by Judith Freudenthal

It was very late at night in Nick's loft. He and Natalie were seated on the couch in front of the roaring fireplace.

"Nat, what did your Grandmother want?"

"To know why I never came to see her when she was dying."

"Why didn't you go see her?"

"I want to hear more about your ghost," Natalie said changing the subject.

Nick noticed, but was determined to find out why she was so reluctant to talk about it.

"I'll tell you all about mine if you do the same. Deal?"

"Okay," Natalie reluctantly agreed, knowing that expression. He was not about to give up on this one. "When I was a little girl I had to go stay with my Nana because Mom was sick and Dad had to work most of the time. I liked it at first, but then she began to hit me. It hurt more than just physically. It got so I hated to go over there, but I couldn't give the real reason. She never acknowledged that her beating hurt me," Natalie said remembering the pain of her childhood. "I refused to go see her in the hospital because I resented her. Then when I saw her in the morgue she asked me why and I finally told her why. I finally heard what I'd waited my whole life to hear, that she was sorry. That she hurt me and now knew it was wrong. She wanted me to forgive her. I did still love her, she was my Nana. I told her I forgave her, which I did. Then she left. Your turn."

Suddenly a lot of Natalie's behavior made more sense. She wasn't pushing him away, but was afraid to let him close. She was afraid of being hurt again so she had developed all those defenses he knew so well, the tough front, using humor to deal with feelings, working to hard, not letting anyone see what was really going on inside, not allowing anyone close enough to hurt her or to see that she was hurting. He hoped that since she had faced it she could begin to heal.

"I met Alyssa around the middle of the 16th century. It was a while after Janette had left me. After being married for 97 years Janette thought it was time to move on and I never got involved that deeply with anyone until I met Alyssa. Alyssa was beautiful and I fell in love. She was very mortal. I promised her we'd be together forever but nothing more than that. I did enjoy what I was most of the time back then. We were married. On our wedding night I made my first attempt at a child." Sadness washed over Nick's face as he remembered. "She was so trusting and willing. She was not scared when she saw the eyes and fangs. I drained her and then fed her my blood and waited for the change. I was thrilled about spending eternity with her. Something went wrong. LaCroix seemed pleased that I had attempted to bring across my first person but seemed to know I would fail. He very quickly figured out what I did wrong. I began to wonder if he had not taught me everything I needed to know. It seemed that I had taken too much from her and she was indeed very dead and going to stay that way. She wanted to know if I remembered her. I could never forget her. She also warned me about other spirits from my past that wanted to harm me. They almost did too, but I escaped."

Natalie now understood why he was so reluctant to even consider bringing her across. Why he had trouble getting close to anyone. Why he had so much trouble letting his emotions show.

"We are a mess, aren't we," Natalie said, her humor once again helping take the edge off the situation.

"Yeah, we are." Nick agreed with a small grin. "But now that we've faced those demons, maybe we can put them behind us and begin to heal."

"Maybe. It did feel good to finally be able to tell someone."

She leaned against his chest and felt his strong arms wrap around her. She felt so safe and secure. Maybe he was right, maybe they could help each other heal, she thought.

Unknown to either of them the process had begun when they became friends. The romantic tension had made things a bit more difficult but it also allowed them to give the other the love and security they craved. The acceptance that they were worthy to be loved, despite feelings to the contrary. They had both grown and blossomed during the four years they had known each other.

The end

Forever Knight Index