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Chapter One

The girl's name was Clarissa. I thought she was beautiful. Not like Elizabeth - as if anyone could compare - but she was pretty enough. I'd watched her for a long time and could see how all the guys fawned over her black hair and those long eyelashes. Right now, though, those big eyes of her were turned toward me, quivering with fear.

"Don't be afraid," I said softly. I offered her my hand, which made her cringe.

"Despite what the movies and books say, I don't kill people just to protect my secret."

Clarissa stood frozen in the middle of her apartment balcony, staring at me like I was a monster. Well, okay, that was fair up to a point. I was a vampire, after all.

Oh, I see I haven't introduced myself. How rude of me. Hello, my name is Julia, and yes, you heard right. I am an honest-to-God vampire, a true Child of the Night.

"If you're not going to kill me..." she whispered, "does that mean you're... going to have your way with me?"

I threw back my head and laughed.

"Strike two, darling! First of all, despite what all those porn films say, not all female vampires are lesbian vampires. Secondly, I'm not interested in you like that." My smile widened, just to let her see the tips of my fangs.

"A vampire's allowed to have other interests besides blood-drinking and seduction, you know."

The girl's fear was beginning to subside as her puzzlement became clearer. As much as I love the old vampire stories, I do admit that they really paint a stark picture of our race, as if all we desire is the blood and sex of mortals. I suppose I couldn't fault the poor thing for thinking that way about us. It's easier to accept what's shown on TV or in the movies than what's right in front of your eyes.

"Then what do you want from me?" Clarissa asked.

I smiled and took a few steps over to the balcony. I let my gaze drift toward the beautiful cityscape and the many lives I could feel within it, whether awake or asleep.

"I guess I just wanted someone to talk to," I told the girl. With a toss of my hair, I glanced over my shoulder to catch her reaction. It didn't seem like she believed me.

"We're a lonely breed," I explained.

"We're drawn to the outcasts and loners, to all the so-called freaks."

"I'm not a - "

I held up my hand, which silenced her.

"I didn't mean you were a freak," I amended.

"I meant that I can sense how alone you were. Not just here in your apartment. Your whole life you've been alone. Among my kind, it is a duty to attend to the lonely souls of this world and give them a place to belong. To tell our Story of Transformation and offer those souls our Dark Gift. You can take it or leave it, just so long as you hear the story first."

I felt Clarissa's anxiety more than what I could see written on her face. Honestly, who could blame her? How many people would accept the word of a stranger, especially one whose nature doesn't seem all that benevolent?

"Let's go inside," I murmured, turning all the way back toward her.

"And I'll tell you everything."

"Okay," she whispered, looking less afraid now. She seemed just a bit curious.

My hand barely touched Clarissa on the small of her back as I guided her away from the balcony and into her apartment. I concentrated for just a moment and then the sliding glass door closed itself behind us.

I favored the poor girl with my best smile.

"Make yourself comfortable. This is going to be a long tale. But it all starts when I was in diapers, and no, I don't mean when I was just a baby..."

Chapter Two

Back when I was mortal, my name was Julia Shannon Moore. I was twenty-three and fresh out of college. By then, I'd stopped trying to dye my hair blond and let it retain its natural brown color, much to my foster mother's delight.

When I say foster mother, I mean just that. I'd never known my birth parents. The nuns at the orphanage where I grew up eventually told me that my mother was an amateur singer-songwriter whose brief fling with a club owner had led to my conception. As encouraging as that story was, I'd never tried to find out who my mother really was. I was content to live in the orphanage and study and play with the other kids.

At age eleven, I was adopted. My foster parents were Dave and Michelle Moore, both good-natured folks from Illinois. They did their best to love me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams, although I didn't have too much in the way of dreams. Unless you count traveling to London someday as a dream. It wasn't much, but it was something I'd wanted to do as a kid.

Anyway, to speed this little exposition up, I achieved my dream by age nineteen thanks to a Study Abroad scholarship. After a semester in London, I declared my major in Political Science and minored in Economics, thinking I could put the two together and set out to - big surprise - make the world a better place.

Little did I know that the world didn't intend for me to follow such a path.

So picture me on a Thursday night in June, only a few weeks after graduation, in a tiny apartment in Chicago. I'm sitting at my dining table with a glass of wine and a plate full of pasta. There's a TV in the corner of the room, where I'm watching one of those corny teen dramas where Boy Meets And Frets Over Girl, or vice versa. The pasta I'm eating isn't that great, and the wine is there to help me forget about the cold reality that I have no family, no friends in the area, and no opportunities for a job.

Anyway, I had had just about enough teenage angst for the evening, so I switched the TV off and set my dishes into the sink. I carried my wineglass over to the bedroom and turned on the stereo. The music was something light and happy, but not so loud that I'd disturb the neighbors through my paper-thin walls.

On nights like these, after a fruitless day of job hunting and socializing, I'd just change into my pajamas, turn the music down low, and get under the covers. So I slipped off my blouse and jeans, tossed my shoes into the closet, and peeled my underwear down to my ankles.

Then I went over to the dresser and took out a blue nightgown and my "nighttime undergarment." It's a strange phrase, I know, but it sounded a lot better than saying "my adult diaper."

You see, back when I was an adolescent, I developed a form of enuresis, which is just a fancy word for bedwetting. It occurred on most weeknights and definitely on the weekends, when there were so many parties to attend. When I found that alarms and cutting back on late-night drinks didn't work, my foster mother discreetly bought me a package of Depends. She thought I'd outgrow it, but I found the condition stayed with me right into my twenties, so I just resigned myself to diapering up nightly. As far as I was concerned, it was just a health issue and nothing more than that.

I opened up the diaper and pressed one half of it against my bottom as I lowered myself onto the bed. Once I was on my back, I pulled the front half up to my waist and secured all six tapes. With a few more adjustments, I was ready for a good night's sleep.

I had switched off the stereo after a few songs and turned off the lights. In the soft shadows of my room, I stretched myself out and yawned. With all my nightly rituals complete, I got into bed and closed my eyes.

If memory serves me right, I don't think I was asleep for more than half an hour, because it was still quite dark when I heard the first impact from outside.

My eyes flew open and I immediately sat up. In retrospect it seems silly, but my first instinct was to check my diaper to see if I'd wet myself. So far I was dry, but I had a feeling that I wouldn't be for long. That wine from earlier had to go somewhere, after all.

Then I heard another collision from somewhere inside the apartment, followed shortly by the sound of something scratching at the floorboards like a mad animal. I was thinking that maybe a poor wounded bird had gotten stuck inside or that - God forbid - a large rat was prowling around. Either way, I had to know for sure, so I tossed off the bed sheets and grabbed a robe from my closet.

The only thing I had that might be remotely considered an offensive weapon was a rolled-up yoga mat, so I picked that up as well. Then I quietly padded out into my hall and toward my living room.

As soon as I stuck my head in, I nearly dropped my yoga mat out of shock. The door to my apartment was wide open, and collapsed on the floor by my couch was a tall, fair-skinned woman. She was clutching at her throat and seemed to be having trouble breathing.

She must have heard my approach because her eyes slid halfway open and fixed themselves on my face. I stopped, lowering my mat to the floor.

"Help..." she croaked, still holding her throat.

"I need your help..."

"Don't move," I whispered frantically, dropping to my knees. Of course, as I did, I could hear my diaper rustling loudly under my nightgown. It made me wince, but if the woman on my floor seemed to hear it, she didn't show it.

It took quite a bit of upper-body strength that I didn't have then, but I was able to help the woman sit up. She didn't take her hand off her throat, but I could faintly see some red fluid leaking past her fingers.

"I'll, uh, get a cloth for that," I stammered, pointing at her wound.

The stranger shook her head and frowned.

"Don't need it. I'll be fine..."

"But your throat - " I stopped and stared again at her neck. To my amazement, the blood wasn't leaking through anymore. In fact, it was receding. Then the woman slowly pulled her hand away and I saw that the jagged cut in her throat was healing itself. What had been a ragged mess of flesh and blood was now just scar tissue.

I stared openmouthed at this miracle and then looked this strange woman in the eye.

"How... how did you do that?"

She smiled weakly.

"Call it... a gift..." Then she pitched forward into my arms and passed out.

With a lot of grunting and rustling and heaving, I was able to drag this stranger off my floor and onto my couch. I made sure to put a few pillows behind her head and see that her neck was properly supported. I didn't know the first thing about medicine, but I knew enough about cuts and blood loss to do my best.

I went to close the door, then ran into the kitchen and turned all the lights on. By some strange coincidence, as soon as I did that, I felt a slight twinge in my abdominal muscles and then I was wearing a rather wet diaper. I stifled a groan and resolved to take care of it as soon as I made sure this woman was going to be all right.

A few moments later, I reentered the living room with a damp cloth to put on the woman's forehead. She murmured something like "Thank you" as I put the cloth on her head and pressed down. Her breathing was slowly getting stronger and that wound on her throat was looking better with each passing minute.

If you asked me, I thought she was gorgeous, even with that ghastly wound on her throat. She had a mane of golden hair and very pale skin. The room was too dark for me to tell what color her eyes were. And like I said before, she was tall and lovely. She had a natural beauty that reminded me of my foster mother, although Michelle was more homely, whereas this woman could have easily been mistaken for a movie star.

I don't know how long I sat next to her, watching her breathe and trying to figure out what was going on. I had no idea how she was able to patch up a slit throat with a touch of her hand. In the back of my mind, I began to fantasize that maybe she was an angel in disguise as a human being, and that she was going to bestow a blessing on me that'd turn all my luck around. Even at the time, I knew it was unlikely, but I couldn't help thinking it.

In retrospect, I don't suppose I was that far off.

Some time later that night, maybe a little after one in the morning, I watched the woman open her eyes. She blinked and turned toward me, as I propped my head up on my elbow and tried to stay awake for her sake.

"Thank you," she whispered again.

"You're welcome," I whispered back.

"Are you all right?"

"Much better." The woman offered a pale and trembling hand.

"I'm Elizabeth."

I took her hand and squeezed it.

"I'm Julia. Pleased to meet you."

She smiled.

"I'm sure you must be wondering how I ended up like this."

"Well, I didn't want to bother - "

"No, it's fine. I can explain everything if you..." Elizabeth trailed off as she saw me staring in surprise.

I was staring at her mouth, now that I was so close to it. I could see her teeth, all perfectly straight and white.

All except for the pair of fangs jutting out past her upper lip.

"I..." My mouth twitched, but I couldn't speak.

"Are... are you a...?"

Elizabeth stared back with an expression of intense bitterness.

"Yes," she said.

"I am what you would call... a vampire."

I didn't think I'd hurt my head at any time that night, but suddenly the room was spinning fast around me. Elizabeth reached out for me, and before I knew it, I had hit the floor and everything went black.

Chapter Three

When I regained consciousness, I found myself back in my bedroom. It took me a couple of seconds to register that I wasn't simply waking up from a nightmare. For one thing, I was lying on my bed rather than under the covers, and my diaper wasn't all that wet. In fact, it was completely dry.

I needed a moment for my eyes to adjust, and as soon as I realized that my lamp was on, I looked over toward the door.

Elizabeth was sitting in a corner, right where the moonlight was shining. As soon as I looked at her, she turned toward me and offered a ghostly smile.

"Don't be afraid, Julia," she said softly.

"You've had quite a night."

"You're a vampire," I whispered back. Even in my head, it sounded dumb, but it was all I knew for certain.

"Yes, I am," said Elizabeth. She stood up and took a few cautious steps toward me. Instinctively, I began to draw back. Maybe if I could just pull my head back under the covers, I'd finally wake up and she'd be gone.

"I feel that I owe you an apology to making such a mess of things." Elizabeth sat down on the edge of my bed. Now that she was fully in the light, I could see that she was eerily thin and her face was sharply angled. Her hair was a rich blond color, and her eyes were a smoky gray, but her skin was chalk-white. She wore a black sweater and a pair of dark slacks. I found myself thinking how fashionable she was, but I realized the oddity of that thought and tried to think about what I should say.

"I'm really lost right now," I admitted.

"I don't exactly know what one says to a real-life vampire."

"'Hello' is usually a good way to start."

I laughed in spite of my terror. Then I let myself hold onto that smile and said, "Okay, then. Can I ask what brought you here tonight?"

"It's a very long story," said Elizabeth. She looked down at her hands, which had begun to tremble. When they stopped shaking, she added, "But in a nutshell, my home was burnt down, my longtime companion's dead, and I barely escaped with my life."

"And that's how your throat - "

"Yes," she said quickly. I could see from the look in her eyes that it would be a long time before she'd ever be ready to talk about that.

"Anyway, I ended up here since I didn't really watch where I was going, but I'm afraid I have to ask if you'd let me stay here for a day."

"For a whole day?" I was going to ask why, but I remembered that sunlight was supposed to be deadly to vampires. It made sense that she'd need to be indoors during the day. But would she need a coffin? Would my old trunk work just as well? I was surprised again at how quickly my thoughts took this course, but I couldn't stop myself.

Elizabeth nodded.

"Just give me a place to hide myself from view from sunrise to sunset, and then I'll be on my way."

"Well..." I couldn't believe I was saying it, but clearly I was out of my mind at the time.

"If you feel you need to stay longer... I guess that wouldn't be too bad..."

She stared at me with a bemused expression.

"Be honest now. Are you worried that I'm going to suck your blood? Or that I'll turn you into another vampire?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," I said quickly, trying not to panic.

"Oh, don't worry about it," said Elizabeth. She was smiling again, and I found myself enjoying the sight of it.

"It's not like I need to feed every single night. I can go for about a month without blood if I really have to - and the people I do feed on aren't all that pleasant to begin with. Not like you, dear."

"What, you don't find me appetizing?" I was amazed that I was able to speak like this in front of her, but at the same time, it felt natural. Maybe I'd come to terms with the existence of vampires and decided that Elizabeth was no better or worse than any other human being I'd encountered.

She shook her head and laughed.

"There's nothing in you that I'd want to ruin. And don't think listing all your flaws is going to help, like the cute little way you snore or the fact that you wear diapers."

I blushed.

"Only at night," I said defensively, tucking my legs underneath me, but that move only made my diaper rustle.

"That's strange. I, uh, could have sworn that I was wet a little while ago..."

I trailed off as I saw the expectant look on Elizabeth's face.

"Did you change me while I was out?"

"It seemed like the decent thing to do," she answered.

"I..." It was then that I slowly became aware of several details. I could smell the old diaper, which had been rolled up and thrown into the wastebasket near where Elizabeth had been sitting. I could smell a faint whiff of baby powder in the air over my bed. I saw on the clock on my nightstand that I was just a few minutes after two in the morning.

I'd been unconscious and alone in a room with a vampire, and all she'd done was change me. She could have taken advantage of me. But she hadn't.

I lifted my face to meet her expectant gaze and said, "Thank you for that."

"You're welcome, Julia," Elizabeth warmly replied. Her smile soon returned.

Now that I had gotten rid of my initial terror and was semi-functional again, I began to feel very, very tired. If I didn't get anymore sleep, I'd be a zombie for the rest of the day. That thought made me laugh - here I was, becoming a zombie after learning that vampires are real. But if there could be vampires, why not other undead creatures?

"You should rest," Elizabeth said. She glanced around the bedroom.

"And since I spent a lot of energy fixing my throat, I might as well sleep, too."

"What do you need?" I asked, trying to sound gentle and not too skeptical.

"A coffin would be ideal, but not easy to get on short notice," she explained with a smile.

"If you've got a trunk or a closet with a door you can lock, that'll be just fine."

I matched her smile and pushed myself off the bed.

"Wait right there."

Elizabeth watched me as I went over toward my window and pulled over the gray trunk where I kept a lot of mementos and old clothes. I spent a few minutes dumping out all the contents, then trying to clean up the mess I'd made, and finally shoving it all into my closet, where at least the mess would be out of sight. After laying down an extra quilt into the trunk's interior and throwing in one of my pillows, I presented my guest with her own spur-of-the-moment coffin.

"Well done," Elizabeth said, sounding quite impressed.

"You didn't have to add a pillow, though."

"Just trying to be helpful."

She regarded me for a moment, then smiled and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.

"Well, it's wonderful. Thank you so much, Julia."

Elizabeth promptly got into the trunk and lowered herself into a comfortable position. She waited for me to get into bed and turn my lamp off.

"Remember to wake me after dusk," she reminded me.

"When you're ready, just knock on the lid three times and then open it. I should be awake by then. And whatever you do, do not open this trunk beforehand. I don't care if you've got all the curtains shut. I can't risk exposure to any sunlight, understand?"

"I understand."

Elizabeth pulled the trunk lid down, but before she shut it completely, I heard her whisper into the darkness, "Good night, Julia. Pleasant dreams."

Then the trunk was closed and I snuggled deep under the covers of my bed, with only a small part of me still wanting to believe this was all a weird dream.

"Good night, Elizabeth," I whispered into the silence of my room. Then my eyes fell shut and I descended into a beautiful slumber.

Chapter Four

There are so many things that you can take for granted, especially when you're a mortal. Things like waking up to discover that you're still alive and that some ravenous vampire hasn't torn into your throat, and things like waking up in a dry bed - although I hadn't known that joy since I was a little girl.

It was a little after eleven o'clock when I woke up. Being unemployed, I had no major obligations, so I took my time getting out of bed and changing my diaper. As I tossed the old one into the wastebasket, I saw the diaper Elizabeth had taken off of me the night before.

Is there such a thing as being too superstitious? I still don't have an answer for that, but even then, I couldn't stop from slowly turning toward my bedroom window... and finding nothing but the trunk where Elizabeth was sleeping.

Her words from the night before echoed in my head: I can't risk any exposure to sunlight, understand? And as I registered what she meant, I suddenly realized that I had the curtains partly open, since I actually needed the sunlight to help me wake up.

In my mad dash to pull them shut, I nearly tripped over Elizabeth's trunk, but it was by the grace of God that I managed to keep my balance. Then I was just standing there, looking down at the innocent-looking trunk and trying to picture the slumbering female vampire inside of it.

