’re taking today off,” he said.
“It’s a special day.”
“You’ll figure it out,” he said, cuddling up to her.
“What are we doing today?”
“We’ll discuss it at breakfast.”
“How long are we lazing in bed?”
“Until you have to pee,” he said.
She laughed. “That would be right about now.”
He whipped the covers off of her and pulled her out of bed. In the shower, he was extra attentive to her. She now loved how he lathered her up. It was like a gentle body massage.
He rinsed and stepped out, so she could finish. She knew he was shaving while she rinsed and washed her face. He handed her a towel when she was done.
She stepped out to dress, no longer wearing a towel for modesty. Uri was dressing in jeans. He had a pair laid out for her. She started dressing, while he finished. Then, he left the bedroom, going downstairs. That was uncharacteristic of him since he always walked down the stairs with her while holding her hand. She dressed faster wondering what was going on.
She slipped on her shoes before trotting down the stairs to the dining room. Uri was there sipping tea. On her plate, instead of breakfast was a small wrapped present.
“Happy Birthday,” Uri said.
Natalia smiled wide.
She was actually surprised he even knew.
“This is the most important birthday you’ll ever have,” he said.
“Why?” She sat down to unwrap the present.
“You’re officially eighteen and an adult. The police will no longer be looking for you. Your parents will no longer look for you, and they can’t make the police look for you or even get a private agency to look for you. You are independent and on your own.”
Under the wrapping was a plain brown box. She opened it to find a key.
“What’s this for? The house? So, I can come and go?” She shrugged because the house had a code to punch in to open the doors and she already knew it.
Uri smiled. “Also, you are now two months along and doing exceptionally well.”
“Key?” She held it up while raising her eyebrows.
“Cars usually require a key,” he said.
“Bonnie controls the limo. The key to the other car hangs on the hook in the garage. I don’t need my own key.”
“You do for your own car,” he said.
She rose in haste and headed to the garage. There in the first stall was a two-door sports car. She knew it was an expensive one.
“It’s not black,” she said with relief.
“I figured you would like blue,” he said.
She noted it was marked with the red V which meant all Viperians would know it was a Viperian car. The windows were also tinted.
“I asked Bonnie to give you driving lessons, and she threatened to quit.”
“She did not,” she said, knowing Bonnie would do anything for her.
“So, instead, I signed you up for lessons. If you go through the course, it’s easier to get your driver’s license. Class starts tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? I have so much homework.”
“You’re doing fine,” he said. “It’s only half a day tomorrow, then you have an hour of driving all next week, ending with more driving and the driver’s test on Saturday.”
“That’s it, then you will have an official driver’s license which will take the place of your city ID card. They all look the same except it will have a D on it to designate your driver’s license.”
“Can we go for a drive?”
“Let’s have breakfast, then I’ll take you for a ride.”
“I’m too excited now.”
He grabbed her hand, pulling her back into the house. Mag was putting their plates in place. The aroma of bacon surrounded them.
“Happy Birthday,” Mag said with a smile.
“My favorite breakfast,” Natalia said. “Bacon and eggs.”
“We’re not going anywhere until the bacon’s gone,” Uri said, sitting at his plate and snarfing down a piece of bacon.
Natalia sat and grabbed her own piece. She savored the salty fat with sips of sanguine tea. However, she noted she only had half a glass, and Uri had none.
“What’s up with the sanguine tea?” she said. “I usually get a full glass. I don’t need as much any more?”
Uri swallowed his mouthful.
Mag stepped in.
“Why is Nattie only getting half a glass of sanguine tea?”
“There’s a shortage. We only have so much to make it through the next couple of days. They say we’ll get a delivery in three days.”
“I wonder what’s up with that?” he said. “Don’t they know we have a pregnancy going on here?”
“They know, but everyone is affected. We only received the last delivery because of Nattie. Some are going without.”
Uri shook his head with some frustration.
Natalia dug into her eggs, alternating with bites of bacon.
“I used to crave sweets when I was at my parents. I ate lots of chocolates. Here, I just want the fat and salt,” she said.
“We don’t eat sweets, other than cookies at night,” he said. “But those really aren’t sweets.”
“So no cake at birthdays?”
He smiled and shrugged.
They were almost done when Uri’s phone rang.
“Grazie,” he said, answering with a tap and putting it on speaker.
“I’m at the hospital,” Grazie said. He sounded worried.
“Is Sherri in labor?”
“Yes. This is my first time. It’s horrible. She’s in so much pain. I had to take a break.”
“They all go through that,” Uri said. “I was with Tia when she had Grazon.”
“Wasn’t Paul with her?”
“It wasn’t his kid, besides, she wasn’t with Paul then.”
