Vampires, the New Endangered Species

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Chapter 9 Celebrations

The days went by in their usual patterns; Emily went to school and work, Marcus and Mort worked away in the shop. Mary and Mort saw each other as much as possible and Marcus and Emily became closer and closer with each passing day. Once Emily’s mid-terms were over she knew that graduation was right around the corner. She was excited as well as apprehensive. With graduation she had to make a choice on what and where she wanted her life to go. She really wanted to stay here with Marcus, but yet she wanted to be close to her family; there was no way to have both so she let the thoughts go to the back of her mind for now.

The end of February came and she was home making herself some dinner on a typical Wednesday evening when her doorbell rang. It startled her because Marcus just walked in, he never rang the bell anymore. She went to the door and it was Maria from the flower shop downstairs with a large bouquet in her hands. Emily was pleasantly surprised, “Oh hi Maria.”

“Hello Emily, these are for you. Happy birthday.” She handed over the flowers and Emily thanked her and closed the door. She actually lost track of the days, tomorrow was the 21st already. She put the flowers on the kitchen table and opened the card, it was from her parents. When she picked up the phone to call her mother Emily realized that it was still pretty early there but dialed anyway so she could thank her mother.

As soon as the perky voice said her greeting Emily piped up, “Thanks mom, they’re beautiful! The iris’ are marvelous, and my favorite!”

“I know they are, that’s why I made sure they put them in there for you. So are ya doing anything special tomorrow for your day?” Naomi had just jumped out of bed to get the phone and she was overjoyed to hear Em’s voice on the other line.

“Um, no, I actually forgot it was my birthday, I got so wrapped up in school since we’ve been home, and the days are just flying by.”

“So Marcus has no idea? Are you serious?” Naomi was shocked, she would have called him herself if she had known.

“I guess not, why, it’s no big deal mom, I’m only twenty-four, nothing spectacular.” Emily really didn’t care much about her own birthdays, but when it came to everyone else’s’ she went all out… like what she was planning for Marcus in just a few days.

“Whatever Em. I hope you have a great day either way. I hate to cut you short your bill is going to be high…” Emily scoffed but didn’t mean to. Her mother stopped, “What? What was that noise for?”

“Well, um, well… mom Marcus has been paying my bills without me knowing actually. I realized that I hadn’t gotten any bills for the last two months and when I called the phone and electric companies they said that my accounts had a huge credit on them. I then called my landlord and she said that Marcus went to her home at the end of December and paid my rent until July. I was embarrassed…”

“Embarrassed? Why in the world would you be? He is one amazing man Em. And if he’s as well off as you say then be grateful, not embarrassed about it. You sure did find yourself one hell’uva man there darlin’! Your brother even liked him. An’ that should shock you; Steve’s never liked any of your boyfriends!”

“Yeah I know, but you know how I am, I like to take care of myself.”

“Well Sweetpea it’s about time that you let someone else do it for ya, you deserve to be taken care of, an’ well taken care of at that. At least now you can just concentrate on your studies an’ not have to worry about your finances, it must be expensive there.”

“It’s not so bad, but it’s nice to not have to worry about money anymore that’s for sure!” Emily went back to cooking her dinner. They chatted for a little while longer and her mother had to get going to her sewing group. Emily laughed, they did more gossiping than sewing there.

Emily plated her tuna casserole and sat down to eat it in front of her wonderful flowers and when she was about half way done Marcus walked in, “Hey Doll.”

She turned around with a half full mouth, “Hi.”

He walked over to the table and raised an eyebrow when he saw the flowers. He bent down and read the card then gasped, “It’s your birthday today?”

She shook her head and swallowed, “No, its tomorrow.”

He had a perturbed tone to his voice, “And why did you not tell me?”

“Because it’s no big deal, it’s just another birthday,” she shrugged her shoulders and put another forkful into her mouth.

“No big deal? Are you serious? It’s the day of your birth, that’s a wonderful day to celebrate! I just don’t get you sometimes babe,” he sat down in the other chair and slid the vase over to the side so he could look at her. “So what do you want to do tomorrow?”

“Um, nothing. I have school and work, another ordinary day for me. Look, really, don’t worry about it, I don’t want anything and you surely have done way more than enough for me to make up for the day of my birth,” she rolled her eyes when she said the last part of her comment.

He rolled his eyes back to mock her, “Well then fine, we won’t do anything tomorrow.”

“I know what that means Marcus, I don’t want anything, tomorrow nor the next day or any other days after that.” She finished her dinner then washed her plate and put it away. While she was doing that Marcus looked at the flowers and then watched her, “So I take it iris’ are your favorite flower besides sweetpeas?”

“Yeah, my mom made sure they had them in there for me. I just love how the yellow and purple contrast each other. So to completely change the subject, there’s a movie on cable tonight, do you want to watch it?”

“Sure, what is it?” Marcus got up and headed to the living area, flipped on her little TV and grabbed the remote. She didn’t have cable when he first met her but he had it set up very soon after.

“It’s called ‘The Princess Bride’. Have you ever seen it?” She went and sat next to him and he put a blanket over her.

“Nope, I’ve heard of it though; I’m sure it’s in Mort’s collection if it’s that good.” He raised his arm so she could snuggle in close and she took the remote from him and changed it to the right channel.

They watched the movie and he liked it, he actually laughed a few times so Emily knew that he really did enjoy it, he didn’t laugh much in movies except when it was very humorous. Afterwards they took a shower together then crawled into bed. They talked a bit and he started in on her about her birthday again. When she gave him the look he stopped mid sentence and changed the subject quickly. He kept his thoughts to himself and planned what surprise he would do for her. Like most nights she fell asleep in his arms and he stayed there for a bit then headed home as usual. He didn’t like to leave Mort alone for long periods of time.

Emily went to school and work, her drudgery for a Thursday, but about an hour into her shift at the library she saw Maria from the flower shop again with an enormous bouquet of flowers in her hand. Emily instantly knew who they were from, only Marcus would do that or could afford such a grand spray of flowers for her. “Oh great,” she moaned and Harri and Mary both looked up from their tasks.

Harri gasped, “My lord what’s the occasion?”

After Emily signed for the mass array of various colorful flowers she put them down and took out the little card. Mary and Harri were instantly over her shoulder reading the card along with her.

Mary piped up, “Well happy birthday kiddo. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Emily sighed, “Because it’s no big deal, it’s just another ordinary day.” She put the card back into the little plastic holder and moved the flowers so they were out of the way, the vase was quite a heavy and large light blue crystal.

“It sure isn’t just an ordinary day, not at your age. When you’re an old coot like me then it’s just an ordinary day because you don’t want to be reminded that your bowels are losing their hold and your eyes are fading… or any other slew of aches and pains!” Mary looked to Harri and they both laughed. Then Harri gave her a wink and went back to her job of scanning in the returned books.

“Well thanks for the happiness anyways ladies, I appreciate it,” then Emily went back to her job as well.

After another hour or so Emily was interrupted by not only Mary and Harri, but also James and Spencer, the other guys that worked at the library part time; they were singing happy birthday and Spencer was carrying a small chocolate cake for her. Emily moaned and put her head down on the desk. Everyone ignored her dramatization and kept on singing until they were right in front of her and when she lifted her head they put the cake down in front of her.

“Now blow out the candles and make a wish Emily,” Spencer said with a smile. Spence was a sweet kid that was a senior in high school and Emily sometimes helped him with his homework.

“I wish no one else would celebrate my birthday,” Emily said and blew out the candles. They all laughed and Mary produced a knife and plates. Emily cut everyone a slice, even one for herself, and they sat and enjoyed the cake; it was quite delicious. It was most likely from the bakery a few doors down, they also made the best doughnuts.

When they were all done Emily said, “Thanks guys, I appreciate it,” she smiled at them and they all gave her a hug and went back to their duties. The rest of the afternoon went by swiftly and when she emerged from the break room Marcus was there at the front door waiting for her.

He smiled, “Happy birthday Doll! I figured you would need a ride home, that vase might be a little cumbersome for you.”

She gave him a scowl but couldn’t hold it, “I told you…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he interrupted her, “So you said yesterday.” He went over and picked up the large vase and Emily grabbed what was left over from her cake. She said thanks again to everyone and the ladies gave her a big hug. Mary winked over at Marcus before he turned to hold the door open for Emily.

“So we’re going to have dinner at my house, do you want to go home first?” Marcus was leading the way to his car that was parked right in front of the library. Somehow to Emily’s surprise he was able to open the door for her still even though he was holding the huge arrangement in one hand.

Emily got into the car and took the vase from Marcus and put it between her legs to hold it steady, “We can just go straight to your house I guess, no reason for me to head home first. And I don’t even want to know what you have planned for me there,” she looked over to him because of course he was already in the driver’s seat and starting his car.

He just grinned and said nothing so Emily knew that there was more than just the flowers for her today. Sure enough when they got into his house there were balloons, streamers and a banner for her, the house looked so bright and cheery it took her breath away. Mary instantly jumped off of the couch and gave her a big hug, “Happy birthday sweetie!”

Mort was up there as well and hugged her once Mary finally let go, “Happy birthday Emily. What are you, 19 now?” He laughed at his own humor and Marcus just rolled his eyes as he put the flowers in the kitchen so they were out of the way.

“Thanks Mort, but no, I’m 24, yeah I know, still a puppy!” She put her bag down and sat on the couch next to Mary. They were watching the news and kept it on while Marcus was fiddling in the kitchen with dinner still. Part of Emily wanted to get up and see if he needed any help, but it felt good to sit for a moment after her long day. Thankful that she at least got through school with no one knowing that it was her birthday, Emily could only imagine what Julia would have done if she knew.

The three of them sat in silence as the reporter gave the day’s news with a perky tone and smile on her face. Emily noticed this time how different the news was here from home. She had watched the news a ton since she had been in England, but maybe after just being at home did she realize the difference. Here there was so much good news to report, they even had a special time allotted for quirky or bizarre news. After the weather man gave his forecast of the usual cloudy and cool days ahead she got up and meandered to the kitchen.

She found Marcus with his head in the oven so she went up and pinched his butt, “What’s cookin’ hot stuff?”

Without flinching one bit he answered, “I decided to make some lasagna for you. I can’t promise that it will be as good as Mickey’s but you shouldn’t have to gag it down.” He stood upright and took the homemade garlic bread from the counter and placed it on the bottom rack then closed the door. He washed his hands then turned to her and gave her a big hug, “Happy birthday Doll.”

She hugged him back, “Whatever, you’ve said that already. You’re such a brat you know that?” She had to smile though, it was very sweet of him to do all of this for her.

Marcus looked to the ceiling then kissed her, “You know, I do have a gift for you, and so does Mort and Mary so try to be a god sport about having to be spoiled for an evening.”

They went back out into the living room and joined the older couple in finishing listening to the broadcast until dinner was ready. When the timer went off Mort sprung up, “Dinner’s ready!” He waited for Mary to rise then took her hand and they went into the dining room. To Emily’s surprise, which she didn’t think she could have any more for one day, there was a three tiered cake that was two feet high on the buffet table that was so marvelous looking it would have been a sin to cut into it.

Mary told her that her neighbor was a pastry chef and made it special for her. Emily went over to it to get a closer look at the art work. It was a creamy white with red, purple and yellow handmade cream cheese frosting flowers all over it. The stems were made of chocolate ribbon and the leaves were candied sugar died green. On the top of the cake it simply said “Happy Birthday Emily” but that was in a raspberry drizzle with elegant loops and curls. Mary told Emily to turn around and she snapped a picture of her next to the cake.

Everyone took their seats and Marcus came in with the lasagna in one hand and a basket with the bread in another. There were already salads on the table along with their fine china and polished silverware and linen napkins. Marcus set the food down in the center and cut the ladies their pieces first then gave Mort a huge piece. Naturally he gave himself the smallest cut.

Mary observed the tiny piece he put on his own plate, “Marcus, how can you eat so little? You really do need to eat more dear, you’re going to wither away to nothing!”

He laughed, “Heck, with the way Mort eats this is all I can scavenge around here!” He winked at Mort who gave him a mock scowl through puffed cheeks full of the delicious pasta and cheese.

They all finished their meal which naturally was amazingly delicious. Emily was so full she was about to burst. Marcus and Mort cleared the table then in a few moments the lights suddenly dimmed and Marcus was bringing her cake over to her with several candles lit. She was happy to see that he didn’t load up the wonderful cake with 24 candles. They sang happy birthday to her then Emily blew out the candles and after her mild applause was over the lights came back up and Marcus was cutting three slices of the cake. Emily couldn’t eat all of it but she had to take at least a few bites, but to her astonishment she was able to eat the entire piece. It was the best cake she had ever had, it was so moist and creamy and the flowers were a true delicacy!

It was time for presents and Emily was very embarrassed as always when it came to this part and she protested that they shouldn’t have gotten her anything at all, their friendship and love was all that she needed. After they were settled in the living room and after Marcus had made tea for Mary and Mort, Mary handed over her gift for Emily to open up first.

Emily thanked her before she even tore the lovely silver and gold wrapping. After she freed the little box and opened the velvety cover, she gasped at the antique wristwatch in there, “Oh Mary! This is so gorgeous, you really shouldn’t have! How old is this?” She took the watch out and started to put it on her wrist.

“Oh I think it is only about fifty years old or so, my granddaughter actually found it when we were roaming around an old shop near London. I thought of you when I saw the amethysts in it. I hope it fits, if not I can take it to my jeweler,” Mary was very happy that Emily loved the watch so much.

Emily smiled as she looked at the watch closer; it was silver and had the little purple gems at the twelve, three, six and nine. The intricacy of the silver was what took her breath away, it had two different shades of silver that made “V’s” within the links. It sparkled when she turned her wrist, “Thank you again, it is so lovely!” Emily leaned across the couch and gave Mary a hug and kiss on the cheek.

Mort leaned over in his chair and handed Emily a bag, “Mine isn’t as wonderful, but I think you will like it as well.” He smiled at her when she took the very light bag from him.

“Thanks Mort,” Emily peered inside and had to dig around the colored tissue paper that was in there. She finally found a small envelope at the bottom. She took it out and opened it up, when she read the little piece of paper she had to giggle, “Thank you Mort, this is a wonderful gift!” Mary looked over at her, “What is it dear?”

“I have my choice of five books from a wonderful little shop called the Book Nook!” Emily was beaming as Mary snickered and patted Mort’s knee.

“Okay, my turn now,” Marcus handed Emily another little bag, but this one had more weight than Mort’s. “Thank you darling,” Emily said as she took out the two boxes inside the bag. She opened the smaller box first and it was a splendid pair of tear drop earrings and the drops were a perfect match to the amethyst in the watch, “Oh Marcus, these are gorgeous!” She opened the other box and was startled to see a matching set of a necklace and bracelet with alternating gems that were about one-quarter karat in size of amethyst and diamond, both matched the watch and earrings as well. She got up from the couch and went over to Marcus who was sitting on the floor across from her. “I cannot thank you enough, these are too much!” She kissed him and then sat next to him on the floor.

“Nothing is too much for you Doll. Happy birthday,” he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and whispered into her ear, “I love you very much.”

She smiled at him and took in a breath, “Thank you so very much, I cannot tell you how much this means to me.” Her phone rang in her pocket and cut her off. She looked at the screen and saw that it was her mother, “It’s my mom, is it okay if I answer it?”

Marcus and Mary answered in unison, “Of course!” Mort just rolled his eyes and snuggled into his old recliner a little more. Emily stood up and pushed the little green button, “Hey mom.” She went into the dining room and told her mother about her surprise party, the wonderful cake and her presents. She thanked her for the flowers again then spoke to her dad and brother for a few minutes. After she hung up the phone and re-pocketed it, Emily went back out into the living room. Mort and Mary had the TV back on and were watching a sitcom. Emily found Marcus in the kitchen wiping the spotless counter.

Hugging him as he turned around Emily purred, “Thank you for my party, this was very sweet of you,” she then put her head on his chest and squeezed him around the waist.

Wrapping her up he replied, “You’re welcome darling, glad you liked it,” then kissed the top of her head and placed his cheek there.

“Do you have anything else planned for me?” She knew that there was more to come, there was no way that he would keep things this simple.

He laughed, “Now why do you ask that?” He pulled back and looked into her face, “do you want more?”

Replying quickly, “No, no, this is perfect. I just always wonder what you’re up to.”

“Well you know me so well huh? I have one more little gift for you, but I will wait until we get back to your flat,” he gave her his sexy smirk, kissed her then released her and took her hand, “Come on.”

They went back out into the living room and sat on the couch to spend a little time with Mary and Mort. After the show was over Marcus got up, “Well I’m going to walk Emily home. Good night Mary, and thanks for coming over. ’Night Gramps,” he kissed Mary on the cheek and patted Mort on top of his head. Emily thanked them both and gave hugs and kisses and they bade her happy birthday once again and loving good-nights; then she followed Marcus out the door.

They walked hand in hand down the lane to her flat. When they were about a block and a half from her place a policeman turned onto their path. Marcus instantly chuckled, he realized before the man had even seen them that it was the same Bobbie from before the holidays. Emily had to put her head down after she saw him because she didn’t think she could keep the smile off of her face.

The officer looked at Marcus first and recognized him right away, and then he saw the girls face right before it was hidden by her hair. He thought to himself that she was a lovely little thing. She looked pretty before but now that he was able to see her better, for the sun was higher in the sky this evening and he had more light to see her features. He noticed that Mr. Fitzgerald quickened his step for a little bit then he was close enough to address them, “Good evenin’ Mr. Fitzgerald, how do you do ma’am?”

“Oh good evening Constable Grey,” Marcus stopped and tipped his head forward in acknowledgement. Emily lifted her head and forced her lips into a normal and cordial smile, “Good evening sir,” she said.

“Nice to see you on your own two feet this time lass,” he then looked hard at Marcus, “Good job in getting her home at a reasonable hour this time young Fitzgerald,” Grey let the sarcasm run off his tongue so Marcus couldn’t miss it. He wasn’t too harsh, but wanted him to know that this was his territory and he was always watching.

Marcus had a hard time keeping himself from rolling his eyes at Grey’s words, he had to think if he heard the same thing from the cop that was this laddy’s grandfather. But he kept his look straight, “Yes sir. Sorry again about that sir.” He squeezed Emily’s hand.

She grasped it tighter in response and spoke up, “Thank you for understanding sir, we didn’t mean any trouble; I was just exhausted that night. Too much of a work load I guess,” Emily shrugged her shoulders and looked down at the ground meagerly, then looked back up under her brows at the officer towering over her.

Grey smiled down at her, “No worries dear, I know the Fitzgerald’s, I knew you were in good hands.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth he winced at himself. “Oh, uh, no pun intended there.” Grey looked past both of them to some young boys a few blocks up, “Well I need to get going, you two stay out of mischief.” He went past them up the brick walkway towards the street where the supposed “No-do-gooder’s” were going.

Emily and Marcus turned back around to head to her house and they started to giggle as they scampered away in their direction. “Nice act of a blessed virgin,” Marcus had to laugh out loud once they were out of earshot of the cop, “You were too funny, I don’t know how I kept myself from laughing!”

“Are you serious? You looked so calm, cool and collected!” Emily snickered through her astonishment, “I thought I was going to die laughing. It was hard to keep the tears from welling up.” She was laughing not only at what an awkward scene that was, but also at the fact that Marcus had to keep himself together as well. With all of his differences, he was just like her in so many ways. And in that same thought Emily felt herself fall in love with this man a little deeper.

Marcus noticed that she wasn’t laughing as much but was instead looking at him and had a huge, broad smile across her face as she gazed up into his eyes. He stopped chuckling and looked down at her and stopped them both. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen Emily.”

“Thank you,” was all that her throat could squeeze out, she had the largest lump in her throat.

Marcus held both of her arms gently, “You okay?”

Emily beamed, “I am so much more than okay Marcus,” she wrapped her arms around his thin back. She paused then got up onto her toes and went for his lips.

He watched her face for a moment as she closed her eyes and pursed her lips; she was more beautiful than anyone he thought to himself, then leaned down into her kiss. He felt like he sunk into her, could feel himself melding into one with her. Nothing had ever made him feel like this before, no drink, no drug, no woman, and no blood he also thought. He loved loving this woman, but yet he was also afraid of loving her too much at the same time.

Emily stopped her kiss and pulled back a few inches, “Are you okay?” She felt him return his kiss intensely, then it slowed and his tongue almost stopped between her lips; that was when she leaned back into his arms on her lower back to look up at him.

Marcus looked down at her and realized what he was thinking when she stopped, “Oh yeah, my mind just got lost around you, sorry.” He was suddenly very embarrassed for another reason when he realized that they were right in front of the flower shop that Emily lived above and there were two women cleaning up the front window watching the two lovers embrace.

Emily looked into his eyes and saw him look past her, she tilted her head to the right and recognized the brick pattern on the corner of the building, “Oh no, we’re being watched aren’t we?” She didn’t want to turn around, so she put her face into the comforting chest in front of her. She then thought better to not give them more eye candy and quickly turned on her feet. Emily went through the door just to her right and out of sight of the two women that she knew were going to talk about this to the entire town by midnight.

Marcus let Emily tug him away by the hand and he gave the two women his movie-star smile and a raise of his brow and was out of their sight, that will give them more to gossip over biscuits he thought.

He was starting to giggle again when they were half way up the steps, “Oh now that was funny!”

Emily was too embarrassed to laugh this time, she knew Maria was going to be one of the peepers, the other had to be her aunt, Stephanie. Stephanie owned the shop and it was her grandmothers before that. Stephanie was such a gossip, Emily knew she could hear phones ringing right at that moment. Quickly she put the key into her lock and flung herself inside, “Ugh!” she gasped as she threw her bag onto the red, fluffy chair in the living room.

“Oh it’s not that bad Doll, nothing to worry about,” Marcus stifled his snickers and followed Emily into her miniscule room of a kitchen. She was starting to get a bottle of wine out of the fridge so he took a glass from her cupboard. She pulled out the cork from the two day opened bottle of Riesling and poured half a glass. As she put the bottle away did she realize that she finally got over the fact of only having to pour one glass instead of two when Marcus was here. Then in the very next moment she realized that she apparently hadn’t gotten over the fact. She shook her head and took up her glass and held it up to Marcus in a salute, “Thank you for a very wonderful birthday, happy birthday to me.”

Marcus held up an empty hand in the shape of mock response to her toast, “Happy birthday Emily.”

When Emily took a sip Marcus put his hand down and smiled at her. After she put her glass back upon the counter he scooped her up to him, “Now for your last present,” he grinned and pulled her pelvis into his, “It’s in your room.” He smirked and kissed her on the neck. As he moved down her neck to her shoulder, taking little licks and nips along the way he felt her shiver and melt into him. He knew that would make her release the tension from moments ago and get her focused back onto happy thoughts.

“Alright,” was all that she could breathe out, he took her breath away every time he did this to her. He easily maneuvered her towards her bedroom and he flipped on the light of the lamp next to her bed. He removed his lips from hers so she could see what he got for her.

Emily reluctantly turned away from his luscious lips to see what was shimmering on her quilt. Emily “Ooh’d” as she bent down to touch the velvety scarves that were on her bed. There were four scarves that were as soft as rabbit’s fur and shimmered from dark cloth to silvery splashes where the light fell. They were all identical except for the colors. They had an embossing of raised material that made a trailing vine pattern with flowers sprouting here and there on the velvet side, then the back side was of solid silk; there was a dark blue, deep purple, a red as dark as garnet and a brown that looked like a bin of melted chocolate that had been dumped out. “Oh honey these are so beautiful, I love them!” She turned back to him and was touching the brown scarf to her cheek, “It feels magnificent.”

He picked up the end of the scarf and played with the seam between his fingers, “I thought of you as soon as I touched it, and the colors just seemed to speak out to me. Sounds funny, but…” he just lifted his shoulders up and let them fall naturally.

“I know what you mean, some things have their own voice.” She dropped the scarf from her face and took his face into her free hand and brought him closer to hers, “I love you so very much.”

As they kissed they undressed and climbed onto the bed, before Emily could fling back the covers Marcus took her hand, “I did get these for another reason as well,” he lifted the blue scarf in his other hand and started to put it around her wrist.

Emily just laughed a throaty moan and slid down under him so he could straddle her and tie her up, “Oh this is going to definitely be the best birthday ever,” she then put her lips to work on his chest.

Emily woke up to her alarm blaring out some Led Zeppelin song; she smashed the button to stop the guitar riff and grumbled that was a horrid song to wake up to. Doing chores is one thing, but to be startled into a waking state was something else. When she shuffled into the kitchen and had to squint when the sun caught her eye, it was one sight that lifted all of the cloudiness around her and she flung the curtains open even more. Emily started to open the window but when the cold air hit her she realized that it was still too chilly this early in the morning to let the air in. The sun was good for now. Standing in the ray for a moment or two Emily thought of the dream she had woken up from.

She was in her father’s house, the usual house of her dreams. There were several people around the living room and she was there with Craig. Everyone was smiling and happy, it seemed as though there was a party or celebration going on for her father. Then Craig was kneeling in front of her asking for her hand in marriage. She was so excited and said yes, but when she went to kiss him his face went from the fuzzy grey that it always is, to a murky black. She was trying to find his lips but then she couldn’t see; she thought it was because her eyes were shut but then she knew that her eyes were in fact open. When she turned around to look for Craig she realized that she was now alone in a room that was dark and cold. Not this room, she thought in her dream. The growl was not in the corner as it usually was, instead she was greeted by Marcus coming in through the darkness to her left. She couldn’t see him clearly, but she knew it was him by his figure, his walk, his scent. As he came closer she saw that his clothes were different, then her thoughts instantly went to Craig, that’s who was walking towards her. Then in her dreaming state she became very confused as his shape kept melting and phasing from Marcus to Craig.

Now as Emily stood in her kitchen reliving her dream she had to shake her head. Her mind instantly went to the portrait of Amelia that Mort had shown her. She scoffed and said out loud, “Now that was a weird dream and thought.” She let it go as she filled her kettle with cold water from the tap.

Today was Marcus’ birthday and she had a busy day at school and work. Luckily she got coverage for her last hour at work so she was able to get over to his house while he was still busy in the shop. She had it all worked out with Mort, even before Marcus had his little surprise party for her a little over a week ago. Mort was going to make sure he was very preoccupied downstairs while Emily went into the side door that led from the alley up into the living area that Mort was going to leave open for her. He told her that in the hall closet there was a bag with party decorations in it that she could use. Mary was going to be there as well to help get the food and cake ready for him. She had to change some of her plans since her birthday party. Emily didn’t want anything to be the same, even though she technically thought of the party at his house first, and the dinner also. What were the chances that he made lasagna for her? Granted she was really making hers for Mort, she knew that Marcus would get no enjoyment from the food, but from everything else he would. So she decided to make stuffed shells instead and got a chocolate cake, from the same baker of course.

Emily got up from the table to get the screaming kettle and made the tea, while it steeped she got herself a bowl of cereal and went through her list of to-do’s for the day. At her lunch she was going to the music store to get the classical piano and violin CD’s she had ordered. Then she was able to get some cool shirts and sunglasses out of a catalog she found in the break room at work. She was nervous about the shirts, but when they came in she was so happy to see they were not only the right size, but the feel of them was spectacular. They were Egyptian cotton, collared shirts, the exact ones that he liked to wear. She was able to get one in a green that looked like the vivid green of clovers and one in black of course, he wore black a lot, not all the time, but she knew it was his preferred color in clothing. Those she still had to wrap this morning and carry in her bag all day. Then she got a book from Mort that he said Marcus mentioned at the last convention that he went to. Emily just told him to order it and she would give him the money since she knew there was no way she could have gotten it anywhere else, nor would she have, but it was some book in Greek and was an historical fiction of the rise of an artist in ancient Greece. She also went to the boutique again and got a new little sexy outfit for him. It seemed to be a good tradition they started absent-mindedly, but she liked knowing that she could give herself to him and he loved it more than anything wrapped in paper. This number was a thong and bustier in black satin and grey lace. The woman that owned the shop was very eager to help her to find something that was ‘racy but not raunchy’. Emily also wanted something that was comfortable and was not going to torture her like the garter belt that the older woman was reaching for. Emily decided that she would wear the panties under her skirt today and would tease him at dinner. She smiled at her thought and poured her tea then considered herself insanely lucky that they not only were able to have sex, but had it quite often and they were very fun and experimental escapades to boot.

Emily took her tea into her room to get dressed. When she was finished dressing in a long brown suede skirt and a lightweight blue sweater, Emily did her hair in a ponytail and brushed her teeth. After she wiped her face she knew that there was no way she was going to survive the day - all day - with the thin lace stuck between the cheeks of her ass. She took off the panties in a relief and put them into the zippered pouch of her purse, she decided to put them on in Marcus’ downstairs half bath after she was done decorating.

Before she opened the door Emily took one of her new scarves off of the hook and wound it around her neck, it was still cool in the mornings so she needed to bundle up still for the next few weeks. She smiled internally to think of the blue scarf being tied around her ankle and what Marcus did to that leg afterwards. Shaking the thought away as she headed out into the cold stairwell, Emily started her day.

