January 19, 2008
My birthday is in 3 days and I couldn’t feel less like celebrating this year. Not only because of Josh’s death and dealing with my feelings regarding him and Mick but also because Lani has opened up problems that would have been better ignored. It was unintentional, but none the less it happened.
My best friend knows about vampires; you’d think I would find that comforting because now there is someone to talk about it with, but so far not so much. She is petrified of them and after I heard her story I understand why; if my first experiences had been like hers I would definitely feel the same way.
Josh’s funeral was so difficult to get through; for everyone. I met his little brother who looks a lot like him except he’s a bit hipper, edgier really with blonde streaked hair and an earring. He looks like the consummate California surfer boy and in reality he’s never lived here. He’s at university in England on a Rhodes scholarship and when he is done will be a lawyer, like his father and Josh were. Jeremy Lindsay is very polite but has a humor about him that the rest of the family lacks. Not to say that he was joking or anything, quite the contrary because he was devastated by his brother’s death. But the crinkles around his eyes tell the tale of someone who enjoys life. Josh could be humorous, but he was usually so focused on his job that it didn’t often have the opportunity to shine through. Those rare moments when it did were one of the reasons I fell in love with him. That was the fun and exciting Josh; the one who wasn’t weighted down with court cases and criminal law.
Carl has been to see me and something is up; I know him to well too not know that something is on his mind, even though he was nothing but concerned and sympathetic. I’ve promised to have dinner with him soon and hopefully we can get to the bottom of it. I know that Carl will miss Josh; they had become very good friends and it is only natural that he would want to see other people who shared good times with his friend too.
When I saw Mick at the funeral 4 days ago I was over-whelmed at how good it was to see him. When I realized that he was human it astounded me; he was hurt – beaten and limping but he was still - what’s the word? Incandescent maybe? Not happy because of the situation but he had this inner glow and even the somber circumstances couldn’t hide it. I don’t know how long he will be human. Forever or just for awhile? So many questions and no answers at this point.
I want to see him, be with him. There, I’ve said it. Despite everything, I love him and I want to at least tell him that and see if there is any chance for us. He’s told me so many times that relationships between humans and vamps are bad and don’t work out, but that begs the questions to be asked – why? Why exactly? I’ve seen the bad side of vampirism; I know he sleeps in a freezer, he drinks blood, he has amazing abilities I can’t even imagine, but what exactly makes it so dangerous? Am I being naive about something? Is he afraid he would kill me? Or worse, which to him would mean turning me into a vampire? Would I ever want that if we were together? I don’t know, I can’t answer that right now because I’m definitely not ready to ask that question.
But if he loves me, even half as much as I love him I will do whatever is necessary to give us a chance at life together.
As I walk this land of broken dreams
I have visions of many things
Happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and illusions
The morning after Josh’s funeral…
Mick came slowly awake in the early morning; dawn was just beginning to break and he watched as the dappled sun peeked through the windows casting playful shadows over his apartment. He smiled as he spied minute particles of dust that almost sparkled about the room and frowned as he stretched on the couch and sucked in a painful breath. Yep, still human.
He tossed off the afghan and rose shakily to his feet. He’d always thought his couch was pretty comfortable but that was when he was laying there watching a game or something. Definitely not when his body was battered and bruised. Whether it was the couch or his injuries he didn’t know but he decided he had to get some other kind of sleeping arrangements. Add to ‘to-do’ list he decided, along with get groceries and maybe some band aides or something. His face looked terrible.
He turned the coffee maker on and slowly made his way upstairs to take a long, hot shower. The water rained down on him from above and he stood still for a minute enjoyed the silken warmth of the water before he started washing up. It hurt to raise his arms so that he could shampoo his hair but it was a pain he relished; he would live with this pain the rest of his life if it meant being human.
Being human. How much time did he have?
Yesterday at the funeral Beth had looked at him with wonder showing in her sad eyes. And Josh’s ring on her finger; he couldn’t forget that. She had made her choice and even though Josh was dead it was clear where her heart lie.