My curiosity overcame me, and as I knelt down, I put my hands on the lid and -

No, just kidding. Do I really look that dumb? As bad as some of those old films are, they do make a good point - you don't ever mess with a vampire while she's asleep in her coffin, not unless you want an immortal, blood-sucking creature to claw out your eyes with the least bit of effort.

All I did was stare down at the trunk and think. I was considering what I would eventually say to Elizabeth when she was to woken up, and what she might say to me.

Eventually, I decided that I'd worry about that when I got that moment. I glanced at my alarm clock again, seeing that it was almost eleven-fifteen. So I got dressed and grabbed a pair of comfortable shoes for my daily walk around the city. On my way out of the room, I saw that I had just enough diapers for the rest of the week, so I made a note to buy some more at my local pharmacy.

I had a quick breakfast - or maybe it was late enough to count as lunch, but what does it matter? - and was soon heading out the door. Of course, I had to have a sudden bout of paranoia, which made me run back in and see that all the windows were locked and anything of value was hidden away. Then I managed to get myself out the door and locked it behind me.

But even as I turned my key to lock the door, I started to wonder - whose security was I really worried about, the vampire's or my own?

That thought lingered with me as I took the stairs down to the ground floor and walked out onto the sidewalk. Back then, I lived in a fairly populated area in a corner of the East Side of Chicago, where the rent was cheap but the apartments weren't that great. Still, it was better than moving back in with my foster parents - I'd take a crowded and exciting city over a quiet and boring little town any day.

I had to walk three or four blocks to the south before I found the Target store, where I bought everything I needed for the apartment except food and clothes. I made it a rule to buy one or two things at a time, so I loaded up my shopping cart with toothpaste, laundry detergent, bleach, and sanitary wipes for the bathroom.

When I was close to being done, I swung by the aisle where all the incontinence and "feminine care" products were kept. I threw a package of Depend briefs into my cart and continued along my merry way toward the many checkout lines.

At age twenty-three, I'd been buying my own diapers for five years; before then, my foster mother Michelle had bought them for me. Let me tell you, there's nothing like the first time you go to buy them yourself. You think everyone's watching you from the moment you enter the store and you're trying not to make eye contact with whoever's at the cash register when it's time to pay. But after that, it gets much, much easier.

I wasn't surprised when I spotted an older woman giving me an appraising look as we passed each other near the checkout lines. She was an elegant and attractive lady, and probably someone's grandmother. I just flashed a quick smile and pushed my cart into the nearest line.

Still, if she had decided to comment on the adult diapers in my cart, I would've been tempted to reply with, "Oh, that's nothing. Wait til you see the vampire I've got sleeping in my bedroom..."

To my surprise, I didn't think too much about my unusual guest until I stepped through the door of my apartment half an hour later. I quickly set down my shopping bags on the dining room table and raced over to my bedroom.

Sure enough, the trunk remained closed, as did the curtains. Everything was just as I'd left it - the bed was still unmade and a pair of used diapers were slowly fermenting in my wastebasket. I quickly resolved those two issues with laying out some clean sheets and taking out the trash.

Once I'd put everything I'd bought away, I wandered over to my couch and sat down. I was contemplating watching some TV, but I knew I'd be too wrapped up in the whole vampire saga that was waiting to unfold in my bedroom once the sun went down. So I just grabbed a blanket and took a nap, which, if memory serves me right, I don't think I'd done since I was in kindergarten.

6:38 PM. The sun had set. It was time for the show to begin.

I knelt down beside the trunk and guided my fist over the lid. I was sweating and my heart was pounding like a jackhammer, but I knew what had to be done. I knocked three times and waited.

When nothing happened, I slid my fingers under the lid and gently lifted it up. I pushed it all the way toward the bedroom wall and after taking another deep breath, I looked down.

Elizabeth stared up at me. Her blood-red lips pulled back into a smile.

"Julia," she said softly.

"So good to see you."

I murmured something similar, but I was too overcome with relief to be coherent. I watched as Elizabeth sat up and stretched herself out. The scar on her throat was gone now, leaving nothing to suggest that it had ever been cut in the first place. I watched as she shook her hair out, sprinkling the inside of her trunk with fine golden hairs.

She really was a beauty. As near I could tell, she was possibly in her thirties. I found myself wondering if she'd ever had children, if she'd ever been married, and what kind of experiences she'd had. Was she a recently-made vampire or had she been around for centuries? And what had brought on the crisis that had brought her to my door?

Elizabeth finally turned toward me, and as she did, her smile sharpened.

"I can only imagine how anxious you must be right now. You must be bursting with questions, am I right?"

I nodded.

"Well, we've got all night," she said, taking my hand as I helped her stand up and step out of the trunk. With one foot, she knocked the trunk lid down, while guiding me with her hands toward the bedroom door.

"Where would you like to begin?" she asked, staring into my eyes.

"I want to know everything you went through when you became a vampire."

"Of course." Elizabeth stopped short of the door and looked down at my waist.

"But don't you need to put on your diaper first?"

I frowned.

"Well, if I'm getting ready for bed, I would. Why? You think I'd fall asleep while you're talking?"

She shrugged, making it a very sensual motion.

"Just a precaution, I guess."

I nodded and headed over toward my dresser, but she put a hand on my shoulder.

"Please," said Elizabeth, "allow me."

Before I could protest, she led me back toward the bed and lowered me onto it. I watched as she slinked over to the dresser and took out a fresh diaper, some wipes, and a bottle of baby powder. When she came back, she was smiling like a mother with her newborn.

"I don't mean to be presumptuous," the vampire said as she helped me take my pants and underwear off.

"It's just that I feel I owe you a debt of gratitude that I might never be able to repay, so this is my way of saying thanks for all you've done for me so far. For all the fear I sense in you, you've been very brave with me."

"Well, I've always been a little crazy," I answered, trying to lighten the mood.

Elizabeth smiled and unfolded the diaper.

"Shall we begin, then?"

"Yes, please."

Chapter Five

"A long time ago, I lived in London," Elizabeth began. By this time, she had finished diapering me and we were now sitting on my couch, as I took careful sips of wine.

"That was about the late 1800s, back in the reign of Queen Victoria."

"You don't sound British," I remarked.

She smiled knowingly.

"I've been in the States for a long time. I've been all over the world, actually, but I've always enjoyed America. But that's not important now. The beginning is."

I nodded and let her continue.

"Back when I was a mortal, my full name was Elizabeth Jane Watson. I was a middle-class housewife, happily married to a banker named Jonathan Morgan and proud mother of an eight-year-old girl named Margaret. We lived near Whitechapel in a small house, just a few blocks away from this wonderful bakery. The man who owned it was a good friend of Jonathan, and whenever I went out for a stroll with Margaret, he'd always be offering her a fresh piece of sweetbread.

"I was happy, then. I had a dear husband and a precious little girl and I couldn't have asked for more. But all that changed when Jonathan didn't come home one night.

"He had simply vanished. The police had no report of his whereabouts, and none of his friends or relatives knew where he could have gone. I was devastated. I sat up most nights, clutching Margaret to me and staring out the window, thinking that maybe if I sat long enough, he'd show up. But he never did.

"A month went by. I relied on my parents' goodwill and my in-laws' charity after that, since the bank where Jonathan worked wasn't offering me anything. I sacrificed so much to make sure that Margaret was being well-provided for and that her future would be brighter than the one I had received..."

Elizabeth had to stop and dab at her eyes for a moment. I watched her intently, and I thought I saw thin crimson streaks running down her face. Was she crying tears of blood? I didn't think it was possible, but who was I to argue with the nature of vampires?

"It was about a month and a half," Elizabeth softly continued, "when I finally saw Jonathan again. He entered my bedroom late at night and clamped a hand over my mouth to keep me from crying out. But for all my joy at seeing him again, I was terrified.

"He had changed, and not for the better. His skin was pale, his eyes were tinged with red, and when he smiled, he had a pair of fangs growing out of his teeth. He looked so sick, but he seemed quite happy - ecstatic, even.

"'I have to show you, my dear,' he said to me, leaning close to my face. 'I have to show you the Dark Gift that was given to me... and share it with you.'"

"He told me such terrible things. He told me about the mistress he'd been seeing, a gypsy woman who dabbled in the Occult. He spoke of their black magic and their talks with all kinds of terrible spirits. With the gypsy's help, Jonathan had summoned a demon and asked for wealth and immortality and intercourse with women. The demon gave him just that. It made my husband into a monster who could never die, who could enjoy all the world had to offer, and who was driven to feed nightly on young, vulnerable women."

Elizabeth looked up at me expectantly.

"Have you figured it out yet?"

"Figured out what?"

"Who my husband was?"

"How should I know?"

"Come now, think. He preyed on women in the Whitechapel area of London - in the late nineteenth century. And mutilated their bodies."

I froze. I almost dropped the wineglass, but I managed to put it down on a side table.

"You don't mean... Jack the Ripper?"

She nodded.

"I think there was another young man - a mortal, mind you - who did the same thing, but he was only following in my husband's footsteps. Jonathan had been killing prostitutes and taking great pleasure in drinking their blood. I was horrified, but not so much as when... as when..."

The vampire on my couch was trembling now. I scooted closer and said, "When he turned you?"

"Yes," said Elizabeth. Her voice was breaking into a slight sob.

"And when he... turned our daughter..."

I shuddered, but in spite of my disgust, I found myself putting a comforting arm around her shoulders. Elizabeth pulled me closer and we held each other, as I let her cry into my chest.

And then, just when I couldn't be feeling more terrible, I was suddenly wetting my diaper and couldn't do a thing about it.

In halting, sobbing breaths, Elizabeth was able to tell me the rest of her story. Jonathan had some crazed notion that his family would be together for all eternity as vampires and that maybe they'd even rule the world. But Elizabeth had refused. She'd stolen Margaret away at the first opportunity and got out of London as fast as she could. Those first years had been painful, as she and her now-immortal daughter attempted to adapt to their new form of existence.

"There's no way for me to describe how we experience sunlight," Elizabeth told me.

"Just take my word that it's worse than anything I'd ever imagined."

She'd managed to recover her composure, but hadn't let go of me. I didn't mind. Her grip was firm, but not hostile, like holding hands with a friend.

I was listening to her stories about their travels through South America and East Asia, and all the covens of vampires they'd met along the way, when Elizabeth stopped her tale and looked me in the eye.

"What?" I asked.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, a tiny smile creeping onto her face.

"I should have realized that you needed a change. You can interrupt me if you need to."

"Oh!" I held up my hands, trying to dissuade her.

"Please, don't stop. It's not all that wet, actually."

"Now you're just lying," said Elizabeth, frowning a little.

"Besides, I can smell it in ways you can't. It'll just drive me crazy if I don't do something about it."

I kept on refusing, but the vampire stood up. Before I could resist, she swept me up into her arms like I was a petulant child and carried me off to the bedroom.

"Look, I can handle it myself," I said earnestly. It wasn't just for my own dignity that I was arguing. She'd been so miserable that I honestly didn't want to trouble her any further.

Elizabeth smiled as she dropped me onto my bed. She stepped away for a second and returned with another diaper and some wipes. I sighed and let her take off the wet diaper I had on.

When I was a teenager, my mother hadn't changed me. She'd known that I would have been mortified to let someone else treat me like that. Yet even as Elizabeth threw out the old diaper and cleaned me up, I felt surprisingly comfortable. She worked fast and was very reassuring in the way she smiled down at me. I could see that she'd been a good mother to Margaret.

Thinking about that vampire child brought a sudden question to mind. I looked up at Elizabeth as she was putting the new diaper on me and asked, "Am I the first person you've told this story to?"

She nodded and began to tape the diaper up.

"But when you first showed up," I continued, "you said that you were escaping a fire... and that you'd lost someone."

Elizabeth didn't say anything. I watched her stand over me, her hands dropping to her sides. Crimson tears were slipping silently down her pale cheeks.

My heart was sinking, but I knew I had to say it.

"It was Margaret, wasn't it?"

"That bastard," Elizabeth whispered. She sank to her knees and lowered her head.

"That rotten bastard..."

I watched her weep and sob on my bedroom carpet. Then I got off the bed and moved toward the vampire, my diaper rustling with every step I took.

Elizabeth lifted her head just enough for me to see her blood-tinged eyes. I knelt down beside her and put my arms tight around her waist. I felt her hands pull me closer, and I was surprised at how strong and cold they were, like touching a marble wall.

"I miss her," she wept into my ear.

"I miss my little girl so much..."

"I know," I whispered back, stroking at her thick hair.

"It's all right, Elizabeth. I'm here. I'm here..."

We stayed together for hours that night, finding refuge in each other's arms. And in all that time, my diaper remained perfectly dry.

Chapter Six

The rest of the night was spent laughing, crying, hugging, and patting my unusually dry diaper. After a late-night snack, I noted the faintest glimmer of light outside my window and knew within my heart that dawn wasn't too far off.

I grew tense when I felt Elizabeth's arms circle around my waist, but then she murmured something into my ear and I relaxed into her embrace. She began to rock me back and forth, resting her chin on my shoulder and sighing happily.

I don't know why I was so surprised that she was this way with me. She'd been a mother before she'd become a vampire, and until this recent fire, she'd been a mother for well over a century. I guess I was amazed that such an instinct didn't fade over time.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"For what?" I asked.

"For everything, I suppose." Elizabeth hugged me a little closer.

"You have no idea how long it's been since I've had real human interaction. Most of my conversations with mortals don't go this far, if you know what I mean."

I frowned and turned to her.

"I hope I know what you mean."

Elizabeth laughed.

"Don't worry. I told you, I wouldn't dare try to seduce you like I do others. You saved my life, and I'm going to pay you back as best I can."

"Like what? And don't get me wrong, I like the way you change me, but - "

She laughed again and then planted a firm kiss on my neck. I blushed and looked away.

"I can help you live the life you've always wanted," said Elizabeth.

"I've plenty of money, I have friends and connections all over the world, and I know just about every major city and what each has to offer. You name the place and we're there. You want to find a boyfriend in Paris or Madrid, just say the word."

"Ooh, tempting." But it sounded too good to be true. How could vampires afford such things? As far as I knew, the movies never really showed how they got all their wealth and luxury.

I finally had to ask her about that, and she responded first with another kiss to my cheek. Then she said, "Remember that I was a British citizen. I still have an account with the Bank of England, and I've been running on the interest from that and a few other solid investments for decades. Money just isn't a problem for me."

As soon as I heard that, I had a sudden irrational urge to go shopping and buy the most ridiculously expensive items I could find. All those shoes and dresses wouldn't buy themselves! But it was a passing mood and soon I was trying to be more level-headed. I knew that I'd wanted to visit more of Europe ever since my semester in London. I'd only gotten as far as Ireland and parts of Scotland, so there was a whole continent to explore.

I told Elizabeth about my idea for such a trip and she seemed pleased with it. She then glanced out the window and said that she should get into her trunk right away.

I let her drop into the trunk and watched as she reached up to close the lid. Before she pulled it closed, Elizabeth glanced up at me and smiled.

"Let's develop a schedule," she said quietly.

"I'll go to sleep here at five-thirty in the morning and then I'll wake up around six-thirty in the evening. If you want to keep up with me, I suggest you go to bed around eight or nine in the morning, and when I get up, I'll change you, and you'll wake up around seven o'clock. Sound good?"

"It'll be weird, but I think I'll manage."

She smiled and blew me a final kiss.

"Sleep well, Julia."

I watched her close the lid and then the room was eerily quiet. So I stayed up long enough to watch the sun rise over Chicago, taking in a pleasure that my guest could no longer enjoy. I told myself that I'd watch the sun go up for her sake, and for the sake of her little girl Margaret, may her soul rest in peace.

Then exhaustion overcame me, and I fell asleep right there on my bed.

When I woke up later that evening, I wasn't wearing a diaper. Elizabeth had apparently changed me while I slept and put me back in normal underwear. I took a moment just to enjoy the sensation, as I hadn't woken up without a diaper since I was about thirteen.

Once I'd shaken out all my mental cobwebs, I became aware of a few faint noises coming from the kitchen. Gingerly, I crept out of bed and got dressed.

I tiptoed down the hall and found a peculiar sight in my kitchen. Elizabeth was at the stove with two frying pans, cooking up an omelette in one pan and bacon in the other. She was wearing a frilly pink apron that I'd hardly ever used and beaming at her culinary accomplishments. All I could do was stand there and watch. I was trying to guess at how long it must have been for her to be around real food. She certainly hadn't eaten anything since she started living with me.

By this time, I'd come to accept that she was just a little telepathic, too, because the vampire suddenly looked over her shoulder and smiled at me.

"Evening, dear. I hope you're hungry, because I'd hate for all this to go to waste."

"Smells great," I said through a yawn. I stretched and sat at the dining table while Elizabeth served my dinner, even though it was technically breakfast. When I began to eat, my appetite took over and soon I was wolfing down eggs and bacon and taking large gulps of milk. Elizabeth just sat there, watching me eat with an intent expression, but whenever I looked up at her, she would just smile and encourage me to keep eating.

In the back of my mind, I had this terrible image of Elizabeth standing over me while I slept, salivating and baring her fangs over my plump body. I paused in lifting the next forkful of omelette to my mouth and shook my head of such thoughts. I reassured myself that she'd been more than capable of making me her victim a few nights ago, and there was little point in going this far to befriend me as part of some elaborate seduction.

By the time I had finished dinner, it was almost a quarter to eight. Elizabeth took the dishes back to the kitchen to clean them, then reemerged a few minutes later with her apron in hand.

"I feeling like going out for tonight," she said with an encouraging smile.

"Would you like to come along?"

I said I'd be delighted, and before I knew it, I was putting on my coat and heading out the door with her. It was strange to see this woman - this vampire - moving on down the hall like a normal person. I flinched and ducked every time we passed someone on our way to the elevator, but to my surprise, no one cried out in terror or ran away. In fact, they ignored us. I suppose that, to their eyes, Elizabeth was just a very pale woman and nothing more.