After her 10:45 class she was starting to head off campus when Julia stopped her, “Hey where you off to in such a rush?”

“I needed to get to Deejay’s before my next class, wan’na sprint instead of eat?” Emily put her backpack fully onto her back for the ten minute trek.

“Yeah sure, Patty can’t make it to lunch either, she has to go to the library for research or something. Glad I wore my new boots today,” Julia lifted one heel of a brown, leather boot.

“Oh those are cute, where’d you get them?” Emily was thinking that they would match her new brown scarf perfectly.

“My new beau got them for me in France.” Julia loved to talk about her spoils from her many men. She went into her usual description of the rich hunk she got her claws into and Emily listened in earnest as her friend spoke , (and of course the boots were from France Emily thought to herself). Emily then told her about her new scarf that the boots would go perfectly with; then found herself telling Julia about the way Marcus presented them to her.

Julia laughed and giggled and covered her mouth hearing the juicy story that came out of Emily’s mouth, sex was one of her favorite topics. “Oh I love it! Isn’t getting tied up just so thrilling? Nothing to hurt you know, just that little bit to drive you nuts… sex is just one of the greatest pleasures to life. And one of the best parts about it, is that it’s free, and if you can get the chance to mix love and experimentation into it,” Julia lifted her perfectly thin shoulders and raised her jeweled wrists in a shrugging motion, “then you have one of the most remarkable relationships ever. Nothing can ever take the place, you know?” Julia resumed her normal walking rhythm and looked over to Emily, knowing full well that Emily knew exactly what she was talking about. This guy Marcus was nothing but love and excitement for Emily.

They got to the store and Emily went right to the counter to get her order. Julia headed over to the ‘New Rock’ section and started to flip while she waited. She didn’t think she would find anything she wanted, she had a better selection than this at her house already.

Emily came over and flipped through the disks a little now that her transaction was done, she didn’t really want anything in particular, plus she didn’t have any more cash on her to get anything anyway. “You ready to head on back?”

“Yep, can’t see anything that I have to have.” Julia smiled at the girl behind the counter and sauntered out the door behind Emily to go back to campus.

The two women just gossiped about this and that, Emily also told Julia about the kiss in front of the window and when Julia told her that she knew about that a week ago, Emily wasn’t surprised at all. Luckily for her Julia was able to tell Emily a ton of gossip and smut on the flower shop owner and Maria. According to one guy she dated he had a menage’toi with the two of them. Emily squealed at the steamy story and they laughed all the way back to their building.

“Hey, thanks so much for coming, you made that errand a fun one,” Emily smiled at Julia as she took her bag off of one shoulder.

Julia turned to her and gave her a hug, “Thanks for inviting me, I had fun. Have fun tonight, take some pictures for me eh?” Julia gave the astounded face a wink and disappeared into her classroom. Emily just shook her head and went into the door five paces away.

When it was finally four o’clock Emily put her book binding stuff away at work. As she was rushing towards the door she called out to Harri, “Thanks again Harri, I really appreciate it!”

The old woman stuck her head out from behind a shelf, “No problem dear, have fun!”

Emily hurried the few blocks towards the shop. On her way to school this morning she realized that the door they planned on her coming through was in Marcus’ office and if he happened to be in there then she couldn’t hide herself. With a call this morning to Mort, Emily told him to leave the door by the garage unlocked instead. She was really hoping that he didn’t forget and was relieved when the knob turned. Emily went inside and locked the door behind her then quickly and quietly went up the stairs and into the kitchen.

When she entered the room it was so bright and smelled so good. It was a perfect sight and Emily stopped to relish in it. There was Mary at the stove with her back to Emily, and the sun was pouring in through the window to her right and landing on the spotless stainless steel sink, the fresh vegetables in many colors on the counter, and the pink and lavender roses on the large buttocks of Mary’s dress. The scent of the sauce made Emily’s mouth water, it smelled exactly like her mother’s sauce. She gave Mary the recipe via e-mail yesterday so she could get it started this afternoon. A good sauce really did need to cook for several hours.

“Yum it smells so good in here Mary!” Emily put her bag down and hugged the older, plump woman that turned and beamed.

“Oh thank you Emily dear, I must say this is a great recipe, your mother’s isn’t it?” She gave the emaciated girl a gentle hug, “You and that man of yours are too darn thin, I feel like I’m going to break you to pieces.” Mary was so friendly, she never said anything with any offense or harm, it was always with love and thoughtfulness.

“Yeah I know, my mom says the same thing. I’m sure it will catch up to me eventually. So what can I do here?” Emily started to go towards the sink but Mary stopped her, “Just go and decorate instead, I have it covered in here and there is no way that I can get up and pin stuff on the walls and ceiling. That’s where you can be of the most help dear.” She turned back to the pot she was stirring then started to cut up the vegetables for the salad.

Emily did as she was told and started to put up the streamers and birthday banner that was used at her party. She hung it all in the living room this time and didn’t put the focus in the dining room like it was at her party. After she was done she went back into the kitchen to look at the small cake in the refrigerator. She had ordered it the other day and Mary picked it up on her way here so it was perfectly fresh. Not like Marcus will care Emily thought, but her and Mort will enjoy picking at it for the next few days. It was perfect, exactly as she wanted it; chocolate cake with chocolate icing and the letters and vines were in a vanilla crème. The cake was actually another work of art when she looked closer to the vines and lettering. It was masculine and beautiful at the same time. The vines were so delicate yet there were small thorns sticking out along the edges and the leaves were bi-colored with a greyer white. The letters were scripted in the same vine and leaves but it was thinner and even more subtle.

Emily let out a low whistle, “Wow, Betty sure does amazing work on these cakes. It kills me to have to cut it up and destroy it. But yet not really… they’re so damn tasty too!” She snickered like a little kid and so did Mary.

“I know! I have the hardest time not taking a swipe of the frosting with my finger when I pick them up. But I got lucky today; she had little cupcakes made with the left over batter and let me have a sample. Oh you are going to die for it. Men don’t appreciate good chocolate like we do. Now Marcus will appreciate it of course, and Mort will just scarf it up, but you and I? Well we will devour it with every ounce of us!” She gave the younger woman a wink and went back to chopping.

Emily liked to hang out with the older woman, she was so young at heart and lively, she wasn’t boring like most women her age.

Her and Emily got everything done in time and were sitting in the living room sipping wine when they heard Mort clomp up the stairs. He made himself a little louder than usual as to alert them of his arrival. Mary snorted at his cute effort and stood up to greet them and surprise Marcus.

Mort came through the door and Marcus was two steps behind him. When the women saw his stunning face they both yelled, “Surprise! Happy birthday!” Mary went over and gave him a big hug and kiss and then Emily did the same, except she landed her kiss on his lips instead of his cheek. Before she pulled away he whispered in her ear, “I’ll get you for this.”

“Uh-huh,” was the only reply that he got though.

Mary skittered off to pull the shells out of the oven and Mort went into the bathroom to wash up. Marcus said that he wanted to change his shirt and pulled Emily along behind, “You’re coming with me little one.”

Emily knew that he was faking the annoyance but she kept her snicker to herself, “What’s wrong darling?” She cooed in a sweet voice.

After the door was closed to his room he spun her around, “Why in bloody hell did you do this? You know that I don’t celebrate my birthday, and I haven’t for over a 100 bloody years Emily… for a reason…” he let his voice drop and went into his closet to get another shirt, he took off the one he was wearing and flung it at Emily. After she took it she realized that he got glue or something on the front of it.

“What’s wrong with you today?” Emily was perplexed why he was so upset, she was obviously wrong about his emotion being an act. “You deserve to celebrate this day, no matter what you tell people your age is, it’s a day to be joyful of… does any of this sound familiar?” She waited for a few moments and when she didn’t hear a reply she went into the bathroom where he was washing up.

She found him with his hands on the sink and his head was down with his hair over his eyes. She slowly walked up to him and leaned over to peer into his face, she moved a tuft of his hair out of the way to find that he was actually crying. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry to make you this upset, I wanted you to be happy today, not sad!” Her surprise went totally in the wrong direction, now she was bummed that this was all a mistake.

He turned around and just wrapped his arms around her and sighed. After a few moments he said in a low voice, “You are so wonderful, and I am so thankful that you have come into my life Emily. And thank you for my party, sorry I blew up at you.”

Emily didn’t think that was a “blow-up” at all but kept her mouth shut about it. “No problem babe, sorry that I …”

“No, you have nothing to be sorry about. It’s just that, well my birthday just makes me think of things that I want to avoid… can I just tell you that for now?”

“Of course, tell me whatever you want. I just wanted you to know that I love you and I am thankful for this day, even if you’re not.” She kept her arms around him and he held her close for a few more minutes.

He relaxed his slight grip upon her and stepped back, “Thank you. I regret acting the way that I did, I truly am grateful for all that you’ve done.” His smile was sincere, a genuine look of compassion and joy.

Emily couldn’t have loved him any more, he was one of those hero’s from the romance novels. She just made a movement of her shoulders and kept the beam upon her face towards him, “You’re quite welcome, and the pleasure is all mine.” She took his hand and led him back into his bedroom then after she kissed his chest she let him put his clean shirt on.

Once he was dressed they went back to the main part of the house, Emily was still in shock how big his house was. And as she walked along the halls she pictured how her building, just a few blocks away, was laid out. She could see where the owner of her building put up a wall in this part of the stairwell to cut off that section of the house. She loved the architecture of these old homes. Especially the ones that were atop a store below, what a perfect set up she thought. Before they got to the bottom of the stairs Marcus took one extra step to catch up with her and he took her by the hips to stop her from the final step. When he took hold of her he made a quick intake of breath. Emily just giggled.

Before she knew it they were back halfway up the stairwell again, “Marcus, what are you doing?” she whispered.

“What are you wearing?” He was smiling from ear to ear as he started to stroke her cheeks and hips through her thin skirt. “Oh my, my… is this another present? For me?”

Emily snickered like a little girl trying to keep a secret, “Maybe,” she kept trying to push his hands off of her but naturally didn’t use any force or conviction to make him really stop.

He kept his hands all over her lower half and snuggled into her neck and breathed into her ear, “Now I cannot wait to get you back to your flat to see what you have for me. No other gift here will be good enough knowing what I have to open up last.” He took a few small nibbles of her skin and her knees gave out and she fell into his hands.

They both contained themselves when they heard Mary shout that dinner was ready from down below. Emily was able to straighten out her skirt and blouse and Marcus made sure that he wasn’t disheveled either. They were holding hands and giggling as they entered the dining room. Mary had the cake on the buffet with some candles already in it and waiting to be lit, and on the table they each had a full plate of shells and a nice big salad on a side plate. There was a large basket of garlic bread in the center of the table as well and Emily was happy to see that she made cheesy garlic bread and regular, she loved both but always ended up devouring the cheesiest pieces.

Mort stood up and gave a nice toast to his grandson that was finally turning 28, even though the years have passed quickly Mort was so very happy that he got to spend all of his time with Marcus. There were a few notes of sarcasm that only Marcus and Emily caught that went right over Mary’s head. Emily and Mary both took pictures and Marcus did his best to look bashful but yet thankful at the same time. He kept reaching over caress Emily’s upper thigh and hip and she had to keep pushing his hand away so she could keep her composure and carry on a normal conversation with the other two people in the room.

When dinner was done they sang and had cake, which was as outstanding as everyone expected it to be, then Marcus opened his gifts in the comfort of the living room. He loved the shirts and sunglasses from Emily and he went crazy over the CD’s and put one into the player right then and there. Mort got him an iPod with over $200 worth of cards so he could download just about anything, even books according Mary. But of course both he and Mort shivered when Mary suggested such a dastardly thing. Mary got Marcus a handsome leather bag to carry books and such in. She thought it would be nice when he traveled to conventions and book fairs. He loved the soft black leather and the strap was very thick and durable, he gave her a huge hug of gratitude, and he promised her that he would get tons of use out of it.

After all of that was done Marcus started to give Emily that look, the one that she loved and craved all day every day. She got up and headed towards the kitchen to clean up so they could get going sooner. To her surprise most of the dishes were already done, she wondered if Marcus had snuck in there and took care of most of them. She started to finish up what few dishes were in the sink when Mort came in, “Leave those be, Mary and I will get the rest. You two go out and have some fun. It’s still early yet, I bet you can find plenty of things to do still.” Emily really had to bite her lip, thinking of exactly where to go, but she just said thanks and kissed his cheek on her way out of the kitchen.

She gave Mary another big hug to thank her for all of her help and Marcus also gave another round of thanks as he held his excitement to get out of his home and head on over to Emily’s flat. Once they were finally free and heading down towards the street Marcus put his arm around Emily, “Thanks for a great surprise, even though I had a feeling something was coming.”

“I knew you would, there is no way to hide things from you is there?”

“Yes there is, my final gift will be a nice surprise, and the CD’s too, that was great of you to think of that. But I figured what was going on as soon as I smelled the sauce cooking this morning, and naturally I could smell your deliciousness as soon as you got here.” He kissed her ear and they headed down to her place to finish off the wonderful evening.

Emily opened her eyes and stretched out her arms and legs, she rested so wonderfully last night, but she usually did on Saturday nights. She didn’t know if it was because Marcus always stayed with her all night and she felt safer and more comforted, or if it was because she knew that she could sleep in and didn’t have to go anywhere the next day.

After she opened her eyes she rolled over to her lover that was by her side. He was on his back, as usual, and had his eyes closed still. She knew he wasn’t sleeping of course, but he told her a long time ago that he loved to lay there, like a normal person would, and just let his body relax and do nothing. It was more for his mind than his body actually since the shell never got tired. He admitted though that his psyche became overwhelmingly exhausted at times. This was a tiring week for him so Emily was not surprised to see him in this position still; it was the same exact one as when she got up to go to the bathroom at three this morning.

She lay there looking at him while he was so still. The paleness and feel of his skin still fascinated and enthralled her. In this light, with a little bit of sun coming in through her window, she could see why his kind avoided the sun in public; it truly did look opalescent. She could see the veins on his cheek and nose and the tiny ones in his eyelid. His lips were such a pale pink, they looked like the color of a baby dolls’. His features were so English; he had the high forehead, square but sleek nose and thin chin. His hair was the prettiest shade of pale brown, it had streaks of darker brown as well as blonde in it though. If anyone thought about it they would think that he went to a salon to give it those highlights. Every part of him really did enthrall her still, even the thought of them having sex like they did was totally unnatural.

Before she was able to complete her next thought he parted his lips ever so slightly and let out a very slight breath; then he spoke, “Are you going to lay there and stare at me all morning or what?” Those baby doll lips then closed into an innocent little smirk then he opened his eyes and looked over to her.

She couldn’t help but laugh and bury her face into his shoulder in embarrassment. “Busted, huh?” she muffled out. She felt his chest vibrate in humor.

“Totally.” He took in a breath, “So what were you thinking about, or let me guess, how dashing I am…blah, blah, blah…” he rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out.

“Ha, yeah sort of; but I know what I want to do today. Unless of course you already had something in mind?” She partially sat up onto one elbow and didn’t wait for him to reply, “I want to do some research. Is there a larger library close by? I don’t want to have to go all the way into London, but I need something bigger than ours.”

“Uh-oh, do I want to ask what research you would like to fill your mind with this week?” Marcus sat up all the way and leaned his back up against the headboard and let the sheet fall to expose his bare chest, stomach and the top patch of hair of his groin. He ran his hand through his hair to push it out of his eyes, “I noticed you’ve been looming around the medical section at the shop. Would this have anything to do with that by chance?”

Emily had to refocus herself on the conversation. Damn it, she thought, is it natural to want to fuck him all the time like this? Can I not see his skin without wanting to eat him? Then actually saying out loud, “Um, yeah, it does. Look, I’ve been thinking about things, well you really. And us actually. Well, I want to know why you and I can have sex and there is never any harm, or recourse, or accident. How can you control yourself like that all the time, and what about my body? There are a million questions that I keep asking myself and I’ve exhausted almost every book at the shop and work. I still have a few shelves to go in the school library, but…”

“Whoa, hold on there kiddo, slow down. Now what has caused all this suddenly?” Marcus had to be a little on guard, with the way he knew her mind to work she will be crossing rocky territory in a few months time. “So what exactly is it that you want to know? Maybe I can be all the research you need.”

“Yes, you will be, but I’ve already gone back to the 1400’s, and sorry, but I don’t think you can even answer some of the questions that I have.” Emily sat upright and faced him, she let the sheet fall to her waist as well and he looked at her breasts then her face again quickly. She noticed but didn’t skip a beat, “I think if I can look at the book and have you translate some stuff for me then maybe I can make some correlations on some ideas that I’ve had. Please?”

Marcus chewed on his lip for a minute and stared down at the sheet in front of him. He lifted his knee and put his left elbow upon it then played with his lower lip in contemplation. Her questions kept driving his thoughts to their destiny, their future. That was the one topic that he tried to escape from every chance he got. He was afraid that she would stumble onto something that would ruin everything, or that she would want to meet others like him, and then what door would that open up? His mind kept running loops onto itself, he looked back down into her eyes and searched for whatever he could find. In those pools of green, today they were a dark green, almost like a deep jade, with a hint of brown; he knew that she was in a good but adventuresome mood. She was serious about her request, but he didn’t need to look into her eyes to know that. He looked back out of the window into the spring sunlight and pulled at his bottom lip a little more, he heard her sigh in impatience, but he was proud of her for biting her tongue. “I’ll say yes, but only up to a certain point, agreed?”

“What? Why?” She started to protest but as soon as her bottom lip stuck out in defiance, his face became hard set and she knew that he was serious and there was no room for compromise. “Fine, if you say so… but…okay, okay, okay, no buts…” She conceded and leaned forward and rested her head on his thigh. “Why Marcus?”

“Why what Doll?” he looked down at her and removed his hand from his face and caressed her hair.

“Why haven’t I been hurt yet? What is the correlation between…?”

He interrupted her, “There isn’t one dear. Listen, the one main reason why you don’t get physically hurt is because I am very gentle with you, I know my own strength and I know how to control myself very well. Even though it’s difficult at times not to drink every ounce of fluid from your luscious self, I do refrain from harming you in that way. And as to my seed harming you, well I avoid doing that inside of you, so…” he let his voice just trail off.

“I cannot see how you avoid that every time, how can you? Isn’t there the ‘pre’ stuff beforehand like human men?” Emily couldn’t believe that there were too many differences between Marcus and a mortal man.

“I don’t think so, at least not in my case. I think pre-ejaculation is from not being able to hold your muscles tight enough for long enough. And I won’t get a build up like other men do, so it isn’t like I need to release every week or so. Granted I do, thank you very much; but there are still a lot of things that are hard for you to consider. And that is why I will agree to your digging. Now as to what you may find in the book, I am sad to say not very much. There might be some parts that may help you that Sebastian wrote many years ago. Some of it’s in Latin, some in Italian.” Marcus kept his hand on her soft hair and she turned her head slightly and kissed his thigh and let out a breath slowly.

He stopped and asked, “Don’t you have spring break next week? How long are you off school for?”

“Oh I forgot about that, yeah Thursday is the last day this week, then I have off until the first week of April. Why?” She lifted her head and looked closer at him. He just let out a huff of air and returned to looking back out into the sky.

“No reason,” he finally said. “So is that all that you wanted to do today was go to a library?”

“Well,” then she bit his leg, “maybe some field research as well.” Before she could get another bite in he flung himself forward and tossed her onto her back as he straddled her. As he started to put himself into her he gasped into her breast, “Oh yeah, you can do all the hands on research you want!”

They finally ended up getting out of her flat right before lunchtime so he stopped off at a great sandwich shop and she ate on the way to London. She said that she didn’t want to go that far but he knew that it was the best place to go for what she wanted, plus he knew how to get there in about an hour or so, so the drive wasn’t bad at all. They chatted about her questions and what she was trying to figure out. The entire time Marcus’ thoughts kept going back to how she and Sebastian would love to talk to each other for hours on end about this subject. He was the one that really needed to answer most of her questions for her. Marcus had to finally concede that he was merely more of a guinea pig and didn’t concentrate as much on the scientific aspects of what he and Sebastian were doing. Marcus pulled into The London Library in Westminster and Emily had to look again at the sign, “Here? Really?”

Marcus was holding her car door open for her, “Yeah, why?”

“Well don’t you have to be a member or something of this place?” Emily was awestruck by the beauty of the simple building and the topiaries and gardens around it.

“Of course, I was one of the first members here back in 1845 when it opened. What? Don’t look at me like that. What else would you expect from a guy like me?” He put his hand on the small of her back as they walked in through the great front doors. Once they were inside she gave a low whistle at the vastness and beauty of the interior.

Marcus gave her the grand tour and told her how things looked when it first opened compared to now, and how the politics of the city and country changed the topics and titles on the shelves too much over the years. They then went to the medical part on the second floor, which to Emily’s delight consisted of eight huge shelving units. She set out her notebook and some other books that she had in her bag onto the table in the center of the shelf arrangement in that section. The table was longer than her work table and this snapped her into reality that her library was so small compared to this one. Marcus already knew what she would need to start with, so before she was able to start to look around he set down about ten books for her to start perusing through. She looked at the stack of titles, “Thanks babe. I take it you did some research here on your own already?”

The smile in his eyes was genuine, “Sure did, for a few years. Unless they have gotten more books in, this is really going to be the only useful bunch, sadly. Start going through these and I will see what else I can find for you.” Marcus trotted off to look through more sections of the vast shelves and left Emily to do what she needed to do.

As she looked at her notebook and the thick books to her right she started to think, what do I need to do? Her hand reached out and took the top book down, she grinned as she opened the Grey’s Anatomy to where the picture of the entire body was found. Emily’s grin turned into a beam when she flipped to the page indicated by the index, it was a tri-fold paper of a full color interior view of the inner workings of the human anatomy. She looked at the wonderfully detailed drawing for a moment then set the book to her left so she could refer to it often, Marcus knew that she would do this, probably just as he had done, so he placed this one book at the top.

She grabbed the next book and opened it to the table of contents and read what the book contained. When she found what she wanted she turned to that section and page. After much consideration Emily decided that she would first get more acquainted with the reproductive system first, of male and female. Then she was going to search for any global shifts that might have occurred in history the same time as when the vampires started to lose their breeding capabilities.

Once those notes were written she would move on to anything she could find out about work on cadavers and also about warm and cold blooded creatures and their characteristics. Marcus had some cold blooded traits, but then warm ones as well. She was perplexed on so many things. With pen in hand Emily jotted down notes that she took from the book, and also copied little drawings with arrows accentuating certain points.

Hours passed before she looked up again. Emily’s neck ached and her lower back felt like there were little bonfires under her skin in several spots. Her legs pushed the rest of her up and back into a standing position. She stretched her hands to the ceiling and looked up. As she let her mind wander about the architecture, along with her eyes, she failed to notice a pair of eyes wander over her.

Marcus was sitting on a stool reading a Charles Dickens collection and paused to watch his partner get the blood flowing again through her marvelous limbs. He felt ridiculous for wanting to watch her, look at her, be with her continuously. Wasn’t it sad for a grown man to act like a child when a woman came around? The thoughts he had were so conflicting it maddened him at times. He was usually very clear headed, nothing shook him up and made him get lost in a trance. Nothing at least until Emily came along. She shook up and misplaced every thought that went through him. When her presence was within fifty feet of his he felt as if the entire Earth shifted on its axle. His eyes went over her body then up to her face, she turned at that moment and looked over at him. Marcus smiled outwardly when he saw her lips part, her eyes shine and heard her heart beat faster. He also could smell her body shift in response to seeing him.

Dickens was gently placed back upon the shelf where it came from and Marcus took a breath in and held it. What was it about this woman, and why now, why after so many years in solitude does this woman come into his life now? Again, the twisting thoughts. Marcus turned the corner of the isle back to the one where Emily’s table was and she was standing there with her hands on top of the table. There was no doubt that Emily was definitely in the short category, but when he saw her hands there on the table like that, he realized what a tiny little thing she really was, especially compared to his height. When he got closer to her she parted her lips into a bigger smile, “I think I lost all feeling in my gluteus maximus. What were you reading?”

Marcus lifted a shoulder in a nonchalant manner, “Just some Dickens. How are you progressing? Seems like you’ve been into all of the books, do you need any more?”

Emily raised her hand in protest, “No, I have enough here. Thank you. What time is it? I’m getting kind ’a hungry.” She patted her belly for more emphasis and smiled.

The TAG Heuer, a watch that Mort had given him last year for Christmas, told Marcus that it was already 5:30. He looked back up to her, “The library will be closing in thirty minutes, let’s get you packed up and checked out if you want any of these longer, and get you fed.” He started to reach for the books that he knew that she wanted as she started to pack up her notes.

“Wow, I can check these out? For how long? I don’t know when I’ll be getting here again though.” Emily seemed to run through all sorts of obstacles in her mind. She stopped when she looked up at Marcus’ smile, “What?”

He laughed out loud this time, “You, that’s what. Of course you can take these home and you can have them for four weeks. And I am here all the time so when you’re done I, or we, can bring them back. You can even let me know if you want them longer and I can renew them on line. Come on, what kind of food are you in the mood for? There’s pretty much everything and anything you want to eat close by now.”

Once her packed bag was flung over her shoulder and Marcus had the stack of six books for her to take home did she decide that she wanted Chinese food, she hadn’t had a good egg roll in a long time. And miso soup suddenly sounded amazingly delicious. Of course Marcus knew the best place ever that was so conveniently close by as well. They were checked out and back in his car in about ten minutes. Emily loved how everything just happened so quickly when she was with Marcus. It was nice to not have to wait around for things to happen. As they headed towards the restaurant Marcus took Emily’s hand into his and kept it rested on her knee. He looked over to her and she met his gaze for a moment then looked back out at the cityscape around her, she loved the buildings and shops here, the architecture was so old and different from The States.

“So what have you found out so far today?” Marcus wanted to know what she was researching exactly. There were so many places to start and so many dates to check all of them with he was wondering where she started and how far she got with it.

His voice took her attention away from the large building on the corner where they stopped for a red light, “I’m sorry, what did you say? I was ogling that building over there.”

Marcus ducked down a little to see what she was looking at, “Oh that building used to be an old fire station. Ironically it burned almost completely in the late 1920’s; since then it’s been everything from clothing stores to offices over the years. But I was wondering what your sleuthing has uncovered for you today?”

“Not too much actually. There is so much to look up and it’s hard to figure out where to start and how to correlate all of it together. But I figured I would start out with the human anatomy first. I jotted down some differences between our bodies and yours; like the venom- blood, and why don’t you have a heart beat? It seems like there should still be one. Then of course the reproductive systems are going to be a lot to look into, I just started on that area. I think if you can help out with a ridiculous amount of questions that I have, but also with interpreting what Sebastian has written in the book, I know there are some things in there that will help.” Emily gave his hand a little squeeze at her last word, she was so happy that he finally agreed to help her with this.

As he pulled the car into the parking lot of the restaurant he answered her, “Sure, no problem. There might be some references in the book from other writers as well. I’ll take a look at it and I’ll mark the pages that have any information at all on them. How about this though, if you can please do all that you need first, before you look at the book? That way it won’t have to be handled very often.”

“Oh yes, yes of course!” Emily knew that he wanted the book to be touched as little as possible and she completely understood his reasons. A list of things that she wanted to look for in there had already been started, she figured she would only have one shot at looking through it.

After they were seated into their booth Emily went over the things she found in the books that he recommended at the library and asked him little questions here and there to grasp an understanding of some of the benign things such as cutting his hair and nails. Once her egg roll was consumed she inquired, “So why does everything stop growing with you? Like if you cut your hair and nails they will be that way forever right?

Marcus swirled the tea in his cup, “Exactly.”

“So then once you’ve been turned every cell in the body is frozen in time, so to speak. With that said I guess I can see why the heart stops beating but you still have a circulatory system right? So how does the venom get to all of your veins, don’t you still bleed when you’re cut?” With that last question she scooped up another tempura shrimp with her chop sticks and popped it into her mouth.

“You eat very well with sticks, I’m impressed.” He paused and chuckled after Emily rolled her eyes at him, “Anyway, that was one of the things that really had Sebastian stumped as well. If I get cut yes, I do bleed albeit for a very short time because the cells regenerate themselves and heal the wound rapidly. But if you were to see it compared to a normal cut, there is no pulsation of blood squirting out since there is no rush of blood every millisecond. Sorry if that’s too graphic while you’re eating,” Marcus grimaced realizing that was a pretty gross way to describe that at the table.

Emily shook her head as she swallowed, “No biggie, that stuff doesn’t gross me out, you’ve met my brother remember? So then what makes the blood circulate throughout your body if there’s no heart pumping it everywhere?” Then not pausing for an answer she huffed, “Damn this is so perplexing Marcus!”