I have to let her go, I have to. It’s time and she certainly deserves a life without me hanging around the shadows. Maybe it’s time for me to go back to Seattle…
The thought brought a painful thump to his heart and he knew that even if he could only catch an occasional glimpse of her in the future he would never leave her again. He would always keep her safe.
Lani woke up on Beth’s couch as she heard her friend making coffee. She slid one eye open enough to watch as Beth scooped out coffee from the can and dropped it into the coffee filter. She looked like she had gotten some sleep which was good because Lani knew that Clark and Dorothy would be demanding answers today – answers she didn’t want to have to give.
She couldn’t believe what she had said yesterday. She didn’t believe that she had actually said it aloud. As she watched Mick limp across that cemetery it just shocked her, that was all. She had known since she was back that her friend was involved with a vampire but she and Beth hadn’t ever talked about it; she had been positive that Beth didn’t know what Mick was. It was the number one rule, you keep their secret. Dorothy and Clark had both heard it and Clark had said, ‘we’ll talk about this tomorrow Lani’, before going to speak to Mick. This was so involved and if Lani had her way she’d crawl under a rock somewhere and pull it over her. Not much chance of that happening she decided as she realized that Beth was standing over her, a small smile on her still pale face.
“Hey, coffee’s brewing,” Beth said.
“Mm hmm,” Lani mumbled, sitting up. She yawned and rubbed her eyes, blinking in the bright morning light that was streaming in the open blinds. “What time is it?”
“Almost 9 sleepy head. Sorry to wake you. I – I feel restless, you know?” Beth said as she pulled a couple of coffee mugs out of the cabinet and sat them on the counter. She pulled flavored creamer out of the fridge for Lani and smiled because her friend liked a little coffee with a whole lot of the creamer. Definitely NOT a hard-core coffee drinker.
Lani padded off to the bathroom and soon Beth heard the shower going and Lani singing; Beth didn’t recognize the tune but it was so off-key that it might have been a number one hit for all Beth could tell she thought with a wry smile.
While she waited for the coffee to finish Beth wandered over to the windows, prepared to look out but hesitated when she stood in front of them. Last time she had done this she was watching Josh, right before he was kidnapped. Her hand rose tentatively and then she withdrew it quickly. She couldn’t do it and she turned around and headed over to the desk and booted the computer, a task she hadn’t done in days.
As Beth surfed the net she heard Lani shut the water off and soon she walked out of the bedroom, dressed in jeans and a camisole top, her long dark hair streaming in thick, damp ropes down her back as she worked a wide-tooth comb through it.
“Ready for coffee?” Beth inquired. At Lani’s nod she poured two cups, adding a very generous amount of creamer for Lani. Lani wandered over and sat down on a bar chair at the counter and took a sip of the coffee. Or what passed for coffee in her opinion. “Not bad. You’re finally getting the hang of it Turner!” she laughed. She jumped when there was a knock on the door.
Beth gave her a quizzical look as she headed to the door. When she opened it her mom and Clark stood there with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts in hand.
“Um, how wonderful. Come in,” Beth said, taking the box from Clark. “Want some coffee?
They both murmured yes and followed Beth into the small kitchen. Lani stared at them both, knowing that it was all going to hit the fan now and wondering if she could make a run for it. She looked longingly at the door and then sighed. It was time to get it all out and if none of them knew about vampires she could just laugh it all off. But judging by the look on Clark’s face she knew that wasn’t the case. So how did they know?
When everyone had their coffee and a donut they migrated back to the living room and took seats. Dorothy stared at her and Beth caught the look and frowned, wondering what was wrong.
“Mom, what’s up? Why are you upset?”
Lani counted her heartbeats while she waited for Dorothy or Clark to speak. Twenty-two went by before anyone said anything. Beth kept looking from her mother to Lani, realizing that something was happening between them.
“Lani?” Clark prompted.
“Are you going to make me say it again? It was – was just a stupid remark, nothing else.”
“What remark?” Beth asked. She took a sip of her coffee and watched Lani over the rim. She was really scared about something Beth realized.
