WE CALLED J EAN -C LAUDE while it was still night, so we could tell him what his pomme de sang, Jason, and his human servant, me, had planned. I thoughTHE might tell me it was a stupid thing to do, and tell us no. He was Jasons boss and master, and technically he was my master. Though honestly, I didnt let him pull the master card on me very often.

Jason told him, then handed the bedside phone to me. He wants to talk to you.

Jason got up and padded toward the bathroom. Nathaniel stayed where he was beside me. Hey, Jean-Claude.

Ma petite, I am surprised that you would agree to this.

Me, too.

He laughed, that wonderful, touchable laugh. It made me shiver and not from fear. Nathaniel cuddled closer to me, as if hed gotten a taste of it.

Thank you for taking care of Jason in a way that I could not.

So youre not going to talk us out of it?

Do you wish me to?

I realized that yes, I did. Now that Id said yes, I was feeling awkward about it, and even more foolish. Its going to be sort of awkward.

It will be difficult for you. You will be his only emotional support in a very traumatic situation.

You sound like therapy-speak, Jean-Claude.

What would you have me say?

What youre actually thinking?

He gave that laugh again, and my shields dropped enough so that I knew he was sitting in his bed wearing nothing but the silk sheets. I got a glimpse of that curling black hair over the perfect white of shoulders. I closed the shields down before I could literally see the midnight blue of his eyes.

I took a deep breath in, and let it out slow and counted as I did it. If I wasnt careful the tie between him and me could distract me, a lot.

What are you thinking about, ma petite?

You, and trying not to. Where is Asher?

He is running late, buTHE will be here.

Jason wants to leave in the morning. Who will you feed on while were both gone?

There are always willing blood donors, ma petite.

I didnt like the way he said that. A small spurt of jealousy came and I clubbed it to death before it could sound in my voice. Dont eat anything that disagrees with you.

Are you jealous, ma petite?


I, too.

What do you mean?

You will be going home to meet Jasons family. You will be doing something very ordinary, very human, that will forever be denied me.

I dont understand.

My family died long before you were born, ma petite. I cannot introduce my mother to you, or my sister. I cannot give you the very normal experience of seeing where I came from, and who my people are.

Ive met the head of your bloodline, Jean-Claude. I figure that Belle Morte is your people.

Non, ma petite, she is my master, or was, but she was never family. She was lover and goddess, if you will, but that is not the same.

Youre jealous that Jason has living family to take me home to.


I lay there with the phone to my ear, and just thought about that. I never thought that would be important to you.

I do not regret what I am, ma petite, but I do regret some of what I do not have. I would give a great deal to have you meet my mother, and my sister.

No father, I said.

He died when I was very young. I dont have many memories of him.

Again, something I hadnt known. Tonight was just chock-full of new discoveries about people I thought I knew intimately.

Are you upset that I havent taken you home to meet my family?

He made a small sound. No, I He laughed, but it wasnt sexy, more laughing at himself. I think I may be. Maybe I feel you do not think me good enough.

I think my Grandmother Blake would chase you out of the house with a crucifix and holy water, is what I think.

She is a devout woman?

Fanatical. Ive been informed shes praying for my soul because of you.

Have I estranged you from your family, ma petite?

No, I was already estranged, if thats how you want to put it. Lets say Grandma Blake was praying for me about the whole raising-zombies-from-the-grave thing. My sleeping with the undead is just another symptom of my damnation.

I am sorry, ma petite, I did not know.

I shrugged, knew he couldnt see it, and said, Its okay.

So you will go with our Jason and meet his family, be his girlfriend.

You are jealous.

My voice was empty of emotion, he said.

Yeah, and when your voice is at its most empty, youre hiding something. You know you dont have to be jealous of Jason.

I am not jealous in the way you mean.

Then explain.

Nathaniel had gone very still beside me, listening.

You are not yet thirty and he is twenty-three. You are both so very young, ma petite. You will go away to his hometown and be very young together. It is something I cannot be with you. I cannot be young and nave and uncertain.

You wouldnt be you if you were any of those things. I love you the way you are, Jean-Claude.

Did I sound like I needed to hear that, ma petite?

Yes, I said.

He laughed again, and made me shiver down closer to Nathaniel. I find myself strangely conflicted. Jason is my pomme de sang, and is precious to me. That my human servant is taking care of him in such a caring way is a lovely thing. It will make other vampires think me a very kind master, but I know that you do it because you care for him. He is young and handsome and charming.

You cannot be insecure.

Why can I not be?

Because you are beautiful and amazing in bed, and I love you.

But Jason can be one thing for you that I cannot, ma petite.

Whats that?

Mortal. He can involve you in the youth of his life. He can offer you the mess of his family. He can show you where he grew up, introduce you to people who knew him as a child. All those to whom I can introduce you knew me as a vampire, never as a mortal.

I think this is your issue, Jean-Claude, not mine. Im not actually looking forward to traveling down memory lane with Jason and his abusive dad.

I feel that you mean that, but I find myself strangely envious. I had not missed my family in a very long time.

You sound homesick.

I suppose that is as good a word as any. He sounded sad.

Do you need us to come there tonight?

To what purpose? You would arrive not long before dawn, and you would leave before I awoke for the day.

I feel like you need a good-bye kiss, I guess.

Thank you for the sentiment, ma petite, but I will work on, how do you say, my issues. You, I think, will have your hands full working on Jasons.

What could I say to that? Yeah, I said.

Je taime, ma petite.

I love you, too, I said.

I guess in the end, what else is there to say?