My amazement increased the moment we stepped outside. I saw Elizabeth's eyes light up. Her white hands pushed her hair back toward her shoulders as she shivered with excitement. And as we continued our walk, her stride became more graceful and lovely, like that of a dancer on stage. I had to jog a little just to keep up.

"Now that you've had your dinner," Elizabeth was saying, "it's time I had mine."

I nodded in response, right up until her words registered in my brain. Then I came to an abrupt halt and nearly bowled into a rather large black woman in a turtleneck. Elizabeth turned back toward me with a questioning look.

"You mean..." I shook my head slowly.

"You don't mean..."

"It's not as bad as you think," she replied, taking a step toward me.

"I don't take people who don't deserve it. I only..." She frowned and pondered her own words for a moment.

"I only feed on those who prey upon others. Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, sex traffickers - you name 'em, I'll take 'em. I'll feed on men and women who are on the verge of committing suicide, whose only release from the pain of their lives is a quick and merciful end." The vampire folded her arms and stared back defiantly.

"Do you get my point? I don't attack the innocent. Ever."

I stared at her face for a while, as pedestrians moved around us on the sidewalk, not really listening to our conversation. I could see her face as something that was both human and inhuman, full of genuine affection, but twisted with ancient hunger and all the stresses that came with an unnatural lifespan.

"But how do you know?" I whispered. My voice was cracking with tears.

"How do you know who's innocent and who's not? What gives you the right?"

"I never asked for this fate," Elizabeth said calmly.

"I do the best that I can with these powers, with this craving that would drive me mad if I didn't fulfill it at least once every few months. If I don't use it to help others, then I'd be an absolute monster." She was shivering again, but not from excitement.

"I'd become something like my husband."

That struck another nerve in me. I remembered the pain in her voice and the real tears she'd shed at the memory of losing her daughter. Granted, they'd been tears of blood, but they were shed all the same.

"If you don't want to watch," Elizabeth said, her voice breaking into my thoughts, "I won't hold it against you. Just accompany me to the place and wait until I return." She extended her hand toward me, a warm smile spreading over her ghostly face.

"Think you can handle that... Julia?"

I nodded. Time seemed to slow as I reached out and took her hand with my own, my warm flesh pressing into her cold skin. But the connection was real and I didn't let go as she led the way through the cool night air.

Our walk led us to a small neighborhood seven blocks away from my apartment. I held onto Elizabeth's hand the entire time, partly for comfort, but mostly because it was the only way for me to keep up. It seemed like her feet were barely touching the ground, and I didn't want to let her go sailing through the atmosphere without me.

It was almost eight o'clock when we arrived in front of a small corner house. It had the white color and brown roofing as all the other homes in the area, so I couldn't find anything spectacular about it. The minivan in the driveway was a bit shinier than the other cars in the neighborhood, but that was all.

Elizabeth turned to me with a very serious expression. It was the kind she'd worn when talking about her husband and the monster he'd become.

"This is the situation," she said sharply but quietly.

"You can't tell right now, but inside this house is a middle-aged man and a woman in her late twenties. He seduced her in a bar and brought her home, but now she's passed out on his floor, probably because of a date rape drug he slipped into her drink. She's half-naked on the floor and he's getting ready to take advantage of her."

She let go of my hand and turned to the house with a grim stare.

"And that's why I'm going in there."

"How can you possibly know - ?"

"Julia," she said softly, "I just know. Trust me." She glanced over her shoulder at me and nodded.

"Stay right here. If anyone asks what you're doing, tell them you're here to meet a friend."

By the way she was striding confidently toward the front door, I was convinced that she was going to just ring the bell and wait for him to answer. But instead Elizabeth crossed the front lawn and stood in front of a window looking into the living room. The lights were off inside, but they didn't seem to hamper her vision any.

She put her hand on the window and pushed it up fast and without a sound. Then she stepped over the threshold and into the house. I thought I saw her bend down for a moment, perhaps over the unconscious girl, and then she disappeared into the shadows.

I was terrified - not for myself, but for what might be happening inside. I knew that I would be her accomplice in this murder - and it was murder. She was preventing an injustice, sure, but it was still a cold-blooded execution, without any pretense of the law or due process.

A minute later, I thought I heard someone moan - a quick sound, like the noise you make in your sleep when you're having a nightmare. Then I heard a gentle thud and nothing after that.

Five minutes later, I saw the front door open and out came Elizabeth. She was carrying a young woman with blue-streaked blonde hair in her arms. Without so much as a glance in my direction, she carried the girl into the minivan (having somehow grabbed the keys for it) and opened the door for the driver's side.

When she finally turned toward me, all she said was, "You should get in now."

It took me a few seconds to get my legs to obey, but I managed to walk over to the passenger side and got in. My hands fumbled with the seatbelt as I buckled up and then I shot a nervous glance at the girl in the backseat. She was still passed out, but she was at least fully dressed - if you could call wearing a tube top and miniskirt "dressed."

Elizabeth pulled the van out of the driveway and down the street. As we left the neighborhood behind us, she quickly explained that she had found a driver's license in the girl's purse with her home address on it. She didn't say a word about the moan I'd heard or who else had been in the house.

I decided that I didn't really want to know, that it was safer not to know.

We drove a few miles west and ended up in a different neighborhood with another series of near-identical houses. I waited in the van while Elizabeth swept the girl up in her arms and carried her to the front door. She rang the bell, then bolted from the door to the van in one white blur. Before I saw the front door even open, our "borrowed" van was hightailing it out of the girl's driveway and back into the night.

By this time, I felt courageous enough to take another look at Elizabeth. Now that she had "fed," her skin had taken on a healthy pink glow. The color of her eyes turned from smoky gray to emerald green, and she seemed less statuesque. Right before my eyes, she was becoming human again.

There was no doubt in my mind. I was seeing the original Elizabeth Jane Watson.

"It happens after every feeding," Elizabeth suddenly said. When she turned to me, the knowing smile on her face proved that she was getting a read on my thoughts.

"The blood circulates nutrients back through our bodies and we appear human for a time. That's how we endure for centuries. It isn't pretty, but it's how I've lived for a hundred years and I won't apologize to anyone for it."

It was at a time like this that I really wished I'd been wearing a diaper because, with all the panic-inducing hormones racing through my system, I felt like I was really about to pee myself right there in the stolen minivan.

The night was still young, so we ended up at a small pizza parlor on Belmont Avenue. I sat with Elizabeth at the table, staring into the red-and-white checkered tablecloth and my giant, greasy slice of pepperoni pizza. Elizabeth had discreetly ordered a glass of water, but made no move to actually drink it or eat a single slice of pizza.

Just the thought of how she'd been fed made me shiver a little.

"Gah," Elizabeth muttered into her glass.

"That guy had too much cholesterol in his diet. I swear, you Americans were a lot healthier fifty years ago." When I didn't say anything, she looked at me with concern.

"Is this about the girl? Look, she isn't going to remember anything beyond passing out and waking up on her own doorstep. Either her parents or her roommates are already looking after her now, so don't worry."

"I don't... it's not..." I shook my head desperately.

"No, it's not that at all. I just don't understand what I'm doing. I don't understand how this happened."

"Neither do I," Elizabeth said sadly.

"To be perfectly honest, I hadn't planned on showing up at your apartment that night. I just ran and ended up there. And for some reason... he never followed me."

I was shivering again, but it was too abstract for me. I pictured some tall shadow in the shape of a man, slowly stalking the beautiful Elizabeth. I couldn't see the sinister and corrupt creature her husband had been - had tried to turn her and her daughter into, no less.

"Julia," said Elizabeth. She laid her hand on mine, and to my surprise, it felt as warm and tender as that of any human being.

"I know this has been hard on you, sweetie. Believe me, I'd like to make it up to you. I've felt how lonely you've been, and for all I knew, that's what drew me to you in the first place. I know you're scared about what I am and what I might do, and that's fine. Just know that I am here for you, and that I will never hurt you, may God strike me down if I do."

I looked up at her and saw how serious she was, but I still couldn't form a reply. But it turned out that I didn't have to, because Elizabeth got up and walked over to the other side of the booth. She sat down next to me and took me into her arms - her warm, all too human arms. It was honestly the most loving embrace I'd ever known since the first day I'd gone to live with my foster parents.

I felt warm lips brush against my forehead and then she whispered into my ear, "I lost my daughter, but I found you. You never knew your mother, but maybe I could be the mom you always wanted. What do you say, dear?"

I still didn't say anything as tears began to trickle down my cheeks. I opted for burying my face into the side of her neck, and Elizabeth continued to hold me in our tiny corner booth in the near-deserted parlor. She rocked me in her arms, murmuring some kind of a lullaby to me even as the TV on the wall blared and our pizza grew cold.

Chapter Seven

It was two weeks after I'd first met Elizabeth that I began to make some calls. First was the airport to set up our flight to New York, and from there to Europe. I got a good deal through some big Irish airline whose name I couldn't pronounce, but Elizabeth assured me before going into her trunk that it provided excellent service. How she knew that, I don't know, and then all I could think about was why vampires needed airplanes if they could just defy the laws of physics on a whim.

The next important call to my foster parents at their house in Livingston, Illinois. I told them that I'd won this "contest" in a local university to go on a trip through Europe, with the possibility that I'd have a job lined up when I got back. Michelle was ecstatic and spent the next several minutes lavishing praises and encouragement onto me. Dave was less open in his enthusiasm - I think all he did was grunt something about safety tips for a young woman traveling alone - but it was tender enough coming from him.

After all of that, it was almost noon and I was still exhausted from my night out. I reheated some pizza we'd brought back from the parlor and ate it while watching an old but much loved DVD. Might have been Sixteen Candles, now that I think about it. I have to admit, I kind of felt like Molly Ringwald's character, just this poor girl for whom nothing's going right, but then she meets this attractive and mysterious person, and now everything changes -

Or maybe I'm just describing the plot of every love film ever made. But let's get back to my story.

After my brunch of warm pizza and cold milk, I crept back into my dark bedroom and slipped under the covers. Then I realized what I was doing and went to the dresser to grab a fresh diaper. Once I had put that on, I felt better and got back into bed.

Unfortunately, all I could picture now was that dreamy male lead from the movie. I grinned and let my hand slip past the waistband of my diaper. My fingers brushed up against that oh-so-sensitive spot and suddenly I was rubbing furiously, dreaming of a hot young stud coming in through my window, imagining the passionate kiss we shared and the tangling of our sheets, and Elizabeth -

My mind suddenly snapped back into cold sobriety. Why was I dreaming about Elizabeth? I slowly withdrew my hand and nervously glanced at the trunk on the floor by my bed.

Was she now intruding into my dreams? Had she put some kind of spell on me? Was she just seducing me with kindness? All these questions flashed through my mind, but no answers.

I shuddered - out of fear this time, and not pleasure - and turned away from the trunk. It was enough to dig myself deeper into my sheets, feeling my warm diaper press up between my legs, and try to get some sleep.

Later that night, around eight o'clock, Elizabeth and I were sitting at the dining table watching TV. I'd just finished another of her nighttime breakfasts - that weird British one where they cook the egg yoke into a piece of toast - and was drinking the last bit of tea she'd brewed up. Of course, she never ate or drank anything, but I was content to let her watch me do so.

Anyway, we were watching TV together, although I checking out my roommate at the same time. She was very intently watching the program and didn't want to miss a single moment of it. Probably don't watch too much TV when you were a vampire and had all those awesome superpowers to play with.

We were watching a music video for some latest hit by Lady GaGa on MTV. I don't remember much about the song, but I do recall this one vivid image of GaGa.

She was wearing a pink cowboy hat, a baby pink t-shirt, glittering white boots, and a big white diaper. She had a row of backup dancers who were dressed up in bonnets and frilly white dresses, and behind them was some kind of nursery. Honestly, I had no idea what the song was about, but there were plenty of references to "my secret Daddy."

That sight of her in a diaper surprised me enough that I became conscious of the diaper I was wearing under my long skirt. I shifted in my seat and made it rustle.

Elizabeth glanced over at me and smiled.

"Everything all right?"

"Oh, it's fine." I smiled back and shifted closer.

"Are you enjoying the video?"

"Very much so," she answered. She extended a pale finger toward the screen.

"It's funny. Back when I was growing up, just about everything there would've been scandalous for people to watch. We were quite prudish about that."

Of course, right at the moment she was saying that, there was a quick shot on TV of Lady GaGa making out with another woman, who was dressed like an English nanny. In the background, two backup dancers were trying to "share" the same pacifier. I found myself blushing at the coincidence.

"Can I ask...?" I started, but my voice trailed off when I found that Elizabeth had turned her gaze directly onto me.

She lifted her hand to my cheek. Her touch was cool, but I felt it heat up a little against my face. There was a question of her own burning in those mysterious gray eyes.

It wasn't until her lips were pressing against mine that I let go of all my doubts. Sure, I was only a decent-looking mortal and she was a vampire sex goddess, but it felt so wonderful.

After that brief trip of bliss, Elizabeth pulled back, leaving my lips slack and feeling giddy all over. She still held onto my cheek and gazed intently into my face.

"I'm sorry if I seem abrupt," said the vampire, "but you have to understand. I've not been in any kind of a romantic relationship since Jonathan, so you can see why I was reluctant to start a new one. Not to mention..." Her voice quavered a little.

"I had my... daughter... to look after."

I nodded, and when I saw blood-red tears forming in her eyes, I leaned forward to plant a softer kiss against the edge of her lips. She kissed me back and then I was in her arms, letting myself be held close against her bosom.

"I've been with a few guys before," I was saying, hardly in control of the words coming out of my mouth, "but nothing too romantic. Didn't help that I was a bedwetter. But you're different, Elizabeth. You're so wonderful and amazing, and I..."

I didn't have the heart to go on, but I didn't need to. Elizabeth was kissing the top of my head and brushing her hand through my hair. She continued to hold me close and whisper loving words into my ear, just as any mother - or lover - would do.

"You know I would never push you," she whispered.

"I would never seduce you like I do the others. I want you to be happy, Julia. I said I'd be your mother, but I want to be everything for you - your mother, your aunt, your big sister, your best friend, your most passionate lover. All you have to do is ask."

I stared into her cool gray eyes and whispered, "Elizabeth? Would you... I mean, could we... just this once?"

I was surprised to even suggest it, but in all fairness, it was easy for her to say we could wait since she was immortal. I wasn't and every moment in her presence made me all too aware of how fast time slipped by. And no, unlike most girls in college, I'd never gotten to "experiment" with being a lesbian. I'd had enough trouble just meeting guys.

I was relieved when she said, "Yes."

She carried me back into the bedroom and she undressed me down to my diaper. Then she removed all her clothes, but left on her silk white underwear. I was mesmerized just watching her glorious white body as she lowered herself against me.

"I should warn you," said Elizabeth as she looked down at me, "that sex with the Children of the Night isn't as you might think it to be."

"You mean you're not fantastic in bed?"

She laughed, but there was a sadness in her voice.

"No, actually. What I mean is that sex does absolutely nothing for us. Our bodies don't react as our mortal ones did. In fact the closest we come to an orgasm is, well... drinking blood."

"Oh." I stared up at her mouth, trying to find any sign of fangs.

"But then why did you - ?"

"Because I want you to be happy, darling," she answered. Then she bent down and kissed me passionately.

As we continued our kiss, I felt her hand snaking it way around my shoulder. Her other hand slipped down to my breasts, cupping them one at a time. I moaned as she slid her hand further down, brushing my stomach and teasing at the waistband of my diaper.

For many guys, that would been a complete turn-off. But Elizabeth just rubbed her hand up and down the front, and I began to gasp and shudder in her grip. Then she smiled and slipped three fingers past the waistband and -

When she was done I was shaking and gasping. My hair was damp with sweat and I was absolutely giddy inside. Elizabeth watched me with fascination and then she planted a quiet kiss on my lips. Then she kept on kissing me, along my face and neck, and then over the rest of my body, right down to my toes. She even kissed the front and back of my diaper, which made me sigh in ecstasy.

Then we were under the covers and she held me close to her bosom, stroking my hair and kissing my forehead. I wanted to stay there forever. For her alone, I would have been a devout lesbian.

"I love you," she whispered continually into my ear, and I whispered it back. She whispered about all the fun we would have in Europe next week and all the sights she'd take me to because I was her child and she was my new mother, that her love for me knew no bounds, and nothing would ever change that.

And in the stillness of my bedroom, I believed her and wept silently with joy.

Chapter Eight

The flight attendants looked so lovely as they passed up and down the aisle of the plane. They were all lovely and smiling Irish women, all in identical Kelly green uniforms with their hair pulled back into buns. One of them offered to refill my glass with whiskey and Coke, which I gladly accepted.

I was on an Aer Lingus flight from Chicago to Dublin, and while my ticket said it was a solo flight, I wasn't exactly alone. Elizabeth - ever full of surprises - had managed to contort herself into a tiny ball and stuff herself inside one of my two rolling suitcases. She'd said she would rather sleep right through the eight-hour flight and thus avoid any risk of sunlight coming her way. Odd as it seemed, I had to agree - the last thing you wanted to see on an overseas flight was a woman burning to ash once the sun showed up.

It was about the fourth hour into the flight. The Atlantic Ocean beneath the plane was dark and lovely, with the perfect white moon shimmering above the clouds. And I sat by the window next to a snoring flabby woman from Oklahoma, savoring the peace and beauty of the flight - and the wet, thickly padded diaper concealed under my long, flowing skirt.

The night before our flight, Elizabeth had woken me up at the usual time. She proceeded to change my diaper, but to my surprise, she didn't put on one of the Depend briefs I kept in my closet.

Instead, the diaper she held out for me was thicker and had babyish print all over the front. I shot her a questioning look, to which she answered with a motherly smile.

"I did some online shopping a few nights ago," said the vampire, as she started unfolding the heavier briefs.