Silently, Marcus just nodded his head in agreement; then he finally spoke, “I wish I had the answers for you Doll, but sadly I do not. All of the other muscles work very well and powerfully, except the most important muscle in our bodies…” Marcus just looked out of the window at the passers-by as he thought about his body and its anomalies.

She looked at him as she ate more and wondered what was going through his mind. He was very apprehensive about this process even though he seemed very supportive. They sat in silence while she finished her dinner, both lost in their own thoughts and contemplations.

Marcus paid the check and left the cute little waitress a nice tip as he usually did and they walked slowly down the street hand in hand. Emily finally asked another question, “Marcus, how many women have you, um, killed with your sperm?”

His hand flinched at the question and for an answer he sort of gasped and looked down at his feet.

“Sorry, you don’t have to answer that.”

“No, it’s alright, you have a right to know I guess.” Taking a nice long time to think about it, Marcus finally answered the difficult question, “About thirty or so. I had to stop counting, but Sebastian wrote every experiment down so he would know the exact number.” Emily didn’t know what to say so she stayed silent to hide her shock.

They stopped at the window of a closed book store and while Emily was looking at the massive isles through cupped hands Marcus was looking at the window display getting some new ideas. He liked how they suspended books from the ceiling so the novels looked as though they were floating above the other books. He had to look hard to see the fishing line looped through the covers, the lighting was placed a certain way so on a quick glance the clear string looked non-existent.

Emily took his hand again as they started the stroll back to the car that was still a block away. Once in the car he turned to her and just looked into her eyes but said nothing. Emily looked back, into the vast blueness before her, and leaned in to lightly touch her lips to his. He closed his eyes and kept them closed even as she leaned back into her seat.

Emily was finally the first one to break the long silence, “Are you alright? I’m very sorry if I asked too many questions.” Emily wasn’t sure how he was feeling, but she sensed his melancholy state.

His eyes opened and his head just shook, “It’s fine, really.” He flashed his teeth in a grin then started the car and turned onto the busy street and headed back to the far southeast end of where the vast London suburbs and outskirts finally ended.

The ride was in silence and Emily thought of the things that she would love to ask Sebastian if she was ever able to meet him. She knew that was never going to happen and wanted to see his notes but dared not ask Marcus where they were or if she could read them. Finally deciding that she would finish her research without her lovers’ assistance she settled into the seat more and closed her eyes. It was a good but long day and her tiredness caught up to her.

“Wake up babe,” Marcus gently shook her arm once they were back at her flat. She woke up right away somewhat startled.

Are we back already?”

“Yep, you pretty much slept the entire way here,” he got out and grabbed the books from the back seat then followed her up to her flat.

Once inside he put her books on her desk and took care of the fire. As always her place was freezing cold, he wished he could put in the central heat that was desperately needed in here. Emily went and took a quick shower and found him in the kitchen staring out the window. She put her arms around his waist and let out a heavy sigh. She knew that this was a mentally rough day for him and she didn’t want to make it worse with more questions on the heated topic. Marcus finally turned around and returned her hug. He kissed the top of her head and let out his own heavy sigh.

Some moments had passed then Marcus asked, “So you must have a lot of studying to do before break huh? How many exams do you have?”

Emily groaned her response, “Four. But they shouldn’t be too bad I hope.” She leaned back to look at him, “Sorry for the rough day.”

Shaking his head, he simply replied, “Don’t be. These are things that I’ve had to deal with for many years and this just makes me ponder other things just as you are doing now. It’s just weird that I feel so human with you, then this reminds me that I’m not. Guess I was enjoying the façade too much.” Marcus shrugged his shoulders then gave her a slight squeeze. “I better get going to so you can get a little studying in, it’s already past 9:00,” a quick glance at her wall clock confirmed his guess.

Putting her head on his chest and lightly shaking it in denial she knew that he was right, she had to read more on her history papers, that was going to be the hardest test for her. She could feel his chest vibrate in a slight laugh and looked up at him, “What?”

“College never changes does it? I remember dreading every exam and test and avoided studying until the last minute. Alex was hitting the books weeks beforehand, maybe that’s why he graduated at the top of his class.” His eyes then got rounder and he gave her a tug, “Oh that reminds me, how come you never told me that you got Valedictorian when you graduated high school?”

Now it was her turn to laugh, “Oh whatever, who cares, it’s just high school. My parents made a bigger deal out of it than need be. But I’ll let you in on a secret; it was pretty easy because I took simple classes my senior year. And what can I say, I’m a book nerd you know!”

Marcus just grinned and shook his head, “Well you should be proud of yourself, I am, it’s a great accomplishment.” He paused, “well I better get going so you can get at it huh?” He reluctantly let go of her and she released her hold as well. Emily followed him to the door and gave him a kiss good-bye, “Thanks again for taking me to the Library, anytime you head into London you can always drop me off there!”

“Sure thing Doll. I love you, have a good night,” he kissed her once more then headed down the stairs.

Emily watched him until he was out the door and rounded the corner where she could no longer see him. She closed and locked her door then went to the fridge and got a can of soda out for the caffeine she needed to get at least a couple of hours in of studying.

When the alarm went off Emily sprung up and started her tedious day. Her first exam was at 7:00 and she wanted to get there early so she could read up on a few more details of early American Literature. As she went out to the kitchen Emily had to do a double take at her cold fireplace. That was the first time in months that Marcus didn’t start it. She immediately went to the phone to call Marcus to make sure he was fine. Yesterday’s events took their toll on him but she didn’t think that it was that bad for him to break a normal routine. He finally answered his cell phone on the fifth ring and the tone of his voice was startling to her with the one word that emitted.

“Are you okay babe?”

“Yeah I’m fine, but Mort is pretty sick, sorry I didn’t get over there this morning but I had to give him his… um medicine… and I need to stay here with him all day. The shop will be closed all day so don’t be alarmed when and if you come by later.”

Emily had to lift her jaw up, when and if? she thought to herself, “Of course I’ll be there today. Do you need me to pick up anything for Mort from the store on my way?”

“No it’s fine, we have all that we need here.” Marcus knew she could read the concern in his voice so he attempted to sound more chipper for her sake, “Hey look, don’t worry about Mort, he’ll be fine. Just concentrate on your exams today and we’ll see you afterwards.”

“Oh, well alright… I’m finished at one then I have to work until three; I’ll be over after that.”

“Sounds great. Good luck today.”

“Thanks. Give Mort a hug for me okay?” Emily was concerned about both of them; she knew how hard it was on Marcus and the concern that was always there for Mort.

“I will surely do that. And don’t worry, his medicine will be taking effect soon and he should be just fine tomorrow. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

After they ended the call and Emily was getting ready for her day did she realize something odd that Marcus had said, or didn’t say actually. He had great hesitation when he mentioned giving Mort his medicine. He almost seemed apprehensive to say anything to her, and that got her to thinking about what kind of medicine Mort was actually on. Even though she wanted to pry she wouldn’t; that was something private and personal between the two of them and it was not her business, but her curiosity was killing her. Emily let the thought pass as she gathered her book bag and headed off to start her cumbersome day.

The walk to the book store was slow even though Emily tried to hurry. Her day ended two hours sooner but the mental stress of the day wore her out. The apprehension she also felt was weighing on her mind, she didn’t know what to expect when she saw Mort. Julia was a good shoulder to lean on this afternoon and Emily did feel better about telling someone about her anxiety. When Julia brought out into the open of the fact that Mort really was Emily’s grandfather-in-law, it shed a light upon Emily; he was that to her, even though her and Marcus weren’t married, Emily took Mort on as her own kin and loved him like he was. Marcus told Emily not to get anything but she disobeyed him and stopped at the corner store for some soup, fresh bread, juice and flowers for Mort. She let herself in through Marcus’ office door and lightly knocked on the door at the top of the stairs. Mary’s voice was the one that bade her to come in.

Emily quietly opened the door and saw Mort and Mary sitting in the living room watching a movie; Mort was covered up in a blanket with a steaming mug of tea cupped between his hands. Once inside she put her bag down and Mort looked up, “Hey kiddo, how were your tests?” His voice sounded strained and quieter but he had a smile on his face and looked happy for the additional attention.

Mary got up and came over to give Emily a hug and whispered quietly in her ear, “He’s okay but not really able to get up and move around.” Emily just gave her a nod then went over and kissed Mort on top of the head, “They were good, I survived the first two that I took today. But more importantly, how are you feeling?”

Mort took a sip of the tea then said, “Better. Last night was rough but Marcus dotes on me like he’s a doctor, then my Sweetie came over and has been the best nurse ever,” he gave Mary a wink and took another small taste of the honey tea.

“Good, I’m glad you’re doing better, is there anything I can get for you?”

He eyeballed the paper sack in her hands, “Maybe some of Peter’s fresh bread?”

Mary laughed, “You have the nose of a bloodhound. Here dear, I’ll help you get him something to eat.”

“I also got you soup, and these,” Emily lifted the small bouquet of blue and deep plum alstromeria from the bag to show him, “and once you’re done with your tea I have some fresh orange juice for you as well.”

“Well thanks Em, those are very lovely, you are too kind to me.”

“Not kind enough, I’ll be right back with your bread and soup.” Emily led the way to the kitchen with Mary following close behind. She was surprised to see that Marcus wasn’t in the kitchen, “Where’s Marcus?”

Mary took the flowers from Emily and got a vase from the pantry, “He went to the doctor’s to get some medicine for Morty. He should be back any moment now.”

Now was her chance and she took it, Emily asked, “What kind of medicine is Mort on, if I may be so bold to ask?”

Mary shrugged her shoulders, “I really don’t know. I didn’t want to be too nosey and ask.”

Emily chuckled, “I feel the same, that’s why I decided to ask you instead. Well whatever it is it seems to work well. Was he pretty bad last night?”

As she filled the vase and cut the flowers, Mary answered, “I don’t know, I wasn’t here. Marcus called me this morning to let me know that the shop would be closed and asked me to come by to look after Mort while he ran some errands and went to the doctor and such. He’s been gone for a few hours now. Thanks for getting soup for all of us, I was debating whether or not to start cooking something. And doesn’t Peter bake the best bread? His dad was the baker here for years and years…”

Emily started to tune Mary out as she potted the soup to make it a little hotter; her mind went back to the medicine and where Marcus could have gone. As she was mindlessly stirring the chicken noodle soup she heard the garage door open then heard Marcus coming up the stairs seconds later. He opened the door with ease even though Emily saw that he had three bags in his arms.

“Hi ladies,” Marcus said as he entered the kitchen.

Mary turned around and spoke as Emily took one of the bags from him and gave him a kiss, “Hi there, hope you didn’t get dinner, Emily brought soup.”

Marcus gave Emily an ‘I told you not to’ look and she just smirked a response. “That’s what smells good in here, thanks Em, you really didn’t have to do that.”

“Whatever. Mort looks well, did you need any help with anything?” She was starting to take the things out of the bag and was disappointed that it was all food, no pharmacy bag in this one. She had to do a Sherlock Holmes move to satisfy her increasing curiosity about the medicine it seemed. As the groceries went into the refrigerator and cupboards by the women, Marcus went into the living room to check on Mort. Mary leaned over to Emily when she thought he was out of earshot, “Did you find anything from Rex’s Pharmacy?”

“Nope, no little white bag or orange bottles.” Emily turned to look at Mary who obviously had the same inquisitive mind. Both women just shrugged their shoulders and went back to their tasks. Emily thought that she would ask Marcus about it later when they were alone. She didn’t know why this bothered her so much but for some strange reason it did. The ladies put the soup into bowls and plated the cut up bread and decided to eat casually in the living room so Mort could stay in his chair.

Once they were all settled in the living room; Emily sat on the floor with the soup on the coffee table and Mary had a TV tray over her lap on the couch like Mort had one in his chair and Marcus said that he wasn’t hungry but sat next to Emily on the floor; they sat in silence and watched the news as they ate. Emily looked over to a quiet Marcus and noticed something that only she would, his cheeks were a little flushed and his eyes were a shade darker, that only meant one thing, he went out to feed while he was gone. As she stared at him she realized that he went out and fed just last week, now why in the world would he do it again so soon? He turned to look at her and just gave her a wink and looked back at the television screen.

“Thanks so much Em, that soup hit the spot, is there any more bread by chance?” Mort was putting his bowl down on the table next to him and Marcus jumped up to take it from him before it was released from his shaky fingers, along with the tray that Mort was trying to put on the floor with his other weak hand.

“There’s more in the kitchen. Do you want some juice now?” Emily got up with her bowl and started to follow Marcus into the kitchen.

“Yes please,” Mort said and snuggled into his blanket and chair again now that he wasn’t laden down with things.

As Emily put her bowl in the dishwasher she turned to Marcus, “So where have you been all day babe?”

Marcus cut the other loaf of bread and put it on a plate, “Um…” he turned to see her staring at him with her hand on her hips, “Why do you ask?”

“Why are you so hesitant suddenly?”

“Can we talk about this later please?” He didn’t wait for her to answer and he took Mort the bread and Emily came soon afterwards with a large glass of the juice. Mort beamed as he was served by two of his favorite people and couldn’t keep the joy off of his face.

After about another half hour or so Mort looked over to Marcus and whispered so only his ears could catch it, “I’m tired now.”

Marcus looked over to his old nephew and just nodded. He then leaned in to Emily, and whispered in her ear, which seemed like a light kiss to the others, “Can you please take Mary into the kitchen for me?”

Emily looked over to him and squinted her eyes but when he kept his stare solid and unmoving she figured there was a good reason for his request. She got up and said, “Mary, would please help me for a moment?”

“Of course darling,” she got up and gathered her own dishes and followed Emily into the kitchen. Mary thought nothing of it as the both of them cleaned the dishes in silence. When they emerged Mort and Marcus were gone and Mary went into Mort’s room to find him nestled under his covers and Marcus was putting a movie into the DVD player. She shuffled over to him and gave him a kiss on the head and gently sat her plump bottom on the side of the bed. As she quietly spoke to him Marcus rejoined Emily in the living room. He sat down heavily next to her on the couch and put his hand upon her knee.

“Thanks,” was said so quietly as he laid his head upon her shoulder Emily almost missed it.

“You’re welcome. Can I ask what that was all about?” She didn’t move a muscle for she knew that he needed to be comforted as much, or as little, as she could give him.

“He whispered that he was tired and I needed to carry him into bed. I didn’t want Mary to see that, for his sake and mine. He still has so much dignity, and of course I have so many secrets.”

Emily just nodded her head and squeezed his knee. After a few minutes he straightened himself upright and Mary emerged from the back. In a quiet voice so as not to disturb Mort she thanked both Emily for the food and Marcus for having her over. She told him that she would be back first thing in the morning to help out and insisted that she open the shop for at least a few hours. Marcus tried to resist but after 30 seconds he gave in realizing the battle was futile.

He walked her down the stairs and to the corner then watched her walk the short distance to her own home. Marcus then went back upstairs and found Emily in the same spot on the couch watching a nature show. He looked into the kitchen and found it clean so he went to check on Mort who was already sound asleep so he turned the TV and movie off then went back out to the wonderful woman patiently waiting for him. Marcus lie on the couch and put his head upon her lap and let his feet dangle off the end of the couch, which was a few inches shorter than his legs. Emily lightly ran her fingers through his hair and kept quiet even though she wanted some answers to the questions that were running through her mind. Marcus didn’t say a word but just closed his eyes and concentrated on the fingers calming his mind and tried to think of nothing else. He knew Emily wanted to know where and what he had been doing, and he also knew that she knew that he fed earlier. What he didn’t know was how much to tell her.

After a few more minutes and a few more sighs he spoke to her, ”I fed because I needed to, for Mort’s sake.” He waited for her to say something and when he just heard her make a slight noise of acknowledgement he continued. “You see, when he found out he was sick I decided to try an experiment, and it worked, so I’ve been doing it ever since.” He sat up and looked over at her. Emily smiled at him but kept her lips together so he could take it at his own pace. “I knew the doctor was giving him shots of medicine and they were working but not well enough. So I started…” he paused and looked at the large, pale hands in his lap then continued, “I put my own blood in the syringes with the medicine.” He looked back up at her and saw the look that he expected; her mouth was agape and her eyes were huge.

Marcus took both of her hands into his and now kept quiet to let her absorb what she just heard. When she opened her mouth he was not prepared for what came out.

“Wow. Um… wow Marcus. You can make an amazing breakthrough in medicine Marcus, this is truly amazing!”

Now it was his turn for an eye popping, jaw dropping moment. “Wha…what?” he stammered out. He didn’t think he heard her correctly, he was expecting her to be mortified at how he could do such a thing. Her reaction of a medical astonishment was mind-blowing to him. “Did I hear you right? You’re not, grossed out or mad or disgusted…?”

Emily lightly shook her head, “Disgusted and grossed out are the same thing dear. And no I’m not. I had a feeling that you were doing something that was not readily available at the corner drug store, he bounces back so quickly when he is sick, and the fact that he’s so old with such a life threatening disease is astonishing Marcus. And truthfully, I find it astounding that you even thought of something like that, and that it’s so potent. Too bad you can’t market it.” She tightened her grip on his hands to reassure him that he wasn’t crazy because the look of shock was still on his face.

He let out a low whistling breath and blinked a few times. “Alright. As pleased as I am with your reaction it just took me off guard. And Mort doesn’t even know what I do so please do not say a word to him about any of this, at all. He thinks he’s getting what his doctor prescribes because I fill the syringes in another room so he never sees a thing. He doesn’t like to see himself get a shot so luckily he turns his head when I inject him, but I try to keep it hidden anyway so he doesn’t see the medicine is red and not clear.” Then the last part of her comment finally struck him and he had to laugh.

At the noise Emily furrowed her brow, “What’s so funny?” She asked perplexed.

“Market it… yeah I can see the ad now, ‘Vampire blood cures all illness please call right away!’… You have some odd idea’s Doll.”

I have odd ideas? You’re the one that thought of giving him your own blood for heaven’s sake.” She shook her head again and huffed a chuckle, “Whatever made you think of that anyway?”

“I don’t know. I think when he was diagnosed so many years ago I sort of went crazy thinking about him dying and I started to do some research on what was out there as far as medicines and possible cures. And when I found none I started to do my own research through Sebastian’s notes and such. I remember putting a little of my blood on a cut that he got once, again without him knowing, and it was healed the next day. I think that’s what got my mind really going on what I could do for him.”

“Well I think it’s admirable and amazing. And no worries, I will not tell a soul!”

He knew his secret was safe with her, but he still always had his reserves about how much he should give Mort and when he should stop. That was another one of his personal moral dilemmas. He leaned over and pecked her on the cheek, “Thanks babe, I knew I could count on you. And sorry if I seemed sneaky or …”

She cut him off before he could even finish, “Nope, no need to apologize for anything, I totally understand why you did, and do, everything that you do. Especially for Mort, all of it is 100% understandable.” He just gave her his smile as thanks and they both turned their attention back to the television that was showing how swans were one of the few animals that actually mate for life. As the announcer was spewing off facts about the marvelous creatures Marcus scooted over closer to Emily and wrapped his arms around her and she placed her head on his shoulder.

They finished watching the show and Emily looked over at the clock on the end table, it was already 8:00 and she still had to study for her next exam. “I know you want to stay here with Mort, do you want me to stay here with you?”

“As much as I would love that, my couch isn’t comfortable, and neither is the bed in the spare room, I think that thing is as old as the house. I can walk you home, I know you have a bunch more studying to do, and you need a good night’s rest tonight. Did you get enough to eat for dinner?”

“Yes I did, thank you. Too bad you couldn’t enjoy the soup, it was very good. The bread was awesome as well.”

“Yeah I bet, I could smell it as soon as I got into the garage, I love the smell of fresh baked bread.” He didn’t release his grip on her yet, he wanted her to stay all night but he knew her needs were more important than his were right now. That thought brought him to another one; that he really should get a bed for his room so she could stay over once in a while.

After a few more minutes Emily finally decided that she better get home before it got too late and started to get up. Marcus reluctantly let her go and as she was getting her books he went in and checked on Mort. He was breathing regularly and his heart beat was good and steady so he felt comfortable leaving him for a few minutes. They walked to Emily’s flat and Marcus didn’t go inside and Emily didn’t bother inviting him in for she knew that he wanted to get back to his house quickly. She figured he would be back home before she even got to her desk. He kissed her goodnight and thanked her again for coming over and she promised she would be over to his house right after work tomorrow.

Tuesday flew by and Emily was relieved that she only had one more exam tomorrow and looked forward to having a week off. She really had six classes this semester but two of her teachers hated giving mid-terms more than the students hated taking them, so they just had short tests that were graded the same day in the classrooms by their peers. Both of those she had taken today along with her World Literature exam and was pleased with herself that she received a perfect score on both of them. She was a little skeptical when Julia had given her a wink when she handed her paper back with the perfect score. Emily re-checked it to make sure Julia didn’t mark any correct if they were really wrong, but they were good to go and Emily was glad that her friend didn’t try to do anything unethical. Now as she walked to Marcus’ house, she thought of the situation earlier in the day and Emily had to laugh at herself for being such a square. Most people would ask for a friend to cheat for them and she actually re-graded her own test to make sure nothing askew went on.

Once she rounded the corner she was surprised to see a bunch of people coming out of the shop, then she remembered Mary insisting that she open it up today and Emily knew that Mary got what she wanted. Emily walked in through the front door and almost fell over when she saw Mort sitting behind the counter. “What are you doing down here?” She started to scold him, “You need to be upstairs in bed resting. Where’s Mary and Marcus?”

Just then Mary popped her head out from the shelves directly behind Emily, “I’m right here dear, and please don’t be harsh with Mortimer, I’m making him stay still and he hasn’t moved his rump from that chair in over an hour.” Mary came over and hugged Emily then grabbed another handful of books to put away, “Marcus is in the back, we got in a new shipment today and he is putting them into the computer and I’m putting them away; well the ones that I can reach anyway.”

Suddenly feeling bad Emily said to Mort, “Sorry. I’ve just been concerned about you and seeing you down here took me by surprise.” She went around the counter and gave him a hug, “Sure you’re feeling better?”

“Yep, lots better thank you. It’s amazing what some TLC will do huh? Marcus and Mary have been fussing over me, and thank goodness you’ve been trapped at school because I know you would’ve been on the bandwagon as well if you could have been!” Mort grinned from ear to ear and folded his arms over his tummy and noticed that there were some crumbs stuck to his sweater and casually brushed them off, “Besides, it was killing me to have to sit upstairs and not be able to do anything. At least down here,” he then lowered his voice, “even though I’m chained to the counter, I can still talk to people.”

“I heard that Mortimer Alexander!” Mary shouted from somewhere close by.

Emily and Mort laughed, “That woman has ears that could hear a mouse fart, I swear!” Mort rolled his eyes but grinned knowing his lady heard that as well. It was confirmed when her snicker was heard from beyond and that made Emily really laugh out loud.

“I better go see if I can help Marcus at all and leave you to her,” Emily jerked her thumb in Mary’s direction then gave Mort a pat on the shoulder, “Glad you’re back to normal.”

“Yeah me too, as normal I can get at least!”

Emily started towards Marcus’ office and bumped into him as she was looking at some new books on a shelf and not where she was going. Luckily he was paying attention and stopped short but let her ram into him. He laughed when the contact startled her, “Hey there, like what you see?”

“I do now. Oh, you mean the books… yeah… those too,” she leaned up and kissed him hello. “Mort looks much better, did he wake up this good?”

“He did, I think getting over twelve hours of sound sleep really helped. How were your tests today?” He was talking as he walked up to the front to put own the last of the books that he unpacked. “Come with me back here,” he told her as he turned back around to head back to his office.

She felt silly as she followed him up front just to turn back around to go backwards, she ended up turning around in circles, “Shit you’re making me dizzy, make up your mind which way you want to go!” Emily couldn’t help but slap him on the ass as he skirted past her.

“Hey,” he said playfully as he quickened his step into his office to get away. Once Emily was in there he kicked the door closed and scooped her up, “I missed you today,” then planted a great kiss on her. He had to refrain from doing that right away but there were people in the store and he hated to show affection in front of people.

Her book bag fell to the floor as she wrapped her arms and legs around him, it felt so good to be in his arms after this long day she thought to herself and melted into him. He eventually pulled her away, “What do you want for dinner? Mort was thinking some sushi, and I figured you would be game.” As her eyes lit up he grinned, “Yeah, I thought so. Mary was mortified to eat raw fish so I’ll get her some tempura, do you want some of that as well?”

“You know it hot stuff, veggie and shrimp tempura is marvelous. We’re not sprinting to Japan are we?” Emily exaggerated the two words with bug eyes for more emphasis.

The eyes rolling to the ceiling was all she got for an answer and he picked up the phone to order it from the Japanese place outside of town. He was going to pick it up since they didn’t deliver this far, but the run for him was quicker than anything else. After he hung up he reported that dinner would be there in thirty minutes and that he would leave in fifteen to pick it up. Emily took her books out of her bag to study for her last exam tomorrow and showed Marcus the papers she got back; but only after he almost took them out of her bag himself when she refused the first three times to show him. Emily was so happy to see him, and Mort, back to normal today. Marcus was unusually playful today and she knew that he was very relieved that the episodes from the last couple of days were over.

As she was immersed in her studies Marcus left from the back door to get their dinner. She was startled when he was back so soon with the hot tempura and cold sushi for all of them. When he took it upstairs Emily went to the front to let Mary and Mort know that dinner was ready for them upstairs. The patrons were already gone so Mort decided to lock up early, Mary was going to say something then when she looked at her watch and saw that it was only going to be thirty minutes early, she didn’t say anything.

Emily helped Mort up and asked him, “Why is she so persnickety about the shop being open so much?” Of course this was said well out of her ear shot as she was tidying and they were walking towards the back.

Mort said with a shake of his head, “She thinks that I need the money for my retirement. Of course she has no clue that this is just a hobby and not an income; we have to keep the façade up you know?” Then he gave her a wink as she took his arm to help him up the stairs. When they were struggling up the third step Marcus appeared and shooed Emily away then picked Mort up into his arms and deposited him at the top stair so it looked as though he made the climb all by himself. When Mary started up after them, she was none the wiser for what had just taken place.

Mort whispered to Marcus, “Thanks Unc.,” and patted him on the back then took his sweethearts arm when she caught up then shuffled into the dining room. Marcus took Emily’s arm in the same fashion to mock Mort and they slowly followed behind the cute, older couple.

Dinner was great even though Mary made faces as Emily and Mort chowed down into the California rolls, spicy tuna and crab rolls that Marcus ordered. There were about eight rolls and enough tempura to feed the entire block, but somehow they ate it all with a relish. After dinner Marcus had the containers and dishes done before anyone could even get up to help; then he proceeded to help Mort to his chair so he and Mary could watch a movie. Mort really wanted to lie in his bed, but it wouldn’t have been proper to ask Mary to lie with him. So instead he sat in his chair and she in the spot on the couch closest to him so they could hold hands as the movie was on.

Marcus and Emily went to his room to listen to some music and talk for the short time that she had to spare before she had to get home to finish up her studying. Before it was even eight Emily had fallen asleep with her head on Marcus’ lap as she lay on the couch with her feet up. As he picked her up he thought of the last time he had to do this and decided to wake her up instead of carrying her home. Emily woke up quickly enough and laughed how the situation could have happened again. They walked hand in hand to her house and this time Marcus went up and inside and stayed with her for a while. He read while she studied then quizzed her on what would be on the test. About midnight he finally went home after he put her into bed. Mary was already gone and Mort was sound asleep in his own bed. For a strange reason Marcus decided to lie down on the bed in the spare room with his iPod on and let his eyes shut to Beethoven.

On Wednesday Emily decided to go home after her day was done, she was so exhausted after this short week and she was so glad that the library gave her tomorrow off so she could sleep all day and catch up on everything that had been neglected in her house over the last week. The phone was ringing when she walked in and she rushed to grab it, “Hello?” she said in a slightly breathless way.

“Hey Sweetpea, you okay?”

“Oh hi mom, yeah, I just walked in the door and ran to the phone, what’s up?” Emily walked over to her very messy desk and tossed her bag down then walked into her room while her mother talked.

“Oh not much, I just wanted to see how your mid-terms went and was wondering what you had planned for your time off.” Naomi was hoping her daughter would be coming home, but she was doubtful of it.

Plopping onto her bed and kicking her shoes off she answered, “They went great actually. I got two perfect scores but I think I did well on the other four, I won’t know yet until after the break. And in regards to that, I don’t know. I didn’t plan anything so I will probably just work and hang out around here. The weather is supposed to be nice this week so maybe I’ll open up the apartment and clean it. Sounds like a rip-roarin’ time huh?”

Naomi laughed, “Sounds like somethin’ I would do! Well I know you did great on your other exams, you’ve always been a stellar student.” She paused for a moment then continued, “So Marcus doesn’t have anything planned for you? He seems like he usually has somethin’ in mind?”

Emily pondered that comment for a moment and wondered that now herself, “Yeah you’re right. But I don’t know. He hasn’t mentioned anything… but Mort has been sick this week so I’m sure he’ll want to stay around here to keep an eye on him.”

