I curled up in a ball on the small dais to await the news I knew was coming. Even removed in the small chapel, I felt Annaliese's pain when they discovered what I'd already surmised.
Jared had begun the transition.
Though he would never complete it. I felt the emptiness in my heart and soul and wept silently by myself. This might be the only chance I had to mourn him after all.
Those who are bound by blood will share each other's fate.
How soon would it happen? Would they return to find me gone as well? Would Robert go after Minerva? Or Lily? Or Andromeda? My grief for Jared overwhelmed me and pushed them out of my mind. I was grateful for the reprieve.
The doors slammed open then and Robert and Annaliese came running up the aisle toward me.
"Wonderful, she's still alive." Annaliese said, relief spread across her face. "Oh Luna! I'm so sorry...I thought...I.."
"Jared is gone. I know." I whispered, barely holding myself up. Robert reached down and gripped me by the arm, pulling me roughly to my feet.
"Your bond to my son is broken - and yet you live." he said, studying me like a lab rat for a moment.
"Leave her alone Robert, she's got a limited amount of time left I imagine - let her grieve." Annaliese tried to step in but he shoved her aside.
"No!" Robert howled. "There's been a change of plans...you're here all dressed for your wedding day - let's not disappoint."
"No! Please...I..." I sputtered, I didn't have an argument other than 'Let me die in peace.'
"You made me a promise - it's time you uphold it. No more silly games from the child." he said, gripping my wrist tightly.
"But why Robert? What good would it do you?! She'll die within a few days no doubt!" Annaliese was a credit, defending me even now.
"Because it's what I want!" he shouted back at her. "And I will have what I want!"
Annaliese stood by my side throughout the ceremony, even as he roughly pressed his lips to mine to seal the deal. "I'm sorry Luna." she whispered before he yanked me away from her.
He was no kinder in the bedroom that evening and slapped me hard when I started crying. I closed my eyes and tried to think of Jared - only Jared - as he ripped the beautiful dress Annaliese had toiled over from my body and threw it aside.
After he was done with me, he shoved me from the room clinging to the shards of my under clothes and battered. "If you're very lucky you'll breed me an heir quickly and I'll tire of you. You'll return here tomorrow night as sundown, or I'll come for you and it will be worse." With that, he slammed the door.
Annaliese was waiting for me with a warm towel and fresh clothes. "I want to see Jared." I whispered after I was dressed again. I could feel the bruises and cuts he'd left healing already. She nodded and walked with me to the tomb, she stayed at the door as I entered alone.
Along the walls were skeletons and piles of dust and ash. I wondered how long some of these had been entombed down here. Who were they? There was one empty stone slab and then there he was. He looked so peaceful - as if he were merely sleeping.
I stroked his hair from his eyes and couldn't help but laugh pathetically. Even in death, his hair did its own thing.
"Why? Why did you...you said you'd always be there for me!" I slammed my fist into the stone and regretted it instantly as pain shot through my hand and arm. "Oh! I'm so sorry Jared...I know you would be here..."
I climbed up onto the stone next to him and pulled his cold body into my arms. "I think I'm pregnant Jared...you would have been a father..."
"We would have been a family..." I was sobbing again. "And now, I'm married to your father and I'm going to die. I'm scared...I'm scared to die and yet...I'm scared to live now..."
It could have been minutes or hours later when Annaliese carefully pulled me away from him. "Come Luna, you should get some sleep now."
"I don't think I can." I said, though my legs betrayed me and walked away from Jared's still form. "I don't want to leave him."
"Listen to me Luna, Jared is with you - always." she touched my heart carefully. "Even Robert doesn't know all the magic - I can't say he's ever known the magic of love. Let your love of Jared heal you. Let it carry you through these days until all this is over."
"Until I die you mean." I said.
"Yes." Somehow we were back in my bedroom and Annaliese had changed my clothes once again. She laid me down on the bed. "Sleep now Luna, sleep it will soon be over."
She was both right and wrong. Jared was with me, I felt his warmth beside me on the bed and though there was nothing there when I turned to look, I still felt him close to me.
But it wouldn't end soon.
Robert was true to his word and expected me every night at sundown. The one time I wasn't there because I was feeling ill from the baby, he left no part of my body untouched. I was still healing the following day from that one and Annaliese was horrified. "How can you still be bruised?"
I had my theories - namely that the baby was sapping me dry, leaving little energy to apply to my own healing - but I kept my mouth shut. It was too early for me to know about any baby with Robert and I shuddered to think what he might do if he found out that I was pregnant with someone else's baby - even if it was his grandchild. More than that, I already knew she was a girl. I don't know HOW I knew, I just did, and Robert was very particular about having a MALE heir.
After Annaliese had ordered me back to bed until sundown, I ran my hand along my non-existent belly. "We'll be okay." I whispered. I'd survived a week since Jared's death so far...could I survive long enough to give birth? When would the blood bond catch up with me?
Finally I was far enough along that I felt safe telling Robert about the baby. I tried to look somewhat happy as I lied to him, telling him I was carrying a Van Allen baby (true enough I suppose). If he suspected my duplicity, he said nothing and excused me without laying a hand on me for once.
Slightly stunned, I walked away and plodded down the stairs in my slippers. He'd actually be somewhat NICE to me - granted it was all fake but given the last month of my life, I was grateful for the small kindness.