Lani’s heart was pounding and she knew she was caught. Beth was going to freak out and Lani was doubtful that she could take the shock right now. Nonetheless, she just said it. “Yesterday, at the funeral as I watched Mick walk across the cemetery I realized, that he, um, well, he was limping and all battered and bruised and I thought, out loud, which I didn’t mean to you know, but I…” she trailed off, hoping that someone would stop her before she had to say the words but all three faces stared at her with narrowed eyes and expectant faces. “I said, he’s not a vampire anymore, okay? It was just a stupid joke kind of thing, you know, something that you shouldn’t pay attention to anyway, okay?”
“How did you find out about vampires?” Beth asked, sitting her coffee cup down on the coffee table.
Lani looked at her and saw that she wasn’t shocked or surprised; she knew. So did Dorothy and Clark. Lani let out a deep breath and slumped back against the chair, willing her heart to slow down. She had been feeling a bit light-headed for a minute there.
“Lani?” Beth and Clark spoke at the same moment, both of them urging her to speak.
“You know? You know about vampires and yet you still, I, uh, you want to be around them?” Lani watched their faces, waiting for horror or fear and when she didn’t see anything of that variety she was surprised.
“Yes, all of us know Lani,” Beth spoke quietly. “Mick, well, Mick was my shadow man; the one who saved me, the one we used to fantasize about.”
“Oh, my goodness, I wasn’t expecting that. He was the one? All those years, we didn’t know…”
“Yeah, he was the one. Clark knew about vampires and Mick and Mom hired him to find me.” Dorothy and Clark both nodded in agreement as Beth spoke. Lani saw tears gather in Dorothy’s eyes and knew that it was still hard for her to think about.
“Lani, how do you know?” Clark asked, leaning forward on the couch, his elbows resting on his knees.
She closed her eyes for a minute and let her mind travel back to that night in Tokyo. Her lower lip trembled a bit and her top teeth bit it lightly, trying to keep it from trembling more. Beth saw her hands begin to shake and she reached out and took Lani’s coffee cup from her and sat it on the table.
“It was two years ago, in Tokyo. I was at Heroku’s house for a party, a, a sort of work gathering actually; lots of clients there and many of them vampires, but I didn’t know that and I didn’t know that Heroku was one either.” She took a long, deep breath and let it out slowly through pursed lips as she thought about her next words. “Any way, it was really smoky in the house; Japanese men love to smoke it seems and so I went out onto the terrace to get some fresh air. After awhile I walked down a stone pathway to the far end of the house and went in a side door. This end of the house had private rooms, among others; I didn’t know what for, I just knew what they were. I guess I thought they were for making private deals or something. As I walked down the hall I got closer to the salon where the main party was going on; it was getting noisier and smokier again, but I knew that I could leave in another hour or so. Two men came down the hall and started smiling and speaking when they saw me. I learned a lot of Japanese while I was there, but they were speaking very rapidly and I couldn’t catch all their words…”
“Ah, this is a new girl!” Yushigi stated, licking his lips. He felt his fangs push through his gums, lengthening in anticipation of a new delight.
“Yes, she is most beautiful,” Onagi agreed. He held out his hand to Lani and beckoned her to come to him.
Lani thought he wanted to shake hands with her and was puzzled; she felt uncomfortable because they were staring at her in an odd way. She had understood enough of their remarks to know that she didn’t want to be alone with them. She only nodded in their direction and tried to get past them, back to the safety of the salon.
Onagi reached out his hand again and this time he grabbed her arm; his grip painful. His nails were very long and were cutting into her arm and when she looked down she saw blood. She tried harder to pull away and heard a strange sound, almost like a growl. When she looked up into the faces of her captors she realized they were both staring at the blood on her arm but that wasn’t what scared her the most, it was the fangs poking out of their mouths and their silvered eyes that made her feel faint.
“Her blood, it will be delicious! AO- Onagi, very rare! Hurry my friend, let us taste it!” Yushigi pushed Lani against the wall and held her firmly, scenting not only her blood, but her fear as well. No matter, it only intensified the thrill.