“Oh? Is he alright? His grandpa’s pretty old isn’t he?”

“Mort’s in his mid-nineties and has cancer, but otherwise he’s fine. He has little bouts when he gets pretty sick but Marcus takes such good care of him and makes sure he eats right and gets all of his medicine, he seems to bounce back pretty well.” Emily thought of the medicine that he does get and wished she could tell her mother of the amazing therapy.

“Marcus is such a caring man and he devotes his life to the two of you it seems. I’m glad that Mort is doin’ so well, hopefully I can get the chance to meet him one day.” It was killing Naomi to keep the secret of their trip this summer; she had gotten her and Steve’s plane tickets already, but her husband wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to go yet or not so they were waiting to get his ticket until his boss gave him the go-ahead.

Emily thought that was doubtful but stayed positive, “I hope so too, you guys would love each other. It’s very easy to picture the two of you never leaving the shop!” Both women chuckled then just chatted away about nothing in particular.

Emily had to convince her mother that she needed to go finally after almost an hour of gabbing, she promised to call her in a few days to report if she decided to do anything fun for her break though. Emily then took a nice, long and very hot shower which felt so good and relaxing. When she emerged she could hear movement in the other room and froze. She then realized that Marcus must have come in while she was bathing and didn’t want to disturb her. She decided to just dry off and keep only the towel on and went out to greet him.

Upon going out into the other room of her flat she gasped at the sight; in her living room on her once messy desk, which was now spotless, there was a new laptop and bag, then on her kitchen table sat a huge bouquet of roses, lilies and iris with a bottle of wine next to it, and there was her man at the counter plating up something that smelled marvelous. He turned around at her outtake of air and smiled when he saw her expression as well as her outfit, “Hi Doll, congratulations on your mid-terms!” He went over to her and gave her a huge hug and kiss, “Surprised?”

She stammered out, “Uh yeah! What’s all of this for? They’re just exams for cryin’ out loud.” She tried to sound modest but she was overjoyed with the new laptop and bag and the flowers were marvelous.

“Well I saw you eyeballing that iPad in a magazine the other day, and of course you had to have something new to put it in, and flowers and dinner are just my way of congratulating you, I’m very proud of you even though you think that what you accomplished this week was nothing, it is something, a big something and you should be proud of yourself as well.”

Emily turned her smirk into a grin and wrapped her arms around him again and in doing so let the towel drop to the floor. He looked down at her, “I think dinner can wait for a few moments,” then picked her up and carried her to bed.

They had to reheat the pasta in the microwave for it became cold as it sat on the counter, but Emily didn’t care, it was still fabulous, but anything from her new favorite Italian restaurant was. Marcus told her that the wine was a gift from Mickey and he made the bread fresh himself that very morning. Emily made a mental note that she would send him something to thank him for his kindness, he was a very sweet old man and over the months since Marcus first took her there, her and Mickey had gotten to know each other pretty well. As she ate Marcus was downloading everything from her old computer onto the new one and she commented if there was anything that he didn’t know how to do.

Smugly he replied, “Not really, after this many years you need to learn everything just to occupy the time. But I remember when the radio and telly came out, I was crazy about them. I had to learn how they worked and functioned, it was very fascinating to me. Then of course as modern technology took off I was right there buying up and researching everything every step of the way. But I must say, this thing,” he held up the thin, lightweight marvel in his hands, “this is the most amazing thing I have seen yet. If you love it I’ll get one for myself, it would be great to have for conventions and such. It’s so compact but easier to use than the Blackberries and such, those are too hard to type on with my big hands.”

How she loved those big hands, she stared at them and let her mind wander as she watched them type at lightning speed. Then she thought of how tall he was and how strange that must have been when he was still human, “So you have always been this tall right?” He just nodded and she continued, “So back in the day, you must have been a giant to everyone huh?”

Marcus stopped and looked at her, “Yeah I guess so. My entire family was tall, I think my dad was six-one or so, but people were smaller back then. I guess I never really thought about it since I’ve always been this way.” He shrugged his shoulders then went back to his task which was almost completed. As her pictures were downloading he put the computer down since it was going to take longer than the rest of the items and went and sat with Emily at her kitchen table. He watched her eat then took her plate for her and she shook her head in amazement, “What?” He said as he washed her plate.

“You never cease to amaze me. You don’t have to take care of me all of the time like this you know.”

“Yeah I know. But I like to, I actually enjoy it.” He put the plate in the cupboard then checked the computer, “Still has a little bit more to go on the pictures. So did you want to do anything tonight?”

Emily went over and sat on the couch while Marcus leaned back in the chair and looked at her. “What?” she said and kept her eyes locked with his. “Um, to answer your question though I really didn’t want to do anything tonight, I’m pretty beat. Are you fine with just hanging out here and watching a movie or something?”

“Sure,” he said and never moved his eyes from her. He loved looking at her, almost too much. “A movie sounds great.”

“Um, okay…” she had a feeling he was up to something, his gaze was peculiar. But she didn’t say anything and grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. She flipped the channels to see if there was anything on the cable channels that they wanted to watch. Emily saw out of the corner of her eye that he finally stopped looking at her and went back to her computer. She didn’t mind him looking at her so much, but she just hated to be stared at in general.

“All done”, he said, “I even uploaded everything that you were working on at the library the other day. You can still keep your old one for a back up, or whatever.” He turned off both computers and placed them both on top of her desk then took the seat next to her on the couch. “Anything good on?”

Ignoring his question she said, “My old one. Sounds funny, seeing as how my dad just bought it for me before I came out here. Thanks so much again for the new one, and switching everything over, you’re the best.” She leaned over and gave him a kiss of thanks then flung her legs over his lap and kept flipping the channels until there was an old John Wayne western that just started. “I sure wish we could lie in my room and watch TV. No, don’t give me that look, I don’t want to wake up to a new TV in there,” she gave him a smirk as he just shrugged his shoulders and turned his attention back to the Spaghetti Western.

Emily woke up the next morning and instantly looked over to her dresser, she made a sigh of relief when she saw it was as before she went to bed, with no television on it. She got up and Marcus was making her breakfast already. She shuffled out to get her tea and noticed her book bag by the front door, and it looked as though it was full of stuff. “Am I going somewhere?”

“Good Morning darling, yes we are going somewhere after breakfast,” he shot her that evil little grin and she knew she was in for a surprise.

Emily bounded over to him and wrapped her arms around his bare waist, “I knew you had something planned for me! Where are we going? Do I need to pack any clothes? Are we driving or running? How long are we going to be gone?”

Marcus laughed and interrupted her barrage of questions, “Breathe Em, breathe. Holy cow are you excited little girl?” He kept one arm around her as he stirred her eggs with his free hand, “Um let’s see; of course I had something planned, I’m not telling you where we’re going – not now at least, no you don’t need to pack anything, and we are not running nor driving. Oh and we’ll be back next Saturday.”

“Saturday? But I have to work this week…”

“No you don’t. Already turned in your vacation request and you are free all week with no guilt needed.”

“What? When did you do that, who knows at work where I’m going?” Emily looked at him through squinted eyes at his cunningness.

He let go of her to finish up her breakfast, “I told Mrs. Parker about two weeks ago I guess. So I’m sure then entire staff knew… about three minutes less than two weeks ago I guess.”

Emily took her tea to the table and chuckled, “Yeah, they would have known right away.” Her eyes got a little bigger, “So that explains it! Harri was being a little funny yesterday and said a few things, now it all makes sense. You’re a crafty one darling!”

He put her eggs and toast with fresh strawberries in front of her, “Eat up and get dressed, probably in jeans, and you’ll need a cardigan.” He looked at his watch, “We need to leave here in an hour.” He took the seat across from her and picked up the business section of the newspaper where he left off.

As the food went into her mouth she thought about where they could be going. She looked over to her desk and saw that her new computer wasn’t there, then she looked over to her bag by the door that seemed full but not enough to have clothes for a week in it. And if they were going to be gone for a week then why didn’t she need to pack. Emily swallowed then asked, “So are we going to a nudist colony or something?”

Marcus snorted then flipped the top part of the paper down to look at her. After he finished laughing he simply said, “Nope,” then returned to reading.

Damn it, she thought and her mind kept racing to put what little pieces she had together. “Well you really have me stumped this time my dear, thanks for another surprise. So when will I know where we’re going?”

Marcus didn’t put the paper down this time but answered her from behind the pages, “In about an hour and a half. Now finish eating and get dressed, we cannot be late.”

“We’re going on a plane?” The terror in her voice made him look at her again.

“Doll, relax please and enjoy the surprise, but yes, we’re going on a plane but it’s a short flight. Now stop asking so many questions, please?”

She pursed her lips into a mocking pout, “Fine,” then finished her strawberries. Once her plate was in the sink she poured another cup of tea to sip on while she got dressed, Emily quickly went into her room to get ready for her surprise adventure.

On the drive to the airport she was antsy and anxious. Marcus tried to relax her by holding her hand but said nothing about the trip. The check in was easy since the only bag they had was her carry-on so they were making their way to the gate in no time. Before they reached it Marcus took her hand and squeezed it when he felt the clamminess of it, “Relax, it’s a very short flight Doll.”

They got to the gate and Marcus turned her towards him, “Alright, now you can see where we’re going,” he turned her around and she looked at the marquee behind the counter.

“Rome? You’re taking me to Rome!” She spun back around and wrapped her arms around him and gave him a kiss, “You are so wonderful!”

A couple that was standing right next to them smiled and the woman looked at her partner, “Wish you could surprise me like that,” she whispered to him. The man looked over at the much younger couple and just scoffed but didn’t give her a reply. Marcus kept his laugh to himself and held his lover tighter.

“You’re welcome. Come let’s sit, we still have twenty minutes before we board.” They went and sat down by the window so they could watch the planes. “So when we get to the villa we will go out shopping and get you clothes for the week, you will love the shops there; the clothes, especially for women, are spectacular, then there are shoe stores, purse stores, just a little bit of everything. Plus, I didn’t think you would mind showing off your new Italian digs to Julia when class resumes.”

“Ha, she’ll be asking me the names of the shops so we better remember them! So we’re staying at the villa?”

Marcus looked over at her, “Yeah… why? It’s been my house for years and years now, and it’s so lovely and right in the middle of everything, there is no way a hotel could be any better. And yes, you will have access to all of Sebastian’s notes, that’s one of the reasons why I chose this trip for you.”

Emily hugged him again and showered him with more thanks and her appreciation. She thought about how she really wanted to show her appreciation to him as soon as they were behind closed doors.

Once on the plane he comforted her in the same fashion as he did on the way to Alaska and she calmed down once they were in flight. To her joy the flight was pretty quick and they were in a cab driving to the villa in no time. Marcus pointed out the sights, described the architecture and the history of this place or that on the thirty minute drive. They got out of the cab right at the front gate of the villa she had pictured in her mind so many times before.

Marcus stopped at the front door and let her take it all in, unlike his first time in front of the masterful work of art. After a few minutes she was ready to see the interior of the house. As Marcus gave her the grand tour she ‘oo’d’ and ‘ahh’d’ at every little piece of art, furniture, painting and even at the trim around the windows.

He took her to the third floor and opened the curtains so she could see the city below. Emily peeled her eyes from the books that were in this room and went to stand by Marcus. Her mouth hit the floor, “Is that the Coliseum?”

“Yep. Amazing isn’t it? And over there,” Marcus pointed to the left, “That is the Palatine, we’ll go there also. Then there is the Arch of Constantine…”

Before he could finish pointing out the other marvels that were in view she took his hand from the window and put it to her lips, “Thank you so much,” and she kissed his knuckles. “I don’t deserve you, I really don’t.” Emily got into her toes and kissed his forehead, then his cheeks, then finally his lips.

“You deserve all of this, and much more darling. I’m so glad to finally have someone that I can share all of this with. It’s a sin that this place is empty more than it’s occupied. Now that we have been here, promise me that you will bear the flight and come with me as much as possible?”

Her head just nodded in agreement and she hugged him very hard. “But if we’re to come here, and travel like we should once I graduate, you need to look into investing in a plane darling.” She was joking of course but gave him a look so he didn’t take her seriously, and then changed the topic, “Once we’re done here, and I bathe, let’s go shopping!”

Looking down at her he asked perplexed, “Done here? What do we have to do?” For her answer she undid his belt and kissed him. He laughed into her mouth and was happy to have this grand finale of the tour.

They took a shower in the master suite; which held a huge corner bath tucked under a window that over looked the top of the city with a standing shower to its right. Across from the shower there was an enormous dark oak dresser that held two sinks and two oval antique dark oak trimmed mirrors over each sink. Marcus told her that there were toiletries in the cabinet, which was an antique tall boy that matched the dresser, and that some clothes were already in the closet for her. Marcus stopped here last weekend and stocked the house with the supplies they would need and made sure the maids were here to clean the dust-bunnies out from the corners. As he was brushing his hair he called to her as she was finishing in the shower, “If it weren’t for the wonderful sights to behold we could actually lock ourselves up in here for a few weeks.”

Emily snickered but kept her dirty little thoughts to herself. When she dried off with the amazingly soft towels she found all of her normal products in one of the drawers, he even got the same deodorant that she used. After Emily was done putting on the wonderful lotion and powders and completed primping, she strolled into the enormous walk in closet that had all of his clothes on one side and a few things hanging on the other side for her. There were a couple of nice gowns, some silk blouses, slacks, skirts – long and short, sweaters and the jeans that she loved so much. She put on a gorgeous satin flowered skirt that went down to her ankles with a pale purple light sweater to match the flower petals in the skirt. All of the shoes he bought were so adorable she had a hard time choosing which ones to wear. Figuring that they would be walking a lot she put on a cute pair of sandals in a chocolate brown with a low and wide heel that matched the stems in the skirt.

Once her outfit was complete, she was admiring herself in the mirror when Marcus whistled at her from the bed, “You look smashing Doll.”

“Thanks to you babe, the clothes are perfect.” She spun in a little circle for him then sat on the edge of the bed next to him, “So where are we going first?”

He thought for a moment, “Well we better get you some lunch first, then we can hit the boutique where I got these for you,” he fingered the skirt between his thumb and forefinger.

“Sounds great to me. But we can’t tell Mickey if I get a better meal here,” she laughed and got up, “So is everything in walking distance from here?”

Marcus got up and straightened out his shirt, “Some things are, but we’re not walking.” He got a smirk and led her downstairs to the garage. Inside the triple car garage there was a little blue convertible Porsche, a tiny little red car that looked too small for Marcus to even fit in, then two Vespa’s at the very end. One was black and the other was yellow. He walked over to the scooters and patted them, “We’re taking these. They are the best way to travel around here for a few reasons. You can drive one right?”

Her eyes were a little wide, “Um, I’m sure I can learn quickly, I’ve never been on one before. Are they hard to drive?” She was a little intimidated but they were so cute and looked like fun, “But I’m game for anything.”

“They’re pretty easy actually, you can ride a bike right?”

“Of course.”

He opened the garage door and got her helmet for her that was sitting on the bench, “Here, put this on,” it was a bright yellow to match the bike but she noticed a little purple dragonfly sticker on the back and smiled.

When Marcus grabbed his black helmet Emily had to laugh, “Like you really need that?”

“Sadly I do, it’s smarter and the cops like it.”

Marcus positioned her bike in the driveway and told her to get on. She did so and he showed her how to start it, where the gas was and he noted the most important part, the brake. Emily started it up and he walked beside her as she went up and down the long driveway. After she said she felt comfortable enough Marcus got his bike, put his helmet on and shut the garage door. He opened up the back gate that allowed them to drive straight onto the main drag that led into the heart of the city.

Emily did catch on pretty quickly and was grinning from ear to ear with the excitement of the drive as well as the beauty around her. The street was crowded with people on their own Vespa’s, tiny little European cars, bicycles and even a few American cars. People were walking up and down the flower lined sidewalks, some were sipping espresso in tiny cups as they chatted on porches and tables clustered outside of quaint café’s. Marcus led the way then parked his bike amongst a row of others and Emily did the same. They put their helmets on the floor of the bikes, like all of the others they parked by, then headed into the restaurant.

Marcus wanted to sit outside since there was some cloud cover and choose a table with an umbrella to keep the sun at bay when it did appear. He would have chosen a seat inside but that would have defeated the point of bringing Emily here; he wanted her to see and experience as much as she could in a week. He pulled her chair out for her so she faced the street and he sat to her right so he could see into the restaurant and also the street. He ordered a glass of wine for her in Italian then interpreted the items on the menu for her since he brought her to a small local place that really didn’t cater to the tourists too much. She decided to have a light lunch and chose the fettuccini alfredo and Marcus got a small salad which she would end up eating for him. He didn’t want to have any leftovers since they wouldn’t be going back to the house for several hours. They watched the passers-by and talked about what she wanted to do and see while they were here. He said that today they would hang close by the villa, but tomorrow they could do the touristy stuff.

The handsome server set her lunch down in front of her and she had to suppress a laugh, “So much for my small lunch!”

The waiter looked at her with furrowed brow and when Marcus translated what she said the waiter laughed and said in broken English, “Too skinny eh, need more food,” and left the two of them to eat.

Emily devoured most of it and some of Marcus’ salad. “I think I ate too much bread, everything is so delicious!” Marcus just grinned and twirled the water in his glass as he looked at her. “As soon as you’re ready we can walk to the boutique from here, it’s only about a block or so down the way.”

When she was done Marcus paid the bill and the waiter waved to them in appreciation as they were heading down the sidewalk. Emily put her hand in the crook of Marcus’ arm and they walked down the street and window shopped. Emily had to stop Marcus from going into a few stores to buy her something that she commented on, “You don’t have to buy me everything that I like babe, its okay for me to just say that something is pretty.”

“Well fine… if you say so,” he replied, but Emily knew that she would probably find one or two of the things in her bag on the way home.

The boutique had so many clothes that she loved she had to bite her tongue and picked only enough clothes for the nine days they would be here. They casually strolled back to their bikes and had to split the several bags between the two floorboards of the bikes to get home.

As Emily was taking the items out to hang up she saw a few blouses and T-shirts that she didn’t pick out in the store. She just shook her head and hung them up since they were totally adorable and she loved them.

Marcus was upstairs rummaging in the library when Emily finally found him. “Man this place is huge, it really doesn’t look that big from the outside. What’cha lookin’ for?” She plopped down on the big couch that faced the window. The sun was starting to set and it made for a spectacular picture, “Do you have a camera here by chance?”

Marcus stuck his head out from behind a shelf, “Yeah, in the desk, top right-hand drawer.” He went back to his search and never answered Emily as to what he was looking for so she went to the desk to retrieve the camera and snapped a few pictures from the window, then some of the wonderful room that she knew her mother would drool over. Then she went to where he was crouched down and took one of him. He just peered up at her then got up holding a huge book, “Here, I’ve wanted to show this to you.”

They went to the couch and Marcus set the book down on their laps, when it was opened it covered both sets of knees. Emily was agog at the picture on the front pages, “What is it?”

“It’s a book that Sebastian had when I got here, it’s about Rome when it was still under the rule of Caesar. I know you won’t be able to read it, it’s all in Latin, but the paintings are so spectacular, and there is a picture in here that is the same view from this window. I know, I got the same look on my face when I saw it, I have no idea of the story behind it and Sebastian wouldn’t tell me, here, I think I can find it real quick for you.” Marcus gently flipped a few pages then finally found it and brought it to the window so Emily could compare the differences between then and now.

“Wow,” was all that she whispered out. She shook her head a few times as she kept looking up then back down at the book in Marcus’ hands. Finally she said, “It’s amazing how much has changed, but yet you can see how everything revolved around the Coliseum.” They went back to the couch and Marcus put the book on her lap, “I’m going to take a shower and get dressed for dinner, you have plenty of time to look through this though.” He kissed her on the forehead then left her there to flip through the book.

Marcus went back to the bedroom and took out the tuxedo he bought last week and placed a gown on the bed for Emily to put on. He looked at the wonderful dress and thought about how much he loved to surprise her, she was so fun to be around and he was so happy to have her here. He decided that after tomorrow they would go through the books and the lab, he wanted her to enjoy Italy and not be cooped up in here like he knew she would be after she got into her research. His shower was quick but before he could turn the water off Emily opened the glass door, “Mind if I join you?”

“Psshht, uh, no!” He moved to the side and let her under the stream of water.

“So I saw the dress, may I ask where we’re going for dinner?” Emily rinsed her body of the lavender soap and let the water lightly run through her hair then turned off the water.

Marcus handed her a towel, “Just to see a show first then a little place that I found, nothing too special.”

“Whatever, I saw that gown Marcus, we’re not going to a movie and a pizza joint.”

“Well, you said that you always wanted to see an opera right? Well no better place than here.”

Once again Emily was flabbergasted with his rain of surprises, “Really? Wow that is so awesome, I can’t wait! Thank you so much!” She kissed him then finished drying off, “So how much time do we have?”

When Emily raised an eyebrow and he instantly knew what her dirty little mind was thinking, “That will have to wait until we get home Doll, sorry but you’ll have to refrain from attacking me until later. The drive there will take a little more than an hour from here with the traffic this time of the year.”

“Damn,” she mumbled but finished in the bathroom and headed to the dressing table to blow dry her hair and put on some make-up. There was no way that she could wear that gown and not have her face match the occasion.

Marcus got dressed in the closet then went downstairs as Emily finished getting ready. She did her hair then decided she better put the dress on before her make-up went on; she didn’t want to get anything on the dress from pulling it over her head.

As always he got the perfect size for her. The dress was the softest satin, it felt almost like liquid silk. The curves of her body made the dress take on a lovely shape, where it had none laying on the bed. It was black, floor length with a slit on the right side that went up to her knee, and the left shoulder had a lace strap where the two inch thick lace continued down the back almost to her butt then tapered into a long point. The front part of the lace strap looped around and formed a line under her bosom which must have had a built in bra because it held her up and formed great cleavage. She was shocked because she didn’t have to wear a bra with it, which was good because since the other shoulder was bare she couldn’t have worn one anyways, at least not one that would have been comfortable, she hated strapless bras.

The shoes he set out were also black that had the leather straps which wrapped up her ankle. She decided to finish her make-up and hair before she put them on, they didn’t look like shoes that you wanted to have on for too long. Just when she was about to turn off the little Tiffany lamp on the dressing table she noticed a black fuzzy box. Taking a breath in before opening it Emily closed her eyes and creaked open the lid; after she opened her eyes she actually gasped out loud at the gorgeous necklace that was in the box. The chain was a thick herringbone of silver and dangling from it was the most splendid star sapphire she had ever seen. The light from the lamp hit it just right and the bright white star was so vivid in the center of the spectacular blue. Instantly her fingers went to it and fastened it around her neck with ease. The gem lay perfectly between her clavicle and her bosom, and the square setting went lovely with the square top of the dress.

Once done she looked at herself in the mirror and decided that was as good as she was going to get and headed down stairs to look for her beau. She paused at the stairs to make sure she had her balance in the three inch heels and to her delight she made it without fault. Marcus had his back to her while he was looking out onto the front street; when he turned around both of them gasped. He looked so insanely gorgeous in the tuxedo that fit him perfectly. He had his hair slightly messy but still perfectly suited for the occasion. The diamond cuff links shone brilliantly when he held his hand out to her.

Marcus had to close his mouth that was hanging open when he saw Emily. The dress looked better on her than he imagined and she looked like a runway model with her make-up and hair. He had never seen her with more than lipstick and mascara on, so to see her eyes done up with the green and brown eye shadow and black eyeliner along with the reddish brown lipstick he almost started to drool. He finally stammered out, “Wow, you look… amazing… no, better than that… wow…”

Emily blushed, “Thanks, you look spectacular yourself darling.” She took his hand and he twirled her in a circle so he could see all of her, “Thank you for the dress, it is so beautiful. And I can’t even say enough about the necklace.”

“They pale in comparison to your beauty.” He let go of her hand and took the camera that was on a table, “Here, let me get one of you,” he raised it up to his eye and snapped one of her then placed it on a shelf and set the timer so they could get one of them together. She looked up at him and couldn’t help herself, she had to kiss him and the camera clicked as they embraced. He let her go then said, “Can I get one of our faces now for Morty and your mum please?”

Marcus re-set the timer then went back to Emily’s side, she jabbed him in the ribs to make him smile, which he tried to avoid in pictures, and the flash went off. Emily went and looked at the pictures, “You are so photogenic, and it’s nice to see you smile in one also. Marcus looked over her shoulder and nodded his head, “you look great, and your mum will like that one. Ready?”

“Sure am,” she turned off the camera but wanted to take it with them so she could get pictures as they drove. “We’re not taking the bikes are we?” She knew they wouldn’t but wanted to be silly.

“Nope, and we’re not even driving,” Marcus opened the front door and now Emily knew what he was looking at when she came down the stairs earlier, there was a limo waiting for them out front to drive them to the opera.

He whispered into her ear, “Surprise,” then lightly kissed her lobe.

The chauffeur opened the door for them, “Mr. Fitzgerald,” he said in English with a very slight Italian accent and made a small bow. He held his hand out for Emily and helped her into the back seat and Marcus slid in right behind her.

The door shut and they were soon on their way. Marcus poured her a small glass of wine and he held up and empty glass, “A toast to you my sweet, welcome to Rome.” She snickered at his silliness and clinked his empty glass then sipped the delectable wine.

The drive was about fifty minutes and when the door opened she was amazed at the opera house. They were at Teatro dell’opera di Roma, Emily had to stop for a moment to take it all in. She had read about it and seen pictures of it and couldn’t believe that she was actually here. Marcus stood beside her and just took her hand into his and said nothing. When she turned to him with the biggest smile he returned it and they headed inside. Marcus thought she was walking so slow because of the heels then realized that she was looking at every little detail of the building, artwork and even the posters of the upcoming events. She even stopped to look at some of the women and what they were wearing. Emily was ecstatic that Marcus got her the gown because there was no way that she could have picked something to match what these women were dressed in. There were more diamonds and pearls in this foyer than any she even knew existed, the furs and gold dripping off of one woman was enough to make a miner in Africa drool and an environmentalist cry. Marcus had to lightly tug her away so they could get to their seats. They headed up one flight of stairs and when they walked out into the second set of balconies her mouth dropped open again. The house was huge, there were five sets of balconies and when she saw the ceiling she thought she would cry for the sheer beauty of it. Granted it was too far away for her to see the superb detail but the chandelier in the center was surrounded by a marvelous painting of cherubs with blue ribbons. The outer rim of ‘la platea’ looked as though it had men and women in classical dress all congregated to listen to a God. Marcus said there was a book that had the artwork in it and he would get it for her so she could see it all at her leisure, and not look like an American tourist. They took their seats and watched the people pour in for about fifteen minutes until the lights finally dimmed down and the performance was to start.

Emily sat on the edge of her seat during the entire performance that was even more spectacular than she could have imagined. Marcus whispered into her ear the story line as they sang so she could follow along. Of course she cried at the end when the hero was killed and the heroine mourned his death. Marcus was starting to get the handkerchief from his pocket for her when he looked over and the woman on the opposite side of Emily had placed a small box of tissues between the two of them. The woman was American as well and her and Emily exchanged a few quiet words between each other and seemed to sniffle in unison. Once the performance was over there was a standing ovation and the performers came back onto the stage several times for bows and curtsies.

Emily thanked the woman as they left the balcony and took Marcus’ arm as they headed towards the stairs. Emily saw the woman looking at Marcus as they started to leave and had to wipe the smirk off her face. She thought to herself, Yeah I know, my man is the most spectacular thing to behold in this place. Marcus’ voice brought her back to reality, “I take it you enjoyed the opera?”

“Oh yes I did, and thank you for interpreting, I would have been lost. Granted it would have still been wonderful with everything else going on, the costumes, gestures, the scenery; all of it was so, so wonderful. I really don’t have the words to describe it.”

Her smile was all the thanks that Marcus needed, he loved to see her so happy. Once they were down the stairs he put his arm around her waist to lead her to the door; now was the time that people started to check each other out and the socializing happened, he didn’t want any man coming up to proposition Emily, and he saw all sorts of men staring at her way before they even made it off the stairway. He had to doge a few looks from women himself, but he was used to it and it didn’t faze him at all anymore. But he did notice that Emily took a good hold on him as well and figured she had the same feelings that he did and noticed the same stares. They finally made it out to the waiting car and the driver helped her in again and then they were off to dinner. Luckily it was only a ten minute drive, Emily was starting to get hungry again.

The restaurant he chose for her was so glamorous and fancy that she was thanking her mother repeatedly in her mind for forcing her to go to those etiquette classes when she was a teenager. After the waitress, who looked as though she stepped right out of Vogue Magazine, left with their drink order Emily leaned in to whisper to Marcus, “So what are you getting me for leftovers?”

Laughing, he said, “I don’t know, what are you going to order? I’ll get your second choice. And of course you’ll have to drink my wine as well so take it slow, I don’t want to carry you out of here,” with a wink he looked back at the menu.