“Oh. Nothing I do helps her. Sherri, that is.”
“No, labor pains are something we can’t ease. Do you want us to come up?”
“Yeah. Oh, they want me back in. Bye.”
The call ended.
“The baby’s on its way,” Uri said. “We’ll take a drive over.”
“In my car?”
“Yes, in your car.”
She chugged the rest of her tea, then the memory hit her about what Uri said last night.
“Your birthday was two months ago?”
“How old are you?”
“Did you get a party?”
He smiled and shook his head.
“I got you.”
“You’re sweet. Let’s go,” she said, jumping up.
“Wash your hands. No bacon grease in the new car,” he said, but she was already heading toward the half bath under the stairs.
“Way ahead of you.”
In minutes, she was sliding into the passenger seat. She expected the new car smell, but it wasn’t what she was expecting. There was a strong smell of polish.
“Where’s the new car smell?” she said.
“This is it from what I know. The car had been sitting in a Viperian auto shop for the last week getting the add-ons.”
He started the car.
“System activation,” the car said. “Check point one point two miles due west. Three police cars with in five blocks.”
“Wow, what’s going on?”
“There has been an increase in incidents in the richer neighborhoods. Once you’re driving, I don’t want you going out without someone knowing.”
“Someone always knows where I am,” she said, fiddling with the bracelet around her left wrist.
It was her tracking device.
“I meant one of the maids or me. I want to know when you leave and when you arrive.”
“You mean I can’t sneak out?”
“Never. Unless you take me with you,” he said with a smile.
He backed the car out of the garage.
Natalia enjoyed being in the front seat. Uri, at first, seemed to be following the recommendations of the car to avoid the check point. But then he made some different turns and seemed to be going a longer way.
“Viperian. You’ve never been there.”
Natalia watched out the window noting the roads and signs. She could tell he wasn’t going direct. When they finally pulled up to the gate of Viperia, he rolled down her window.
“You can do this,” he said.
’Open,’ she said in Viperian.
She and Uri had been practicing speaking Viperian after everyone went to bed at night. She felt that she was getting pretty good at it.
The gates opened.
Uri drove through. She watched through the side mirror until the gates closed behind them.
“Sometimes I see people man the gates and sometimes I don’t,” she said.
“During slow times, its automatic. You need to know Viperian and be driving a Viperian car. Otherwise, those gates aren’t opening.”
“There’s something on the car?”
She saw the signs for the hospital. He pulled into the lot and parked. There weren’t many cars in the lot.
“Fourth floor is babies,” he said, leading the way.
Natalia didn’t know what to expect, but was somewhat curious why she saw few people.
“Not a busy hospital?”
“We tend to be a healthy lot,” he said, pushing the button for the elevator. “We don’t have full-time staff. Most work at other hospitals in A’ppollo.”
There was no elevator music. The ride up should have been quiet, but she could hear the cabling and mechanical workings of the elevator. In the bank, it was masked by elevator music. The doors opened when they reached the fourth floor.
“Sherri’s the second door on the right,” the nurse at the station said.
“Thanks,” Uri said, turning that way.
“You know her?” Natalia said, meaning the nurse.
“No. Sherri’s probably the only baby happening today.”
Just inside the second door, Natalia was surprised to see Tia. Grazie was with her. He was holding the baby.
“Good timing. We just got here. Sherri’s sleeping. She’s exhausted,” Grazie said, stepped out with Tia when he saw them.
The baby looked like Natalia expected. She had black hair. There were no lineage marks, but she knew they wouldn’t appear until around sixteen years of age.
“Let me introduce you to Grace Jeanna,” Grazie said.
He looked rather proud.
“She’s beautiful,” Natalia said.
Grace pursed her lips and scrunched her face.
“Oh, a stranger. You’ve never heard her before,” Grazie said. ‘This is Nattie. She’s okay.’
Natalia noted when he switched to Viperian.
“It’s amazing you can talk to her,” Natalia said.
“She knows her daddy. I’ve been talking to her for the last couple of weeks. She’s going to be a feisty girl.”
“Grazon has a little bit of that in him. I wondered where it comes from,” Tia said teasing.
“Never thought I would be holding her,” Grazie said.
He seemed fixated on staring at Grace.
“Don’t expect a chance to hold this baby,” Tia said with a chuckle. “I don’t think he’s letting go.”
“We share a birthday,” Natalia said.
“Oh, that’s right,” Tia said. “Happy Birthday.”
“A special day,” Grazie said without looking up from Grace.
“Tough birth?” Uri said.
Grazie stepped away from the door.
“The doctor inferred that age was a factor,” he said.
“She’s in her late forties,” Tia said. “And had six other children. That wears on a woman.”
“Stress, too,” Grazie said, looking up at Uri.