Onagi held her arm out and sniffed along the delicate skin slowly. Lani could see his nostrils flaring as he inhaled and she let out a long keening moan. “Please don’t do this,” she pleaded in English, so rattled and scared she forgot to speak in Japanese. Tears were streaking her face and both men were mesmerized by the vein in her neck that was visibly pounding with her blood as her fear increased. Yushigi moved quickly and scented her neck and ran a cold tongue along the vein that pulsed rapidly.
Lani started yelling in earnest then, her body twisting as she tried to break free but they held her tight as she sobbed and begged to be let go. She felt Onagi’s teeth graze her arm and screamed again, a wounded sound that felt as if it would break her captor’s ear drums.
Just then Onagi went flying against the far wall, quickly followed by Yushigi. Heroku was everywhere, attacking both of them. He lifted Onagi up with one hand on his neck and twisted, immediately breaking his neck. Yushigi begged to be spared, but Heroku showed him no mercy and he met the same fate as his friend as Lani watched in terror. She had sunk down to the floor, her arms wrapped around her knees as she tried to pull air into her almost paralyzed lungs.
Other’s quickly crowded into the hall way and two men were removing the bodies. Heroku picked Lani up and carried her into one of the rooms and laid her on a couch. He called for a servant to get her a blanket and handed her a glass of scotch and told her to drink it.
Lani looked up from her story at the three faces that were watching her intently. She was horribly pale and shaky and tears ran uncontrollably down her face. “Heroku saved me and told me about vampires. He – he, well he has watched over me since then. When I got here and met Mick I was so afraid for you Beth.”
“Lani, Mick isn’t like that. Most vampires aren’t like that, honestly. Not that I’ve met anyway. Mick would never hurt me and he would never let anyone else hurt me either.”
Lani saw Dorothy and Clark both nodding their heads in agreement. Lani didn’t know who, if anyone could be trusted now.
What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that’s now departed
I know I’ve got to find, some kind of peace of mind
Margie stared at the pictures in the box of photos she kept; pictures of ‘that time’ in her life that she had kept separate from the rest. She had put that life behind her and locked the pictures away; if only it was that easy with the memories. She sighed and placed the lid securely back on the box and tucked it away on the top shelf of the closet.
Out of sight, out of mind…
Not really but she did her best to believe it was the truth. It was impossible for it to be out of her mind for long. Most of the time she was glad but every now and again it just hurt. She pulled a photo album off of a shelf and flipped it open to stare at other pictures on the worn pages; her Herbert, the man that she had loved for 40 years before losing him to a heart that just gave out. When he lay dying he would dry her tears and tell her the reason it was giving out was because he had used it so well. He had loved her and their family with a force and intensity that would have worn anyone’s heart out. His family meant everything to him and nothing in this world would have saved someone if they would have tried to hurt them.
I was blessed in this life, twice she realized. A woman couldn’t ask for more.
The shock had worn off as they had all talked about their knowledge of vampires. Dorothy and Clark still didn’t share the secret about Logan; they firmly believed that it was Mick and Logan’s story to tell. Still, after all was said and done, it was mostly out in the open and they each felt better to some degree.
“Did Josh know?” Lani asked Beth and watched as Beth solemnly shook her head no.
“Hm um, he didn’t. I promised Mick I would never tell anyone and I haven’t. Even talking about it is weird. It’s such a huge secret and yet so many people know. Josef has his gang of freshies and I can’t even imagine what leverage he uses to keep their mouths shut.” Money most likely!
At the mention of Josef Kostan’s name Lani almost choked on her final sip of the now cold brew. One of the advantages of the creamer was that it tasted just as good, or bad depending on your opinion, cold. Beth noticed and her mouth quirked up at the corners in a small smile.
“You don’t like Josef? Oh wait, he’s the one you met in Tokyo wasn’t he? I’d almost forgotten.” At Lani’s curt nod she continued, “He is pretty full of himself!”
“He’s arrogant and an ass you mean. He just feels so, so, smarmy is a good word for it!” Lani almost sputtered. The other three in the room couldn’t help but notice the small shudder that shook her body for a moment.
“Did he try to hurt you Lani?” Clark asked. Lani usually wasn’t intimidated by anything and for Kostan to have this effect on her got him to wondering. He had only met him a few times, but for the most part he liked Josef. He was a bit puerile and straight to the point, but that was okay. Clark knew that there was more to Josef that he didn’t share but then everyone has secrets.