The waitress made it back to their table and Marcus ordered for them in Italian, Emily got the chicken parmesan and Marcus ordered the spaghetti and meatballs. While they waited for their food Emily drank her wine and they talked about the opera and their plans for the next day, as well as the rest of the week. Emily of course wanted to see everything she could, and mentioned that she would like to have at least two days to dedicate to her research. Marcus was at her service and said there was too much to do all in one week and they would come back in the summer, then any time thereafter that she wanted to. The food was quick getting to them and Emily tucked in, it was pretty late to be eating dinner and she was famished. After their meal she refused dessert even though the cannoli siciliani looked delicious, but there was no way that she could fit anymore into her stomach, so she finished hers, and Marcus’, wine then they strolled down the street for a little bit until Emily’s feet couldn’t take anymore in her heels.

The limo was waiting for them near the restaurant and the drive home was faster than on the way out since there was not as much traffic seeing as how it was after midnight now. Once back home Emily took a quick shower to get the product out of her hair and the make-up off of her face. Marcus commented that he was proud of her making it over two hours with “all that stuff on”. She didn’t bother putting any pajamas on since the house was the perfect temperature and she hated wearing them anyways. Marcus started reading a book as she curled up next to him in bed and he wasn’t surprised when she fell asleep in less than five minutes. He turned the light off, seeing as how he really didn’t need it on anyway, there was enough light coming in through the window for him to see by, and he wrapped his arm around his little doll while she slept blissfully. Sometime in the night it dawned on him that she didn’t have her nightmares when he was with her all night, there must be something in her psyche that made her feel safe when he was around.

The morning arrived with the sun shining and the birds singing as sweet as sugar. The scent of fresh pastries, bread and flowers made Emily smile before she even opened her eyes. Marcus was there by her side finishing the book he started when they went to bed. She rolled over and put her arm over him and laid her head upon his chest, “Good morning.”

“Morning Doll, did you sleep well?”

“Like a baby, what time is it?”

He looked at the clock on the dresser that was across the room, “It’s only nine, sure you got enough sleep?”

“Um humm…” she stretched a little but kept her head on his chest and put her arm back onto his bare stomach. He kept reading and she just listened to the noise outside. The window was open slightly so a nice breeze came in and carried the new day with it. Emily was thinking about what she wanted to do first, the museums, Coliseum or the library when she felt, and heard, a “thump” sound from the chest under her ear. She sat bolt upright, “Did you hear, or feel, that?”

“No, what was it?” He never took his eyes from the book assuming she heard something coming from the street below.

“I heard… I heard your heart beat!” She was staring at his chest like something was about to pop out of it.

He put the book down and looked at her harder, “What did you just say?”

She almost couldn’t speak, “Your heart, it beat. Just once, but very softly. You mean you didn’t feel that!?”

His eyes squinted at her, not believing what she thought she heard, “No, not at all. Are you sure that’s what you heard?”

“Of course, nothing else sounds like that, and seeing as how my ear was right there, there was no way that it could have been anything else.” Emily paused then said more to herself, “Okay. Okay.” Then after another pause she continued, “This has to be… alright, lie still, and keep reading,” Emily looked at the clock, it was 9:04, then she put her head right back onto his chest on the same exact spot as it were before, “It has to do it again.”

“Emily…” he started but she ferociously shushed him and he kept quiet. He shook his head but didn’t say another word and looked back at his book. The thought of him actually having a heart beat made him excited, but there was no way that was what she heard. His eyes scanned the words on the page but none of it was registering with him. Emily lay there still as a statue and kept her breathing at a minimum so she didn’t miss the sound again. Her eyes were fixed on the clock, just like her ear was fixed to his breastbone.

Marcus sighed heavily but didn’t move, he wanted to ask her a couple of questions but he knew he would be in trouble if he made any noise so he just put the book down and closed his eyes to concentrate on his body like Emily was.

He thought she was going to fall asleep again because she was so still and when he tilted his head he could see her eyes wide as saucers staring at the clock. He looked at it as well and it now read 9:45. The boredom was starting to set in and he desperately wanted to get up and get their day going, but again, he didn’t dare move so he closed his eyes once more and concentrated.

The clock now said 10:02, Marcus kept his breathing steady and shallow and Emily still didn’t move a muscle, then it happened again, the “thump” sound vibrated from his chest, and this time Marcus heard it as well since he was still and concentrating on that part of his body, for the first time apparently. Both of them jumped and Emily had the look of astonishment and joy in her eyes. Marcus was wearing more of a perplexed look than anything else.

“Do you have a stethoscope here? Where are Sebastian’s notes?” Emily was hopping off the bed and grabbed one of Marcus’ shirts that happened to be hanging on the back of a chair.

He had to shake his head to clear it, “Uh, I don’t think so, but there might be one in the lab.” He started to get up slowly then realized she was already racing down the stairs to go to the vast room in the basement. He found his pants and as he was putting them on he heard her swear then change direction, he suppressed the laugh when he realized that she lost her way through the big house. He was soon by her side as she finally found the right door. It was locked and he was there with the key before she could turn around.

“I always keep it locked so the cleaners don’t come in here,” Marcus unlocked and opened the door. He gave her a quick tour upon her arrival but now he flipped on all the lights and gave her a more detailed explanation of what was what. She wasn’t too interested in the microscope, beakers and such; and as Marcus was talking she was opening drawers looking for her first request. Sure enough after the fourth drawer in the massive oak desk she found what she wanted. Emily spun around with the stethoscope in her hand and found Marcus looking through some books that were lining one wall of the lab.

“I think there’s a book in here with his notes on the vampire anatomy,” Marcus was quickly flipping through several leather bound notebooks looking for the right one. Emily picked one randomly but found that she couldn’t read any of it and just looked at the crude drawings Sebastian had made. Marcus finally said, “Here it is,” and brought the book over to the desk and flipped the small metal lamp on. He started to read it as Emily looked at the drawing that was there, this drawing was in much more detail than the one she had looked at in another book and commented on how nice it was. “I did this one, Sebastian wasn’t much of an artist I must say, he’s too left-brained.”

“You did this? It’s beautiful Marcus,” she leaned down to look at the exquisite detail of the veins, heart and muscles of the male body drawn to encompass the entire page. Marcus just shrugged his shoulders in his usual nonchalant gesture and read the opposite page, “The heart still has the same structure… blah, blah, blah, the veins seem to push the blood throughout the body in usual fashion… blah, blah, blah… when a digit is tied off in a tourniquet fashion the blood still pools in that digit as in a normal human body…” he stopped reading aloud and kept scanning the page for what he wanted, then flipped to the next page and kept on reading. “Well I see no mention of him even studying the heart in any more detail. Granted we never did an autopsy or anything, nor any x-rays or anything of the sort on a living being. But of course I have no idea what he might have done prior to my arrival. Looks like we’ll have to fill in this gap my dear.” Now Marcus was getting curious and excited, he looked over to Emily and when she saw his grin she beamed back at him.

“You do have a real heart love, you beat and feel just like the rest of us. You’re still human in every way,” she took his hand lovingly and kissed his knuckles. This one gesture along with her comment made him happier than he had felt in decades. Human, he thought, I am still human.

Emily seemed to take charge at this point, “So we know that your heart beats about once every hour or so, we’ll have to take an accurate time of it, and then we will find a way to see if that one beat pushes your blood throughout your entire body. I wonder if it moves quickly, or if it’s slowed down so much and it takes it that long to move through your entire circulatory system.” With that thought Emily raced back up stairs and grabbed her computer then went back into the lab to find Marcus rummaging through a closet that she hadn’t noticed before. He emerged with a very antiquated machine that looked as though it measured the pulse, “I think I will get a newer one, I don’t even know if this one still works.”

As Emily started pulling up medical web sites on line he went out of the room and grabbed his cell phone when he found the old machine not able to even turn on. He first called Mort to ask him to overnight his book to him. “Yes Morty, that book. I know but we really need it. I’ll tell you all about it later. Oh fine, I have a heartbeat. Yes I know, it’s amazing. Emily heard it this morning. Yes I know. Yes we are. I really need to look up some stuff in there and there is no other book in the world that will have what I’m looking for. No… James gets there at four in the afternoon so you have time to get the label done and get it boxed up for him to pick up. You will find all of the packing supplies in my office and please, please, please put so much tissue around it first then cover it in bubble wrap and make sure you stamp fragile on all sides of the box, before you put the book in the box though. Yes I know you’re not that old, I’m sorry, you just know… yes okay. Alright, I have to go and make another call, I’ll call you when it gets here. Oh and make sure you mark on the label that I need it before 8:00 in the morning okay? Thanks so much Morty I really appreciate it. Yeah thanks, we’re both pretty excited right now. Love you too, talk to you later.” Marcus hung up the phone then went into his office on the second floor to get out his personal address book.

He finally found the old number that he hadn’t called in a long time and was surprised that the medical supply company was still in business. He ordered a new set of everything they would need: stethoscope, electrocardiogram, thermometers, blood pressure cuff, heart rate monitor as well as some other things he saw on their website as he told the lady he was donating these to a new heart clinic in a third world country. Marcus hated lying to the woman that seemed so nice, but the truth was not something he could share. Marcus then asked for all of the equipment to be delivered to the villa as rapidly as possible and of course he didn’t mind paying the extra shipping. Quickly, he gave her his credit card number over the phone then unbeknownst to her he made out a check for an extra $200 just for her professionalism and kindness and got it ready to go out in the mail for that day. After he hung up he sat there for a moment to reflect on all that was happening. If there was only a way he could call Sebastian he thought, but he didn’t know how to even begin. The thought of the lawyer that sent him the deed to the house crossed his mind, but that was over fifty years ago and was a dead-end. When he finally found no way of communication he went back to the lab and found Emily just as he left her, hunched over her computer and writing notes on a pad of paper that she had found. Marcus went over to the bookshelf and grabbed a book that had never been written in, there were a few like it that Sebastian had on hand for future experiments and such. After a quick inspection to make sure it was still in good condition he started the new journal and wrote:

Diagnosis of the vampire heart. April 2010

Emily and Marcus made an amazing discovery that there is indeed a heartbeat within a vampire’s anatomy…

There really wasn’t anything scientific as of yet to jot down so he stopped there and went over to see what Emily had found. She already had about a page of notes written down and he read them over her shoulder as she kept on reading and writing. He was impressed with her skill at research and how she kept to the facts and what was relevant. There were side notes jotted down in the margins of questions she had and what she needed to look up pertaining to this or that fact. Without warning she put down her pencil and spun around in the chair, “We need to first get an accurate time of how often your heart does beat, then we need to compare it to your pulse in your foot and the tip of a finger to see how quickly it travels throughout your system. This is one thing that I don’t think we can find out, but I got to wondering if you still have the same amount of blood as a normal person?”

Marcus liked how she said ‘normal’ and ‘human’ without reserve. “Well the average guy has what? Five or six liters, oh sorry, about four or five quarts? I have no idea how we can find out how much I have, but I really don’t think that will matter too much.”

“Sure it will seeing as how it all relates to how quickly it moves throughout your system, if you have more or less than that it will alter the timeframe,” she spun back around and started to type in something then said over her shoulder, “Do you mind reading in Sebastian’s old notes to see if you can find anything like that? I bet if he has notes before you guys met there might be more in there. I have a feeling that after you came along he became more conservative, there might be more gruesome details when he was with Anthony.”

“Sadly you’re probably right,” Marcus went over to the shelf and started at the top where the older books were. He had everything organized in chronological order after he and Sebastian had started so he could find things easier. Sebastian seemed to just toss the books willy-nilly as he went along and then bickered when he couldn’t find something. As Emily typed Marcus read, for hours and hours. This was the research stage since they couldn’t really do the reading on his body until the equipment came, which sadly would take two or three days, even with the rush. Emily sat upright and stretched her arms above her head and decided to get up to let the blood back into her butt and legs. She looked over to Marcus who was sitting cross-legged on the floor with five books all opened to various pages in a circle around him.

“What time is it?” she asked as she went out into the hallway, “Holy crap it’s dark outside!’ she exclaimed when she looked up the steps. Marcus got up and joined her to marvel at the twilight out of the big window at the top of the stairs.

“Wow, we better get some food into you, you must be famished?”

“Surprisingly I’m not hungry at all. But now that you said something I’m sure my stomach will growl in five minutes.” They both headed up the stairs and the antique clock on the wall told them it was half past eight. Marcus made Emily sit at the kitchen counter and he heated up the leftovers from their dinner the night before.

Commenting as he turned from the pot heating her food, to look at Emily, “Well I guess this will be a good dinner again instead of a lunch huh?”

Taking a huge gulp of the bottle of water she grabbed from the fridge she just nodded her head in agreement. She still couldn’t believe that they had been down there all day long, and now her body felt it. The inevitable stiffening of the joints was starting to sink in and her lower back was aching a bit. While her dinner was re-heating, there was no ‘ungodly’ microwave in here to make it any faster, Emily did some yoga to limber herself back up. When she heard laughing she stopped and looked over to Marcus who was covering his mouth.

“What?” she asked with a mocking scowl.

“I must say that I’ve never seen anyone do the “down-ward dog” wearing nothing but a man’s dress shirt, it’s quite becoming in an odd sort of way.”

Emily didn’t realize that she was half naked still, then laughed herself seeing that between the two of them they made an entire outfit. “Well we sure do make a pair don’t we?” she asked as she sauntered over to him and put her arms around his still bare chest.

“Yes we do indeed Doll. Thank you so much for finding this out, I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am about all of this.”

“It is a pretty amazing discovery isn’t it? Hey, is there a way you can call Sebastian and…”

He cut her off, “Nope, I’ve already thought of that and I have no idea even what continent he could possibly be on much less if I can call, e-mail or carrier pigeon a message to him. Sorry. He sure would be helpful to have around right now though huh?” He let go of her to tend to the pasta in the pot. She got out a plate and he put the steaming food onto it for her. They sat at the table in there and talked about what they needed to do when the equipment got there.

“Well I’ll have the book tomorrow,” he said, “but…”

This time she cut him off, “Oh, I’m glad you mentioned that, I read something interesting about what the Egyptians discovered about the circulatory system and I was wondering if there was anything written in your book about it.”

“I think there is, that’s why I asked Mort to mail it over. And he almost jumped out of his skin when I told him the news. We need to send him updates as soon as we find them out. Too bad it all has to be so hush-hush.” He played with a piece of crust that fell off her plate from the garlic bread onto the tabletop, “So since nothing can really be done tomorrow why don’t we get out of here and let you see things. I know once we get going then it will be like today, the sun would rise and set without us having a clue.

Nodding her head in agreement she swallowed, “Yeah we better. I couldn’t believe we were down there for ten hours, it’s crazy how the time just flies. But after I finish eating I wanted to look up a few more things if that’s hunky-dory with you, the day is shot anyway today so I might as well finish up what I started.

“Sure.” His mind was starting to wander about his body and the experiments that he had to endure so many years ago. He knew now that if he and Sebastian had the modern equipment and the internet many years ago, how so many lives could have been spared. Emily touched his hand and snapped him out of his trance and he stammered, “I’m sorry what did you say?”

“I asked if you were okay. You started to get that look in your eye. Thinking of the past?”

Marcus slowly shook his head in bewilderment, “How do you always seem to know what I’m thinking? But yes I was. So many women could have lived and led normal lives with husbands and babies if we only knew, knew so many things that we now know.” He shook his head again to get the negativity out of it, “Enough of that, we have a lot to be happy about right now and we need to move forward in that direction, right?”

“Right. I’m done so let’s get back to work, but only for a couple of hours; I want to get more sleep tonight so we can get up early and get a lot in tomorrow.” Emily put her plate into the dishwasher and headed back down the stairs. She paused thinking that maybe she should put some pants on then figured why even bother at this point and continued down into the lab. Marcus was already there looking at her notes and scrolling what she had up on the computer. He turned to her and said, “Is this what you found about the Egyptian’s?”

Emily leaned over his shoulder, “Yeah, does any of it sound familiar?”

He read a little bit more about the circulatory system and how the ancients did autopsies and such all the time to discover new things, “Maybe. I haven’t read that part of the book in a long time so I’m not really too sure. We’ll find out tomorrow morning though.” He spun in the chair to look at her, as much as he wanted to plop her onto his lap he got up instead and gave her the chair so she could finish her research. She grinned and he knew her thoughts were running down the same dirty track his were but she kept her thoughts to herself and just thanked him as she sat down.

“Well when we get it see if there’s anything in there in regards to the Ebers Papyrus. That was a huge scroll where a ton of medical theories, observations and such were written about the human body. It seems they realized that the heart was the center of the body and thus was the source for all fluids to be distributed to the entire body. If the first vampire was around about 1550 BC when the Papyrus was written, then he surely would have noted it.”

Marcus was pacing in the room and tugging at his bottom lip, “I think the first notation in there was actually from 1600 BC, but I really cannot remember, oh well. We’ll see tomorrow. What else did you want to look up for tonight?” He stopped walking in circles and sat on the edge of the desk.

The little iPod was now sitting on Emily’s lap as she typed more, “Well I’m not too sure now.” She paused and leaned back in her chair then took the notes she had written and read through them, “Is there a way we can see how much water you have in your body? The average man has about 60% water content.”

“You just multiply my actual weight by .6. But I don’t know how accurate that would be since that is how you calculate it for a normal body. I don’t have as much moisture in my body so I really don’t think that would give us an accurate reading. But I see where you’re going with that; the blood would travel slower if there is less water and that would react to how the heart’s one beat transfers the fluid,” he got up and started pacing and tugging his lip again. “I keep coming up with circles without having the book or any equipment.” There was a clock on the desk and he turned it around to check the time, “Why don’t we just call it a night then and you can get the rest you didn’t get last night.” He put the clock back to its original position, walked around to the front of the desk then held his hand out for Emily to get up.

She turned off the computer and took his hand, “Alright, but I know my mind will be racing all night with wonderment and more questions.”

“Mine too, but we have seven more days here and we can get a lot done in that time after we have what we need to move forward. It’s frustrating having questions and not the means to answer them.” They went up the stairs and Emily took the shirt off once they were back into the bedroom and crawled under the sheets. Marcus took off the now two day worn pants and tossed them into the corner to be washed and got into bed next to Emily. He tried to put a cover between the two of them so she could have some warmth but she didn’t let him and he had to sleep skin on skin as she called it, granted he didn’t mind much at all though.

Emily was sound asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow and Marcus picked up the book that he was almost finished with. The book was completed shortly thereafter and Marcus glanced at the clock, almost midnight. Rolling over, he put his arm across Emily and tried to lie still and clear his mind. Realizing it was useless he rolled back onto his back and looked out of the window. He could hear all sorts of nightlife going on and tried to listen to what people were saying and guess what they were doing to keep his mind off of the lab and the questions that kept creeping in. He couldn’t help but look at the clock every ten minutes and finally getting frustrated with himself he quietly slipped out from the covers, put on a clean pair of pants and T-shirt then headed downstairs.

Once in the lab he stopped to look around, before today he really hadn’t been in here in quite some time. Realizing that there was a lot of dust about he decided to clean it and get it organized for all of the new equipment that would soon be in there. He pushed the massive desk to one side of the room closer to the bookshelves and brought his office chair down here so he could sit across from Emily since it was the type of desk that had an open middle so two people could sit across from each other at it. There were so many papers on top so he went through them and filed them away into the cabinet that was in the closet. Sebastian hadn’t been here in who knows how long, but Marcus still kept everything of his filed away in case one day he returned. The papers were all documents of people that Sebastian had met, what they talked about, what he learned from them. Sadly none of them could help with their new project so they all ended up into the drawers.

Once he could see the top of the desk he dusted it off and put Emily’s new computer on one side and his laptop on the other so they could both look things up simultaneously. He then went to the bookshelf and took down the book on medical findings that were there. Finding a Grays Anatomy, he put that with the rest of the pile of things that he and Emily already started on. Once the desk was complete dusting needed to be done on the shelves so he took care of that next. There were only two outlets in this room so he went into the garage and found several power strips and placing them at each outlet there were now sufficient plugs to house all of the equipment that was ordered. Finally Marcus swept and mopped the floor so the entire room was as it should be.

Realizing that he was now filthy, he went and used the shower on the first floor so he didn’t wake up Emily, the sun still hadn’t risen so he knew it was still early yet. After he was clean and dressed for a day of walking around in his favorite jeans and collared shirt he decided to go out and see if any of the bakeries were open yet. As he put his watch on, he noted the time was now four in the morning so he knew there would be fresh bread very soon. Marcus took his time strolling through the now quiet streets and found one baker already up, and putting out some sweet pastries in the window, and had sliced loaves of wheat bread already placed there. Marcus lightly tapped on the window and the baker quickly shuffled over to the door to let him in.

The baker obviously had a great memory because Marcus hadn’t been there for several months; he was here on his last trip to leave some food for the cleaning crew.

The old and plump man greeted him when he opened the door, “Ciao Marco, la sono come questa mattina?”

Marcus smiled, “I’m very well this morning Tony, how are you?”

The man smiled, he remembered Marco only because his granddaughter talked about him non-stop whenever he came in, “Good, good. What can I get for you this lovely morning?”

“I actually smelled your fresh pastries and it brought me here, what do you have this morning?”

“Ahh, let’s see here, I have the fresh bread, still warm eh. And mi figlia, Anna, made some sfogliatelle, cannoli, strawberry millefolgie, and some donuts also. We will have more in ’bout an hour eh? Any sound good?”

Marcus knew that Emily would want to try them all so he took one of each pastry as well as a loaf of the bread. He chatted with Tony for a little bit then when his granddaughter emerged he took his leave so he didn’t get caught staying there longer speaking with her.

Slowly walking home he took in the wonderful city. The sun was now peaking its golden head above the buildings and waking up the inhabitants like a loving mother. He loved this time of the day, it was still so clean and pretty and quiet to his sensitive ears. Once inside his own home he could hear Emily in the shower so he put the food on the kitchen counter. He made her a pot of tea and started reading the paper that was left on the front step for him. It was delivered while he was in town so he didn’t have to go to a box, there wasn’t a paperboy here like there was at his home in England.

Emily entered the kitchen and took in the scent of the fresh goodies on the counter for her. After giving Marcus a good morning kiss she got her tea and a few of the pastries and sat with him at the table. She started to take the paper then realized that she wouldn’t able to read any of it and instead asked Marcus what was going on in the world.

“Not too much, doom, gloom, a few births and some weddings. Same as always. Did you sleep well?”

“Like a baby, it’s so comfortable here, I feel right at home, it’s very nice to feel that way in a place that’s new.”

He agreed, that was one of the reasons why he came here so much and why he kept this place over all the other homes he used to have spanning the long years.

Changing the subject Marcus asked, “So we’re doing the tourist stuff today right, not locking ourselves up in the dungeon for hours on end?”

“Nope, no research today. I cannot wait to get out and see everything. So what are we going to do first?” Emily pushed her empty plate away, she was so full she felt like a stuffed pig.

“Well I think we can make a big circle around the city, we’ll start at the Coliseum first then work our way around. That’s better to see in the morning before it gets too hot. Granted the weather report said it was going to be partly cloudy so I’ll be fine.” He winked at her then folded the paper up and tossed it to the side of the table, “Get enough sugar for this morning?”

“Oh yes, everything was so good. Where did you get those from?”

Vividly describing the old man, his bakery, the family that worked there and all of the goodies contained inside, Marcus painted a perfect picture of old world Italy. Emily asked if they could go there later today to get some dessert, she wanted to try a little bit of everything. She also looked forward to making a sandwich with the fresh bread that was brought home. Once her tea was finished she got up and packed a lunch for herself so they could eat at a park that Marcus promised to take her. They then went upstairs for her to get dressed for a day of walking and taking pictures.

“Oh that reminds me,” Emily stated as she put the camera into her backpack, “I need to call my mom. What time is it there? Oh who cares, my mom will be ecstatic that I’m in Italy!” Emily went and found her cell phone on the dresser then called her mom as she finished getting her stuff together. Finding a pair of Nikes in the closet that would be perfect for today, and also going well with her Capri’s and soft, cotton shirt, she put them on as the phone rang. “Hey mom. So I wanted to tell you that my wonderful beau surprised me for spring break. Yeah of course; we’re in Italy. I know!” she squealed into the phone then proceeded to enthusiastically tell her mother all about the villa, which was like a mini palace, the views, the opera and what delicacies she had eaten already. She also informed her of what they were planning for today and the rest of the week.

Naturally she left out the details of the day before in the lab and the experiments that were planned for the next couple of days. Naomi gasped in awe and giggled in all the right places as she enjoyed her daughter’s explanations of her trip thus far. Once Emily was done with her news she got the little bit of gossip from her Alaskan home. Her brother was with another new girl, Emily didn’t even bother asking for her name because she knew that she would probably be gone in a week, being replaced by some new blonde bombshell. Her father was doing well and working away as always. Her mother’s sewing group was working on a new project for the troops overseas and her critters were doing well as usual. When Emily was done packing her bag with her snacks, camera and the maps and guides that Marcus gathered for her, she told her mom that she had to go and promised to send the plethora of pictures to her as she took them all.

“Have fun Sweetpea, but that’s a given huh? Love you!” Naomi let her daughter go then went back to her bedroom from talking in the living room seeing as how it was about four in the morning. Sleep wasn’t possible now so she flipped on her book light and decided to read for the next hour or so until her husband got up to start his day. Once she was settled he rolled over and asked groggily, “Everything alright?”

“Yep, Emily called, she’s in Italy, and obviously not aware of the time difference. Go back to sleep dear, you still have time to sleep more.” Taking her advice, he put his arm over her and fell back into his slumber in seconds.

Tossing her phone into her bag Emily was finally ready to head out the door. She excitedly bounded down the stairs like a little kid going to the zoo for the first time. Finally finding Marcus in the kitchen staring out into the garden, she let him know that she was ready. A laugh escaped her lips when he turned around and saw how he was dressed. He had on jeans, a long sleeved dress shirt with only the top button undone and a ball cap pulled down low over his forehead. Marcus just gave his usual non-caring shrug of the shoulders and turned to head out into the garage. He opened the passenger door for her to get into the itty-bitty car she saw the other night.

“Okay, what kind of thing is this? Did you steal it from an Oompa-Loompa?” Emily laughed as he climbed into the driver’s seat and she couldn’t believe that he even fit behind the wheel. Granted she noticed that the seat was all the way back and he had only an inch or so head room to spare, it reminded her of the clowns in the silly cars at a circus.

Marcus grinned as he hit the garage door remote and started the motor to raise the huge door. “This is what they drive here Doll, it’s called a SMART car, the Fortwo Brabus to be exact. It’s the new one that just came out and of course I got it fully loaded with all the goodies, CD player, seat warmers, for you of course; it’s a great little car. You can drive it when we get to somewhere easy to get around.” The motor was so quiet to her that she was shocked it was even on. Once they were on the main drag she rolled down her window to take in the air and scents all around. Granted it smelled like any other city with the cars’ exhausts, the typical pollution that came with this many people and businesses and the faint scent of garbage with the congestion of a city this size; but it still smelled good and different than her home, both of them.

The drive to the Coliseum was quicker than she expected and they were inside the fence fairly swiftly. Once inside her awe and amazement was nothing compared to what her eyes beheld. Not only was the structure so enormous, the history of it all, what the men endured in their battles and building of the gigantic structure, the architecture and the vastness of what lie beneath the arena floor, but the energy that was still held within the ancient configuration was something that had to be experienced firsthand. Emily was dumbfounded in complete silence throughout the entire tour and grasped Marcus’ hand at several moments to balance herself with either the story of the deaths being told, or seeing the cages where the animals were held awaiting their eventual demise. Then it hit her, the energy she felt below was of death, frightening death as all of the men and animals sweated out their fears, their anguish and their hope that they might make it out alive. The feeling she experienced when above ground was of excitement, awe and jubilation as the onlookers cheered and shouted their excitement as the terrified beasts all fought for their survival.

After the tour guide finished his scripted presentation the tourists were able to go about their way to look at a desired particular area or to sit in the section of stands that were available to them.

Marcus led Emily over to one part of the arena floor and told her, “When I lived here with Sebastian in I helped the church to rebuild the facade. We also removed a bunch of weeds, vines and other fauna that was ripping the old stones down with their branches and root structures. It was hard work, for the humans, but for me it felt so good to do something normal at a time when I felt so abnormal. I came back in 1831 to help rebuild more and repair different sections of the interior as well. I have only been here once or twice since then just to sit and ponder history and time, which seems to stand still here yet become endless at the same time,” He looked down at her, “does that make any sense?”

Her head just nodded as she looked at him, then back around the ancient walls and woodwork. She just didn’t know what to say, it was rare for her to be speechless, but this place held so much history and mysticism for her. They stayed for another forty minutes or so for her to finish seeing what she wanted, and for Marcus to sneak some pictures in the places where it wasn’t allowed, his lightning speed was something that Emily took advantage of now.

The bright colored car, luckily for them, stood out in the parking lot since it was really filling up now with all sorts of tourists from around the globe. Emily took their map out of her bag as Marcus made his way out of the lot onto the Labicana that would take them to her next requested destination, The Domus Aurea, Emily couldn’t wait to see the grand palace that was supposedly larger than the Coliseum.