"Since we'll be flying to Europe, I figured you might need some extra protection if you fall asleep. And it wouldn't be bad considering all the time we'll be running around Europe if you didn't need to use the bathroom so much."

Now, normally, I'd have been against such a move - I mean, she was suggesting that I voluntarily become incontinent. Then again, I did like the way she diapered me every night and morning. It was our special little something, our moment of bliss when we could be a mother and daughter pair, or just two very close friends.

And as much as I hated to admit it... I was actually starting to just enjoy the feel of a diaper. Sure, it was just underwear, but if underwear can be sexy, by some strange logic, I supposed a diaper could be, too.

Elizabeth continued to explain as she slipped the new diaper onto me. She had put in an order for a package of Bambino adult diapers, which all the relevant sites noted as being a superior product to my Depends. And once we'd exhausted this supply, we could look into Tena, a European brand with equally high-quality products. All this went over my head, but I accepted that she knew what she was talking about and tried to just enjoy the feel of her hands as they lovingly adjusted my diaper.

And, boy, was it padded. I pulled my knees in, feeling the cushy pillow between my legs and loving it. Elizabeth then gave me a playful smack on the bottom, making a loud whump that seemed pretty loud in my small bedroom.

"Wonderful," I said. The vampire beamed at me as she sat down on the bed. Her arms circled around me and we snuggled for a moment or two.

"I have another gift to offer you," she whispered into my ear.

"A Dark Gift."

I smiled at first, but as soon as that word "Dark" registered in my head, something in the back of my brain went click.

I turned to Elizabeth with a horrified look.

"Oh, no. You're... you're not going to turn me into - "

"No!" she answered emphatically. Her eyes were full of pain as she stared down at me.

"No, not that. I'd never force that onto you, darling. I'd promised I would never take advantage of you. You know that."

"Then... then what are you offering me?"

"Call it a lesser Gift, if you want." She shrugged and smiled.

"The full Dark Gift is one that makes a mortal into a Child of the Night, but there are powers and blessings that a vampire can bestow without performing the complete ritual. Most books don't say anything about this, so few people outside the covens know about such a Gift."

"And what does this lesser Gift involve?"

If a jungle cat could smile with its teeth showing, I've no doubt it would resemble the smile that Elizabeth flashed me then.

"Only a tiny, tiny bit of blood. Just a taste."

"First taste's free," I said automatically.

She laughed and bent down - not to bite, but to kiss me on the forehead.

"So it is, dear. It always is. But rest assured, what I take away, I replace. If I were to, say, suck out the blood from your forefinger, you would get that same amount from my finger, and the loss would be canceled out. You'd also get some rudimentary vampire qualities, like a few... improvements to your vision, your reflexes, and your health."

I stared at her in silence. Then I said, carefully, "So you're saying that... if I let you suck my finger for a bit... I get to stop wetting the bed?"

"I can't make any promises, but it's certainly possible."

It was all wrong, I told myself. There was absolutely no reason for this. But still I lifted my right index finger to Elizabeth and nodded.

She smiled fondly at me before bending down to put her lips over my fingertip. I felt her bite down - like being stung by a bee, really - and then she was sucking away. Just the sensation of her tongue and lips on my finger was arousing enough. I began to moan and quiver in her grip, but Elizabeth held me close against her bosom while she did her work.

I saw a flash of green in her eyes as she let go of my finger and licked her lips.

"Your turn," she whispered.

I stopped to stare at my finger. There was a gash where she'd bitten down, but it was receding. I didn't think that vampires had magically healing saliva, but who was I to argue with the supernatural?

"Your turn," Elizabeth repeated. She bit down on her own index finger and held it out to me. I watched the blood welling up in the gash and hesitantly put my lips to it.

From the moment the blood hit my tongue, I was hooked. I began to suck on that finger like a newborn at its mother's breast. Occasionally I would glance up and find that Elizabeth was watching me with eyes half-closed in rapture. She would hum and smile and kiss my forehead while I took in a mouthful of her essence.

And it was working. Even as I wet my diaper, I felt something inside me grow stronger. I could feel the air circulating through my lungs, the rough lines in the quilt on my bed, the cool flesh of Elizabeth's hands on my back, and the ten thousand dust motes hanging in the air over our heads.

I could see within Elizabeth's mind a glimpse of the past - of the countless times she and a small brown-haired girl named Margaret had lain in each other's arms. Of the adventures they'd had and the love they'd shared. I felt her sharp, stabbing loss as clearly as if I'd been there with her, and I knew it wasn't just my imagination getting the better of me. It was all in her blood, all her memories and feelings in one little fingertip.

When I'd sucked her finger dry, I fell back against Elizabeth's chest and sighed. She kissed me repeatedly - more than a few times on the lips - and we spent our evening on the bed, being just so happy together.

Back on the flight to Dublin, I was wetting my diaper yet again. Fortunately, the section where I was sitting was pretty quiet, so I grabbed my purse and snuck down the aisle and toward the restroom. It was vacant, so I slipped inside.

I'd rarely had to change myself while standing up, let alone in a cramped stall, but somehow I was able to do it. Once I had my new Bambino on, I felt like I could walk through all of Ireland without any guide or escort. I pulled down my skirt and tossed the old diaper into a trash bin, making sure it went far down toward the bottom.

As I washed my hands, I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. After receiving Elizabeth's "lesser Gift," I had begun to see some physical changes. My hair was a few tones darker, a shade of brown that was almost black. Not to mention that my eyes were oh-so-slightly tinged with a violet sheen to go with my normal blue color. If any of the airport personnel or the flight crew had picked up on these unusual traits, they'd made an excellent show of not saying anything.

"I wonder how the European vampires will like me," I found myself murmuring. Then I smiled and wiped my hands off. My eagerness drove me out of the bathroom and back toward my window seat, where I could gaze once more at the indescribable beauty of flying over the sea at midnight.

Chapter Nine

Several hours later, I was in Dublin. I took an airport shuttle out to the O'Connell Street area and went to a small and inexpensive hotel that faced the River Liffey. It was around three o'clock in the afternoon when I managed to haul my suitcases up to the room.

I was tired, hungry, and in need of a change. In reverse order, I proceeded to lie down on the bed and exchange my old diaper for a new one, went downstairs to the hotel café for a sandwich and some coffee, and then headed back to a room for a nice long nap.

And as I slept, I dreamt of a cottage on a small green field. Elizabeth was baking something delicious and I was lying on the bed in a frilly pink dress, looking just like a princess.

What made that dream surreal was the fact that it was sunny outside. Being here in Ireland, I'd begun to remember how everything looked during the day.

I resolved to enjoy a little of both while I was in Europe, both the day and the night, the warm and the cold. Surely Elizabeth would allow me that much.

I woke up to the sound of a muffled thump and immediately sat up. It took me a moment to remember that I was in a hotel room in Dublin, and then I registered that it was night. 8:13 PM, to be precise.

Time to let the vampire out of the bag.

I walked over to the pair of suitcases and unzipped the nearest one. As the flap fell open, Elizabeth did a forward somersault onto the floor and came up into a dazed and breathless crouch.

"Ouch," she muttered, rubbing her backside.

"I really need to limber up more if we do this again." She cracked her neck and the rest of her joints, then turned to me with a brilliant smile.

"Well done, my angel. I'm proud that you handled this all so well."

We embraced and I sank into her warm and loving arms with a relieved smile. Then Elizabeth picked me up and carried me over to the bed for another change. She didn't even have to ask. We were bonded now, so she just knew when I needed it. Pretty convenient, if you ask me.

By the time she had finished up, there was a knock at the door. I turned in surprise and tried to cover up my diaper, but Elizabeth shook her head and crossed the room. She opened the door and smiled broadly at whoever was on the other side.

"Bonjour, ma chérie!" Elizabeth exclaimed. She bent forward to offer a kiss and then offered her hand. The person who accepted it and walked into our room was a tall and lovely young woman, maybe only a few years older than me. She was a blonde like Elizabeth, but a few tones darker, and her eyes were a vivid blue-green. I couldn't help but see the pale shade of her skin and feel a sudden connection.

She was part-vampire. Like me.

"Comment êtes-vous?" asked Elizabeth.

"Très bien, merci," the girl replied with a warm smile. She turned toward me and immediately glanced at the diaper I was still trying to hide in vain.

"Est-ce votre nouvel ami, Élizabeth?"

My friend nodded and turned her familiar smile onto me.

"Julia, allow me to introduce Mireille de Montaigne. She's the companion of Ferdinand, the master of all vampires in West Europe. She'll be guiding us on our trip."

"Um, hi," I managed to say. I nervously offered my hand, but Mireille leaned over and kissed me on both cheeks without hesitation.

She pulled back and smiled tenderly.

"Enchanté."

They sat there on the edge of the bed, conversing happily in French. I found myself wishing that I'd learned it in college (I would eventually pick it up, but that's a story for another time). Still, I could follow some of Mireille's response just by her body language. She was quite enthusiastic about Elizabeth's travels and would glance over at me whenever Elizabeth said my name, appraising me and smiling to herself.

Elizabeth reached over to put a hand on Mireille's shoulder and said something like, "Souhaitez-vous jouer avec elle pour la soirée?"

She looked me over with delight and answered Elizabeth's query with, "Oui, s'il vous plait."

"Darling," Elizabeth addressed me, "I was wondering if you would like to have a little fun with Mireille tonight. She's been a lesser Child of the Night for some time now and hasn't been near a child in decades." Her eyes narrowed, matching the suggestive tone in her voice.

"I thought she might like to have a baby girl like you for the night."

I stared at her for a while, not sure how to respond to that. Part of me felt that, if I was something of a baby, it was to Elizabeth and no one else. That was what made our bond so special, to be a mother and daughter. But as I looked over at Mireille, I found myself staring into her eyes and seeing a flash of pain there - an ancient loss, perhaps no different than the loss Elizabeth had suffered.

"J'étais enceinte, mais j'ai perdu l'enfant," she whispered, looking into my eyes and sharing with me a glimpse into her past - surface images of hospitals and dressing gowns, tenderhearted nurses and a crying would-be mother.

"Il serait bon de l'avoir tenu dans mes bras, juste une fois..."

I didn't know the specifics, but I could tell what she meant all the same. It was in the blood we shared. How was I to say no to such a request? I held out my arms and let me scoot over toward me.

Mireille smiled hesitantly and then put her arms around me. She pushed my head to her breast and began to stroke my hair. When I started to relax, I found myself enjoying this as much as she was. To be with another warm-blooded person, to be held - I hadn't felt such a simple joy since the last time I'd seen my foster mother, almost a few months prior.

"Qu'est-ce qu'un joli bébé," Mireille cooed into my ear. I felt her hand smooth back my hair, then slowly trace its way down to the front of my diaper.

"Et ta couche est si mignon! Je t'aime, ma petite fille peu! J'aime vos couches peu!"

I let her kiss and fondle me for the rest of that evening. In a weird way, it felt like the first nights I spent with my foster parents as they looked after me and spoiled me rotten.

I rather liked the warmth of Mireille's body against mine, her face pressed against mine. I could have fallen asleep right there in her lap. And when I was wet, I let her change me, listening to her lovely French babble about my "couche mouillée."

Elizabeth watched us the whole time. She never said anything, but I felt that she was finding some healing of her own, just watching us play Mommy and Baby.

She, too, knew the pain of losing a child and the joy of finding a new one.

Chapter Ten

We did not stay in Dublin for long, although Elizabeth reassured me that we could always come back and enjoy it a little more. Mireille booked us on a late-night flight to Paris, where she said - through Elizabeth's translation - that the "West European Coven" was having its annual convocation.

Because it was an evening flight, Elizabeth was able to sit with Mireille and me in the passenger section - and because Mireille had used her master's line of credit, she had gotten us three seats in first-class. For that, I got all the creamy desserts and drinks I could handle, although this also came with a price: having to leave my friends and change my easily-soaked diaper inside a cramped single-occupant bathroom.

When I came back, Elizabeth guided me back into my seat and leaned over to kiss me discreetly along my jaw.

"Are you enjoying yourself so far?" she asked quietly. Her eyes were beaming at me like moonlight.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't," I answered, smiling back. This made Elizabeth sigh and she kissed me again on the cheek. I countered by snuggling against her shoulder and stroking the back of her ivory hand.

Mireille, who sat on the other side of me, regarded us for a moment. Then she said softly, loud enough for us to hear, "Voici les Beautés Mortelles! Voici le Voile de la Nuit!"

I turned to Elizabeth, but I didn't even have to ask. She smiled down at me and whispered back, "'Here are the Deadly Beauties! Here is the Veil of Night!' It's an old refrain from one of our hymns in Paris. Sometimes it's said whenever vampires gather together, especially in the Old World. Like a secret greeting."

I wasn't surprised to see that vampires had their old traditions just as mortals did, but I was surprised at how much I respected those traditions. I had never belonged to any kind of an official organization before. Well, okay, maybe the orphanage where I grew up, but that was it. In high school and college, I wasn't pretty enough to be with the popular girls, smart enough for the geeky girls, or strong enough for the female athletes.

I'd been a professional wallflower my whole life - but among these fine women, I was their sister. I was one of them. And that thought might made me delighted.

I'd always been excited to go to Paris before, but now I was ecstatic.

We arrived at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport around one in the morning, local time. Mireille insisted on helping us carry our luggage to the airport shuttle and again once we arrived at the Hotel des Trois Colleges. The room where we were staying was even nicer than the one we'd back in Dublin, and I quickly helped myself to the complimentary wine bottle on the dresser.

"I didn't think you were much of a drinker before we left," Elizabeth remarked from her seat on the queen-sized bed. She smiled and gestured for me to come and sit on her lap, which I did. Her arms circled around me and she kissed me tenderly on the lips.

"I couldn't afford too much alcohol before," I answered.

"Now I'm catching up."

Elizabeth laughed and kissed me again. I was still drinking from my wineglass as she lowered me to the bed, pushed up my skirt, and began to change my diaper. She was smiling down at me as she worked, making little kissy faces and cooing as I finished my wine. Mireille watched our exchange from a chair by the window, smiling distantly. She might have been remembering her own lost child for all I knew.

When Elizabeth had cleaned me up, she sat me back down on her lap and began to brush at my hair. She looked at Mireille, who gave her a sharp nod, and then looked back at me.

"Tomorrow night, darling," said Elizabeth, "we have to attend the convocation of the European Coven. I'll be introducing you as my traveling companion. They'll have no problem with you, then. And once the convocation is formally begun, you can speak with Lord Ferdinand about any matter to your heart's content."

I glanced at Mireille, who was smiling proudly at me. Then I said to Elizabeth, "That sounds nice. Where is this all taking place exactly?"

"At Montparnasse Cemetery, just after sunset."

Montparnasse Cemetery was as wonderful as all the tourist brochures made it out to be, and it had a strange ethereal beauty under the cover of nightfall. I held onto Elizabeth's hand and joined her in appreciating the way the moonlight fell over the endless rows of headstones, plaques, and mausoleums. I even recognized a few names from my studies: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Gérard Oury, to name a few.

Mireille led us to a towering structure on the eastern side of the cemetery. It was just a medieval-style tower with a cone-shaped roof and a pair of old wooden doors. She knocked three times on the doors and they were pulled open by people I couldn't see.

The three of us entered the tower, where everything was dark except for a series of candles along the walls. A tall person in a hooded crimson cloak stood in the center of the vast expanse.

He - or she, it was hard to tell under the cloak - extended a sinewy pale hand and said in a rasping French voice, "Suivez-moi, mesdames."

We followed our host of ambiguous gender down an uncovered trapdoor and onto a flight of stairs descending far underground. Wax candles lit our way, and there were all different colors - blood-red, sea-green, sky-blue, lavender, silver, turquoise, and ebony. We were following this rainbow through the darkness, something I found quite soothing in such a stark and foreboding place.

The host brought us to another wooden door. One knock opened it, and our host waved us inside.

"Entrez s'il vous plait."

This room was larger than the one upstairs and better-lit. It was a vast arena of granite, with strange designs etched into the floor. There were candelabras everywhere, providing as much illumination as a modern light bulb. And there were so many people, all wearing dark garments. Only two of them wore hooded crimson cloaks, and those two stood in the center of the arena with their hands in their sleeves, observing us as we made our way through the crowd.

All of them had the same pale skin, darkening hair, and violet-tinged eyes. I held my breath as we passed, realizing that I was alone in a room full of vampires. I had no idea how I looked to them or what they thought of me, if they even knew I had some of Elizabeth's immortal blood in my veins.

I began to wonder if I would even be permitted to leave this place alive, ending up either dead - or as one of them.

Our host went to stand with the other hooded figures. Then the vampire to his left pulled back his hood to let some of the light reflect onto his face. He was much older than Elizabeth and his features were rigid and proud. His ivory skin might as well have been stone, carved right out of the arena that we now stood in.

Mireille stepped forward and knelt before this particular elder.

"J'ai apporté les invités, Seigneur."

The elder nodded and regarded Elizabeth with something like a smile on his liver-colored lips. Then he turned his piercing gaze onto me, and I felt something hot and wet pass between my legs. It took me a second to realize I'd just peed out of sheer terror and I thanked God that Elizabeth had put a fresh and thick diaper on me before we left.

"Bienvenue, Elizabeth," the elder said with a Spanish accent.

"Bienvenue, Julia. Qué cette nuit vous trouver à la fois bien. Je suis Ferdinand, Seigneur de l'Alliance."

Elizabeth gave my hand a squeeze. Then she cleared her throat and bowed her head.

"Mon Seigneur Ferdinand," she replied, "mon compagnon ne parle pas beaucoup français. Elle est l'Amérique, après tout."

I heard laughter and a few snide murmurs from the crowd around us. Ferdinand was regarding me thoughtfully from beneath the shadow of his cowl, his eyes illuminated by flickering candlelight. Then he, too, chuckled and drew back his hood to let me see his bone-white face and full head of silver hair. It was like seeing something out of an old painting, like the portrait of a Catholic saint.