“No, he was just icky, like a player, you know? Came on all, ‘hey, I’m suave and I’m honoring you with my attention’. It was gross and then when I shook his hand and recognized that he was a vampire that was all it took.”
Comprehension blanketed all three faces that watched her. “Lani, he wouldn’t ever hurt you, really.” Unless you get in his way Beth silently added.
“Whatever Beth; I’ll keep my distance from all of them!”
An hour later Dorothy and Clark left the girls and both were quiet for awhile; each lost in their own thoughts. Lani would never like vampires but because Mick was important to Beth she would do her best to tolerate him, but the rest of them just needed to keep their distance. Well, except for Heroku that was.
He was still in the US; he had been in the New York office for the past week but would be back in LA soon. He was bringing another employee with him; he name was Camille Kinney and she would be the new Director of Media Relations and Marketing. Lani was looking forward to not being the new kid on the block any more.
They hadn’t asked much about Heroku and she hadn’t told them much. He so intrigued her, his history and all. He had told her he was born around 1050 and that seemed incomprehensible to her, that a body could be that old and still be functioning. Vampirism, the Fountain of Youth? Who knew?
The fruits of love grow all around
but for me they came tumbling down
every day heartaches grow a little stronger
I can’t stand this pain much longer
“Mr. Kostan, I have Dr. Martinson on line one. Would you like to speak to her now?” His assistant’s voice sounded tinny over the intercom Josef thought, like he was speaking in a tunnel. His mouth suddenly felt as dry as the Sahara desert and he swallowed quickly, feeling a lump building in his throat.
“Yes, I’ll take the call,” he said and closed his eyes for a moment, afraid of what this conversation might mean. The line clicked and he heard the slight bit of static that told him they were connected. “Josef Kostan,” he said and waited.
“Mr. Kostan, this is Cheryl Martinson. I am back in LA and would like to speak with you concerning my findings about Ms. Whitley. When would you be available?”
“I can see you as soon as you get here Dr. Martinson,” he said without preamble. He sucked in an unnecessary breath as he waited for her response.
“Shall we say 30 minutes? I think I can easily make that.”
“30 minutes it is.” He hung up the phone and informed his assistant that Dr. Martinson was not to be kept waiting when she arrived.
Thor Iverson had been Mr. Kostan’s Executive Assistant for 3 years now. Kostan had teased him a lot about the name and swore it couldn’t be real, that it must be a gimmick to get Thor into acting or some such nonsense. The name was real and even though he had the looks, the hair and the body for it his love wasn’t with the camera, it was with business. He was a near genius and had taken the job just so he could learn from Kostan. It hadn’t taken long for him to grasp that there was a lot more to Kostan than his bio talked about, but it didn’t matter to Thor; Kostan had become his hero and he greedily lapped up every bit of knowledge he could.
Josef leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the stylish mahogany desk, resting his elbows on the padded arms of his chair. His chin rested against his steepled fingers and he thought about Sarah and New York and what had brought him there.
Los Angeles, 1954
Josef looked around the party house with disgust. As usual, Coraline had filled it with social discards and rejects, even in the vampire world. The music was loud and raucous as were the voices that tried to be heard above it. A bevy of freshies, make that victims, who had no idea what this night had in store for them stood around admiring the beautiful house that spoke of money at every turn. Many of them were still teenagers, trying desperately to look old enough to be there, speaking in false voices and standing a bit straighter so they would look more mature as they sipped the wine in their crystal glasses. If they only knew that it didn’t matter at all.
The games were about to begin and Josef decided he didn’t have the stomach for it any longer. He caught Mick out of the corner of his eye, circling a young blond with a fresh face and a sweet, soft voice. He didn’t know this Mick; under the influence and tutelage of Coraline he was no longer the sensitive young man that Josef had coached those two weeks so long ago. This one enjoyed the thrill of the chase and the kill and Josef thought sadly of what would happen to the young girl later. He had to leave before that happened.