The day ended up flying by after seeing only two places that Emily ate her sandwich in the car as they drove to the Roman Forum, this was going to have to be their last stop for the day, it was already past four and by the time they wound their way around the arch and looked at the artwork it would be time to get back home and get dinner. Marcus promised they would see the Vatican and the Pantheon tomorrow and whatever else they could squeeze in.

Sure enough, by the time they got back to the house it was after seven and Emily was as tired as a boy after his first day of boot camp. She was glad for the great shoes she had worn, but they did so much walking her back was sore and her legs burned. Marcus ran her a hot bath and cooked dinner while she soaked the ache from her muscles. She emerged into the kitchen to the delightful scent of fresh garlic bread, a red sauce cooked with Italian sausage, which Marcus had to go to the ends of the earth to find it cooked with chicken and not pork, and fresh salad that had basil cut from the plants outside in the garden. He had a large glass of wine ready for her as soon as he saw her and she plopped down into a chair at the counter. She felt better after the bath but she very easily could have laid her head on the counter and taken a nap until ten tomorrow morning. Marcus turned around from stirring the spaghetti in the pot, “I downloaded the pictures that we took today,” he flicked his chin up motioning towards his laptop sitting on the table behind her. “I’ll put them on your computer after dinner.”

Emily hopped off the chair with more vigor than she thought she possessed at the time and sat at the table in front of his laptop. She gasped at the great pictures they took of everything throughout their full day. Mentally she made note of the ones that she was going to send to her mother, when suddenly one of her came up that she didn’t know was taken of her. Marcus got a great picture of her looking up at the arch at the Domus, she looked so small compared to the massive pillar next to her. What made her think it was a good picture was not that it was of herself, she hated pictures of her, but the sun was shining on her back and up the pillar in just a way that made it ethereal looking. She wished it was of Marcus and not of her boring frame, but she knew her mom and dad would like it.

Marcus came and looked over her shoulder, “That one I already sent to your mum and Mort, and printed it…”

She snapped her head around and elbowed him lightly in the leg, “Why?”

“Why? You seriously have to ask that? I saw you looking at it yourself, admit it, it’s a great picture even if you don’t like it. I might even send it to National Geographic for their…”

She cut him off, “Don’t you dare!”

He ruffled her damp hair and kissed the top of her head then went back to the stove, “Sure thing, maybe I can recall the email… I’m kidding! Geez!” He heard her laugh and knew that she liked to be teased even though she pretended to be flustered. Within minutes he set down a huge plate of food for her and refilled her wine glass, “Eat up, you must be starving, that sandwich wasn’t much for you today.” Marcus then pulled the computer over to sit in front of himself so she had room to eat. He glanced up and saw her chowing down with gusto and was glad that she liked his cooking.

“This sausage is so good, is there a way we can bring any home?” She scooped up another huge fork load and shoved it into her mouth.

“We can’t bring it on the plane, but I’m sure I can get some shipped to the house, I’ll take care of it for you. Mort would love it also, he needs to keep away from the pork anyway so this would be a nice treat for him. Oh he says hello by the way, I called him while you were in the bath. Mary is taking great care of him and is loving staying there at the house with him,” he looked up and saw Emily’s bug eyes, “I know, shocker huh? But it sounded like they were being the happy couple. Mary got on the phone and told me how the shop was doing,” he made a great impression of her voice, “It’s making money so you have nothing to worry about dear, that trip must be costing you a fortune with the way little Emily eats,” he laughed and Emily almost choked on her food.

After she was finally able to swallow she laughed out loud, “You do a great impression of her, perfectly! She really has no clue how much you’re worth does she?” Emily just shook her head when Marcus said no and tucked into her food some more. After eating almost the entire feast in front of her, including three pieces of the delectable bread and the entire salad, she leaned back and groaned, “Stick me with a fork, I’m done!”

Marcus took the plates and tossed them into the dishwasher with the rest of the mess that he cleaned up while she ate, another moment when his speed was worth more than a barrel full of gold she thought. They went to the den and plopped on the couch and found a movie on the television. Emily set her half full glass on the end table and leaned her head into the crook of Marcus’ arm as he placed that arm over her shoulders. Before the movie even got to the plot she was sound asleep. Marcus gently lowered her down so she was lying in a comfortable position and pulled the fleece blanket from the back of the couch and put it over her. After finishing the movie he turned the TV off and looked over at the unopened box that had arrived this morning from Mort. He pondered whether or not to start looking for what he wanted in there or to just wait until morning when Emily was awake to do the research with him. Sitting for a while thinking of the day and the wonderful woman on his lap he leaned his head back on the couch, let his eyes close and his thoughts wander.

Before he was aware of it his mind went to Emily in the future; he thought of the surprise party for her after graduation, then traveling to the countries he had in mind with her after that. He also thought of moving her into the flat with him and Mort, then thought that it might be better to get a place of their own next door to the store, living with her and Mort might be too strange, too much like living with the parents. Then suddenly he thought of her as she got older, what she would look like when she was forty, then fifty. Knowing that he would love her forever he didn’t know how he could let her grow old and eventually die.

With that vision shaking him to his core his eyes snapped open and he looked down at the mass of dark hair, he ran his fingers through it to brush it off of her angelic face. Emily was sleeping so soundly and sweetly, just like a little baby. He didn’t want to wake her so he carefully lifted her up and carried her into bed. Her not moving a muscle didn’t surprise him at all, she had been walking all day long. Knowing that he couldn’t lie still, he shut the light off and went back downstairs and opened his box in the lab so he could cross reference what he was hoping to find in there. Diving into the book and his laptop he felt better not thinking of his future with Emily.

Before long he could hear Emily padding her little bare feet down the stairs, as they got closer he looked up from the screen of his computer and saw her coming towards him rubbing her eyes. Sleepily she said, “Good mornin’ babe, how long have you been down here?”

Pushing his chair away from the desk he went over to her and wrapped his arms around her, “I don’t know what time it is. I came down here after I put you into bed, which wasn’t long after you finished dinner, do you remember any of the movie?”

“Movie? Ha, guess not. I remember lying on the couch then, um, waking up in bed I guess. I don’t think I even had any dreams either. I was pretty beat. Well it’s a little after seven, I see the book, did you find anything?” Emily released her hold from around his waist and started to head over to the desk. He took hold of her hand to stop her, “Oh no you don’t. You need to eat some breakfast and get dressed before you dive into this. Besides, the equipment should be here either this afternoon or tomorrow so a lot can really wait until then.” He pulled her out of the lab, “Come, I’ll make you some breakfast, do you want something big or little? You ate a ton last night!”

As they headed up the stairs she whined, “Do we really have to wait, now that the book is here there are some things that I wanted to check out.”

“Yes, you do have to wait. Besides, I thought you wanted to see more sights today? You know once everything gets here we won’t be seeing the light of day until you have to get back onto the plane to head home.”

Knowing he was right she just sighed, “Yeah, I do want to see Vatican City… and uh, I guess just a small breakfast, I’m still full I think.”

She boiled her water while he cooked a scrambled egg and toasted muffin for her. The strawberry jam was freshly made from one of the cleaning ladies that came here, Mort loved it and asked for it every chance he got, so this trip Marcus found three jars on the counter. The tea was done steeping right when the muffin’s popped up perfectly done, browned and crunchy, Emily hated soft English muffins.

While she ate Marcus told her what he had found out in the night. There was reference in the papyrus, like she thought, about the body and the heart. It wasn’t much help to them seeing as how they already knew so much more about the body now. There were only a few passages where writers noted changes in their bodies but all of them also thought there was no heart beat. One notation in there was from an African doctor from around 20 AD, that noted there must have been a heart beat for the skin to regenerate like it does and that since the intake of air was still needed then the circulatory system must still be functioning, but alas he couldn’t prove any of his assumptions. Marcus added, “It seems that we really are on our own here. I also went through all of the notes Sebastian took and he was more interested in the reproductive organs than any other. Freud would have had a field day talking to him about all of his fascinations! So, I think we should have another day of fun and then we can start in once everything gets here. Oh and did I mention that you really have no say in the matter? I didn’t bring you here to sit inside for most of the time.” Marcus leaned back in his chair and extended his legs out and put his hands behind his head.

“Fine, it’s just that I’m so excited to see what’s going on inside of you. But I won’t think about it today, promise,” Emily made a mocking gesture of crossing her heart then ate the last of her breakfast. Pushing the plate to the side and picking up her mug she leaned back into her chair and looked across the table at Marcus. Of course she was going to think about it all day, she couldn’t help it, that’s just how her mind spun, it was so fascinated about how things worked and formed and gathered things together. As she looked at his skin she knew there was moisture in there as well but couldn’t figure out how to test and analyze that.

Marcus simply looked over to her, “You’re thinking about it…”

Almost spitting out the sip she just took, Emily swallowed hard and laughed, “Alright, you caught me, but tell me that questions aren’t ripping through your head every few minutes?”

“Nope… every few seconds,” returning her laugh he got up and put her plate into the dishwasher, “Let’s get out of here huh?”

“You got it!” Emily was up and heading towards the room to get dressed, luckily her bag was still packed with the brochures and her phone, she just needed to put the camera in there and she was ready to go.

The little Oompa-Loompa car was heading towards Vatican City by eight o’clock and the sun was poking out here and there through some pale grey clouds. Marcus was wearing the same sort of garb as the day before so his skin wasn’t showing except for his hands, which would be shoved into his pockets as much as possible again today.

Emily dressed more demurely since they were going to a holy city; she had on another new pair of Capri pants that were white and a nice pale blue, quarter-sleeved sweater. She flipped the map around to see what to go to first, the city was huge and she wanted to be somewhat prepared so they didn’t run around in circles for most of the day. “So we definitely need to go to the Sistine Chapel first, I’ve been dying to see that forever, then I also want to check out The Passetto and the museums. “

“Sure, you’re the navigator, wherever you want to go we’ll go.” He turned into the enclave and was stopped by a guard that just quickly looked into the car, saw Emily’s hand with the map, promptly returned Marcus’ ‘Ciao’ and waved them on.

“Ringraziarla,” Marcus thanked him and slowly drove forward. He parked the car as close to the Chapel as he could get. Emily was so excited her eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her head as she glanced at the marvelous architecture all around. They both got out of the car and she slung her little bag onto her shoulder after she took her camera out. Marcus took in a deep breath of air as she snapped a picture every two seconds. They made their way into the chapel and Emily was told she had to put her camera away, of course she handed it to Marcus so he could break the rules in his speed and get her a few pictures. She almost felt guilty breaking the rules in a church, but that feeling diminished quickly, she was never religious anyway so her guilt in this area only went so far.

They spent over three hours in the glorious church, Emily couldn’t get enough of the spectacular building, the breathtaking paintings, frescoes and woodworking. She felt that she could spend the entire day in here and still not get enough. As they went along Marcus told her about the history, the artists, this or that architect, when things were done and renovated. But as he spoke she noticed that he kept looking around, he seemed unsettled, like a cat listening for mice. They finally went back out into the sun and Marcus lowered his hat more onto his brow and tucked his hands into his pockets. Emily put her arm through his and they walked around a little and tried to decide if they should eat or look at something else. They were standing on the side of a building near an alcove when Marcus suddenly stood completely erect and removed Emily’s arm from his. This movement put her on guard and she looked around. She finally saw what, or who, Marcus was staring intently at, an old priest was bee-lining it for them.

Marcus instinctively took a step backwards into the alcove that was behind them then jerked his head to the right to look behind him, there were two men coming out of a door into the alcove behind them. Marcus was frozen, he felt trapped, he was trapped. Emily went to stand next to him but then stopped by the look on his face. She didn’t know if it was anger, fear or trepidation. The men behind them didn’t advance but kept their places while the old priest came right up to them. Without speaking he looked hard at Marcus, then shifted his black, beady eyes to Emily. He looked her up and down and sneered.

When he looked back up to Marcus he eventually spoke in a quiet but authoritative tone, “Your kind is not welcome here. You need to leave this city at once, and never return!” He said the word never with such malice and spite it made Emily cringe. Marcus didn’t move, didn’t speak, and didn’t even blink. The old man took a step closer, the scent of frankincense stung Marcus’ nose, along with the smell of mildew, a musty smell that made him think that this priest stayed in the deep chambers below the city, the chambers where many, many years of secrets were hidden. Their eyes stayed locked on each other, Marcus then parted his lips to speak, “Why do you speak this to me?” Emily snapped her head to look at Marcus, she was astounded because what he spoke was in Latin, no one spoke Lain anymore.

The priest turned one corner of his lip up once he heard the monster speak to him in the ancient, ethereal language. He replied in Latin, “You do not have the privilege to speak our language, just as you have no right to be standing on this holy ground. I know who, or shall I say, what you are.” He crossed his thin arms across his chest then continued in English, “You need to leave now, your presence here is sordid, to say the least. Take your, woman, now, and go.” He turned to look at Emily with a look of disgust that she was with this abomination. Emily wanted to slap his wrinkled little face, she set her eyes on him and pressed her lips together. The priest chuckled, “I thought you would have to have evil in you to be with, with this,” he jerked his chin towards Marcus but kept his stare on her.

That was enough, what she did next she didn’t think about, she just did it, she took a step towards him and spat in his face, “You are the disgusting one here. You call yourself holy when all you are is pathetic!”

Marcus was shocked into the moment by her actions, he gently took her arm and pulled her back to his side and heard the two men behind come closer to him. As the wicked priest wiped his face Marcus spoke, “Now listen, we want no trouble, and there is no need for you to be so crude, we will gladly leave here, we want no trouble. I’m sorry that we even wanted to come here thinking this was a grand place to behold, you have ruined all of that now.” Marcus took a step forward to leave but the three men took it wrong, the priest took a step back in shock, thinking Marcus was coming after him, and the two bodyguards thought the same. They quickly advanced forward to take hold of Marcus and restrain him. As soon as one of the men put his hand on Marcus’ shoulder the other one took hold of Emily. The priest retreated even more with a smug look of success on his face. This infuriated Marcus even more than he already was.

“Bad idea old man,” he spoke in Italian then turned towards the man that had a hand on him. The look on his face made the younger Italian quickly remove his hand and step backwards, Marcus closed the gap between them and with one hand simply pushed the guard to the ground. He then turned to the one that still had his hand on Emily’s arm and barred his teeth, that was all it took, the guard quickly released his hold on Emily and retreated to his partner. Marcus then took Emily’s hand and they walked past the priest, who now had wiped the smug look from his face and replaced it with one of terror. Marcus paused after they passed him and spoke in Latin once more, “We have been here long before you, and shall be long afterwards, you are the one that needs to take heed. And by the way, who do you think built this holy ground. You’ll never find that in your sacred texts.”

Marcus quickly dragged Emily away to the car and started it before she even had the door closed. They drove back to his house in silence, she knew to keep her mouth shut this time. In what seemed like two minutes they were at the villa. Marcus didn’t even wait for Emily, he just stormed into the house and left the door open behind him.

Emily slowly went inside, closed the door and took her shoes off. She put her stuff away in the bedroom then sat down on the bed for a moment and reflected on what took place. Thinking of what she did she suddenly felt bad for spitting on a man, not only was that a disgusting thing to do, it was beyond disgraceful. Granted the crotchety old man deserved it for how he treated them and for what he said, but since when did two wrongs make a right? As the thoughts went through her as well as the words that had been spoken, she laid upon the bed and closed her eyes. Suddenly she was startled upright when the doorbell rang. She rushed down to the door and opened it, there was a man holding a clipboard saying something in Italian. “I’m sorry?” she said and shook her head.

The man smiled then said, “Sorry madam, I have a delivery for you,” he turned towards a truck that was on the street and two other men were starting to unload the medical equipment that Marcus had ordered.

“Oh yes, of course,” she took the clipboard and signed her name then opened the door fully, “I guess you can put it in here,” motioning towards the living room Emily handed his paperwork back and went to clear some space for the gear that was coming in. Marcus still didn’t emerge from where Emily thought he could have been, in the lab.

It took the crew over half an hour to bring the machinery into the house along with five boxes of stuff. The main delivery guy explained some of the things to Emily as best he could and told her that detailed instructions were in a box. She thanked him again as the crew headed out the door, once she closed it she went to look for Marcus. Before she even got to the stairs she saw him standing in the hallway with his head down. Emily went over to him and put her hand on his shoulder, “Marcus?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks for taking care of that for me. Sorry for today, that…”

Emily interrupted him before he could finish, “Alright, that’s enough. The guy was a prick, he didn’t need to confront us like that, and you did absolutely nothing wrong. I was the one that acted out foolishly and immaturely, so for that I apologize. So let’s put it behind us and move forward with what we need to do now.”

She hugged him hard until he finally put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head, “Fine, but I am sorry.”

They both headed into the living room which was now full of wrapped equipment and boxes, “I already cleared the lab for all of this, we can bring it down there,” Marcus turned to look at Emily who had a shocked look on her face, “What?” he asked.

“How are we going to get it down there, it took two guys to bring each piece in here, with a dolly?” Emily went over and picked up the smallest box, “I can handle this, but I think that’s about it.”

Marcus grinned, “Sure, that will help.” He then went over to one of the wrapped pieces, walked around it to get a good look at it, then squatted own and lifted the piece up and carried it down the stairs. Emily just shook her head, she should have known better, ”So is there anything that you cannot lift?”

“Sure, a car is too heavy, but two of me could do it. But I must admit, this piece did strain me a little, it’s pretty heavy.” They went back up and took the rest of the things down the stairs, Emily helped him with the largest piece, which she had no idea what it was, she recognized it through the wrapping as something that is standard in hospital emergency rooms, it was the funny thing that beeped all the time.

Once everything was where it was going to stay they started to unwrap and clean everything. Emily went through the boxes and took out the smaller items; the blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, stethoscopes, lights and forms to track all of the readings. As Marcus cleaned the larger pieces of equipment he explained what they all were and how they were going to use them. When Emily looked at him with a raised brow, he told her that he researched it all and learned how to use each one. Once done he looked at his watch, “We better get you some food, it’s dinner time already, I think you missed lunch.”

Emily just shrugged her shoulders, “I’m not really hungry actually, we can keep doing stuff.” She went back to putting the cleaned items onto the little stainless-steel rolling table that Marcus put together already. There were even gloves and masks in one of the boxes. Once everything was set up the lab looked more like an operating room to Emily, minus the huge oak desk that was now shoved to the side in front of the bookshelves.

As she wiped her hands onto a rag she exclaimed, “Alright, now I’m hungry.”

Marcus smiled and took his cell phone out of his pocket and ordered a pizza, salad and breadsticks for her from the pizzeria a block away. “Well you can take a shower and clean up if you want before your dinner gets here, it will only be about fifteen minutes or so. After that we can get started on some of the preliminary tests.”

“Sounds good to me,” Emily gave him a kiss on the lips then headed upstairs and cleaned the dust and dirt off of her.

Right before she turned the water off Marcus opened the door, “Your food’s on the counter, I wanted to get cleaned up as well, that stuff was filthy.” After ogling his body a bit she reluctantly got out and dried off. He just smiled to himself, he was so glad that his looks pleased her, sadly it shunned so many away.

Several minutes later he found her sitting at the counter in front of a half empty box of the small veggie pizza and she was diving into the salad with a fork in one hand and a bread stick in the other. He poured her a large glass of water and headed down to the lab to start getting the first round of things going. As soon as he crossed the threshold and flipped the light back on he heard her shout to him from above, “Don’t you dare do anything without me!” He laughed, “Of course not, just hurry your cute, little ass up!” She was down there in a few minutes still chewing and carrying a full glass of water. Once her glass was upon on a coaster on the desk she grabbed the clipboard that held the forms they would need.

“We’re going to start off by taking your temperature and blood pressure, have a seat.” Emily pointed to one of the desk chairs and he obediently pulled it out and sat down and stuck out his arm and tongue. “Funny,” she said and put the modern thermometer into his ear, “we’ve come a long way from mercury darling.” Two seconds later the thing in her hand beeped, “Wow, your temp is 68.4.” She wrote that down then put the clipboard onto the desk and picked up the cuff and stethoscope, “Now this will be the one that might take a bit since you only beat every 58 minutes or so.” Like a nurse she wrapped the cuff around his bare bicep, she was glad he thought to wear a short sleeved T-shirt, pumped the little ball and placed the end of the stethoscope into the crook of his elbow. While she was unpacking she read how to use the cuff and what the normal pressure was, most men had 120 over 80 or so, Marcus’ pressure reading would be a lot lower she assumed. She took her reading first and it was always low, it read 111 over 62.

They got lucky this time, about three minutes after Emily started to listen his heart thumped. Marcus stayed still but read the book he had open on the desk just for this reason, he couldn’t stand sitting still doing nothing for an hour. As he read Homer she looked at her watch counting the seconds and listening through the earpieces plugged into her ears. Astonishingly there was another beat in about thirty-five minutes. She quickly turned the little knob to release the pressure, glanced at the book again to make sure she counted correctly and spoke, “Well this was odd, not only was your heart beating faster than before, but I think your blood pressure is 80 over 36. I wonder if your heart beats at different rates like mine would if I were running or doing something strenuous?” Emily put her tools onto the desk and leaned back in her chair and twirled a piece of her hair around her finger as she was thinking.

Marcus looked away from the book towards her, “I would think so. Too bad I don’t have a treadmill in here. I can run in place, maybe jump rope… oh no I guess that wouldn’t work huh? It would have to be something where you could stay attached to me.” They both sat in silence for a moment, then simultaneously looked at each other then laughed, Emily spoke first, “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Knowing your dirty little mind, I think so. Nothing else I can think of that would be strenuous where you’re attached to me.” So Emily hooked him back up with the pressure cuff then they proceeded to have vigorous sex on top of the desk. It was hard for her to concentrate and she flung the stethoscope off of her ears after just a few minutes.

He stopped, “Maybe we can hook me up to the EKG and do this, we’ll get a more accurate reading that way.” He pushed his chair over to the machine, turned it on, showed a half nude Emily how it worked then they put the patches on his chest, one on each wrist as well as one on the meaty part of each ankle. “Oh damn, we should have shaved my chest first, now I’ll have three bare spots forever.”

Emily started laughing so hard at that, “I guess you will huh, that won’t grow back will it?”

Marcus was sort of perturbed but chuckled as well, “No it won’t, and I like my hair, I think shaved chests on men look stupid.”

“I do too babe, but it’s too late now I guess. Here, let me cheer you up a little.” Emily took his mind off of his chest and directed it towards hers. The machine made its first beep after a few minutes and they both smiled knowing this was not only easier but way more accurate. After an hour of their research Emily was exhausted and she thought she heard a few blips from the machine.

Once dressed again Emily told Marcus to stay put, running up to the bathroom she found some baby oil in the cabinet. She raced back down the steps, raising the bottle to show him and said, “I think this will help take the pads off without ripping all of your hair out.”

“Oh you’re a genius, thank you!” As Emily dribbled the oil onto the first pad he very gently started to pull it away from his skin. Sure enough he only lost a couple of hairs, he winced as they pulled away, not from the pain but from the thought of losing his hair. It was slow going but after ten minutes the three lead pads were off his chest and he breathed a sigh of relief. His skin was slightly red for a minute but then back to its usual paleness. Emily took off the other four pads and he put his shirt back on and they read the printout from the EKG machine.

“Usually there should be seven of these on my chest, but three should work just fine for what we’re looking for,” Marcus explained to Emily as he tore the sheet of paper from the machine. “Each of the seven leads are marked by these points,” he pointed to the spots on the paper, “these three are the ones from my heart, and these are the ones to my wrists, then these two are from the ankles.” He went over to the desk and spread the paper out so they could measure how long it took the heart beat to travel to the wrists then to the feet. Marcus stood back and looked at the paper, “Well it seems that my blood took thirty seconds to travel throughout my body. Which is strange because it would normally take a minute, and with a heart beating about 60 to 70 times a minute, mine beats once or twice an hour,” he ran his hand through his hair, “I… I just don’t know. Damn it I wish we knew a doctor that can do this for us.”

Emily made him sit down, “We can figure this out, don’t stress over it. Let’s just take all the readings that we can, then research what is normal and document it. We really don’t need to do too much, I think it’s just awesome that we found out that your heart even beats.” Taking a sip of her water she never removed her eyes from his face, he looked so deep in thought.

They decided to do what she suggested, and for the next several hours they ran some tests then did the research on their computers. Marcus looked up from his computer after one in the morning and saw Emily sound asleep with her head on the desk. He picked her up and took her to bed. Deciding he would stop for a bit he lay down next to her and curled up around her and shut his eyes. The night flew by and he opened his eyes when Emily stirred and woke up.

“Man I had the strangest dream last night, I haven’t had one of those in a while,” she stretched and put her arm over him as he rolled onto his back.

“You were squirming around a bit, what was your dream?”

“Well it started like the ones I used to have months ago, I was in this old house, then suddenly in a dark room with a presence in the corner. Then you and I were abruptly standing in a field with a little girl. She had long dark hair and was about ten years old or so. It was strange, like she was our daughter. We watched her as she ran around chasing butterflies.” Emily hugged him harder, knowing they would never have a child, but it was such a wonderful feeling for her, so peaceful to be standing there watching their child play. Marcus returned her squeeze and kissed her head.

Likewise having the sadness of not ever being able to have children, especially with a woman he loved more than anything, was on his mind as well. He always wanted to have a large family, and now not ever being able to have one could bring a state of deep melancholy over him. Shaking the feeling off he spoke, “So what’s today, Wednesday? We leave on Saturday morning, how do you want to spend the next few days? I don’t particularly want to spend three days in the lab, I would like to take you around a little bit more, but what do you want to do?”

Emily thought for a moment then said, “Well you spent so much money on all of this equipment, we should do the things we originally set out to do, but let’s agree to dedicating only one more day to the tests. So we’re obviously not seeing the Gardens of Vatican City now, Pompeii is pretty far away huh?” She looked up to see Marcus staring out the window but nodding his head yes. “How about seeing the Spanish Steps, that’s a pretty historical landmark?”

Marcus looked down at her now and away from the window, “Sure, we can do that. Do you want to do it tomorrow or today?”

Now Emily glanced out of the window, “What’s the weather like? If its sunny today then we can go out tomorrow, don’t need to have you in a Hazmat suit or anything,” she dug her chin into his ribs, his only tickle spot, to snap him out of his glumness.

Marcus squirmed, “Alright, alright, geez!” He knew he was being a kill-joy, “let’s get out of here, this medical stuff is driving me nuts, no wonder I never wanted to be a doctor. And what was that jibe about a Hazmat suit you little shit?” He rolled her over and tickled her. Her laugh made him feel better; he thought it was amazing how in one moment she said something that put him into a depression, then the next she snapped him out of it. They got out of bed and Marcus told her they would go out to eat for breakfast then head to their tourist locales.

It was a great day that made up for the fiasco of the day before. They went to wonderful little café’s, saw the Steps, went to a few shops so Emily could get things to send home to her parents, she also got a few things for Mary and Mort and found the prettiest red silk handbag that screamed Julia’s name. Not wanting Patty, Harri or the ladies from work feeling left out she got them all beautiful handcrafted silver bookmarks that each had a different book quote on them. Marcus drove her around most of Rome and they stopped at viewpoints along the way so she could take a plethora of pictures.

They finally returned back to the villa after ten at night with Emily being completely exhausted and stuffed on too much pasta and wine. They didn’t even go into the lab that night and Emily fell asleep in bed as they watched an old romance flick on the television.

When Emily woke up she was alone, she knew exactly where Marcus was, and being in no hurry to get to work she lounged in the bed for a bit listening to the sounds from below. They only had a couple of days left she thought, she really did see the sights that were intriguing to her, granted she did wish she saw more of the Vatican but that old fart ruined that trek for her. Oh well she decided, some other time they’ll go and see it, what were the chances of him seeing them again next year?

Going through her list of friends and family, she got everything that she wanted, she knew her mom would adore the earrings and matching pendant in gold and onyx that she found yesterday. After a while the scent of bacon floated up to her nose and made her get up. She knew Marcus got her turkey bacon since she couldn’t stand pork, but this wasn’t that, it smelled better. But whatever it was it smelled so delectable that she trotted down the stairs. After bounding into the kitchen she found her man at the stove, like she had so many mornings before, and wrapped her arms around his bare torso and kissed his back in a greeting. He simply raised one arm for her to shift under and he breathed a good morning into the top of her head.

“That smells great, thanks,” she took in another nose full of the yummy meat smell.

“I picked up some turkey sausage from the butcher this morning, fresh for you. Did you want an omelet or just eggs?”

“Just over easy would be fine, I’m gon’na weigh 600 pounds by the time you’re done!”

Marcus just made a slight grunting noise then handed her a mug of tea, “I’m sure we won’t be getting out of the lab until later today so I wanted you to have a big breakfast to start the day. “

“Speaking of which, what did you get done last night?”

