I woke up seated at a table with Christopher and Sandy. Clara and Anna weren't there. Maybe they had gone to the loos.
Christopher was smiling gratefully at Rick.
"Thanks for giving her the choice."
"No problem," Rock said. He then teasingly added "She may be alarmed at how much I enjoyed it so maybe I shouldn't have."
I smiled. I suddenly noticed Sandy looking a little uncomfortable.
"You okay, Sandy?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," she replied, but her voice seemed to tremble a bit.
Rick's mental voice gave me an explanation. She's one of the volunteers who'd rather be awake.
"I don't have to feed," Christopher told her gently.
"Oh, no. That's not what I was thinking about." She smiled appreciatively at his concern. "Your girlfriend's awfully brave and trusting."
"I am?" I asked.
She turned to me. "Aren't you ever worried the vampire will exploit his power over you?"
I frowned in thought. "I suppose, but there's got to be a degree of trust if they're drinking your blood in the first place." I smiled. "Christopher once told me that my blood was sweet and intoxicating. That was worrying."
Sandy grinned and playfully punched Christopher's shoulder. "Fancy telling your girlfriend that," she told him, mocking disapproval.
Christopher hung his head in mock shame. "Sorry, miss."
He looked up and mouthed ‘Not', grinning widely. We all laughed at that.
"Where are Anna and Clara?" I asked.
"In the ladies' room," Sandy answered.
"Should I risk feeding now?" Christopher asked.
"If you like," Sandy answered.
"We can always hypnotise them if they see," Rick added.
"Terri, talk to Rick," Christopher said.
"Okay," I said, turning to Rick as I realised that Sandy was about to be fed upon.
"So, did you have a nice dinner?" I asked Rick.
"It was lovely, thanks," he replied. He noticed the way my eyes kept nearly straining over to Christopher. "I can hold your gaze if you want," he offered.
"Oh, yes please," I said. I really didn't want to watch.
Rick gazed into my eyes and I felt myself being caught in the emerald depths before I had a chance to fall.
My thoughts scattered.
"That's the only problem," Rick said as this happened. "You won't be able to think straight."
"That's better than fainting," I said, struggling to put together a response.
"But," he added, following on from the last thing he'd said, "it means you'll answer any question I ask you." His eyes glinted.
"You'll be so lucky," said Christopher. "Let go of her gaze, Rick."
Rick rolled his eyes and looked at his cousin. "Spoilsport."
I looked over to Christopher and Sandy. The latter was wincing slightly but she looked fine.
Christopher looked at her, concerned. "Sorry. I tried to bite gently and not drink too fast."
Sandy shook her head. "No, it's fine. I just haven't felt that sort of pain for a while."
I smiled encouragingly at her. "You're amazing, Sandy."
She smiled back. "Thanks Terri."
"No problem," I told her. I was almost inspired to follow her example the next time Christopher fed but then remembered hating having injections at the doctors'. Imagine having two simultaneously, I thought to myself. I shivered.
Christopher smiled. You're so funny, my dove.
Suddenly, Anna and Clara appeared.
"Teri!" Anna said. "You were a while at the bar."
She looked towards Rick and then back, slightly hopefully.
Rick burst into laughter. Anna looked alarmed.
"I'm sorry," he apologised, "but you really do project your thoughts. You'd be telepathic if you were any better at it."
Anna paled. "You're not psychic!"
I cringed. "I did hope they wouldn't read your thoughts. Sorry. If it's any consolation, they read mine all the time."
"Really?" Clara asked, sitting down, Anna following suit. "Isn't that weird?"
"Yeah, a little," I replied. "I sort of got used to it, though."
"I doubt I ever could," Anna murmured.
"Ah, well, I'm going out with a psychic guy."
‘Phew,' came a sigh of relief in my mind. Christopher explained. ‘She doesn't fancy me anymore.'
‘Let's hope I don't fall out of love,' I teased.
"What are we eating then?" Sandy asked brightly. I realised that Anna and I were waiting for me to finish staring at Christopher.