He hated what Mick had become at the hands of Coraline and it was just too hard for him to watch and accept. When her first met Mick he had been convinced that he would never be cut out for life as a vamp and when Coraline called him to help her he knew he was right. He still believed that; even as he watched Mick, scenting his soon to be victim Josef knew that it wasn’t really Mick; it was his doppelganger that was egged on by Coraline and her friends, incensing him to do thing that he would have to find a way to live with later on. Josef shut his eyes for a moment and realized that he couldn’t watch any longer.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t been there himself; he had. All vamps go through that heady, ‘I’m top of the food chain’ outlook at one point or another. Somehow though it bothered him tremendously to see that cloak worn on Mick’s shoulders. He had wanted Mick to grow up in the vampire world, let the inner vamp out to play occasionally but this was too much for Josef to watch. He turned away and sat his half-empty glass on a tray as a waiter came by and headed to his car, away from here and his friend.
That night Josef Kostan disappeared into the night; he became Charles Fitzgerald in New York society and relished his new life. It was exciting as he built a new business among Wall Street’s finest. And then he met her – Sarah Whitley and his life changed in ways he wouldn’t have thought possible.
He jumped slightly when the intercom buzzed again and hurriedly pulled his feet off the desk and sat forward, grabbing the phone. “Yes?”
“Dr. Martinson is here Mr. Kostan,” Thor’s polite and mellifluous voice stated.
“Please show her in Thor.” Josef grinned briefly; every time he said that name he had to fight the urge to laugh. He stood up and straightened his suit, smoothing the silk Armani creation into place. The door opened and Thor stood aside to show the doctor in. Josef stepped forward to greet her, shaking her hand.
“Welcome Dr. Martinson. Would you like a drink or some coffee?” he offered.
“No thank you Mr. Kostan, I’m fine.”
Josef led her to a small seating group and watched as she took a seat in a wing back burgundy leather chair. She crossed her long legs and Josef couldn’t help but admire them and a slight smile played at the corner of his mouth as he sat down opposite of her. He looked at her expectantly and waited for her to speak.
“I’ve finished all the tests Mr. Kostan. Would you like to hear the results?” she inquired. She spoke quickly, one could almost say perfunctorily, but he liked that about her, she got straight to the point. He nodded and she softly cleared her throat before speaking.
“Ms. Whitley suffered a stroke when you attempted to ‘turn her’. It irreparably damaged her brain; she is quite literally brain dead and will not recover Mr. Kostan. She is just simply not there any longer.” She watched his face as she spoke; it mostly remained blank except for a brief glint of something that flashed through his brown eyes.
Josef was stunned; he had always believed that whatever was wrong with Sarah had to do with vampire virus, not something unrelated to it. It was unrelated he thought? He asked her that question.
“Yes Mr. Kostan, it has nothing to do with the virus in your blood. As much as she wanted to be turned, her body had other ideas and it caused the stroke. She might very possibly have had it anyway, there’s no real way to tell.”
Josef looked down, his top teeth worrying his lower lip for a moment as he accepted the doctor’s words. “So, there’s nothing that can be done?” he asked and as he watched her shake her head no he felt the last bit of hope leave him.
“No, I’m sorry. You’ve done more than could be expected Mr. Kostan, keeping her on the life support all these…years.” She wanted to say decades but it was all still such a strange concept to her.
“I, uh, I have to…”
“Yes, Mr. Kostan, you should. You are not helping her by keeping her alive artificially.” She looked at him sadly and for a moment she felt his pain; it showed so clearly on his face.
Josef nodded, his head making the jerky movement that was the result of his emotions. “Okay. Will you do it? Can we go back to New York?”
“Yes Mr. Kostan, I can accompany you there. Whenever you would like,” she added, almost as an afterthought.
“Tomorrow then? My private jet will take us. I’ll let you know what time.” He stood up and she took the cue that it was time for her to leave.
“Until tomorrow Mr. Kostan.” She picked up her purse and walked to the door which he held open for her. “Mr. Kostan, I’m very sorry to have to tell you this.”
He nodded once more and closed the door. It was barely closed when the tears started pouring down his face.
To be continued in part 2…