“Not much, just did some poking around on the computer then I wrote in the books to update them with what we found already. I also took my heart rate while resting,” he turned and gave her a mocking look then returned back to the searing meat in the pan, “then I just got a list together of what we should check on today.” He put the perfectly cooked sausage onto a paper towel, cleaned out some of the grease then cracked two eggs into the remaining residue, Naomi told him about the extremely unhealthy but fabulously delicious Southern way to fry eggs.

After Emily was done eating she quickly brushed her teeth then joined Marcus in the lab. For the remainder of the day they ran the last of the tests and documented the results into the book that Marcus started for this purpose alone. They recorded his body temperatures, heart rates, blood pressure, and water content. Marcus wrote in his eloquent handwriting into the book and made drawings to accentuate a certain point or fact found. Once all of that was completed they cleaned the equipment and desk of all the papers and notes that had gathered over the days of research and experiments that they conducted.

Marcus and Emily sat back when that was complete and felt very proud of themselves for all they found and recorded. Marcus was overjoyed at this point for the one simple fact that he felt more like a human and less like a monster now. He was enthralled more with Emily now as well, he sat and stared at her as she finished cleaning up the floor with a broom; he didn’t think he could love her any more but low and behold, his heart swelled even more with adoration for this little woman that walked into his life only several months ago. In one week she dissipated a horror that he had lived with for too many years and discovered a fact that so many of his kind never could have imagined existed.

With that thought he took up his treasure, Vrykolakas, and wrote everything that took place in the lab. Instead of writing in the medical style as he did in the other book, this time he wrote in a more storyline format. He chronicled all of the same information and drawings as he did previously, this was a revelation that had to be shared with future keepers of the book. His pen stopped in mid-stroke and he leaned back in his chair, the future keeper he thought. He hadn’t thought about that and whom he would possibly pass it on to, he figured so many years ago, that he would just keep the book forever. The thought never even crossed his mind even as he was rebinding it and gave the book a name finally. He didn’t notice Emily stop her sweeping and start to stare at him, she knew something was amiss, he always got that look in his eye when he was off in a far away land in his mind.

As she looked at him she shifted her gaze to what he was working on and saw the book in front of him. Emily put the broom down and crossed the room to him and rolled her chair next to his, he still didn’t move a muscle. Leaning over and seeing what he wrote she also froze then looked at him. The future holder hadn’t crossed her mind either. She knew that he would choose that person well after she would be dead and gone, but the thought of it must have perturbed Marcus because the notion of ‘turning’ someone mortified him to no ends. Gently she touched his arm and looked into his eyes. He blinked several times then opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out so it snapped shut again.

“It’s okay hon, I think I know what’s going through that wonderful mind of yours. And don’t sweat it Marcus, when the time is right you will make the right choice, and it can be 200 years from now, so let it go,” Emily tried to sound as loving as a mother soothing her child when she spoke.

Marcus blinked again then smiled, “You’re right, again of course. Thanks.” He glanced at his watch, “It’s about ten o’clock, are you hungry?”

“Sort of, I guess I should eat though,” Emily patted her stomach, “but I don’t want to eat anything too heavy since it’s so late. Are there any leftovers here?”

Marcus scoffed, “Are you kidding, you’ve been devouring all of the food.” He twisted away in his chair to avoid the slap she tried to land on his arm. “Ha, but there is stuff to make a sandwich, come on,” as he stood he held out his hand for her to take.

The last couple of days went by quickly and before she knew it Marcus was whispering soothing words in her ear as the plane took off for home. Once in the air she put her seat back and went over the stuff she brought back with her. They had to go out and buy two new suitcases for her to put all of her new clothes and books in, not to mention all of the presents she bought for everyone, but they shipped the gifts to Alaska from there, no need to waste the space in the bags. Marcus didn’t want to pack the book into the checked luggage so he dug out an old leather book bag from one of the closets to carry on so he could keep it as close as possible. They held hands in silence for the duration of the short flight and were soon landing with ease.

Once on the drive back to their little part of town Emily turned in her seat to face him, “You know what’s going to really stink now that we’re back home?”

“What’s that Doll?” Marcus answered without taking his eyes off the busy road.

“I’ve gotten so used to sleeping and spending all day with you, it’s going to be a bummer to have to go back to school and work and our separate beds.” She turned back in her seat to face forward and stared out the window at the cars they passed.

“Oh yeah, I see what you mean,” he paused to think for a moment, “well you definitely have to go to school, but how about if I stay at your place every night?” He turned his head to look at her and smiled at the look on her face, “What?”

“Well,” she started, “I would love for you stay every night, but I noticed you left the word ‘work’ out of that sentence.”

Marcus just smiled, “Yes, yes I did. Emily, you really don’t have to work anymore you know. If you want to do something to occupy your time Mort would love to have you in the shop, or you could always just hang out and concentrate on your studies.” He looked back over to her and smiled again when he saw her jaw drop open.

Emily didn’t know what to say, she closed her mouth and looked back forward and thought about it. She really liked working at the library, even though some days it was a total drag to go in after a long day of classes. Of course she didn’t need the money anymore with her Sugar Daddy taking care of everything in the financial world for her. But she did like the work and the experience, not to mention the knowledge she was gaining from working in the library. But in the same sense she wasn’t learning anything else that was new, she was doing the same stuff over and over at this point.

Finally she thought of something to say, “Well I guess I don’t need to be there anymore even though I do like it, most days. And it would be nice to have more time to study and not be so dead tired at the end of my days. Oh, and I’d have the entire weekend off then huh?”

“Yep, sure would and we could do more stuff and go on little weekend trips too.” He wanted to give her more good reasons to stop working. He didn’t really want to tell her that one of the main reasons that he wanted her to quit was so that he could see her more, he couldn’t get enough of her time; but he didn’t say it because he didn’t want to smother her, she needed her time away from him so she didn’t get sick or bored of being with him too much.

Her eyes lit up, “Oh yeah, that would be great for us to do stuff like that on the weekends.” She thought for another quick moment, “Alright then, once I get back to work I’ll put in my two week notice. But if they need me to stay to help find a replacement and train someone I will have to do that.”

“Oh of course, you’re very efficient and they would appreciate that. But are you sure you’re okay with it? I really don’t want you to rush into anything; you have plenty of time to think on it, it was just something that I threw out there to you.” If he could have he would have jumped up and kicked his heels together.

Without hesitation she answered, “Of course I’m sure. Hell you’re paying for everything for me anyway so I really don’t need the cash anymore, and I’ve already gotten everything I can in regards to work experience from there also. But are you sure that you want to spend that much time with me? I can spend every minute of the day with you but I don’t want you getting bored with me or anything, I’m not that interesting.”

He laughed out loud at her comment, “Doll, I was thinking the same thing, that you get bored with me?”

“Oh God, no way!” She chuckled too, “I’m sure we could always find interesting, fun and new things to do all the time. But if we want a day off then… I can clean my house or something, just as long as you don’t buy me a maid!”

“Promise I won’t get you one of those.”

The rest of the drive was in blissful gabbing as both of them thought about the things they could do and wanted to see and what was possible to achieve in a couple of days time. Marcus brought her bags up to her flat for her and then went over to his house to put his stuff away and see how Mort was doing.

When Emily emerged from the shower Marcus was in her room hooking up a 14” flat screen TV on her dresser, “What are you doing?” she said as she whipped her towel in a snap on his ass.

“Hey! It was so nice laying in bed and watching something so I figured since I was going to be here every night then we can do that here. And don’t even act like your pissed, I know you’re ecstatic about it. Tomorrow we can go out and get some movies for the DVD as well,” he skipped out of the way of another towel snap as he got the skinny DVD player off the bed to hook up.

“Damn it Marcus, you really don’t have to buy me stuff all the time, I’ve gotten this far without being materialistic,” she rolled her eyes as she tossed her towel into the laundry basket in the corner of her room.

“Whatever,” he said and mocked her eye rolling and went back to his task.

“So anyway, how’s Mort doing? Was Mary still there?” Emily put on her silk PJ’s and hopped onto the bed to watch Marcus lean over her dresser to plug in the equipment he bought.

From behind the TV he answered, “Of course she was still there, and he’s great. I swear he’s gotten ten years younger since he started dating her. I told them I was going to stay here with you so she decided to stay one more night with him. I noticed there were new sheets on his bed too. She probably did that the first night she got there. But the house smelled nice like her perfume, and her cooking. I also saw a new air freshener thing in the living room and some flowers, she’s added a nice woman’s touch in there that was so desperately needed.” He stood up and grabbed the remote, “All done,” he hit the remote and had the cable self program itself to find all of the channels. “Do you want to flip or put on a movie that I borrowed from Mort?” He flicked his chin towards the end table for her to look through the pile of the five flicks he brought over.

Emily leaned over and looked at the covers then decided, “Actually can we see what’s on the news, I feel so out of touch being gone.”

“Sure thing,” he flipped the channel to the local news, took all of his clothes off and slid into his silk pajama bottoms that he brought over and hopped under the covers next to her. They snuggled in deep together and watched what took place over the last few days on their island. As soon as a late night movie came on at eleven Marcus looked over and Emily was sound asleep so he clicked the box off, then put a blanket between the two of them so she could stay warm then he closed his eyes and listened to the different sounds of this town compared to the noises of Rome. He really loved both places but there was something about the quiet and sereneness of it here that made his heart happy, maybe because this was his true home, his family’s town. Then looking over to his little sleeping beauty he realized that everything he ever wanted was right here with him

The time flew by so fast for both of them. Emily put in her notice at the library when she returned to work; they weren’t surprised, they were figuring she only had two more months anyway because school was over soon and already had a gal in there while she was away on her trip to start training. They also threw her a very nice party on her last day there and of course they knew they would be seeing her all the time since it was the only library in a fifty mile radius. Everyone loved their gifts, especially Julia, she went nuts over the purse. Her mom called to get the scoop on the rest of the trip, to thank her for their treasures and also wanted the full accounts of the pictures that she got.

Mort, Mary, Marcus and Emily had dinner every night together like a regular family, it was so enjoyable for Marcus to feel so complete now. Mort naturally picked his brain about what they found out and read the accounts in the book as well and marveled at how tenacious both he and Emily were in doing their research and fact finding.

June came and Emily was so happy for not having to work so she could put more time into her studying for her final exams. All of her professors were giving them this time and they were all pertaining to everything that she learned for the last seven years of her school life. She only saw Marcus at the end of her days when he came over to spend the night, even then she missed him a couple of times because she fell asleep at her desk.

Marcus was as busy as ever at the shop. He took some of the ideas that he saw in Rome and changed the window display to make it more inviting and interesting, it seemed to work, people came flooding in soon afterwards. The warmer weather also brought more folks out to wander the town and see what was what. Mary started a reading group with her friends so every Wednesday afternoon the shop was filled with little old ladies drinking tea and talking about the new book they read and what was coming out soon that they all needed to read. Mort loved the constant attention and Mary loved showing him off.

It was the last day of school for Emily and as she was walking in to take her last exam she got a text from Marcus telling her to go straight to the house after school. She knew that he had a dinner planned and expected to see the place all decorated, Mary and Mort there with congratulatory gifts and a great meal waiting. She was hoping that they got her a chocolate cake, they were too good to not indulge in at least once a month. Texting back to him that she would be there and shutting off her phone, Emily cleared her mind and took the last five minutes to quickly go over her notes to cram in the last little bit that she could before diving into the large booklet in front of her.

When the bell rang for them to finish she laid down her pencil, leaned back in her chair and breathed a sigh of relief. “Good work guys,” Mr. Sinclair said in his usual booming voice, “I know all of you did very well and will have no problems receiving your caps and gowns on Friday. So for the next three days, enjoy the solitude before the real world sets in and you are chained to work desks instead of school desks!” Everyone laughed, but he more so than his students.

As everyone filed out the door Julia stopped to give Mr. Sinclair a hug, one that was too intimate for a typical teacher-student goodbye and Emily knew that Julia probably aced her exam with no problems. She waited for Julia outside in the sun so they could walk together to Julia’s car. Once she emerged Emily just laughed and shook her head, “So how much studying did you do for that test?”

“Actually a ton, we only had dinner and my v-neck sweater didn’t work as well as I had hoped, hence the close hug. What? I needed to do as much as I could, that was freaking hard!” Julia laughed and tossed her bag into the backseat of her car, “I can’t wait to burn that damn thing!” Then turning to Emily, “So do you have anything planned for this weekend after the graduation ceremony?”

“Nope, not a thing. Marcus said that as a gift he wants to take me to five of my favorite libraries out of that book he got me, but I have no idea when we’ll do that. I really just want to sleep in for the next three weeks and stay in my pajamas all day. You?” Emily played with a string on her very empty backpack.

“Not really. I was thinking of having a party Friday night, but was too lazy to make plans. If I do an impromptu one do you and Marcus want to come?”

“Of course, you can count on us. Just give me a call on Thursday, even if you don’t have anything planned maybe we can just grab some lunch on Saturday or something?”

“Sounds good to me,” Julia hugged Emily, “I’ll call you soon, have a good night!”

“You too!” The women parted ways as Julia hopped into her new VW Bug and Emily started her short trek to Marcus’ house.

The day was so wonderful weather wise that Emily strolled and looked into the shop windows, stopped to talk to a little girl drawing flowers in chalk on the sidewalk and even peeked at the new display that Marcus had put up that morning in the shop. He hung some books from clear wire like the shop he saw a few months ago but put his own flare on it so it was unique looking still. There were yo-yo’s hanging as well with the books and he had a bunch of toys scattered all over the floor. It was a display to get kids’ attentions since summer was here, it was so bright and colorful that she actually stood there longer than she anticipated because Mary poked her head out of the door and asked her if she wanted to buy something. Emily laughed as she went inside and saw Mort sitting in his usual spot. This was not what she was expecting, then she thought that she wasn’t getting a chocolate cake now and looked a little glum suddenly. She didn’t notice the wink that Mary gave to Mort as she told Emily to head up the stairs then she and Mort would be up shortly for an early dinner.

Emily did as she was told and went up the stairs and half way up she could smell something delicious cooking. The scent smelled familiar but she couldn’t place it until she opened the door, then it hit her, chili? Was that her mom’s chili she smelled? She was wondering why in the world would Marcus make that for her today when she suddenly got the shock of her life. After she set her bag down and looked up she first saw Marcus standing there with a shit-eating grin on his face, then noticed her mother and Steve standing beside him.

“Mom? Steve? What are you doing here?” Emily was so overwhelmed with excitement and joy that she ran to her mother and hugged her so hard.

“Surprise Sweetpea! Happy graduation!” Naomi hugged her daughter with just as much vigor.

Steve piped in, “We’ve been planning this since Christmas and made the arrangements then. Sadly dad had to work and couldn’t be here. Mom let go for Pete’s sake,” Steve gently tugged on his mother so he could get a quick hug in then he headed back into the kitchen. Marcus just stood there quietly the entire time with his broad smile plastered to his face.

Emily turned to him and just smiled back, “Since Christmas huh?”

“Yep. We got you the ultimate surprise this time. Better than Rome huh?” He rocked on his heels and kept his hands in his pockets, he was so smug that Emily smacked his arm then hugged him, “Thanks babe, this is the best surprise yet!”

Everyone went into the kitchen and Marcus poured Emily and Naomi a glass of wine, Steve already had a beer in hand and was stirring the chili. “Mom wanted chili since it’s so cold here,” he turned and rolled his eyes at Marcus, “Cold, it’s flippin’ fifty-five degrees outside and kids are running around in shorts and barefoot.”

“Well it’s so damp here, it’s a different cold than home. And don’t you roll your eyes Stephen, even though you’re bigger than me I can still put you in your place.” Naomi teased him and tugged his ear then sipped her wine, “The wine here is marvelous, we’ll have to ship some back.”

Marcus said of course then got out the cornbread from the oven and put it into a basket. He went over to the box on the wall and buzzed Mort downstairs, “Chili’s on.” A chipper “Goodie” crackled from the box and everyone laughed.

Naomi said, “Your grandfather is just the sweetest and cutest darn thing, no wonder Emily loves you guys so much!”

“Thanks, just don’t tell him that, he’ll get a bigger head than he already has!” Marcus took the bread and butter to the dining room and everyone followed him in there. Emily gave a slight squeal when she saw a cake on the buffet table. Marcus chuckled, “Didn’t think I would forget the cake for your party did you?”

She shook her head, “You’re the best babe.” Marcus was at the head of the table, then Emily was to his right and Naomi next to her. He had Mort sit at the other end of the table when he and Mary arrived and of course she took her place next to him, then Steve sat next to her. The dinner was great and Mary talked and asked a hundred questions to Naomi and Steve about Alaska, their trip and what they wanted to see while they were here for the week. Mary promised Naomi she would show her all the shops in town and Marcus piped in that they would go to London and see Big Ben and The Bridge as well.

Marcus told Emily that they had a party planned at the Center Hall and he invited her friends from school and work as well. Emily laughed, “Now I know why Julia seemed so vague about this weekend. How long has she known?”

Marcus took a tiny bite of bread, “Oh I guess about a week or so. I wanted to make sure she could be there and didn’t have, or make, any plans.”

Emily looked over to Steve, “Oh you’re going to love Julia!” She gave Marcus a wink and he almost choked on the bread in his mouth.”

Steve’s head jerked up, “What’s that supposed to mean?” He was on the defensive thinking that his sister had a hideous sow to hook him up with and Marcus caught his mood.

“No seriously, you will love her. She’s a gorgeous, fiery Italian that loves men!” Quickly he looked at Emily thinking she might be upset about complementing her friend that way, was but was relieved when she was nodding her head in agreement. Then he scolded himself for being foolish, Emily was not so jealous anymore, and there was no doubting that Julia was very nice to look at.

“Oh yeah, I didn’t think of that, I’ll introduce the two of you as soon as we get there so she doesn’t set her sights on anyone else.” She gave her brother a wink and he relaxed a bunch. He was now happier about being here knowing that he didn’t have to stay with the old couple and just his mom and sister the entire time.

Dinner was long with all of them talking so much, Mort and Steve had third helpings then they were finally able to cut the cake and cheer Emily for her long road at last coming to an end. As they drank their wine and Mort ate another piece of cake Marcus cleaned the kitchen and Emily talked about their trip to Rome over Spring Break and what they wanted to do over the summer. She had no clue about her plans after that and let the subject change gratefully as Mary went off on a tangent about the great clothing shops in London where her and Naomi should go.

The night was nearing an end and Emily asked if her mom and Steve were staying at her house. Her mother laughed, “Oh goodness no darlin’, Marcus got us both great rooms at the B & B right by your house. That way you can get your rest an’ Steve an’ I can still have our space an’ not bug ya.”

Emily was sort of relieved but surprised at the same time, “Oh alright, I guess that is better than you staying on my couch huh?”

They all moved into the living room and Emily sat down on the couch with her half full glass of wine as her mom sat next to her, Mort was in his chair, and Mary next to Naomi. Marcus and Steve were forced to sit on the floor but neither seemed to mind.

Marcus said, “I hope you don’t mind me making the arrangements babe, they got here while you were knee deep in your exams and I wanted them to have a place to unpack and all while you were so busy,” he shrugged his shoulders looking innocent.

“Oh of course,” Emily answered, “Thanks so much for doing all of this, I cannot tell you how happy I am that you guys are here!” She looked over to her mom and patted her knee and her mother hugged her in return.

They spoke about the graduation ceremony and the party afterwards that was planned. Marcus let Emily know that Julia ended up making most of the guest list so he had no idea how many people were going to be there. He just asked her to let him know by tomorrow about how many would be there so he could get the right amount of food, sadly Julia just answered in a laugh and sauntered off. Emily had to snicker, she knew how Julia was and guesstimated that most of the town and half of London would be there. Marcus just groaned and put his head into a hand dramatically, “Guess I’ll just get a lot of beer and wine and call it good then huh?”

Once everyone was tired Emily and Marcus walked Steve and Naomi to their lodgings then Marcus went home with Emily, he enjoying staying with her every night just as much as she did. Her mother of course took way too long for a goodnight and thanked Marcus profusely for all that he had done already. Steve had to drag her away so he could fall asleep in his bed and not on the sidewalk.

The next couple of days were another whirlwind for Emily, she was entertaining her mother and taking her shopping and trying to find something interesting for Steve to do until she could officially introduce him to Julia so she could take him over from there. Friday finally arrived and the day was jam packed with Mary and Naomi fussing over what Emily was to wear for the graduation ceremony as well as the party. Of course another shopping trip was needed, and this time to London, because nothing in Emily’s closet would do, not even the clothes she brought back from Italy were perfect enough.

It was eventually settled when Emily gave her mother ‘the look’ and she grabbed a wonderful silk blue dress off the rack for her to wear that would be long enough to see two inches beneath her graduation gown, then Mary insisted on a saucy little purple velvet strapless dress for the party. Emily’s mother found the perfect pair of black modern looking Mary Jane’s that Emily would be comfortable enough to dance in as well as walk around to mingle in. The afternoon got worse for Emily when Mary and her mother came over to her apartment to help her put on her makeup and do her hair.

When Marcus, Mort and Steve came over to pick them up Emily whispered into Marcus’ ear that she had to turn down the offer for them to get her ready for the party, there was no way that she could go through that again. Marcus just laughed and told her not to worry, both women were probably living their youth over again through her.

The ceremony was a typical boring graduation with the endless list of names and clapping. Emily was grateful that her last name started with a “C” and not an “W”, but it didn’t make it any easier to have to sit through the long ordeal. Once the final name was called and the final speech was given it was now time for the ceremonial throwing of the caps that every student dreamed of. Once Emily grabbed her cap from the ground she wove over to Julia and Patty and gave her congratulatory hugs and kisses then said she would see them in a few hours at The Hall. Emily tugged Julia to the side before she disappeared though, “Hey, my brother is here, so don’t bring a date tonight if you don’t already have one lined up.”

Julia’s eyes got big, “Well if he’s as cute as you I’ll make sure that I’m single for tonight!” With that Julia gave her a wink and parting hug then was off into the crowd. Emily found her family and was squished by the hugs and wet from the tears of her mother and Mary, Mary now was officially the old aunt that Emily didn’t have. She really wished her dad and grandparents were there to celebrate with her, but Steve let her know that he filmed the entire thing, with the new camera that their mother bought, and would send it off as soon as they got back to her apartment so the family could share in the wonderful and momentous occasion. Emily was besieged with affection that she actually hugged her bother and he returned it without hesitation.

The family went to lunch at Emily’s favorite place and Mickey gave her a bottle of her favorite wine as a present and insisted that the restaurant sing to her while she had her complimentary cannoli for dessert. The embarrassment was too much and she buried her face into Marcus’ arm as he gently laughed at her. They sat around the table for quite some time talking about this and that and nothing at all. A bunch of students from the school came and went and the ones Emily knew came over to say hello, the women came just to ogle Marcs and Steve and Emily and her mother got the biggest kick out of that. Steve already had a list of “dance prospects” if Julia didn’t come through for the evening, or the thought that he kept to himself, if she was even acceptable. When Mort was yawning for the fourth time they took their leave and everyone went back to their own beds for a slight siesta before the evening entertainment was to commence.

Marcus went with Emily back to her flat and he showered her with love, pride and affection. While they lay in bed they talked about the trip that Marcus promised her, to see five of her top libraries around the globe. Emily grabbed the book that he had given her months before and they flipped the pages and narrowed it down to her top ten. They still had time to decide on the final five, but now, the time to get ready for the party that was starting in two hours was closing in.

While Emily took a shower Marcus went home so he could get ready and help Mort. As she was drying her hair she chuckled to herself as she recalled seeing the flyers dotted around campus announcing the party tonight, “FOR SENIORS ONLY”, that Julia had printed in bold letters. Marcus called it right, there would be a ton of people there. Once she was done tackling the up-do on her hair and putting in the two matching purple velvet bows that Mary made for her, she then lightly did her makeup and wore purple eyeliner to bring out her eyes more.

The dress was adorable now that she had more time to look at it. She was so sick of shopping and trying on dresses that she just agreed to this one because it was so different. The strapless bra that her mom got her from the boutique that Emily occasionally bought things from was guaranteed to not slip and be comfortable, so far so good Emily thought as she moved this way and that to check it. The dress stopped right above the knee and had a two inch slit in the back. She loved how the top part of the dress folded down to create a cuff over her breast and hid most of her cleavage, there was just enough of the swell of her breasts showing at the top to make it sexy and not skanky.

The shoes were prefect as well, her mother knew what was needed so she could dance and not fall on her face. The heel was thick enough and only about an inch or two high to complement the length of the dress and it also gave her calves a nice shape. She grabbed the matching black purse and stocked it with her ID, lipstick and cell phone then went into the kitchen to call Marcus to see if he was ready and that she would be at the B & B so he could pick up her and her family at the same time. He let her know that he would be there in fifteen minutes, Mort was still getting dressed and taking his tortoise pace as usual.

Emily walked the fifty yards to where her mom and brother were staying and knocked on her mother’s door first. When the door was opened Emily was shocked to see her mother; she was so used to seeing her in jeans or a simple dress, but now her mother was dressed in a below the knee sundress with spaghetti straps that was in a deep green and had an accompanying light green half sweater. She also had on shoes that would be perfect for dancing that were a chocolate brown leather with shorter heels than Emily’s.

Naomi put a toe out, “Since I’m the mother, I should be more conservative,” she proclaimed as Emily shut the door behind her.

“You really look great mom, we need to get a bunch of pictures for dad, oh damn, I forgot my camera!” Emily called Marcus on her cell phone and asked him to grab it for her, she knew he could get it in literally two seconds on his way here.

Naomi called over to Steve’s room and told him to come over as soon as he was ready, he was there in less than five minutes. He was very smart looking in black slacks and matching blazer over a crisp white t-shirt, very ‘GQ’ Emily remarked. He embarrassed her by whistling when he saw her, “I’ve never seen you look so…so…grown up. Nice goin’ kid!” then he punched her lightly in the shoulder to lighten the mood.

Marcus knocked lightly then opened the door, Mort stayed in the car with Mary. His eyes bulged when he saw his little gem in all her glory, he told her that she looked better even than the night they went to the opera.

“You’re pretty stunning yourself babe,” she told him as she commented on his black silk pants and deep blue shirt and black silk tie. Naomi made the three of them stand together so she could take a picture with her camera and said she would get another one with Emily’s camera as soon as they got to the party.

Mort whistled at both women as they got in and Steve sat up front with Marcus and Mary. Luckily the two women and Mort were skinny, but even so it was still a tight fit back there. Naomi complimented Mary on her lovely flowered patterned dress and matching hat, and Mort was handsome as ever in his brown tweed pant suit.

“No way was I going to wear the tie Marcus had for me, I don’t like nooses around my neck all night!”

They arrived to the towns’ community center. It was an old building that had the typical structural accents from the late 1800’s; narrow building with a brick face that had a quaint little balcony on the second floor. It had been renovated several times throughout the years and sported central heat and air as well as a new electrical panel to hold the lights and sound systems that were required for parties and conventions.

The building looked small from the outside but once inside the massive foyer had a spiral staircase that led to a balcony as well as a small concession stand with bathrooms. Once inside the great main area there were hardwood floors and a nice size stage towards the rear. A massive oak bar lined a quarter of the left wall while windows made up the other wall overlooking a nice but quaint garden with a fountain and benches.

They arrived by 6:45 so Marcus could check on the DJ, bartenders, caterers and to make sure the decorations were all in place. While he went to talk to the caterers Mary found her friend Russell who was an interior decorator that did the wonderful decorations. Emily was introduced to the Aussie who still had his accent even though he left his home country many years before. He flamboyantly detailed the trials and tribulations of erecting the huge balloon and streamer chandelier that was hanging from the ceiling. Everything was done in the schools colors and the burgundy and white made a very elegant setting. On the stage the DJ was organizing his CD’s and telling the lighting guy where to put spotlights through a walkie-talkie. There were already a few people there gathering around the buffet table that was mostly crackers, chips, pretzels, a huge meat and cheese platter and an enormous fruit and veggie tray.

The bar was stocked with water and soda and three types of draft beer. Marcus had also thought of the non-students that would be there and had two types of red and white wines. When he was done making his rounds as a proper host to make sure everything was in place he found Emily with her mother and Mort getting some fruit.

“Thank you so very much honey,” Emily whispered into Marcus ear. She gave him a light kiss on his lobe, “You really did a great job and I appreciate it so very much.”

He put an arm around her, “Anything for you Doll, congratulations again, you’ve had a long haul.” They stayed embracing for a while and watched as people started to come in. There were several tables in front of the windows and Emily and Marcus sat in the center one so they could say hello as people mingled around.

By eight o’clock the hall was pretty packed and the DJ was so good that people were always on the dance floor. He kept a good tempo with older music as well as modern songs. Emily wasn’t into the new music too much and Marcus must have relayed that because there was a lot of Disco and “Hippie-Music” as Marcus called it. A slow song came on every ten songs or so to let people take a breather and get something to drink. Emily was worried at first about having an open bar but to her amusement there was a sign as big as life above the bar that only six alcoholic drinks per person would be served. The three bartenders were sharp and Emily had confidence that there would be no disasters. Marcus let them, as well as Emily, know that if anyone looked drunk then they would be cut off and they would be served a soda or water instantly; if there were any problems then the enormous bartender that looked as though he owned a muscle gym would escort them to a cab.