"The West European Coven," said the elder, "bids you both welcome and hopes this night finds you well. My name is Ferdinand Casanova de Castro, and I am the reigning Lord of the Coven."

Elizabeth nodded and pushed me by the small of my back.

"This," she announced to the assembly, "is my companion, Julia Shannon Moore. She has received the Blessing of Nightfall from my own blood."

The crowd of vampires broke out into new murmurs. Some were appreciative of me, and some were a bit more suspicious. Ferdinand didn't seem to be one or the other. He kept watching me and nodding to himself.

"The Coven recognizes Julia Shannon Moore as a sister among the Children of the Night," said the elder vampire on Ferdinand's left. He spoke with an obvious French accent, but his English was perfect.

"Mark these words, Children - let no hand or fang be raised against her while she remains under the care of Sister Elizabeth."

"It shall be so!" the crowd said as one. Their voices were strong, but no overly loud, almost as if they were speaking in a collective whisper.

"This convocation of the European Coven has commenced," said the elder to the right of Ferdinand. It was an older woman speaking with a soft Italian accent.

"The floor is now open to all who wish to address grievances for our judgment."

Elizabeth glanced at me with an encouraging smile and then let go of my hand. She stepped forward and lifted her head toward the elders and the crowd behind her.

"My Lord Ferdinand, I have a grievance against one of our brothers in absentia," she declared.

"I bring charges against Jonathan Patrick Watson."

"The heretic!" someone in the crowd called out. More angry murmurs and voices added to the din, but were silenced once Ferdinand lifted a hand into the air.

I blinked and tried not to let my surprise show on my face. In the weeks that I had spent with Elizabeth, I had almost forgotten about the terrible event that had brought us together in the first place. And it occurred to me that this was part of her plan all along - to come to Europe with someone she could trust, someone who could bear witness to her testimony before the entire Coven.

My diaper, meanwhile, was getting heavier and wetter, but I didn't let it affect my perceptions too much. I found myself not caring if it was evident to all the vampires in that chamber. Let them see one mortal who wouldn't cower in their midst!

"Although Jonathan is not present," Ferdinand declared, "we do recognize him as a brother, albeit one whose path has strayed far from the will of the Coven. Therefore, our Sister Elizabeth has every right to bring charges against him, and this convocation shall decide his fate accordingly." He gestured to Elizabeth and nodded.

"Present your charges and receive our judgment."

Elizabeth clasped her hands humbly in front of everyone, but her head was raised with a defiant glare.

"Jonathan has committed the most grievous sin. He has slain one of the Children of the Night." Her voice dropped to a harsh whisper.

"He slaughtered our daughter Margaret... as he nearly did with me."

For once, the rest of the Coven was silent. I felt ten thousand eyes boring into the back of my head. I felt like my diaper was about to burst with all the pressure my bladder was releasing into it. I had no idea what to do. Should I speak? Should I agree with what she was saying? I knew it was true, after all. Not that I'd been there, but after I'd received her Gift, I had seen the depths of her pain and knew it all to be true.

Ferdinand turned his gaze onto me. I stared back, trying to be expressionless. He then smiled like an indulgent father and turned back to Elizabeth.

"This is a most serious charge," said the elder vampire, his fangs gleaming in the candlelight as he spoke.

"We shall dispatch envoys across the world to locate Jonathan and bring him here to answer your charge." He turned his patient gaze to the crowd.

"Is this not the will of the Coven?"

"It shall be so!" the Coven thundered in reply.

Elizabeth's face broke out into a grim smile. She pressed her hands together as if in prayer and then bowed low to the elder. I feebly tried to mimic the gesture, which earned me a few laughs from the vampires watching us, and then grabbed Elizabeth by the hand as she led me back toward Mireille.

"Are there further judgments to be rendered on this night?" Ferdinand asked.

Silence fell over the arena. Then one of the elders - the one who had led us in - called out, "There are none, my lord."

"Then the formalities are over," said Ferdinand with a smile.

"Let us adjourn and celebrate our company, united in our common European heritage." He clapped his hands together, and at once, the crowd dispersed and a thousand conversations began to flare up everywhere.

"I know you're in need of a change," Elizabeth whispered into my ear as she led me back toward the stairs, "so we'll head home for now. But we may have to come back tomorrow night so we can speak with Ferdinand in private, all right? And you did very well, Julia. I'm so proud of you."

"I know..." I replied, but my head was buzzing with all the stray thoughts and feelings I was picking up from the Coven behind me. It was all I could do to hold onto Elizabeth's strong hand and follow her back up the rainbow-lit staircase.

Chapter Eleven

The next evening, just after sunset, Elizabeth and Mireille took me back to Montparnasse Cemetery. And upon our return, I felt chills running down my spine that had nothing to do with the graves and mausoleums dotting the landscape.

Now, don't get me wrong - I was absolutely terrified of Ferdinand and the rest of the Coven. Sure, I had a strong and comfortable relationship with Elizabeth, but we had bonded over strange circumstances. Here, in Paris, I was being formally introduced to an ancient and alien culture full of stately and deadly people, who were more likely to stare me down than offer their hand in friendship.

I may have shared their blood, thanks to Elizabeth's Gift, but that didn't mean I had their trust.

Elizabeth's arm was around my waist as she guided me down the flight of stairs with the rainbow series of candles. Her hand was just resting on the back of my skirt, where my diaper was faintly bulging through. It felt right that she would touch me there, like she was reassuring me that we could always go home together, and I found myself wondering if she'd done the same for Margaret.

When we arrived at the bottom, Elizabeth took me through the same wooden door and into the same vast arena. But unlike the previous night, there were no vast crowds of European vampires inside.

Instead, there was just Ferdinand, wearing his crimson robe with the hood thrown back, and young Mireille kneeling at his side. As we approached, they bowed their heads in unison and said, "Voici les Beautés Mortelles!"

Elizabeth smiled and bowed her head.

"Voici le Voile de la Nuit!"

Ferdinand nodded in approval and turned a grandfatherly smile toward me. His smoky gray eyes were bearing down into my face. My first reaction was to think, Dirty old man!, but then I had to remember that he was this incredibly ancient undead man, and so maybe things like a lust for young women didn't mean much to him.

"I imagine," he said softly, "that you have quite a few questions for me, Julia." He waved his hand about the arena.

"We have a most fortunate night for questions. Ask away."

My throat was suddenly dry, and just to disorient me even more, my diaper wasn't as a fresh trickle of pee flowed between my legs. I glanced at Elizabeth, who stared back with her trademark smile and gave my hand a squeeze.

"Well..." I racked my brain for questions. There was no way I was going to pass up talking to one of the world's oldest vampires and get the real truth about his race.

"Where do vampires come from?" I finally asked, and as soon as I did, I felt like a complete idiot. Oh, yeah, nice going, Julia. Sounded like a total kindergartner just then.

But Ferdinand just smiled back.

"An excellent question. The truth is, we are still not certain. The identity of the first vampire has been lost to time, which is ironic when you consider that the Children of the Night have nothing but time. But I confess that our species goes back to the early days of human history. Perhaps we were merely a genetic mutation that now springs up throughout the Old World every few generations."

He shrugged.

"The point is, we are here on this earth now and have been here for millennia. I hope that will suffice."

I nodded.

"And is it true that sunlight can kill you?"

"Yes and no." Ferdinand gestured to Elizabeth.

"As I understand it, Elizabeth here has told you that any sunlight would damage her, which is true. However, as the life of a vampire continues, he or she slowly gains more stamina with regard to sunlight. As for myself, I can walk among mortals in the sun, but only with several precautions, like suntan lotion, and wearing a hat."

"And that way you protect your image," I slowly said, as the idea formed in my mind.

"You can pass yourself off as an albino, like that guy from The Da Vinci Code."

"Hmph, a most clichéd little novel," Ferdinand scoffed.

"But we can discuss art and literature another time, if you like. Have you any more questions?"

I stared at him for a moment. Then I shifted my gaze over to Mireille, whose eyes were soft and encouraging. And then I glanced over at Elizabeth, who was regarding me fondly as always. With such encouragement all around me, I felt ready to ask a question that had been on my mind since almost the beginning of this crazy little affair.

I took a deep breath, looked Ferdinand in the eye, and asked, "Is it possible for a vampire to... reverse his condition?"

The elder's brow lifted. I saw Mireille's eyes widen, and I didn't have to look over to know that Elizabeth's reaction was the same. And it was only then that I began to consider the possibility that such a question might be anathema to the Coven - and that they might try to silence any voice who dared raise it.

But to my surprise, Ferdinand's look of puzzlement gave way to one of mirth.

"What an extraordinary child! You did well to join with her, Elizabeth!" He laughed to himself and clasped his hands together.

"Well, Julia, as far as we know, our 'condition' is irreversible. Once a vampire, always a vampire, you see."

He tilted his head to the left and squinted at me.

"I assume you ask because you might be having second thoughts about your own... condition?"

"I'm not," I said earnestly.

"I know you all can read my thoughts or whatever, so you must know I'm telling the truth. I just..." I shifted from one foot to the other, which made me acutely aware of the wet diaper sagging below my waist.

"I just wondered if there were vampires who wanted to stop being vampires, and if any had ever done that."

The elder laughed again.

"A remarkable child! Why, yes, Julia, immortality is its own blessing and curse. After the first few centuries, you start to feel the pain of never getting old and never facing death. And as vampires, we are defined by our consumption of mortal blood, human or animal, and thus ordinary food and drink can never satisfy us. It is a torment to remember how they taste, to know how everything used to feel, and to never feel it again." He shrugged again.

"But it is our nature, and there is so much beauty to be merely seen in this world that I would gladly pay the price a thousand times over."

I nodded and offered what I hoped was a relieved smile.

"I understand. Thank you... my Lord."

"You may call me Ferdinand if you like," said the vampire elder. He beckoned to Mireille, who rose to her feet.

"Mireille, if you would be so kind, take Julia up to our chambers for the time being. I have a matter to discuss with Sister Elizabeth."

"Oui, mon Seigneur," said the vampire girl. She took me by the hand and led me through the arena.

I glanced back over my shoulder to see Elizabeth and Ferdinand turning to one another with grave expressions. I couldn't hear a word of what they were saying, but I knew they were talking about Jonathan, the rogue.

As I followed the lovely Mireille toward a bedchamber of delights, I prayed that Elizabeth might find some real satisfaction while we were here. After all, Paris was the City of Love, and what better place for her to honor the love she felt for little Margaret?

Chapter Twelve

When my alarm went off, it was nice and dark outside. I pulled myself out of bed and went to stretch in front of the full-length mirror across the room. In my reflection was a lovely pale girl with dark brown hair and violet-tinted eyes, whose legs were set apart by a very thick diaper.

I gave it a pat and felt that I would have to change soon, but first things first. I bent down by the mirror toward the trunk Mireille had bought. Fumbling with the clasps, I knocked before I lifted the lid.

Elizabeth smiled as our eyes met.

"My darling Julia," she whispered.

As I bent over to help her up, I felt Elizabeth's arms slip around my waist and her lips pressed softly against my neck. I smiled and pulled out her halfway out, then let her stand up on her own. She stretched and glanced at herself in the mirror - and yes, she did have a reflection, so scratch that off your vampire mythology checklist.

"I should change my clothes," she commented.

"I feel like going out tonight for a meal." She turned and smiled at me, then dropped her gaze toward the lower part of my nightgown.

"And you should change, too. You don't mind doing it yourself, do you?"

I shook my head.

"I was doing that long before you showed up, Liz." As soon as I said that, I frowned like I'd just tasted something bitter.

"Sorry, I meant Elizabeth."

My friend laughed and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.

"Call me what you like, dear. After more than a century, it really doesn't make a difference to me."

With that said, I watched Elizabeth head into the closet to pick out a fresh blouse and pair of pants. Then I went to my dresser, picked out a clean diaper, and laid down on the bed to change. Every so often, I caught a glimpse of Elizabeth peeking toward me as I changed, and when she saw me looking back, she'd smile and shake her head fondly.

Once I'd finished, I was wearing a Bambino diaper and nothing else. And when Elizabeth was done, she was dressed in a sky-blue blouse with a pair of beige pants, and her hair was pulled back into a bun. We then turned toward each other and seemed to be thinking the exact same thing

How cute she looks!

Elizabeth had also picked out a nice yellow blouse and a dark skirt for me, which she proceeded to dress me in. I felt like a doll being put into different outfits by a very sunny child, but I was happy to let her slip me into my new clothes.

Then we were sitting on the bed together, up against the pillows and in each other's arms. Elizabeth had one hand resting on my skirt, brushing against the exposed top of my diaper, and her other hand was resting on the side of my face.

"Love you," she whispered. And then we were leaning into each other and sharing a soft kiss. As I pulled back, I smiled bashfully and gave her another soft kiss on the corner of her lips. She smiled back and then we were hugging a little more strongly than before.

As usual, she did all the work, so I was the one who fell back against the pillows sweating, gasping, and exhilarated. All Elizabeth could do was watch me very carefully and tenderly brush my hair with her fingers.

"I have to admit," she murmured into my ear, holding me close, "that I'd never had this kind of a relationship before. When I was mortal, I had girlfriends of a Platonic sort. I had a husband. And I had my daughter."

It was the fact that she said the word daughter without any hint of emotional pain that caught my attention. I had just managed to find my breath and turned to look her in the eye.

"But I never," she continued, "expected to have someone like you. Someone I could look after, someone I could protect and nurture... but someone I could share with. That was something I couldn't do with Margaret. She got smarter and wiser as the years went on, and we talk like two adults, but..." She frowned and her forehead creased with it.

"But I was still her mother, and she would always be my baby girl. Even a hundred and thirty years later, we still treated each other that way. It's funny how things can stay the same even after everything that's happened in the world."

I nodded and planted a soft but lingering kiss against the right side of her jaw. As I looked back into her eyes, I saw that Elizabeth was watching me intently. But I didn't mind. All her thoughts were open to me, just as mine were to her, so I didn't have to say anything to make her feel better.

I did catch one thought lingering in the back of her mind, one that sounded like, Even after a hundred and thirty years, I don't think she ever hated him as much as I did. Sometimes I wonder if she even hated him all that much.

I didn't have to ask who "he" was. I knew she meant Margaret's father.

Margaret's murderer, I thought with a chill up my spine.

Elizabeth seemed to catch that thought passing through my mind, because then she was squeezing me close against her bosom and protectively brushing my hair back with her hands. I couldn't resist, even if I wanted to.

After several minutes, I heard Elizabeth shift away from me and say, "Come on, then. Let's go out and find ourselves a good meal."

Within an hour, we were standing by a corner café on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Although it was cool out, Elizabeth and I didn't need to wear jackets. We felt cold, but not uncomfortably so - more like a refreshing and uplifting chill.

Our eyes scanned the avenue for potential victims - Elizabeth would have called them "food sources," but I still hadn't reconciled myself that part of the vampire's nature. And apart from the ritual that I'd undergone by Elizabeth's hand, I had never even drank another person's blood, let alone craved it as she did.

We stood just a few blocks north of the Axe historique, where several buildings and monuments in the western side of Paris converged. I had my eye on this one pair of overweight Americans in Hawaiian shirts and overly-strained shorts, and I was almost certain I'd sat next to one of them on my transatlantic flight to Dublin. But as much as I tried to abstractly summon a sense of desire for their blood, I was more fascinated with how different people seemed to my new eyes.

The tourists' flesh bounced under their clothes like basketballs inside a sack. Their bodies heaved against gravity's pull with every step. And their vacant smiles at the beautiful scenery suggested that they were only putting on an act, and that they really weren't all that impressed. My mind extended in their direction, and I could collect a few surface thoughts like, Better sights in Montana if you ask me or Sure hope we can find someone who speaks better English than that last fella...

I smiled as I drew back into myself. They were pretty innocent on the whole, so for all my prejudice against the South, I knew that I couldn't just pick them. Elizabeth had been very clear about that - we had to select those people who posed a threat to other mortals, to anyone who was a danger to those around him. As Children of the Night, we had a duty to protect and preserve the weak and the innocent.

"There."

Elizabeth's voice drew my gaze away from the couple and toward a man on the other side of the avenue. I was able to spot him because I felt Elizabeth's mind nudging my own in his direction. He was short, dark-haired, and looked pretty well-off - a born Parisian in a stylish leather jacket. He was coming out of a nearby Metro station with his hands in his pockets, whistling jauntily to himself.

I reached out with my mind and found that he was thinking about his wife and their son, and how they were waiting for him at home. At first glance, there didn't seem to be anything wrong with that, and I began to think that maybe Elizabeth was wrong about him -

"No," she said firmly.

"Press deeper. Look into what he isn't thinking about."

With that oh-so-helpful instruction, I skirted around the edges of his mind, going through his memories, through all the little details that he didn't think about as he went about his day.

And what I found repulsed me.

Oh, he thought about his wife all right - and how he just had to beat her when things didn't work out, because it wasn't his fault, after all. And as for his son -

No, I still don't think I can say it out loud. Just the mere thought of it was enough to make me sick, and I had to grab Elizabeth's hand just to keep myself from vomiting onto the pavement in front of everyone.

When I had withdrawn my mind, I glanced at Elizabeth and whispered, "Okay... I don't need to be told twice. Let's get this bastard."

Her smile was as sharp as her tone.

"Try to stay close. And don't forget that you can move faster now than you think you can."

We followed him up the Rue Pierre Charron for about half a mile, and then our guy turned down a side street, cut through an alleyway, and reached the end of his trip at a modern tenement building. As our target went in through the front door, Elizabeth and I made our way onto the fire escape.

I knew that, being a full vampire, Elizabeth could sense him directly no matter where he went. I had only a murky impression of the guy, but I was able to follow along as we raced up the fire escape toward his home. Apparently, it was on the sixth floor, at the very top of the whole tenement. And of course, it just so happened that his home was right next to the fire escape.