"Sorry," I apologised hastily. "He is dazzling."
They nodded, smiling understandingly.
Anna and Clara ordered soup while I ordered a pizza. Sandy said she wasn't hungry.
My friends paled when Rick and Christopher told them they drank blood (Rick all the time and Christopher only by night), but the looked relieved when they said they'd fed. I had a feeling their reactions may have been different if they'd found out who had been the meal.
As I was eating my pizza, I wondered who Christopher fed on when he was letting my body recover.
Mum and I go out ‘hunting'. We're not too picky to be honest.
Does Roxanna feed on Harry when she's not ‘hunting'?
I wonder how Charlie would react to this if he knew.
He'd be shocked. I think he'd never trust our parents again.
Thank goodness he doesn't know.
Rick coughed. I noticed I'd finished the slice of pizza in my hand but hadn't proceeded to eat anymore. Everyone else had clean plates.
"Um, I'm not hungry," I said. "If anyone wants some pizza, they can have some."
Sandy had a slice but Anna and Clara shook their heads.
"Let's go and wait in the bar area," Clara said to Anna. "We can tell our parents that we're ready to be picked up. It takes at least twenty minutes to get here."
"I'll come too," said Rick.
"I may just join you," Sandy said, smiling at Christopher and me.
"Are you okay paying?" she asked.
"I may just need a little bit," Christopher answered sheepishly.
Sandy nodded. "Sure." She placed a tenner on the table.
"Thanks," Christopher said.
He stacked up the three plates and pushed them to the end of the table.
He then smiled at me. Have you had a good night out?
"I'm surprised I didn't faint from hearing you talk aloud so much," I replied.
That's very flattering, my dove. Maybe we can rectify the situation, though?
I smiled. "Nah, I'm fine thanks. I'd rather talk to you than faint."
Hmm, that's a shame. I do love it when you faint. He grinned but then added seriously ‘It makes me feel like I'm actually something special.'
"You're always something special," I told him truthfully.
My dove, if I'm special, what are you?
"Oh, I'm not special." I waved a hand dismissively.
Christopher grabbed it and kissed it. I beg to differ.
I rolled my eyes.
Christopher paused for a moment before asking ‘You didn't mind being Rick's dinner, did you?'
"Not particularly. It was weird though. I almost felt nervous. Why should I feel nervous when you drink my blood every two days?"
That's not weird, my dove. It's natural. He'd never drunk your blood before and you'd be a fool to trust him when you've only known him since the summer.
"I suppose so. And there's the fact he'd never hypnotised me before."
Yes, there is that. We'll have to be careful tonight, my dove.
Your blood will have increased how open you are to his suggestions.
"He wouldn't exploit that, though, would he?"
He may do. Remember, this summer, he probably wouldn't have thought twice about it. I'm not quite sure how much you've changed him but doubtless there's still a bit of the old Rick left in him.
I shivered. "Scary."
Hm. Don't let yourself end up alone with him.
"I won't," I promised.
A small, pretty waitress appeared. The plates were gone. "Here's the bill."
She waited patiently while Christopher passed her Sandy's tenner and the appropriate money for the remainder of the bill.
He surprised me when he thought ‘Do you want some chocolates, my dove?'
I wondered why the waitress wasn't moving, before I realised Christopher was holding her gaze. He was smiling enchantingly. I realised he was asking if I wanted free chocolate.
‘I shouldn't,' I thought to him.
That's a yes, then.
But he was opening his mouth. In his most captivating voice, he said "We'll have two bars of chocolate, please."
Christopher looked at me to break the contact with the waitress who was nodding and smiling shyly.
‘Christopher!' I thought.
‘What, my dove?' he asked innocently.
And he was gazing into my eyes and scattering my thoughts with those distracting blue depths.
You shouldn't... I struggled to think.
‘I've done it now, my dove,' he thought reasonably. ‘Don't worry.'
‘Of course I'm going to worry,' I thought indignantly.
"No, you're not," he murmured aloud.