Julia made a grand entrance wearing a fabulous evening gown of red silk that went to the floor. Steve was sitting with Emily and Marcus and she took his attention from watching a gal on the dance floor, “Hey, come with me,” Emily then took his hand and walked over to Julia. When Steve saw Julia he had to refrain from making a fool of himself by starting to drool like a dog at her beauty, he kept his cool and shook Julia’s hand in a very gentlemanly way. Before Emily started to weave her way back around to the food table Julia gave her a light pinch on the elbow to get her attention. When Emily turned her head Julia mouthed a thank you and gave her a wink, Emily knew that Steve was Julia’s type, especially since he would be leaving in a few days.

The evening was spectacular in every way. At nine the caterers brought out a huge three-tiered cake that said “Congrats Grads” on it in a raspberry crème with burgundy roses trimming each tier. By the time midnight came the bar closed the taps and served only non-alcoholic beverages, but that didn’t thin the crowd at all since the DJ was still playing the best dance music. Marcus ended up running Mort and Mary home well before midnight, but Naomi hung in there and danced with Marcus, Steve and some of Emily’s professors. She hadn’t had a night out like this in years and there was no way that she was going to miss out on it because she probably wouldn’t get another chance like it again. Emily was able to dance with Steve a couple of times but once he and Julia set their sights on one another, they didn’t leave each others sides. Marcus danced with Emily a few times but pretty much stayed seated, he didn’t like to draw attention to himself at all.

Finally two o’clock rolled around and it was time for the party to end since that was closing time for The Hall. Marcus drove Naomi to her room, Steve went with Julia to a bar so Marcus and Emily went back to her flat. Emily took a shower to get the gel and stuff out of her hair and the make-up off as well as the sweat that she worked up dancing; and Marcus joined her just to get the “people smell” off of him. Emily was exhausted after a very long day and fell asleep in his arms as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Everyone slept in very late on Saturday and they all gathered, except for Steve who wasn’t answering his cell phone, for a brunch at Marcus’ house. They went through the pictures that were taken and laughed at some of the silly shots. Some mysterious person got a hold of Emily’s camera and took some pretty candid shots at all sorts of strange angles. They had more fun trying to figure out whose legs were whose and what nose belonged to what face.

Mary decided to take Naomi and Mort to a couple of shops that they hadn’t been to so Mort could get some nice summer clothes. Emily and Marcus stayed behind at his house to just hang out and let Emily rest. Emily’s cell phone rang at about four in the afternoon and it was Steve saying that he was back at his room and he would be over for dinner at six. To her surprise Steve thanked her profusely for introducing him to Julia, he was going to see her again tomorrow afternoon for lunch.

Dinner arrived and there was a full house again, full of the family as well as tantalizing scents from the rack of lamb that Marcus had been cooking. Emily announced that she finally decided upon the five libraries she wanted to see and showed her mom the book by Lauber and Bosser. They were going to take five weeks to go and see the Bodlein Library in Oxford, Trinity College in Dublin, The National Palace in Mafra, Portugal, The Monastic Library at Wiblingen in Ulm, Germany and The National Library of Austria in Vienna. The National Library was on her list not only to see the optical illusionary floor, but all of the old maps that were on display.

Her mom was surprised that she wanted to see Trinity College because it didn’t seem as spectacular as the others and Emily admitted it was mainly because she had always wanted to go to Ireland. Marcus had to act excited like Emily and say that he was dying to see one place or another, but in reality he had actually been to most of the libraries in the entire book. One that he hadn’t seen was in Portugal so that was the reason that one made it to the list. Marcus said he would map it all out tomorrow then get their reservations on Monday for the plane rides and hotels. Emily was not happy about having to be on several different planes, but sadly there was no choice. Obviously they would go to the Oxford library first so at least that one they could drive to.

Once the evening was over Marcus, Emily, Naomi and Steve all walked Mary home then headed to the B & B for a glass of wine in Naomi’s room. Since she slept in so late she wasn’t as tired and neither was Steve. By midnight though Emily was beat and she and Marcus went back to her place. Before they left and as Emily was hugging her mother bye, Naomi whispered into her ear that she wanted to talk to Emily about something privately tomorrow and maybe just the two of them could have breakfast somewhere. Emily invited her over to her house for omelets at nine since they could have privacy and be comfortable.

Marcus heard the whisper and asked Emily about it on the walk home, “What do you think she wants to talk about?”

Emily shrugged her shoulders, “I have no clue. But I did notice her looking at the both of us today at dinner, I can only image that it’s about my plans for the future and if I am going to stay here or go back home.”

Nodding his head in agreement he then asked, “So what are you planning on doing my dear?” He was apprehensive about her answer though.

“Well I’m staying here of course. I did want to ask you about that as well. There is no way that I am leaving your side, but I wasn’t sure about much more. Like should I stay living in my flat, or if you wanted to entertain the thought of us getting a house together, or really what you wanted. I actually decided this at the party, I’ve been in turmoil for a while but on Friday it all came clear, I love it here, and I love you and Mort and Mary so much that I don’t want to go back to Alaska,” she looked over at him and seeing the pure joy on his face made her smile.

He gathered her into his arms, “Emily Doll, you’ve made me the happiest man alive. As to where we will live, well we can discuss all of that after our trip huh? There is a lot to consider.”

Emily was up at six in the morning from a horrid nightmare. Marcus was there rubbing her back when she opened her eyes. “Oh my gosh that was a crazy dream, she breathed into his chest.

“Do you want to talk about it? You were fidgeting all over the place right before you woke up.”

Emily thought about the dream and replayed it in her mind to try and remember as much as she could; then finally started to tell it, “I was in that old house again and I was in a room full of people that were very well dressed, it seemed as though it was a party of some sort. Then you were there holding me and were laughing about something, then suddenly I was in a dark room by myself and you were being dragged away by a shadowy figure, I was trying to scream for help but nothing came out. Then I was back in the old house but I was much, much older and I was crying as I put a diamond ring in a piece of white cloth, sort of like the old fashioned handkerchiefs women used to carry, then I placed it in a window seat.” She stopped and looked up at Marcus face, “What, you look like you’ve seen a ghost, what’s wrong? The dream wasn’t that bad babe.”

The look he wore was one of astonishment and befuddlement. He knew, or thought he knew, what the dream was about and it rocked him to his core. Marcus shook the thoughts from his mind and looked down into Emily’s eyes, “Wow, it’s strange, but that’s all. No worries love, no dark figure could ever take me away from you.” He kissed her head and she rested it upon his chest again. They lay there for a bit then Emily decided to get up and get dressed before her mother got there. Marcus made her tea when she emerged from the shower, then he stayed until Naomi rung the doorbell. While they were waiting Marcus made their breakfast and had it in the oven for just a couple of minutes, his timing was always impeccable. He said good morning and goodbye as she walked into the room then went home to catch up on some work that he let pile up over the last few days.

Emily took their breakfast out of the oven and popped some bread into the toaster for them. She apologized for not having any coffee but her mother was happy with the strong tea. They chatted idly while they ate and cleaned up. Emily knew her mother wanted to talk about something important since she was waiting until they were comfortable in the living room.

Finally she couldn’t wait any longer and she asked abruptly, “Okay mom, what’s up? What’s so important that you wanted to talk about?”

Naomi put her empty mug down on the table and leaned back in the chair and looked at her daughter curled on the couch with her feet tucked under her. She smiled to herself, Emily had always sat that way, even as a tiny child. She paused for a moment to decide how exactly she wanted to start the conversation, she had thought about it a ton over the last day or so but now that the time was finally here the thoughts came flooding in all over again. “Well there were a couple of things actually. I guess I will start out with my first question, where do you plan on living now that school is over and where are you going to work?”

Emily knew that was what she wanted to know, but what took her off guard was her mom stating that was only the first question, “Here, I’m planning on staying here with Marcus. I know that stinks for you and dad, but mom I love it here, and I will not be without Marcus. And of course there’s no way that he will live away from Mort. As to where I’ll work, I’m not too sure yet actually. I know the head librarian here in town is planning on retiring in the next year or so, she told me when I gave my notice, so I might apply there when the time comes.” Emily stopped there, she wanted to answer everything simply.

“I thought so, and yes it does stink for your dad an’ I, but we knew that ya’ wouldn’t stay in Alaska, I know you don’t care for it there so much.” Thinking to herself now how she should proceed she decided to just come out with the rest of it, “So are you plannin’ on marrying Marcus, has he asked or even talked to ya’ about it?”

“No we haven’t talked about it, yet. But I know we’ll get married eventually. I actually spoke with him last night about our living arrangements and we decided to set things in stone after our trip. But don’t worry you’ll be first one to find out as soon as he does pop the question.”

Naomi smiled, “I know dear, I’m sure I’ll be able to hear your squeal from a thousand miles away,” they both snickered knowing that was probably very true. “Well now there is something else that I want to know, about Marcus and Mort. How are they related? I mean really?”

Emily almost choked on her tea, “Wha-what?” She wasn’t prepared for this question, at all, and was suddenly terrified as to what her mother was getting at.

“Well darlin’ you see, I’m very observant, and VERY intuitive, I can sense something between the two of them and I’ve caught some bits and pieces of things they have said to each other. Answer this first then I’ll continue.” She crossed her arms in front of her and Emily knew that posture all too well.

“Well um, mom, they are related… I, um… I really don’t know what to say to you, I don’t know what answer you’re looking for.”

“I’m lookin’ for the truth here darlin’. It’s just me and you now and what is said here stays here between the two of us. You don’t even have to tell Marcus that we had this talk.”

Emily turned pale white, the only thing going through her mind was Oh shit, oh fuck, oh shit… what do I say… Trying to not stutter she flipped it onto her mother, “Mom, you tell me what YOU think.”

Her tinkling laugh pierced the silence, “How did I know you were gon’na say that? Alrighty then, how ’bout this, Marcus never calls Mort ‘Grandpa’, now maybe they do things different over here, but I’ve never heard of a guy callin’ his Papa by his first name. An’ I caught some odd quips of things that Mort referred to, things in his childhood an’ Marcus chuckled like he knew about it firsthand. Now how would that be possible? Now on to Marcus himself. Don’t get that look, I think he’s adorable an’ I would love to have him as a son-in-law, but there’s somethin’ that makes me wonder, how old is he Sweetpea?”

“Twenty-eight,” Emily answered simply.

“Uh-huh. And what year was he born in then? Now I know your gon’na tell me 1982, but why for some reason doesn’t that sit well with me?” She stopped for Emily to answer her. Her pause was way too long and Naomi got the answer she needed, “Okay, looky here babe, I know I read all sorts of crazy books, and I have a very wild imagination, but there are some strange things that I cannot put together. Marcus is always so cold, even when we were walkin’ the other day and it was quite warm in the sun, and I noticed that he avoids the direct sun to boot. Also, he says things that are not from this time period, at all. He’s made comments of things that are spoken like they’re from Shakespeare for heaven’s sake Em, no man of the twentieth century speaks like that, no one.”

More color drained from her daughters face, “I understand that you cannot, don’t or won’t say anythin’, but darlin’ I know ya all too well and I know that everything I am sayin’ here is scarin’ the shit out of ya’. I don’t expect an answer from you, Marcus, nor Mort, because of course he knows the truth as well, and I’m thinkin’ that’s all who knows the truth. Now, let me get to my point here Em, I know, an’ I don’t care too much, as long as it’s perfectly clear that under no circumstances will he take ya from us. I love ya so much and I want the best for ya, an’ he makes ya so happy an’ treats you like a woman should be treated, but…”

“Oh my God mom stop, just stop.” Emily took a huge shaky breath, “Look, I’m not going to say anything one way or the other, but you don’t need to worry about that, not at all. He would never, hurt me in any way shape or form. Never, at all. Okay? I’m just a little flabbergasted right now.” Sitting back into the couch she released a huge sigh and looked into the tea leaves in the bottom of her cup. She swirled them around and watched what shape they took on. Granted she didn’t know how to read tea leaves at all but thought she saw a mountain range and a bird in the pattern. Slowly looking up at her mother a wash of relief came over when she saw her mother as calm as always with a slight smile on her face.

“It’s alright babe, enough has been said on this topic. Granted I have a million more questions, but I will keep them to myself. For now.” Taking her mug to the sink and washing it without another word she decided to get going and get Steve up and out of bed. She walked back into the living room and sat next to her still pale daughter on the couch. Gently patting her knee she said, “Honey, please don’t fret or freak out about it, it’s fine really, as a mother I just worry about ya’. But I know in my heart that Marcus would protect you ‘til the end of time, an’ I’m happy about it, really. So, now I need to get your lazy-assed brother up, he’s been seein’ that Julia gal every night and is sleeping away the days. We’re only here for two more days and I want to get some stuff for your cousins and dad and Meemaw and Pop-pop, do you want to come shoppin’ with us?”

“No.” Emily was still speechless, it amazed her how her mother could have this kind of knock-down conversation then just move on in a split second. But she had always been that way. Once she said her peace and her mind was made up, she closed that chapter and moved on to the next task at hand. “No, I’m good, I’ve had my fill of shopping this week. I’m sure Mary would love to go if you want me to call her.”

“Oh no, no, no, I like her very much, she’s a sweet lady for sure, but I think Steve an’ I will just walk around town an’ be tourists for the day. He and I need to spend some time together anyway so this’ll be good.” Naomi stood up and took her purse off the hook on the wall where Emily hung her coats, “Now please don’t fret baby, we’re good. Okay?” She smoothed out Emily’s hair and tucked it behind her ear, “Your hair’s gotten so long, it looks great on you by the way.”

“Uh, thanks mom. Have fun and we’ll get you for dinner around five. Does that work with you?”

“Of course, and I insist that I take all of ya out an’ I don’t want to hear no from anyone, no matter how much money that family has I can be a gracious guest an’ do my part.”

“Yes mom, thanks, they’ll appreciate it even though they will try like hell to not let you pay. But I’ll pre-warn them so they aren’t rude about it.”

“Oh darlin’ I don’t think rude is in their nature, they’re good gentlemen. Love ya’ babe, see you tonight,” she hugged her daughter very hard to reassure her in an attempt to remove her apprehension. Thinking now that she shouldn’t have said anything she almost wanted to turn back the clock, but she had to say something. The things she noticed at Christmas were confirmed already on this trip and it wasn’t in her nature to let things lie for too long.

“Love you too mom, have fun today.” Emily returned her hug and kissed her on the cheek and closed the door once her mother was out onto the sidewalk. Emily raced to the phone and called Marcus on his cell. As soon as he answered and she said hello he knew something was wrong. Emily just asked if he could come over right away, she had to talk to him in person as soon as possible. After she hung up and grabbed her mug from the coffee table he was already at her door walking in.

“What’s wrong, are you alright? Is everything fine with your mother?”

“Yeah, well sort of. Yeah… oh hell I don’t know Marcus. Sit down, you shouldn’t be standing when I tell you.” Emily sat next to him on the couch and told him everything her mother asked and how she answered. When she was finished he had the same popped-eyed look as she did.

Marcus ran his hand over his face then let out a sigh, “Oh my. Well… well… oh bloody hell.”

Emily huffed, “Yeah, that was my reaction also. But I know she won’t say anything to anyone, not even you, but she knows Marcus, she knows how you are. So I’m sure you’ll catch her looking at you from the corner of her eye and listening intently on what you say and how you say it for the rest of this trip, but she’s okay with it. I think that’s what shocked the hell out of me. I was expecting her to shove me on the next plane and insist that I never cross the ocean again. Oh, and she is insisting that she pays for dinner tonight, so don’t push it to pay, she won’t have it any other way.”

He laughed at this, “Your mother is truly amazing,” then he mocked Naomi’s voice, “I know you’re a vampire, don’t eat my daughter, and I’ll buy dinner.” Marcus simply shook his head, looked into his lap, whispered, “Bloody hell.” All the while Emily chuckled. Emily sighed and put her hand onto his.

When he looked up at her she said, “So we need to just stay normal on this, if we make a stink she’ll think there’s something wrong. She truly loves you and said that she would be happy to have you as her son-in-law. And she adores Mort.” When he snapped his head to look at her she just smiled, “Yep, that was one of her first questions, so of course she wanted to give her blessing. Sort to speak. So babe, let’s just sit on this and be cool about it, I have faith that she’ll keep her mouth shut. And actually, now that I’ve spoken about it, I feel glad that she knows. I do, don’t look like you’re going to throw up. It’s been weird having to hide things and watch my step around her, and I know you’ve felt the same. I think once it hits you you’ll also feel better. But I still wouldn’t do things at your speed and I also wouldn’t talk about the past, not just yet.”

Marcus just nodded his head, “Yeah, I suppose I’ll have to get used to it. It’s just that I lived so long with only Mort, all three of them, only knowing after my brother passed. When you came along it was just natural to tell you everything the second I saw you for some reason. But now? Knowing that someone figured it out, just really freaks me out. How many other people have figured it out along the way?” He thought for a breath then said, “Her and the old Irish guy…”

They sat in silence for a bit to digest it all then Emily got up and washed her mug that she set down when Marcus came barreling into her house like a raging tornado. They decided to go to the shop so Marcus could finish what he was working on and Emily wanted to see if Mort needed any help at all.

When evening came and it was time to go out for dinner, both Emily and Marcus were back to normal and put the morning’s events behind them. Mary wasn’t going to dinner and Steve went over to Julia’s and called to say that she would be coming and would meet them at the restaurant. So Marcus loaded up Mort and Emily and picked up Naomi. The car was much nicer not being cram packed with people this time and they enjoyed the short ride to the Chinese place that Naomi wanted to go to.

Shortly after they were seated Steve and Julia arrived, Emily had to suppress a laugh, her brother looked like a love struck puppy. And Julia seemed very happy as well but Emily would have to wait to get the scoop later on as to what has been happening since Friday with the two of them.

Dinner was great, Julia and Steve got tipsy on the Sake, and Naomi was grossed out by the sushi rolls that Mort and Emily had. Naomi had piped up at their ordering, “I thought sushi was Japanese?”

Emily answered, “It is mom, but the only sushi place is pretty far away so they have just a few rolls here.” Mort winked at Emily with their secret of being able to get sushi whenever they wanted with their very own speedy delivery guy.

Once they were done Steve and Julia were going to catch a movie then go back to her place, they invited Emily and Marcus along but she quickly declined knowing her brother would be pissed as hell if she accepted. When they were walking back to their cars Emily tugged Julia to the side as Steve was saying good night to their mother. “So what’s up with the two of you guys? You’ve been inseparable since Friday.”

Julia had to contain her excitement, “I know. He’s great Emily, totally my type; he’s self-centered, knows he’s gorgeous, loves the same music as I do and the sex is phenomenal. I know you don’t want to hear that gross stuff about your brother, but we can’t keep our hands off each other!”

Emily just laughed, “I know my brother has a flare for that activity, it even tops hunting for him. I’m just glad that he came and you guys hit it off. What are you going to do when they leave on Wednesday?”

Making a slight pouty mouth she said, “I don’t know. I really dig him, and hate to see him leave. We haven’t really talked about it but I guess we’ll stay in touch in all. I better get in as much as I can over the next day though,” she gave her friend a wink then both ladies laughed at Julia’s bluntness.

Steve came over and gave Emily a sideways glance when he interrupted their laughing, “Night sis.”

“Good night bro, talk to you tomorrow,” she gave Julia a hug then hopped into Marcus’ car to head on home. Emily walked her mom to her door then went back to the house with Marcus and Mort. She really didn’t want to go back to her flat, she was tired at looking at the tiny walls.

“Do you mind if we stay the night here tonight?” She asked Marcus as he poured her a glass of wine in the kitchen.

“No not at all, the bed here isn’t that great, but Mary bought new sheets and a comforter for it. I think she wanted to put on the show that she was actually sleeping in there and not with Mort when she comes over.” They both giggled then they heard Mort shout from the living room, “I heard that!” Then they both busted up in complete hysterics. The only noise from the other room was a guilty sounding grunt of a chuckle.

The last days of her mother’s trip went by too fast for Emily; before she knew it they were standing in the airport waiting for the plane. Naomi was thanking both Marcus and Emily for a great trip and that she would be back soon, and asked what their plans were for the holidays. But of course they had no clue to anything beyond the fabulous five week trip they had planned for the beginning of July.

When it was time for them to go through security Steve hugged his baby sister tightly, “Thanks Em, I had a great time, and I must say that I’m very proud of you for all that you’ve accomplished. Oh hell don’t start crying now, we’ll see you soon.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead and went to shake Marcus’ hand, “Thanks man, this was great. You have a neat little town here, glad there was more to do here than I thought.”

Shaking it back he replied, “Glad you had a good time, even if you didn’t see us much, but I can concede to your reference of things to do, well I’m glad Julia was here to help you out,” Marcus turned up the corner of his mouth in a snicker and Steve just laughed and shook his hand tighter, “Yeah, me too!”

Naomi hugged her little girl for a long time and when the tears started to flow they both let go. “I had such a good vacation and I’m so proud of you darlin’, you’ve done a great job at school and with your life. My little baby is all grown up now huh?”

Emily just nodded her head and hugged her mom again, she had such a lump in her throat she didn’t think she could speak. “I love you mom,” she finally squeaked out.

“I love you too Sweetpea. I’ll call you as soon as we get home.”

“Okay mom, have a safe trip.”

Naomi turned to Marcus and gave him a huge hug, “Thank you so much for your hospitality. You have a great family an’ I cannot thank ya enough for takin’ such good care of my little Em for us.”

“Yes ma’am, it’s my pleasure, she’s a wonderful woman. And um, thank you.” Marcus didn’t really know what to say but he felt that he had to say something about her new found knowledge.

Of course Naomi was a quick woman and replied quietly, “Darlin’ not much gets by me. I judge a person for what they do an’ how they act, an’ no matter what runs inside your veins I know that you’re a good man with a good heart. Nothin’ will ever change that.”

Marcus could have cried when she said that, “You have no idea how much that means to me, thank you from the bottom of… of my heart.” He hugged her again and she returned it with a lot of love.

As they went through the gates Marcus put his arm around Emily to comfort her, he knew how hard it was for her to see them leave. Once they were out of view Marcus tugged her away and they headed home in silence. Emily let a few tears fall quietly and Marcus just held on to her hand as he drove.

July came quickly to Emily’s surprise, she thought the days would creep on by since she didn’t have school or work to attend to. Every day she went to the store and helped Mort like she was his apprentice. Some days she even opened and closed the doors so he and Mary could get out and do stuff. The day came when they had to pack their bags to get ready for the long trip they had been waiting to take. They were going to drive to Oxford and stay there for three days, then hop on a plane to Germany for four days. Austria was next for six days, they were planning on staying in Portugal for a week, then in Ireland for another week. It was hard for Emily to pack only one bag but Marcus told her that they would be buying a lot of stuff along the way and he didn’t want to have to struggle with twenty bags in the end. Besides, he told her, he had already planned on shipping stuff home as they went along the way.

Once again Marcus let everyone know that he was to be gone and Mary and her family were already planning for her to stay at their house with Mort. Of course Marcus also called his good buddy at the police station to have him keep an eye out on the shop as he walked his beat. He also let the ladies at the flower shop know so they wouldn’t be alarmed when they didn’t see Emily every day. Mary, her daughter and granddaughter all had Marcus’ cell number along with Emily’s and even her parents’ home number in Alaska.

Marcus was so jittery because he had never left for this long and was so nervous that something was going to happen to Mort while he was away. Mary got full instructions as to what medicine Mort takes, when to take it and he let her know that his doctor has all of her information so she could call and talk to him anytime she needed something. Marcus was apprehensive if he should leave the medicine that only he gave to Mort, but Emily talked him out of it. She gently told him not to worry so much and if Mort got that bad then they could come home right away.

Both of them were like a couple on their honeymoon and were treated as such everywhere they went. No expense was too much and they stayed at the best hotels, got a first class private tour at each of the libraries they went to, Emily was even given information at the libraries in Austria and Portugal if she ever wanted a job with them.

They were sitting on a beach overlooking Dublin Bay in silence watching the waves, and as she thought about the last five weeks, Emily felt that life couldn’t have gotten any more perfect. At least not until Marcus got up and changed everything.

He took her by the hand and led her down a little ways to some trees that were so huge they made a perfect canopy underneath the low hanging branches. Marcus pulled a branch to the side so Emily could walk underneath and she saw a blanket spread out with a basket on top of it. She sat down and Marcus opened the basket and took out a bottle of champagne and poured her a glass, he also poured a tiny amount in his glass as well.

“What’s all this about,” she inquired.

“Well Doll I wanted to ask you something,” then her heart almost leapt out of her chest, he got on one knee and withdrew a little black box from the picnic basket. He opened it to reveal a diamond ring, “Will you be my wife?”

Emily’s mouth hit the floor, not only was she not prepared for his question, but there was something about the ring that made her start to cry. She looked up at Marcus and his smile started to turn down a little because she still didn’t give him an answer. He thought she would say yes before he even finished the question.

Her mouth and tongue finally started to work, “Oh my god yes! It’s just that. Wow, I just didn’t think you were going to ask me any time soon.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

He slumped slightly into her with relief, he was so afraid that she was actually going to say no. When she pulled away from him he took the ring out of the box and put it on her finger, it fit perfectly. He saw her looking at the ring then he had a shocking thought, “Emily, why do you look at the ring that way?”

Her eyelids rapidly blinked a few times to clear them, she tore her eyes from the ring to look at him, “It’s just that, well just that the ring looks so familiar to me. It honestly looks like the ring from my dreams. You know, the one I told you about a while ago. It’s absolutely beautiful, I really love it!” She looked back at the diamond ring. It was a one carat heart shaped diamond in the center and it was surrounded by smaller diamond chips. The setting was simple but elegant, it looked like fine lace holding the stones in place.

“It’s platinum, and quite old. It’s an antique from the eighteenth century.” He didn’t know what else to tell her so he stopped there.

“I love it Marcus, so very much, thank you.” She kissed him again and they held each other for a very long time.

Once they got back to the hotel he ordered room service so they didn’t have to go anywhere, then consummated their engagement by making passionate love. Sometime in the middle of the night they came to the decision that they won’t rush the wedding since there was a lot to do for it. Emily thought that maybe they can have it over the holidays and fly Mort and Mary out to Alaska since she had more family over there and it would be easier to fly four people over then her entire family. Marcus agreed and proposed that they see how Mort was feeling after the summer then they could make their plans definite. They stayed in bed for a while then Emily slept.

Marcus toyed with the ring on her finger as she lay there sleeping like a perfect angel. Whether or not he should tell her now or later where he got the ring kept racing through his mind. He was definitely going to tell her about it, he just didn’t know when and how. The ring was so beautiful and exactly how he remembered it. After he picked it up he had it cleaned so it looked like it was just made, and it shocked him that it fit her perfectly, it didn’t need to be sized at all. But of course he thought, of course. He gave a small sigh and Emily must have woken without him noticing and her voice somewhat startled him.

She asked, “Are you alright?”

He was baffled yet again how she always knew when something troubled him. He didn’t want to tell her the truth, yet he couldn’t lie to her either. “Yeah I’m fine, I just don’t want this trip to end.” He pulled her in closer to him and she hugged him tighter, “Me neither, this has been so wonderful. Definitely the best graduation present ever.” Emily kissed his bare chest, right over his heart and it made him shiver. She fell back to sleep in minutes and he was left alone with his thoughts once again.

In the morning as they packed Emily took a picture of her ring with Marcus’ Blackberry and sent it in an e-mail to her mom with only the subject line reading, “No date yet…” Before they were boarding the plane his phone rang and she could hear her mother’s squeal through the phone, Emily laughed as he handed it to her, “Now your squeal was the one heard half way around the world.”

Her mother was breathless, “I’m so happy for ya’ darlin’, how did he propose?” Emily relayed the moment for her then stopped, “Mom, are you crying?”

“Yes, but it’s ’cause I am so happy for you! He’s really wonderful and, well I’m just so happy.” Suddenly her dad was on the phone, “Hey babe, congratulations. You can tell Marcus I give him my blessing. Are you guys gon’na get married over there or are you gon’na come here?”

“Probably go there dad, but we really haven’t made solid plans yet. But as soon as we do I’ll call mom so she can start driving you nuts with the preparations!”

George laughed into the phone, “Ain’t that right! Well I love you sweetie, have a safe trip home.”

“Will do dad, thanks, love you too.” Before she could say another word he hung up the phone. “My dad gives you his blessing. And of course my mom is already losing it. Man I love her but she can be so dramatic sometimes.”

Marcus just smiled and kissed her temple, “Well I’m happy they are fine with it. Not that it would have mattered anyway, I was going to marry you whether anyone cared or not.”

Emily just smiled at him and poked him the ribs with her elbow, “And I would have run away with you instantly.”

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