When we arrived next to the tenement window, Elizabeth put a finger to her lips and we ducked out of sight, keeping very still. Inside, I could feel our target walking into his home. He argued with someone - no doubt his wife - and then I heard raised voices, but nothing too distinct.

Then I heard the slap, and a woman crying. And then a little boy was weeping, although the man didn't seem to hear it. He just grunted and turned on the TV.

Crouching in the cold night air on the fire escape, Elizabeth turned to me and opened up her mind. I saw the plan she had just formed and what I was needed for.

I nodded to show I understood and then glanced down at my wristwatch. It was just a few minutes past nine o'clock.

Elizabeth began staring into space, but I knew that her vampire ESP was tracking everything that happened inside the apartment. By linking her mind with mine, I could see the woman, trying to hold back tears as she tenderly put her son to bed. I could feel the blasé attitude of the man, sitting on the couch with a cold beer in his hand, watching TV without the least bit of concern for his own family's misery. The whole place had an atmosphere of despair, created by years of silent tension and punctuated by the occasional violent arguments and accusations, all stemming from this self-centered and pitiless man.

I found myself getting quite excited for the retribution we would soon pay him.

The woman was now in their bedroom, crying herself to sleep at this early hour of the night. Apparently, there was a routine - she made dinner for herself and her son, then tidied up until her husband came home. Then she retired to bed and let him watch TV, knowing that she wasn't as beautiful as the women on TV that he so enjoyed.

We waited on the chilly fire escape for another half-hour. Then Elizabeth took my hand into hers and touched her other hand onto the nearest window pane.

Through our bond, I heard her mind call out, It's a bit warm in here.

On the couch in the living room, the man stirred.

It's a bit warm in here, she repeated.

He stirred again, shifting his feet as if to stand and fumbling for his beer.

Better open a window, Elizabeth suggested. Get some fresh air.

I heard the man walking to the window and sliding it open. I saw his head pop outside and breathe in the air, and his neck arched so perfectly...

Elizabeth struck fast. One second, the man was smiling with relief, and the next, he had a pale and strong hand gripped around his throat, cutting off whatever cry for help he was about to raise.

I watched long enough to see Elizabeth stare the man into submission, her mind willing him into unconsciousness, before jumping past his limp body and into his home. I let myself smile when I heard her biting into her neck and begin draining his lifeblood.

While Elizabeth was doing all that, I crept down the hallway and toward the bedrooms. I entered the little boy's room first and found a cherubic six-year-old in his bed. He was twisting under the sheets, apparently locked in some nightmare - or perhaps he was just remembering his already traumatic past.

My heart melted with sympathy and I laid the tips of my fingers against his brow. Then I said, linking my mind to his, You will be fine. Everything will be all right from now on. Be good to your Mommy. You are a good boy, no matter what he says...

The boy's fits subsided, and for a moment, I thought I saw the trace of a smile. With that warm image to think on, I crept out of his room and went over to the room where his mother was sleeping.

Sure enough, she wasn't sleeping all that well, either. I could sense an impulse deep inside her mind, as if she contemplating waking up, but I latched onto that thought as gently as I could and soothed it back down. And even though the room was dark, I saw that the woman really was quite beautiful, and that her ugliness was only what she'd been made to believe by her own husband.

My hand pressed down onto her forehead, and I said to her, It hurts now, but it will be better soon. Everything will be fine. Your son is safe and he loves you dearly...

I felt her mind enter a state of utter peace and contentment, perhaps the only kind she'd ever known since the breakdown of her marriage. And because I felt a strange kinship with this Frenchwoman I'd never even seen before, I bent down and kissed her on the cheek before leaving her.

In the living room, I found that Elizabeth had dragged the now-limp corpse back onto the couch. She had spilled the beer to make it seem like he'd dropped the can, and she had left his features frozen in shock, which would have been appropriate considering the "heart attack" he'd just suffered. When she sensed my approach, Elizabeth turned to me and smiled. I saw that her natural color was coming back and it brought a smile to my face.

"Here," said Elizabeth, "I saved some for you." She then took the man's left wrist and bite into it, causing a fresh trickle of blood to flow.

I knelt down next to her and lapped at the blood with the tip of my tongue. As I felt it entering me, my mind was rushing with this man's fading memories: the horror of his final moments, the witch that had destroyed his entire future in a flash - and not one thought spared for his wife and child.

I felt sick as I took the blood into my system - not because it was blood, but for the man I was taking it from.

When I had had my fill, I let the wrist drop onto the couch and walked toward the window with Elizabeth. We stepped outside and she willed the window to close itself, so that we left no traces behind.

On the fire escape, Elizabeth and I shared a smile. I could just imagine how we looked to each other, seeming like our old mortal selves. And once we were back on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, we would blend in perfectly with the late-night crowds.

This thought only made me think of all the fun we could have until dawn, so I wordlessly linked arms with her as we made our way downstairs and back onto the streets of Paris.

Chapter Thirteen

We had been in Paris for almost two weeks on the night that Elizabeth came home with a shopping bag full of surprises for me. Actually, they were for Mireille, but I didn't know that yet.

All I knew was that when she dumped out the bag onto my bed and smiled at me, I was feeling ready to bolt the room right then and there.

"You cannot be serious," I said, picking up one of the frilly items.

"This is... this is insane! And you're dressing me up for what exactly?"

"For Mireille," said Elizabeth. She began to play with a piece of the costume, still smiling to herself.

"The poor dear's been going through so much, and it really made her happy to be motherly with you back in Dublin." When she smiled up at me, I felt a tingle down my spine.

"Besides, you've never minded when I was the one babying you."

"But you don't... baby me..." I glared at the frilly costume.

"And what we do is nothing like this! We have a wonderful relationship, and we've never needed any kind of props or special clothes for it!"

As soon as I'd said that, I had a sudden thought burst through my head. My gaze matched Elizabeth's from across the bed as I slowly said, "Are you in love with Mireille, too?"

Elizabeth grimaced.

"What? What gave you that idea?" She walked around the bed and encircled me with her arms.

"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry you felt that way. I had no idea you'd be this upset."

"How was I to know?" I whispered, half-muffled by her bosom.

"You've been around a lot longer than I have, Elizabeth. How am I to know who you've been with and who you've..."

"Fancied?"

"Well, sure, if you want to sound archaic..."

Elizabeth laughed and hugged me tighter.

"Julia, you needn't have worried. All those years before we met, all I had was my daughter and my friends in the Coven - and they were all just friends. You're the only one I've loved with such passion."

She emphasized her point by bending down to kiss me on the lips, and then softly on the tip of my nose. I blushed and laughed, feeling all kinds of embarrassed, but I knew that she was telling the truth.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"I was just surprised. I didn't know what you had in mind." I lifted my head to look into her eyes.

"And if it makes Mireille happy, then I guess doing this wouldn't be too bad."

"I'm glad," Elizabeth replied, as she bent down for another kiss.

8:57 PM, Paris time. Mireille had arrived.

Elizabeth greeted her with a kiss and a hug, then waved her inside. Mireille took two steps into our room, then stopped and stared directly at me.

So there I was, sitting on the bed, in the most ridiculous get-up ever designed for a grown woman. I was wearing a baby blue bonnet, a matching t-shirt with the words Cute Little Kitten embroidered on the front, a Bambino diaper, and a pair of pink knee-high socks. And Elizabeth had made sure I was lying on the bed with my head propped up and my thumb in my mouth, just to be all the more sickeningly adorable.

Apparently, it did the trick. Mireille clapped her hands and exclaimed, "Qu'est-ce qu'un joli bébé!" Elizabeth whispered something encouraging into her ear, and Mireille was practically jumping onto the bed with me. I did my best to snuggle into her arms and let her shower me with kisses and French baby talk.

Elizabeth sat down on my opposite side and tickled me under the chin. I laughed and retaliated by snaking the toes of my right sock along Elizabeth's ankle. Mireille was still sighing happily into my ear, so I decided to play nice and suck on my thumb for her sake.

Somewhere along the course of the evening, Elizabeth slipped away from my side and into the kitchenette. I was still snuggling and tumbling around the bed with Mireille, who was adoring every inch of me with her stroking fingers and kisses.

Then the next thing I knew, I was being carefully deposited into Elizabeth's lap, and she was holding a baby bottle filled with milk. I glanced at the bottle, then looked up at my friend dubiously.

"It's just milk," she said, offering me the nipple.

"Try it. You'll like it."

"If I don't, I'm going to make you drink it instead," I replied, but I knew it was a hollow threat. She couldn't actually imbibe anything that a mortal body could consume, let alone a simple bottle of milk. So I put my lips to the bottle and started to drink the warm, sweet milk...

Damn. Of course, she was right. I was enjoying it, and I enjoyed it even more when I glanced up and saw Mireille and Elizabeth both smiling down at me.

And I knew then that I was loved, and that I really did need this kind of affection sometimes. Dave and Michelle of Albion, Illinois, had done their job as foster parents and I still loved them dearly, but I'd have never guessed that I could find such care in the arms of two beautiful and graceful women with pale skin and violet eyes.

But don't get me wrong. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbow cupcakes. We're just about to get to the part where things turn a little south...

Chapter Fourteen

I knew that this night was going to be special. I could tell by how Elizabeth seemed to be appreciating me from every angle, how she lovingly diapered me and couldn't take her eyes off me from the moment I opened her trunk. At first I didn't mind. I assumed she was simply being her usual self, but around nine-thirty, I began to sense a few stray thoughts from her mind - and maybe she'd wanted me to pick up on those thoughts.

What I read in her mind was I can't believe it's been so short a time... maybe I've made my peace with Margaret after all...

So while I was sitting there on her lap, wearing only my diaper and a plain t-shirt, I looked up into Elizabeth's eyes and asked point blank, "Is there something you have planned for tonight that I should know about?"

Elizabeth laughed and bent down to kiss my forehead.

"Why, yes, sweetheart. I was wondering when you would notice." She brushed away from the hair from the right side of my face.

"Tonight is the two-month anniversary of our first meeting."

I blinked. Had it really been two whole months? It seemed such like a long time ago, but I supposed that time looked different from an immortal's perspective. Not to mention that my biological clock was still messed up from having to adjust to sleeping in the day and rising at night.

"Wow," I said.

"Two whole months living with you..." I couldn't resist a smile and threw my arms around Elizabeth's shoulders.

"Best two months ever!"

She laughed and we kissed deeply for a moment. When I let go, Elizabeth was staring down at me with uncomplicated joy. Maybe I was her surrogate daughter, maybe I was her lover, or maybe I just her friend in a crisis - but whatever the reason, I was only happy to be with someone who loved me without reservation.

Speaking of reservation, I learned that Elizabeth had already taken the liberty of setting up a reservation for two at this great little restaurant called l'Avant Goût. When we arrived around ten o'clock, a maître d' with cropped hair and pencil-thin moustache was there to greet us. He didn't so much as bat an eye at our pale skin, our violet eyes, or the fact that Elizabeth glided whenever she walked. The maître d' showed us to our table near the back and rattled off in French the specials for the evening. Elizabeth ordered a bottle of Chardonnay to start with, and the little man bowed and wandered off.

This was something I had learned to get used to over the course of our travels. As a vampire, Elizabeth never ate or drank anything except the blood of her victims. Being only a half-vampire, I could still eat and drink to my heart's content, although my altered nature meant that I didn't feel hunger or thirst all that much. So I felt no shame when our wine arrived with a complimentary basket of bread and butter. I still had to sustain my mortal half, albeit infrequently.

I knew ahead of time that Elizabeth would order something light for herself, even though she'd never actually touch it. But thanks to her powers of obfuscation, she could at least make everyone around her think that she had eaten - which explains a lot about how vampires weren't more easily spotted throughout history, when you think about it.

"Here's to our relationship," said Elizabeth, lifting her empty wineglass.

"And to many more years."

I smiled and tapped my glass against hers, then drank what was in mine. The buzz that resulted was quite a pleasant one, and I knew it wouldn't be long before all that wine was drizzling back into my diaper. I felt euphoric just sitting there, munching on a buttered roll and holding Elizabeth's hand under the table in a shiny little bistro, like nothing in the world could touch my bliss.

But as I continued to drink more wine, I began to feel hot and sweaty, which wasn't usually how alcohol affected me. I mumbled something about needing to put some water on my face and gave Elizabeth a quick peck on the cheek as I got up from the table.

On my way toward the front of the restaurant, I passed by our waiter and asked, "Um, s'il vous plait... les toilettes?"

The waiter smiled and pointed me toward a pair of doors on the left.

"Ils sont là-bas, mademoiselle."

"Oh. Merci." I smiled gratefully and trotted to the ladies' restroom, which was surprisingly empty for such a populated restaurant.

I ran over to the sinks, turned on the nearest faucet, and splashed as much water as I could onto my face. My fingers rubbed at my temples, which were aching, and I closed my eyes against the glare of the bathroom lights. Why I was hurting now? It couldn't be the wine - I'd drank lots more and never felt this bad before. Could it have been some kind of a migraine? My foster mother had warned me I might experience them when I got into my twenties.

I leaned over the sinks for a while, just staring down into the bowl and the stream of cold water coming down from the faucet. Then I turned the faucet off and slowly looked up at my reflection in the mirror.

It wasn't my haggard, soaked face that startled me, but the man in the mirror who was standing behind me.

I spun around and tried to scream, but his hand quickly clamped over my mouth. The stranger was tall and dark-haired, with chalk-white skin and violet-shimmering eyes. He wore a black cap and a blue pea coat that was fraying around the shoulders, like he'd been wearing it out for decades.

"'Ello there, pretty little bird," said the man in a slight Cockney accent. When he leered at me, I could see yellowed fangs peeking out past his lips.

"Now, what's dear old Lizzie been telling you about me? Lotsa nasty things, I should expect. Well, don't you believe a word of it!"

When most people say they were petrified, they're usually exaggerating. But not me. In that moment, I was literally frozen. Not a single muscle could move, nor could I even muster a breath to scream into his hand. My eyes were helplessly fixed on his none-too-pleasant face.

The vampire peered at me for a moment in silence, then shook his head.

"No, no, no," he said, this time in a more aristocratic tone of voice.

"Won't do at all. No Jack the Ripper tonight. You deserve the real voice." He leaned in, his breath thick with the scent of old blood.

"You deserve to know the real Jonathan Patrick Watson, my lovely lass."

It was at that moment that one of my muscles decided to start working, but of course, it was my bladder as it emptied itself out of fear. I felt my diaper grow warm and wet, and I couldn't do a thing about it. It only added to my terror.

"Rest now, child," Jonathan whispered into my ear.

"I'll take over from here."

Yet again, my body betrayed me. I felt myself grow numb, but without any of the pleasant effects that the wine had given me - the wine that he must have spiked, I realized too late - and soon I was falling into a peaceful slumber against the cold tile floor.

My final thought, as everything went black, was to call out for Elizabeth with all my heart, with all my being.

Chapter Fifteen

When I awoke, the room I lay in was dark, small, and smelled of dust - so much dust that I began to sneeze and felt my eyes water. I struggled to sit up, but my wrists and ankles were bound with straps, possibly leather belts. I was tied down on a twin-size bed, with each limb restrained to a small post by its own belt. My head was free to move about, but there wasn't much to see except silhouettes of furniture.

As I blinked away more dust particles and tears, I groaned and licked my parched lips. I had no idea how long I'd been out, but despite the bread and wine I'd had at the restaurant, I was hungry and thirsty again, so it had to have been a while.

Then I remembered how I ended up in such a place, and I shivered with fear. And as I pictured that gaunt face and those icy fingers, I couldn't stop shivering.

Once I'd managed to not sneeze so much, I began to smell more things - namely, the familiar smell of a wet diaper. I lifted my head and realized that I'd been undressed except for my bra and diaper, which explained why I was still trembling. My diaper itself was sagging and reeking with old urine. On a whim, I wiggled my bottom against the bed and heard the diaper give a loud squish. If it was that soaked, I knew it was close to the leaking point, even though Elizabeth had assured me it was leak-proof.

Elizabeth! The name was a shout inside my head. I suddenly bent my thoughts in her direction, but there was no reply. I could visualize her perfectly, could imagine her voice inside my head, remember every touch and glance she gave me... but still nothing came. Instead of her loving, maternal presence, there was only a shadow and silence.

Now the tears came fast, and I whimpered as I hadn't done for so long, not since those first nights after my adoption. I resorted to struggling against my restraints and bouncing myself against the bed, like I could just make it break through persistence, but I had no such luck. All I did was make a ruckus and feel even worse about my fate.

Exhausted, starving, and miserable, I dropped my head and my butt back onto the bed. In my mind, all I could think about was Elizabeth and where she could be, and if she even knew I was gone, and if the Coven could do anything about me.

But I knew it didn't matter. I was alone in the dark.

"Awake at last, I see," a suave and chilling voice called out.

Oh God...

I wasn't alone...

He was in here - and I was his prisoner.

Suddenly I found myself missing the moments when I thought I was all alone.

"I regret that you've been left in such a miserable state," Jonathan continued. My eyes scanned the room, but I couldn't spot his silhouette anywhere. His voice seemed to be coming from every corner.

"But it was necessary that you be brought here as soon as possible. I could not risk you being further... corrupted."

"You're..." I coughed something out of my throat. My voice was raspy with all my thirst.

"You're too late. I'm already... half-vampire..."

Jonathan's laugh was rich and throaty.

"Is that what you think I meant? Oh, dear me! No, no, my little Juliet! I don't think of the Children of the Night as a corruption - far from it! I'm talking about the corruption in your mind. You've been poisoned with fear. You fear your destiny. You fear to reach for what your heart truly desires."

I stared blindly into the shadows, trying to both see and not see this madman.

"And... what is it I truly desire?"

"Power." He whispered it like he was speaking about God.

"The power to act, my child. The power to rule. The power that comes to only the most deadly and efficient predators this world has ever known. The Children of the Night are far superior to this pathetic scourge called the human race. But through my vision, humanity will be trodden underfoot and the Dominion of Vampires will finally begin. We who have been killed and persecuted for millennia will finally reign as we were always meant to - as the Lord always intended for us."