I settled down at the piano and pressed a few keys hesitantly. Warmth spread over me and I could almost believe Jared was sitting next to me guiding my figures over the keys.
A song I didn't know or recognize played out by my very fingers. Annaliese hurried in looking startled. "How..."
I paused and looked up at her. "What's wrong?"
"I thought it was my sister playing just now...how do you know that song Luna?"
"What song?" I stared at my hands and then at her. "I don't, I just...I was just playing and that's what came out."
Annaliese frowned and my fingers seemed to start playing on their own again. After another minute of listening, she hurried from the room, wiping her face.
Now that I was pregnant, Robert mostly ignored me. Something I was thankful for as I was terrified his abuse would hurt the baby or kill me before I could safely deliver her.
There were times when he'd remember I was around, usually after having it out with Annaliese. They were nearly equally matched so Robert never went so far as to hurt her.
Instead he took it out on me, coming into my room and 'exercising his rights as my husband' as he called it. As great a support as Annaliese was to me, I wished she'd just stay away from him anyway.
But even after the worst of it, there was Jared. I was more and more sure that he was there - maybe not in physical form but he was there keeping me warm on the coldest nights. "I wish you were here for real." I caught myself whispering to thin air now and then.
Sometimes I felt so sure he was there I'd reach out for him.
Of course my hand only met air.
I am here Luna. Always.
I shook my head, trying to dislodge his phantom for the moment. As much as I just wanted to embrace him, if I did I'd never be able to pretend everything was fine when I contacted my family. Unwilling to let them think I was miserable, I painted a pretty picture of wedded bliss with every email I sent. I'd long since given up calling as my voice tended to crack and give me away.
They didn't have to know. Ever.
Weeks turned to months and my belly continued to expand. I could sense the baby in more than a physical way and rejoiced in every moment I had with her. I couldn't imagine I'd have much longer after the birth - if I made it that far - before fate would catch up with me.
"Why, do you think, it hasn't yet?" I asked Annaliese as we fumbled with the crib assembly.
"Well, I've been thinking it has to do with the fact that neither of you were full vampires at the time.
"Why would that change anything?" I asked.
"It's ancient magic Luna...and it's just that, magic! It's not entirely predictable." she said. "This is wrong..." she held up a malformed piece of the crib and frowned. "It could also have something to do with the fact that you were pregnant at the time of the bond."
I dropped the board I was holding and stared at her. "You knew?" I choked. "You know this..."
"That you're carrying Jared's baby? Of course I do Luna." she smiled. "I also know she will be beautiful and perfect."
"Will you take her...if I....when I...when I die?" I stuttered, tears in my eyes. "Will you take her away from here...away from him?" Annaliese put a hand on my arm and nodded.
Though Annaliese knew, Robert showed no indication that he knew the baby was a girl or that she wasn't his. "How's my boy today?" he asked with an evil grin, reaching out for my stomach. On reflex, I jerked away from him and shielded my baby with the other arm.
He was only surprised for a moment before he shoved me against the bed and pressed his hand firmly against the bulge. He glared at me the whole time and remained until the baby gave him a hard kick. He jerked my head toward his and pressed his lips to mine, nicking my lip with his fangs in the process. "Remember who your husband is woman." he growled at me. "I'll be seeing you tonight." he warned before pushing me aside and leaving in a rage.
I sank against the bed and cried. "Oh Jared..." I moaned out loud. "If only you were here...you would take delight out of feeling her kick and wiggle...."
I was a few weeks early when I felt the first signs of oncoming labor. I wondered, briefly, what Robert would think since I was a month further along then he even knew. Then the pain in my back sent him out of my mind.
I paced the room for hours considering what I should do. I didn't want to go to a hospital or to alert the household to my situation. The last thing I wanted in labor was Robert Van Allen lording over me as I tried to birth my baby - a baby I knew would displease him.
Every contraction seemed to hurt more than the one before until I seemed to be in one endless contraction from hell.
Annaliese came in then and shrieked when she realized what a state I was in. She clamped her hand over her mouth and locked the door behind her. "You should have called me! How far apart are they?"
"They're supposed to be apart?!" I asked in horror.
"Oh no!" She tried, in vain, to get me to lay down. Every position was sheer agony so I continued the pacing.
"Jared!" I cried out as a particularly hard one ripped me to shreds. "Where are you?!"
I'm here Luna. Always.
As the words slithered into my mind, I felt the warmth of his presence and suddenly the contractions seemed a little easier to manage.
Three hours later I delivered a beautiful baby girl and held her tightly, examining her every feature in hopes of sealing them in my memory forever.
"You said she would deliver a boy!" Robert yelled when he saw her bundled in the pink blanket.
"Now, you said that Robert." Annaliese said calmly.
Robert sneered and then stalked out of the room.
After helping me get cleaned up and rebundling the baby, Annaliese left as well - a smile on her face. "She's perfect Luna. Jared would love her I think."
"I know he would." I replied. For the first time in months, I felt great joy - enough to overwhelm every other emotion.
He was there. Always there. I was sure he was reaching out for our daughter and telling her how much Daddy loved her.
"He does you know..." I said softly as we laid together in bed that first night. "Daddy loves you very much Temperance."