Annoyingly, I found myself not caring about what he'd done. The waitress came back and gave him two bars of milk chocolate.
"Thank you," he said, winking.
The waitress looked overwhelmed and had to sit down. Christopher handed me a bar of chocolate and we walked to the bar area to join the others.
"To the bus station," Christopher said jovially to our friends. As we were leaving, Rick eyed the chocolate, grinning.
‘You can have mine,' I thought to Rick.
Who? Me or Christopher?
I remembered I wasn't telepathic so he couldn't tell who I meant.
I handed him the chocolate.
We walked out into the cool night air and proceeded to the bus station, Christopher, Rick and me in silence and Anna, Clara and Sandy chatting about something or other - I wasn't really paying attention to their conversation.
At the Parkers', the boys and I sat down in the living room - Christopher and me on the couch, and Rick in the armchair.
"Do you reckon I'll be allowed to stay over tonight?" I asked Christopher.
Where would you sleep, my dove?
"Can we talk aloud?" Rick requested.
"Sure," Christopher answered amiably.
"Um, what happened the nights Rick and Mel were here in the summer?"
"Where did Charlie sleep?"
"On the sofa in the study. He wasn't too fazed about blacking out just before he went to bed."
"Um, perhaps I could be in the guest bedroom and Rick in Charlie's?"
"That's very clever, my dove. Have you been planning ahead?"
"No, I'm just inspired to consider ways to stay here." I grinned at Christopher, showing him that he was the inspiration.
"Oh my dove, what are we going to do about your obsession with flattery?"
"Um, let me be obsessed?"
Christopher chuckled. Rick smiled.
There was a small silence, in which Christopher stroked my shoulder and one on my arms, occasionally raising it to kiss it.
"Can I hang out with Terri tomorrow?" Rick suddenly asked Christopher.
"It's really up to Terri, but I'd rather you didn't endanger her relationship with Charlie."
Rick turned to me. I looked up at Christopher but he shook his head and mentally told me ‘It's your choice'.
I looked back at Rick. "Okay, but if I start feeling uncomfortable or anything. I'm going straight back to Charlie. In fact, I'd prefer it if we were with Charlie when we hung out."
"Sure." Rick shrugged at my conditions.
"Clever dove," Christopher murmured in my ear, kissing my hair.
"You make me sound like a pet," I laughed.
"But I thought you knew," Christopher said in mock surprise. "You are my pet."
I dreamt that night of dining at ‘The Black Dove'. I had finished a plate of sausage and mash, and Christopher had fed. He leant in towards me and kissed me softly, gently. I seemed to have no worries or cares in the world. Everything was okay with Christopher here; everything would always be okay with Christopher around.
"My dove," he was saying in his wonderful physical voice. "My dove, I love you. I adore you. My affections are only for you. My heart is yours, my love is yours and all I have is yours. Of you wished it, I would serenade you every night, shower you with roses and let you do as you pleased with me."
He proceeded to kiss me passionately. I felt so much love, both for him and coming from him that my heart felt fit to burst.
The scene changed. We were now kissing in the sunset on those beautiful golden sands. Christopher sent his warmth and love to my mind and I felt like I was being enveloped by it. I was extremely content and, actually, quite relaxed. The rhythmic breaking of the waves against the shore was hypnotic and the feeling of being safe, loved and happy was calming and almost therapeutic.
I woke up in a glorious mood. I sprang out of bed, grabbed the clothes on the bedside table beside me and skipped to the bathroom.
I half ran downstairs to the kitchen. Charlie looked startled when I bounded up to him, sat on his lap and kissed him on the cheek.
"Morning, Terri." He sounded surprised and amazed.
"Morning, darling," I said cheerfully. "What are we doing today?"
"Are we doing anything?" he asked, amused.
"Yup. We're doing what you want to do."
"I didn't really have anything in mind. What do you want to do?"
"I thought awhile. "We could sit and chat with Rick," I suggested.
"Okay." Charlie smiled and made me sit down while he made me some breakfast.