I was too terrified to respond at this point. I could feel his voice pressing down on me, slowly pushing my body deeper into the bed. And I realized to my horror that some of my muscles were much too quick to betray me.

In a flash, I felt something inside the pit of my stomach shift, and against my will, I felt my bowels void themselves. A heavy, wet, and warm mess expanded out into the backside of my diaper. The odor that wafted up to my nose was even sharper than the old urine scent I'd been inhaling, and when they mixed together, the smell was something so awful that I can't even begin to describe it.

I heard Jonathan's mocking chuckle from within the shadows.

"What a child you are, little Juliet. Can't even keep yourself clean, can you? If you could only see yourself now - blind, naked, constrained, wallowing in your own filth. You're a perfect image of the human race, at least in comparison to my immortal pedigree."

I couldn't shut out his voice anymore than I could keep the tears and sobs locked back. In spite of my restraints, I let go of all my control and proceeded to just cry and cry without stopping.

I could keep on wetting and messing myself for all I cared - like any scared child, all I wanted now, more than ever before, was my Mommy.

Again, that snobby bastard laughed.

"Thinking of her, are you? Well, don't you worry your pretty little head. She's simply a traitor to her own kind. She would rather let the mortals have their peace than ever see our species ascend to its proper glory."

"Elizabeth..." I moaned past my tears, shaking my head furiously, begging God or whoever might be listening that she'd hear me and come for me.

"Please..."

"Oh, give it up, already!" Jonathan snapped. Even in my utter despair, I could tell that he didn't have much patience for an immortal being. That probably explained why he could never get along with the Coven, in retrospect.

I suddenly saw a cold, white hand fall onto my knee. In response, I yelped and kept on crying and calling for help, but my voice was so choked with pain and exhaustion that there wasn't any strength left in it. And past my blurry, tear-filled vision, I saw his violet eyes hovering in the shadows beyond the foot of my bed.

"You'd better get used to being here," Jonathan announced. His voice was hard and bitter, conveying all the decades of malice and contempt he'd been through.

"In my proper care, you'll be given your full transformation and become a Child of the Night as I have. And when you do, you'll understand. And so will she." He laughed again.

"Oh, yes. She will be made to watch. There will be no sweeter revenge than to see that pain on her face as I make you into the daughter I was denied so many years ago."

Bound to a small bed, clad in only my bra and a heavily soiled diaper, I had no fight left in me. I had no counterargument, no plea for mercy, no way of making this evil man let me go on my own. In that dark and cold room, I had only one thought to cling to like a man thrown overboard clings to a rope.

Elizabeth... please hurry...

Chapter Sixteen

In that dark little room, I lost all perception of time. I could have been there for hours, or perhaps minutes. I know now for a fact that I wasn't there for more than a whole night, but at the time I was so scared to think that I'd never leave this cruel man's grasp.

Jonathan would appear and disappear from my bedside, even though I never saw or heard him going through a door (I just chalked it up to vampire super-stealth). When he would show up, he'd usually offer me a water bottle to drink or an apple to eat. I tried to resist, but he would silently hold out his offerings until my hunger and thirst overcame me and I sullenly accepted. As I ate and drank, Jonathan would smile down at me - not like the smile a rapist might wear, but one that seemed almost... fatherly.

I found myself wishing he would just glare or frown at me instead. It would have made my captivity easier to bear.

When he vanished back into the shadows for about the third or fourth time, I laid back on the bed, even though my wrists and ankles were chafing against the leather belts. By now, I'd gotten used to the foul reek of my overloaded diaper. I don't know if it put him off, but Jonathan never bothered to even touch my diaper, let alone offer to change me. Not that I'd have wanted him to, the creep. But after weeks of living with Elizabeth and Mireille, I'd gotten very used to having someone change me when I needed it.

And in the end, my memories were what sustained me. They kept me grounded in the darkness, through all my terror, my hunger, my thirst, and my utter misery. After Jonathan's ghostly visage vanished back into the shadows, I could think about Elizabeth and her warm smile that made me feel like we were the only people in the world. I tried to think about Mireille and her sisterly affection for me, or Ferdinand's grim but proud smile as we discussed vampire lore. I thought about Dave and Michelle - who I had to admit were always "Mom and Dad" in my heart - and about the nuns and the other kids I'd grown up with at the orphanage.

Every one of their faces smiled back at me from the whole spectrum of my life, from all the good and bad days I'd had, both as an orphan and as an adopted daughter, as a college student in Chicago and as a half-vampire in Paris. No matter who I'd been or who I was going to be, they'd all loved me.

And in the still darkness of that room, I loved them back.

When Jonathan reappeared at my bedside, his cold hand stroked my cheek and his eyes were glowing with affection. But for all the fear and hope fighting inside me, I stared up at him with an impassive face. Let him wonder at that, I told myself. Just let him try to break my will.

"Your transformation draws near," he whispered down to me, brushing at my hair. I fought against the instinct to flinch from his touch. I don't know if I had some half-vampire trait that bolstered my resolve or could make me impervious to his touch, but if I did, it was certainly working. I imagined myself to be nothing more than a statue, even if I was a statue in a heavily soiled diaper.

Jonathan frowned at me. Then he grabbed my hair and yanked my head up. In that state of detachment, I didn't let the pain I felt show on my face. Yes sir, just another doll for you to play with. No need to mistake me for anything else.

"Insolent child," he whispered sharply into my ear.

"Do you really think you can stop what's coming? You've no conception of the dark powers arrayed against you. This is a battle between immortals and you're nothing but a pawn, a bystander caught in the crossfire! You might as well give up and accept your fate at my side!"

And then, I allowed myself to blink and slowly turned my gaze toward his. And despite how sore and dry my throat had gotten from thirst and all my sobbing, I said in my strongest voice, "No..."

"What?" He pushed my head back against my pillow and slapped me hard across my bare stomach.

"What did you say, slut?"

"I said no..." I glared back, taking so much pleasure in seeing the bewilderment on his face.

"I don't care if... if you're immortal... you can make me a vampire... you can kill me..." I coughed past the dryness in my throat to make my voice clear enough for my next words.

"But you can't make me afraid of you. I was born an orphan, I went through every kind of despair you can imagine, and I've been living with a vampire who could have easily killed me whenever she chose."

He was still staring at me when I felt a familiar presence touch the edge of my mind, and I felt victorious for the first time.

"See, I'm not afraid to be alone anymore. So go ahead. Put me through that transformation of yours. Just watch me leave you, just as they left you in the first place!"

Jonathan had no reply except for a wordless howl. He threw himself at me, fangs out as he bent down to thrust his mouth against my bare neck -

I felt several familiar presences brush against my mind, so I all did was wait as we heard a commotion in the room next to mine. Jonathan and I watched as light suddenly came pouring into the room and a host of invaders smashed through the door on my right.

And then I felt Jonathan vanishing from my side without a word.

A new shadow fell over me and I looked up into Elizabeth's face, which despite its familiarity was now a mask of cold and focused anger. She looked me over for only a moment, then turned to her right.

"Mireille," she called out, "prenez soin d'elle. The rest of you are with me."

"We hear and obey, Mistress," said the silhouette of an Italian-accented vampire. He and three other vampires followed her into the shadows without another glance at me.

I felt soothing hands caress my face and looked up to see Mireille's smiling, tear-stricken face. She bent down to kiss my forehead and began to take off the straps that held me to the bed.

"Merci," I whispered, feeling drained from my confrontation and happy to let her take over.

Mireille kissed me again and whispered back, "Quelque chose pour vous, bébé." Then I was free and she gathered me into her arms like a big sister would. I sighed and kissed her on the neck.

It was then that I noticed the bag that Mireille had on her shoulder. I pointed, trying to recall some more French.

"Um, que... qu'est-ce que?"

My fellow half-vampire smiled tenderly at me as she opened up the bag. I looked inside and saw some familiar items - a bottle of baby powder, a packet of wipes, a tube of Desitin cream, and several clean diapers.

"Vous avez vraiment besoin d'une nouvelle couche, ma chérie," said Mireille.

I started to laugh and then I went from laughing to crying with joy as Mireille took out a diaper and began to change my soiled one.

Chapter Seventeen

I don't remember passing out, but I must have done so at some point after my rescue, because when I opened my eyes again, I was lying on a much more comfortable bed in Ferdinand's private chambers with Mireille at my side.

Far below Montparnasse Cemetery, the room was spacious and consisted of ancient stones that had long ago faded to a dull sandy hue. Every wall was adorned with a portrait of some old monarch, although one of them seemed to be a younger version of Ferdinand himself. It had probably been made long before he had become a vampire. And in keeping with the ancient style of this place, the room was illuminated with dozens of candles - in the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, on top of the bookshelf and writing desk next to the bed, and even a few on the floor by the doorway.

Even with all those candles, I was still cold, so after dressing me up in my clothes, Mireille tucked me under the blankets of Ferdinand's four-poster bed. She also snuggled up against me, adding what warmth was left in her own body to mine. I knew - using a little vampire-style telepathy - that she was worried for me, that she was happy to watch over me and tend to my every need.

It occurred to me that perhaps the reason Mireille was so drawn to Elizabeth was that Elizabeth had been a mother and gotten to know her child, which Mireille had never done. With that in mind, it was easy to see why she had no reservations pretending I was her baby girl once Elizabeth had suggested it.

Lying there in that bedroom, it was a strange thing to think that my very presence was resolving some psychological issues within this coven of vampires. All I'd really done was be myself.

Not bad for a twenty-three-year-old unemployed college graduate, I decided.

Some time later - as I couldn't see a clock anywhere - the old wooden door on my left opened, and Elizabeth came in. She was still wearing the same outfit she'd had on at the restaurant, and except for a tear in the right shoulder of her jacket, she seemed to be just fine. She set down the food-laden tray she was carrying on the nightstand next to the bed and smiled at me.

"Julia," she whispered, and that was all she had to say. With surprising strength, I sat up and threw my arms around her and she held onto me with equal passion. We kissed and we promised each other in sobbing breaths to never let go. During our tearful reunion, Mireille was propped up on her elbows, watching us with her own tender smile.

"What happened?" I asked, finally breaking the never-ending cycle of hugs and kisses.

"What happened to Jonathan? Did you get... him...?"

My voice failed as I saw the joy leave Elizabeth's face, replaced by the grim mask I had briefly glimpsed back at Jonathan's house. She still held onto me, but not with too much affection. I felt Mireille shivering next to me.

"Maybe," Elizabeth said coolly, "it's better if I show you what happened instead."

She lifted a finger to her lips and bit down with one of her fangs. I watched the blood well up from the freshly-made gash, then blinked as the vampire held out her finger to me. It took me a second to recall that a vampire's memories could be shared through blood, so I slowly took Elizabeth's hand and put my lips to the blood flowing from it.

My eyes squeezed shut as images and sensations cascaded through my mind...

I saw - from Elizabeth's point of view - Jonathan leaping across rooftops, while Elizabeth and her allies pursued him silently. I felt Elizabeth's sense of triumph as she tackled her former husband in a deserted alleyway, slamming him face first into a dumpster.

I saw through Elizabeth's eyes a pathetic creature, whose loud denunciations of the Coven were silenced with a rag in his mouth and whose wrists and ankles were bound together with rope. Even as a spectator, I took some small pride in seeing such poetic justice delivered.

I was less proud as I watched the black-clad vampires pour oil over their victim and light him on fire.

He writhed and moaned helplessly as the flames consumed his body, but there was no mercy from his executioners. He did not suffer long and soon there was nothing left but a neat pile of ashes by the dumpster. I felt Elizabeth step forward and kick that pile over, scattering those ashes with the tip of her shoe -

I gasped and fell panting against the bed. Mireille swept me up into another hug and I reached for her in return. Elizabeth, meanwhile, stared down at me with the same grim expression as before.

There was no need to look into her mind. I knew that no words could express the hatred she felt for Jonathan or the sorrow she felt for Margaret - and for me.

When I began to get a hold of my breath and calm down, Elizabeth took a cheese sandwich from the tray and offered it to me. I accepted it and she watched me eat. Very slowly, her face began to relax and even came close to smiling. I was still overwhelmed with the memories I'd just experienced, but fortunately, Mireille did plenty of smiling for the both of us.

I don't know how long we stayed down there in that room, the three of us, but I kept on eating and drinking, and bit by bit, my strength returned. We didn't talk much after that shared memory stuff, but I knew that Elizabeth and Mireille wouldn't leave me alone.

And until that night, I'd never felt more embarrassed than to see two female vampires argue in French over who had "the honor" of changing my diaper that evening. But at least it broke the tension and I knew that everything really was going to be better.

Chapter Eighteen

After spending almost a whole week recovering at Ferdinand's underground sanctuary, I felt strong enough to enter the real world again. Elizabeth bought me an evening dress with lovely black heels, and once I was dressed, we went back to l'Avant Goût, the same restaurant where I'd been abducted.

Believe me, I'd have wanted to go anywhere else, but I knew Elizabeth wouldn't let her guard down this time. Besides, I figured we might make some happier memories this time. I couldn't blame the restaurant for my misfortune and I couldn't hold it against them when their food was just so delicious.

Elizabeth and I ordered the pot au feu de cochon, a spicy pork stew that tasted great and was strong enough to clear my sinuses. Of course, Elizabeth didn't actually eat, but the waiter seemed pretty convinced when he came to collect our bowls. And for dessert, I ordered a plate of chocolate cake with caramel-covered vanilla ice cream.

For the duration of our meal, Elizabeth sat across from me, watching me eat and fondly stroking my hand. Even so, she couldn't hide her anxiety from what I suppose you could call my "sixth sense." In spite of what she'd done to Jonathan and the lengths she'd gone to look after me, she still felt responsible for my captivity and torture. It pained me to feel that guilt inside of her.

When I brushed against her mind with a simple pulse of affection, Elizabeth smiled. She lifted my hand to her lips, kissed it, and then rubbed her cheek against it. I smiled back and brushed one of my fingers against her right temple.

"It wasn't your fault," I said softly.

Elizabeth nodded.

"I know, dear. But that doesn't make it easier to know that it still happened. I know I would never put you at risk - not unless you wanted me to."

When she said that, she put in mind of something he had said to me, back in that dark, cold little room. I glanced down at the crumbs of cake and the puddle of ice cream that were mixed together on my plate, then slowly looked back up at Elizabeth's face.

"And what if I asked you," I said slowly, "to finish what you started with me...?"

Elizabeth peered at me for a moment. Then her eyes went wide.

"Darling, I..." She shook her head.

"You know I wouldn't force you to... you don't have to, you know, for my sake..."

Except for the night when we met, I had never seen Elizabeth so dumbfounded. It seemed a little funny, were the subject matter not so serious.

"When I was being held captive," I explained, "Jonathan said that he was going to turn me into a full vampire just so he could keep me all to himself. He said that it was his way of getting back at you for running off with Margaret."

Elizabeth nodded, as tears of blood slowly rained down her face.

"But I know you wouldn't try to control me," I continued.

"If I were turned into a full vampire, I mean. I'm not saying that I don't appreciate being half-vampire. I can do and see so much more than I ever could, and for that I'll always be grateful." I put my hands together on my lap and mustered up my courage to say the thoughts I'd been holding back.

"Elizabeth, I know now that, if I were to become immortal like you, I'd want to spend the rest of my existence with you. I'd give up food and sex and the chance to have children... if I could only be with you."

By the time I'd said all this, Elizabeth was weeping into a scarlet handkerchief, which did a good job of masking the blood in her tears far better than a napkin would. I sat there, picking at the debris on my plate with a fork and keeping my mind clear. I didn't want a single stray thought to slip across our bond and influence her answer.

Slowly, Elizabeth regained her composure. She wiped away the crimson streaks down her face and tucked her handkerchief away. When she looked back up at me, she was smiling, and her eyes were even more luminous.

"My darling Julia," she said quietly. She leaned across the table, reaching out to take my chin with her hand and pulling me into a quick but loving kiss. When I sat back, she was still smiling.

"I couldn't wish for a better companion," she continued.

"You may never replace my little Margaret, but I don't think you should. After all this time getting to know you, I don't think I could ever let go of you." Her smile slowly faded to a grim line.

"Still, you should know what you're in for if you decide to accept the Dark Gift. You'll never again walk out in the sunlight. You'll never again be able to eat or drink. You'll never be able to reproduce naturally or experience an orgasm. And you'll outlive all your family and friends, whom you might never see again unless you take all the right precautions."

"And," I added with a sly grin, "I'll never need to wear diapers ever again."

Elizabeth's grim expression faltered for just a moment, letting a quick smile slip though, but she regained her sobriety just as quickly.

"You have to know this before you make your decision. Ancient vampires never gave their progeny the chance to decide. We modern vampires have been raised with the notion that all mortals have a right to choose their destiny once they learn about the Children of the Night."

I nodded.

"I know all that, Elizabeth." I took her hand into mine and added, "But I still choose you. Give me the Dark Gift, and I'll give myself entirely to you."

Elizabeth stared back at me with wonder. Then she smiled and said, "All right."

When our waiter returned, Elizabeth paid our bill and we left the restaurant soon thereafter. We strolled down the Rue Bobillot, linking our arms and reentering the cool Paris night together.

Chapter Nineteen

Two nights later, Elizabeth was leading me back down the stairwell and past the rainbow-colored candles. She had bought me a black suit - my "baptismal clothes," she called it - and was wearing the very outfit she'd had on the night of our first encounter. And for the occasion, she had even taken the precaution of putting me in not one, but two diapers. It had something to do with catching all the waste that my mortal body's decay would let loose, but at the time, I was more concerned about struggling with such a heavy diaper as it turned my walk into a waddle.

We passed through the old wooden door and into the arena, which was filled with all the European vampires attending the convocation, all dressed in various shades of black. They had come to bear witness to my transformation, regarding me with curiosity and anticipation as Elizabeth led me through their midst.