“I said we would wait,” Uri said.
“Yes, but she knows it’s coming. She never said, but… My presence prevented her from doing some things.”
He glanced back at the room.
“She’s waiting for me to leave the house. She thinks I’m just going to up and go back to my bachelor house and abandon my daughter. With all that I know is going to happen, I’m not leaving Grace there without me.”
“She might move you out while you’re at work,” Uri said.
Grazie shook his head.
“I’m taking full advantage of father maternity leave.”
“She’s not going to like that,” Tia said.
“I’m changing diapers,” Grazie said with a big smile.
Uri chuckled. “Enjoy that.”
They stood in the hall, watching Grazie watch Grace. Finally a nurse came through to check on Sherri. Uri seemed to know that they had stayed long enough.
“Congrats. Call if you need anything,” he said, taking Natalia’s hand.
“Take care,” Natalia said.
She waited until they were in the elevator and it was moving before she spoke again.
“I didn’t expect to see Tia.”
“I think she’s re-evaluating Grazie.”
“For another breeding?”
“Maybe as a new partner. I know she’s not too thrilled with her current one. He takes no interest in her children and wants more of her time than she can give.”
“They’re not his children,” she said.
“When you want to keep a woman, you have to attend to all of her, including her children.”
“How are you so wise?”
“My mother taught me well,” he said.
He drove them back home taking a more direct route. The car made no more mention of a check point.
“Thanks for the ride in my car. I can’t wait to drive it,” she said.
He gave her a hug and a kiss before they stepped into the house. “You now have the rest of the day for school work.”
“Yeah, I need it.”
Natalia focused and worked as fast as she could. With the driving class on Saturday and the time commitment for driving all next week, she didn’t see how she could keep up with the school work. Just when she thought she was making headway, the smell of dinner drifted up to her.
“Dinner,” Uri said from the base of the stairs.
She trotted down to find dinner was steamed vegetables and raw meat.
“I know it’s your favorite now,” he said.
“How do you know?”
“Every time we have it; you eat it as if you’re starving.”
“Stupid baby cravings,” she said, not letting on that he was right.
She noted no bread for dinner. The meal was a little light.
“I’m still hungry,” she said.
“Then, let’s have dessert,” he said.
The kitchen door opened. Mag, Zena, Kate, and Bonnie came out. Zena was holding a cake. It had blue icing.
“Happy Birthday,” the four of them said together.
“A cake. Oh. Thank you.”
Uri took the knife and cut the first piece. It was a white cake. He served it up to her before handing over the knife to Mag. She cut cake and served everyone else.
Natalia waited until everyone was served before she took her first bite. The cake was fluffy and the frosting had a rich buttery taste.
“This is grubby frosting,” she said, referring to the beetle larvae that she knew was used to make cookies.
“Only the best for you,” Mag said with a chuckle.
“It’s so good,” Natalia said.
Zena smiled, looking proud.
Everyone was now seated at the table eating the cake. The only sounds were of forks scraping the plates.
“We might have to have desserts more often,” he said.
“Can I get a second piece?” Natalia said.
Zena jumped up to cut a piece for her.
“This is so good, Zena.”
Uri also had a second piece. There were only two pieces left.
“For dinner tomorrow,” Mag said, carrying off the leftovers. The others followed her, leaving Uri and Natalia alone.
“The kitchen isn’t locked is it?” she said to Uri.
Natalia smiled. “Midnight snack run.”
Uri laughed. “Don’t get on Mag’s naughty list.”
Natalia went back to her office for more studying. Uri went to his office to read. It was after ten when he tapped at her door.
“Bed,” he said.
He yawned, prompting her to yawn.
“Yeah, I need to stop. My eyes are going buggy.”
They were soon in bed. Uri snugged up to her. His breathing was even and calm. She knew he had fallen asleep already. Usually the quiet of the house was comforting, but tonight there was a noise. She listened hard because she had never heard it before. It almost sounded like… someone beating on a drum in the distance.
Uri’s arm was around her. Was she hearing his pulse? Her hearing had been getting acute as of late. She slid her hand over to feel. His pulse was much slower than what she was hearing. She felt her own pulse. No, hers was slower than the other beat as well.
She sat up. The beat seemed to be everywhere, filling the room.
“What?” he said, sounding groggy.
“I’m hearing a weird vibration,” she said.
He sat up.
“This isn’t some Viperian white noise machine that helps you sleep, is it?”
“I don’t hear anything,” he said.
“I know I’m hearing better. Could this be some noise in the house that you’re used to, but I’m just starting to hear?”
“What’s it sound like?”
“Sort of like… a beating heart.”
Uri looked at her and smiled. He pulled her back down.
“Let me listen,” he said.