We came to the center of the arena, where four figures stood apart - Mireille, Ferdinand, and the other Coven elders. The three elders wore their crimson robes with their hoods up, while Mireille wore a flowing dress of pure white, which blended nicely with her iridescent skin.

"Voici les Beautés Mortelles!" said Elizabeth, bowing her head. I did my best to imitate the gesture.

"Voici le Voile de la Nuit!" Ferdinand replied. His head turned toward me, and although the hood obscured his face, I could see a pair of tiny lights gleaming where his eyes were supposed to be.

"Julia Shannon Moore, you have elected to accept the Dark Gift from your patron. Are you truly ready to accept all the blessings and burdens of the Children of the Night?"

"I am, Lord."

"Are you ready to endure the slow pain of life unending?"

"I am, Lord."

"Are you ready to taste the blood of mortals who commit grievous sins?"

"I am, Lord."

"Are you ready to abandon your old life forever and walk the Devil's Road?"

I hesitated for the briefest of moments, but Elizabeth's hand squeezing mine was all the reassurance I needed.

"I... I am, Lord."

Ferdinand lifted his hands out from his sleeves and lifted them toward the vaulted ceiling.

"The catechism is complete. You may take a moment to compose yourself."

I nodded and closed my eyes for a moment. I was saying goodbye to my old life. To my adopted home in Albion, Illinois. To Dave and Michelle. To my college friends. To my isolation and unemployment in Chicago. To all those sleepless nights alone in my studio apartment. To every fear and misery I'd ever known, all the way back to my days in the orphanage.

When I opened my eyes, I looked into the gleaming eyes of the Coven elders and said, "I'm ready."

Ferdinand nodded.

"Elizabeth, you may proceed."

Elizabeth led me by the hand past the elders and the crowd, as we followed the familiar path to Ferdinand's private chamber, where I'd recuperated after my abduction. The room hadn't changed since my convalescence. Same ancient stonework, same dusty portraits, same spacious and comfortable four-poster bed. I took it all in for the last time with my mortal eyes, trying to commit every detail to memory.

Elizabeth had me sit down on the bed and then looked me over. I detected a faint tremble in both her hands as she took off my jacket and unbuttoned my blouse, exposing my neck and my breasts. Then she stepped back and smiled warmly.

"I can't begin to tell you how happy I am for you," said the vampire.

"I never had a choice in becoming what I am, and neither did Margaret... but I'm happy that you get to make that choice, my dear Julia. You've earned my respect and my undying love."

I smiled back and let her bend down to kiss me on the lips. It was a long kiss and I tried to enjoy it, knowing that my lips wouldn't be this warm anymore. When Elizabeth finally stopped, her face was close enough that I could see blood tears welling up in her eyes.

I knew that we couldn't put this off any longer.

"Please," I whispered.

Elizabeth nodded. Her lips parted, revealing her fangs, and with sudden ferocity, she grabbed hold of me, pushing me down onto the bed, and sank her mouth against my open neck.

I gasped as she began to drink my blood, feeling her lips, fangs, and tongue all working against my veins, and I fought every instinct to resist. My heart beat so fast that I feared I might die from a heart attack before the transformation was complete, but then Elizabeth's mind brushed against mine.

Accept the change, she said to me. Focus on my heartbeat.

Losing all that blood, I was very weak, and my vision began to tunnel. I could feel the breath and the blood leaving my body, and I knew that I was slowly dying. Still, I struggled to lift my right hand and gently press it against Elizabeth's breast.

There. There was her heart, beating just as strongly as mine. Then it was beating even faster than mine, as everything inside my body slowly shut down. I felt my life slip through my fingers, but Elizabeth's heartbeat was ringing through my ears and her breath was hot against my cold neck as she drained every last drop I had.

Finally, Elizabeth pulled away from my neck and grinned down at me. She had regained her mortal color, looking as beautiful as she had in life and feeling warm as she caressed my face. I, on the other hand, was ice-cold, slowly gasping out my last breaths, and feeling positively dead inside. It was only a matter of time before I faded away.

But then Elizabeth lifted her left wrist and opened her mouth. As she bit down, I saw her fangs break the skin over her wrist, as fresh, warm blood flowed out from her veins. She offered me her wrist, but my lips were too numb and cold to even move.

"Drink," Elizabeth said, smiling down at me. She pushed her wrist against my lips, letting the blood trickle passively into my mouth and down my throat.

With just that first taste, I knew that I was going to live. I forced my lips against her wounded wrist, suckling like an infant at her mother's breast. Elizabeth sighed and lowered herself against me, cuddling my cold body as I furiously drank up her blood - now mingled with my own - and felt a new strength enter into me.

My skin grew harder, my eyes were burning, and I felt the tiniest pinpricks of agony in the back of my teeth as a pair of fangs began to grow out. My mind was open to Elizabeth's, feeling all her joy and pride, all her fears and hopes, every memory she had as both a mortal and an immortal. Her life was completely open to me, just as mine was to her. I never knew there could be such union between two souls, but it was perfect and I never wanted it to end.

Time seemed to slow as Elizabeth withdrew her wrist, which had already begun to heal. I lay panting and sweating on the bed. Then I smiled and started to laugh. I felt moisture around my eyes, and when I touched my bone-white fingers to my face, I saw that I was crying blood - just like a real vampire.

I had been reborn. I was a Child of the Night.

And in many important ways, I was truly Elizabeth's child.

Elizabeth put her arms around me and kissed my forehead repeatedly. I nuzzled my head against her shoulder and touched my neck, noticing how it repaired itself - the new skin emerging over the bite marks, the blood vessels realigning themselves, and the blood that flowed slowly but no less strongly than my transformed body.

"Hold on tight, darling," Elizabeth whispered into my ear.

"This is where your mortal body dies, and believe me, it's not a pleasant experience."

I nodded and tightened my grip around her waist. And then I gasped as a sudden twitch went off inside my abdomen. All my bladder and bowel muscles contracted, and I groaned as they suddenly went slack.

My diapers did an excellent job of absorbing all the wet mess that my body was ejecting from itself for the last time, but there's no way to describe that terrible smell or the sensation of a wet, messy diaper stuck to your butt. I felt like I'd just relived every bowel movement and pants-wetting I'd gone through as a child, all captured in a single horrifying moment.

When it was over, Elizabeth hugged and kissed me again. Then she got off the bed and proceeded to take off my pants. It was obvious that my diaper was filthy, even from the outside, and I was suddenly afraid it was going to start leaking all over the bed.

Elizabeth must have caught that thought, because she gave me an encouraging grin.

"Relax, dear. This'll just take a second."

I watched her walk over to the door and open it. Elizabeth stuck her head through and called out, "Mireille, aidez-moi, s'il vous plait!"

A few seconds later, Mireille came into the room with a diaper bag hanging from her shoulder. She beamed at the sight of me on the bed, crinkling her nose and waggling her finger at me.

"Qu'est-ce une méchante petite fille," she said to me. She dropped her bag onto the bed next to me and then stroked my hair.

"Ne vous inquiétez pas. Vous grande soeur est la pour prende soin de vous!"

I could read her mind clearly to see what she meant - even though I was now a full vampire and she was only half, she would always see me as her baby sister, as the cute little child she never got to spoil. I was grateful to give her that joy, and so I smiled back and beckoned her toward my diaper as a way of asking her to start.

Mireille proceeded to remove the first diaper, which had caught some of the excess waste that had leaked straight through. While she threw that one away, Elizabeth slowly peeled off my inner diaper, grimacing as the foul odor suddenly filled the room. But she covered her grimace with a quick, affectionate laugh and joined Mireille in going through I don't know how many sanitary wipes to get me clean.

When they were done, they had filled up the wastebasket in the corner of the room with my soiled diapers and a bunch of used wipes. Mireille lovingly powdered me off while Elizabeth rubbed the powder in with her bare hand. I sighed through this part, loving the attention and care I was receiving.

By this point, I was done with going back into diapers. I grinned as Mireille took out from her bag a pair of clean satin panties and slid them onto me. It felt interesting to be back in regular underwear after being diapered twenty-four seven.

Elizabeth helped me stand up as she put my pants back on, and then guided my shoulders as I hesitantly stepped back into my shoes.

"Une telle beauté!" Mireille exclaimed, clapping her hands together with joy.

I glanced over my shoulder at her and smiled. I knew in my heart that she didn't begrudge me for not choosing to stay a half-vampire. That had been her choice long ago. She wanted to live in the service of her master Ferdinand, to see the beauty in the mortal and the immortal, and to die knowing that she had been part of the ancient and magical culture that was the West European Coven.

It was not a choice I would have made, but she was stronger than me and I loved her for that, among so many other reasons.

Elizabeth took my hand and kissed it before she and Mireille guided me out of the room and back down the hallway. With confidence in my every step, I strode through the multitude of vampires and faced the three elders in the center of the arena.

Ferdinand cast back his hood, and his companions did likewise, revealing an aged Frenchman and a middle-aged Italian woman, both full-blooded vampires like me. They looked at me with a mixture of pride and curiosity, as if to see what I might do with my newfound abilities.

"The West European Coven," Ferdinand declared, "welcomes you, Sister Julia. May you keep to the covenant of sanctity and secrecy that binds all Children of the Night and may you enjoy all the rights and privileges as our sister in blood."

"Bienvenue a l'Alliance, Soeur Julia!" the French elder announced.

"Benvenuto per l'Alleanza, Sorella Julia!" the Italian elder added.

The hundreds of vampires surrounding us added their greetings to the din, calling out my name in a hundred different voices. I felt more scarlet tears brimming at the edge of my eyes. I felt Elizabeth's arms snake around my waist and her cool lips kissing my neck, right where she'd bitten into it. And all I could think was how wonderful it was that I'd finally found a family that would never leave me, that I had all the brothers and sisters I could ever want.

"Thank you," I whispered back.

"Thank you, all of you..."

Chapter Twenty

So there I was, sitting on a couch next to a timid young girl named Clarissa, having just spilled my entire story to her. A story that happened... oh, let's see, maybe three or four years ago. Honestly, it's so hard to keep track when every day is like a fleeting moment and every year feels like a month. But that's all part of the price of being immortal, with all the time in the world to waste.

Clarissa was exhausted. The poor thing had been up all night, and I felt that dawn was soon approaching. Still, she was a good listener and I could sense her surface thoughts of acceptance, even a little sympathy for everything I'd been through. But I knew she'd feel that way even before I showed up.

I chose her because she reminds me so much of my mortal self - alone, unloved, and desperate to be a part of something grand and noble. So there I was in her apartment, being the confident Elizabeth to her frightened Julia.

"Now that you have heard my story," I said to her, trying to be gentle, "you have a decision to make - perhaps the most important decision of your life. You can either take the Dark Gift from me and become a Child of the Night..."

Clarissa flinched at that prospect. I could easily read the images running through her head - me forcing her down onto the carpet, sinking my fangs into her neck, hearing her desperate screams with no one to help her. I didn't blame her for thinking that. It's so hard not to think of vampires as monsters, and I should know. I had the misfortune of running into the late Jonathan Watson, after all.

"Or," I added, giving her a reassuring smile, "you can remain mortal and return to your old life, but only on the condition that you swear to never reveal the secret about our existence. The world doesn't need to know about us just yet, and besides, you'd be thought crazy for trying to expose us on your own."

"So if..." Clarissa said, shivering visibly, "...if I don't say anything to anyone... you'll just let me go?"

I laughed.

"Of course! Even blood-drinkers have their honor! That doesn't mean, though, that you can never see me again. If you asked me to, I could come back and watch over you whenever you like. And you would have my word that I would never let any harm come to you - especially from my kind."

"And what would that make us, exactly?"

I grinned.

"Friends, I should hope."

I watched the dark-haired beauty think it over. Deep in my body, I could sense the approach of dawn, but I said nothing. It wouldn't do to pressure her into a decision, and I had only myself to blame for taking up the whole night to tell my story.

"I..." Clarissa stopped and smiled apologetically at me.

"I'm not sure what to say. I mean, you're very persuasive and your story's very moving... and you seem to have just about everything you wanted..."

I grinned at her again.

"Sounds like you're leaning toward a decision."

The girl frowned.

"Well, it does sound great, but do you really live forever?"

"Well, I haven't been a vampire for too long, but I think that's the case." I slid my gaze back toward the balcony and the glass doors.

"Why don't you tell us about it, Elizabeth? You've been around for well over a century."

I heard Clarissa's gasp as the doors slid open and my darling Elizabeth strode into the room. She wore an angelic white suit and had her hair tied back into a ponytail that hung off her right shoulder. Hanging off her other shoulder was a sleek black purse that I'd bought for her in Florence only two weeks before.

I noted the way she took each step with the utmost care. She was showing off for our guest, and as much as I don't like to manipulate people, I had to admit that she did a good job of it.

"You must be Clarissa," Elizabeth said. Her voice was warm and tender, just as every mother's voice should sound. She leaned toward me and stroked her hand through my hair.

"Julia's told me so much about you."

"Wow," said Clarissa, stunning conversationalist that she was. Her mind was entirely open to me, just a blank expression of She's real... and she's beautiful...

I shouldn't have judged her so harshly. Every mortal has that reaction when meeting Elizabeth for the first time. She captures that sense of ethereal grace, like having a real-life saint enter your home.

"If you can believe my story," I said to Clarissa, "then maybe you can believe that she really is over a hundred years old."

Elizabeth's laugh cut off Clarissa's reply.

"Now, now, Julia. You know better than to reveal a woman's age like that."

I reached out and took her hand into mine.

"Sorry. Forgive me?"

"Forgiven," Elizabeth answered, smiling maternally. She turned back to Clarissa.

"I didn't mean to interrupt. You were saying?"

Clarissa seemed different then. She wasn't quite so anxious or awestruck. More like she'd found some inner peace. Even before she spoke, I knew what her answer was going to be.

Her smile said it all.

"Yes," she said to the two of us.

"I want to leave this life behind and be a part of your world. I want your Gift." After that bold declaration, her smile dropped a little.

"Please?"

Elizabeth and I exchanged a knowing look. Then I turned back to Clarissa and put my arms around her. She stiffened, but as I pressed against her, I felt her relax. I know my body's colder than that of most human beings, but that doesn't mean I'm not a warm person underneath.

"Then we haven't a moment to lose," I whispered into her ear.

"Let's go to your bedroom, all right?"

Clarissa nodded and we slowly got up from the couch. I took her by the hand as she led Elizabeth and me around the corner and into her bedroom. It was a bit smaller and a little more pink, but otherwise it looked a lot like my apartment, which was only half a dozen blocks south from there.

Elizabeth closed the door once we were all inside. I led Clarissa over to the bed and sat her down. I saw some of her anxiety and fear creeping back over her face, so I put my hand against her cheek and smiled at her for a while. Slowly, she calmed down again and I knew at last that she really was ready for the Gift.

"Darling," I said to Elizabeth, "let's make sure she's prepared for the aftereffects. We don't want a mess all over her nice bedspread."

"A mess?" Clarissa repeated.

I laughed.

"Most people forget that when a mortal dies, all the waste inside his or her body gets expelled. It's usually not a pretty sight, but it happens all the same. But fortunately, Elizabeth and I know how to handle such issues."

Clarissa's eyes went wide when she saw Elizabeth reach into her purse and pull out a pair of diapers. She looked back to me and blushed.

"Oh. I forgot about that part."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of, dear," Elizabeth said sweetly. She gently pushed Clarissa back onto the bed and began to take off her shoes and her pants.

"We all need diapers when we enter this world and we may as well need them when we leave it. And this will be the only time you'll ever need to wear them - unless you want to wear them for fun."

"Why would anyone want to do that?" Clarissa asked as the vampire pulls off her underwear.

"Just because you don't need diapers," I answered with a grin, "doesn't mean you can't enjoy the way they feel."

To emphasize my point, I pulled up my skirt and showed off the Bambino diaper I'd been wearing all along. I couldn't help but giggle at Clarissa's surprise. But the poor girl had been through so many surprises tonight, so what was one more?

"Trust me," Elizabeth chimed in, as she unfolded a diaper, "it's an odd thrill when you wear one as an adult for the first time. Sometimes Julia and I put them on and just pretend to be little girls playing house. It's quite a liberating experience, actually."

Clarissa seemed to buy this while Elizabeth put on the first diaper, and then put the second one over it. Once she'd ensured that the girl's bottom was padded - and her bed was protected from stains - Elizabeth helped Clarissa sit up and took her into her arms. I watched the two of them with a wistful smile, thinking that this must have been how we seemed when we started living together.

"This won't take long," Elizabeth said as she helped Clarissa lie back against her pillows. I walked around the bed and sat down, so that Elizabeth and I were on either side of this sweet young woman.

"Just relax," Elizabeth whispered into her ear. Then she planted a kiss against Clarissa's lips. The girl moaned happily once the kiss was over, and that's when I struck.

My fangs sank into her bare neck as she gasped in horror. Blood was drained, a life nearly ended, and then...

Bite the wrist. More broken flesh, more blood. Drink it all up, darling. Yes, just like that. Such a good girl you are...

Elizabeth and I watched her transformation, as her fangs grew out and her skin turned pure white, as her hair darkened and her eyes turned violet. And then, of course, the shock of bodily decay, as she peed and messed herself uncontrollably - a disaster averted only by the good fortune of being diapered by the expert Elizabeth.

I smiled down at my newly-made sister, who was panting and laughing and crying, just as all the willing neophytes do. Elizabeth, born mother that she is, proceeded to change Clarissa's diaper, while I bent down and planted a loving kiss on her forehead.

"You did very well, darling," I told her.

"We'll take you home with us before the sun rises. I hope you don't mind having to share a trunk with me."

"I don't mind..." Clarissa replied dreamily. She was so ecstatic that she didn't seem to notice the elder vampire thoroughly cleaning her bottom.

"I'm... in love... I love you both... so much..."

"And we love you, little sister," I said as I bent down to give her another kiss.

THE END

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